How much earth in cubic feet is there in a hole one foot by one foot by one foot?
It’s an old question. The answer? None. It is a hole.
Questions like that can trick us into overthinking the answer. Because of the format and information, our brains instantly start doing math that misses the point.
I am a fan of William of Ockham, a theologian from the 1200’s who coined what we call Ockham’s Razor: make things as simple as possible but no simpler. Another variation is that the simplest answer is the most elegant answer.
In business we can easily overthink challenges and situations and miss the simplest answers. In matters of the intellectual, we tend to complexity. That isn’t to say that there aren’t complete problems, but that we often make them worse by overthinking.
In matters of the emotional, we tend to underthink. That happens when we choose to believe something because it is exciting or “feels right” but we don’t do the due diligence to find out if what we feel is true.
Sometimes we don’t want to find out that what we’ve chosen to believe isn’t true, so we ignore facts and logic that would lead to that conclusion.
It can happen in our relationships as well, and we can trust people we shouldn’t as well as not trust those we should.
The balance between overthinking and underthinking isn’t easy to maintain, but think of either as a ditch on each side of the road to wisdom.
Effective leadership means thinking rationally, and trying to avoid both overthinking and underthinking. When emotionally charged, we should look for more information to confirm or deny. When faced with problems, we should remember Ockham and use his razor as a thinking tool.