The challenge with development is that implementing agencies don’t like to report failures to donors and failures are absolutely necessary to the iterative process at the heart of development. Often, they only want to report positive results to please donors who in turn want to show taxpayers of respective countries how the money is being well spent. 

The reality of development is that you cannot transplant designed projects in their entirety and expect them to authentically work. There is a need to encourage deviance and experimentation so that new solutions can emerge. Almost like an organism traveling to a new environment. The grizzly bear evolves into the polar bear after many iterations in the new context of white snowy landscapes. The original problem is that the brown bear cannot easily catch prey as it sticks out like, well a big brown bear against a white backdrop. So the prey sees it and runs, and the bear goes hungry. But genetic iterations or mutations lead to a white coated bear being better adapted to this new frosty environment. The feedback loops between DNA and the environment enabled a solution to be found to the conspicuous hungry bear issue and the eventual spread of this successful iteration. 

Work in development must be the same: iterative, adaptive, and problem-driven. In evolution, the biggest advances in the history of life have come about through major problems such as massive meteorites, super volcanos, the great oxygen crisis, and other such disasters. Problems or crises are the greatest drivers of evolution, development and your life.

The moon and development

The creation of the moon happened via a massive mars-sized meteorite smashing into Earth. That was a problem. However, life adapted to the consequent seasons we experience. Not to mentioned the moon inspired our poetry and ambitions, and enables the tidal changes on earth



Breathing came about in some senses as a problem driven iterative adaptation

Problems are actually the biggest opportunity and the central driver of evolution and adaptation. Problems spurred the greatest innovations of life. Take mitochondria and the biochemical basis of breathing: the Krebs cycle. With the advent of photosynthetic microbes, oxygen in the atmosphere started to increase. This oxygen was toxic to other microbes, eventually killing them off. After many iterations a solution was found: breathing. Microbes could now process the once deadly oxygen. Not only were the new breathers inoculated against the toxicity of oxygen but also derived energy from it.  The microbes presumably, early mitochondria, were the outcome of a problem-driven iterative adaptive process. The solution emerged, through blind experimentation and feedback loops, with many failures, until the right combination of sugar, oxygen and complex chemistry enabled a new emergent solution to come into existence. That 3-4 billion year old innovation remains with us to this day in all 37.2 trillion cells that make up our human body, in every animal that breathes, and enable the biochemical basis of breathing to occur! What a solution! So PDIA in some senses is an ancient tool used by life itself (even though it blindly implemented it.) 

Food for progress: problems

So rather than see problems as annoying, problems can be seen as food for progress. Food for an iterative process that gets us to where we want quickly. Follow the problem. Problems can speed up and drive adaptation. Problems are the direction we want to go in when we want development to happen fast. 

It is standard practice for Google or Evernote or any internet enabled products that can get instant metrics on the client en mass, to go through product development cycles massively quickly. They create and benefit from rapid feedback loops. Adaptive learning takes place very fast and ideal products emerge, optimised and brilliant (for a time). They experiment with beta versions which sometimes get ditched. They are not afraid to take products offline if the feedback provide evidence the products are not working. The failures are eliminated from the meme-pool.