Optimism and Why It Is Crucial for Your Business's Growth

I recently came across an insightful quote on optimism by David Deutsch. In his book The Beginning of Infinity (public library) he defines it as follows:

Optimism (in the sense that I have advocated) is the theory that all failures — all evils — are due to insufficient knowledge. . . . Problems are inevitable, because our knowledge will always be infinitely far from complete.

The Beginning of Infinity, David Deutsch

Although Deutsch points to the ubiquity of problems, he also gives us the solution. He says that any “failure” or “evil” can be addressed through information, and that is powerful. Especially as a professional, it is the key to solving the seemingly insurmountable.

And that, according to Deutsch, is optimism: all problems can be solved through knowledge. There is hope.

[Photo: Jeremy Allouche/Unsplash]

[Photo: Jeremy Allouche/Unsplash]

Optimism as a Tool

We all have problems we need to work on at our companies, some more difficult than others. Certain roadblocks manage to stick around even when we’ve tried numerous solutions. It can be very frustrating, but that doesn’t mean they are impossible to resolve.

Deutsch goes on to say:

Some problems are hard, but it is a mistake to confuse hard problems with problems unlikely to be solved. Problems are soluble, and each particular evil is a problem that can be solved. An optimistic civilization is open and not afraid to innovate, and is based on traditions of criticism. Its institutions keep improving, and the most important knowledge that they embody is knowledge of how to detect and eliminate errors.

The Beginning of Infinity, David Deutsch

In a way, that is our job as organizational leaders – solving problems and preventing them from happening again. We are like engineers on a factory floor: if one of our machines stops working, we need to get our hands dirty and find out what happened. We may have to take the machine apart to find the problem.

It is important to diagnose the problem properly before looking for solutions. It is easy to skip this step and go straight to a possible solution. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to pause the discussion of a problem because we were already searching for solutions without having properly understood what went wrong.

Once the problem has been detected, a proper solution can be found. The solution may be straightforward, or it may require research or even experimentation. When the solution has been found, it is then our job to make sure the problem never happens again.

Although Deutsch is referring to society’s institutions, we can apply the definition to companies where our mandate as managers is to improve continuously. Our job as managers is to ensure that our companies absorb the “knowledge of how to detect and eliminate errors.”

[Photo: Cezary Kukowka/Unsplash]

[Photo: Cezary Kukowka/Unsplash]

For that, your company has to be open to information, even if it proves that current processes are simply not working. By accepting criticism and responding to it, the company can innovate and grow. It must then institutionalize a culture of openness and problem-solving through proper diagnosis and knowledge.

This approach to problem-solving is only a theory, but one I find empowering. I hope it can also help you go forward and continue your company’s growth with optimism.