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Idiots can't solve problems

The more idiot-proof the system, the more you will constrain behavior, forcing people to act like idiots, even when it’s against their better judgment. Even when people know there’s a better way to do something, they will often be constrained by policies and procedures that were designed to reduce variety in the system. If your system needs to solve problems that you can’t anticipate, then you have a problem, because automated systems and idiots can’t solve problems.
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94 comments
 
Initially I agreed with what you said +Dave Gray, but in my experience people actually act in one of two ways. Firstly, as you identified, they behave like idiots when using idiot-proof systems. However when people realise the constraints of said system, others choose instead to do nothing at all.
 
It sounds like a nice truism, David, but is there psychological data to support it?
My response to constraint-based systems like those Apple designs, is that allows users to relax.
Is relaxation a correlationcy to idiocy?
How do you see the idiocy manifest itself in other ways? Are there other cultural factors that create the observed behavior that seem to correlate w/ the outcome? For example, most ppl say they are allergic to let fur, when in fact they are allergic to their pet's saliva.

Thoughts?
 
Relaxation certainly (anecdotally) increases the risk of complacency which is easily mistaken for idiocy +Dave Malouf
 
+Dave Malouf if you want evidence, call AT&T customer support. I can offer many other similar experiments.
 
The Apple product comparison is not really valid in this case. I believe the main point here is about work systems, not tools. Yes, simple, focused tools are great, but as W. Edwards Deming said, "Put a good person in a bad system and the bad system wins, no contest."
Ho Liu
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The Apple example show both sides. There will be the peanut user who loves it as it never crashes as it never lets you off the beaten path, but there are the extreme users who will tinker and eventually 'jailbreak' their device.

However, I do believe that if you are in an environment where everything is so 'closed', people stop needing to discover the answers as there are no questions. This is very evident where I work. Being part of an R and D, I need answers to the questions that arise, where as some of the questions (and repeated questions at that) from production, should not be from an engineer who has been doing this job for 10 years, but from a curious child.
 
Same thing happens for transports - the more it's efficient, the more people use it, the more it becomes unefficient.
 
It's in our nature to be defiant in order to discover the limits of a system. What sounds like "acting like an idiot" is just science.
 
If you need an example of an idiot-proof system behaving exactly as described by +Dave Gray , take a look at the US government.
 
I'm afraid I've been the victim of the system too.
 
I am pretty sure one of the idiots will come up with an Anti Idiot Proof process, pattern or a system.
 
Conjecture plausible but useless without examples. What are we talking about? Software? Bureaucracy? Small appliances?
 
That is all rubbish , just speak plain English and people will understand.
 
Just when you think it is idiot proof, they come up with a better idiot.
 
This brings to mind the aptitude tests employers now make job applicants take.
What is very wrong is that they don't determine the work ethic,value,
honesty, or the potential of an individual.

I mean if you look at all the CEO's politicians, doctors, ship captains
that do really idiotic things then it begs the question of why single out
a person based on examinations that require a lot less skill.
 
In my, blinders on, head-in-the-sand, opinionated view of the world; regarding one-size-fits-all, knee jerk, government reactionism as a method to solve problems....We have a BINGO!
 
I guess from an employer's view. Which would you choose to afford, people who make idiotic mistakes or idiots who don't make mistakes?
 
A good friend of mine who owns an automobile repair facility has a sign in his garage that reads, "If I make it idiot proof they will just make a better idiot"! That sounds about right.
 
hi...........................................................................
 
+Alex Yu-Kuang Lu You an employer or anyone have no sure way to determine your value as an employee unless you put them to work. Sure there's a general knowledge and education you should have, but you're not born work capable you're made.

Even in sports practice and training make the athlete.That's my point.So employers should not discriminate a person's intellect.
 
you are kiding I teach my daughter how important it is to utilize and understand the gifts that come with technology but the importance to use her brain and deveop independant skills Look what spell check has done to me. LOL and what about GPS- we become idoiots when we fail to utilize the brain God gave us. I tell her - he didnt give it to us to simple fill the space in our head.
 
Try dealing with moving money around in a French bank from the US of A . We are in banking hell.
LCL is run by idiots! There is no other possible explination.
 
People were meant to be more wild then that. More sex, please.
 
Yeah, Thomas, but sometimes people need a break.
sam jim
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This is a pretty nice view of Call centers down here in India.... :) :)
 
well then why not focus on the current possibilities
 
Some systems need to be idiot proof in some senses. One man's "idiot proof" is another man's "highly flexible".

On one hand, front line service staff seem to be very unempowered to make decisions these days, they seem to be suffering from being turned into idiots by the system they are in.

On the other hand, I don't want trivial control room errors to cause a nuclear power plant to explode. So it depends how you define "idiot proof" in each case.
 
Look at the American military. Over history foreign armies had strict regimentation, with often a single, all-powerful commander. If the opposing army suffered the loss of the lone, all controlling leader, they became ineffective because no one was authorized or prepared to become the leader. The American forces always had someone to take over, and reorganize the force. Another thing that confused opposing force leaders, was American soldiers would do something that was entirely unpredictable, and totally outside the "book" of standard military tactics. Never bridle or restrict human innovation.
 
+Paul Landowski All true. But thanks to the idiocy of the government, we have lost every single war we fought after the surrender of Japan. Without ever losing a battle, I should add.
 
Put a bad person in a good system and the bad person wins.
 
+Dave Gray So your presumption is that "control systems" are what's bad? (BTW, AT&T CS has actually been a boon for me, so not a great example.)

I do agree that putting controls on people without support systems in place to deal with other cultural and social requirements/realities can lead to negative outcomes, but I think the generalization your making is just that and I think it would behoove the conversation to look for psychological data that tries to answer the question, "Does a system that limits the requirement for a persons thinking, lead to them loosing their ability to think in that context? in general?"
 
I don't know if that's true. Sometimes simplicity is the most efficient way to make something operate. That's why the AK-47 is still the worlds best assault rifle.
 
idiots make the world go round to. Genious and idiots one of the same they work outside the box.like the enterprise,boldly go where ///////////u kn the spill
 
Define "Idiot" and then Define "System", its kind of like saying that physical reality is unfair because there are people that are smarter and more creative than me working on stuff that I don't understand and did not think of...Mutiny.
How can you even agree with something retarded or even state it.
What happened to peer groups and the whole inclusion environment of progress that you guys were working on when I was a kid in the 90's, you can't blame that on us we were below you, most of the limited options that us as people now a days are because of the people that were heading towards being middle aged and their kids were mentally challenged criminal drug addicts and now that we are having thoughts of leaving America for a better life based on the standards of living not so much material possession's just absolute freedom from the mentally challenged ideas like the cartoon above try's to convey.
segregation is a word and a concept so the above cartoon is kind of weird because some of look at segregation and apartheid and the way it functioned and also think about say the financial state of America and the complete lack of relevance for its military its educational system and the harmful way that foreigners are allowed to prey on the people that threaten the progressive descendants of immigrants that are not white or black, its like a form of ritual human sacrifice for lazy gay white's and mentally challenged black upper middle class religious criminals, there is no function to most of the things that they actually state like reverse racism or alternative lifestyles both those concepts are retarded, acceptable racism is just racism and alternative lifestyles are okay in your private home and in social peer groups but in the professional environment where we all get paid for things we went to school to learn and also sacrificed our free time so we don't have to throw firebombs at police to be relevant that's mentally f--king retarded...
 
Anyone who agrees with this post, should immediately understand why they should not buy Apple devices. It literally degrades your intellectual capacity to own one.
 
+Elena Demidova My point was the simplicity of the weapon itself, not it's manufacturer. Almost all companies are mismanaged in some way, and usually because they are inefficient and not simplified enough so my point still stands.
 
This sounds more like an executive explaining why he looks like a victim if the Peter Principle.
 
when you make something idiot proof, expectedly some one will make a better idiot.
 
Make something idiot-proof and the universe will create a "better" idiot.
 
because automated .... can’t solve problems

- yet
 
"look!!!!................sheep!!!!" baaa .....humbug
 
Please hold. Your comments are important to us. Someone will be with you shortly.
 
If this is kind of a comment or a statement like the way the world is and in this economy...You fail to look at the system that we were born into you cannot change it and if you go against it in a criminal way or try to oppress others for succeeding in it by applying themselves to it and then stating that it is an idiots system and then trying to justify wanton criminal acts like treason and perjury and then mask this under the term partisanship, that's idiocy. Not being able to stay a float or do anything other than criticize or mutually object when you fail as a social peer group or a Criminal organization like Freemasonry or Rose Croix anarcho-communism, due process and Fair trade and commerce and Criminal prosecution and punishment for decades of slighting people on a racial bias alone and then being called on it in the modern age with the same social networks that you used to punish them for succeeding its irony with a twist of lime...All you can do is cpmplain as you head towards oblivion.
 
By complete accident, I can defeat any idiot proof system :)
 
It's only idiot resistant. Nothing can be idiot proof because idiots are so ingenious.
 
I agree about idiot proofing systems, and they can be found all over the place. Yes people that know something isn't working and continue doing it anyway is pretty common. Most people follow and even if they know it can be done better will not say anything. To me it's all about critical thinking and creativity. Our educational system discourages critical thinking and creativity. Instead rote memorization, standardized testing, and not questioning authority (the teacher) is what we grow up with. It takes a different type of person that breaks from the standard or norm. They become leaders and strive for change and what can be better. The school system just conditions us to continue the same behavior in the work world.

Of course those that are just idiots don't help even having all the tools to make them idiot-proof.
 
This happened with the internet, more idiot proof it became, the more idiots crowded up the joint.....
 
I guess you are talking about TSA, right?
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CIERTO! pero como soy conciliadora, tengo la certeza que despertaremos al 100%, ahora estamos..en ese momento, esperando...que en breve ...se oiga..un RINnnnGGGG!!!
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Hola victoria, si quieres practicar el castellano, españolizado...jejej encantada!! como se dice por aquí....ARREGLEMOS EL MUNDO"
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Jim Clark . I knew somebody was making Idiots , there are just too many of us around. .
 
Fesstus Parker. Yeah! Just ignore it ,it might go away.
 
carlos rosalos. My apprenticeship lasted six years . First year on trial , and that is the problem today , not enough time todo anything ?
 
Raymond Lulling . Yes there are a lot of us about today.
 
The assumption here is that people make rational decisions in systems. Depending on the situation, work or shopping it may not be the case. I think in appropriate situations constraint is important. We shouldn't assume people are idiots all the time nor should we assume we are always rational either, or operate at our highest mental capacities all the time. For idiotic tasks maybe we should have an idiot proof system.
 
+Dave Malouf +Dave Gray Interesting to see the differences in the interpretation of “idiot proof”. IMHO there is a vast difference between the disempowering species of kafkaesque authoritarian and patronizing systems (underlying assumption: “users/customers/citizens are idiots that cannot be trusted at all and need to be micro-managed in every way”) that would fit this definition from my own POV versus empowering elegant simplicity (underlying assumption: “users/customers/citizens are sentient intelligent beings that might lack time or have other priorites”).

An important primary differentiator might be an individual's ability to override choices made by the system or at least work around them (basically an issue of trust and authority granted, which in turn also correlates to individual accountability).

Another one would be the system's potential to cope with situations that have not been anticipated by its makers (→ flexibility, malleability, evolutionary fitness, …).

Besides: taking into account the formulaic nature of “idiot proof” systems, it feels compelling to draw a connection to Gödel's first incompleteness theorem: “Any effectively generated theory capable of expressing elementary arithmetic cannot be both consistent and complete.”
 
Big Data - UI - Gamestorming - UX - Players/Participants -> Adaptive structures, loosely coupled.
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