Flexibility & Lock-In

There’s a lot of opportunity for us to work with more flexibility. The last year has proved it.

Technology has enabled much of this new-found flex: from Zoom to Slack; Figma to Airbnb.

However, many of these enabling technologies also seek to create the opposite of flexibility. They seek to lock us into their system, their way of doing things. They are designed to create lock-in. The companies designing these products want the switching costs to be so painfully high that we don’t ever move away from them. Our data, concepts, ideas, and incomes are all intertwined within their interface.

Lock-in is a competitive advantage for them, but for us it can be something else entirely.

It restricts our movement, our mobility, our flex.

There’s more than a hint of irony here. And there’s also tension.

Perhaps the best way forward is to invest more time and energy into staying flexible for longer – sampling different options, not committing too fully, and forgoing a few efficiencies – before making a decision on which technologies to use.

That way, the lock-in is just part of the deal, not an ugly constraint we end up resenting.

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