Greedy Algorithm and Bad Management Decisions

Bob Sullivan did research on why career of some people get plateaued. One of the reasons was “Greedy Algorithm”- concept borrowed from field of mathematics. In case of greedy algorithm all decisions are made based on local information (and not global information) and once you take a decision you stick to it and do not reconsider it. Though it is a short-cut method for reaching solution, it can give wrong solutions.

Let us take example. If you decide to take path that gives maximum benefit. You will follow the path 7-12-6-9, since you take decision based on local information; you opt for 12 instead of 3. While path 7-3-1-99 gives maximum benefit in the end.In your quest for short terms gains you miss path which gives 99 points in end.


Short term gains may not give benefits in long term. Let us take another example. There are 3 employees who want to reach office in morning (assume distance is walkable). One waits for taxi ( it takes some time to get taxi) and takes taxi to reach office, second one decides to go in opposite direction for local train, wait for local train and catchs local. Third one starts walking towards office (practical and short term solution). Result is guy who catches local reaches first, due to speed of train and no traffic signals.


We use greedy algorithms in our life ex. hiring candidate just because he is readily available or demands low CTC, in short term we may meet our recruitment target, but in long term he may prove to be a liability.

Coming back to Bob Sullivan, many get struck in their career because they take short term decisions – follow greedy algorithms-ex. reluctance to relocate, short term gains etc. He suggests two ways to get out of it

  1. Always for to global optimum, instead of local optimum.
  2. Learn how to make retrograde progress ex. person in above example, went in opposite direction, waited for local train (retrograde step), instead of just walking in direction of office.

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