The Difference Between Careful and Paralyzed

The astronauts of NASA, including David Scott and … yes, that other fellow is first-man-on-the-moon Neil Armstrong … are very careful. They have to be; their missions wouldn’t work otherwise, and absent great care people would die. But Careful and Paralyzed are different things.

Do you know the difference?

Recently, I came across an article at Harvard Business Review that got me thinking. With the issue being perfectionists getting in their own way, the question becomes how businesses can avoid paralysis. And yes, it comes down to knowing—or at least being able to spot—the difference between careful and paralyzed. And often, that comes down to something incredibly simple:

Sometimes, “Good Enough” really is good enough.

Much as that thought—or at least the wording—bothers me, the idea is correct. There’s almost never such a thing as perfect. This idea has come up here before, both when HBR pointed it out relative to hiring, and here, when we spoke about laundry lists and hiring practices.

Sounds like a conflict, right? The trick is finding your happy place between perfect and not-perfect-but-perfect-for-task.

Careful And Paralyzed

I see this all the time. And it isn’t exclusively a business process thing or even just about business, at all. I know people—I’ll bet you do too—who just can’t make decisions. Pulling the trigger stops them in their tracks. Paralysis sets in. The line between careful and paralyzed becomes impossible to cross.

Those NASA guys got it. You’ll never get to the moon if you’re afraid of making mistakes—no matter how high the risk.

And that’s the big obstacle. Business change, business in general, and even well-designed business process all require a bit of guts. For many people finding the strength to trust yourself when it’s time to make hard decisions isn’t a natural thing.

Paralysis by analysis, to quote a trite-but-in-no-way-overused phrased.

I’d like to tell you there’s a set of exercises you can do to trust yourself more while simultaneously not scaring off your employees, vendors and customers. It’s not that simple.

Actually, it’s far simpler. As Nike famously said in an old ad campaign, Just Do It.

And as odd as this might sound … if you need a push … we’re here to help.

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