Saturday, October 30, 2010

Beautiful Tools

An example of a beautiful solution. A hammer is simple yet can be used in a variety of situations (sometimes too many). It doesn't take a manual to understand how to use it. It is beautiful because of its simplicity. There's not much you can do to make it more effective. (Sure there are special hammers optimized for specific purposes, but that is a different kind of beauty).

Probably every toolbox in the world has a hammer and if you don't, you've probably tried using other things in place of a hammer (your fist, a wrench, a rock) and found that they don't quite live up to the usefulness of the hammer.

Just like Quality can be defined as fitness for use, Beauty (of a solution) is fitness for use. A hammer fits it's purpose. Nothing more, nothing less.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Beautiful Problem Solving

I have in interest in data visualization and there's a new book out there called Beautiful Visualization. That got me to thinking about whether solutions to problems can be beautiful.

They can, but what makes them beautiful? There are characteristics the comprise the solutions whether they are a tool, a process, or a procedure. Simplicity, flexibility, completeness, complexity. What is of value depends on the situation and the user.

Shaker furniture is famous for its simplicity and its functionality. What makes it beautiful is that it is both simple and functional. Too simple and it would lose some of its functionality and would not be as beautiful. Finding that balance is an art.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Creation, Consumption, and Communication

We engage in three basic types of activities: Creation of new ideas, consumption of existing ideas, and communication, either of existing ideas or our own new ideas. Each of these has importance and there must be a balance among the three.

I've posted about Isolation and Creativity before and there's a new book (and free e-book) about the need to focus in order to be productive. I've not worked my way through it (lack of focus I suppose) but it looks like the author will present various tools and techniques for eliminating distractions and the Data Smog that assaults us all the time.

I've also posted about consumption (or learning). One should spend time being exposed to new ideas, getting inspiration from others. Consumption shouldn't just be of the things we like or that agree with our mind-set but should expand our ideas. Not that we blindly accept everything that comes our way, but that we are able to see things from another perspective. Nothing is more dangerous than someone who is certain they are correct. Doesn't matter where. As Nassim Taleb points out in the Black Swan, Experts are people who don't know what they don't know.

And finally communication. Check the tag cloud for posts about that topic.

There must be a balance of all three. We will be strong in one of these areas. You must cultivate your skills in the other areas. While being able to switch from one to another is important, don't get into the situation which the author of Focus describes where you flutter from one to another so quickly that you cannot build up any momentum.

These three areas are a stool that your problem solving skills sit upon. Make sure each leg is strong and capable of supporting the weight of the problems you must address.