Saturday, October 29, 2016

Brilliant hare?

We called him Tortoise because he taught us. - Lewis Carroll

In a conversation about work, a colleague mentioned that a person who was perceived as absolutely brilliant by everybody who knew him. People believed he was brilliant, because he was always coming up with answers for every complicated technical problem or question very quickly.

Being quick is important for success. ‘Quickly’ is one of the more popular words in LinkedIn recommendations. Speed-reading, speed-listening, and occasionally even fast typing, are considered good and important skills for technology workers.

Yet, quick can be an enemy of good. Quickly pushing out code typically leads to bugs, technical debt, and poor architecture. Quick decisions often turn out to be poor – or maybe not, but only if they happened to be lucky, rather than well thought through. The engineer everyone’s raving about for quickly fixing bugs, is quietly introducing dozens of new ones.

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman talks about the different ways people are wired to think, one by applying simple rules and pre-existing biases, another for consciously considering all available information. The ‘quick thinking’ leads to stereotyping, emotional, and subconscious choices. The slow option is the opposite – calculating, conscious and effortful.

It may be time to rethink what it takes to be brilliant. Slowly.