On reinventing the wheel

picture of 3 cavemen. one holding round shaped wheels made of stone with a suggestive look towards the other two who are moving a cart with square shaped wheels. One of them says “no thanks”. The other says “we are too busy”.
  1. Almost always, it’s the guy with the wheels in his hands that shares this image to make a point. To him, the problem and solution are obvious but others are too busy to take the genius seriously.
  2. The problem with the older solution is not as obvious as the square wheels vs the round ones but rather the amount of load, the potholes on the road, the smoothness of the axel, experience of the people using the tool, etc. the reality is way more complex. It is not helpful when someone just shows up with another wheel without understanding the root cause with the system. Do you honestly think that the first people who came up with the “wheel” idea, made it square shaped?!
  3. While the other two are doing something, the guy with the wheel is standing at the side. Talk is cheap. Everyone can come up with an idea, but the best idea is the one that fits. It just happens that fitting ideas come from people with experience. There’s nothing wrong pushing a cart with square wheels but there is a problem if the very next iteration doesn’t address such an obvious issue.
  4. “Let’s not reinvent the wheel” is usually used to kill new initiatives and sometimes with good reasons. But wouldn’t it be more impactful to use every idea as a learning opportunity? Let’s communicate why it doesn’t work. Logic vs emotion. Sometimes, the answer is not words, but code. A little PoC can reveal a lot about the merit of an idea. Experimentation and discovery are great tools of evolution.
  5. If there’s one thing the image got 100% right is the cave men! Biologically we are not that different from our ancestors who walked the earth some 40,000 years ago. In fact our brain capacity and body has changed little during that time due to how slow the evolution works in nature. One thing that changed the fate of our speacie is our ability to transfer knowledge beyond our lifespan. Let’s communicate, experiment and leave new insights to the next generation.



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Alex Ewerlöf

Alex Ewerlöf

Sr. Staff Engineer, Knowledge Worker, MSc Systems Engineering, Tech Lead, Web Developer