Jason Lauritsen - Crushing talent dogma to free human potential

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The Danger in Adding Too Much Value

Some lessons are hard ones to put into actual practice.  I have a project that I’ve been working on the past several months.  One part of this project has been giving me fits.  The harder I worked at the problem and the more creative I tried to be, the farther away from a solution I got.  I kept trying to find a new and creative way to attack this issue, to add some new value.  But,  nothing was working.  

But, finally I stopped.  I went clear back to the beginning and started over.  I asked a few more questions.  I listened.  And what I found was that the solution was simple.  Painfully simple.  I think that I so wanted to show off my creative abilities that I was taking a straight forward problem and making it complex.  I was trying to add value where it really wasn’t needed.  
I think this happens a lot in our work.  We attack a problem or situation with a flurry of ideas and approaches when something far more simple is called for.  To justify our existence (and our salary) we have a compulsion to spring to action, to roll up our sleeves and do some work.  The irony is that often times, the best thing we could do is the simplest, even the easiest.  Sometimes, the best way to add value is to do nothing.  
To check yourself before you run off to create a bunch of work, start by asking these questions:
  • What is the ideal outcome (or What do you want to see happen?)
  • What is the simplest way to make that happen?
  • Is there any risk with following this simplest solution?
In human resources, the place where we try add too much value every day is employee relations.  Employees and managers come to us with basic problems every day.  Because we want to prove our value, we take on these problems and launch interventions and investigations.  This makes us look and feel busy.  But, a majority of employee relations issues stem from a communication gap between two people.  If we asked the three questions above, we wouldn’t launch into intervention mode.  Rather, we’d coach the person in front of us to go have a conversation with the other person with whom they have a issue before we would take any action.  It’s amazing how many issues get resolved this way.  
So, the real question is this: do you want to be busy or get results?  I sure wish I had paused to ask these questions at the beginning of my project because I can’t get my time back.  But, I suppose it’s better late than never.  Don’t make the same mistake I did.  Find the simple path and follow it.  
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  1. Luke Marson

    Nice to see some honesty and to see you learn from an experience. Far too many people don't admit their mistakes and thus don't learn from them – meaning they make the same old mistakes.

    This is a good blog – keep up the good work.

  2. Jason Lauritsen

    Thanks Luke. I've always felt that one of my skills was making big mistakes and learning a lot from those mistakes. It's the learning that happens in failure that fuels future success.

  3. Jay Kuhns

    Results matter…the rest is just noise. Great post Jason.

  4. stuart chittenden

    … Occam's Razor…

    Also, I remember working with a boss who told me that sometimes the best course of action is not to "be at your phone." He demonstrated this once or twice during some high profile deals. The result is that instead of the person on the other end of the line transferring their problem to you, they end up having to find the solution themselves. And they did! I accept that isn't the best approach all the time, but every now and again…

Jason Lauritsen