Sunday, January 9

Method Obsession

A fresh year; and with it a fresh perspective—or so I hope.

I'd like to start the year as I mean to go on, and for the moment my most urgent intent is the deliberate avoidance of frameworks, methods and processes.

As readers of this column you've probably already bought into the need for creative thinking at work (the clue's in the title!)  But if we're not careful, our allegiances to the rules of industrial best practice can overcome us—and of course they intentionally stifle creativity, because their goal is a repeatable set of behaviours, transformations and outputs.

Those of us classed as knowledge workers in analytical fields will often have embraced methods early in our careers, as a way of replicating the successes of our elders and betters.  But we should recognise that those role models don't stick rigidly to methods—indeed their own successes began long before those methods were ever articulated.

Of course this is not to say that methods don't have their place.  They certainly do:
1.  As a reminder to the hasty
2.  As a guide for those lacking in confidence
3.  As a check-and-balance for any of us
4.  In other situations where a wholly formulaic response is the right one

But if we're smart about the pros and cons of methods, we can repeatedly ask ourselves "Is this the right approach, given my situation?"  This simple question allows us to venture outside defined process in addressing challenging tasks, and creative thinking is just one response.  If instead we confine ourselves to prescribed methods then our activity becomes increasingly commoditised.

For me, the Gaudi building in the picture above is a splendid representation of this freedom to do the right thing:  You get the feeling that he could only have arrived at this design by throwing caution and convention to the winds, drawing-up something unusual which he believed people would like, and only then consulting the rulebook for the finer details of the construction.

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