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Computing Thoughts
Discover and Promote What Works
by Bruce Eckel
October 1, 2009
Our typical approach to problem-solving is to invent something new. If you've been around the block a few times, it gets harder to convince you to jump into yet another untested scheme.


The thrill of greenfield development is enticing. It's the mark of a young developer to want to invent (for example) their own web framework the moment they discover something they don't like in existing web frameworks.

It doesn't sound at first to be as exciting, but finding something that works and promoting that gives you the thrill of success (rather than just the thrill of invention). I don't know about you, but I'm finding success to be much more attractive than exploring for the sake of exploration. Indeed, I'd rather not have the glory of raw invention; I'll happily trade that in for success, and I'll happily credit the person who made that success happen. Stand on the shoulders of giants, and all that.

Seth Godin says this might be the most important concept in Tribes. His example is even more compelling: societal change. Rather than going into a village with some Westernized idea of how to solve a health problem, you "find the mom with the healthy kids ... then help others in the village notice what she was doing."

This is a subtle but compelling mental shift when seeking answers. One of the biggest aspects is that it isn't about coming up with some argument to convince people that something will work. There is no argument about whether it will work -- you can start doing something because you know it works, and later you can argue about what exactly is producing the success, presumably in an attempt to refine the process (or you can refine by discovering other things that work).

Note that this is a "natural selection" process. You allow the equivalent of genetic mutation to produce lots of solutions and choose the one(s) that work rather than assuming you can use logic and first principles to invent a solution (not that the latter approach is bad per se; rather we are over-fixated on it as the only way to solve problems).

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About the Blogger

Bruce Eckel ( provides development assistance in Python with user interfaces in Flex. He is the author of Thinking in Java (Prentice-Hall, 1998, 2nd Edition, 2000, 3rd Edition, 2003, 4th Edition, 2005), the Hands-On Java Seminar CD ROM (available on the Web site), Thinking in C++ (PH 1995; 2nd edition 2000, Volume 2 with Chuck Allison, 2003), C++ Inside & Out (Osborne/McGraw-Hill 1993), among others. He's given hundreds of presentations throughout the world, published over 150 articles in numerous magazines, was a founding member of the ANSI/ISO C++ committee and speaks regularly at conferences.

This weblog entry is Copyright © 2009 Bruce Eckel. All rights reserved.

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