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Why We Focus on Trivial Things

https://fs.blog/2020/04/bikeshed-effect/

fs.blog

Why We Focus on Trivial Things
Bikeshedding is a metaphor to illustrate the strange tendency we have to spend excessive time on trivial matters, often glossing over important ones. Here's why we do it, and how to stop. *** How can we stop wasting time on unimportant details?

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Bikeshedding explained

The metaphor is as follows: Imagine a financial committee meeting to discuss a three-point agenda.

  • A proposal for a £10 million nuclear power plant
  • A proposal for a £350 bike shed
  • A proposal for a £21 annual coffee budget

The committee normally ends up running through the nuclear power plant proposal in little time because it's too advanced to really get into it.

The bike shed proposal takes much longer as everyone knows what it is and has an opinion that they want to air about it.

As the committee moves on to the coffee budget, suddenly everyone is an expert. _Before anyone realizes, they spend longer discussing the £21 coffee budget than the power plant and the bike shed combined.

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Having an opinion

The simpler a topic, the more people will have an opinion about it. However, when we mostly understand a topic, we feel compelled to say something, lest we look foolish.

With any topic, we should seek out the inputs from those who have done the work to have an opinion. If we want to contribute, it should be something valuable that will improve the outcome of the decision.

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Strategies for avoiding bike-shedding

  • Have a clear and focused purpose for your meeting. A specific purpose for the meeting filters all other decisions, including who should be attending.
  • Understand that the most informed opinions are the most relevant.
  • If your purpose is to make a decision, consider having "fewer cooks in the kitchen."
  • Getting the result you desire depends on having the right people in the meeting.
  • Ensure to have a designated individual in charge of making the final judgment, not a committee.

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The Law of Triviality

The Law of Triviality

Also known as “bike-shedding" the Law of Triviality states that the amount of time spent discussing an issue in an organization is inversely proportioned to its actual importanceMinor issues will be discussed more, while complex issues will be discussed less.

Bike-shedding happens because the simpler a topic is, the more people will have an opinion on it and thus more to say about it.

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