When you look at a picture, how much of it do you see? Have you ever gone back to that same image days or even months later and seen something you missed? Let’s consider the photographer and why they chose to capture this image, considering everything else they see. How about the camera? Is it a polaroid or a professional device? Will you consider the image to be imperfect because the photographer used the former and not the latter? Or are you more concerned that the image doesn’t show all the details of the scene?
What’s my point? However anyone chooses to see a picture, the photographer offered their perspective on the scene and chose a single moment out of many and took one photo. Is it the best picture ever taken? That’s for them to say. Can there ever be a perfect picture considering all perspectives and all needs? Ultimately, the answer is no, but we can say it is the best possible picture taken under the prevailing conditions.
It is interesting to note the desire many business leaders seek for the perfect solution for a problem presented and how that drives us to accomplish impressive feats. What if I were to postulate that absolute perfection is illusory? The evolution of all things man-made proves that daily. We push the boundaries of inventions, improving each day and turning what was once impossible into a reality. Think about that problem you were unable to solve yesterday or a week ago. For some reason, it seems impossible at the moment, but after some time of thinking through it, you are able to come up with a solution that resolves it. Given enough time, knowledge, and resources, you can develop an even better solution, but real-life scenarios have constraints: deadlines, limited resources, data, etc.
So what do you do? A foundational principle that I have set as the framework of my business in the optics and photonics industry is this: In any given scenario, I find the best possible solution at any given time and consider the limitation of the resources I have with the cost I can afford. This concept has proved faithful over the years and has universal application.
Determine your focus
After clearly defining what the purpose of the business process is, keep your eye on that, and don’t be distracted by everything else outside your view lenses. Think about the human eye’s field of view; it only catches what is directly in front of it and, within that scope, what is close enough to be picked up with the retina. What appears in our peripheral vision may be helpful, but there is always something behind you that you must leave out of your sight, whether you like it or not.
If a photographer sets out to capture a picture of a sprawling mountain, often the challenge is not being distracted by other picturesque opportunities. When confronted with snow-capped mountains, a glistening lake, and a vast amount of wildlife, the photographer is faced with a problem: How do they determine which image warrants their focus? The accepted approach requires you to use specific parameters to narrow your scope of focus by determining the purpose of the image and disregarding other opportunities that would require you to change lenses. Although establishing these parameters means sacrificing one aspect to improve another, you will ultimately end up with the best possible solution for the problem.
Brainstorm and ask questions
Brainstorming can be an exercise in perpetuity. If you keep at it, you’re not going to get anything done. At some point, you have to stop. How do you determine that stopping point? Ask yourself:
- What level of precision are you aiming for, and how does that serve the process’s purpose?
- How much time do you have to find a solution? If you can ask for extra time, do that. If not, stay within the boundary of what you’ve been given by focusing on the primary need.
You may start by thinking you’re seeking the best-ever solution, but what might work now will become obsolete in a decade. So, when you think about it, you’re actually looking for the best possible solution you can come up with in that given scenario.
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Make a decision with available perspectives
A decision needs to be made at some point in the process. When that time comes, the decision must be based on the available perspectives you have already sought out. When it comes down to the wire, do this check:
- Ask if the purpose of the process will be served with option X.
- Determine how precise you need to be and how that serves the purpose.
Understand that different perspectives will differ in their view, so what may seem right from your standpoint will seem inadequate from another’s. Don’t let that bother you.
Have no regrets
There’s always going to be something that you could have done better. Rather than feel bad about it, take that knowledge and use it to make future decisions. When the first laser was developed in 1958, it wasn’t the best laser ever made; it was the best possible at that time, given what they knew. They may have imagined doing more with what they had, but the limitations of their time, knowledge, and resources could only permit what they created. Should they have regretted their accomplishment? No. Thanks to them, laser technology has leap-frogged through the ages and has uncountable applications today.
Avoid regretting past decisions: Hindsight will always provide you with ways you could have approached a situation differently. Instead of regretting decisions, use that information to positively approach future decisions. Hindsight is for the purpose of the future.
There’s no perfect answer (or image)
Perfect answers may exist in mathematics; 2+2=4, and there’s no way of improving that four or making it better if you are not a mathematician. In real-life scenarios, whether personal or professional, no perfect solution stands forever. Perspectives are different, as are approaches to problem-solving, and solving problems evolves through a never-ending cycle of learning, reimagination, and improving. Simply put, your solution tomorrow will always be better than today’s. Don’t let that stop you. Take what today gives you and find the best possible solution that answers the question. Then, build on that experience for the next project. So long as you don’t use a microscopic lens to capture a landscape, you will be fine.