In a world where the answer is ‘it depends’

‘Surely your are joking My Feynman’ is a biography of Richard Feynman, one of the Nobel prize winning scientists, this book was put together from taped conversations he had with his friend. The book paints a picture that though Feynman is a scientist; he had interests in arts, music, safe cracking and even playing pranks.

He shares his observations about how his art teacher changed the way he thought about teaching. Feynman had always seen the idea of the teacher – giving you the right way to approach a problem, introduce you to standards and tried & tested methods. You will be forced by the teacher to follow a way of doing things until you get it right. Art teachers on the other hand never criticised.

The art teachers always gave feedback like ‘if you use dark lines here, I feel that you want to convey darkness’, ‘if you draw the neck long and the head short, it gives me a feeling that you wanted to show that you are looking through a lens or it is a caricature’. They never prescribed this is how you do, because in art it is possible to use any method to convey what you mean. The teacher was only able to teach through osmosis, there were no instructions or prescriptions. Feynman says that the spirit of how to go about solving problems are taught than the techniques used to solve the problem which is very important.

Recently I got involved with Agile India conference as a volunteer. They have a great guideline of giving feedback to submissions such a way that it is constructive, never in a negative tone and never ever prescriptive. One of the items in the guideline is to see if we can play the perfection game. In this way you are actually trying to improve even when staying away from the implementation itself. There are so many ways to get the same desired result, the solution approach depends on what the individual or team knew at the time of task at hand, the tools at their disposal, their environment and also the mindset .

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ It depends


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