(I Can't Get No) Satisficer

Are you a maximizer or satisficer? In other words, are you constantly striving to ensure your work and that of others is exactly right – if not perfect? Or, can you accept work products being good or, dare I say, good enough to meet objectives and then move on?

In a February 2nd FT Weekend column, Janan Ganesh reviewed the recent, later-in-life careers of tennis superstar Roger Federer and soccer legend Ronaldinho to make a point about maximizers and satisficers. He asserted that Federer’s unprecedented surge in his mid-to-late 30s – a monumental comeback now underway – owes to his “relentless pursuit of ever-loftier goals.” He contrasted the demands of Federer’s almost inhuman standards and discipline with Ronaldinho’s “prolonged winding-down of a luminous gift.” There was “no autumnal resurgence for” for the Barca star, who announced his retirement last month. Okay, yes, he kind of mailed it in toward the end of his career.

Ganesh has been a superb FT Weekend replacement for Tyler Brule. That said, his “either-or” formulation here doesn’t work for me. Most binary presentations such as this one leave me cold. Indeed, as people who work on their emotional intelligence understand, one can (or should) be a maximizer in some situations and a satisficer in other contexts.

Sure, there are impossible Type A types who always demand perfection from themselves and everyone else no matter the objective or circumstance. They often fail as a result, diminish their organizations and make life miserable for their colleagues. Practical wisdom suggests, on the other hand, that there will be moments in which each of us must keep our foot on the accelerator and demand no less than the best. There will be other moments, however, when we must keep the big picture in mind, deliver quality work, nourish the team and move on to the next objective. As with so many things in life, pick and choose your battles. It’s always a matter of balance.

Images courtesy of SkySports and AS English.