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Shiny New Things

March 11th, 2021

by Henry Poydar

in Newsletter

Hi friend! Greetings and happy Friday.

As a developer myself, I am continually drawn to new technologies and frameworks. It’s exciting to learn and apply new things. And it’s hard to buckle down and grind away on older code when I just saw a promising alternative. Different, better, shinier, new.

But in truth, the most efficient, lucrative, and stable tech stacks for software products are pretty boring. If the goal is to deliver value to the customer, it almost always makes sense to reach for proven and often older tech. Most of the time, customers interact with the end product. They could care less about what’s under the hood.

Then again, curiosity and eagerness to learn new things are valuable traits among your team members. Interest in new things and acquiring new knowledge often leads to solutions for existing problems. Different parts of the brain are activated, provoking new approaches. And all the proven tech were new ideas at some point. So it’s important to foster these traits, even when the day-to-day work is about building features on the same old stuff. But how?

By explicitly allocating some percentage of your team’s time to exploring new tech, even if it’s never applied.

One way to do this is to schedule a weekly or monthly “lunch and learn” presentation.  The idea is that everyone eats together (perhaps over Zoom for now) while one team member gives a talk or demonstration on a topic of their choosing, preferably one they’ve just learned and tangential to the team’s work.  Rotate to a new team member each week, so everyone presents at some point, no matter what their title.

The lunch and learn approach has several benefits, including:

1. Learning how to learn effectively, as enshrined in the Feynman technique. Preparing to explain to a broad audience how something works is the best way to figure out how it works in the first place.

2. Establishing additional lines of communication within the team by exposing potential shared interests, thus building up trust.

3. Encouraging the growth of individual team members by giving them a platform outside of their titled work.

In essence, my advice is to lean into “shiny new thing” thinking and harness it. Have other tactics besides lunch and learn worked for you or your team? I’d love to hear them or any other thoughts you have on the matter. Just reply!

Have a good weekend,

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