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A Business is Like a Rope

Brooks Patton
Software Developer, Live-Coding Streamer, Educator, Leadership Advocate
・3 min read

When I first decided to go about the holistically learning the full-stack of businesses journey I reached out to one of my mentors that have made this journey before me. He gave me a metaphor for how products, and also businesses work that surprised me. Instead of the classic Business is like a house, it needs a good foundation he used Business is like a rope.

Let's take an aspect of business that many people focus on, the technical excellence of the product (in this case I'm focusing on software products). If the product or service isn't good, then snip, the rope is cut and it doesn't matter what comes after it. However because its a rope, a new rope can be tied on and we can try again. Maybe our product crashed constantly and corrupted data. We can tie on a new rope by fixing the bugs, creating a CI/CD pipeline to prevent them from occurring in the future, and of course, refusing to deploy when we know it will be a bad experience. The point is that when there is a problem and the rope is cut, we can't tie the next rope on until we fix the problem we are having.

This should make sense, it feels logical to me. However, my mentor continued to state that a common problem he sees, and I agree with, is that decision-makers in the company focus on areas of the rope that aren't their domain when there is a problem. The quality of the code-base doesn't matter if the rope was cut hight up the chain?

For example,

  • the product designers didn't interview potential clients and development created the wrong application? snip
  • the market shifted and now our customers want something similar, but not exactly what we provide? snip
  • There never was any market research and so the company built something that nobody was looking for? nothing to cut, the rope has been in freefall this entire time!

Why is this? My mentor's opinion is that many businesses culture is of my life is over if I'm wrong. Of course, if we cannot be wrong because we'll be fired then we cannot do anything other than defend our decisions...even if we know they are wrong.

To prevent this I am beginning my rope building adventure by practicing on myself. I'll be searching for the perfect place to put the eye bolt which the first section of rope will be tied to later. My mentor recommended the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries to find where that eyebolt should be placed. From what I understand the plan will be to screw in the bolt to random metaphorical boards until one seems to hold.

This is the second article (you can find the introduction here about business here, are any of you interested in me continuing this series on Let me know with a comment. I plan to continue the adventure regardless but I also want to make sure I'm not adding noise where no-one is listening.

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