Why It's Not Always Best To Finish First

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Photo: Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

In our hyperconnected world, we are addicted to speed, which often leads to people making rash, impulsive decisions.Frank Partnoy, the author of Wait: The Art and Science of Delay

, says that “if every one else moves too quickly, we can win by going slow” and taking a moment to think about the consequences of our actions.

Here’s some examples that prove tact should be prioritised over speed:

  • Olympic swimmer and 14-time gold medalist Michael Phelps reviews every possible scenario that could occur during a race before he even gets in the water. 
  • When his plane was in distress, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger could have rushed to land at Teterboro airport in New Jersey; instead, he assessed the situation and made the calculated manoeuvre to land in the Hudson River, saving the lives of his passengers and his crew. 

So how, exactly, does one move slowly when his peers are rushing to finish first? Partnoy suggests following the acronym OODA, which stands for observe, orient, decide, and act.

Developed by military strategist John Boyd, this tactic is meant to have the person momentarily remove himself from the situation, place himself in a position where he can then decide what action to take, and finally, take the necessary steps to ensure a successful outcome.  

Partnoy says that “the ultimate goal of OODA is to act fast, but not necessarily first…In general, we make better decisions when we minimize the time it takes to decide and act — so that we can spend more time observing and orienting.” 

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