The downside of playing the quantity game

Picture courtesy — Unsplash

Judging on quantity is easier than judging on quality.

school, we had a teacher, who according to many unsubstantiated claims, used to give marks based on the length of the answers we wrote. There were hilarious rumors about how the said teacher would use a pen to measure the length of an answer. Someone said people wrote cricket commentary in between to fill in space and make answers look longer. Again, this is a far fetched claim and no one knows if those rumors were ever true. Nonetheless, they gave rise to one thing — most people wrote long answers believing that was how they would be judged.

Judging on quantity is easier than judging on quality.

During the Cricket World cup, the Hotstar app was focussed on increasing its concurrent viewers (number of people watching something at the same time). It ran into millions but there were numerous snags and watching matches on the app became a nightmare, so much so that I was forced to switch to another service provider to watch the matches without any snags.

Hotstar got the numbers but didn’t make allowances for how to accommodate so many viewers viewing at the same time.

Again, quantity over quality.

Buffets work on this simple presumption. There is no way you can do justice to everything on the spread. Even if you stuff yourself, odds are you will remember only a couple of dishes that stood out.

Quantity makes it very easy to make something unsubstantial look bigger than it is.

You can work the whole night before a presentation and better what you have done

or

you can start the night before and just senselessly fill up the slides to look like a lot of effort has gone into it.

Which do you think will have more value?

I was recently speaking to someone about how one of their clients used to judge work by quantity. How many they produced in a day was more important than how much effect the work was having.

During exams, one of my classmates would ask for more answer sheets. This would make me nervous and I would assume that he was better prepared than me and get good marks. When the results came, it was no reflection of the number of sheets that had been used.

But there is one way to use quantity in a good way — enter deliberate practice.

Deliberate practice is practicing to get better at something very specific.

If your hands constantly move and your presentations are filled with too many ‘ummmmms’, getting over it requires deliberate practice. If you give 1000 speeches without any focus on getting better, you might make only marginal improvements. On the other hand, if you focus on what you can get better at, like reducing your hand movements and minimizing your ‘ummmms’, your presentations can get better in a shorter period of time.

According to this piece, Kobe Bryant hit 800 jump shots, even before team practice! He didn’t just show up and practice for 6 hours without any idea of what he was going to accomplish. He wanted to make 800 jump shots to improve his shooting percentage.

If you’re judged by how many hours you’re working or by the number of pieces of work that you are producing, it really isn’t the best metric to measure how valuable the contribution you are making is.

Repetitions and long hours spent toiling on your craft are important — as long as they’re helping you get better at something. It’s also possible to spend the whole day in practice without getting better, just as it's possible to write a ton of gibberish on numerous answer sheets.

Doing something many times and constantly finding ways to improve is a better way to increase quality.

UI and digital Writer. Amateur runner and yogi. Future podcaster and author.

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