Quality and Time

Let me ask a question where time is a limiting factor, and I've seen this happen numerous times. What is higher quality?
  1. half finishing something 'high quality', within the time you have,
  2. completely finishing it, but to half the quality that you could have done with unlimited time, or
  3. not doing it at all, and continuing with what you would otherwise have been doing?
I would argue high quality half finished is the worst of the three options. That is, doing nothing different is better than trying to do something high quality but failing. Of course you don't set out to fail, but not understanding the time it takes to do something can cause failure. Sometimes its important to decide what not to do.

I say this even in the context of the popular articles at the moment, which use the phrase, 'The aggregation of marginal gains'. There are huge flaws with superficially following this logic. I read one article which takes the premise to mean that to be successful you should do as many '1&ers' as possible, because they are marginal gains, and they aggregate, therefore the more you do.....well you get the idea. The problem with all theories/concepts like this is that they generally presume unlimited personnel and budget. Or, at least, more personnel and money than their competitors.

The easiest assumption for winning in sport is to think that if the winners are doing x, then I need to do x+y, or perhaps 2x, in order to beat them.1 The logic here is: if they are doing it and they beat us, then if we do more of it we will beat them. In these situations I always think of my university lecturer and his description of multi-vitamins: because they provide far more than what the body actually needs and can process, they end up just being expensive urine. Another flaw in this logic: I was talking to a (wealthy) professional sports team a long time ago, about their 'SmartBoard'. I asked them what they used it for, they said, 'well, actually its in a storage room somewhere. I don't think we have ever used it. We just got it because everyone else seemed to be getting one'.2


1  If I worked in sales and had sports teams as clients, this is the pitch I would be giving every time!

2  As for the algebra, I think there is something in it, but haven't been able to work it out yet. I may get a bit mathsy in future posts.......


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