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Intellectual Violence

Background

The Lambda Calculus is a relatively straightforward theory about the mathematics of functions and variable substitutions. It is one of the important theories underlying the Lisp programming language and is taught at selected universities in undergraduate computer science courses.

People with this training often assume that everybody knows about Lambda Calculus. This leads to misunderstandings that may be instances of Intellectual Violence. A short chalk-talk (informal tutorial) could clear up any misunderstandings.

AntiPattern Problem

Intellectual Violence occurs when someone who understands a theory, technology, or buzzword uses this knowledge to intimidate others in a meeting situation. This may happen inadvertently due to the normal reticence of technical people to expose their ignorance.

In short, Intellectual Violence is a breakdown of communication. When some or most people on a project do not understand a new concept, progress may be stalled indefinitely as they work through their feelings of inferiority or avoid the topic altogether. When Intellectual Violence is pervasive, a defensive culture arises, which inhibits productivity. People control and conceal information instead of sharing it.

Refactored Solution

An alternative organizational culture is based upon mentoring, where people cross-train constantly. It is recognized that everybody has unique talents and knowledge, regardless of their position in the organizational hierarchy. In a mentoring culture, people are encouraged to share their knowledge to promote the overall success of the organization.

A mentoring culture is best facilitated through leadership by example. If the principals in the organization actively engage in mentoring, it becomes more socially acceptable at all levels to do so. Encouraging people to share information is an effective way to utilize knowledge resources and limit reinvention.