Saturday, February 27, 2010

Getting Things Right vs. Getting Things Done

In school we are repeatedly taught the importance of getting things right. When we get the right answer, teachers praise us. When we find the wrong answer, they correct us. It happens over and over again, and soon we begin to believe that being right is the ultimate goal.

Then we reach the real world. Problems become vastly more complicated than they were in school. The lines between correct answers and incorrect ones begin to blur. However, the training remains - we still want to be right.

The problem is that searching for a "right" or "best" answer to complex, real-world problems requires enormous amounts of time. Often, searching for it would require so much time that, by the time you found it, it is no longer useful. The world already changed. The problem that you were trying to solve no longer exists.

When facing huge, complex problems in fast changing spaces, searching for the "right" answer is usually hopeless. It's much more useful to find a solution that works . . . it might not work perfectly, but it works. Then you improve upon it. As time passes, you create a series of small solutions that begin to approximate an excellent solution.

Each new problem deserves this question: "When solving this, what's more important: getting it right, or getting it done?"