cognitive triage and the acceleration of design

From Jony Ive, by Leander Kahney, pg 72:

The production schedules also got shorter and shorter. When Brunner first started at Apple, the product development cycle was eighteen months or more. ‘It was crazy generous,’ Brunner said. ‘You had an amazing amount of time to make something work.’ Within a couple of years, however, the product development cycle shrank to twelve months, then nine, and sometimes even six months if the product was needed in a hurry. ‘All of a sudden, what got compressed was our thinking time,’ Brunner said. ‘It still took just as long to implement something, but the time to explore, to test and to play with, just went away.’

This is an interesting example of what I write about as cognitive triage*. The acceleration of working life, in this case driven by the intensified tempo of product development, leads to a prioritisation of urgent requirements at the expense of non-urgent but nonetheless important aspects of a process. This changes what actors within the organisation do with effects that manifest themselves both aggregatively and collectively: the organisation comes to be populated by collections of individuals who orientate themselves differently to their work and action they may or may not take collectively is inflected through these changes in individuals.

*The term was originally used by the journalist Kevin Roose in a superb book about young financiers. At some point I want to try and contact him to see what he makes of my subsequent use of the idea.

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