Our friend Julio, back in 1998 or so, stated our business objective so concisely that we’ve adopted it as the unofficial motto of Atlas Geotechnical:
“Just don’t suck”
It seems like many of our peers, learned engineers of great experience, often don’t seem to understand the whole “efficiency and reliability” point of foundation engineering, sometimes so severely that their product could be fairly described as “sucking.” Clearly, confirmation bias causes us to notice the failures while the triumphs pass by unobserved. It seemed to us at the time, and has been bourne out over the past decade, that all we needed to do to assure success was just to not suck. And so an inside joke was born: “just don’t suck.”
A fascinating examination of that strategy appears in David Kadavy’s blog this week: http://www.kadavy.net/blog/posts/permission-to-suck/
I’d encourage you all to read it though and consider the implications to critical infrastructure design.
Clearly, it’s not acceptable to suck at designing hospital foundations or tunnel linings. On the other hand, professional growth is imperative so that our generation is prepared assume the mantle of industry leadership being passed on as an older generation, the Alyeska Pipeline and Nuclear Power Plant generation, retires from active consulting. I think the message here, a very valuable message, is that it’s acceptable, and even necessary, to suck at new work provided you secure senior review capable of correcting your shortcoming and literally turning your first-attempt sows ear into the silk purse that your customers are entitled to expect.
So give yourself permission to suck as a necessary aspect of professional growth. And then acknowledge that your initial attempts at anything new are likely to suck, back yourself up with senior review, and make sure that your finished product doesn’t suck no matter how feeble your own initial efforts may have been.