Of Cattle Prods and Cars


Have you ever had a great idea . but the implementation kind of sucked?  I get those all the time.  Like, yesterday, while driving home, some … person … started crossing the street when the little walkie man said 3 seconds left.  3.  Three.  Trois.  Drei.  And they weren’t running across they street, they were walking.  Slowly.  So an idea came to me.  Cattle prods on the front of the car to hurry them along.  And now you see my problem.  How do I add so many cattle prods and still maintain the esthetic of the car?

Sometimes the idea (ensuring people cross the street legally) and the implementation (cattle prods on a car) don’t fit well together.  It’s not to say that either is bad (although the cattle prod idea might be a little out to lunch) but that together they don’t work.  In the event of a zombie apocalypse, I’m sure that a bank of cattle prods would come in handy but outside of that?

We need to be able to separate idea and implementation; thought from the deed.

But sometimes this is difficult, not because of the idea or the implementation but because of who presented the concept.  We sometimes dismiss what people tell us because “we’re the expert” or “they’ve been wrong so many times before“.  We need to challenge ourselves by listening to other people, not just hearing their words, but listening to what they are saying.

There is a certain ministry within the government that has a less than stellar reputation.  When concepts come from this ministry many people immediately dismiss the concept as being pathologically deranged, the rantings of a madman or the mumblings from Dante’s Eighth Circle of Hell.  I must admit that I have been guilty of a slight degree of exaggeration on my part over the years.

It’s not so much that I have now seen the light (or drank the kool-aid), it’s because I have learned to separate the idea from the implementation.  The root idea, the seed that caused the germination of the entire concept, that root is valid but the implementation, like cattle prods, is a little over the top.  Occasionally, but not often, the idea is crackers but the implementation is something worthy of a second look.  It’s a solution, a good solution, you’re just not sure what problem it is solving.

In IT we get this a lot.  The client comes to us and tells us they have a great idea and they explain their concept.  At the end, we just look at them and say ”But what problem does it solve?”  And just like the sugar addict in a candy shop you just see wide eyes and a little bit of drool coming from the left corner of their mouth.  “Problem?  I have no idea, but isn’t it cool?”  Or the vendor that talks to us listens to what problems we are having and then explains how Regurgimatic 2.0 can solve my problems through the re-initialization of heretofore unregistered alpha waves in the cerebral cortex.  “But it’s a word processor,” you exclaim.

You need to separate the idea from the implementation, the egg yolk from the egg white, in order to properly evaluate the idea outside of the context of the implementation.

Leave a Reply