Every day we use “heuristic” sets to solve our problems in business as well as life, instead of enumerating all options possible to a problem. We turn to our experience-based techniques for problem solving, as using our existing learning’s, and discoveries to leap frog past inefficient options. As we can use heuristic based methodologies to speed up the process of finding a solution which is “good enough”, rather then employ an exhaustive search which would prove impractical.
While working examples of this method may include simply using “common sense” or rules of “thumb” are invaluable because they help us to make decisions without lengthy fact-finding sessions. If we take a driver traveling down the road they know they don’t need to divert immediately to find a fuel station when the needle starts to dip low on the gas gauge. However we don’t expect these rules to be 100% accurate as if the car did run out of fuel in 25 miles, the driver wouldn’t be particularly surprised.
However “heuristic’s” can lock us into fixed paradigms as we become use to the “same ole same ole” where we don’t look for change, nor worse expect it. As sometimes most of the variance in a process comes from exceptionally rare, exceptionally huge events typically referred to as “Black Swans”. So how do we prepare for the unanticipated results which can be brought on by heuristics when they go a rye? The first is to understand that history is always biased in favor of observed “acts of heroism” as history books are full of them, they make for interesting reading. However what makes for far less interesting material is the “heroic preventive measures” which are not accounted for in our lessens as they didn’t happen, therefore not recorded.
How do we avoid the “paradigm” trap and attempt to starve off the “Black Swans” (as you will never do away with them completely). Well here is where we need to ensure we develop a “heuristic” to manage our “heuristics” as how do you:
- Know the “heuristic” you’re currently applying to the task at hand is really working, rather than just another rinse and repeat rubber stamping action. [Check]
- Is there a “heuristic” in place which allows you to take action on what you’re doing, to change direction if need be or even stop should the situation warrant it. [Act]
- What about a “heuristic” which allows the creation of a feedback loop for improvement of the existing “heuristic” sets which is being used. [Plan]
- Finally what about the ability to execute based upon the running “heuristic” set, in other words place the “plan” into action. [Do]
In short “heuristics” help us to quickly solve problems in general without having to learn a new information set each time we are presented with a challenge, or randomly trying “long shots” when our knowledge base runs short. However being a zero sum world as mentioned above it can also cost us by lulling us into falsehood which will capture us on never ending treadmills…