“Satisficing.” Ever hear that word? Neither had I until this past week when it was introduced to me by a friend and business scholar who has spent a good many years researching and writing on the subject of human performance in organizations. At his suggestion I looked it up on the internet to better understand its meaning. Wikipedia explains first of all that “satisficing” is a “blended word combining satisfy and suffice,” but here’s how Business Dictionary.Com defines it: “Aim to achieve only satisfactory results because the satisfactory position is familiar, hassle-free, and secure, whereas aiming for the best-achievable result would call for costs, effort, and incurring of risks.” It goes on to define “Satisficing” as it relates to decision making as “examining alternatives until a practical . . . solution with adequate level of acceptability is found, and stopping the search there instead of looking for the best-possible (optimum) solution.”
I’m reminded of Jim Collin’s profound proclamation at the beginning of his popular bestselling book, Good to Great, which states that “good is the enemy of great”, a quote I have mentioned more than once in these writings. The concept of “satisficing” seems to affirm Collin’s proclamation that humans’ desire to achieve tends to reach a certain level of “good enough” at which point motivation drastically declines. That is when good becomes the enemy of great, when performance falls short of its full potential.
Have you ever been part of an organization or team that fell short of its full potential, that produced acceptable results (i.e. met its goals) but could have and should have been outstanding? Have there been times in your personal life when though your performance and achievement may have been satisfactory it could have and should have been exceptional? Haven’t we all!
Yet there are people who DO excel well beyond mere satisfactory performance, and organizations that achieve extraordinary results with thriving cultures that are energetic, imaginative and inspiring – those who move from beyond good to become great. What is it that motivates some to higher levels of achievement – to greatness – while others remain “satisficed” to simply perform good enough? I’m curious what your observations have been. I would love to hear your thoughts and pursue this more next week.