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New Year's resolutions: Explore or exploit?

Posted by Robin Abrahams  January 1, 2013 01:24 PM

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Do you make New Year's resolutions? Or if not formal ones, does the end of the holiday festivities, putting decorations away and throwing leftovers out, signal some kind of refreshed focus? 

There's a bit of business-development jargon that I've found helpful when getting my New Year's hat on: explore versus exploit. A business can develop in one of two ways: by offering new products or services, or by doing what they already do more efficiently. In other words, by exploring new areas, or exploiting existing abilities. ("Exploit" in this case isn't meant to have a negative connotation--only a mnemonic alliteration.)

Most resolutions to improve one's life, however vague or specific, fall into one of those two categories. Do you want to make a change? Learn something new? Move house? Anything that involves trying something out, taking on a new identity or responsibility? That's exploring. Are you wanting to improve your marriage, refine your diet, do a continuing-education program to advance in your job? That's exploiting. 

Are you making more exploring or exploiting resolutions for 2013? Mine are mostly exploiting--improve the blog, do more freezer meals, take Milo on longer walks in the morning, that kind of thing. Life is working, I just need to work it a little more. What of you? Making little tweaks to an existing structure in 2013, or forging a path in the wilderness? 
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About Miss Conduct
Welcome to Miss Conduct’s blog, a place where the popular Boston Globe Magazine columnist Robin Abrahams and her readers share etiquette tips, unravel social conundrums, and gossip about social behavior in pop culture and the news. Have a question of your own? Ask Robin using this form or by emailing her at missconduct@globe.com.
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Robin Abrahamswrites the weekly "Miss Conduct" column for The Boston Globe Magazine and is the author of Miss Conduct's Mind over Manners. Robin has a PhD in psychology from Boston University and also works as a research associate at Harvard Business School. Her column is informed by her experience as a theater publicist, organizational-change communications manager, editor, stand-up comedian, and professor of psychology and English. She lives in Cambridge with her husband Marc Abrahams, the founder of the Ig Nobel Prizes, and their socially challenged but charismatic dog, Milo.

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