Stoned Soup and Boiled Frogs

By: Andrew Hunt and David Thomas
in The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master           

Three soldiers returning home from war were hungry. When they saw the village ahead their spirits lifted they were sure the villagers would give them a meal. But when they got there, they found the doors locked and windows closed. After many years of war the villagers were short of food and hoarded what they had.           

Undeterred, the soldiers boiled a pot of water and carefully placed three stones into it. The amazed villagers came out to watch.

“This is stone soup”, the soldiers explained. “Is that all you put in it?” asked the villagers. “Absolutely although some say it tastes even better with a few carrots…” A villager ran off, returning in no time with a basket of carrots from his hoard.

A couple of minutes later, the villagers again asked “Is that it?”

“Well,” said the soldiers, “a couple of potatoes give it body.” Off ran another villager.

Over the next hour, the soldiers listed more ingredients that would enhance the soup: beef, leeks, salt, and herbs. Each time a different villager would run off to raid their personal stores.
Eventually they had produced a large pot of steaming soup. The soldiers removed the stones, and they sat down with the entire village to enjoy the first square meal any of them had eaten in months.

The morals of the story are:

  • The soldiers act as a catalyst, bringing together the villagers to jointly produce something that they couldn’t have done by themselves. A synergy where everyone wins.
  • The soldiers plant the ideas within the villagers heads, rather than ordering them or asking permission, thus overcoming initial resistants. “Start-up fatigue” 
  • The soldiers lead by example, doing the initial development (boiling the water), then they showed the villagers. They couldn’t suggest enhancements without doing the background work. People find it easier to join a current and successful pro ject that also shows them a glimpse of the future.
  • Deception is not central to the soldiers success in acting as a catalyst, indeed it is a negative. The moral about the deception is that the villagers focused too tightly and didn’t see the bigger picture. We all fall for it, everyday. Projects get out of hand slowly, it is the small things that snowball.
  • It is the accumulation of small things that break morale and teams. 

They say that if you take a frog and drop it into boiling water, it will jump straight back out again. However, if you place the frog in a pan of cold water, then gradually heat it, the frog won’t notice the slow increase in temperature and will stay put until cooked.

Additional moral of the story: Jangan makan katak. Makan ayam lagi best.

Petsoc Newsletter — Looking for more

I am planning to release Petsoc newsletter this summer depending on the interest shown by members to join the team. The content will be open-ended but with a greater emphasis on the club activity. Different than the annual release Petsoc yearly-released Bona Fide, Petsoc newsletter is planned to be released more frequently as postscript/PDF soft-copies.

I am at the middle of organising the core team mainly consisting editors, photographers and media people. Why you should join the team? Involve with our more organised editorial board and we will be using collaboration tools and agile development plans to improve the efficiency in working as a team. Don’t let these term fools you. These concepts is 99% used in working environment.

What kind of people are we looking for? Anyone with attitude and a team player. Although no technical knowledge is expected, you’re expected to know some word processing. We will be implementing ready-made design modules for first few releases and go on with more advance layout and graphic design softwares, possibly Photoshop and Illustrator/QuarkXpress.

If you are interested, just notify me or leave a comment after this post.


Mohd Faiz Hasim