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« When arrogance overrides education | Main | The gift that's kept on giving - and why »

BFTP: Why we satisfice

A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. Original post October 13, 2008.

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.Wikipedia <>

Why we satisfice - part 1

A common complaint about student researchers is that they "satisfice." They stop after finding the first possible answer to a question. I am guessing there is more to it than just laziness.

Consider this graph:

Is there a direct correlation between importance of the question to the researcher and the depth of research he or she is willing to do?

Maybe, just maybe, if we asked better questions, we'd get better researchers.

Ya think?

Why we satisfice - part 2

I am always amazed at the amount of time and anguish some people will devote to completing reports - especially those useless ones required by the state or a central office. 

Here's how I look at them:

If there is money involved, I attempt to be as accurate as possible without agonizing. When ever possible, I figure conscientious estimates are enough. I mean, is somebody actually going to come in and recalculate the average age of your science section? Count the number of computers in your district? Really care if you count a set of reference books as one title or three volumes? I don't think so.

As my dad always said, "A job not worth doing is not worth doing well." Give a good guess and then use your time helping your kids or staff. The world will continue to revolve.

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