iTesting Unplugged – Simplicity

The first anniversary of the launch of my iTesting Blog is rapidly approaching and I just realised (yes, I’ve been known to be a bit slow sometimes) that I have yet to begin explaining where iTesting came from and why I created it in the first place!!

Simplicity is at the heart of iTesting and is therefore the first tenet that I will explore on my journey of explaining the the core principles of iTesting. Unfortunately, in my experience, Simplicity is a rare commodity in the majority of businesses. And it becomes a bigger issue unless we deliberately work at simplification while introducing change (whether it be process or software). When we keep things simple, we gain competitive advantage by being faster and more productive, by being easier to work with, by producing products and services that are easier to learn and use, by being more approachable, by resolving customer needs more consistently.

At McDonalds, you give them money and they give you a hamburger. At UPS, you give them money and a package and they give your package to someone else, somewhere else by 10:00 AM the next day. These are very simple scenarios but behind them lie a collection of processes that have been honed to perfection. Most of us developing software in the 70’s and 80’s were hamstrung by computing capability (or processor grunt) and therefore we had it drummed into us to simplify, simplify, simplify. One of the key principles was KISS.

The KISS Principle got its start in the 14th Century. Franciscan monk William of Occam (1285-1349) spent his entire adult life developing a philosophy that God’s existence was a matter of faith that could not be justified by rational proof. Occam insisted on paying close attention to language as a tool for thinking and on observation as a tool for testing reality. His thinking and writing is considered to have laid the groundwork for modern scientific method. His insistence on parsimony or minimalism led him to write simple, to the point phrases that cut through to the essence of thought … hence people referred to it as Occam’s Razor.

On the subject of “complexity/simplicity,” Occam realized that the weakest link in a chain would be the one that failed … and that the longer and more complex the chain, the greater the chance of a critical meltdown somewhere along the chain. He wrote: “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate.” This roughly translates to “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.” Today we translate this as “the simplest solution is usually the best.”

Occam’s Razor becomes a methodology wherein the simplest or most obvious explanation for several competing ideas is the one that should be preferred – until it is proven wrong. As Einstein later said: “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Or as we now say: “Keep it simple, stupid (KISS).”

iTesting has many core tenets (all with an “i” embedded somewhere – I like patterns) and I will be exploring all of them over time, but to give you an taste for where this is going here are some to be getting your heads around –

iTesting (050913)

Dateline: Thursday September 5, 2013; Melbourne, Oz

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