The Scratch project was initiated back in 2003 by the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. I started using Scratch in 2009 and have spent five happy years watching my son and daughter learn how to create simple games and animations, without having to program one ‘real’ line of code. (Okay, my son is a lot more interested and engaged in this than my daughter, but I’m working on her!)
I’ve taught them the logic of computer programming and, using the Scratch tool, they can produce simple but effective ‘products’ with the application of their own ideas and creativity.
In November last year, I started a Code Club at my kids’ primary school and I’ve been able to see how easily and effectively young kids can learn the principles of computer programming, apply them, and produce some amazingly creative work.
I’ve also discovered that the principles behind MIT’s wonderful tool for simplifying the logic of code can also be applied to simplify the logic of business.
Let me explain
The principles of computer programming are really quite simple. You need to write a ‘command’ that tells the computer what to do is any given situation. As I explained to the kids in their first Code Club session, this is the same principle if you want to ‘command’ someone to do something in a given situation.
“Chloe, when I say go, walk five steps forward. If I say stop, stop. If you bump into the wall, say ‘Ow’.
Scratch uses six key categories of ‘commands’: control, motion, sensing, looks, variables and operators.
- Control: When I say go
- Motion: walk five steps forward
- Control: If I say stop, stop.
- Control: If
- Sensing: you bump into the wall
- Looks: Say ‘Ow’
I could also add in some variables, such as giving Chloe a sweet every time she hits the wall, and taking a sweet off her every time she forgets to stop when I say stop. And then add an operator, so that when she has a total of five sweets, she wins the game.
So where does business come in?
These ‘categories’ of commands can also be attributed to the logic of business.
When you start trading, if your costs exceed your income, you will make a loss. If you make a loss every month, you will go out of business.
- Control: When you start trading, if
- Variable: costs
- Operator: are greater than
- Variable: income (costs > income)
- Control: then
- Variable: set loss to £xx.xx
- Control: If
- Variable: total loss is greater then £5,000
- Control: then stop.
The logic is simple, but it would take a huge computer program, with billions of lines of code, to cover a sufficient number of business situations for which a ‘command’ can be written — which is why business cannot be automated! *
Whether it’s business or computer programming, you need to add time, dedication, creativity and continual learning in order to make a business, game or piece of software that is unique and something that people will want to engage with.
* Yes, we know that processes can be automated, but that’s an entirely different blog post…