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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

User, Maker, Prototyper

Dark. Parking lot. I’m with a really smart research scientist, and we’ve been talking long enough we’re getting into new areas.

“Have you ever finished a prototype on time?”

He laughs, “If it’s controlled by time it’s a project, not a prototype.” Aha!

Many watchers try to judge the value of prototype work as if it were production work. Whether due to placement on some theoretical organization chart, or just our inalienable self-given right to sprout an opinion, most default to Tommy Smother’s dictum, “I’m an American, I don’t have to know any facts.”

Should prototype work be optimized? Always. But that seems more in the province of leadership than management.

Kevin Kelly’s Found Quotes 6 posts: I confess that, in 1901, I said to my brother Orville that men would not fly for 50 years. Two years later, we ourselves were making flights. This demonstration of my inability as a prophet gave me such a shock that I have ever since distrusted myself and have refrained from all prediction. -— Wilbur Wright Speech at Aero-Club de France, 1908

Clearly, Wilbur was demonstrating the hard-won skills to lead development.

There is even an award for valuable original work that was not understood when it was done.

Years ago, I was a master carpenter at a Fortune 20 Industrial when the chairman announced the company would no longer invest in basic research, just applied research. This was so long ago I had to go to the library to find out that basic research was defining properties and applied research was solving specific problems. Since that announcement they have shrunk. Or perhaps rightsized.

A user takes something already made and gets value from it. Ordering a book from Amazon, making holes with a drill press, cleaning up around the house, users use tools to create value.

Makers create tools that users use. It’s the next step up in understanding. When you can’t decide if someone is a luthier or a mean picker, luthier, the maker, takes precedence...and I would figure he has some important insights about playing.

In Keith Richards” autobiography, Life, he details his search to understand how the blues developed. He learned the story of how Sears offered an inexpensive mail order guitar to musicians who played homemade 5 string banjos, so they played their new guitars tuned like a banjo. Keith tried it, mastered it, put it on a Telecaster, and that’s why a bar band can’t quite get Honky Tonk Woman.

So prototyper, maker, user, where does a cost conscious manager put the guys who don’t want to pay attention, don’t want to improve their work? Pretty obvious, isn’t it? Somewhere else!

At each level there is a need for constant improvement, which comes from the people doing the work.

In the construction trades, one who has mastered the craft and continues to get better is called a mechanic, a term of admiration.

Join us at DevFestDC September 28th, for awesome new technologies and resources for building projects and companies!
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