Monday, August 1

Creating an environment where the best of the best builders thrive

I have often sung the praise of IT Conversations, which has so many great presentations, and a few duds.

One presentation I both loved and would consider required listening is Paul Graham's presentation on Great Hackers. I had thought, by the title, this would be a piece profiling evil programmers. Instead, it talks about why and how companies attract and keep the best of the best.

One of the key points for me was the need and ability to focus for extended periods of time without being interupted. This speaks against cubicles specifically. But also, it gets to the issues that great producers of IP have to put themselves in the right mood, and that the threat of constant interuption can prevent one from putting oneself in that state of productivity, as well as the reality.

I would greatly value other people's reactions to the presentation.


David Grebow said...

Clark - I also think it's a "Required Presentation" and the key point is about imagination. Quiet, focus,'the bear in the cave', 'being in the zone' etc, are all environments required by great artists. The hackers in Paul Graham's presentation are great artists.

And if you want great works from artists you need to provide them with a conducive environment and get outta the way.

We do not yet think of hackers,
programmers, coders, appplication development specialists, GUI designers, as great artists. When the digital revolution is no longer a revolution but 'the way it is', and the knowledge economy IS the economy... in other words when we are 100 years into what has just started, our perceptions of who is a creative artist will, I imagine, be enlarged to include this new group.

Is a great sim or game any less an artistic accomplishment than a great movie. When it comes to Culture, we tend to look at life in a rearview mirror. Besides it's a moving target, 500 years ago there were no Great Writers. 100 years ago there were no Great Filmmakers. Yesterday, there were no Great Hackers.

Clark Aldrich said...

The only caveat I would say is that "artist" is a loaded word within the corporate world with negative overtures. If I had a great programmer I was advocating within a corporate culture, I would never call her an artist.

It reminds me a corporate executive who described "strategic" as meaning "lots of money and no return."

David Grebow said...

Clark: I actually agree with ... today. With one foot in the Industrial Economy, in which "artist" is a four-letter word, I would never use the word either.

I was thinking about the future...

Actually I take that back. In South Africa last year I heard a Director of an IT department refer to one of her programmers as an "artist of code" based on the amazing things he can do in short order with his programming skills.

So yes, most places today in a corporate environment with a 50+ something manager/director/executive you're spot on. In the future I guess I hope it changes since in the Knowledge Economy only things like talent, innovation, creativeity and imagination will prevail.

And if that's not the purview of the artist I'll eat my words.

David Grebow said...

... notice how I creatively spelled "creativeity" ... how very creative of me ... d

Clark Aldrich said...

Don't get me wrong. Most organizations need more artists. All organizations should learn from how artists work.

Of course, while many thrust sweeping praise on artists and their profession, I don't especially!

My favorite middle ground is the artist with accountabilty, often graphic artists.

Clark Aldrich said...

But we are getting off track. Stop reading this. Listen to the presentation!

Stuart Kruse said...

For me, the classic software manual PeopleWare is the key source for how to design work environments that allow knowledge workers to be productive. That said, Paul Graham is a very entertaining speaker.

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