MORE ON UNIVERSALITYWiggins
at Opposed System Desgn
responded to my prior post
with further insight into the difficulties of accurately estimating the potential outcomes of a given scenario, with his post "The Limits of Universality
". Commenting on the importance of examining premises, Wiggins writes:"Albert Wohlstetter often said that the most important part of an analysis was the examination and choice of assumptions. More recently, I believe it was Ralph Keeney who pointed out that millions of dollars and years of effort can be devoted to analyses whose assumptions were decided upon in a superficial five minute discussion. Ed Paxson, who is often credited with creating the field of systems analysis, ran into this issue during one of his studies while he was at RAND. He created a remarkably complex analysis of nuclear combat, but based it upon a modified logistics model so that the goal was to “deliver” the maximum payload of bombs to a specified target list at the lowest cost per pound of bombs dropped (I think I got this account from Kaplan’s The Wizards of Armageddon
, a solid secondary source but woefully thin on interpreting Wohlstetter). The Air Force dismissed Paxson’s results. "It is important to note, regarding " that millions of dollars and years of effort can be devoted to analyses whose assumptions were decided upon in a superficial five minute discussion
" that quite often our first good idea about a given subject or problem is not always our best good idea. "Brainstorming" is an overused and much abused term, but done properly, and with an eye to starting a cognitive process rather than securing a finished result, brainstorming is enormously helpful in generating alternatives. Submitting those alternatives to a robustly critical examination before launching forward, is also a pretty good standard practice.
Minutes spent beforehand translates into thousands of hours saved afterward.