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Slow is smooth and smooth is fast

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Slow is smooth and smooth is fast

Scott Miker

In systems thinking, speed isn’t looked at the same as in linear thinking.  In linear thinking, the faster we can go the better.

The linear thinking goes… if growth in business is good, then faster growth is better; if improving one’s finances are good then gaining money quickly must be better; if getting healthy is good, getting there immediately is better.

But systems thinking looks at speed differently.  In The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge, the author says, “This, too, is an old story: the tortoise may be slower, but he wins the race.  For most American business people the best rate of growth is fast, faster, fastest.  Yet, virtually all natural systems, from ecosystems to animals to organizations, have intrinsically optimal rates of growth.  The optimal rate is far less than the fastest possible growth.  When growth becomes excessive – as it does with cancer – the system itself will seek to compensate by slowing down; perhaps putting the organization’s survival at risk in the process.”

Business books are filled with examples of businesses that grew too fast and failed.  The added growth might have meant that the leadership wasn’t as capable of overseeing the larger sized organization and were not prepared for the larger responsibilities.  It may have added focus from government regulators, or even increased pressure on operations to fill large orders. 

We all probably know that investing has risk.  If we take a conservative approach to investing we can probably gain a slight increase in wealth over time.  If we want large returns immediately that means taking on more risk.  This inherently means that we have a greater chance of losing our money instead of growing it.

Most of us wish we had a perfectly healthy body.  If we decide we want that instantly then that would mean sudden, extreme changes in our diet and physicality.  That will likely leave us more prone to have injury or to quit because the extra work isn’t sustainable without new habits.

This is a major fault of linear thinking.  Slower doesn’t mean worse it means slower.  Building a company slowly over time would mean a stronger company that has worked through many growing pains as it grew.

Investing involves risk but by finding investments without extremely high risk can provide a great way to slowly grow one’s wealth over time.

Deciding to get healthier means a change in our lifestyle.  This can’t happen overnight.  If we take the slow approach we can start and solidify new healthy habits that we can grow over time, instead of expecting instant results.

Systems thinking differs from linear thinking by looking at the full system.  By looking at the full system we see the side effects and risks associated with moving too quickly.  In systems thinking we can look to the old saying, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”