The idea of this post started when I was pondering on weather forecasts and how much I must believe in their predictions. We know such forecasts have maximum reliability of about 80 for short periods and their reliability falls off sharply as time gets longer.
The question that brewed in my mind is if forecasts are unreliable should I abide by them? My answer is yes because even though they are not completely reliable they still give an indication. Therefore, if the forecast says it is going to be a rainy day I had better take an umbrella when I go out. This is not an ideal or perfect solution, but it is good enough to do.
The reason we do not and shall never be able to predict the weather with complete accuracy is its complexity and subject to the butterfly effect. Any change in weather might bring a huge change in the weather later.
The same analogy extends to human behavior. This behavior is complex and predicting human behavior can only be a good guess. Human behavior is indifferent to the weather forecast in this context.
I may conclude that Anchoring a rule, law, or model to human behavior is wrong because human behavior is unpredictable.
Examples from experience
The first example is the coronavirus– There are available few vaccines to protect us from this wicked virus. We still do not have enough knowledge about them and their long time side effects. Some people started to spread rumors that they cause infertility in men and would do everything they can to avoid vaccination.
We face a vague and complex case. Thinking carefully about it is not a perfect solution and prevention is far better than treatment. However, what if prevention fails? I say people who seek perfect solutions are far from perfect thinking. WE need working solutions right now and not perfect ones. Human behavior with its unpredictability is splitting the acceptance of vaccines even though the risks of not receiving them are higher than receiving them.
The second example is the Phillips curve– this curve served as a model to associate unemployment with inflation. The higher the unemployment is the lower the inflation is. This is because wages are the main fuel for inflation.
Again, here we notice that over short periods of time the curve is more reliable than prolonged times because of its complexity. Humans’ expectations are complex and the behaviors resulting from these expectations are hard to mode. Stagnation with higher unemployment and higher inflation is an established reality in many economies.
We should be careful to anchoring what we believe to be perfect and fixed solutions derived from models that link to the highly variable and inconsistent human behavior.
The third example is the Pareto rule– one way of expressing this rule is saying that 20% of employees do 80% of the work. This is a guiding rule and applies for short times, but not for long times because it ignores the complex and variable human behavior. For example, 20% of employees who do 80% of the work may complain that they do most of the work and feel stressed while others are on the salary scale even though they hardly do any work. They may disengage and start to care less and their productivity decreases. Alternatively, they may simply quit.
Perfection Is a Mirage
For managers, parents, writers, singers, or whoever who tend to reach perfection they are just chasing a dream that shall not realize. Nature does not seek perfection and it seeks working solutions. If they do, they are expecting their model to be perfect and this is a hugely wrong assumption. There is no perfect model. It is good enough under certain circumstances but shall fail outside their domain.
I smile when I read testimonials about the perfect worker or ideal worker who is a model for others to follow. The model implies the assumption the worker is perfect and no human is perfect.
The last example is this post– should I publish this post only after I feel is perfect and so that I keep on editing. Well, we know readability that ranges between 60-80 is good enough, but not perfect. This post has a score of 61. I could try forever without success. In fact, after few times I may bore myself editing it and make it less efficient. Many writers keep editing. Sooner than later, they feel tired, bored, and only to make the post worse. Publish when it is good enough and learn from the feedback you get so that the next one may read better.
Stop the mistake of seeking perfection rather than working solutions.