10 Dangers of Shortcuts


In many of our projects we must battle, “That is not how we’ve always done it.” The power of old habits is strong, even if there are newer, faster, and better ways to proceed.

sign pointing to success and failure

At the same time, I’m often intrigued by potential clients that keep avoiding solid solutions while searching for almost mythical short-cuts. Often they are searching for an unrealistic, low-cost solution and doing so without making the effort to genuinely understand the problems or the available real solutions.

This is particularly common when technology is part of the discussion. “Technology will fix this! Surely we can find some free or low-cost technology that will solve this problem for us!” Of course, there are times we have found such a solution. It is what we look for first for our clients. Most times, these solutions are the exception instead of the rule. Or they are not long-term solutions but simple, quick answers to buy them time to find (or afford) the right solutions.

My team focuses on this mantra: “The fastest way do to something is to do it right.” While that may not seem fast, the clients that are forever chasing shortcuts on every problem usually work far harder than my team and often have little to show for that effort. After observing this behavior for years, here are ten dangers of shortcuts I’ve learned from clients, potential clients, and through our own mistakes:

10 Dangers of Shortcuts

1. Not all shortcuts are shortcuts. Lack of understanding of a problem or solution leads many to falsely assume they have found a shortcut. Instead, they convinced themselves of a costly fallacy.

2. Shortcuts often depend on luck. Winning the lottery is a shortcut to wealth IF and ONLY IF you win. Most that play the lottery never find this shortcut to be to their advantage. Counting on luck to be your shortcut usually leads to a future pain.

3. Shortcuts are often based on laziness, not reality. Avoidance of effort is ingrained in many people. They often look not for the best answer, but the lowest effort they can “get by with.”

4. Shortcuts are often based in ignorance, not understanding. In a rush to a fast or cheap solution, many refuse to make the effort to  understand their needs or the cost of the solution.

5. Shortcuts may simply leave most of the work for the next person. Sure this approach seems easy but it is not much of a shortcut for your staff, your partners, or your clients if they have to pick up your slack. This is not a good way to win or keep friends and supporters either.

6. Some shortcuts just don’t work. After all, if shortcuts always worked, they wouldn’t be shortcuts, they would be the way it’s always done.

7. Searching for shortcuts can sometimes be more work, not less. I know people that are so focused on working to get free stuff they work harder for it than just earning it.  I’ve never seen them realize that at some point free isn’t really free if it takes more work.

8. Shortcuts do not mean incomplete is acceptable. Skipping important steps just leads to eventual failure and the need to do the task all over again (if you even get that opportunity).

9. A shortcut mentality can develop bad habits. When the common focus becomes finding shortcuts instead of finding ways to be successful, the wrong habits can develop and undermine our true goals.

10. There is big money in selling shortcuts. We see many businesses that gladly sell short-term shortcuts to those anxious for a magical, quick answer that makes them feel good. While not our business approach, these companies are filling a genuine market and emotional need even though the long-term outcome is usually very unpleasant for all involved.

Of course, there are times where a proven shortcut is a winner. Even a hunch of a shortcut is valuable sometimes, either to find a new true savings or learn a great lesson. Just don’t live your life working hard to find a shortcut for everything. That approach just shortcuts your life.


Glenn S. PhillipsGlenn S. Phillips is the author of the book Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself.  You can email Glenn directly at glennsphillips@nerdtoenglish.com.

Glenn is also the president of Forte’ Incorporated, a consulting firm that works with business leaders to understand and address the often hidden technology and business risks lurking within their organizations.

© Copyright 2012. Glenn S. Phillips, Forte’ Incorporated. (205) 985-1111


About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.