One of my favorite companies is 37signals. Although they are a web development firm, there is a lot of similarity between what they do and what a traditional architect does. Their blog, Signal VS. Noise, is very worthwhile. This post from their blog about everything not being equal gives expression to something we have all experienced. I know I don't always point out that "the emperor has no clothes". I like the way David Heinemeier Hansson looks at the issue.
Everything is not equally good
When talking shop, there’s a natural tendency to avoid the drama of confrontation by relegating all disputes to Your Mileage May Vary. If we can declare all approaches and techniques to be of value only “under certain circumstances”, then we can avoid the hard work of finding the better alternative and merely stop at different.
I don’t think this serves anyone. Well, that’s not entirely true. It supports the ego of the person proposing the bad idea. It also helps the ego of anyone who bought into it. But it doesn’t help the world move forward to hoist up every bad idea as “just another option”.
Of course, you can’t stop this from happening. Not least because people differ on what’s a bad idea. And that’s fine! There will always be different groups advocating for different things. But as individuals, we shouldn’t be afraid to impart our opinion on ideas.
Ideas are meant to be attacked, torn apart, and put back together again. You may well want to shield your idea from the harsh sunlight at first, but by the time it’s ready to meet the world, it should also be ready for rain or shine. Bad ideas are supposed to wither under the stress of criticism.
Hell, even good ideas are supposed to wither in the winter of their life. Precious few ideas are immortal, and even those should be constantly tested to ensure their hearts still beat vibrantly.
The reason we get rid of bad ideas is to make room for new ones. If your catalogue of techniques is brimming with YMMV charity cases, you’re less likely to come up with or entertain new entrants. Hoarding bad ideas that might come in handy when the full moon shines purple is just that. Hoarding.
The flow of new ideas is far more important. Throw ‘em up, bat ‘em out. Declaring “oh well, that didn’t work out like I thought” is an incredibly liberating feeling. I might even go as far as to say it’s motivating. It’s like clearing your desk or emptying your inbox. Ahh, a fresh start!
It takes a strong ego to let go of bad ideas that you originated, but rarely people will think less of you for it. Which is more than can be said of clinging endlessly to bad ideas past their due.