What are your discovery skills?
One of the most dynamic aspects of software development is discovery. Discovery is the act of learning as you go.
Discovery entails asking questions, trial & error, and collaboration with teammates.
Jeffrey Dyer, professor at BYU’s Marriott School, surveyed 3,000 creative executives and conducted 500 individual interviews over 6 years to see what makes innovators tick (see How Do Innovators Think? for an HBR interview with Jeffrey Dyer).
- Associating – Associating is a cognitive skill that enables people to make associations and parallels between seemingly unrelated concepts or problems.
- Questioning – Questioning is the ability to confidently ask questions that defy the status quo and open up mental vistas to possibilities.
- Observing – Observing is the ability to recognize people’s behavior.
- Experimenting – Experimenting is the ability, and confidence, to be experimental (i.e, try new experiences and confront unknowns).
- Connecting – Connecting is the ability to connect with inquisitive and informative people from whom one can learn.
Sho is the Beginner. It denotes a starting point.
Shin is Heart or Mind as in put your heart into it!
Sho Shin is cultivating an attitude of openness and eagerness. A beginner listens. A beginner is full of enthusiastic questions and purposeful energy. A beginner wants to know. In Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki says,
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.
Beware the expert
I said that an expert was a fella who was afraid to learn anything new because then he wouldn’t be an expert any more.
~ Harry S. Truman
Beware the authority
To punish me for my contempt of authority, fate has made me an authority myself.
~ Albert Einstein
Sho Shin is the seed of discovery.
Our challenge as software developers using discovery is to integrate Sho Shin into our daily lives. A step towards Sho Shin is to consider Jeffrey Dyer’s discovery skills
- Search for metaphors that help you better understand concepts and behavior.
- Challenge the status quo. Welcome and consider dissenting opinions. Be wary of convenient and comforting patterns.
- Sensitize yourself to the details of your culture. Be a sponge for behavioral nuance.
- Find the joy in trial and error. Avoid the natural tendency to summarize and simplify.
- Cultivate connections with others. Seek inquisitive minds.