The Long Shortcut

End of the road On the way back to the hotel, I thought I should move our car from the designated parking lot to a spot closer to our room.  Just a few minutes before, I had seen many spots open. So I walk to the car, start driving around and after a couple of U-turns, end up parking about 30 feet closer than my earlier spot. Not exactly the outcome I was hoping for.

Sometimes at work, I have to redo a part of the project due to some late changes.  We are usually under schedule pressure and so it’s tempting to look for ways I can get to our destination more quickly. On several occasions my shortcuts resulted in the traffic equivalent of getting a ticket and then getting in an accident or finding a 500-car train blocking your path.

When we find a “shortcut”, we tell ourselves a story about what the journey will look like. We imagine how the shorter path and feel the excitement of getting their faster.  In the excitement, we don’t usually imagine what could go wrong and even worse, because it’s usually something we haven’t tried before, we have a huge number of unknown-unknowns. We don’t even know what we don’t know. As a result, things that we never even could have imagined happen and we arrive at our destination late (and usually emotionally exhausted).

We love scouting for new ways to get things done, but the time to do that is when we have plenty of time to experiment and be wrong. My chip lead at work wisely encourages taking both paths.  If the shortcut works, great! If not, then you still can fall back to the way we know works.

So next time we take a shortcut and find it taking way longer than we expect, think about the story we told ourselves beforehand about why it would be faster and compare it to reality. This shouldn’t teach us to believe we now know all the things that can go wrong, so next time we’ll do better, instead it should help us remember just how little we know about the next shortcut we want to take and look for backup plans if things don’t go as we hope.

Photo Credit: kevin dean






2 responses to “The Long Shortcut”

  1. Gudrun Avatar

    As always good and insightful. Love reading your blogs / thanks!! /gudrun

  2. […] differs from typical shortcut taking that happens near the end of a project with its own set of problems, in that we tend to believe at the beginning that we can make something new happen. Sometimes the […]

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