Many have experienced first-hand flocking birds moving in a state of utter unity. For those who haven’t, here’s what you missed.
This phenomena became the focus of numerous academic papers theorizing how and why this harmonious collective behavior occurs while other academics attempted to employ this concept in solving computational problems. Many do not attribute this behavior to a particular leader, or birds following a neighbor. Instead it is believed that each bird sees a movement down the line and anticipates what to do next.
I am not an expert on the topic, but I stumbled upon a video of a flock of ducks moving in what seems to be a rural road in an eastern country that sparked the following idea attempting to answer the ‘how’ question.
I believe that this behavior is due to the lack of ego in each active agent of this particular group. Therefore preventing this agent from contesting or going against the direction of its direct neighbor. This ego usually manifesting in human interactions by the need to lead, mostly reflected in teams lacking complementarity of skills, and attitude. Eventually leading to disorganization.
Within a flock, each agent follows, without questioning, as if they possess this ‘implicit’ understanding that the collective good is greater than the ambition of the one. That any misdeed befalling the group is equivalent in magnitude to the misdeed befalling the one.
In other words, I attribute this behavior to the lack or suppression of a conscious ‘need’ to lead.
I might be completely wrong, given that this is a mere assumption based on a very shallow observation. However, I believe there is some form of wisdom to be acquired from these creatures who we, human beings, deem primitive.
Let’s go right into the core of the discussion. During the recruitment phase many developers look great on paper, they are impressive during the interview, they excel in the programming challenges or exercises, seem very qualified etc…
Yet, there’s this period of time where a project really hits the point of no return: deadline was communicated to the client, lots of features are yet to be added, bugs are popping up right and left, the 24 hours a day seem no longer enough, bringing more resources is not a viable option because of the overhead required to assign tasks to them, emails, emails and more emails, management is breathing on your neck, status reports, in short all hell has broken loose, let’s call it “The Nightmare”. And right at the bottom of that list or backlog, there’s this tiny underestimated data entry task that you cannot assign to your main developers because they have much more important things to do, YET this data is vital to the project and to the end users eventually.
That pesky data entry task
The reason I gave the above (real life) example is to say, that during “The Nightmare” event, creativity and resourcefulness in solving problems in an efficient way become the essence of your lifeline. At that point in time, with barely enough stamina to write decent code, taking enough time to devise a proper plan to handle all the tasks on your task-list, especially the underestimated ones, is not an option.
Usually, the stupidest method to handle this data entry task is calling the most junior developer you have on the team and brainwash him into thinking that finishing it is what’s going to land Apollo 13 on the moon.
Hooray… Problem solved. NOPE
First day passes, the junior developer is blazing fast, 50 records are in the database already! Wow, this is going faster than anticipated!
Not so fast, the next day the number drops by 20%, the day after 60% and keeps on dropping until that developer quits, and if (s)he doesn’t, (s)he will be so demotivated and then we have a new problem.
The real life scenario might not be so dramatic, other more “brilliant” solutions will be devised such as bringing another junior developer to do the task! Now they can alternate whenever one of them feels bad! (*Sarcasm)
Let’s get back on track
I’ve probably taken the discussion way too far to emphasize the importance of the following:
In the Nightmare situation we tend to forget that one of the core functions of a computer and programming is to replace human beings in executing daunting tasks more efficiently.
We also wrongly believe that writing a script or a small program to execute the data entry is not cost efficient and doing it manually is.
We overestimate the complexity of analyzing the data and extracting patterns and falsely accuse the data to be random and dismiss any attempt to extract a repetitive model.
Now the role of creativity and resourcefulness shines. For every belittled developer, who took a data entry task and transformed it into a fun data analysis challenge, Kudos. The appraisal is not for rediscovering the obvious (that computers are there to alleviate us from boring tasks) but for the efficient use of their time.
The Creativity Test
With the above said, I strongly believe that a data entry challenge to developers who are undergoing an interview is a good indicator of resourcefulness and creativity. Throw a daunting task at your potential developer employee and see how brilliantly they figure out a solution for it. The efficiency of the solution is highly correlated with the ingenuity of the mind behind it (this is simply a real life observation).
No matter how theoretically competent a developer is, no matter how much experience he has on paper, no matter how many large scale projects they have tackled, if they did not master the art of leveraging their knowledge especially when “the shit hits the fan”, all the information they possess is simply a hidden/locked up treasure.
A lot of theories already debate the boosting elements of creativity, such as locking down the resources one can use for the execution, zoning out etc… But these are topics of later discussions. The beauty of data entry tests is that they can be morphed to discover mesmerizing treasures or malicious booby-traps.
In a world governed by hypercritical and highly judgmental critics having all the right to voice their opinion, trying to protect oneself from offensive non constructive criticism has become a tedious task. In a world full of multi-talented individuals, the race for the top is vicious. Whether in the office space, in the real world, amongst friends, in the business field the intense competitive edge is all around. It has become a vital aspect of our daily life. This symbol of democracy, fairness and righteousness has had a multitude of destructive consequences on numerous individuals, who for a reason or another were not up to this ferocious game. This constant fear of criticism, peer pressure and constant reflection on consequences has forced many to hide behind a shell and oppress their ideas knowing that some of them are quite bright.
Long story short, if you are one those people I described in the paragraph above. This is the time to embrace the “I Don’t Give A Shit” attitude. It is time for you to let go of the consequences, let go of the plans, let go of the continuous reflections on the “What If” question and to engage in the realization of your ideas. Whether you are an entrepreneur, an employee or a regular person with a dream; try to put yourself in a position where the answer to the question: “What do I have to lose?” is “Nothing”.
When you have that power: “Freedom”, you will be able to uplift yourself to a whole new game level. Yes, what you read is correct, a game. And mastering the attitude above is a solid way to beat it.
What do you mean? I don’t quite understand yet!
It is true, this is quite a complicated topic to discuss in one blogpost as there are numerous sub-topics (ideas) to convey that are as important. These sub-topics are branches of cases that split off the root idea, such as: exceptional cases, circumstances preventing one from reaching the level of freedom needed to acquire the “I Don’t Give A Shit” attitude, ease of behavioral change etc… However, the starting point is fairly simple. If you believe in a conceptidea that can be either big or small, but that will have an positive impact on your life andor the life of others, disregard the negative feedback from others for a brief period of time – which ends when your idea reaches the state of realization – and then, just then throw whatever you have built to the world and gather whatever type of feedback is thrown back at you. It is then, only then that the opinions you have neglected before mater. Only then, will the random voices contribute to the prosperity of your project. At that point you will have a solid entity that can morph into whatever shape it is needed to be.
But great ideas require dedication, hard work how does the above apply?!
The above applies to only a brief period of time. This period extends from the minute you have the “Eureka” moment up until the minute where your first prototype is completed (or any other form of proof of concept). During this period, you will not induce any changes to your current life and formal behavior. The process should go in parallel to whatever you were previously doing for multiple reasons:
You should not start living in the dream world; where you induce changes to your life that might or might not happen as the consequence of the success of your idea.
You should always protect yourself from disappointment. Strive to the success of your idea, but don’t get your hopes up too high for if you fail, the psychological impact will be devastating.
Ego! Ego is very important as long as it is under control. Do not let your ego sky rocket. Not giving a shit does not mean disrespect to others opinion. It only means putting these opinions aside up to the point where they will have a value.
The discussion is far from complete. I will make sure to increase the contributions to this topic as much as time allows. The points discussed above are my personal observations derived from my personal life. I would be more than happy to discuss these opinions thoroughly with anyone who is willing to have an open objective discussion. I understand that this post is a bit vague and open to multiple interpretations; however with time I believe I will be able to convey my observations on the factors of success. Knowing that these factors might just be an illusion, I strongly believe there are lessons to be learned from them (more or less).