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Nov 14, 2008

Reality Check

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was writing on problem solving, and mentioned a small problem we were able to solve, and the sense of satisfaction it brought. Well, guess what – it did not work. Once we asked more people involved in it, the solution turned out to be impractical. We had to develop another one later, and it turned out to be wrong also. Now we are on a third version, and the newest seems not as elegant as the first one, but it shows a better promise… We'll see.

The reality check comes in two forms: first, you have to run your solution by all people who are involved. They just see the aspects of the problem you do not necessarily see. The ability to overlook things is endemic to human beings. We don't want to ask ourselves a question that we suspect is not easy to answer. So, reality is other people. While not everyone is equally gifted in the solutions department, most people are great at imagining why something won't work. And it is a lot less expensive to imagine possible problems than encounter them in reality, and then fix. And because we all have different jobs and different experiences, involving more people helps to prevent many blunders.

The reality is also in trying it out, and being ready to adjust. We lived through many changes in the last two and half years, and this much is clear: any change needs tweaking after it is implemented. There is change fatigue, when you just want things to settle down. However, if problems keep coming up, they should be addressed. And then there is a level of a good-enough process. You can improve things endlessly, but at some point, the cost of change outweighs its potential benefits. If you can't fix it any more, it ain't that broke.

And finally, reality is the limitations we all have as people. The job interviews, which we had a plenty last two weeks, are a reminder. Every time we talk about a potential candidate and find some small flaws, I always think about myself, and my own flaws. I also think about my colleagues – it is great to work with all of them, and we have so much energy and fun, but it is not to say that they all are perfect. There is no such a thing as a perfect person, which really what makes people interesting. In every one of us, there are just certain limits that cannot be transcended. A very good solution may not work just because of the people who implement it.

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