A Commonplace

What is a commonplace?



A Perverse Alchemy Turning Gold into Lead.

One you start to understand that delivering a project is a bout managing contradictions, and that managing contradictions is about noticing contradictions, you start to see them everywhere.

Alchemy is the ancient business of attempting to turn lead into gold. It was a dangerous business, often poisoning the alchemist and resulting in strange behaviour. Of course, alchemy is the ultimate get rich quick scheme.

But paradoxically, the work of the alchemists to get rich quick resulted in the slow yield of a bunch of not alchemical success and knowledege, but chemical success and knowledge. And from chemistry came the modern world of steel, plastics and medicines.

Ironically, a long, long way down the pragamatic path of understanding physics and chemistry, which to some degree was born of the desparate wish to see lead turned into gold, scientists (because that's what they were calling themselves by that point) did figure out how to turn lead into gold. They also realised that it was an expensive and dangerous process that really wasn't worth it.

I think something similar to alchemy is going on in project management, but a lot of the time, it can feel that the business of project management is not so much turning lead into gold as turning gold into lead.

The gold of course, is the idea. The shining idea.

Ideas seem to have their own rules of attraction. They somehow need to be simple. They some how need to muck around with the quantifier. OK - that's a sentence that I need to explain, probably even to myself.

In logic there are two quantifiers. The universal quantifier. All. The existential quantifier. Some.

So an attractive idea for a project will often involve the notion of "all".

An idea for a project might involve "A system that doesn't everything that the old system does."

Or idea might involve "Same" which is logically like "all" (if two things are the same, they have all the same qualities). An idea like this might be "Just like facebook."

Mostly "all" by itself isn't enough. The "all" (the universal quantifier) needs to be accompanied by a comparator - "bigger (or smaller), lighter, newer, faster, different."

"same - but fast"

"Like facebook but different"

"Like your old cola, but with a great new taste."

"Same. But different."

Notice what this last idea is saying, logically.

X and Not X