"It worked once" - The ''selfish gene'' for architects and managers ?

Sat 21 June 2008

I read two completely disconnected posts roughly at the same time, one related to software architects and another to socio-biology - viz. "The five types of poor architects" and "New discovery proves 'Selfish Gene' exists" and I was wondering if architects and managers suffer from a Selfish Gene syndrome ? Now I am obviously stretching the meaning of the word selfish gene, since architect's kids by default aren't architects, and any knowledge of architecture passed down is unlikely to be through genetic transfers.

The post about the architects states :

The arguments these architects often use to turn down new ideas include "it will never work", "this is not practical", "we already has proven methods, why bother such risky solution?", or even the discussion-stopping message "I have solved this problem before, I know what works and what do not."

The post about the selfish gene states :

In studying genomes, the word 'selfish' does not refer to the human-describing adjective of self-centered behavior but rather to the blind tendency of genes wanting to continue their existence into the next generation. Ironically, this 'selfish' tendency can appear anything but selfish when the gene does move ahead for selfless and even self-sacrificing reasons.

Architects and managers pass on their empirically gathered knowledge and heuristics sometimes as wisdom snippets and sometimes as precepts to the people they are mentoring, and some of it is based on the fact that "it-worked-once" therefore it must be right. I wonder if the "it-worked-once" learning acts like a selfish gene, propagating itself into others and into situations where perhaps it has long lost its relevance or validity and may actually result into self inflicted damage ? My learning is that learnings and heuristics have to be continuously evaluated in changing contexts. And to be on the lookout for this gene.

BTW, I have seen the same work with developers - but it often deals with code (sometimes the gene actually is a piece of code), has far less damaging consequences and its often easier caught. Thats what tools like PMD's Copy Paste Detector are for ;)