The wrong idea

My father tells a story of someone he used to work with – someone so totally unacquainted with social norms that he was thought of as ‘an alien’.

One day, this man was suggesting some boneheaded idea to his boss. The boss was not impressed with it. The man pressed on: “well, gee, you just don’t seem to be getting this…” His boss turned puce and said, threateningly: “maybe that’s because it’s just the wrong idea.”

It’s the wrong idea is a surprisingly useful concept. Often you’ll have gone down a road so far that you’re blinded by context. Sometimes taking stock of your general direction can make you realise not that the details of your solution are wrong, but the whole approach. You need to start over.

Pair programming is nice for that reason: while you work on the nitty-gritty implementation details, your pair can keep the fifty-thousand foot view in the back of their mind. It’s easy to get lost down a rabbit hole; they can remind you why you’re going down this path in the first place.