Making haste slowly

I was looking for a picture to go with this blog post, searched “beginning”, and was presented with page after page of different sorts of appeals to action. The implication being that beginning starts when you do something. It goes with the agile zeitgeist of “fail fast” and “safe to fail” experiments. it does raise the question, though, “in pursuit of what?”

“Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen.”


There are ideas that blossom and fade in a month, and others that have in them the seeds of decades of contribution. We have got accustomed to the former when we need the latter.

I have a great deal of time for Johnnie Moore’s work on the unhurried approach. There is a part that precedes action, the plucking of Epictetus’s fig, and we need to respect that.

Our business emphasis on performance and returns in measurable form puts huge constraints on possibility. Great ideas occasionally come fully formed, but it’s rare. They usually follow the principle of the “slow hunch” that Steven Johnson talks about in his book “where do good ideas come from” Good ideas may appear to arrive in finished form, but if we could disassemble them, we would find they comprise hundreds or thousands of previously unconnected tiny observations waiting for a catalyst. When that catalyst appears, BOOM—instant idea.

Business has become impatient. It would spectacularly fail Walter Mischel’s “delayed gratification test“. It wants two, or preferably three marshmallows right now. 

The challenge is that as employees, we can find ourselves passengers on that impatience. We may be able to see parts of an idea as others see other elements, but unless we give them somewhere where they can mingle without pressure, time might pass them by, and they never see the light of day. Business in a hurry misses out, as do the employees who could have made a huge difference.

We are in a time where we desperately need new ideas about how we live and work, and we cannot make the process of having creative thoughts efficient. 

The ideas we need demand time to mature and ripen. We need to find ways of providing it.

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