Re: Are best practices standards?

Subject: Re: Are best practices standards?
From: Andrew Plato <intrepid_es -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Tue, 26 Oct 1999 07:40:38 -0700 (PDT)

> It is not a way to fix
> standards, but a way to test them, to institute a process of creativity in
> documentation management. Management should not be a way to stifle
> creative writing, but it sometimes is--witness the horror stories, real and
> "Platonic," that are recounted here. Management is the issue Hackos
> addresses, it seems to me. Her work is an attempt to institute creativity
> in the management of a creative process. The result sought is an approach
> such as you describe, Susan: "best practices" get spread or, when the "best
> practice" becomes ineffective, changed. The creative technical writer
> (redundancy here: all writing is creative) is empowered not paralyzed.

Apart from the obvious cracks at my name, I think this whole argument has one
serious and fundamental flaw.

Creativity cannot be serialized.

"Institute creativity" what is that? It sounds like you went out and bought
the "creativity" module for your android and you need Geordi to install it.

It seems to me that if you want a creative environment it needs to be free. As
any half-decent artist will attest, creation comes from inspiration and hard
work - not from a really swell looking methodology. I am not an art historian
but I am 99% certain that the masters of art and science who changed human
perception of the universe did not write up an exquisite analysis process
before they went to work.

Therefore, the whole notion that your can institute a "creative process" is
like the Clockwork Orange. It can't be. By the very nature of a process you
have removed free will. By mandating behaviors and practices and establishing
ways to measure the outcome of those processing you have effectively processed
out creativity.

Now, some people find these restricted environments more productive. But let's
not confuse productivity (the ability to get work done) and creativity (the
ability to invent new things). Environments with extensive, well measured
processes may be very productive. And within the confines of that box there
might be some isolated innovation. However, I feel it is an injustice to REAL
artists who must build their universe and struggle to recreate it every day to
place the standards and processes of technical writing on the same level. \

Processes and standards make environments more productive - yes. But that does
not mean they are more creative. In many ways, the more processes there are,
the less creativity you allow since the mere nature of a process weeds out
anything that does not lead to increased productivity - and creation is often
very unproductive.

As I have said before, you cannot plan for genius. It just happens. Never,
not even once, in the history of humans has ingenuity been planned out in

Lastly, not all writing is creative. Merely following a process and then
publishing the results does not imply creativity. Computers read data and then
format that data into reports. Do we call this a creative process? Merely
because a human is involved and may exercise some control over the actually
process does not make that process creative.

So let's stop fooling ourselves here. I know that some people want to believe
that all these processes and standards make their jobs have more meaning. In
reality, they merely make your job more predictable. Don't sugar coat these
things and make them into something they are not. If you want real, true
creativity you have to suffer with the confusion and waste that comes with
human minds struggling to force some sense out of the chaos.

Andrew Plato


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