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Mētis

Kelly Sutton writes about programming, working with teams and the relationship to the Greek word Mētis:

Mētis is typically translated into English as “cunning” or “cunning intelligence.” While not wrong, this translation fails to do justice to the range of knowledge and skills represented by mētis. Broadly understood, mētis represents a wide array of practical skills and acquired intelligence in responding to a constantly changing natural and human environment.

Kelly continues:

In some ways, mētis is at direct odds with processes that need a majority of the design up-front. Instead, it prefers an evolutionary design. This system of organization and building can be maddening to an organization looking to suss out structure. The question of “When will Project X ship?” seems to be always met with weasel words and hedges.

A more effective question—although equally infuriating to the non-engineering members of the company—would be “When will our understanding of the problem increase an order of magnitude, and when will that understanding be built into the product?”

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