Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The place of Intuition in the Development process

I'm developing software for the last 10 years, and operating computers for 20. I have watched endless programmers, team leaders, project managers and CTOs bang their heads (or do other stupid things) with anger and frustration every time they observed the non-disputable fact of life that computers don't always do what we want them to. Hell, they sometimes don't even do what they were asked to do (Which is something completely different from what we expect them to do.)

This is a universal truth and software developers can benefit the most from integrating it into our systems: Things don't always work as we expect. The difference between us is what we do with this fact.

As i see it there are mainly two ways to handle this. Some ignore reality and stick to their opinions. We can see these guys shouting and hitting their computers and some of them develop habits of "saying YES and doing NO", always being late and other behaviors that express repressed anger. On a more professional level you may notice some programmers that insist on sticking to their bugs and can spend days with them, even if they could solve them quickly. By struggling with their work they achieve much self feedback like "I'm working so hard" and "This job is so difficult, I must be so smart to be doing it".

Others accept reality and recognize the emotions that this reality stir in them. Those people will usually act according to decisions and not emotions. They also can be stressed or relaxed in their work, but they will at least do a genuine effort to make things better both professionally and inter-personally. The amount of stress that we acquire in work is directly connected to the way we recognize and process our feeling and emotions during the day of work. If we know how to harness these powerful emotions to our use we can achieve so much more then if we are fighting the emotions, working hard to keep them inside.

The development of software is a very complex task, constructed of many many little tasks that we perform and put together in order to create a complete product or feature. All this complexity it done using a very, very, very and some more complex hardware that includes billions of tiny electrical components. I wonder it actually works at all ! No wonder it has it's glitches. To me it reminds a sentence from chaos theory that states that systems become more chaotic as they become more complex. I believe that computers are so complex that they conform to this rule.

Those that accept reality looks at every bug as an opportunity to improve, to learn new things, a challenge that needs to be met, not a problem that needs to be solved. Such state of mind creates a relaxed, interesting, fruitful working environment. This is the right ground to promote creative thinking and creative solutions. With such inner position we can learn new things easily and enjoy the learning. After all, if there are no more bugs our work is done. The essence of our work is bug fixing. This is what we do. Everyone can create bugs. not all of them can solve them.

After a while working in this state of mind one starts to write less, but more efficient code. One is found more time thinking then hitting on keys, but get more work done faster. When it comes to approaching new challenges, one starts to use it's intuition. Sometimes we "just know" things. It is stupid to ask a beginner to use Intuition. He should work by the rules for a while. But after a while, the solutions start popping up like popcorn. There are many ways to do each task and choosing the right one is many times an intuitive decision. We usually don't have time to explore all the options well, and we have to choose. These decisions should be taken by an experienced person, and he will be stupid NOT to use intuition in his decisions.

Our intuition is our highest inner voice (emotions-thoughts-intuition) and only by using it can we achieve self-completion in our life and in our work.

I know, there is no code sample with this post. I think developers can still benefit from it...



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