Pinball Productivity

The pinball metaphor

Another interesting thing in the book Elastic Leadership 1 by Roy Osherove. It’s more an anecdote, however the analogy is funny.

He talks about another—quite old—book on management called Becoming a Technical Leader 2. In this book, the author, Gerald Weinberg tells a story about improving the high score at the pinball game. Here is the progress of the score along the time.

Pinball score

It’s easy to figure out that the progress does not follow a steady line, we can see several linear—and slow—progress, then big steps. But the most important is that before these big improvements, we can see small gaps called “ravin” by Osherove.

[…] but before every large quick rise in points, there was a down slope in points. These happened when he discovered new, interesting facts about the game he was playing.
[…] In short, he learned how to look at and play the game differently and to do that, he had to let go is “sure footing” and unlearn things he had learned. To get to the next stage and to become much better that you are, you have to let go of things you already know. You have to let go of the safety of the current position you’re in, to allow you to climb to the next level.


Leaving your confort zone—it also applies to team members—is scary, you feel like you have to start over from scratch. But in fact it’s not the case, you do not start from scratch and after overcoming these difficulties you will come out stronger.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

  1. Roy Osherove, Elastic Leadership: Growing self-organizing teams (Manning, 2016) ↩︎

  2. Gerald M. Weinberg, Becoming a Technical Leader: An Organic Problem-Solving Approach (Dorset House Publishing, 1986) ↩︎