I spend a lot of time thinking about software – and luckily it’s actually something I like to do. What’s being built out there? Who needs what? Why is this “the next big thing”? What is wrong with these people? …and, I spend a lot of time trying build stuff that has genuine value – which I can loosely define as stuff that changes behavior for the better (people, organizations, whatever). But just how do you move from the aha! moment in the shower to changing the way people work and live?
When most people think genius, they think Einstein. Not to take anything away from The Great One, but I like to fall back on a second class of genius - one inspired, not by Einstein, but by the spirit of Marco Polo. Imagine his wonderment when he first came face to face with Chinese culture -15,000 years of religion, philosophy, science, medicine, fashion, cuisine, etc. Most would have been overwhelmed, but not my imaginary Polo - I envision him thinking, "hmmm, paper money - my friends in Venice could do something with this" or "gee, gunpowder - not just for fireworks." Polo did not invent paper money, understand the principles behind gunpowder, or even appreciate the value that the Chinese placed on them - Polo cherry picked specific artifacts and dramatically increase their value by transferring them across cultures and I would argue that the ability to pluck concepts out of their original context and into new contexts to generate new insights and improved value propositions is truly a special kind of genius. I would also argue that this second class of genius is woefully absent in the commercial software industry.
If this last paragraph was too obtuse – let me summarize it all with a mantra I take with me everywhere – to be effective, your ideas don’t have to be original – they only have to be good.
But what makes an idea “good”? Where is the most fertile ground to harvest these ideas? Without going in to why (at least right now) – my premise is that virtually all interesting and game changing insight ultimately stems from the study of people – how do we interact? how to best manage us in the workplace? how to measure and increase our quality of life? how to teach us to be more self-reliant? etc.
I am not yet entirely comfortable with the blogging format (I am afraid that I will make this read like a column or something) – but for now – I just want to put it out there that if we think of applications as "being people too" – Application Resources instead of Human Resources – we won’t have to be an Einstein to improve both an application's quality of life or longevity – and this will ultimately drive the right kind of adoption of much much “better stuff.”
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