The Perfect Solution


I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Thomas Alva Edison

It’s been one of those days. I came up with what I would call a perfect solution to a design problem. I thought it over, I sketched it out, and it’s pretty darn good if I do say so myself. And then, there it was, looming in the distance – I found a problem; It’s not sustainable. Not even sort of. The person who will be managing this issue doesn’t have the time, the skill, or the technology they need to maintain this “perfect solution” I came up with. It’s not their fault, it’s mine. So, I’m frustrated. My solution is no longer a solution. It’s just another way that won’t work. So it’s back to the drawing board…again.

I can’t imagine I’m alone in this experience. Whether you’re limited by skills, by resources, or by technology, being forced to change directions to solve a problem you feel like you’ve already solved can be disheartening. We start playing the blame game. “Why can’t they just learn this?” or “Why can’t the software just DO that?” “It was the PERFECT solution,” we tell ourselves. But the fact is that we’re wrong. If it was the perfect solution, it would work.

I find that the hardest thing to do when this happens, as hard as it seems, is to let the solution go. I give myself a small window of time to kick around all of the woulda-coulda-shoulda’s. As best as I can, I remove it from my memory. I no longer allow for “if only” or “I just wish”. Instead of reflecting on how I feel about my failed solution, I try to remember what the problem was to begin with. I break it down to the simplest parts. And then, I think of every way I could solve it, no matter how extreme**. No idea is too dumb or too small or too outlandish. They all COULD happen.
**Note: You’d be amazed how many times “win the lottery” fits in as a possible solution.

And you know what? Nearly every time, a new solution arises that is simpler, more reasonable, and actually WORKS. I don’t know how it happens, or why I didn’t think of this solution before, but it works all around. The answer was there all the time.

There will always be software limitations, tight timeframes, and a minimal amount of resources. Especially in an economy that has us watching every penny and counting every dime, it’s become so important to figure out these creative solutions. Figure out how you best work to solve these, and you’ll be amazed at what you can do, regardless of the limiting factors. And until you actually DO hit the lottery, it’ll be a nice skill to fall back on whenever you, like me, have one of those days.