(2013-12-02) Adams Simplifiers And Optimizers

Scott Adams on Simplifiers and Optimizers (part of How To Fail At Almost Everything And Still Win Big). Some people are what I call simplifiers and some are optimizers. A simplifier will prefer the easy way to accomplish a task (SimplestThing, Satisficing), while knowing that some amount of extra effort might have produced a better outcome. An optimizer looks for the very best solution even if the extra complexity increases the odds of unexpected problems. I have a bias for simplification, but surely there are situations in which optimizing is the better play. So how do you know which approach works best in a given situation?

If the situation involves communication with others, simplification is almost always the right answer. If the task is something you can do all by yourself, or with a partner who is on your wavelength, optimizing might be a better path if you can control most variables in the situation

If you can’t tell whether a simple plan or a complicated one will be the best, choose the simple one

If the cost of failure is high, simple tasks are the best because they are easier to manage and control

Simple systems are probably the best way to achieve success. Once you have success, optimizing begins to have more value.

Another big advantage of simplification is that it frees up time (Slack), and time is one of your most valuable resources in the world.

Simplification frees up energy, making everything else you do just a little bit easier

When you are trying to decide between optimizing and simplifying, think of your entire day, not the handful of tasks in question. In other words, maximize your personal energy, not the number of tasks.

My wife, Shelly, is a world-class optimizer. I, on the other hand, cling to simplicity like a monkey on a coconut. As I write this chapter, we have plants tonight for a simple dinner thirty minutes from home followed by a movie that is near the restaurant.

I, the simplifier, made these plans.

“In about an hour, the optimizer in the family will return home from whatever she is optimizing and potentially introduce several changes to my plan. If the changes work, our evening will be even better than I imagined, or perhaps more productive. That’s great! But the changes will also introduce new opportunities for things to go wrong. This balance works well for Shelly because she has nerves of steel. I’m more like a squirrel that wandered into a monster-truck rally. I don’t have the constitution to optimize.”

90 percent of the time that we try to optimize, we get several errands completed, get a perfectly good table, have a nice meal, and see a movie that might even be better than the one we first picked. Optimizing works often enough to reinforce the habit.

“The cost of optimizing is that it’s exhausting and stress inducing, at least for people like me. Sometimes, I think I’m literally going to have a heart attack from all of the optimizing. It also requires full concentration. I prefer simple, foolproof plans that allow my heart to beat normally and my mind to wander toward blissful thoughts of puppies and rose petals.”

Edited:    |       |    Search Twitter for discussion