Saturday, December 06, 2008

Serious Play, by Michael Schrage

Serious Play: How the World’s Best Companies Simulate to Innovate, by Michael Schrage

In my current job I’m leading a team that is creating a product that allows companies to create quick simulations in order to verify requirements early in the development cycle when it is relatively cheap to make changes. My product goes to the heart of what this book preaches: models and prototypes allow companies to manage risk while encouraging innovation and collaboration. I was excited when this was picked for our book club, hoping to gain more insight into the reasons why simulations are so useful and ammunition against those that believe exhaustive documentation and multi-year planning cycles are a better way to develop software. Twenty minutes after opening the book, however, my excitement was gone and the realization that I had yet another uninspiring business tome on my hands had set in.

Like many books found in the business methodology section of the bookstore, much of the content is both useful and applicable to real-world situations. Also like many of them, the writing is insipid and the style utterly dull. More than once I had to reread a section not because it was thought-provoking or packed with details, but because it was so vanilla and unmemorable nothing really stuck—kind of like watching a game score ticker for a sport you don’t follow. Perhaps I disliked this because I already understand the value of interactive simulations and early feedback; it is entirely possible that this would be a much more useful text for those that are skeptical or uneducated on the benefits prototyping. For me, though, I was sorely disappointed.

First Sentence:
We shape our models, and then our models shape us.

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