What do movie producers, presidents of football clubs, symphony orchestra directors, university presidents, and managers of rock bands have in common? They are all in charge of highly talented and independent people whose potential, when they work together, amounts to more than the sum of their parts. As managers, they must convince the team players to work well together.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” as Chinese philosopher Laozi said. In corporate jargon, this translates to: think big, start small, scale fast.
Making quick progress / establishing a positive foundation is important
There is a strong case for not striving for perfection from the onset of a problem but, rather, building a “victory inertia” early on. Leadership consultant Michael Watkins argues that quick wins can help build your credibility and create momentum. Nobel laureate Medawar agrees: “it is psychologically most important to get results, even if they are not original.”
Some problems require complex solutions. Others don’t. It’s important that you recognize the situation you’re in and find a solution that is as simple as possible. That is, don’t overdesign solutions.
To illustrate, let’s make fun of the French like we’re a Republican running for office in 2003.
Designing solutions, more isn’t necessarily better
Three companies—a German, a Japanese, and a French—are asked to design a new car with four wheels.
Many of the advanced doctoral students I speak with share one characteristics: they fail to recognize that they have transferrable skills and knowledge. And, as they finally land an interview with a potential employer, they’re selling themselves short. But getting an advanced degree, or indeed, solving any complex problem, brings you more than specialized knowledge and skills. You should recognize and market these transferrable skills.
Just a quick note to let you know that the book I’ve been working on, Strategic Thinking in Problem Solving, is now officially under contract with Oxford University Press.