I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. – Thomas Edison
This is a talk I gave for ECEWeek at the University of Alberta on January 29th, 2015. It’s goal is to make the argument that culturally (especially in the Engineering discipline), we overemphasize the value of planning and preparation, and that there are situations where it’s the less efficient approach to solving a problem.
There comes a time in every company’s life where it must fight for its life. If you find yourself running when you should be fighting, you need to ask yourself “If our company isn’t good enough to win, then do we need to exist at all?” – Ben Horowitz
I recently did a book review on Ben Horowitz’s book The Hard Thing About Hard Things. It is a great book with no shortage of gems of insight and wisdom, but there’s one that stuck with me in particular.
This lesson is actually from one of the shorter chapters in the book, titled “Lead Bullets”. (The chapter is actually available on Ben’s blog as a post here) The title is a reference to advice given to Ben when Netscape was going through a crisis with the release of a superior web server product from Microsoft. The advice came from Bull Turpin, responding to the plan Ben had put into place to deal with the thread.
“A lot of people get so hung up on what they can’t have that they don’t think for a second about whether they really want it.” – Lionel Shriver, Checker and the Derailleurs
We used to own things. I expect this will seem significant and surprising sooner than we think. Ownership is embedded in our culture. To own more is to be happy, ‘Happiness is the smell of a new car’. And yet we all know that statement isn’t quite true. While we strive every day to achieve that goal; work harder, longer, sacrifice and cut corners so we can buy more, all the while we know that we don’t really believe the story.
If this is such a well known fallacy, then why is it so resilient? I think partly we have hope to blame. Not the good kind of hope that pulls us through the dark times, but the kind harnessed by beer ads and pictures of beautiful people. The kind of hope that tells us that if I only buy that beer, or wear that cologne, then this aspect of my unhappiness will disappear. Hope can be a powerful thing. So why would this change?