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Showing posts from July, 2011

Experience and Learning

In the past few months I've heard a couple of stories about (in effect) the disadvantages of experience when it comes to innovation and productivity. A Story on WBUR on July 5, 2011
discussed how venture capitalists tend to favor young entrepreneurs, as having never learned the wrong things in business they don't know what's possible or impossible.  In one quote a VC said:
One thing I love about these people is they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t fear failure. They don’t mind risk...
A March 6, 2011 story on NPR on the pros and cons of raising the retirement age made reference to to an article in Foreign Policy which asserted that younger workers have advantages in the workforce since they learned more recent technology in school.

While new skills and new perspectives can add a lot to a team, is the best way to get these skills to simply hire people who know only what they learned in school? Is anyone you know who is a successful, productive, software developer…

Happiness and Agility

Agile development practices at their core, have a common theme of making better use of the time spent developing software. This starts at the project level and continues down to the developer day-to-day-activities. Consider an agile iteration. The team starts the iteration with a clear sense of the priorities for the sprint, and pretty good understanding of the project scope.  Having estimated and committed to getting the work done,  the team also has a sense that the goal is attainable. The team members then collaborate to get the work done as a team.

While we can see how this might make for an efficient delivery process, consider how agile practices relate to enjoyment and morale on the team. In the paper If Money Doesn't Make You Happy, Consider Time,  Jennifer Aaker,  Melanie Rudd, and Cassie Mogilner discuss five principles for spending time in a  happiness-maximizing way. Some of these seem like a bit of as stretch, but there is a lot to be said about the relationship betwee…

Specialization, Generalization, and Effectiveness in Software Teams: Clinical Metaphors

I was thinking about the relative value to a team of a developer with specific skills (say UI development) versus adding someone who was more of an end-to-end developer. Two stories about medical practice that provided some insight into the question.

I recently read Better, Atul Gawande's book about improvement in medical professions. In this book he relates a story of a clinic in rural India that is poorly staffed and funded, and where doctors manage to successfully perform procedures that are outside the realm of their training. They are able to practice these skills effectively and saved lives.

A story on This American Life, discussed a doctor  in Kermit, Texas who practices in areas beyond his stated training, with poor results. In the end nurses who worked with the doctor filed complaints against him for mistreating patients. This doctor worked alone, and collected information from questionable sources, and ignored the availability of better qualified resource near by.

In bot…