You’ve done it! You have come up with a way to solve that nagging problem and get moving toward your goal. But, that’s not the end of it. You keep thinking that maybe there’s an even better way to get to what you want.
Better is (sometimes) the enemy of good.
In management consulting, there’s a common phrase called the “80/20 rule”. It’s based on the hypothesis by Vilfredo Pareto that has been adopted by businesses suggesting that 20% of the work can get 80% of the results you need, and the remaining 80% of the work fills the last 20%. Basically, when time is short, do what will get you most of the way to your answer with the least amount of work.
And many times, the phase “better is the enemy of good” comes to mind. You think you can always make something better, so why stop now?
The 80/20 rule is a great way to maximize your efficiency, but not everything follows this rule. Sometimes you need to get closer to 100% completion, which means diving into that last 80% of the work. But if you’ve sapped all of your creative juices to get to that 80%, how do you get the last 20%? That’s where you need to learn to squeeze out creativity.
My favorite thing to do is to squeeze out creativity to find solutions to difficult problems. This goes for both my professional and personal life. And it doesn’t matter if the problem is big or small. So knowing when to stop and when to keep going is a skill I have worked on over the years, and I’ve learned a few tricks on how to move past good enough to great.
My suggestion to squeeze out creativity is starting at the beginning.
Many people have the inability to see how everything is connected in a complex network. This is especially true when we learn some new information during our learning process, but then don’t apply that new knowledge throughout the entire problem. We don’t squeeze out creativity to correct our original assumptions.
So when you’ve run out of creativity, a great way to find new answers is to start at the beginning of your problem-solving journey and determine if the decisions you made in the beginning still make sense. You should be asking yourself the question, “What did I discount the first time around, that I can revisit now?”
Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re working on a new project at work that requires assistance from people in multiple departments. You’re going back and forth to get the necessary information to launch the new strategy and help your business grow its revenue. Towards the middle of the project you come across a piece of work your predecessor did, but was never implemented. It’s not particularly relevant now, since you’re mostly done, so why even worry about it?
Well, what you might find is that your predecessor may have already laid the groundwork for something even bigger than your current project, but didn’t have the chance to see it through. And it turns out that you simplified your project because you didn’t have the resources to do something larger. However, now that you’re armed with this new knowledge, you can go back to your coworkers with a bigger vision, and leverage the work that’s already been done to make your existing solution even better. You can now correct your previous assumption that you didn’t have enough resources to meet the larger goal.