Tiny MBA #13: Optimization and Dishwasher Divas

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Welcome to today’s Tiny MBA topic: Optimization.

Definition: Optimization

Optimization is when you obsess over improving something as much as you can, sweating every little detail and trying again and again to get it perfect.

Story: Dishwasher Optimizers (Divas)

If you have a dishwasher at home, you know there’s two types of dishwasher loaders: 1) Most people, who throw the dirty dishes in quickly, and 2) ‘Dishwasher Divas,’ or people obsessed with optimizing their dishwasher load.

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Illustration by Madeleine Kelly

Dishwasher divas spend loads of time – no pun intended – arranging and rearranging every plate, bowl, knife and spatula they put in the dishwasher, trying to fit as much into each load as possible, as neatly as possibly. They’ll even rearrange the dishes someone else already loaded, because they think they can do it better.

Dishwasher Divas are optimizers – people who obsess over the details of doing something as efficiently as possible.

In business, optimization can be very important and valuable, but only sometimes.

When you’re trying to be creative, like designing a new product, you don’t want to optimize, because the priority is creativity, speed and ideas. Like an art project… its good to be messy!

But when you’re designing a factory to produce that product, you want to optimize that factory… to maximize output and minimize your production costs, raw materials waste, safety risks, etc.

Optimizers are process-driven people who take joy in perfectionism. This often puts them in conflict with people who want to move fast and be messy.

But even in the kitchen, it takes all types of people to succeed. When optimizers and non-optimizers find ways to work together, they can make a really powerful team.

Tiny MBA is my occasional series of short stories illustrating business concepts for kids.

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