Simple is seductive, but not always smart.
22-Jul-19 – There’s a lot to be said for simplicity. For many years, the rule of Occam’s Razor obtained, and it dictated, that the simplest answer was most likely to be the best. Short, sweet, and to the point. I’m certainly on record as being an advocate of brevity. But this is obviously not the be-all and end-all approach for every situation.
Contrary to the comics, most movies, and public opinion in general, in the real world, not everything in our lives – or every problem – has a clear-cut solution. Some conflicts and situations aren’t likely to ever be solved even over substantial periods of time and despite the best-intentioned efforts of many. They’re basically facts of life that we’re stuck with for better or worse. One thing’s for certain, though – it’s clear that our lives and our choices have become a lot grayer these days and very little in them is black and white.
This modest fact would seem to be especially valuable for our presidents, politicians, and sundry media blowhards to remember as they fire off their latest knee-jerk responses to provocative tweets along with their pithy pronouncements and their startlingly “simple” solutions. Watching the latest Presidential debates, you could readily come to believe that there is often a neat and simple answer for any problem, but in fact, such makeshift solutions – which distract us from addressing the real problems – are also almost always wrong. The truth as far as choices goes is that only Thomas “take it or leave it” Hobson always got it right.
Today, in just about everything we do, we hope to find a quick and straightforward reply to whatever we’re being asked and/or a timely and elegant solution for the problems we’re facing. This isn’t so much a product of sheer laziness or a lack of intellectual curiosity as it is another symptom of the constant time constraints we now live with and the resultant hurry sickness that we’re all victims of to some extent. It’s our “ready, fire, aim” world and it’s bad for smart decision-making and bad for building your business.
Sadly, we’ve come to believe – especially in the startup world – that almost any response is better than waiting to act until you’ve gathered at least some of the critical facts. We hear that research is the old way of doing things – due diligence, homework of any kind, or trying to find the customer’s real problem before starting on the solution – is so yesterday. I get that it’s hard work, that you can’t figure it out sitting on your ass, that it all takes too much time, and that things around you are moving so very fast. But that doesn’t justify settling for half an answer or not working the problem as fully as required.
It’s so easy to say that it’s better to get right out there, be super-lean, launch something, and just start the ball rolling – hopefully downhill. You can always course-correct and iterate along the way. But, just as likely, you can also become roadkill. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter how fast you’re going if you’re on the wrong road and headed in the wrong direction. Looking for the solution without first listening to – and understanding – the problem is like working blindfolded in the dark. Some things just take time to do right.
But the real goal isn’t to make the fastest decisions; it’s to make the correct decisions and sometimes that means holding up a bit and taking the necessary steps to assemble the required information so you can make a thoughtful decision.
There’s no job or case analysis that’s so simple that it can’t be done wrong if you’re not careful and a little patient. In our busy lives, there’s constant pressure to reduce the consideration sets and to simplify the choices – especially if you’re trying to “manage up” to a busy boss – but it’s often a bad strategy because you can’t reduce every challenge down to a simple either/or equation. It would be nice, but the world doesn’t work that way today.
With all the data and other resources which we now have, we can dramatically improve the odds of getting to the right answer if we just widen our perspective and take in a few more alternatives. Yes, it’s more complicated and, if you overdo it, too many choices – analysis paralysis – will kill any progress at all, but too narrow a field – and a refusal to ever look outside the silo – leads as often as not to the wrong result.
When you’re only offered black or white, you’ll get it wrong around half the time. But when you look at multiple options, the odds of getting it right move smartly in your favor and you’ll be batting .600 plus in no time at all.
By Howard Tullman | Loop North News | firstname.lastname@example.org