Summary Guidelines List

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Occam’s Principle. All other things being equal, choose the simplest. This applies when looking for an explanation to something, deciding what to do, or looking for a solution to a problem.

Always try to keep things as simple as possible. But don’t try to over simplify.

Everything potentially connects to everything else. Be wary of the possibility of secondary effects.

Be pragmatic. Pragmatism is concerned with whether or not something works, whether or not it is practical, and whether or not it is useful.

Be sure that you believe something is true because the evidence suggests it is, rather than because you would like it to be.

Recognise that people rarely choose the most logical solution, but usually choose solutions/explanations which: (a) Are agreeable and comfortable, (b) Don’t involve any risk; (c) Are similar to other solutions and explanations; (d) Confirm what they already suspect to be the case; (e) Are popular; (f) Support particular (pet) theories that they have.

You can’t apologise to a dead man. Many an innocent man has been hanged.

People who consider that their thoughts are ‘too deep’ to be put into words are kidding themselves, and kidding us. Thoughts that cannot be expressed in (word) language are of no practical use.

Just because something works or is successful doesn’t mean its the best. Others could have worked even better or been more successful, or achieved the same more efficiently/effectively, or achieved the same with fewer undesirable side effects.

It is possible to be too successful, if in being so you cause other things to happen which then threatens your own niche position within which you are being successful.

In a hierarchy people, rise to their level of incompetence. (Peter’s Principle)

It is often difficult to distinguish incompetence from conspiracy

Experience is a double edged sword. It gives us an intuition and examples relating to whether certain things will work or not and may allow us to solve problems quicker because we’ve seen similar problems in the past. However our experience may not really be relevant to ‘new’ problems or problems set in a different context/environment, and past outcomes may have been largely due to chance, and thus experience tends to lead to us jumping to conclusions which may or may not be right.

Sometimes the devil is in the detail. Whilst we are addressing something at a high level we cannot and should not address the detail at the same time. However we should be sure that we understand the detailed consequences enough to have confidence in what we are doing at the high level, and this may involve looking at certain key aspects of the detail.

Be wary of simply preparing for the last battle. (Ie. shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.) Be wary of looking to fix a problem which by the time you’ve come up with the solution will not be a problem anyway because circumstances will have changed.

Whilst some of the things we do may not be the clearly definable unique cause of other things, they may well contribute to it in some way. Whilst there are things which might not be our fault, we could nevertheless have prevented them happening.

It requires less skill/work to destroy/knockdown than to create/build. It is easier to criticise than it is to create something that can be criticised.

Being smart is not about not making mistakes, its about not continuing to make the same mistakes.

Thinking is a balanced use of our time. We need to think about something enough to identify and balance everything about it that is relevant/important. But not to spend so much time that it stops us doing other things which we would get more benefit from.

Keep things in perspective.

Maintain a balance between all things.

Whatever happens, life goes on.

Nobody is indispensable, though some are more important than others within a given context.

Might is right; because it says it is.

Self survival is important.

Life is not always fair.

Avoid waste if you can.

A system is more than the sum of its parts. Some aspects of its behaviour will be different to that of the behaviour of the parts. It is not how the parts behave that is important but how they interact in the context of the environment.

In complex systems, parts are bound to fail. Complex systems thus need redundancy to ensure failure of parts is not catastrophic to the system as a whole.

Complex systems require self-regularisation, ie. stable feedback control.