There’s an old saying that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”.
There is a lot of truth in that statement in a lot of situations. It would seem to say that we shouldn’t bother making plans, but I see it a different way: make plans that are flexible.
Rigidly following a course of action is rarely a good idea. Failing to recognize that something isn’t working is something a lot of people are able to do, but the critical second step is to make a change is something that is rarely done.
Having a Plan B is usually a good idea for anything important. But if your backup plan is just as rigid as the first plan you will have the same problems. A better approach is to make sure your plans can adapt to difficulties you encounter.
For example, if you are debugging software and nothing is working, try stopping what you are doing and approach it from a wildly different angle. You will still be accomplishing you goal (debug the software), but from a different angle.
This ability to change up your approach is the ultimate Plan B. It allows you to move forward maintaining your momentum. You still reach the same destination, but hopefully faster. The root idea is try and overcome your functional fixedness.
Here’s some random examples:
- You have a flat tire. Your spare is flat too. How do you get the car/tire to the repair shop?
- Call a tow truck?
- Use a bicycle pump to get just enough air in the tire for you to drive it to the shop?
- Take the tire off the car and get a friend to drive you to the shop?
- You need to edit a large file on your computer, but you don’t have enough free disk space.
- Delete other old files to free up space?
- Try and hook up a USB thumb drive and do the work there?
- See if there’s a way to do the work without copying?
There’s tons of situations in daily life that can be tackled in new ways. All it takes is the ability to remain fluid in our approaches to solving them.