Monday, June 28, 2010

Reinventing the Wheel

@jschwa1 via @hlsdk and @JohnIMM on not reinventing the wheel, recommending examples and techniques to avoid (being accused of) wasting effort and resources.

There are two issues here. Firstly the trade-off between design time and search time. In the short term, it doesn't make sense to spend half a day searching for something that you could build in a hour, even if the lifetime consequences of unnecessary duplication and complication may cost a lot more.

Secondly, there is a trade-off between using an existing wheel (which might be okay but not perfectly designed for this particular task) and designing a better wheel. I'm guessing that there are engineers at any major car manufacturer dedicated to re-inventing the wheels - otherwise we'd still be using Henry Ford's design.

Thus the management challenge here is twofold. Firstly, making sure that there is sufficient access to existing knowledge and ideas to allow engineers to build on what went before. And secondly making sure that there is enough management information and intelligence to achieve a reasonable balance between innovation and reuse.

Great summary from @j4ngis When you re-invent wheels - re-use knowledge about existing wheels.

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