Don’t have a Plan B; have a safety net

Ashim D’Silva

In entrepreneurship, it’s call pivoting; in politics, it’s being realistic; in relationships, it’s compromise, but across the board there’s a difference of intent, that changes whether you’re going at it with everything you’ve got or hedging your bets with one eye on leaving. Our generation has built a great sense of individualism which has brought with it powerful innovation and inspiring art, but when its success is measured, it’s seen as a result of a difference from other people, not a kinship and social fabric.

The reason an app works isn’t because it does something the most differently than everything else, but because it does it in a way a large amount of people feel naturally able to learn, grasp and live with—even if they hadn’t thought of it. Every year of the iPhones existence, people have critiqued its inability to do something. Yet, it is the highest selling smart phone, because of the one thing it does right—it feels natural. There may not be infinite customisation options and add-ons, but out-of-the-box, it does most everything you’d need, and does it gorgeously well. It’s because Apple sees what’s common to all of us, that the iPhone meets most of us.

Everybody has the problem, you build the solution—that’s the balance that survey’s and apps that do too many things forget. Companies end up with complex solutions to simple problems because they aren’t defining their core clearly; they have a base idea, and they want to have the freedom to pivot if it isn’t working. But if you’re always pivoting, you aren’t sure what problem you started out to solve. You don’t design a screw-driver by starting with a heavy stick and seeing what people do with it.

The reason political policy works again isn’t because you had two opposing parties take shots at rewriting a bill and dismantling the best parts of the idea in the name of finding common ground. It works because that common good exists, but methods are contentious, and it takes a maverick to push through their best option against opposition and public outcry (similar to the app innovation) and for people to feel its positive influence. That maverick, by definition may not have public opinion on their side, and therefore will often fail to garner democratic support. Here some people hear dictatorship, and some hear executive action; it’s because people forget that the problem was the same, but people had different solutions.

The reason relationships work, again, isn’t compromise. Or rather, it isn’t finding the average solution that both people find disappointing. It’s recognising the greater good the relationship is achieving—the friendship, the family, the creation. If you respect that everyone has the same goal, and only the methods vary, you are more likely to find a way to that goal without compromise. Take a messy, convoluted route, as long as the destination is maintained.

Here’s where plan B fails. Plan Bs depend on the idea that Plan A will not go down well. Plan Bs are already a compromise built on an assumed push-back without actually understanding the alternative. The Plan B isn’t a route to the same destination, it’s a less contentious destination. It doesn’t get you where you’re going, but makes it seem like at least you’re moving.

A safety net however, is the freedom to fail. You’re going in with a proposed plan, understanding you could be wrong, willing to fail for the good of the destination. Because doing something isn’t good enough if it doesn’t get you where you’re going, but shooting for the moon can teach you how to do it better next time. A safety net gives consensus a lower weight, by allowing many Plan As, and importantly, more difficult and higher-risk Plan As that would be rejected if there were a safer Plan B.

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