The 75% Solution

My father always told me, “The better is the enemy of the good.”  Later in my career, I heard the expression,  “Good enough for government work.”  You may also be familiar with the phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."  Sometimes waiting to execute perfection yields stagnation and inaction.  That does not mean that you shouldn't strive for perfection.  It means that you should take action sometimes, even if you are not 100% ready.  Because you may never be.

The 75% Solution Meets the iPhone

In my studies for my MBA, I read about companies that would beat their competition to market by having a 75% solution.  The company would not have the perfect product, but it was good enough to bring something to market and beat the competition.  We see this all the time in business.  We saw it with the iPhone 1 in 2007.  The product launched with many flaws (a lack of copy and paste if you remember) but Apple Inc. definitely beat the competition to market.  Sometimes you have to just take a risk and act, even if you are not 100% ready.

That does not mean that you should act without thought.  It just means that, as a general rule, we should not let ourselves get bogged down by indecision and second guessing when the answer may manifest itself when we make the jump, or take the risk.  Don't be afraid to make mistakes. When you make a mistake and learn from it, the mistake does not count as a mistake.  

Flourish in the Mistakes

Too often, we exist in a place where perfectionism and zero mistake tolerance is the norm.  I often think to myself that if you are not making mistakes, you are probably not trying hard enough and you are definitely not pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone.  Making mistakes is how we learn.  The 75% solution is good enough for most instances.  Besides, how much work must be put into a project to attain 100%?  Often times, we will never reach the 100% solution and just waste time and resources to get there.  How many projects or activities have you never started because you were afraid of failure?  The 75% solution allows for failure so that you can learn next time.  Very similar to spiral development in the software industry, the 75% solution helps you try new things and not fear failing.  Just pick up that microphone and start singing...   


I find that the most difficult part of getting anything done is actually beginning the task.  Tasks often appear more difficult than they actually are.  This is normal especially if we do not know what to expect, or lack experience in the task, then we are less likely to want to start it.  This weekend, I procrastinated fixing my toilet because, even though I bought a kit from Home Depot on how to do it, I don't have that much experience fixing toilets so I did not want the frustration of failing.  Being afraid of failure is worse than the failure itself.  

SEAL Training=Compartmentalization

I remember in SEAL training,  I would often take one day at a time.  When the going got really rough, and believe me it did get rough most of the time, I would take the training one hour at a time, then one meal at a time.  In resilience, this is known as compartmentalization of the stress.   In business, accomplishing the project at hand may be as simple as the old Nike saying, "Just do it!” 

Leaders Don't Fear Mistakes

Concentrating on the positive of a task and not arm chair quarterbacking those who work for you will yield the best results.  Your job as a leader is to foster a can do attitude and create an atmosphere of ownership in your team.  Your members will not be afraid to make mistakes (remember they are trying if they make them) and they will be more productive even though they are making the 75% solution.  Better to attempt to solve a problem than to over think it and never act!  The better is the enemy of the good.  Thanks dad!

Dr. N

This week, think of some projects that you have not started because you fear failure.  Think of the 75% solution and start them, even though you may make mistakes.  I'll start fixing my toilet tomorrow...


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