A lot has been written about checklists to shape behavior. What’s new about simple rules?
We are huge fans of Atul Gawande’s work on checklists, which are the perfect tool to help anyone, like a pilot or surgeon, avoid forgetting steps in a well-documented process. Checklists eliminate errors by making sure people follow the process to the letter every time. But there are many situations where we need to exercise judgment and creativity to get the job done, such as developing a new product or making investment decisions. In these cases, you want to give people some guidance but also leave lots of room for them to exercise judgment.
By the way, the same person might use a checklist in one situation and simple rules for a different task. The same doctor who systematically checks off the items in a pre-surgery checklist might use simple rules to diagnose a patient with a disease like celiac disorder or depression that requires judgement.
These days a lot of people are concerned that algorithms and computers will eliminate the need for human judgment. Do you agree?
I teach at MIT, a hotbed of “big data” so I get this question a lot. Many people believe that relentless increases in data and computational power will render human decision makers obsolete.
Recall the scene in the movie Moneyball, when Jonah Hill, (playing an Ivy-League statistician) describes his statistical analysis to a room full of tobacco-chewing baseball scouts. Many viewers left the theater thinking the scouts’ days were numbered. In fact, Billy Beane has increased spending on scouts since Moneyball was written. The scouts bring judgment based on decades of experience and can pick up factors that computer models miss. Instead of replacing scouts with computers, Beane developed a set of simple rules for drafting players that was based on the statistical analysis. Within these guidelines, the scouts were free to exercise their judgment. Simple rules allowed the Oakland A’s to combine the best insights from data analytics with the expertise of the scouts.
Gå ikke glip af videoen med Donald Sull, hvor han bl.a. henviser til DARPA. Bag forkortelsen gemmer sig et bureau under det amerikanske forsvar, som beskæftiger sig med udviklingen af fremspirende teknologier anvendt af militæret.