How can business adapt to a rapidly changing world? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Maria Matarelli, Founder & President at Formula Ink, on Quora:

In order to confront the rapidly-evolving world around us, you need to have a system in place to adapt with the changes.

It's no secret the world has been changing before our eyes. After all, the world is a living thing-- change and growth are only natural. So then, how do you find the best way to handle those changes, to make sure you and your company are able to hit every curve ball that comes your way?

As a project manager and Agile coach and trainer, I've witnessed the implementation of many frameworks and methodologies to launch new products, expand, or simply keep companies afloat. And what I've found is that those who approach their projects with a rigid system often buckle under the shifting currents of the market. The best way to handle an evolving world is with a system built around just that: evolution.

An Agile approach is one designed to keep you flexible, limber, and able to roll with the tides of change so that once the storm is over, you'll be floating at the top.

A Constantly Evolving World

Virtually every industry has been experiencing rapid, massive, and sometimes devastating change over the last couple years.

Just look at what Airbnb has done to the hospitality industry. Or what Uber and Lyft have done to the transportation industry. How Spotify prompted Apple Music to advance their iTunes platform--which was itself a profound innovation to the music industry.

As technology changes, so too do the industries that use it. Mobile devices and apps are piloting major industry shakeups as they either find their way into new markets (hospitality) or change the way people interact with a market (transportation).

The Old Method

For years the Waterfall method reigned supreme.

Just like its name suggests, the traditional Waterfall method is a system of trickle-down phases where one phase cannot be completed before the one prior. It usually begins with setting the requirements for a project, then the design phase, then development, and finally testing and implementation. In this approach, the design cannot begin until the requirements are set, and testing can't start until the development is complete. Because of this, the system can often take years for a full rollout. And that's a problem.

Think of how much has changed in just the last two years. Think of all the new apps that have dropped, the new technologies in place, and all the innovation that's right around the corner. If you started your project based on an industry's climate three years ago, and are using the Waterfall approach, you might find yourself in a completely different territory by the time your product launches. Or worse, the new changes might render your project obsolete.

While Waterfall worked great for many years, the unfortunate reality is that in today's world you need a system less rigid in order to stay relevant and competitive.

Enter, Agile

The cornerstone piece that makes an Agile method so effective in today's world is its flexibility.

Being flexible means you can pivot when needed. It means you can adapt on the fly to changes in the market, in technology, or in the testing phase.

With an Agile method, you don't have to wait for each phase to be completed before entering the next one. Development can begin alongside the design stage. What's more, testing can begin at once. Testing in an Agile approach is all about making small changes that will allow you to see what works and what doesn't, and meet the needs of your target audience all without breaking the bank and rolling the dice on one major launch. Not only does this save you time and money, it also lets you examine, in real time, how your project will fare in the world, and then allow you to make the necessary changes to stay competitive.

An Agile system is a method of conservation--conserving time, money, and above all, work.

No one can control the changes in the marketplace, just like no one can control the weather. An industry can change with the lightning strike of a brand new idea or product. It's not about beating the weather, it's about learning how to survive it.

Using the Waterfall system in today's world is like building a house of cards in a hurricane. You need a system that will bend with the wind without falling apart. One that will anticipate the changes in wind speed and direction and respond in kind. One that is flexible and adaptable. Basically, you need a system that is Agile.

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Published on: Jan 9, 2018