Day 13 of 30. I'm actually writing (and posting) this on Nov 14, which for those keeping close track is not the 13th day of November, and that's just fine. Back in my Day 3 post about habits and routines, I talked about being open with yourself, flexible, willing to accept that life happens in the middle of other things.
I'm writing this post from Billund, Denmark - Home of the Brick, Capital of Children, both titles owing to its location as the global headquarters of renowned toy company LEGO. It's the quiet night of an equally quiet day, a long day, one that started back at 06:00 when I lurched out of bed, cooked up a nice warming bowl of oatmeal, and made the cold, dark, wet bike ride over to catch the 06:56 train across Denmark.
European countries and cities have a fundamentally different scale as compared to their vast, sprawling American counterparts. End-to-end my journey was 3.5 hours, a time span that in Canada would only get me halfway from Toronto to Ottawa, or perhaps a third of the distance to Montréal. Live more than 20-30 minutes bike ride from downtown in Copenhagen, and you might as well live on Mars as far as native Danes are concerned. In Toronto, it was 45 minutes for my wife and I to bike into downtown, or 30 minutes by transit, and this was considered luxuriously central in that provincial metropolis of 6 million people.
As an avowed math geek, I'm fond of perspective, a term with so many wonderful meanings. There's the concept of linear perspective, which depending on who you ask is either a technique developed by generations of Italian Renaissance artists or a set of specific linear transformations, and I think the fact that it can be both is beautiful. In this respect I can very much get behind Richard Feynman's autobiographical quote:
...I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty...there's also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don't understand how it subtracts.
In a similar vein, the natural world is, depending on who you ask, either a spontaneous, vibrant wellspring of life and sensation or a fascinating real-world exploration of intricate, mathematical structure. But what really interests me is the intersection of the two: this idea that it can be both at once, an algorithmic beauty of plants, if you will. When we learn the systems behind the immediately tangible beauty, really get to know them, we often find that those systems have a kind of beauty themselves.
There's also a sense in which perspective is connected to projective geometries, which themselves get at a wonderful thing about math: this idea of counterfactuals, of imagining the world as though something you take for granted were not true. (In this case: the parallel postulate, an assumption about how geometry should work introduced by Euclid thousands of years ago and not seriously re-examined until much more recently.)
It's the same kind of thought-exploration beauty that underpins good sci-fi or fantasy. You assume a world with some key fundamental differences from our own - maybe in physics or technology, maybe in social conventions or societal structures, maybe with magic or fantastical creatures - and ask: what would that mean for everything else around it?
There's also another use for the term, one more in the vernacular: that of gaining perspective. Perhaps you see a problem you've been wrestling with from a new direction. Perhaps you understand the whole where previously you grasped only disconnected parts. Perhaps you uncover a layer of detail that explains something that didn't make sense before.
In some sense, product teams are an organisational machine for systematically gaining perspective. You deliberately combine people with complementary skillsets - product managers, designers, engineers, domain experts, and so on. You use well-defined methods to gather more perspective from others outside the team - current users, potential users, stakeholders, competitors, and so on. You build and discover in tandem, using each approach to help answer questions the other raises.
And this relies on each and every member of the team being willing to engage with other perspectives. Denmark isn't big or small; it's the size it is, and the experiences of different people inform whether it feels big or small. There's no real objective standard for the size of a country anyways, countries being our modern political version of the parallel postulate, and far from the only method we've used to organise ourselves here on this planet since the dawn of human history.
Nor is there any objective standard for a long bike ride. 30 minutes might be short to me, long to someone born and raised in Copenhagen. It's also insignificant compared to a six-month-long bike trip - but even during that trip, we came across people biking through Australia, island-hopping to mainland Asia, and onwards into Europe. Questions of scale like this are like the Powers of Ten: there's enough to draw interest at every scale, without needing to compare.
In the same vein: there's no objective standard for the right technology, despite the proliferation of efforts like the MACH Alliance and 12-factor apps and so on. What matters is what your team, product, users, organisation, and problem require. If you don't understand that, no enterprise standard will save you from yourself.
There's no objective standard for agile. There's the agile manifesto, which is deliberate in its vagueness. If you don't understand what your individuals, interactions, and collaborations require, no agile framework will save you from yourself.
The best teams I've worked with get this. They do the work to understand their needs, and then draw on deep toolkits for process and tech, borrowing tools and approaches across various frameworks and best practice recommendations. They put their many perspectives to use.