I like to operate in dynamic, flexible environments. When I’m working, I want to know that the rules that surround me have some give, that I’m able to shape my environment to suit my needs. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
If your environment is stone, then nothing can be changed. You can’t easily make upgrades (or at all, perhaps). You can’t change when new information becomes available. You can’t adapt. You have to do certain things because “they’ve always been done that way,” or even because “everyone else does them that way” (ugh, barf). You don’t want a stone environment; you want clay.
But if you go too far in the other direction, you don’t get clay – you get water. Clay is helpful because it’s flexible and moldable, but can hold its shape when you need it to. Water won’t hold any shape you give it. A “water” environment is one with so few rules or so little structure that nothing can get done. It’s having no tools, no support, no direction.
You want to ask questions early about an environment to determine whether it’s a Water, Clay, or Stone environment – especially before you commit to engaging there. If no one seems to be able to give you a specific answer about anything, it’s a Water environment. If the answers you get are rigid, inflexible, and do not invite your input, then it’s a Stone environment.
But responses like:
“This is how we generally do things, and these are the tools we use. We have a few different options depending on the specific challenge, and I’m curious to hear what you’d like to see added to that list.”
…are great indicators that the environment is a Clay one, and you can shape it to your needs.