In defense of “making it up as you go along”

“I confess – I’m for it. And I’ll go even further – I think “making it up as you go along” is one of the greatest, and most important processes of any age.

No great explorer set out with a detailed set of explorer guidelines. They adjusted and discovered.

No great inventor set out with a detailed set of inventor guidelines. They experimented and adapted.

No great leader set out with a detailed set of leadership guidelines. Leaders point the way and rally followers when their faith fails.

“Making it up as you go along” means that you recognize a good foothold on your way up a mountain and know how to take advantage of it (in other words, you understand your craft). But you don’t need (literally) a step-by-step instruction book (because you understand your craft). In software development terms, the “step-by-step” equivalent is a requirements specification. Kind of like paint-by-numbers for would-be Rembrandts who don’t yet know that method is incapable of producing genuine art.” (Eric Reiss)

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