In What Great Architects Actually Do, I listed a number of opinions on the topic.
Here’s one more: great architects always seek feedback
Not sometimes. Not usually. Not in specific use cases.
Your first idea is going to suck in some way
Face it, it’s true. If you could wave your hands in the air and magically come up with a perfect solution, you would not be a human being. I certainly can’t. My 3rd version of something is usually when I start getting confident that I’m going in the right direction.
I’ve found that the scale of a problem has little impact on this truth.
There are three major reasons for this:
- Unknown unknowns are harder to find alone
- Context always matters
- Natural bias towards the familiar
Don’t fight it. There’s no point. You can call me a liar or think I’m full of shit if you want, but I’m just telling you what decades of being wrong has taught me.
Just accept that, in some way and at some level, your first idea is going to suck.
And that’s OK!
Hark, adventurer, for there is 🌹 beauty in the seed idea and a better solution is likely not that far away!
Finding the sucky parts
Let me tell you a quick story.
Every morning, I have a brief conversation with my team of architects. We talk about a variety of topics. Our main goal, however, is to find new risks or escalations and then agreeing upon a course of action and improvements to our architecture to solve the risk.
Sometimes we’re largely in agreement of the architecture. Other times we’re very much not. But, make no mistake, no design makes it to production after passing through only a single pair of hands.
That wouldn’t work.
The designs would suck.
Conversation results in a shared understanding of how to architect a solution. This means sharing what our thoughts are and really, truly expecting them to come back with ways to make it better.
Emphasis on the make it better part.
Because making a design better with a team is 🌞 FUN 🌞.
Better architecture means a more true and pure realization of the vision that lay within your seed idea. You obviously want something to change, otherwise you wouldn’t be designing something.
And then you get excited. And they get excited.
You’ll hear questions and statements like:
- What if we moved this over here?
- Do we need this here? We could completely delete it with a few tweaks here and there.
- What if we took this other project that I worked on and used it with this design? Save us a ton of work!
- I just implemented a newer version of this, let me show you how we did it!
Now we’re cooking!
If you’re getting feedback like “it’s great” – that’s a red flag. That’s not useful feedback. Who cares if it’s great? You want people to poke holes in your thinking. To ask you WHY you did something. Consider this: either the person you’re asking for feedback doesn’t have the time to help, the expertise to understand how to make it better, or the trust to tell you what they think.
Your inner circle matters
Not everyone has a team of architects to chat with in the morning. But you can, if you want! Seriously! You can find your inner circle of fill-in-the-blank thing (for me, that’s platform architecture). They can be anywhere in the world and working at any company. It’s your choice to connect.
I don’t only talk to my team at work.
- I talk to teams in other states, other countries, and other companies.
- I Slack my ideas to people I’ve met earlier in life and say “hey is this crazy!?”
- I SMS my ideas to old colleagues and family and say “what do you think about this? how would you do this?”
- I run steering committees with other smart architects by figuring out who’s doing the most amazing things. I bring them in and say “let me show you what I’m doing, maybe we can learn from each other!”
Trust me, any architect worth their salt is going to jump at the idea to swap stories and ideas. If you come to them with a well worded proposal to exchange ideas, they will say yes and figure out a time. It’s the 😎 coolest thing ever.
Perfection is never the goal
Here’s another quick story.
I was on a project with a friend who really went deep into my content with detailed feedback. Lots of questions, lots of comments, lots of feedback in general. My first reaction was self-doubt. Why was my content so bad? Maybe I didn’t really know what I was doing? It was the wrong thought pattern.
I addressed the feedback for my content and received a new round of questions. The content was now better, but it wasn’t where it needed to be. Yet.
After more and more rounds of feedback I stood back and looked at the final product. It looked almost NOTHING like the original design. It was 💎 SO MUCH BETTER 💎. It looked beautiful, and it worked extremely well, and the changes I wanted to make were made. I got what I wanted.
I thought that, with enough practice and experience, I would eventually make content that would receive no feedback. It would be perfect. I would get back a “this is great, no changes!” feedback from my friend.
Every design, for months, would always have questions or improvement ideas. Every time.
My mindset changed.
It takes a real friend to look at my work hard enough to find ways to improve it. To give me genuine ideas and questions.
The goal should never be to build PERFECTION.
Find people who can tell you that something is NOT PERFECT.
Your professional career depends more upon who knows you than who you know.
Get to know people and share what you’re building.
Ask people for 💡 ideas and 🧠 feedback on how to make your ideas better. Act on the good ideas. TELL PEOPLE when you use their ideas and make them part of your success.
Don’t build in a silo. It will always be somewhat sucky.
As the old saying goes:
“if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together“