Repeated, varied attempts
Trial and error is a fundamental method of problem solving. It is characterised by repeated, varied attempts which are continued until success, or until the agent stops trying.Wikipedia
Using trial and error can sometimes be viewed as lacking in sophistication or rigour. This really depends on how one interprets the “repeated, varied attempts”.
What variations are being used? Are they random or informed by some logic? Ideally, the experimenter will have a thesis that changing something will result in a different outcome.
For example, does a pizza turn out better when cooked at a higher temperature more quickly, or a lower temperature more slowly?
On my recent trip to Florida I attempted a SouthWest inspired version of focaccia topped with salsa and corn.
It was not a great success. Absent my mixer I prepped the dough by hand and cooked it in an unfamiliar oven with previously untried toppings. Edible, but not great.
At home, however, I make pizza with precision honed over several years of making a pizza every week. Why? Because I have done my trials and errors and now have a repeatable process – a recipe – a plan! – that I can follow every time.
The point of a plan
“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”Helmuth von Moltke
Or contact with a new oven. Or a new sheet pan. Or different toppings. You get the point.
A plan is great because, provided conditions are as expected throughout the plan’s implementation, you know what you will need and what you will get.
The problem, of course, is that conditions are so very rarely as expected throughout implementation.
“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”Dwight Eisenhower
This is an interesting reframe of the idea embedded in Design Thinking that one cannot unerringly plan and follow a plan to completion – one must continue to plan as conditions change.
This reframe reminds us that it is just as foolish to embark without a plan as it is to adhere to the initial plan blindly.
Billionaire Peter Thiel, who founded PayPal along with Elon Musk, believes value of a specific plan because it ends in a specific goal. When he assesses a company to invest in, he would rather see a presentation that asserts the company will do one thing, as opposed to a company that says it has a range of options to pursue.
Even though mathematically one could assume that the company with more than one definition of success is more likely to succeed, instead, it’s the focused company that wins.
If you have a specific idea it’s a plan you can work against coordinating against measure yourself against and try to improve.Peter Thiel