Thank you for not having done it
Originally published on LinkedIn on the 18th of November 2019
Just realized I never been thanked for something I never did. I wish the number of times I refused to do something was higher. The main issue in this case is that you cannot really expect a big applause, celebrations and an award for not having done something
Not doing something is equally important as doing stuff. I thanked the doctor that refused a risky and not necessary procedure on my wife and child during her second pregnancy. It made him unpopular in that very moment. However, after a while, we could see the events evolved as he predicted in the first place. Not running the procedure others were suggesting saved us money, stress and unnecessary risk. We were lucky in finding a doctor who did not feel the urge to do something at all the costs to help us. Sometimes the best help is not helping.
Unfortunately, is difficult to measure how many great things come from inaction. Assuming there aren’t any because we do not have a way to measure them is somehow unfair. I remember once I refused to work on a lenghty and complicated Request For Information for a tender. Many people complained and I was seriously questioned about that decision. The idea is that in this case, similarly to the doctor example from above, “doing nothing” was an informed decision taken on clear metrics and indicators that allowed the team and myself to focus on more productive things instead of running after an already lost opportunity.
And still we feel this need to show we did something about it. We do celebrate things that happen and not things that do not happen. There is a need to show we care about something by still doing something, even if the action brings more damage than benefits. Informed inaction should be valued more and we should not feel guilty about it (on the contrary, we should be proud of it!) and dedicate street names, celebrations and awards to it!