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Perfectionist or Pragmatist that is the Question

October 31, 2014

Uncertainty-is-an-uncomfortableRecently an email praised my perfectionism. Somewhat in awe, it was obvious the writer did not know my management style, philosophy and me.

A wise belief from Native Americans states that a single arrow will bend under pressure but a stack of arrows are inflexible and require sufficient force, which will ultimately break rather than bend them. Herein lies the foundation that took me from a ridged all or nothing posture to one that is more flexible and successful.

While my background is underscored by bringing projects on time, within budget and at the right quality, it was found “having an approximate answer on time rather than an exact answer too late,” could better achieve these goals. Our job is therefore how to manage the risk of approximation. One must continually weigh expected benefits against likely costs. The closer we get to exactitude, if ever possible, the lower the risks should be. Yet, absolutely may not be.

In science and technology there really is no such thing as an exact answer. According to J. Bronowski, a deceased British mathematician, biologist, historian of science, author, poet and inventor, there is no absolute knowledge. “Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty. We are here face to face with the crucial paradox of knowledge. Year by year we devise more precise instruments with which to observe nature with more fineness. And when we look at the observations, we are discomfited to see they are still fuzzy, and we feel that they are as uncertain as ever. We seem to be running after a goal which lurches away from us to infinity every time we come within sight of it.”

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