We live in a time when self-evident, practical truths about life emerge from the mouths of self-proclaimed pundits as genius revelations. They are the kind of truths we know we know already, if we would only pay attention, the kind my friend Cheryl Kiser calls “the cutting edge of common sense.” But somehow we don’t remember them until we see them on the cover of a business book or magazine, and then we act surprised.

For example, a friend just raved about the new book The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essentials, which explains “how to streamline your life by identifying the essential and eliminating the unnecessary, freeing you from everyday clutter and allowing you to focus on accomplishing the goals that can change your life.”Uhm, no s**t.

Similar examples abound. New research finds that “food marketing can create a false sense of health” or that design should be human-centered. (Design has always been human-centered, but centered only on the humans with the money to commission it.) Perennials on the New York Times’ non-fiction best-seller list include The Power of Habit and Susan Cain’s Quiet, about how people who don’t yack and socialize all the time are more valuable and productive. Duh.

Agile and Holacracy are so superior to traditional methodologies, they should be adopted everywhere immediately. Tweet This Quote

The overabundance of things we need to know (facts and information) obfuscates all the things we need to understand in order to be happy (intuition, wisdom).

In fairness, we have learned a great deal about how the world works. We no longer fear sailing off the edge of it, we accept the cause and affect relationship between sanitation and health (an unsolved mystery for mankind for thousands of years), and we long ago worked up the courage to prove that the tomato is not poisonous. Big stuff.

It’s the part about our own nature and needs that confuses us.

Two of the most worthy examples are showing up in both expected and unexpected places of late. Through these related methodologies, we are waking up to a 3.5 billion-year-old phenomenon—life on Earth—and calling it news. The Agile methodology prescribes that we no longer spend years planning and executing complex projects when the speed of change in today’s world means there’s a good chance that what we develop will be obsolete by the time we’re finished. The related methodology, Holacracy, tells us that leaving a tiny minority of (mostly white) people in charge of everyone else is not the best way forward. The simple genius in both of these approaches is that they mimic the way nature creates: no five-year plans or bureaucrats—all rapid prototyping, small steps, and fast failure.

I am simplifying shamelessly here, of course, but it’s my post.

I mean to say (quickly) that Agile and Holacracy are so superior to our traditional methodologies for running businesses and communities and for creating anything new—and that the rightness of them is so obvious—that they should be adopted everywhere immediately.

Why would we do anything else? Because nowhere is the avoidance of the unknown and the desire for control more evident than in established American institutions, and nowhere are the forces of money and power put to better use upholding it.

With all that humankind has learned, we should know better. Xerxes’order to have the sea whipped and branded with hot irons when storms derailed his passage of the Dardanelles in 480 BC seems rightly foolish now. Is it any more foolish than our belief that we can maintain regulated, safe and predictable order over the chaos that is life?

Agile and Holacracy are the last methodologies we’ll ever need to learn in part because they are finally the right ones—and, in part, because the ones we’ve been using have become lethal.

Can you say “scrum”?

Cheryl Heller

Author Cheryl Heller

Cheryl Heller is the Founding Chair of the first MFA program in Design for Social Innovation at SVA, founder of design lab CommonWise, and a pioneer in social impact design. Cheryl received the AIGA medal for her contribution to the field of design in 2014. She is the former Board Chair and founding faculty for the PopTech Social Innovation Fellows, a Senior Fellow at Babson Social Innovation Lab, and the Innovation Advisory Board for the Lumina Foundation. She created the Ideas that Matter program for Sappi, which has given over $12 million to designers working for the public good.

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