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S3's School of Hard Knocks

Minimalism doesn't mean taking short cuts. There's always an easier way that's wrong! So do you want to stake your enterprise on the easy way? We operate in a highly complex world, and that complexity takes two forms:
  1. Intrinsic Complexity: This kind of complexity comes with the problem. You ignore it at your peril. 
  2. Incidental Complexity: This kind of complexity is imposed by the solution. 
 is about eliminating the incidental complexity to expose the intrinsic complexity. Frankly, a lot of what passes as "hacking" does it the other way around! That's a concern for us. It tends to lead to bear traps. 

S3's School of Hard Knocks is a collection of lessons from experience. In some of these cases, we've taken the knocks. In other cases, we've taken over when another team took the knock. Either way, we've learned. In the current climate, where companies bet their livelihoods on getting the data science and simulation science right, it's really good to know these lessons in advance. Here are some of the stories from our School of Hard Knocks so that you can avoid getting knocked around yourself:
These lessons have taught us about several forces that Minimalism needs to contend with :
  • Failure to recognize the difference incidental and intrinsic complexity: Some managers even seem to embrace complexity. We think it is because they don't understand that there are these two different kinds of complexity. A way to control this is to reward them for managing intrinsic complexity and hold them responsible for any incidental complexity they introduce. The Boxology story gives some examples.
  • Failure to recognize the difference between simplicity and ease: This is the difference between the destination and the route you take to get there. Simplicity is a hard road. But when you get to the end of it, it's worthwhile. Easy, on the other hand, will take you down the path of least resistance. That might not take you where you want to go. The story called Beware the Easy Model gives a good example.
  • Failure to recognize the difference between difficulty and complexity: Difficulty is complexity's self-protection mechanism. It's difficult to beat down complexity and turn it into simplicity.
  • Failure to recognize the difference between math and computing: You have to get both right. We have a story on this, too.
There are two roads. The easy road leads to complexity. The hard road leads to simplicity, and that's the road that the Minimalist takes.


S3 Data Science, copyright 2015.