# The better is the enemy of the good

“Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” is a phrase pulled out in meetings to justify proceeding with a sufficient solution sooner rather than waiting for a better solution later. The phrase was originally written by Voltaire as “Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien”, which is literally translated as, “The better is the enemy of the good”. In our quest to find solutions to problems we often fail to apply problem solving thinking to how we think about solving problems.

The perfect solution to any problem doesn’t exist. But the ideal of a possible perfect solution is sometimes used to justify not accepting an imperfect solution. A solution that doesn’t solve the entire problem is considered a failure, even if it could solve part of a problem. Knowing about this ‘perfect solution fallacy’ allows us to not get caught by it. And so, we can consider that solving different types of problems, or even the same problem at different times, doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be better than it was.

Different problem solving techniques should be applied to different problems. New and unknown problems with uncertainty about the solution benefit from a design approach. The way towards a solution is discovered step-by-step as situations are explored, ideas tested and possibilities uncovered. This approach can arrive at novel solutions, but often parts of the problem persist. As the problem becomes more well known and stable the approach to finding solutions should change. An engineering approach to tackling problems focuses on proven and repeatable solutions that are adopted to solve at scale. Well-established, existing solutions can be optimised. This is business thinking applied to a problem. The solution is delivered more efficiently or at lower cost in order to maximise the effectiveness of the solution. Neither of these different approaches solves the problem completely or forever, or does so without other external impacts. That’s not the nature of solving problems.

Every solution that solves a problem, creates another problem.