Premature Optimization: The Root of All Evil
by Scott Meyer on 4/13/16
Be mindful of premature optimization.
It’s actually fun to sweat the small stuff. It feels like progress.
But optimizing our work can distract us from finding and completing the work that matters. What’s more, the time and energy spent on optimization is wasted as our work changes.
As computer scientist Donald Knuth rightly said: “Premature optimization is the root of all evil.”
Find Your Core Business, Then Work on Optimization
The purpose of your work is to help someone. Are you?
That is the first question you should consider.
Premature optimization is making an effort at incremental improvements before finding your core business.
Improving the look of your website, the speed of your delivery, or your hours of operation are less important than finding the product or service that people want (and that you want to offer).
Is your business or project solving a problem, inspiring action, or making an impact in the world? If it’s not, can it? If it can, how?
Learn what your business does and who your customers are. This is the essential first step of finding your core business. It’s the difference between marketing (connecting people with the thing they want) and advertising (convincing people to buy something they don’t want).
Once you know your market, you can then focus on giving them what they want in a more beautiful, quick, or customer-friendly way. That is the time to optimize.
Don’t Waste Work
Thinking about your core business first and optimization second ensures your work is not wasted.
If you discover the best design for your website, but then you have to change the products or services you sell, your design work has been wasted. If you find the fastest route to deliver pizza, but then you learn that customers only want take-out, your logistics work has been wasted. If you test the best times to open and close, but you can’t get customers to come back, your operations work has been wasted.
Avoid premature optimization. Do the important work first; then make that work better.
How 9 Clouds Pursues Its Mission
We are currently hiring at 9 Clouds, and one of the best decisions we ever made was to collaboratively create and share our company’s manifesto. It boldly proclaims what we believe and helps potential applicants know if they would be a good fit.
I can happily say our growing team has taken these tenets and run with them. They create inspiring work and ask one another to continually reflect on whether we are living up to our beliefs.
Start here. Start with what you believe and what you can provide to the world.
Then optimize, and you will help even more people than before.
The easiest way I have found to actually optimize is to create content that helps you find your core. This is the idea of “systems” in which you win even if you lose. That means even if you create content that ends up not tying into your core business, it has helped you find your core business and is thus a helpful exercise.
I’m hosting a webinar all about optimizing content, or SEO as it is called. It’s free, and you should attend. Do you want in?
Originally published at 9clouds.com on April 13, 2016.