“Wouldn’t it be nice if…?”
If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard this in product design meetings, I’d be a very wealthy man.
Of course, coming up with bright ideas can be valuable – if those ideas are relevant and suggest solutions to problems that potential customers and users actually have.
But far too often these nice-to-haves consume an inordinate amount of time, effort and creative juices because the folks discussing them have no clear context within which to evaluate (filter) each idea before spending time on discussing and elaborating it. And no idea of the relative impact of such ideas on the likely success of the product under development.
Without such a context – expressed for example in Planguage (cf Gilb) or as a set of Quantified Quality Objectives for the product – such ideas and discussions doom us to a lifetime of wasted creativity and random design “enhancements”.
Would you be willing to share your views and experiences on this topic?
Principles of Software Engineering Management ~ Tom Gilb
Competitive Engineering ~ Tom Gilb
Perspiration is much harder than inspiration, yet we need both
I’ve said a few times that some people say “but what if?” a lot and you also end up with systems that can do lots of things that aren’t useful. This is where the ultra-configurable systems we used to fight with back in the 90’s came from. The crazy need to work for every scenario meant it didn’t work that well in reality. The endless thread of vendors providing systems that can meet every need with no-one knowing which modules and settings conflicted with each other, I shudder at the memory of it.
So there’s another thread here, which is the one around making things so flexible they can’t flex. I think this is a different guise of the same problem – the pessimist says “but what if”, the optimist says “wouldn’t it be nice if”. In both cases I think the questioner quite often doesn’t have “skin in the game” but they can influence its direction.
It’s tricky though, because one of the most useful problem solving techniques is to put aside all of the barriers to a solution and imagine what it might look like so people can work backwards, so both questions are useful in the right context and sometimes need to be asked before people waste a lot of time falling down the rabbit hole into some Alice in Wonderland context that they later realise was a very bad idea.
So you need to be able to look far enough ahead to play the game of if, but not so far you’re playing the game of the rabbit hole.