A Time to Reflect. A Time to Act

May 10, 2012
Stop Trying to Pre-Determine Results, Allow the Results to Happen
About the Author
Jeremy Pollard, CET, has been writing about technology and software issues for many years. He has been involved in control system programming and training for more than 25 years.You'll see why I'm writing this in a minute. I need to share this experience because I think that it defines a systemic failure of us as humans to adapt, improvise and overcome. That's something I've written about before.

In high school chemistry class, we did lab exercises. First, form a hypothesis, then create a method of investigation, execute, and evaluate the results. If the results did not meet the hypothesis, then sometimes we adjusted the result to meet the hypothesis, and sometimes the other way around.

This is about making time for new and improved ideas and hypotheses, and, of course, the completely new idea of not trying to pre-determine results, but allowing the results to happen.

Steve Jobs was a disruptive thinker. He made the time for new energies, as Bill Gates did with Paul Allen many years ago.

A while back, I told you a story about about Gus—my young engineer friend who made waves by thinking differently. He took the norm and set it on its ear. Project costs were running over, customers were complaining and the startup guys lacked needed tools, all because the results had to meet the business hypothesis of make more money and give them less. Kind of like Goldman Sachs.

Gus figured that by using something new he could give everyone what they needed, make it cost less, and reduce variable costs such as customer support. That new idea was simply using a small controller with a built-in HMI. Simple and elegant.

Part of the original replacement hypothesis was that the platform had to be able to deal with all applications that this company does. That meant that one control platform would serve their purposes for all. Novel idea.

The one person who wasn't happy was Gus's boss. He'd been upstaged by Gus because he didn't have the time for new ideas because "we don't need to."

Gus probably will take over his boss's job soon, and might well be the CEO soon because of how he thinks. And he can "do" as well as he thinks.

So, here's why I bring this up. As I write this, my mother is probably living her final few weeks on this earth.

My two siblings and I have been good and powerful advocates for her, but the successes can only be measured by some of the few highlights and smiles, such as her 85th birthday celebration. Small consolations for a large expense of emotional currency.

This is not to discount my mum's determination and dignity. "I'll do it myself!" is a common approach for her.

After 10 days of treatment, the doctors told us, "We don't know what's wrong, but what we are doing seems to be working."

When I suggested that it wasn't working, the original hypothesis was altered to better align with the "perceived" results.

I was flabbergasted at the attitude of these "experts." They simply can't be wrong. This sounds like a lot of politicians, or maybe even a boss. We tried to instill a new way of thinking in her caregivers, but it was a lost cause.

Whether the doctors in a small Canadian town could have made a difference or not (she has lung cancer after smoking for 70 years) is up for debate. Living past age 84 without any major health issues despite having smoked for so long, one could think that time, effort and lean thinking might have been wasted, and they could be right.

But as Billy Joel said, they may be wrong. But it's my mum…and I think they could have been wrong. But I am glad that they at least thought they might be right for a few months.

I fear that the wait-and-see approach has cost us and our mum valuable time that you can't get back.

Make time to think differently in these trying times. Take the time.
And phone your mom. Dad, too.

About the Author

Jeremy Pollard | CET

Jeremy Pollard, CET, has been writing about technology and software issues for many years. Pollard has been involved in control system programming and training for more than 25 years.