But what color is the bike shed?

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Anthony Pica
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But what color is the bike shed?

But what color is the bike shed?

People spend too much time on trivial issues, myself included.

Historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson in his management book "Parkinson's Law" tells a story of the approval process for a new nuclear power plant...

A team was tasked with evaluating the construction plan for a multimillion dollar power plant. The approval process was straightforward, except when it was time to pick the color of the staff's bike shed. They spent too much time arguing about the bike shed.

The law of triviality says people will deliberate on minor details that don't matter much, while paradoxically spending an inadequate amount of time on the most important issues.

The reason? Something like building a new nuclear plant is so complex and expensive that it's difficult to fully understand, so people take the path of least resistance or assume someone else with specialized skill has it under control. But the color of the bike shed? That's easy. Everyone can understand it. And therefore everyone feels like they can and should provide their opinion on it.

Have there been times at home or work where you got hung up on the small stuff while neglecting what truly mattered most?

Being aware of Parkinson's law of triviality enables you to save your time and energy for the most valuable things in your life. Next time you find yourself getting wrapped up in the details, ask yourself, "am I bike-shedding right now"?

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