The future is coming ready-or-not

Archive for December 2007

Developing great technology

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Irving Wladawsky-Berger is an interesting technologist and strategist, whose blog is worth reading if you have spare cycles for good quality input. He’s known for having been deeply involved in many of IBM’s technical strategy decisions, for example he was a key actor in their Linux strategy. He officially retired this year and Eweek did a wide-ranging interview that finally made it to the top of my reading list. A key quote that struck me as true is when he’s asked where he got his vision from:

“The answer is easy: Find where the smart people are and hang out with them. I’m serious. The smart people have a lot of ideas …”

IBM has resources both money and brain-power that are far beyond those of most organisations. But it strikes me as true that if you find smart people with a range of views and get into an exchange of ideas then you’ve got a much better chance of doing something amazing. That’s definitely true of Open Source, but it applies generally. He continues,

“But the way I looked at it a new idea was whether it was something we should do, and then how we should do it in IBM. Because just because it’s something we should do, doesn’t mean we have to do it like everybody else is doing.”

This second point is really important to me, although it’s often difficult to practise. Sometimes, the accepted way of meeting a need is the right way to do it. Sometimes people want a better mousetrap, not an entirely new mouse removal system. Perhaps the problem is well understood, and there are no better approaches, or at least none worth the effort for the benefit.

But generally, if something is worth doing, it’s worth examining it from the underlying principles and wondering whether it can be done with a different approach. It’s really the only way to develop something really innovative and different.

The rub seems to be when do you do the former, and when the latter, perhaps there are ways to combine the two.


Written by Steve George

December 4, 2007 at 02:02