Top speed is overrated

The Amtrak Acela is capable of going well over a hundred miles an hour.

And yet, it’s not unusual for a 90-mile ride on the Acela to be only three or four minutes shorter than it would be on a more traditional train.

I can drive my Prius from NY to Syracuse faster than I can fly there. Even though a plane has been engineered to have a much higher top speed, the door to door costs of travel (security theatre, parking, checking in, the rest of the last mile once I land) aren’t impacted at all by the top speed of the chosen form of transport.

Top speed is easy to measure and fun to work on. But for most of the people you work with, there are dozens of factors that matter more than the easily measured versions of top speed that are talked about.

Fix the systems first. Look at the overhead of context switching. Bravery, empathy and other real skills matter far more than horsepower.


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