This entry is all about a book I read recently, truth to be told I finished it today. The book is all about human psychology and how we can use those principles to maximize this wonderful machine we call brain. The contents are put in context with the profession of software developer which I find particularly nice. The first part of the book is all about a categorization of a professional career and the path from novice into expert. To this analysis Andy introduces the Dreyfus Model and explains those five levels of expertise. The key here is to acknowledge for the importance of context and intuition on those several levels and noting that while novices need to context independent instructions, the experts, on the other hand, work based mainly on intuition applied over a certain context. The several levels of expertise are put in context regarding a software developer team. It is explained why a team composed only by experts or novices is, ultimately, dysfunctional and is more probable to fail and what to take into account while managing a team of professionals.

The third chapter starts with an interesting explanation of the functional brain. It is created an analogy to explain that we have, basically, two ways of processing information and that we can think of it like a two CPU architecture, one following a Von Neumann that we call L-Mode and another that we can think of a Digital Signal Processor called R-Mode. The key here is that by understanding how fundamentally those to modes work we can exploit one or the other depending the problem we need to tackle and, more importantly, how to flow from one mode to the other to exploit even more our CPU architecture. The fourth chapter follows the concepts and ideas of the previous one and give us techniques to put us in a mental state such that we can exploit each CPU modes. Fifth chapter is all about techniques to debug our brain and the sixth one is all about apply the previous knowledge to maximize our learning process. Here we are presented with the SMART methodology which is pretty useful as a guideline to create our goals. Here we are also introduced to a useful method that can help us to read more effectively SQ3R which is basically a abbreviation of the following steps survey, question, read, recite, and review. The last two chapters are about gaining experience and managing the focus respectively.

The book has some interesting passages and some are pretty much common sense that are ignored pretty much by every companies. Regarding, for example, to the professional knowledge I particularly liked the observation it takes on HR failure during the interviews

Many HR departments haven’t figured this out yet, but in reality, it’s less important to know Java, Ruby, .NET, or the iPhone SDK. There’s always going to be a new technology or a new version of an existing technology to be learned. The technology itself isn’t as important; it’s the constant learning that counts.

Another point worth mentioning deals with the concept of education and how this elementary process occurs

Education comes from the Latin word educare, which literally means “led out,” in the sense of being drawn forth. I find that little tidbit really interesting, because we don’t generally think of education in that sense—of drawing forth something from the learner.

The last I think is worth to mention here is the concept of sheep dip. That is pretty much a common error that spreads like a virus through the industry when we talk about education and improving skills

Companies love standardized sheep dip training. It’s easy to purchase, it’s easy to schedule, and everyone fits in a nice little box afterward: you now have a nine-piece box of .NET developers. It’s just like fast-food chicken nuggets. There’s only one drawback. This naive approach doesn’t work, for several reasons:

  • Learning isn’t done to you; it’s something you do.
  • Mastering knowledge alone, without experience, isn’t effective.
  • A random approach, without goals and feedback, tends to give random results.

Much more insightful observations are drawn in this piece of work and that's why I fully recommend it to all software developers that, as I, are pretty lame on the psychology and human brain.

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