Fred Brooks: "grow" software

Written Mar 24, 2018

Great design comes from great designers.

Below are more quotes and ideas from Fred Brooks, of The Mythical Man-Month fame, who is well-respected in Silicon Valley engineer culture.

Fred Brooks on software and design

  • The hardest single part of building a software system is deciding precisely what to build
  • the client does not know what he wants
  • it is really impossible for a client, even working with a software engineer, to specify completely, precisely, and correctly the exact requirements of a modern software product before trying some versions of the product.
  • Grow, don’t build software
  • Do rapid prototyping. Enthusiasm jumps when there is a running system, even a simple one
  • develop ways to grow great designers

How to grow great designers?

  • Systematically identify top designers as early as possible. The best are often not the most experienced.
  • Assign a career mentor to be responsible for the development of the prospect, and carefully keep a career file.
  • Devise and maintain a career development plan for each prospect, including carefully selected apprenticeships with top designers, episodes of advanced formal education, and short courses, all interspersed with solo-design and technical leadership assignments.
  • Provide opportunities for growing designers to interact with and stimulate each other.


  • The gap between the best software engineering practice and the average practice is very wide - perhaps wider than in any other engineering discipline.