Two Heads are Better Than One

My problem was how to transport my hot black Americano to work in a bumpy taxi without the coffee slopping out of the cup, making a mess in the taxi and burning me. Generally I believe in sharing. When I’ve got an insoluble problem I’ve found it even more important to share. Somebody (else) has the answer. And in this case a quick brainstorm with a colleague gave me a simple solution.

Creative Thinking on the Coffee Run

I often go to work in a taxi clutching a hot take-away coffee. It is a 15 minute ride on bumpy British roads. I quickly found, in about 3 minutes, that watery Americano coffees slop out of the cup on every bump. This is bad for several reasons:

  • I lose precious caffeine fuel for the work day ahead.
  • It makes a mess on the Taxi seat. Aside from the discomfort for me the sign in the cab says: “£10 penalty for soiling the interior of the taxi – immediately payable to the driver”. And the British cab drivers look mean.
  • I get burnt. An Americano is, after all, expresso topped up with boiling water. It is painfully hot.

Don't soil British Taxis

Don’t soil British Taxis

I had fanciful ideas for a startup involving bump resistant coffee carriers. It had to be portable, stable, preferably offer the coffee at a comfortable clutching level. Something involving a gyroscope or at least elastic. Of course none of that helped me solve my problem. As an interim solution I found a handful of paper tissues from the coffee shop helped although I did feel guilty about killing more trees than necessary with every cup.

The long term solution was suggested by a colleague, Matt, during a dash in his car to the local coffee shop. It was a particularly stressful day and warranted a mid-day top up on caffeine. I described my problem and after a bit of chat Matt asked “Why not order it in a bigger cup?” Genius.

I’m typing this now in a taxi, with a small Americano in medium cup sitting between my legs under the laptop. No hands required. No slop. I can keep working.

And your point is . . .?

Coffee is a fundamental part of successful software development but that is not why I’ve related this story.

The point is I was blocked. It was my problem. I had to deal with it every day. I thought about the problem a lot. But I couldn’t see a good solution. By sharing my problem, involving another head in the resolution process, I got a brilliant solution – effective, cheap and easy. The same principal applies in our professional lives.

Getting multiple perspectives in software development really helps. More potential solutions means you are more likely to get a good solution. This is not the same as design by committee. I’ve previously ranted about the lack of decision making capability in meetings. This is different. This is about generating ideas.