ESSENCE – A METHOD CONCEPT FOR SOFTWARE INNOVATION

Since August 2006 we have experimented with infrastructures and methods to facilitate
creativity and innovation in software development. We aim to build creative settings for
team-based software development using modern development principles. These principles
allow for flexible and incremental development and thus for incorporating new ideas even
late in a project. We expect these principles to widen the window of opportunity for creativity
and innovation by allowing learning experiences and discoveries from an ongoing project to
feed ideas back into the project itself.

The main thrust in our research is the design of Essence. Among the ideas are:

  • Supporting creativity and innovation through all phases in the development project.
  • Integrating into and extending existing development methods.
  • Melding creative sessions with agile development to increase development speed and
    maintain flexibility in the project.
  • Entrusting the development team – rather than external specialists – to be creative.
  • Collective idea-generation in self-organizing teams.
  • Using multiple perspectives to support divide-and-conquer strategies.
  • Maintaining holistic overview via systematic separation.
  • Kinesthetic thinking – using physical location and movement to support simulation and
    idea generation.

We call Essence a method concept, not a method per se, to stress that Essence will find its
actual form as the individual teams use and adapt it through daily routines, and integrate
Essence into their main development method, e.g. Scrum.

To support multiple perspectives we find inspiration in the four generic views: Earth,
Water, Fire and Air named by Empedocles of Acragas (ca. 495- 435 BCE). In his
Tetrasomia, or Doctrine of the Four Elements Empedocles argued that all matter is comprised
of these four elements. Essence is named after Quintessence, the cosmic fifth element added
by Aristotle to complement the four earthly elements.

Essence is intended to be lightweight, easy, and fun to use. Lightweight in the sense that
ceremony and project overheads are kept at a minimum, so as not to have projects leave out
Essence for lack of time. Easy to use in the sense, that the time needed before Essence is
useful should be short, and the activities in Essence should come naturally to the participants.
Finally, it should be fun to use, to raise motivation.

 

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