Sunday, 9 March 2014

Progress before Perfection

In keeping with a society that reveres decisiveness and frowns on hesitancy, you find people frequently taking an uncompromising stance on their judgments and decisions. We view choices as a package deal where it's all or nothing: An option is picked only if it can resolve a problem perfectly or wholly meet a target.

For instance, if you have regular electricity cuts that interrupt your business, then a small backup generator could provide relief by allowing your computers and other essential machinery to run during an outage. Even if some items remain switched off you can continue to operate, albeit at a slower pace. With a generator running you can still fulfil some orders and a smaller backlog of work will await once electricity supply is fully restored.

If you argue that a generator doesn't help because it still won't allow the airconditioners and printers to run, then you will opt to wait for a perfect solution which would entail either:

#1: Your electricity provider somehow guaranteeing uninterrupted power supply or,
#2: A generator so powerful (and expensive) that it can ensure that nothing needs to be turned off.

Until one of these ideal solutions is possible, your business will come to a grinding halt whenever your area experiences an electricity shortage.

Another example: if your area is experiencing a crime wave, it's easy and admittedly truthful to say that a determined criminal can enter any home uninvited. However, while burglar bars, an alarm system and high walls will not guarantee your safety, they act as a deterrent and greatly decrease the probability of a break-in. If you will only take a safeguard if it involves drone patrols, tanks and RoboCop guarding your front door however, then you may find yourself waiting for ages; in the meantime you will remain susceptible to a break-in.

Taking a measure isn't always pointless just because it cannot guarantee a perfect result. This type of mentality sees people complaining about a new policy or reform because it won't fully eliminate crime or employ every single person out of a job. Be careful of thinking in absolutes, where things are either black or white, good or bad, effective or ineffective. Partly in an effort to display assertive decision making and partly due to a culture of haste, we don't indulge gray areas when exploring options, because they offer no guarantees and well packaged solutions.

An Accumulation of Solutions

A less than perfect idea or solution can be a step towards the ideal situation. One marketing strategy might not help you meet your sales targets. Mastering one section may not help you pass an exam. But stringing together a few marketing approaches or adequately studying a broader array of sections will allow you to meet your sales or academic objectives. A suggestion or proposal may seem weak on its own, but compounded with other efforts it can be the difference between falling short or crossing the finish line. Remember that one course of action is seldom sufficient on its own in any case.

Act in Spite of Doubt

If we only did things when all the doubts were answered we would have little progress. Excessive doubt and a reluctance to act stifles advancement. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen made in 1885 by Karl Benz was much slower than a horse, but he made the car nonetheless. With this less than perfect solution he had a base on which to incrementally improve. Imagine where we would be if Benz and other industrialists heeded criticism that the car was slower than a horse and was therefore pointless.

It's fine to have questions and reservations. But also remember that questions and doubts can form a never-ending loop. An action is worth committing to if it offers the promise of progress. Obviously one needs to be assured of a certain level of competence, effectiveness or completion before committing to an option. Still though, you must be able to act even when question marks and potential scorn linger. An ideal situation is attained through progress, and much of progress resides in shades of gray.

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