Small thing that works and big idea that doesn’t…

Whom you would like to talk to when things seems to go wrong at your job?

The answer could be your boss, or your closest colleagues, or could also be no one at work. Perhaps, the answer can be anyone, even those who don’t have anything to do with your job. It is difficult to name the right or best person to talk to when we are facing problems at work. Problems at work are often time is not merely about solving those problems. It is also about the various possible consequences that may come from those problems and from the ways we handle those problems. Factors such as trust, comfort, confidentiality, suspicion, prejudice, office politics, self-pride, self-impression, power and authority will be part of it. When we are in the middle of a problem at work, it is not easy to just talk to everyone about it. It is the reality at work.

In short, it is a complicated question, with complicated answer. It is about big problem, and need an answer that equally big.

Let’s try another question. Whom you would like to talk to when you need a cup of coffee to start your work with? Or, whom you would like to talk to when you need to have the office meeting room ready for tomorrow’s meeting?

These kind of questions are easy. The answer for the first question, for instance, is quite easy. We might need to talk with our assistant for help, or just go the coffee machine if you have one. Or, in my office, I will go to the pantry and ask the help from the coffee-lady for a cup. On the second question, the answer is pretty much easy as well. We just need to see the janitor or whoever in charge for the room setting and clean up.

Martin Creed – Small things –

For question related with these simple and seemingly small things,  the answer is easy.

Why? Because we see the solution for these simple problems such as looking for a cup of coffee or preparing a room for tomorrow meeting is easy to get. All of these are small things that happen often and solved often too. They are so easy that we probably never think about them as problems……

…until you find out that your assistant is on leave until next week, or the coffee lady ids out-of-town until next month, or the janitor resign for the a better opportunity out there.

Rodin – The thinker

In contrast to the first complex question that seems to need a lot of thoughts and consideration, these small and simple things tends to fall out in comparison. The first question is indeed a big question. Just like many other big questions about ‘big stuffs’ such as global economy, the future of humanity, or the meaning of love in digital age; it is a question that push us up to the roof and pull us down to the ditch at the same time. It is about big ideas that rarely work well, put us in trouble, and therefore attract us to focus more on them.

….and our focus on these big ideas pull us away from the small solutions we easily enjoy with very little effort everyday.

When these ‘always-ready’ small solutions for these small things are suddenly gone, we realize that they are actually not that ‘small’. They are the small things that work quite consistent in everyday situation, se we get used to them and taken them for granted. While they are getting underrated, we tends to glorify the big ideas despite the fact that they rarely work.

Ironically, often times it is the small thing that work that save the day, instead big idea that doesn’t.


3 thoughts on “Small thing that works and big idea that doesn’t…

  1. Basically, I understand your idea. However, the big things are also need to addressed, for example our vision about the future as organization, or our basic philosophies. What is happening today is, that to many people work the small things and forget about the big picture of the problem. That’s why a lot of solutions just a reaction, and not a well planned steps with clear thinking. The best example is our educational system. Like you’re previous writing, all the people focus on the small things, for example about test, bureaucracy, and more money. No one really think about the basic philosophy of our educational system and then try to break it down to well measured step by step program that fit our culture.

    1. Hehehehe….I just want to highlight the paradox of ideas and actions, Za. Big ideas is built through small steps. Big plans constitutes of small details of implementation. Effective strategy is a roadmap toward an objective, in which the road is built from various tactics and instruments.
      Often times, when we only make reactive solutions, we lose the essence of the idea. On the other hand, we tend to sway ourselves with abstract concept, and becoming less real in the action realms. We tend to treat the paradox as option of ‘either/or’
      And I want to provide a caveat that it is actually ‘both&and’. The abstract essence of the big idea is not necessarily more important than the smaller real actions. What makes the two different is only on which one we should prioritize in which context.

      PS: My reason of writing this is my concern about the trend of new divide I’ve been observing in my surrounding and also in Indonesian media: The ‘only abstract idea matters’ group versus the ‘only action matters’ group. Both groups are losing their clarity, I think 🙂

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