Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

The Machine

October 15th, 2008

Living inside a machine ultimately leads to deep inbred malaise and resentment, the atrophy of creativity and productivity, and the propensity to sabotage. – The Age of Heretics, Art Kliener

At some point, I think we all experience life in the machine.

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Creativity, Musings Tags:

Notes on Software Creativity 2.0 by Robert Glass

September 23rd, 2008

Software Creativity 2.0 by Robert Glass (as the title implies and you might expect) is centered around creativity in the processes, methodologies, organizations, and people responsible for producing software. I concur with Steve McConnell’s glowing review (Landmark Book, On a Par with People Ware and Mythical Man-Month).

Robert Glass has given the software world many gifts during his 50 year career in software development. This book stands above his other contributions as his magnum opus. I cannot recommend it highly enough. – Steve McConnell

There’s no need for my personal review, but I will say that if Robert Glass had a blog this book would no doubt be his best of.

Interesting excerpts from Software Creativity 2.0:

When I began working in industry. I was appalled to find that nothing I had learned in graduate school bore the slightest relationship to what I was asked to do on the job. …

Practice often precedes and helps form theory …

The more a creative person knows about the subject of focus, the less the need for creativity …

In order to think originally, we must familiarize ourselves with the ideas of others

Notes about the Creative person’s traits:

They are especially observant …

They see things as others do, but also as others do not …

They are by constitution more vigorous and have available them an exceptional fund of psychic and physical energy …

They usually lead more complex lives, seeking tension …

The creative person is both more primitive and more cultured, more destructive and more constructive, crazier and saner, than the average person. …

Keep in mind I’ve omitted some of Robert’s earth shattering excerpts since I’ve read a couple of his other books (see this older post for details) – my chosen excerpts don’t do justice to the book. Read it yourself! :)

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Book, Creativity, Musings Tags:

Noisy Work Environments are Counterproductive, But Compensating With Music Negatively Effects Creativity

September 6th, 2008

Working in a noisy work environment and listening to music is counterproductive for intellectual demanding work. For example: we don’t write exams in busy cafeterias, or write resumes through loud movies, and Libraries are quiet for a reason. Noise; whether it be music or background noise does negatively affect your ability to get things done.

DeMarco and Lister (in Peopleware) present the results of an interesting experiment:

During the 1960s, researchers at Cornell University conducted a series of tests on the effects of working with music. … They put half of each group together in a silent room, and the other half of each group in a different room equipped with earphones and a musical selection.  Participants in both rooms were … given a programming problem …

They discovered that the majority of the people working in the silent room could pick out a pattern in the programming problem and could come to a quick clever creative solution. Whereas the people working with music playing were able to solve the problem, but didn’t make the creative leap.

They go on to explain:

Many of the everyday tasks performed by professional workers are done in the serial processing center of the left brain. Music will not interfere particularly with this work, since it’s in the brain’s holistic right side that digests music. But not all of the work is centered in the left brain. There is that occasional breakthrough that makes you say “Ahah!” and steers you toward an ingenious bypass that may save months or years of work. This creative leap involves right-brain function. If the right brain is busy listening [to music], the opportunity for a creative leap is lost.

In their book they also make the point that open space work environments and cubical farms are not conducive to knowledge work, and that all employees (or at least groups of employees) should have the ability to close their door. Great companies do follow these guidelines, but many of the smaller companies or transitional companies (at least the ones I’ve worked in) tend to air on the dilbertesque side (the noisy cubical farms / open concept).

To compensate for the noise in the work place I’ve resorted to wearing noise canceling earphones without music. These earphones double as a metaphoric door – it indicates to those around me that I’m hard at work and not to be disturbed. Noise canceling earphones let me create my own personal audio walls, but eventually I become the weird guy with the earphones that aren’t plugged into anything guy.

As a lowly developers it’s hard to make the case to management for a quieter work environment (let alone an office with a door), but we can keep our eyes out for companies that share these values, start our own company, or take opportunities that let us work from home. In the meantime thank goodness for ear plugs (err.. I mean earphones).

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Creativity, Musings, Personal, Software Tags: