Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Why most ideas are worthless
In the English language, the term 'worth' refers to value, which is very different from price. As it happens, corporate America so inundated with bad ideas fed by magazines, vendors, industry analysts and even us architects who read this stuff that they have zero price; nobody pays attention to them. For the most part many architects and managers have inability to distinguish bad ideas from good ones, for no excusable reasons, and the bad ideas have driven down the price of good ideas to zero as well. However, this doesn't mean that ideas are without value. Rather, it merely means that you can't rely on the market to say anything about their value. Successful implementation of ideas validates the value of ideas. Likewise, by ensuring successful implementation, those ideas usually are subject to merciless refactoring over time in which they will become improved.
Yesterday, an architect whose name I won't mention said something that made me laugh and was on the money. Many ideas also need to go through a stage of merciless defactoring where consensus building helps the idea gain form. He suggested that most ideas don't have value until every participant gets the opportunity to piss on it in order to claim ownership of some aspect. Dogs mark trees in this way to claim their territory and to leave a signature. Ideas sometimes need this practice too.
The view that many enterprise architects take is that software ideas only have value in the here and now as measured in dollars and hours they can save people. Thus, ideas by themselves have no value but only acquire it when implemented and deployed. In this view, ideas should be dismissed from consideration until they have at the very least been implemented. Of course this view is just plain wrong! There's a reason corporations are working hard to control intellectual property. Ideas should be considered on their own merits. Demanding implementation before considering something worth implementing instantly sentences IT as a profession to stagnation. Bad ideas can be dismantled, refactored or altered to be made suitable for a particular audience/context,but they don't need enterprise architects pontificating worst practices that encourage implicit censorship...
Links to this post: