Russell Davies: CDP ushered in the artists. Now it's time for the engineers
A view from Russell Davies

Russell Davies: CDP ushered in the artists. Now it's time for the engineers

You remember that documentary from a while ago about CDP and the early days of TV advertising?

It made clear how important it was to get a new set of people involved in the industry so everyone could stop making print ads that moved and could start thinking, natively, as film-makers. It took a surprisingly long time to happen.

And a brilliant blog post entitled "Do artists and technologists create things the same way? Seven on Seven guests respond" reminded me we're going through a similar, surprisingly slow, change now - the arrival of the engineers. Because, whether you call them developers, coders or creative technologists, they are, at heart, engineers. The good ones are, anyway.

Here's a long, but very much worth it, quote from that post by a very talented engineer, Kellan Elliott-McCrea: "I hesitate to generalise about all artists and all technologists. Which marks me right there, as an engineer by training. Trained to obsess about edge cases and tiny details - missing the forest for the trees makes no sense, the forest is just many individual trees, repeated, at scale. Which strikes to (the) heart of one of the key differences I've experienced watching and collaborating with artists.

"As an engineer, my creative act begins by removing ambiguity. What's the simplest possible thing we can do? What's the core of the idea? What's the minimal viable product? When you say pigs should fly, is that sustained flight? Self-powered? Do you mean flapping or simply moving through the air? Does flight imply control? Or would a porcine trebuchet get us to a version 1 beta? Maybe we could do some testing by putting a pig on top of a tall tower?

"Artists I've worked with often take the opposite approach. How can we remove all the walls around this idea? How do we make the possibility space of this idea infinite? Flying pigs are really just an example of the impulse towards freedom that we're trying to address, let's not get too caught up on the pigs, or the flight."

Isn't that magnificent? And, I know most of you aren't doing "art", but that description of artists seems awfully familiar, doesn't it? And why should you care how engineers think and create? Because, if your business is going to build anything useful or interesting in the next few years, you're going to have to put engineers at the centre of your culture. You're going to have to understand and think about ideas such as "minimal viable product".

And because the most interesting and often the most dominant businesses in our culture at the moment have engineers at their heart. If you want to understand Google, Apple, Dyson or Samsung, you have to understand engineers.