The Sub-Optimised Playground

There is a lot of chatter in the ether about Taylorism and simplified linear thinking in leadership and management circles. Then somebody usually wants to sling some mud at somebody else and demand that the others (by which they mean you) should use "new and improved X".


So, what has that got to do with a sub-optimised playground? Scott Adams wrote in the Dilbert Principle that engineers view the world as a sub-optimised playground. What he didn't say was scientists see it as a sub-optimised playground. That is the difference we need to explore.


Note: oncoming generalisations ; please take with a pinch of salt and tread carefully


Science is about studying how things work. You only get prizes if you can produce neat clean equations. The equations should be elegant, generalised, accurate and be supported by some form of coherent theory. But what you can do is constrain the space that you look at to avoid any messy stuff.


Engineering is about making things work; our European cousins even call them ingeniero (ingenious rather than engine). Ingineering is "the appliance of science" [thank you Zanussi]. It is built on that science, but you don't have the luxury of choosing all the constraints. You have to work with what you have, the messy and/or wicked problems. You make mistakes, because the science "doesn't work here". Sure, you use safety factors, fudge factors, corrections for non-ideality and make EWAGs (Educated Wild Ass Guesses) and then pray that what you've done doesn't get you killed, headlines on the news or worse. To live with that you need the mindset that the world is fun and you tryin to make it better and you have to be ingenious; the world is a sub-optimised playground.


We need less "management science" and more "management ingineering". People are messy, non-ideal, complex (or chaotic) and we need to have more fun trying to make it work. Management/leadership/organisational design, call it what you will, needs more ingenuity and less dogma.


I'm off to see what I can find in the sub-optimised playground and try to make it better.

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