> > But you have to be able to justify (to yourself and to
> managers) why
> > that detour SEEMS like the shortest route to a deployed
> useful system
> > (which is usually the end goal).
> > [My emphasis]
> The "seems" is the important bit. "Seems" means we could be wrong.
> The chance of being wrong suggests buying insurance: spending
> money to turn a possibly big cost into a manageable one.
> Investing in the team (its knowledge, etc.) is insurance,
> even if whatever you're buying has no predictable realized value.
In my own experience, working on stuff that is directly relevant to the
business goals provides me with ample opportunity to learn new and
When I first heard about XP, I had a strong intuition that it would
allow me to get to useful deployed systems faster and more safely, so I
invested time into learning it. Note that at the time, it was just
that... An intuition. It could have been wrong (it wasn't), so I didn't
just go away on XP training for 3 months. Instead, I learned a little
bit, tried it on my projects, then learned a bit more, etc... But all
the while, I was always applying what I learned to those tasks which in
my current best guess were moving me fastests towards impacting the
bottom line business goals.
In contrast, I always feel like I SHOULD know how to build a MySQL DB (I
feel embarassed whenever I confess I don't know anything about SQL DBs).
But I haven't done anything about it, because I have not yet been in a
situation where it felt like learning MySQL would move me faster towards
a deployed useful system. Not the kind of systems I work on anyways.
> Or: consider current golden boy Apple. Look at the iPod. Is
> it the case that somewhere back in time, some person
> justified the shuffle feature by saying, "Just wait - when
> keychain drives get cheap enough, we'll be able to exploit
> this feature to sell a teensy music product without any way
> to select music?" Or was it the case that someone realized
> what unplanned-for potential meant when the time was right?
> If the latter, was there not realized (but not guaranteed)
> business value from investing in a sort of generic, fuzzy,
> and unquantifiable potential within the product and organization?
Very few companies have enough "play money" to invest in "generic,
fuzzy, and unquantifiable potential". Of course, Apple did just that
from day one, even when they were a garage startup. But that's one
company that succeeded (albeit big time) with that approach. It's not
hard to find thouasands of dot com startups who failed miserably with