… Roughly means – not perfect, but good enough to be useful. Satisficing is a term coined by Herbert A. Simon, American economist, political scientist and cognitive psychologist, whose main area of interest was the process of decision making within organizations. The term “saitisficing” is derived from the words satisfy and suffice and, although the concept appeared in his 1947 book Administrative Behaviour, the name was fully introduced in 1956.
The environment, organizations, it’s members, the organization’s actions and interactions as well as the world and any given situation within it are infinitely complex and for the most part we have nether the time, resources or opportunity to explore every single angle, possibility, factor, course of action and consequence. If we were to do this all the time we would be absolutely paralyzed in analysis and never make a decision. We would be stuck in constant schizoid “what if” loop of uncertainty. The wonderful thing is that satisficing is a viable way in which humans make decisions and as Mr. Simon said in his Speech for the Nobel Prize in Economics: “decision makers can satisfice either by finding optimum solutions for a simplified world, or by finding satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world”. This means that there is always a lack of information and we can’t know everything but decisions still need to be made. Therefore, in order to try and make the right ones, in the process of decision making we either radically simplify the picture of the world and then come up with all possible courses of action or take the world as it is are satisfied whatever gets the job done – what is good enough, even if it may not be perfect. What works is good enough in the practicality of life (and business).
The result is what matters and things rarely need to be perfect to be good and useful. This is a very sober, effective and pragmatic standpoint which reflects in every facet of our lives, although it was adapted for economic purposes. The world around us is so layered and complex, so many things going on at the same time that we would go mad if we payed attention to everything. So we do a triage of attention. We focus on the important things in lowest functional resolution to make us move and do things. As we go deeper into something the resolution may increase but, for the most part, satisfactory will do the job quite nicely.
Perfectionists are cursed and bound to get stuck in loops, something resembling a compulsory actions of OCD. You don’t and can’t see everything all the time. Learn from the infinite wisdom of nature and biology that built our bodies. Your time, attention and energy are limited and you need to make the best of it when making decisions, anything from what you’re gonna have for breakfast to who you’re going to marry. You need to make a decision and then move to the next order of business. There is no use in just making models and not doing anything with them. We build models on things that matter because some just don’t. Even our eyes and brains are constantly satisficing and doing a triage of what is necessary to be grasped right now, what is essential for action and orientation – now. All else is deemed unimportant and in low resolution or overlooked as not significant enough to be taken into consideration. Your eyes zoom in only in the centre of the visual field and this image is sharp, since the thing we’re looking at is obviously important to us. Everything else is blurry, unless something moves in the periphery and then we zoom onto it (which is an inbuilt mechanism to detect danger). When we’re focused on something else, even the thing that moves doesn’t directly disturb out task or interfere with it we won’t see it (the invisible gorilla experiment on selective attention).
If our ancestors had just sat around caves and contemplated every possible detail around hunting a dear, we wouldn’t be here. What they knew was sufficient to act and succeed and most things in life develop like this. It is not possible to see everything in a realistically complex world, but it’s possible to see enough and to make things work, to make them useful. The next time you get all frustrated, as perfectionists often do, ask if it is really important or will this suffice. This is not an excuse to not try, but a guarantee that in life, pragmatically, 3 good enough are better than one paralyzed indecisiveness.