Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ri - The Japanese Word for Invent or Blend at the Agile 2009 Conference

An interesting talk given by Alistair Cockburn during his keynote speech at the Agile 2009 conference today. His speech was titled, "I Come to Bury Agile, Not Praise It." Don't be mistaken. He's not suggesting that Agile is dead, but rather that we all need to seek to effective means to apply Agile principles to our circumstances. One idea from his presentation I'd like to highlight here is his thoughts on the Japanese words of:

  • Shu - meaning to learn, a technique that can be generally applied.
  • Ha - meaning to collect, techniques to be applied.
  • Ri - meaning to invent or blend, techniques to be applied.

The Japanese characters for "Shu, Ha, Ri".

All too often, many of us (especially novices) look to learn a specific technique to apply to our own work and circumstances. Alistair suggests that the "Shu", or the learning of a technique is just the beginning. When you learn one technique and apply it to your project work, you will find that it may work but not necessarily optimally. When you seek to refine your technique, some tend to "Ha," or collect a string of techniques to see which can be applied to his/her projects and work environment. Kind of like having a toolbox of tools to use that could be applied to each unique circumstance. Alistair challenges us as professionals to leverage "Ri" and invent/blend techniques so that they are customized and are compatible for the unique circumstances your work environment needs. It is only when we experiment and blend our learned/collected techniques that real innovative value is achieved. You may not at first understand what it is you are actually doing, but clarity will be attained with your results.

"Ri" will be my mantra during my attendance at this week's Agile 2009 conference.

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