Can command and control ever lead to great design?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 gc 6 Comments

No. At best, it can lead to good design but never great. Here is a quote that helps make the point from a wonderful book about how man made things are becoming more lifelike and life is becoming more engineered called Out of Control
"The USSR didn't collapse because its economy was strangled by a central command model. Rather because any central-controlled complexity is unstable and inflexible. Institutions, corporations, factories, organisms, economies, and robots will all fail to thrive if designed around central command."

From my view, there is nothing elegant or great designed by command and control. It cannot be great because it is not
sustainable. Can you provide a counter example? I am curious. 

The quote is from page 42. After locating the reference, I found that
Out of Control is 15 years old, but it is still a fantastic book. Leads me to another question: by what factor do great designs last?  

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Austin said...

I agree with you in general, but just to play devil's advocate, how about Apple as a counterexample? I think most people would say they have a centralized command and control system when it comes to design and operation of iPhone/iTunes and the App Store -- but their results are elegant and well-designed. Thoughts?

Greg Cowin said...

Great counter example. Maybe it works if you have Steve Jobs commanding and controlling. To challenge: I wonder if Steve controlling everything is a designed perception or reality.

Anonymous said...

A great leader and centralized control are two different things.

Anonymous said...

I do not think you need Steve's approval for trying out stuff like a new attenna design. The USSR required approval for everything with rubberstamp.

With love from Moscow.

Greg Cowin said...

Strangely related, I just noticed a post on slashdot that Mark Papermaster has left his job. Apparently, he was responsible for the antenna design. You might remember the controversy when Apple hired him from IBM.

Anonymous said...

The short answer is no. Command and control generally will not sustain lasting great design because it kills the innovation and team work necessary to consistently out perform.