During the Edo-era, Japan isolated itself from the rest of the world. All resources were precious. Re-use and recycling were the norm. Not because they loved and cherished nature, though that may have played a role with their Shinto backgrounds, but out of necessity. With limited contact with the outside world, Japan had to be self-sufficient. As a result, communities worked together to make sure that nothing went to waste.
Umbrellas were made of bamboo and paper. Once they started showing wear and tear they were refurbished. The bamboo was repaired and new oil paper was attached. The old paper was sold as packaging material.
Starch extracted from rice was used to repair ceramics. Human waste (night soil) was bought by farmers and used as fertilizer in their fields.
This kind of reuse of by-products was a part of life in the Edo period and the effects still reverberate in modern Japan. Letting excess go to waste even has its own word in Japanese: “mottainai”.
While we aren’t usually concerned about letting excess go to waste, mottainai is uttered on a regular basis in Japan.
I’m helping bootstrapping a product to manage software products called Kwoosh. Kwoosh will make make product management easier and more efficient for small agencies and developers.
Building this product made me realize how much of the work involved isn’t writing code. Phone calls, mock ups, chat history, design: all of this lost in time or hidden in a folder. Valuable artifacts just thrown away.
All of these discarded artifacts of work can be reused and re-purposed, so as to not be so mottainai. What if we tried to save them? Could we make something valuable out of ‘trash’?
Phone calls discussing product design and decisions can be turned into podcasts. Libraries written to help us power Kwoosh can be open sourced. Mock ups shared to illustrate how we do product development. Core ideas and philosophy from all of these artifacts can be broken into articles helping us solidify and codify our values.
What artifacts are you generating from your work and how can you reuse it?