Analytical 12: Better

17 March, 2017


How people justify the idea that anything you can do, I can do better is questionable at best.

Transcript available
[Music] Everything can be improved, iterated and refined. And if you don't think that's true, maybe you haven't analysed it enough yet. Calculated choices carefully considered. Absolutely analytical. Analytical is part of the Engineered Network. To support our shows, including this one, head over to our Patreon page. And for other great shows, visit today. Better. I can do it better. Of course you can. Of course you can. Anything you can do, I can do better, apparently. I mean, why in the world do people jump straight to that? There's none of this, I can... Where's the humility in that? I guess there isn't any. But I mean, nothing really is as simple as it seems. So goes the tagline of another podcast I'm involved with. involved with. But recently, I was confronted with a series of different people in completely, totally different contexts. All of them claimed that if they did something, that they would actually do it right or do it better than the other people or, you know, person that had previously tried. And why do we think that? Why do people think that? Maybe you've thought that from time to time. I certainly have on certain subjects from time to time myself, but I try very hard not to. But why do we jump to that? I get the distinct impression that everyone does feel that way. So why do we jump to that so quickly? I think it's actually, it's not just one thing, it's a few different things. And I suppose it starts with experience or lack thereof. So I think that when, where our minds lack experience, so we don't actually have any real-world life experience in a specific area that we're commenting on, that we're thinking about, we tend to fill in those gaps through simplification because we don't have all the detail. They say the devil's in the details, right? But we don't know about the details because we lack that experience. So we fill in those gaps by simplifying them and saying, "Oh, the last time I did something similar, it took about a week, except it actually took about three weeks of work from end to end. But it all kind of blurred together into itself and it really only felt like a week. But in real time, in actual time, it was actually three weeks. But I only remember working on it for about a week or so. And it was actually, unfortunately, completely different. The task that we were thinking of, "Oh, this is just like something I did a while ago and only took me a week." But what you were thinking about was completely different from this, the specific thing that we're talking about. It's like, "Well, no, no, no. It's completely different in a lot of of different ways. And it was a lot easier, this specific task that I'm misremembering. It was much easier, actually, it was less demanding and there was no real deadline or anything. And this other thing I'm comparing it to that happened to me in the past that is, in fact, totally different and was much easier and less demanding with no deadline. Failure didn't actually matter. So there was no pressure. And yet our minds go straight to that and say, well, I did this thing, it was kind of similar and it was completely different circumstances, totally different context, but because of that experience, I totally could have done this so much faster than them. And it's like, no. Here's another one. If you see someone else do something similar and it looked easy, like it looked straightforward. So, you know, you're witnessing someone else perform a task and it looked pretty easy. So, you're like, "Oh, I could totally do that. That's easy." Except You didn't see that they'd been practicing that like physical or technical skill, let's say, for 10 years, for hours at a time, every single day. You just see that end result and they make it look so easy, so much easier than it actually is. I mean, just think about someone who's a great dancer, you know, it's like or an athlete that's running a marathon. They make it look relatively easy, but it's not. It's hard. It's really hard. And it takes a lot of effort. But the other thing, of course, is that if you see someone else doing something similar and it looks easy, well, maybe what you didn't see is that that other person actually had help or training or assistance from other people. The other option, perhaps, is that it has some good fortune, situationally speaking, you know, like so in this situation, I hate to say use the word luck, but you know, OK, luck. So something happened, a unique alignment of events, if you'd like to think of it like that, perhaps, that that occurred as well. And that gave them an advantage that you may not have when you try to execute the same task yourself. So another one is that if you see something else doing something similar and it looked easy, so you could totally do it. Another one was, well, that other person, they were following a path that had been laid by other people before them. You hear this idea of a trailblazer, You know, like I'm out in the woods, I need to get from one side of the woods to the other, but there's nothing but trees and grass and shrubs. And it's not impassable, but you need to get a machete out or you need to clamber over this, move around that, squeeze between this rock and that tree. And it's like there's no trail. So you have to make the trail. And that takes a lot more time and a lot more effort. Now, someone who gets sick of doing that trailblazing after a while, going back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, if the routes traveled long enough, then you'll get a nice trail. Well, maybe not a nice trail, but you get a trail. And suddenly the next person after the hundredth person doesn't actually have to chop away at the foliage. They don't have to knock down a tree or move a rock or create a path. The trail is now there. It's established. Following a path that's been laid out before you by others, people long before them. That is a completely different proposition in terms of effort. It makes it look easy. It's like, "Oh, geez. Back a year ago, it took us a year to get from one side of the forest to the other. Now, it only takes us five minutes." It's like, "Yeah, well, that's because of the trailblazers that laid the trail before you." When you see someone do a task, like go from one side of the forest to the other, it's like, "Well, if they're following a trail that's been there already, you can't make that comparison that you could do it better, since they had to start from nothing perhaps, and you're just getting the benefit of the trial that they have laid. Anyway, so there's a disconnect there. You don't know if you need to blaze your own trial or not. So you can't just say, "Oh yeah, it's gonna be easy "'cause that person did it." 'Cause the other one to consider as well is that if you saw someone else do something similar and it looked easy, and hence you think it should be easy, well, maybe that other person had a big financial backing or they had other resources that helped them deliver that result. Maybe someone's popular and they become popular because they had the backing of a few key influential people in an organization and they get promotion, let's say, as a result of that. Let's say you don't have that. They talk about promotion on Meritil, whatever. The point is that if you don't have that same level of resources and you don't have that backing, then you won't get the same result. So ultimately, there's a whole bunch of reasons, and I suppose where we simplify the gaps, we tend to get overconfident and needlessly so. But it just it seems to be human nature because we don't know the detail. And sometimes people, I guess we're just trying to impress other people. It's like, well, you know, beat chest, beat chest. If I did this, it would be so much quicker and better and easier and blah, blah, blah. Right? But ultimately, if we're trying to impress people, the converse is actually what we are doing. And that is to say, by us saying it's going to take us a week and it took them three weeks, we're actually insulting and judging the performance of those prior people. Maybe that's obvious, maybe it's not, but it's not very nice, no matter how you look at it. So if person X took six months to make that widget, that thing, and I could do it in half that time that you're saying that one, I'm better than that person and two, that person is worse than I am because the measurement can be looked at from either direction. But when you look into the details, suddenly you realize, well, hopefully, you realize that you are wrong. I mean, you realize after the devil is in the details and when you look at those details, you realize, oh dear. So if someone has achieved something that truly is amazing and all you see is the end result. You haven't seen how hard they worked, the long hours, sleepless nights, broken relationships, possibly personal losses, financial setbacks, personal issues, difficult customers, iterative rework, all the refinements and calculations. In short, you have no idea what it really took until you try that yourself. So my advice would be spare me and everyone else surround you. Don't advertise your lack of experience, your lack of respect, and your lack of perspective by announcing to the world or anyone who would listen to you that you could do it better because you couldn't do it better, most likely. You'd like to have a go and see what happens, and that's fine, but good luck. You'll probably need it. If you're enjoying Analytical and want to support the show, you can. Like some of our backers, Ivan, Daniel Dudley, and Chris Stone. They and many others are patrons of the show via Patreon, and you can find it at, or one word. So if you'd like to contribute something, anything at all, it's all very much appreciated, except nothing. Question everything. It's always a good time to analyze something. I'm John Cheegee. Thanks for listening. [MUSIC PLAYING] [Music]
Duration 9 minutes and 44 seconds Direct Download

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John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.