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Does Success Spoil Inventors?

A study of inventors in the disk-drive industry suggests that success can stifle creativity by channeling the mind along well-worn paths

2 min read

The inventor of the Post-It note, Arthur Fry, a scientist at 3M Co., in St. Paul, Minn., is a frequently cited example of a creative person who came up with an extremely novel and highly profitable idea. Following the genesis of this pathbreaking idea, however, he spent much of his time suggesting variations of the invention, such as the Post-It Pop-up Note Dispenser and the Post-It Flag. Instead of generating novel ideas, he made incremental variations on his original idea.

The story of Arthur Fry flies in the face of the conventional wisdom. Most scholars who study creativity would say that people should try to generate as many ideas as possible in order to maximize the chances of hitting on something truly novel. That is why the most influential scientists are often the most prolific and why brainstorming groups are told to suspend judgment and come up with as many ideas as possible. How, then, to explain what happened to Arthur Fry?

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar

You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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