One Size Fits All

Context:

Something worked well here and there is a problem there. It is take any working technique you are familiar with and apply in a new situation. However it is very difficult to accept unfamiliar NotInventedHere techniques and use them in your work.

Therefore:

Try what worked before the new contexts.

But:

  1. Generalization of a successful behavior to the widest context leads to a danger of over-generalization.

  2. Given one idea it is tempting to see it as the most perfect idea in the world. Egotism and laziness make it hard to look for alternatives. Hence it become the One True Way. This is EdwardDeBono's VillageVenusMistake?.

  3. One tends to distort the original idea and the new problems so that one can demonstrate that the idea still works.

  4. Alone, or in a group of people familiar with the technique and opposed by people who are familiar with other techniques you often get claims that One Size Fits All followed by wars of religion.

  5. There is a tendency to misrepresent unfamiliar techniques.

Therefore:

  1. Be very clear about the context in which something has been useful in the past.

  2. You don't understand it until you can do it as well as the other person.

Related Patterns:

AllProblemsLookLikeNails, SilverBullet, ItDoesNotScaleUp?, EpiCycles, LearningMeansMakingMistakes ...

-- DickBotting
In software development there are many examples. It is easy to assume that the best way for a system programmer to develop a square root function for a library is also the best way for a horde of 200 programmers to produce a novel operating system. Similarly assuming that a technique that produces competitive software quickly should also be used to program a AirTrafficControl Software - or vice-versa.

See my 1995 paper trying to explore the effect of situation and context on software development:

http://www.csci.csusb.edu/dick/papers/rjb95b.one.size.html

-- DickBotting

EditText of this page (last edited December 8, 2003) or FindPage with title or text search