Quantity vs. Quality

We learn more through action than we do from thought.

I’m reading a book called Black Box Thinking by Mathew Syed.  In this book, the author describes a very interesting experiment done by a ceramics teacher that I think we can all learn from.  I certainly did.

The ceramics teacher split the class in half and told one group they would be graded on the quality of their work, and the other half they would be graded on the quantity of their work.

For the quantity half of the class, 50 pounds of pottery equaled an A, 40 pounds of pottery earned a B, 30 pounds a C and so on.

The other group was told they would be graded on the quality of one piece.

Who do you think produced a better piece?  Popular belief would tell us that the quality group should have produced the highest quality piece, right?  I mean, their grade was based on quality!

Well, what ended up happening was the students who were assigned to do quantity of work actually produced much higher quality of work, than the group focused on quality.

This seems somewhat counterintuitive right?

What this shows us is that certain times, not always, but certain times, just taking action is how we can produce better results.

The quality group spent a lot of time in the planning phase, and they were so focused on perfectionism, that they didn’t take enough action.  They didn’t learn or grow or use trial and error.  The got hung up on all the details.

The quantity students immediately got to work, and by doing so they got better with each pot.   In the end, because of their action, the quality of their work ended up being better.

Sometimes we get stuck in our own head.  A common term used to describe this is paralysis by analysis. Basically, this means we just overthink something, and we overthink it to the point that we never even end up starting it.

The author Mathew Syed is quoted in the book saying “You are so worried about messing up that you never even get on the field of play.”  I Love that quote!

It doesn’t make any sense to think about and visualize lap 54, or what you are going to do on the victory lap if you never even start the race.

I’m a big fan of visualization.  I love visualizing, but visualizing doesn’t mean anything if you don’t take action.

What is one thing in your life that you have been thinking about forever?  One thing that you have put a lot of thought into, but haven’t ever started?  Or what is something that you have started, but then got hung up on trying to make it perfect?

The point is to start taking action.  Start getting in those reps, getting in those hours, just start.

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” – Confucius

Make it an awesome day,

Kevin Slagle


Sources: Black Box Thinking by Mathew Syed.  You can find more information about this book in the Book Recommendations tab.




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