A favorite blogger of mine, Seth Godin, wrote a piece Sunday in which he recounted not making his high school quiz team because he was too slow with his buzzer. He would wait to push his buzzer until he “knew” the answer, which usually resulted in one of his competitors answering before him.
Eventually Godin learned that the secret to winning a quiz game is hitting the buzzer as soon as you feel the answer coming. You often have enough time between striking the buzzer and time running out to retrieve the answer. If you can’t pull up the correct answer the penalty is usually not so onerous that you can’t make it up later.
From my experience in business, this buzzer analogy is right on. I’ve discussed this with clients in the turned parts business and some of the smartest ones have confirmed this assessment. The key to getting the big juicy long running jobs is to know you can get the answer in time to make the parts successfully in the long run through innovation and refinement of the tooling, even if you don’t know the path at the time of bid submission.
Graff-Pinkert, my used machinery business, was just involved in an auction deal that I initially felt was too risky. But we took a shot in the end because we thought there were enough things that would go right in the deal to overcome our fear about the negatives.
Taking a new job or starting fresh in a venture also often requires a preemptive buzzer hit.
A doctor treating a cancer patient or a heart surgeon performing a procedure can’t know how things will wind up for a patient in the end, but they have to make a decision and hit the buzzer anyway. They have to trust their knowledge and creativity to adjust course in midstream.
Successful buzzer pressing is not just about guts. It takes knowledge and preparation to win on Jeopardy or be successful in business. But waiting until you are sure you know the right answer will rarely win the prize.
Questions: Will you take on a job if you know you can at least break even?
If you could be on any game show which one would you choose?