A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of giving a one-day course to PhD students on the topic of Demo-driven innovation. The course was organized as a CUSO (Conférence universitaire de Suisse occidentale).
I got to work with highly motivated students and argue my way through the demo-driven philosophy.
We started from debating what innovation is and what role it plays in both research and engineering. We agreed that innovation is less about discovering the fantastic, as it is about revealing the obvious.
Then we tackled the problem of the process of research. Finding a complete process to such a complex problem is difficult, but focusing on the most basic problem is a doable first step. We concluded that the most important research challenge is not the fight against nature, but against our own entrenched assumptions.
The argumentation went on: To fight our own assumptions we have to expose them and get feedback. But, feedback comes only from interested people. And it is hard to get people interested in a subject that is not their own. The most effective way to capture the attention and later on the imagination is through stories.
Not fairy tales. Stories. Stories make facts valuable. They capture attention and spark imagination. And the more palpable they are, the better their impact is. In other words, we should strive to demo our story. Especially in a field such as computer science, making stories palpable is both accessible and beneficial.
When demos tell stories, magic things happen. On the one hand, the audience gets more involved. On the other hand, the very implementation of the demo provides a tremendous feedback. We are syntactic creatures, and the look of ideas matters a great deal to us.
And no, there is no such thing as an un-demoable topic.
Next week, on December 13, I will have the pleasure of giving a keynote and tutorial around humane assessment and Moose at the Be Fast & Curious event in Cluj, Romania.
The event is organized by 3Pillar Global. This is the first time that I am talking about these topics in Romanian, so this will actually pose a little challenge. But, considering the fact that the event poster has my head on it, I will certainly enjoy it.
If you are in the neighborhood, come and join us (the registration is free).
A while ago, I was asked to participate with a snippet on what I think is an important lesson on preparing and delivering presentations. I did, and now it appeared in an electronic book together with contributions from 79 other co-authors.
Here is my contribution:
Facts are boring. Stories make them interesting.
It’s one thing to expose the facts about climate changing, and another one to tell a story about it. One leaves the audience indifferent, and one gets it excited. Al Gore tried the first one for decades. He had all the right data, but it took him to dress it in a story to get noticed. Yet, what truly brought it to life was him climbing on a stage crane to show what an off-the-charts-value truly means. That’s the power of a demo.
We crave concreteness. We want to sense. Our imagination thrives on examples. Tap that opportunity. Get the audience to experience your story. Don’t just talk about it. Demo it.
A good demo materializes your story and puts energies in motion. But, demoing is more than just marketing. It’s a design tool, too: When you demo, you cannot get away with big words. You have to show your story’s worth. It’s the best feedback mechanism you have available.
Demoing is a skill, and like any skill, it can be trained. Regardless of the subject, there always is an exciting demo lurking underneath. It just takes you to find it. And to do it.
And the full book is available on slideshare.
We are pleased to invite you to the CHOOSE Forum to be held on November 28, 2014 at the University of Bern. This year’s topic is Software Engineering Today.
The full day event will feature four talks and a panel. New this year is that we allow more time for networking and informal exchanges. The speakers are:
The day also features the CHOOSE General Assembly, including reports from the President and the Treasurer.
More details together with the registration form can be found on the official webpage: http://choose.s-i.ch/events/forum2014
Please note that this year, we also organize a satellite course on November 27 with Michael Feathers on Working Effectively with Legacy Code.
During January 19-20 I will give two public courses at ProgramUtvikling (the organizers of the NDC conference) in Oslo on:
The registration forms are available on the above links.