Know Your Scarcity

Fred Brooks, the computer scientist who 35 years ago wrote the still-relevant The Mythical Man-Month, has written a new book, The Design of Design, and Kevin Kelly interviews him in Wired. It’s interesting throughout, but the following struck me as particularly insightful:

The critical thing about the design process is to identify your scarcest resource. Despite what you may think, that very often is not money. For example, in a NASA moon shot, money is abundant but lightness is scarce; every ounce of weight requires tons of material below. On the design of a beach vacation home, the limitation may be your ocean-front footage. You have to make sure your whole team understands what scarce resource you’re optimizing.

I believe Brooks’s point about money often not being the scarcest resource is spot-on; as Stella Adler used to say, “your talent is in your choice.”

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  1. Juan Camilo Esguerra says:

    All right, I am back…
    Apparently the Mythical Man Month shows you that it does not matter how much money you can put into a project that is already delayed, it will kept delayed and even worst it could get more delayed…
    But the thing here is that the project is already messed up when you decided to put some more money on it… What if you put enough money from the very star to gather the huge team that was needed from the very beginning…? Why you do not do that? The answer is simple, because your resources are scarce, specially (guess what?) money…
    A little confession before leaving… I just read some kind of summary of the book because there was not full free version on the internet… I promise I will try to find it here in Colombia.
    Peace

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  2. Juan Camilo Esguerra says:

    @20-SDC
    Hey!!
    Well I insist is money. You got to cut weight because otherwise the launch will get quite expensive…
    Having a lot does not mean that you will waste it, you still have to optimize because a lot is never enough.
    Greetings

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