Friday, June 24, 2005


Last week I was asked to submit a proposal for a new project. It involved inventing a new kind of web application; something that doesn't yet exist as far as I know. A lot of ideas had been floating around about how to think about the problem, what the UI should look like, etc. But none of them felt quite right. The people who asked for the proposal took a committee approach to thinking about the problem, and resolving disagreements between the committee members lead to compromised and mediocre ideas. I hadn't planned when I was going to write this proposal, but I happened to begin the day Wednesday with a big jolt of caffeine. I'm a fairly sporadic coffee/cola drinker, mostly because of what the stuff does to my sleep (or lack thereof). Nevertheless, I sometimes drink the drug anyway. Often it backfires and ruins my sleep, but I get some creative things done before that. I knew that writing this proposal was going to require inspiration. I needed to put away all the compromises and politics and just write something totally different that would be better than anybody expected. And that's what happened. Everyone loved it, even though nobody got what they asked for! This has me thinking about art, inspiration, and groups. Most companies, churches, and other organizations tend to make decisions by committees. An initial idea is presented (sometimes good, sometimes bad), and then the group rounds off the corners until everyone is more or less satisfied. It's a perfect recipe for making unremarkable things. It doesn't surprise me at all that most of the great inventions of the modern world were made by a single person, not a group. People can be great artists, but groups usually produce mediocrity Now I just need to figure out how to make great things more consistently, and without the caffeine!