You can look at a carton of eggs and do the math – $3 for a carton divided by 12 is a quarter per egg. Better yet, eggs are sold by the dozen. The math is already done for you. Your effort effort as a consumer to decide which carton to pick comes down to just a few variables – Grade, Color, Free-Range, “Low Cholesterol” – most of which are meaningless attempts to differentiate product, anyway. In reality, the products are nearly indistinguishable from one to the next.
Buying eggs isn’t a solution to anything. It’s part of a solution with the goal of feeding ourselves. That solution is known as breakfast. What it costs for me to actually make breakfast is as unique to me as it is to anyone else. My kitchen, electricity, gas, pans, method – these all have unique costs associated with them. As a system, the cost is complicated.
So why is it when we are investigating a solution to a complicated problem, our first question is always what does it cost?
Because it’s easy. Asking what it costs lets you decide if you can do it or not. It justifies rejection based on your simplistic expectation of expected price. Too much money? NEXT!
What happens then if we don’t let ourselves off the hook that easily? What if we instead dig deeper and ask more meaningful questions?
What is the problem we’re trying to solve?
What is it worth if I solve this problem?
How do we qualify a solution as being viable?
Cost is always past tense.