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Have you ever been in a meeting where the choice of coffee for the break room sparked a passionate hour-long debate? Meanwhile, the business strategy for the next quarter – the real reason you're all there – barely got a nod.
That's Parkinson's Law of Triviality, or bikeshedding.
Cyril Northcote Parkinson showed us this with an example of a committee assigned to build a nuclear plant.
On the grounds of the proposed nuclear power plant was a proposed bike shed for employees of the plant to store their bikes while they worked.
Meeting after meeting, the employees spent more time discussing details of the simple bike shed issue and barely glanced at the complex nuclear reactor plans.
Why? Maybe fear, maybe confusion.
Here’s a possible explanation, complexity is like deep water.
We stick to the small things because they're easy. It's like floating in the shallow end.
In the boardroom, everyone’s a critic on something like logo fonts. It's simple, it's subjective, it’s the safe zone.
But ask about the ROI on a big project? You could hear a pin drop.
We lose ourselves in minor details and miss the major issues. Like obsessing over a font when you should be crafting a winning strategy.
But you can conquer bikeshedding. Try this:
Set a laser-focused agenda. Stick to it like glue. Each topic gets just enough time, no more.
Dive into the deep end first. Address the big stuff while brains are fresh.
Small team, big thinking. Less people, less noise, more action.
One voice to rule them all. Ideas are team sport, decisions are not. Appoint a decider.
Knowing about bikeshedding is just step one. Acting on it, that's the leap.
So, at your next meeting, prioritize.
Are you talking about the shed's color while your project's own nuclear reactor gets sidelined?
It’s not about the shed. It's about the journey ahead.
Focus on the destination, not the distractions.
That's the key. That's what pushes you forward.