Optimizing everything is not advisable for business leaders

Many highly regarded business leaders believe in striving for perfection. However, this approach is often misguided, as time is a limited resource for both leaders and their subordinates. Despite working long hours, it becomes impossible to achieve perfection in every aspect of the business. While a CEO may push their subordinates to optimize every decision, lower-level managers face time constraints that make this impossible. Instead of trying to optimize everything, it is more effective to focus on a few key areas.

Tim Ferris’ podcast interview with Derek Sivers offers a good summary of this approach. Personal decisions may involve optimizing areas such as relationships, purpose, or spirituality, and everyone must choose what to prioritize. While optimizing homemade bread may be important to some, it is impossible to optimize every aspect of life.

Herbert Simon, the creator of the “satisfied” approach, explained that many systems are too complex to identify optimal solutions. Instead, we should aim for what is “good enough” and be satisfied with real-world assumptions. This approach is explained in the forthcoming business strategy book, “Lost at CEO.”

Prioritizing tasks that have the greatest impact in the time available is essential in today’s fast-paced business world. Some people may not be comfortable with the “good enough” philosophy, and in these cases, it is important to consider their natural inclinations and assign roles that align with their strengths.

Instead of trying to optimize everything, we should focus on prioritizing what to optimize. By following customer demands and expectations, we can make the right decisions for our business. Diane Lim, an economist with years of experience working in the business world, offers consulting services to help business leaders connect the dots between the economy and business decisions. She has written several books and also serves on the Oregon Council of Economic Advisers.

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