Procrastination is not a bad idea


In the 5 February, 2013, Business Standard edition, I came across a really interesting and different article. The article was in support of procrastination written by Ms Alokananda Chakraborty. Procrastination is something we all indulge in and everyone is bound to relate with this article. I personally loved this article for two reasons: we don’t find such articles everyday in the newspaper, and It was in support of “people of delay” and I am one of them.

Coming to my “subject”(procrastination), delaying a decision until the last possible minute is not a bad idea. We all do it most of the times with some good results. This article by Ms Chakraborty gives us a number of examples, from deal sites to Mr Novak Djokovic’s (ace tennis player) game, In Support of Procrastination.

Let us take up the deal sites. If a specific product is on auction, say, about two seconds before the transaction time comes to an end, a purchaser will appear out of nowhere and outbid the then highest bidder in the blink of an eye by adding on a few hundred more. They will pause to figure out whether they have outbid, and if they are, they start increasing their bid. But as there is such a small gap there’s very little another bidder can really do about it other than cribbing. Moreover, you will see bidders who have been unsuccessful in getting the item they wanted and vent their anger in the feedback section of the website concerned or on social networking sites in general. But the fact is that that is the way the game is played. There is a name for these bidders as well who increase there chances of winning by last-minute bids: they are called auction snipers.
Procrastination has been around for quite a while and if you bother to look around you will see the best athletes and sports players following this strategy in various ways. Let us take the example of ace tennis player Novak Djokovic who won his third consecutive Australian Open title this month. He has been described by sports writers as the master of escapology. He is a man who seems to wait till he finds himself in a completely hopeless position before he unleashes the most devastating tennis on his opponent. I am glad, I am not the -“”opponent””- other-wise I’d have broken my bones or head. Plus, I can well imagine the feeling the opponent must be having. I would describe the feeling as that of -“”utter shock””-. He would go like this: “Hey, just a few minutes back, I was about to win this tournament. what happened suddenly? Anyway, coming back to where I was. Scientists who study the strategies of super fast sportsmen agree that Djokovic’s game is exclusive in that he seems to be able to wait a few milliseconds longer than his opponents before striking the ball.“Djokovic wins because he can procrastinate –at the speed of light”, Professor Frank Partnoy, law and finance at the University of San Diego wrote in an essay for Professor Partnoy has also studied the game of  Jimmy Connors and says the tennis ace transmuted the game by waiting as long as possible before hitting a retreat shot, giving his grey cells more time to examine where the ball was coming from and what speed.

All these issues can be related to the issue of -“”creative waiting””- that artistes vouch for, where the moment of inspiration dawns on them after a lot of hemming and hawing, or they simply wait for it.

It is time to introspect, if you think that -“”speed””- is an overrated characteristic of management literature. Slowing down is balanced by authors with giving the competition the upper hand when it comes to innovation, granting them the leeway to reach consumers with fresh ideas and products before you did. In the long run, it gives your rivals the chance to dominate the market, even with a sub-standard product, just because they got their first. The worst part of this delay is, that it develops your reputation as a follower, rather than as an industry leader. If anything else the progress in technology has made the proponents of this particular school of thought even more vocal and articulate.

The argument goes something like this: There aren’t many technologies that are so unique that they can give one company a long-term edge over the other. With technology offerings fairly standardised across the world, and oceans of information available on the Internet, a company’s trade secrets – whether it is system or methods will be tough to hang to for long. So, the only competitive benefit becomes the enterprise speed – of going from point B to point C faster than the rest of the crew.

This entire thing about speed has a cascading effect on decision-making. Indeed, the capability of taking fast decisions is regarded by various authors as the hallmark of an effective leader. They say you require leaders who can promptly assess the immensity of a situation, recognise the most expedient and most viable course of action, and then act promptly – often without having all the essential information or the time to weigh every feasible option, and then to choose the best way forward-. Author Malcolm Gladwell goes as far as to say that spontaneous decisions are often as good as – or even better than – carefully prepared or considered ones.

The question which thereby arises is what is better,– to speed up or slow down? In the article, it has been put in this manner – Speed might seem correct in the heat of competition pressure, but poorly planned charges in the face of competitor fire is recipe for pure disaster. An intelligent leader is one who is aware of this. He/she also acknowledges the fact that people and teams go through phases of high productivity and phases of recovery, and control the work flow of his teams and their rhythm accordingly.
Ciao, ladies and gentlemen with another article in the near future. Till then take care, God Bless!