If it ain’t broke, keep digging
Founders have to be detectives — looking for what is broken and building the solutions that will fix it. Seeing what doesn’t work is easy…
Founders have to be detectives — looking for what is broken and building the solutions that will fix it. Seeing what doesn’t work is easy, asking why it doesn’t work is natural and I get a dopamine hit from solving a problem. I take the first answer that is correct enough...move fast, right? The danger is good enough is usually not the best answer and sometimes the good enough answer makes it impossible to discover the idea that leads to breakout success.
Imagine you are a detective. Someone reports seeing a suspicious person heading into the woods with a shovel and a heavy bag over their shoulder. You take a K-9 team into the woods, the dogs start to go crazy over some ground that seems disturbed and you tell the forensic team to dig. After a little while, they find a cat buried in a shallow grave. Disappointed, you close the case. What you don’t know is that three feet below the cat, in a deeper grave, lies the body you are searching for…the discovery of the cat actually makes it way harder to find the body and puts you further from solving the mystery. The first answer is correct. There is something buried in that spot, but it is not the full picture. Stopping at the cat is fast. Stopping at the cat is also a huge mistake.
The next time someone says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” Think STFU and keep digging. In a dynamic world, it is even more important to question the things that ARE working. What’s working is the source of success — this is where investments of time, money, energy and focus grow rapidly and where understanding the full context can generate the largest impact over time. The first answer may not be the best one. It may not be complete. It may be one that is right today, but makes it much harder to overcome the next challenge.
When something is broken, when a blockage has to be removed in order for a team to move forward, the process of satisficing begins. Based on current requirements, market dynamics and resources, a solution emerges. I try it and so long as this solution overshoots the current needs, I say, “I’m right” and move on — happy with my success and honoring the need to focus on fixing the next broken thing I see.
But what if instead of saying, “I’m right” I ask, “Why am I right?”
What if I ask, “What could change to make my solution fall short of the current requirements?” and, “How could the needs change to make my current solution fall short?”
When I am right, this practice should help me see how much is driven by today’s reality and how much is lasting insight that will offer increasing leverage as the context of the problem evolves. I hope to see the weaknesses in my approach before something breaks and move from satisficing to applying attention to points of increasing leverage.
I hope to dig beyond the cat. I hope you will too.