Is a reliable outcome the best outcome?
Things don’t move until we set them into motion. A thing, be it tangible or intangible, needs the input to generate an output — a push from point A to head towards point B.
There’s lots of things I put into motion throughout my day — from opening an app and engaging with content, to slicing bread and building a sandwich. It’s hard to know exactly where I’ll arrive with my actions — content might upset me, and my sandwich might taste terrible. I would define these negative outcomes as undesired results.
So I mostly go about my day with small routines that have proven to give me the results I want (and have idealized), as many people do. These are systems of maintaining a personal status quo, and for the most part they work. I have my processes, and I think they’re pretty good, but could they be better?
While concerns over what I’m going to eat might not have broader implications, what happens when I’m eating with others? The truths I’ve come to value in my day-to-day are comfortable and generate reliable outcomes — but is a reliable outcome the best outcome?
Wrench is a dramatic word. By definition wrench is (verb) to twist and pull with a sudden violent motion or (noun) a violent twisting or pulling movement. It’s an uninvited change, a path you’ve been forced to head down. It’s preparing a sandwich in anticipation of something great, only to find that the mayonnaise jar is empty — it’s an unanticipated opportunity to redefine your goal. We all encounter wrenches on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis. They’re inevitable, but not always unfortunate.
It’s been my experience that wrenches come in two categories — familiar and unfamiliar. An unfamiliar wrench almost always leads to learning. It’s the process of starting at point A and heading to point B without context. Sometimes the learning is light — bring some water next time because the journey is a bit long. And sometimes the learning is heavy — make a new plan to get to point C because point B is an active minefield.
Familiar wrenches are a mixed bag. Being familiar is not synonymous with being good, nor does familiarity make it any less of a wrench. A familiar wrench can be anything from scope creep to depression to catching a cold — an annual monsoon, a sudden tsunami, or just a few rain clouds.
How you handle a familiar wrench is a metric for success and competency. This is particularly true of wrenches that are familiar to you, but unfamiliar to the acknowledging party — observations like “she handles sudden change really well” can even make your familiar wrench seem like an innate ability, which can become a wrench in and of itself.
So I want to make a sandwich. Thankfully I don’t need to rely on intuition for what tastes good, or how to accomplish the task, as I have lots of previous sandwich experience to work from. I believe I know how to make the best sandwich.
So, I’m going to invite you over for the best sandwich ever. How do I know it’s the best sandwich? I know it’s the best because of my knowledge and experience — I’m practically a sandwich expert.
I love turkey and brie on a soft baguette, and that’s what we’re going to have. I’ve eaten this sandwich many times and it’s delicious. It’s the best sandwich, and you’re going to love it.
This is an example of problematic thinking, and it comes down to the unavoidable condition of personal subjectivity — Nietzsche called this perspectivism. I’ve made a lot of assumptions about your preferences because I believe my own preferences are universal. But telling someone to “eat this sandwich because it’s the best sandwich” is both confrontational and can imply that other choices are bad.
Many problems can be attributed to ignoring multiple perspectives in favour of what’s perceived as singular truth and fact. Perspectivism extends beyond the kitchen and effects everything from how we program facial recognition to how democracy functions.
It’s pretty neat and tidy to imagine setting things in motion from A to B. If I restrict the experience to my sole perspective when considering how I’ve accomplished a task or achieved a goal, I end up with a very limited understanding of how I got there (and usually a clear and simple explanation).
While this is convenient, it’s very likely I’m missing out on making my problem solving more effective, informed, and dynamic. It’s also likely I’m missing out on problem spaces around the issue I’m targeting, and forgoing opportunities to discover what things are like at points X, Y, and Z.
Diversity in process and experience is crucial —be it gender, race, socio-economic, education, etc. You are not the one person with the one answer, and solutions don’t miraculously get pulled out of vacuums.
There’s much cause to consider collaboration as key, but if we are only collaborating with people who are comfortably similar to ourselves, our solutions will consistently have limited worth.
What news are you consuming? Who’s input is helping you to shape your latest project? How accessible is your end point? Who are you leaving behind as you move forward?
It’s difficult to propose a solution to the complex issues that arise from a lack of inclusivity. But you can make a difference in your outcomes if you think actively about your personal bias and actively work to include the perspectives of others. Don’t get caught in the comfort of your personal status quo. Everyone has uniquely familiar wrenches and getting a diverse input can give you better results, faster.