Saturday, 5 May 2012

Tools for individual traits

One of my former employers (FIL) was noteworthy for it's culture of introspection. It encouraged staff to discover their own strengths & weaknesses, biases & predilections, and to use that knowledge to work better and to make better decisions. (Other financial institutions encourage similar cultures, to a greater or lesser degree). This was a fantastic and valuable lesson to learn.

So, swallowing a dose of humility, here goes:

I make mistakes all the time. Embarrassingly often.

Most of these mistakes are errors of omission: oversights. The spotlight of consciousness operating in my brain is unusually narrow. This means that I am reasonably good at something if I am focussing on it, but if I am not paying attention (which is most of the time for most things), I have a tendency to miss things in a way that is, well, rather absent minded.

This is not an uncommon tendency. Most people get over it by deploying organizational systems and practices to help them concentrate. Lists, and notes and obsessive habits and the like. I am a software developer. I use automated tests & other forms of development automation.

Without these, I tend to make a lot of mistakes and move very slowly. With them, I can move quickly, be creative & productive, and focus on making new things without worrying (too much) about what I have missed.

Standing back for a moment, we can observe that the usefulness of the tools that we use are really driven by the capabilities and characteristics of the people who use them. I am a bit obsessed by development automation because I rely on it to such a great extent. Other people will find other tools useful to a greater or lesser extent because of their own unique capabilities and weaknesses.