Asthma doesn't seem to bother me any more unless I'm around cigars or dogs. The thing that would bother me most would be a dog smoking a cigar.
-- Steve Allen
When you take a close look at Mr. Allen's joke, you realize that the joke works because it combines two basic ideas.
You see, if dogs wearing hats and sunglasses were introduced in the first sentence, the joke wouldn't be as funny. It's the unexpected combination of a plain ol' dog smoking a cigar that strikes people as funny.
In software terms, we'd say that two highly cohesive, loosely coupled components were combined. When design is done right the final result is software Legos. And that's the key -- creating building blocks so your creative self can multiply, rearrange, recombine...
Let me give you an example. About a year ago I was working on a project that used an Excel spreadsheet. First I wrote an Excel custom function that gave the price of a product; without this function the numbers would've been flying everywhere. Next I wrote an Excel macro that managed scenarios through key-value pairs (yes, good design even makes Excel easier to use).
By combining the price function (the dog) with the scenario building block (the cigar), we produced models in half the time. The building blocks allowed us to reduce the number of key variables and present information like the heads-up display of a fighter pilot -- we were flying by wire. And that's important because either the numbers fly you or you fly the numbers.
What's more, as other people saw this model they began to assimilate the two building blocks into their spreadsheets -- the Legos of change became part of the corporate DNA.
Now, here's the beauty of this approach: You don't have to write War and Peace. Instead, rely on creativity to produce a series of building blocks. In the Excel example, I spent about three hours on each function. The real fun starts after you've developed seven or more Legos, because that's when the combinations are endless and it becomes pure play... multiply here, recombine here, play it backwards here. Now you're working as an artist.
And it's more than software; I'm talking about all things business. You can create a visual, a five minute presentation, or a metaphor -- the engine of creativity that jump-starts innovation and drives vital DNA into the heart of your organization.