Conscious Software Development

Something interesting may be happening. Actually, of course, something interesting is always happening. But in this case, I’m referring to a conversation that appears to be starting around the topic of “conscious software development.”

I don’t remember how I came across Jeff McKenna’s book Conscious Software Development, but I do remember a conversation with InfoQ editor Shane Hastie while we stood outside the Sheraton hotel in Phoenix waiting until the fire crews let us back in (long story).    Somehow we got around to the topic of consciousness and software development. Probably I was telling Shane about Jeff’s book. Then I heard myself say “Discipline is a hack on lack of consciousness.” There are those times when what you’re really thinking comes out just like that.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for discipline in software development and many other areas of life—like the choices we make in relationships and how we handle money—but it seems to me that discipline can become really rote. We forget why we’re doing what we’re doing—why the discipline was established in the first place—and we just keep doing the same old process without thinking about.

Then, I flew back home to Portland and within a few days an invitation to the Conscious Software Development Telesummit plops into my inbox. I forward it to Shane. Then I start doing web searches to see who else has been talking about conscious software development and for how long. I find a blog post apparently posted by a Finnish blogger several months ago. I notice similarities between what Jeff is saying, what some of the telesummit participants are saying, and the blogger. I am fascinated to see this happen.

Several years ago when I was doing research for my thesis, In Your Own Hands: Personal Integrity and the Individual’s Experience of Work Life, I was, of course, wading through a lot of resources on systems thinking and general systems theory as well as Buddhism, leadership theory, and resources on Scrum. At one point it occurred to me that within a few years the systems thinking obsession in business, especially in software, would give way to an obsession about consciousness. Pretty soon, we’d all be reading and recommending the same books on consciousness, there would be consciousness conferences, and we’d be trying to figure out how a higher level of consciousness would help us develop software according to the better, cheaper, faster, with greater happiness ideal.

Well, it may have started.

I’m fascinated by the selection of folks Michael Smith has invited to the Conscious Software Development Telesummit. I certainly wouldn’t consider most of them spiritual gurus by any stretch of the imagination. But, then, the people interviewed in the video series Consciousness certainly weren’t spiritual gurus, either. They were scientists. So, is this just a continuation of the merging of science and religion. I hope not. The folks I’ve heard in the telesummit, so far, are not exactly expressing profound thoughts. Agilists will see a lot of similarity in thinking there, and Agile comes up every so often.

But, as many of us know, agile is-and-isn’t working. That may, indeed, be because we do-and-do-not apply the best of what all Agilists have learned in our individual environments. I am hopeful that these early sightings are really the beginning of a much bigger and deeper conversation that is emerging. I am hopeful that it will help us be able to face failure in agile and use it to generate near term success.

If you are seeing similar sightings of a conversation around Conscious Software Development, please tell me about them. If you attended the Conscious Software Development Telesummit and want some place to share your observations, feel free to share here, or, even better, join one of the AgilePDX discussion channels and talk about it there. The broader the audience, the better thinking we may be able to do about this emerging conversation.

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