I was visiting a friend overseas recently, just hanging out with him, his wife and their two young daughters. Saturday morning presented us with a beautiful day and two days ahead of us to enjoy. My friend, a particle physicist who loves outdoor pursuits, and I sat down to breakfast with his family. We both began pouring over local websites looking for the best adventure we would be able to manage locally with the best combination of ease, access to food (and possibly beer) and suitability to all of our ability levels.
We were enjoying ourselves immensely trying to optimise the experience for everyone (including ourselves) and reporting back all of the variables to the team assembled around the table. An hour or so passed in this fashion while the kids and his wife seem to become more and more visibly frustrated. My friends wife interrupted our research to indicate that previously there had been occasions where they had spent so much time deciding what to do they ended up running out of time to do anything. One daughter suddenly interjected, "Yeah Daddy why don't we just do something fun outside together?
My friend's family didn't really care whether we could identify the absolute perfectly optimised solution for what to do on the weekend; they were looking forward to doing almost anything fun outdoors together before the weekend was over. It is a lot easier to find something to meet this criteria than finding the perfectly optimised thing. We ended up going snowboarding based on a recommendation on the second website we visited and we had a short drive afterwards to a local restaurant. We had a great time. We got air. We were radical (apparently). We saw military jets seemingly metres away from us doing training flights and dives in the mountains. Serendipity reared its beautiful head.
So many times I find myself in a boardroom with a group of executives trying to find the perfectly optimal thing to do (based on an endless and exhaustive analysis of their survey results dissected in every conceivable way) and I can't help but think back to that morning.
And out it comes:
"Maybe our employees would be happier if we just did something together about this before the year ends?"
It doesn't have to be the perfectest thing, it just has to be something important to most of your employees - and that often does not take a lot of time to arrive at via some very simple analysis.