How to Apply Rocket Science Thinking to Enterprise Architecture

12 Aug 2020

by Andreea Stoian

Most conversations in the Enterprise Architecture space tend to be about business transformation - enabling the business to make calculated changes and improvements in their IT landscape and beyond. 

Due to the unstable nature of the last few months, many companies were forced to make quick decisions and sudden changes, both in their structure and strategy. Digital transformation, usually a long process that requires a lot of planning, became an urgent priority for many. Thus, Architects have had to get creative with their vision - and we all know working smarter usually returns better results than working harder. 

So, how can EA's tap into fresh inspiration and find better ways of impacting critical digital transformation projects?

Think Like a Rocket Scientist

"Think like a Rocket Scientist: Simple strategies you can use to make giant leaps in work and life" by Ozan Varol wasn't written for EA's but, in light of how the EA story is changing in current times, it might as well have.

If you're looking for a fantastic, thought-provoking tool for self-improvement, I recommend you give it a read.

But what does rocket science have to do with Enterprise Architecture? Here, I'll take you through how you can start to think like a rocket scientist (without being one) and how this can up-skill you in your EA practice.

"Critical thinking and creativity don't come naturally to us. We're hesitant to think big, reluctant to dance with uncertainty, and afraid of failure. These were necessary during the Paleolithic Period, keeping us safe from poisonous foods and predators. But here in the information age, they're bugs."



The first part encourages readers not to be afraid of the unknown - but instead use the power of uncertainty to ignite breakthroughs through thought experiments. It's about how the removal of constraints on our thinking and creativity can enable us to set in motion our plans. What could your architecture achieve if preset rules (often posed as rigid frameworks within EA) didn't constrain it?

"If you stick to the familiar, you won't find the unexpected."

The process of discovery is portrayed as slow progress, resulting from "stumbling in the dark." We know the first steps of building an architecture repository are clumsy: scattered data needs to be collected and aligned, relationships need to be untangled and clarified. 


After that, it's about improving the approach to problem-solving - reformulating your question to get better results. Varol highlights the fact that things "we've always done it this way" are begging for innovation.

"Only when you zoom out and determine the broader strategy can you walk away from a flawed tactic."

We often see that companies avoid innovation because they are focused on short term results. "If you're not watchful, the process can become the thing…do we own the process, or does the process own us?" Jeff Bezos once asked.

From my experience, one of our biggest competitors is the status quo - people find it hard to break away from habit and embark on a journey towards innovation in practice. 

"Here's the problem. Process, by definition, is backward-looking. It was developed in response to yesterday's troubles. If we treat it like a sacred pact—if we don't question it—the process can impede forward movement. Over time, our organizational arteries get clogged with outdated procedures."


Lastly, we need to embrace and learn from the lessons and data in our failures. Trying and failing is preferred over being complacent and staying on the ground - always shoot for the moon!

Varol writes about how radical change and tenfold or hundredfold growth events occur via moonshots. A moonshot is defined as a breakthrough technology that brings a radical solution to an enormous problem. 

"If your goal is to improve car safety, you can make gradual improvements to the design of a car… but if your goal is a moonshot of eliminating all accidents, you must start with a blank slate and question all assumptions—including the human operator behind the wheel. This first-principles approach paves the way for the possibility of autonomous vehicles."

Let's try to see "impossible" things as exciting opportunities for learning and understanding. 

Start with Real Business Problems

How to apply Rocket Science thinking to EA

Enabling your architecture team to use creativity in their work can bring great results to the business. We know that vast amounts of work go into visualizing the business landscape, especially when using older, legacy EA tech. The implementation of better tools can avoid numerous hours of gathering and mapping scattered data - but even then, knowing what to visualize and how to translate it for your stakeholders to understand are key elements for success. 

Encouraging flexibility and creativity in business architecture is a way of recognizing that each enterprise is unique. 

'If you want to win the lottery, you have to buy a ticket.'

Following Varol's advice, removing constraints and making space for creativity can empower your team to deliver actionable insights into the business and bring tangible. Cutting back on industry jargon and Ivory Tower notations can make your Architecture easily accessible to the wider organization, and ease your workload. And this is just listing a few suggestions - any change in your process will bring a change in results. Sometimes, the change will be negative: learn to see failure as gaining valuable experience. 

In short,

🚀Removing constraints enables your creativity

🚀You can only achieve greater things by changing your approach

🚀Failing on your first attempts means you are taking steps in the right direction

'Rocket scientists' imagine the unimaginable and solve the unsolvable. Every single industry and company need rocket scientists. So, next time you're asked to solve a problem, think about the reasoning behind it, rephrase it until it is your own, and get creative.

The journey to the moon can be quite lonely - get in touch if you need a friend. Happy architecting!

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Andreea Stoian

Andreea is a trilingual law graduate, with a diploma in Rhetoric from Harvard University. She has a passion for technology, innovation, and art, and has been a book worm for as long as she can remember. In spite of the fact that she is part of the commercial team, Andreea’s love for reading and writing made generating content for the Ardoq blog irresistible.


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