We Confine Ourselves By Accident

As I have said before, much can be learned and acted upon effectively if you pay attention to boundaries and the conditions they express. On the 30th of August I received in email, very useful idea. It comes from the blog  The Waiter’s Pad.

The author is Mike Dariano and his publications are always welcome.

This one, Local Maxima,  is easy to understand and addresses an important question. Does your organizational method force you to be limited? It is a think outside the box issue, together with some ideas to help you avoid the problem. Practical ideas. I particularly liked the idea of the “rogue bees.”

Essentially be curious and act on what you find.

The key is the difference between finding the right thing to do and not so much effort on efficiency. Efficiency creates local maxima. You cannot make a weak idea strong by being efficient. That’s what a Local Maxima problem is about. The weak idea traps you into working on the wrong part.

The blog article follows. Mike’s blogs are almost all short and interesting.


Local maxima

When stuck-at-home in 2020 my kids (12, 10 then) and I enrolled in the Marc Rober Creative Engineering course on Monthly. It was mostly above my engineering (and their in-depth interest) level but it was still great. We got to see Rober’s structure for brainstorming, more of the build process, and his thinking along the way. The hours of course video were like a documentary, a ‘Making of’ video.

One thing we saw was how Rober prototypes his builds. In the case of a making a candy launching device Rober made one using springs, one using compressed air, and one using hydraulics. The reason to prototype, Rober said, it to not get stuck at a local maxima.

Rober's sketches

We all have an idea for solving a problem and a lot of times we just do that. However in the situation we get more information. Rober suggests imagining a series of wooded hills. From the ground we don’t know which is highest (the best solution). So we need to hike up our best guess and look around from there. The hike up to, and the view from the top give us information on how best to act.

Rober’s process has come, in-part, from his years at Apple and NASA and making things like squirrel obstacle courses and glitter bombs. He’s a YouTuber with a very small staff, (no groupthink) so how might an organization avoid local maxima?

Rory Sutherland suggests following the bees. What’s great about Rory’s recounting is the structure. Organization direction is based on culture and incentives. Sutherland’s structure is one way to change the incentives.

“I think having two budgets, two sets of metrics, and two sets of incentives for exploit and explore. It would be utterly insane to learn something in a test and fail to exploit it by doing more of it. Make the most of what you know, but always invest twenty percent in what you don’t know yet. Bees do this where roughly twenty percent of bees ignore the waggle dance that tells you where to find nectar. The bees understand that if you don’t have these rogue bees the hive gets trapped at a local maxima and eventually starves to death.”

Part-of-the-question with a local maxima is the cadence of change: is a business more like Netflix or a pool construction company? Rober prototypes. Sutherland et al. ‘test counterintuitive things’. Some bees explore, some exploit. Each found a balance and designed a loose solution so not get stuck at the local maxima.

I like Rory Sutherland ideas too.

“Once you have a very, very large budget, you actually look for expensive things to spend it on”

Don’t become trapped by limits you have accidently imposed on yourself. Sign up for the Waiter’s Pad. You can always quit.


I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com 

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