Management students are taught about optimization and maximization as two closely-linked-yet-differing approaches to the ultimate aim of profit-making in business. Optimization, teachers tell them, is the process of finding the best-possible alternative under the given constraints by maximizing the utilization of helpful factors and minimizing the usage of unhelpful factors. In other words, be effective to get the desired output without compromising efficiency — a difficult task for a manager, where the sum total of the management skills in him/her will be tested as well as put into use in order to get that best-possible outcome. On the contrary, maximization is an all-out effort to get the ‘all but none’ of the intended output without any regard for cost element, so efficiency is not a limiting factor and what matters is only effectiveness in reaping the maximum. In this blog, I will try to look at how optimization and maximization play out in our life and that what impacts they can have on our behavior.
Let me try to explain what these two terms mean in our life — leave professional life. Maximization is the functional attempt prompted by psychological mooring to have all and in full. So maximization is more psychological than functional. Nothing should be left off and that everything needed to be in my pocket is the mindset behind maximization. This mindset is driven more by emotion and less by logic. Hence, maximization can easily be anyone’s baby. But to adopt the child of optimization and make it a part of your character, you need a different approach which is not a default but deliberate. Optimization is adapting to a lean and meaningful way of living, arising out of the realization that what matters the most is the usability and utility value. Let me bare the two words: I meant efficiency by ‘lean’ and effectiveness by meaningful.
A dilemma that can have a lot of bearing on the way we behave in our daily life is whether to choose optimization over maximization or vice versa. By nature as well as by the seasoning from childhood, we are configured to go for maximization, instead of optimization. Maximization is more attractive than optimization because the former touches our most sensitive note — the longing for more. I will illustrate this with an example. Why do people buy new dress? Barring those who are crazy of wardrobe collections and fad-mongers, people buy new dresses when their existing dresses become unusable. Now, the question: do you discard the old, unusable dress after you get new dress? An honest answer from many will be a NO. Why is such an answer? Because people, by nature, want to maximize, not optimize, their possessions. A wardrobe full of dresses gives the satisfaction of maximum although the usability of old and unusable robes is naught, besides, them giving the burden of occupying a sizable portion of the wardrobe. Do you have materials like your old books, old shoes, old combs, etc. for which you already got replacements but continued to clutter your home?
Reluctance to discard the unwanted is at the heart of living with worthless things. Whether the old unusable clothes in your wardrobe or the thoughts about an unsavory incident/person, they occupy significant place in your wardrobe or on mind respectively without having any salvage value. So it is futile to keep unusable things. Discarding the unusable will free up space that will make your life leaner. For example, decluttering of unusable from your wardrobe will make available space to the extent that you might even find that a few cabinets of your wardrobe can be used for storing other things. And continuing with this, if you throw away unusable things from your home, you will find a lot of free space — making your home-space leaner — which can be put into some other meaningful use. Similarly, discarding by obliterating the unusable — so unwanted — thoughts and people from your life will unchain the space being taken by and the time spent for them, which can be used for some other meaningful purpose.
Usability is a part of utility-value. Usability denotes if something is usable, but utility-value is the sum total of all tangible and intangible returns that something can offer. So the tangible part of utility-value is usability. Your wedding dress in your wardrobe can become unusable, but you might draw happiness of seeing and having it in your wardrobe. This intangible happiness is unmeasurable to say that, though unusable, you derived utility-value of happiness by having your wedding dress in your wardrobe. Similarly, there are memories of good things and good people that passed through your life. Though these memories have no usability value, you still derive the utility value of happiness from them, which can act as an impetus encouraging you to succeed further as well as do more good things. The contributions of optimization get amplified if we consider the cascading effects it creates post its adoption. Human brain has around 2.50 petabyte storage capacity — 1 petabyte = 1 million Gigabyte. So the storage capacity of human brain is a limiting factor. Hence a deliberate decision of optimizing the usage of your mental space by uncluttering the unwanted thoughts about incidents and people will give the much needed room to think about better things for your life.
As stated earlier on the blog, maximization is anyone’s baby by default. It offers you the most, and in its pursuit you get cluttered with many things that bog you down. Besides, such cluttering takes away the precious, limited space on your mind or at home, which, otherwise, could have been put into meaningful use. In other words, you miss the rewards of the beautiful concept called optimization as you go after maximization! Optimize your thoughts to utilize your space and time for a leaner and meaningful life. Optimization is the way for life!