Monday, November 17, 2008

Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast

This is a paraphrase of a quote from the Steven Hunter's book, The Point of Impact, which was also turned into a movie (Shooter) starring Mark Wahlberg. The book is about a sniper, or more accurately, the mind of a sniper, as he prepares to make shots upwards of a mile in length.

“Slow is smooth and smooth is fast” is also a quote that I have found myself saying to people around me a lot lately. In my context, it is analogous to the old carpenter’s adage: “measure twice, cut once”. Essentially, I mean, if you do something right the first time, you save yourself a ton of time and trouble in the long run. It also means that you spend at least a little time considering your next course of action before committing yourself to it.

In our ultra high paced society, we are all under stress to experiment with new methods, make quick decisions, and to get things done more quickly than has ever been expected in the past. This is especially true in book publishing, as publishers struggle with using new technologies and creating new business models. However, under this pressure, we all often fall prey to “leaping before we look”. And, the notion of “slow is smooth and smooth is fast” seems somewhat counter-intuitive.

Everyone has heard the story that it took Edison over 1,000 experiments before he perfected the light bulb, but has anyone ever put forth the notion that any of those experiments were not planned out? I think that the notion of ‘experimentation’ has become synonymous with the idea of “Just do it” (a commercial slogan designed to get people exercising.) Ill planned experiments can have disastrous results, wasting time, money, and other resources, especially in business. And, once the resources are gone, we can’t do any more experiments.

We need to move quickly in today’s society, but we must also move with some consideration of the implications our actions.

On another plane entirely, I hope our Treasury Secretary considers that “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast” when doling out our $700 Billion. We certainly can’t afford for this ‘experiment’ not to work.

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