STORY INLINE POST
As a human, it often feels too easy to do something wrong. We live in a world so connected and with so many different needs that we find ourselves often making decisions that result in not everyone getting exactly what they want. And even though it seems obvious, we can only maximize one thing at a time, and the results of doing so are painful since there’s always at least one perspective we’re accommodating poorly. This ends up manifesting itself in many aspects of life.
For instance, I help run Mexico’s leading distributed solar company, Bright, and have seen this dynamic at play many times here. When we create new things (say a tool or a new process), there’s at least one group that always likes it less. As one example, say you, as a leader, realize the need to come up with a new way to track projects and you decide to onboard a new project management software. While you know this is better for the teams executing in the long run, it may be harder for other team leaders to see the bigger picture and catch up with the individual challenges to know how to help. This presents a dilemma and can likely explain why many large companies stop innovating: there are too many people or groups with different needs once you get to a certain scale, and so many factions are incentivized to stop new projects or changes.
Let’s also look at a slightly different example. In your personal life, have you ever tried to choose a movie when you have a group of three or more people? Nearly impossible. Trying to find a movie no one has seen and that fits the personal preferences of all on a regular basis is a near mathematical impossibility. Same with finding a dinner spot that all want to go to.
Is this actually solvable? It does seem that once you hit a certain scale of diversity and a large enough population you get stuck. However, as mentioned, decisions can’t be made to optimize for everyone’s unique needs and when you get down to it, people become upset because they were promised that the decisions would be made for their needs but they then end up in a group that they were not made for.
The good news is that as we get more diverse groups to solve for, and the needs diverge, strong “upstream communication” becomes an increasingly viable solution. In my experience, for instance, I’ve seen great things happen when organizations take a step back and have the group agree what to optimize for first before moving to the next step. In doing so, people begin to understand that there are trade-offs and it’s impossible to optimize for all interested parties. After that, the next steps become easier because you make a decision as a group against a framework. If you don’t do this, people will tend to assume you’re optimizing for “their thing” unless you tell them otherwise, and if it doesn’t seem like you are, it’s human nature to assume that the group is intentionally choosing to not do their thing.
Perhaps as we get involved with bigger groups or as they get more diverse, we should focus more time earlier in the process. Focusing on the process first instead of the decision may be the key to staying “out of trouble.” We’ve implemented this with great success so far at Bright and are growing fast as a result. And by the way, a shameless plug: if you’re looking to get into renewable energy, check out our job page: https://www.careersatbright.com/, we’re hiring and we need the most talented people to move as fast as we want to.