We All Want Simple Solutions
It’s easy to make solutions more complicated. When there are holes in a schedule, one can create multiple rotation lists with conditional rules. When quality control is out, one can apply more Westgard rules than are needed. And when microscopic cellular elements are evaluated, one can apply criteria that are too detailed to be practical.
Laboratory professionals are a pragmatic and dogmatic lot, generally, trained to follow stepwise instructions. Many times I’ve heard, “I don’t run that test very often, but I can follow a procedure.” But we tend to follow the complicated as readily as the simple. This doesn’t mean we don’t prefer the latter over the former. We all want simple solutions.
In my last blog, I theorized that we take the shortest route to solve any problem. I wonder how many times this is a desire for simplicity. Given a choice, techs want an easy, fair scheduling process, quality control troubleshooting with as few rules as practical, and microscopic criteria that are easy to remember and reproduce. The simplest solution is often the most expedient. Less work is simpler.
Simpler is probably better, too. A philosophical principle called Occam's Razor, after a 14th century monk who popularized the idea, states “Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem” -- entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily -- and other ways of saying that simpler is better. For scientists, this means that if two theories explain the same observations, the simpler is probably correct.
Thus, of two methods to rotate people through shifts on a schedule, the one with fewer rules is probably better all around; applying one or two Westgard rules as points of failure and revamping a review process is better for techs on the bench; fewer criteria e.g. less than or greater than 10 per field, is reproducible while giving physicians the same information.
Of course, Occam’s Razor isn’t always applied. Management geeks and policy wonks smell job security in keeping processes wild and woolly in the nonsensical notion that infinite complexity eventually improves patient care. But that’s another blog.
NEXT: Ageism in the Laboratory