Or to give the full quote;
The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer (author unknown)
We all work with and for people, not just external Customers, also partners, suppliers, colleagues and managers to name a few of the possible stakeholders in the work that we do. Let’s be honest, any of them may occasionally make impossible demands. We may want to believe that the Customer is king/queen, but that doesn’t mean that they are always reasonable, consistent or even sensible. More on this later.
I recently read a fascinating book called The Physics of the Impossible, which recognized that most of the things we once thought impossible are only inconceivable until they happen; humans travelling at faster than 30 miles an hour or to the moon, a powerful computer in everyone’s pocket (mobile/cell phone), the Brexit vote!
Renowned scientist and physicist Michio Kaku has classified new impossibilities, anything that doesn’t break fundamental physical laws, and imagined how and when they might happen. It may take many years (possibly thousands or even millions) but most of the Science Fiction staples, such as inter-stellar voyages, time travel, teleportation, invisibility and intelligent robots could happen.
The only two ‘type III’ impossibilities that break the known rules – according to the author – are pre-cognition and perpetual motion machines. These offer interesting parallels and lessons for our day-to-day working lives – trust me on this 🙂
Seeing into the future; wouldn’t that be great? We all like to imagine things and plan for the future with more or less diligence and rigour. Of course things change, things go wrong and lovingly crafted strategies, roadmaps and project plans (Gantt charts) are mere hopes and aspirations.
However, the best laid plans of mice and men seldom run smoothly. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan and set targets, but we must all be prepared to be flexible, tweak and adjust for the evolving and changeable present to meet the desired future. One thing we can’t change is that change happens!
Perpetual motion machines
This goes way back to one of the basic laws of thermodynamics, which you may remember from school physics lesson? Fundamentally energy must be conserved; it cannot be created from nothing and cannot be destroyed. Energy is transferred from one form to another – for example from chemical to physical motion, to friction and heat and back again. This means, as far as we know, that in any closed system like our universe, the holy grail of perpetual motion machines without an energy source is impossible.
For useful work to be done, energy must be expended, and that energy is finite.
So, when you asked to do more work than is physically possible, or produce something yesterday (without a time machine), or predict the future – you could say to your Customer, colleague or Manager, “that’s impossible…but I’ll see what I can do.”
© 2016 The IT elementary school