Postel's Law for People

A bridge

I was having an after-work chat with Simon a while ago. We were discussing how we can cultivate a more resilient culture at work, specifically enhancing the capacity of individuals to constructively handle feedback.

He mentioned that he’d been reading Thanks for the Feedback which emphasises that, contrary to popular advice, it’s better to focus on helping people get better at receiving feedback rather than giving it.

This reminded me of a design principle in software engineering called the “Robustness principle” or “Postel’s law”. This principle guides how software systems should be designed to communicate with each other.

It’s often summarised as: “Be conservative in what you send, be liberal in what you accept”.

It felt like when it came to feedback and people working better together we were talking about the same thing, i.e. Postel’s law for people.

This makes me wonder what other software design principles might be useful when applied to people.