How much time do we spend exploring for new opportunities, skills, or ideas, versus how much time do we spend making the most of our present opportunities and whatever we already know we’re good at? We have to find our own balance, and everyone’s is different.
Exploit versus explore comes in extra handy when we’re advising or consulting, and not just for ourselves. The person across the table that we’re helping, they have their own default settings to explore and exploit, and we can look for clues to help better serve them.
Some people need a lot of options and to explore in-depth. Others just want to know there’s a process and how it will be leveraged. It’s as if some people are always looking for factories and others are always looking for the momma bird treatment, to be nudged out of the nest. We can often recognize this pretty quickly and then move to serve their default setting.
Things get tricky when we have someone who wants to go factory but needs some momma bird to see a better factory option around the way. With these people we just want to emphasize that We are entertaining the option because of how it’s function is an improvement on what we’re currently looking at. Nudge, nudge, nudge.
Sometimes we also have people who are all baby bird, falling out of the nest and exploring things they really shouldn’t be exploring at all. These ones can be harder to contain. However, if we can get them to understand the advantages of various vantage points, like a bird with multiple nests (“once you have secured this, it’s easier to explore that”), we might have a chance of getting them to take responsible action.
The relationship between our own explore and exploit tendencies is worth thinking of. It’s a fingerprint for all of us. If we’re aware of it in others too, it can be a valuable insight in helping them to make decisions and take action.