The Scotty Method

“Captain, we canna do it! The dilithium crystals’ll never hold under those conditions.”

If you’re a Star Trek fan, you know exactly what’s going on here. Captain Kirk needs to do something that should not be possible and he wants Scotty, the Chief Engineer, to make it happen.

About 10 minutes from now, when Kirk is congratulating Scotty for working another one of his engineering miracles, Scotty will say something along the lines of, “Aye, a couple of feet of Romulan duct tape and a spool of baling twine did the trick.”

I call this the Scotty method; an extreme version of “under-promise and over-deliver.” It’s a can’t-lose position to take. When Scotty says it can’t be done, and then he does it, he looks like a miracle worker. If it doesn’t work, Kirk can’t say he wasn’t warned.

But if Scotty was always saying, “Sure, no problem” when he doesn’t even know himself whether he can do something, he would come across as supremely unreliable when all of his bravado and false promises led to failure.

The Scotty Method might work on TV but, personally, I don’t advocate creating diminished expectations any more than I recommend creating unrealistic ones. Here on Earth, the best course of action is to know what’s realistic, state it and then meet it. If you can’t complete the job in two hours, don’t say you can. If you could easily do so, don’t say you can’t.

In the freelance world, people are paying you for a service, and they want to know what their hard-earned dollars are going to get them. So as a service provider, it’s important to state upfront what you’re going to do, how long it’s going to take, and what the final product is going to look like. If you do that, and then you deliver as promised, word will get around.

And people will trust you with the dilithium crystals.

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