Friday, April 25, 2008

In praise of Pragmatic

I've come to like the word "Pragmatic".

As an engineer turned MBA who also happens to like coding and is really a hacker at heart, I've come at the problems of uncertainty, problem solving and getting-things-done from several angles.

In the purest engineering terms, my first reaction is to find precise solutions to problems. I like the mathematical rigor and elegance of a well reasoned and precise solution.

As a programmer however, I can see the advantage of solving a problem within the constraints of the system limitations, programming language capabilities, and my own algorithm-development limitations. There is probably a perfect algorithm to solve every problem, but in the meanwhile there are often several others which it might be prudent to work with given a specific situation - a pragmatic solution will almost always beat the perfect solution for any non-trivial problem.

In the business world, too, pragmatism comes in handy. While management books are full of frameworks and theories, real life is often messier than that. Circumstances change, resources fall short, time pressures come into play, and information is never ever perfect. A pragmatic solution is often the only one.

Pragmatic, at least as I see it, does not mean shoddy.

It is not a duct-tape job that will break down the first time it is used. It is not a gut-feel decision either. Instead, it is a well thought out, and often very innovative, solution which nevertheless recognizes the constraints of time, space, and resources. It is focused on solving the problem rather than finding the perfect solution.

And in it's pure focus on moving ahead, on doing the best possible under a given condition, of finding detours and walk-arounds where the obstacles seem insurmountable, pragmatism has an elegance all its own.

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