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What is the best development methodology for nurturing personal creativity? Why do you think it's better than others?

The methodologies can be agile, traditional or whatever.

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

The best methodology for this is anything which

  • lets developers do their work and solve problems the way they see best,
  • leaves the choice (and responsibility) of technical decisions to the developers, and
  • allows them to deliver quality they (and not only the clients/sponsors) are satisfied with,
  • allows and encourages communication (both within and without the team),
  • last but not least, is accepted and followed by the team because they are happy with and committed to it, not because of external dictate.

Usually agile methods are good at these (this is one of the reasons they came into being). But any methodology can be good or bad in its practical incarnation in a specific team and project. Any method(ology) needs to be tailored and fine-tuned for the needs of the team and project, during which it may change considerably. And we have all heard of shops loudly preaching "we do agile" when in reality their process is something completely different :-( So the issue is not how the method is labeled, but how it works in one's concrete team and project.

Peopleware 2nd Edition discusses such issues in much greater detail - although they talk about productivity rather than creativity, I believe that in this context the two are fairly close so that the book's suggestions are useful here.

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The important balance to strike is adding structure where it helps, and not mandate it where it hurts. In other words the methodology supports your team, as opposed to the team supporting the methodology. – Berin Loritsch Apr 12 '11 at 13:47
Sometimes the creative ideas come from non-developers. I'm not too sure developers at Apple have historically set higher standards than Steve Jobs. – JeffO Apr 12 '11 at 15:30

Any methodology that does not punish people when they are creative (And we all want to be creative.). Avoid:

  1. Rigid time schedules (Does not mean limit amount of time on task)
  2. discouraging programming on own time
  3. limiting internet access, research, and SO site participation
  4. Immediately trying to calculate ROI when you don't even know how to use the new feature.
  5. Provide training/study in areas not specific to the programming language/framework currently being used. Who knows, you may learn something useful from chemistry.

And make sure everyone is aware of your current problems/issues with your users, company or business partners. I try to stress to people to give me problems and not ask me how to implement solutions.

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One of these, is not like the other.

The definitions, themselves, are contradictory:


  • a set or system of methods, principles, and rules for regulating a given discipline, as in the arts or sciences.


  • the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.;*

Again, for clarity...

Methodology: A set of rules for regulating a discipline.

Creativity: The ability to transcend traditional rules.

By definition, the best "methodology" for creativity is CowboyCoding, with its emphasis on artistry and hacking.

Downvote all you want... This is a simple truism, according to the definitions.

I am not saying that "Cowboy Coding" is the best methodoly for deliver software!

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Eh, not sure I agree. For example, poetry has a form called a Sonnet which has extremely strict rules. But, within those rules many poets have created great works. – Michael K Apr 12 '11 at 13:35
You can also include haiku, flower arrangement, tea ceremony, etc. There are "rules" of composition for painting, photography, etc. These two are not mutually exclusive, and many times the greatest creativity comes from within the constraints of a structure. – Berin Loritsch Apr 12 '11 at 13:46
To be clear, I not only disagree with your conclusion, but I think that it can hurt most software development teams more than it helps. There are very few cowboys who are good and deliver, and in the chaos there will be showdowns at high noon when two cowboys disagree with each other. Not very good for morale or creativity. – Berin Loritsch Apr 12 '11 at 13:51
I edited.. I think you guys are applying the concept of constraints at the wrong level. And I didn't say that the outcome of CowboyCoding is, necessarily, GOOD. I simply pointed out the definitions of both creativity, and methodology... they are incompatible at the level of definition. – red-dirt Apr 12 '11 at 14:09
Ironically, you quote Ansel Adams who was one of the most methodical photographers. He routinely tested his materials, and had a definite process for making sure each frame he shot was going to work in the darkroom. The arts that I listed also have a similar process surrounding them, a right and a wrong way to do them. In short, the way you get there is just as important as the end result. – Berin Loritsch Apr 12 '11 at 14:24

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