There is an excellent column in The Spectator this week by Rory Sutherland in which he talks about ‘satisficing’. He argues the case for seeking a pretty good solution rather than trying to maximise the outcome and risk disaster.
Sutherland came up with an enjoyable analogy comparing archery where you always go for the bull and darts where if you are not a strong thrower you are best aiming at the south-western area of the board.
Another analogy might be Deal or No Deal. Some people might base their strategy purely on the odds. However if the banker offers £30,000, when the real probabilities suggest you should hold out for £50,000 it might well be the most rational decision to take the £30,000, whether it be because you couldn’t handle the downside, however unlikely, of being left with nothing, or whether you have established that the marginal benefit from the extra £20,000 is much less than the benefit felt from the initial £30,000.
In my book, What Are Days For, I write about the dangers of perfectionism, particularly in regard to procrastination. In his article, Rory Sutherland neatly reminds us of other potential downsides of aiming for the top.