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Satisficing: Getting Things Done

September 21st, 2008

satisficing (finding a solution that works and is supportable), not optimizing (finding the best possible solution) – Robert Glass, Software Creativity 2.0

The term satisficing has been with us for quite some time and is primarily applied outside the software realm. Inside the software realm as developers working under constraints we make satisficing decisions on a daily basis. A satisficing solution would be one that solves the immediate problem with the least amount of resources and effort. The opposite of satisficing might be to expend resources researching, architecting, and then eventually solving the problem with an optimal solution. Satisficing like most things is not a one-size-fits-all approach, should be practiced in moderation (is not an excuse for being lazy), but is a necessary tool for getting things done. In one of my earlier posts (Necessary Skepticism: Skepticism is not Pessimism) I was skirting around this notion of satisficing without having a proper term for it.

From Wikipedia:

Satisficing (a portmanteau of “satisfy” and “suffice”) is a decision-making strategy which attempts to meet criteria for adequacy, rather than to identify an optimal solution. A satisficing strategy may often be (near) optimal if the costs of the decision-making process itself, such as the cost of obtaining complete information, are considered in the outcome calculus

Example: One’s task is to sew a patch onto a pair of jeans. The best needle to do the threading is a 4 inch long needle with a 3 millimeter eye. This needle is hidden in a haystack along with 1000 other needles varying in size from 1 inch to 6 inches. Satisficing claims that the first needle that can sew on the patch is the one that should be used. Spending time searching for that one specific needle in the haystack is a waste of energy and resources. – Wikipedia, Satisficing

Author: Adam Kahtava Categories: Musings Tags:
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