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Are you overthinking your problems?

clarity Oct 08, 2020

Most of my consulting clients want to know how to solve problems quickly. I tell them to make decisions often and assess them. If they are right, great. They will have a head start, and if they are wrong, they can pivot and change course.

Most of us dislike making simple decisions because our brains keep telling us, “It cannot be that simple”. However, most of the time, solutions are that simple.

There is a remarkable story about Thomas Edison, he called the Light Bulb Test. He had a simple test that he would ask anybody who wants to work for him to solve. He would hand them a light bulb and say, “Could you determine the exact amount of water the light bulb can hold?”

Some applicants will start measuring the light bulb, all the complex angles inside the bulb to determine the bulb surface area which allows them to determine the total volume of the glass bulb. This approach will take about 20 minutes to complete by any experienced engineer.

Other applicants approached the problem by filling the bulb with water. Pour the water into a measuring cup and read to determine the exact amount of water the bulb could hold. This approach could be done in 2 minutes by anybody.

Edison will only hire the second applicants because he always believed that deciding quickly and choosing a simple solution is better than overthinking most problems.

My question for you, “Are you overthinking your problems?”


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