I’ve always found it hard not to infer causality when pondering the immense productivity of Shakespeare (or Dickens, or Aristotle, or … insert your favourite productive person) and the fact that they didn’t have email. At very least it’s hard to deny that those guys show that email is not necessary for productivity. Continue reading
As usual I’m tussling with the question: Why are some engineers just so much more effective than everyone else?; my current line of thinking being provoked by a series of books by Steven Pressfield.
First, let’s take with a pinch of salt the current flavor-of-day idea that “10,000 hours of deliberate practice” is both necessary and sufficient to achieve “world class performance”. Even K. Anders Ericsson, one of the academics involved in the research upon which that idea tries to sit, has gone to the length of writing a rebuttal article (MS Word), to try to tone down some of the hype. But let’s at least consider, for argument’s sake, the following as unobjectionable.
There’s a bit of a habit bandwagon on the move at the moment, with a rash of books, software apps, and so forth all helping us to understand the Trigger->Action->Reward structure of habitual behaviours, and how to use that understanding to build our own positive habits. In Verilab’s client work, and beyond that to other SMEs with whom I work, however, I’ve noticed what appears to be, in the group environment and even overall organization, a strong analog of habits in the individual person. I dislike gratuitous creation of neologisms, so I’ve looked for a phrase to denote this phenomenon, but haven’t been able to find one. So I’m naming it now. I’m calling it “Organizational Habituation”. Continue reading
Continuing with the theme of the need for sustained focus in achieving mastery, Freeman Dyson’s recent review of Ray Monk’s new biography of Oppenheimer contains an interesting and somewhat sad snippet about the influential Los Alamos lab leader’s relative achievements in science versus bomb-making administration: Continue reading
How much does effectiveness cost? For example, how much per hour should one pay for a good accountant, or lawyer. My field is programming and engineering, so I’m going to talk in those terms. But it applies to almost all billable hour professionals. Continue reading
We look for “proxies for greatness” in potential new members of the Verilab team. It can take some time to find out if someone is good, because in the end “good” in this context means something like “consistently delivering desired results”, and you can only see that over time. But there are clues early on that a person may be, or may become, good. Those are the P’s for G.
One is mentioned by philosopher-turned-mechanic, Matthew Crawford in his “Shop Class as Soulcraft“. In chapter eight, “The Further Education of a Gearhead: From Amateur to Professional” he tells the story “Of Madness, a Magna, and Metaphysics” in which he takes on the task of bringing back to life an old and neglected-by-underuse 1983 Honda Magna V45. A key part of the repair was fixing the clutch hydraulics. Continue reading