Thinking outside the box
Jim Collins, author of Beyond Entrepreneurship (recommended by Cory Miller of iThemes at Pressnomics), suggests that budding entrepreneurs can innovate by studying something that may seem completely unrelated to your craft – “thinking outside the box.”
Lately I’ve been interested in cycling. When I’m riding, rather than putting my mind on auto-pilot (like many drivers do), I find that my mind is more alert. It’s partly due to the fact that I’m trying to avoid getting killed by drivers on auto-pilot. But it is also because I’m going slower, exposed to the air and the elements. I can hear a deer in the passing woods or smell fresh bread from the bakery. It turns out that “slowing down” is an excellent approach to problem solving. In my case, “thinking outside the (computer) box” had just become “thinking while outside.”
A different perspective
Because of the detailed ground-level perspective I had been getting, I’ve become enthralled with the minutia of urban design. My new obsession was somewhat legitimized recently when I was on a trip and noticed a business acquaintance was reading the same book as I was: A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander. While I was reading it for urban design, he was using it to model real-life patterns into online social tools.
I’m not alone, far from it in fact. Automattic (WordPress.com) founder Matt Mullenweg seems to understand that we can learn from urbanism, see Companies Die, Cities Thrive. Additionally, my business partner is involved with Las Vegas’s Downtown Project, which is essentially New Urbanism being applied to downtown Vegas. While he’s not involved with urban planning, the changes are palpable, and already bearing fruit: Fremont East in downtown Las Vegas is possibly the best part of the city.
More to come
Since I’ve been trying to do “off-topic” (Casual) posts every other post, they appear roughly once a month. I wanted to write this as a sort of introduction since I now have about 6 months of posts drafted that are related to Urban Design. For those looking for more brain-food in the meanwhile, these are the main sources I follow:
You can probably find similar resources and movements related to the places you live and work.
I’ve also read several books regarding transit and urbanism (besides those mentioned here), and I hope to provide insight into their theories by examining some practical applications.
While all of this really has nothing to do with software design, studies of efficiency & economics, and connectivity & accessibility have quite a bit in common with software, and more-so the business of software. Hopefully in my brain all of these things are cross-pollinating without me consciously knowing.