On my way to an appointment the other day, I saw traffic backed up. The left lanes—the through lanes—looked stuck. I signaled and turned to get into the middle lane. That lane was stuck, too, so I signaled and turned to the right lane. I zoomed through in just a minute.
The other drivers behind me were still stuck in their lanes. I don’t know how long it took for them to get through the traffic.
I wish I could claim I was so smart. Or, that I have some kind of a crystal ball for traffic.
Nope. I took a chance that the lanes that looked open were open. I had no guarantee I would slip through the traffic. I made a new choice and “gambled” I would succeed.
This time, I was correct. (In the grocery store, I’m almost always wrong. I almost always choose the longest lane in the grocery store.)
I tend to ask these questions to see when it makes sense to stay or change my lane:
- Is there some information I can gather to assess when I should stay or change?
- What’s the time risk either way?
- Is there some other risk I can see?
When it comes to traffic, I might listen to the radio station that explains the traffic. I wasn’t sure I would get information fast enough. I took a chance. When I passed the blockage, I saw guys on the road starting to set up cones. We were headed for road repair. (I live in the Boston area. We have two driving seasons: road repair and winter.)
For other decisions, such as offering a workshop or writing a book, I might gather potential data from clients.
As for time risks, I wasn’t late—yet—for my appointment. I didn’t want to become late!
Because I practice adaptability, I tend to change lanes. That’s because:
- I often ask the question What’s the Worst Thing That Can Happen?
- I have a ton of experience driving in this area.
- I have access to maps that offer me options.
The overall risks of changing my lane are small. The possible returns are quite high. (I won’t be late for my appointment.)
What if I didn’t have experience driving? I still have access to many maps with options.
What if I made the grocery-store mistake on the road? I can set a timebox to assess my decision. (That’s why I like experiments.)
I don’t have to be perfect in my decision-making. I can make a decision for now and decide when to reassess it.
I see this a lot in projects and in my personal life. We become accustomed to doing things one way or in similar ways. We might not think to change our lanes. We have steering wheels in cars. We can create steering “wheels” at work and in our lives. We can change lanes. Often, without much downside, especially if we decide when to assess our decisions.
That is the question this week: When does it make sense to change your lane?
- What Do We Choose to Reward and Punish?
- When Does a Shortcut Make Sense?