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Annealing

December 30th, 2012
change, time  [html]

Flexible and pliable in youth, rigid and set in age. When an organization is founded it usually has a purpose and little else. The founders have some ideas about how to run it, but try many things. Over time, if it succeeds, it settles and solidifies into a stable institution with an inertia that it keeps it consistent and resistant to change. Software systems run through this pattern faster, often going from design to prototype to production to legacy in only a few years. And of course people run through this pattern too as they age.

This process is often seen as negative, where people are exhorted to keep an open mind as they age and large organizations are mocked by agile pivoting startups, but that sells it short. There are far more possible ways to be than anyone can explore, and at the same time you'd rather spend more time in the better places. You need some way to decide whether to accept potential changes that balances the good of staying with the current system against the unknown better systems out there. Decreasing willingness to accept change over time is a good solution that works well over a wide range of problems.

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