Add Lightness, what IT can learn from cars.

I’m a car nut.  There’s something about driving that captures my imagination.  I’m never sure whether its the act of going somewhere, the sensation of reading the road through the steering wheel and the seat of your pants or just the cars themselves.  Whatever it is, for me the journey is often as enjoyable as the destination.

There’s lots of cars that I like, and quite a few car companies I admire, but Lotus really stands out in my affections.  It probably started as a James Bond thing (I still want an underwater Esprit) but if you look past the fast cars and former F1 glories, there are some pretty sound principles that I think apply beyond the realm of sports cars and racing.

Lotus was started by a guy called Colin Chapman, and under his guidance a relatively small set of people set about changing the world.  They were innovative and successful, always pushing the limits whether they be the limits of technology or the rule book.  Helping with this success were some underlying principles and ideas, and one in particular which Colin referred to as ‘adding lightness’. 

Why make something more than it needs to be?  You don’t need huge amounts of power to move something that is agile and light.  Add lightness to it, add simplicity, trim away all the excess crap you don’t need.  A lightweight car will accelerate quicker, brake better and go round corners faster.  Good things that will help win you races or make your customers smile.  Isn’t that also what we want in IT?

Whether its code, infrastructure or organisational structures anyone who works in IT will know that simplicity is always the best policy.  Sure it’s not always possible, but as an objective or principle it’s hard to beat.

By it’s nature Code is complex, so is infrastructure.  Even so there can be a certain elegance to their design.  I’m not developer, but even within the scripting I’ve done before there’s a certain pleasure in writing a script that applies a simple, elegant solution to a problem.  Something simple will run faster, use less resource, be easier to support.  Even easier to copy and paste into tomorrows project.

If you’re solving problems or delivering projects, in my experience a small, highly motivated team of people will deliver faster and with better results than a complex heavyweight organisation.  Give them some simple processes to use and a lightweight framework of standards and you’re laughing.

Add lightness.  You don’t need those cup holders.  They’ll slow you down.

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