Part II. Explore

The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.

W. B. Yeats

When faced with a new opportunity or a problem to be solved, our human instinct is to jump straight to a solution without adequately exploring the problem space, testing the assumptions inherent in the proposed solution, or challenging ourselves to validate the solution with real users.

We can see this instinct at work when we design new products, add new features to existing products, address process and organizational problems, begin projects, or replace existing systems. It is the force that leads us towards buying expensive tools that purport to solve all of our use cases, rolling out a new methodology or organizational refresh across the whole company, or investing in “bet the company” programs of work.

Worse, we often fall in love with our own solutions, and then fall prey to the sunk cost fallacy when we ignore evidence that should cause us to question whether we should continue to pursue them. When combined with a position of power, these forces can have catastrophic consequences—one of our colleagues was nearly fired by a client for having the temerity to ask about the business case behind a particular project.

If we had one superpower, it would be to magically appear whenever a problem or new opportunity was under discussion. Our mission would be to prevent anybody from commencing a major program to solve the problem or pursue the opportunity until they do ...

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