Friday, May 14, 2010

Finding the Simpler Way

Many of us have to battle a tendency to make chores more complicated or difficult than they need be.

For example, let's say you want to frame an old photo so it can be used as an award at the upcoming meeting of the Loyal Order of Raccoons. You already have a historic photograph that would work perfectly well, but instead go to a museum and review other photographs. You know about an excellent framing shop around a mile from your home, but no, that would be too convenient and perhaps too expensive so you drive much further away to buy a frame at a large shopping mall and then spend hours framing it yourself.


Option One: Take picture to frame shop. Pick up finished product. Take it to meeting.

Option Two: Drive to museum. Search for photos. Perhaps find a different one, but maybe not. Drive to mall. Spend a good hour buying a frame. Go home and spend even more time framing the photo. Take it to the meeting.

True, the second option may have cost less, but it certainly gobbled up more time and perhaps caused more stress than the first one. And oh, by the way, since the photo is going to be an award, the club would reimburse you for costs anyway.

Why do we drift toward the complicated? My guess is it is because we don't seriously look for the simplest solution. I've written before about how it helps to ask, "What would an adult do?" That question could well apply here. A child might wander about. An adult will know how to complete a project in the most efficient and professional way so other matters can be tackled.

This assumes, of course, that you do not get an inordinate amount of enjoyment out of shopping for frames and looking over old photos and that you have enough time to do so. If that is the case, then wander away.

For most of us, however, it helps to be on the alert for simple solutions or we will be quickly entangled in the vines of our chores.


Jay said...

The Loyal Order of Raccoons made me actually laugh out loud :)

We do this all the time in software development. There's a constant battle against the desire to add more features and functions vs. shipping early and pushing revisions often. Some great techniques to fight that in 37Signals Getting Real book and in the whole school of Agile development (or Wikipedia) that arose largely as a response to 'featuritis'.

Rypple is an Agile development shop and have adopted most of the tenants of the movement, including weekly sprints (or iterations), customer driven stories, daily standups, etc. We even try to do the same on the marketing side, taking a lot of the practices and techniques and applying them to non-development activities. It helps a lot, but sometimes we do find ourselves at the mall looking at picture frames. Human nature puts up a pretty good battle :)

Michael Wade said...


I wish I could claim creation of the Loyal Order of Raccoons but I think that it was the club of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton on "The Honeymooners."

You've cited some great examples of how "featuritis" can develop.