Enough, I say! Enough with the hacking, already. Enough with being so enamoured with the term ‘hacking’. Let’s pause and remember that hacking is not the only successful mindset to have. Let’s take a moment to show gratitude to the way of the weaver.
Back in 2010, Sean Ellis, Hiten Shah and Patrick Vlaskovits coined the term growth hacker, which Mr Ellis then used in his piece Find a Growth Hacker for Your Startup *. Back then, growth hacking was (and still is) an effective marketing strategy to iteratively build a customer base for a product or service, often in unconventional ways.
It was (and still is) absolute catnip to any entrepreneur, intrapreneur, progressive manager or product manager; the very idea of attracting people through cheap guerrilla tactics is damn sexy. Thumb your nose at The Man, leap ahead of all those regular slobs who are waiting in line for a lucky break, grab someone else’s coding framework and get some hot salty goodness out into the world as fast as you can! Get rich quick, and let someone else worry about when it all falls apart.
Since then, usage of the term has ballooned to cover anything vaguely related to that sad old baggy cardigan of a word: improvement. Lifehacker is practically a religion. You can get a short-cut to success for anything: your brain, your company, your garden, and oh most definitely your cooking. There are even hacks for your cat (actually, don’t watch that video, it’s pretty underwhelming).
What’s the opposite of ‘hack’?
Am I a hacking hater? No, not at all; the business benefits of working that way are indisputable. But in amongst all that A/B testing and bell-ringing, let’s not forget that there are people (as the most excellent Dr Jason Fox says) willing to do the complex, paradoxical, non-linear, failure-rich, ambiguous, challenging and thorough work, that is the opposite of hack.
It’s the other way. The way of the weaver.
Take time to weave as well as hack
To weave is to interlace two or more strands of material together to make a fabric, or a basket, a fancy hairstyle, or any number of things that are certainly stronger, more attractive and more useful than single strands of the material could ever be. To me, ‘weave’ is a yummy parfait of layered meaning. Rather than slapping a patch on fraying fabric and calling it fashion, to weave is to think ahead about the final shape, the intended use, the long term.
Weaving takes time. Weaving can also blend different types of fabric (unless you follow the Old Testament of the Bible), which is a nice metaphor for combining different talents, cultures, times and perspectives. Weaving means working with others’ strengths, exercising patience and fortitude. It means weighing up a quick-win to make sure it’s not outsourcing debt to the teams that will have to tidy it up down the track.
Weaving doesn’t mean being slow, either. Part of the marvel and magic of weaving is the skill and grace which comes with dedicated practice. Weaving can be automated, like ye olde Jacquard loom right up to the Tsudakoma Airjet loom (it’s the Formula 1 of loomy things; this video is a thrill to watch). But the thing is: loads of thought, problem-solving and design has gone into that automation.
Are you a weaver?
Are you a weaver? Do you take time to think about the long-term? Do you practice your craft and create things with pixels, people, or whatever materials you work with, for lasting improvement? Do you bring different materials together, and different perspectives together in the way you work?
Then hats off to you. You rock. You have our admiration and gratitude.
Here’s to the weavers amongst us!
[Jeans image hacked with gratitude from Chicwe.com ;) ]