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Chris Breisch   .NET Data Practices
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There's a good article on the downsides of "the wisdom of crowds" over at Tyner Blain.  Basically, they point out that while collaboration is good during some of the early phases of the project, design isn't one of them, because it "prevents innovative, passionate, fantastic decisions".

They suggest one solution is the Apple "Dictator" approach.

One way is to follow apple’s model - have a dictator. As long as the person calling the shots has good instincts, she’ll make good decisions. If she doesn’t, we’re toast. With this approach, we get both the downside (possible bad decisions) and the upside (possible great decisions).Another approach is to allow passion to stand out, when interpreting the inputs of the masses.

Basically, Tyner Blain is telling us that without someone with a dynamic vision, the project isn't going anywhere.  That's true, but doesn't go far enough, in my opinion.

I have a task in my plate right now that requires me to be that dictator, and while I think it will work out well, there's an important piece missing from what I quoted above, and it's a piece that's mentioned often in Tyner Blain's articles, so I'm not entirely sure why it was left out of this one.

This dictator can't be an island.  As they say, you want to avoid design by committee, but you have to recognize the individual talents of your group and elicit their input.

For my task, I need to be that person with the dynamic vision, but I have several other people in my group that have specific areas of expertise and knowledge that I lack.  I can have a global vision, and even bring it down from the 30,000 foot view to the 1,000 foot view, but I need their specific visions to accomplish their individual tasks.  It's sort of a "what" vs. "how" question, but I have to let them have the freedom to decide not only the "how" in their individual areas, but also the "what", as long as it fits in with my global "what".

In this instance, I'm not using collective intelligence, as I'm still the person with the vision and design plan, but I am taking advantages of my people's strengths.  I think this is where Apple's dictator approach sometimes fails.  I think their dictators sometimes get locked into being dictators and forget that they are managing intelligent and creative people.

Posted on Friday, March 30, 2007 8:40 AM Architecture | Back to top

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