In the 2011 Grand Prix Formula One race in Monaco, Lewis Hamilton’s car collided with another racer. There was damage to the rear wing end plate of his car. Under any other circumstances, his racing day would have been over. Changing tires during a pit stop is one thing, but repairing something more complicated like this takes more time.
But Hamilton got lucky. Because of debris from another wreck, officials had to suspend the race in order to clear the course. And in the few minutes it took, Hamilton’s pit crew sprinted out to the track, assessed the damage, determined the best fix, and made their repairs.
When the officials restarted the race a few minutes later, Hamilton was ready to rejoin.
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At first glance, you might call this a quick fix.
And it certainly was quick from an execution perspective. But getting the pit crew to the point where they were able to make the repair so rapidly was a long and very deliberate process.
Hamilton’s pit crew was successful because of careful planning and preparation. They anticipated what could go wrong, and considered the kinds of damage their car could suffer. They stocked the parts that they might need to replace on short notice. They practiced and rehearsed different scenarios and how they might respond on short notice.
What appeared to be a successful quick fix was in reality the fruit of hours of thought, preparation, and labor. It was a Slow Fix.
And that is one of the key points of Carl Honoré book, The Slow Fix: Solve Problems, Work Smarter, and Live Better in a World Addicted to Speed.
Like a Band-Aid
In the media-fueled get-it-done-yesterday rush of the world there is pressure for the quick fix. Take a pill, use a secret formula, jump in and “make it happen.” But too often these actions amount to treating a symptom, not the root cause of the problem.
It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a stab wound. It might appear to cover up the hole, but doesn’t really fix what may be deeper problems.
Honoré argues convincingly that in a world of growing complexity, the “quick fix” mentality not only doesn’t help, sometimes it makes things worse.
One study he cites looked at the predictions of 284 leading political and economic experts regarding global events. Researchers found that a computer algorithm made more accurate predictions than the experts.
And interestingly, the more prestigious the expert, the more over-confident and inaccurate they turned out to be.
Leaping too quickly to conclusions and acting on them is a potential recipe for disaster.
The Slow Fix
Honoré’s book is full of great examples and interesting stories about how our minds work and the risks associated with the quick fix mentality. Not only does he debunk the idea of the quick fix, he
offers a wide variety of approaches and techniques to help you to develop an effective slow fix.
His discussion runs the gamut from the benefits of collaboration and crowd-sourcing to working with emotions and using the idea of play to generate creative solutions. I found the book to be full of great ways to implement his concept of the “Slow Fix.”
The ability to act rapidly, decisively, and effectively does not arise overnight. It is risky to think that in minutes or days you can solve problems that took weeks or years to develop.
What’s more, a hasty-cure mentality can actually make things worse.
Aristotle had a good handle on this some years ago:
As leaders, we have be sensitive to the quick fix mentality, and resist the temptation to break out the first aid kit and start slapping band aids on everything in sight.
In problem solving, it is far better to slow down, get a clear understanding of the real problem and then implement lasting solutions.
Equally, there is no substitute for anticipating problems and preparing for them thoroughly.
So, when the time comes, just like the Formula One pit crew, you can quickly fix the problem you took your time to solve.