In 1958, Momofuku Ando from Taiwan developed a “flash-frying” method of pre-cooking noodles. The noodles could then be packaged and sold, and the consumer needed only to let them sit in hot water for 2-5 minutes before eating them. The product was originally marketed in Japan under the name “Chikin Ramen.” Today, nearly 100 billion servings of instant noodles are consumed every year.
So why were instant noodles such a huge, world-wide success? And how is this relevant to software development? Let’s take a look:
Understanding the need
Instant noodles were developed for a specific purpose. Japan was in the midst of a food shortage after the war, and Ando was determined to find an efficient and stable way of marketing noodles. Any project that’s purpose-driven from the start has a better chance of succeeding than something that’s just thrown together for little to no reason. The same principle goes with software. If there’s no need, there’s no market. Even if a product is extremely useful, it’s hard to convince people that they need something that they didn’t know they were missing in the first place.
Making jobs simpler
Instant noodles sped up the consumer’s noodle-eating experience. It shortened the preparation time so people could reach the enjoyment time faster. It abstracted away the hard work and gave people the time to do more important things. (Like studying. Hence the huge popularity among college students.) This should be the main goal of any software project. Computers are tools, and therefore should make jobs easier. They should move the tedious work behind the scenes and give the user just as much control as he needs, and no more.
Bringing the rest of the world closer
Instant noodles brought a piece of Japanese culture around the world. Many countries have adapted the flavors and styles to fit their tastes. This merging of cultures and shrinking of the world is a common global theme today, and it’s largely because of computers. The internet has given people the freedom to explore and understand cultures and places that were always much too far away in the past. Anything that enables people to connect with others is destined for some measure of success. Google, Twitter, and Facebook are just a few examples of how successful a software-based product can be when it focuses on connecting people to information and other people worldwide.
Ando was way ahead of his time. He set a pattern of success that can be followed over and over again in the world of programming. That’s what I’d like to do with software: reinvent the instant noodle.
Can you think of any other “instant noodle” traits that software should have? Any other thoughts or comments? Ready…set…reply!