Naga Chokkanathan

Why Not? — Multiple Designs

Posted on: September 10, 2010

Last couple of weeks I was delivering a training session for a team of CRM Solution Architects and Business Analysts. These people interact with clients on a regular basis, designing functional / technical solutions to solve their business problems.

During one of the breaks, a participant gave me an interesting scenario. ‘My client shares the same problem to two different consultants. We both are using the same technology. But we arrive at different solutions. Can that be right?’

Of course, it can be right. Business problems are not objective questions which can be addressed with one or two word answers. Different thought processes can lead to different solutions. As long as they solve the original issue, we should be happy with multiple solutions to the same problem, Isn’t it?

My student was not convinced. His argument was that ‘If same problem can have multiple solutions, how can we have a structured way of analyzing a problem / move towards resolving it? Won’t it be an unreliable / ad hoc process?’

I could see that he was assuming problem solving as a pure science. When we start looking at it as an art instead, we will be able to digest the creative design process, instead of a guided / template based approach. Famous Poet / Translator A. K. Ramanujam talks about this in a wonderful story:

In Ancient China, there was a great mountain. People living around this mountain found it very difficult to climb up and down to reach the other side. Emperor of that country decided to build a tunnel boring the mountain.

A team of Engineers were identified to do this job. They prepared a plan and decided to start working on both sides of the mountain.

This means, two different teams will start making tunnels from opposite sides of the mountain. After sometime, they will meet in the center, creating a single, long tunnel.


(Image Courtesy: Vkramer – Stock Exchange

But the Emperor was not happy with this plan. His doubt was ‘What if they don’t meet?’

Engineers answered, ‘If they don’t meet, then we will have two tunnels instead of one!’



N. Chokkan …

10 09 2010


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