Over-optimization

Ford's Assembly Line

Any Type A who has experienced perfect optimization—whether it be military, sports, video gaming, or business—longs for its repetition. We Type As love efficiency, and therefore squeeze as much as possible into a moment or event. Such multi-tasking can lead us down a wayward path of over-optimization as we try to accomplish too many things at once. This is especially risky if these multiple things serve multiple purposes thereby jeopardizing the success of the primary task at hand.

For example, let’s say you’ve promised to take your wife out for a romantic dinner and you decide to optimize the evening for multiple goals. The primary task at hand: a romantic dinner with your wife. In planning the event, you:

  1. Make the reservation for 6:30 so you can get home in time for Monday night football.
  2. Choose a restaurant where you have a 2-for-1 entrée coupon.
  3. Take time composing one last email on your Blackberry while she’s looking over the wine list.

It is quite possible that your over-optimization of the evening may result in the failure of your primary romantic intent.

The business world has been long enamored with optimization. From the assembly line to Six Sigma, we apply rigorous principles to continually improve our processes. Such efforts can have extremely positive results, especially when we remember that we are often optimizing people, not cogs, and we are careful not to over-optimize.

Tony,

John, Jeff and I have decided that we could no longer ignore your and our hesitancy and mutual reservations re: your candidacy for this position. It was an extremely difficult decision, but after careful consideration, we have decided to withdraw the offer of employment that was made earlier this month. Please consider this email a formal withdrawal of the offer.

-Drew

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