Perfectly adequate



This post is a rant.

I’m sorry – honestly that sort of disclaimers should have their own place and probably not in this blog – but this one is a rant and you have been warned.

Today I wanted to talk about a delusion which all of us had at some point of time, I believe – the delusion of adequacy. The Urban Dictionary definition for the term is a bit too harsh, but nevertheless it very crisply conveys what I’m going to rant on about.

Much has been spoken about the design process in the architect’s mind. It’s non-linear, it is very characteristic, it has a mind of its own…it also doesn’t know when to stop.  This is a very double edged sword.  Taken to the most romanticized sense, it means you have a design which evolves with each passing iteration. But with this knowledge, how do you know where to quit when you’re ahead?

There have been a lot of times in my design process when I’d have reached a wall through which it is difficult to break through – and expending energy for it doesn’t make much sense. I call this the ‘perfectly adequate’ design stage. It’s not a bad design, mind you; everything works perfectly and it makes a lot of sense not to fix something that isn’t broken, right?

But these ‘perfectly adequate’ designs can’t be subjectively judged. They exist in the sweet spot between being outlandishly crazy and outlandishly stupid, and hence are safe. Also, ‘adequate’ isn’t a point, it is a spectrum (what’s adequate to you isn’t to me) and still we give one tag to it and be complacent about it.

I’ve tried and failed and tried again – to understand why it’s difficult to break down these mental walls. And I think I’ve found an answer (which curiously enough, lies in human evolution) : As individuals in a species, really, innovation doesn’t make much evolutionary sense. If you stick with what you know, and are able to propagate it, you’re a successful member of the species. Innovation is a gamble here; the risks far outweigh the benefits.

A quote (misattributed to Darwin, by the way) comes to mind.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

We’re a species that have evolved perfectly adequate (I promise that’s the last time I’m saying the phrase 😛 ) , fail safe mechanisms for the changes around us. Maybe it’s time to go forward from our comfort zones.

//end rant.

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