Heuristic tools

Heuristic toolsIn that post we discuss about why Service Designer needs heuristic tools?

--> Cynefin in Service Design
Heuristic tools help to be quicker and go safe
Heuristic tools help to be quicker and go safe

According to (Martin, 2009) every human knowledge proceeds through the funnel.

Knowledge funnel
Knowledge funnel has 3 stages

Explore  The first stage of the funnel is the Exploration of a Mystery. In other words, here we are trying to understand and define the problem or service task. Sometimes that is hard to catch the mystery, recognize the existing problem. “The route out of a mystery begins with a hunch. Hunches are prelinguistic intuitions… something beyond words.” (Martin, 2009) However, of course, they are not beyond the reason and common sense.
The example of mystery is the task to reduce OPEX / CAPEX and at the same time increase the value of IT.

CreateReflect  “The next stage of the funnel is a Heuristic, a rule of thumb that helps narrow the field of inquiry and work the mystery down to a manageable size.” (Martin, 2009) Wikipedia explains: “Heuristic refers to experience-based techniques for problem solving, learning, and discovery that give a solution which is not guaranteed to be optimal. Where the exhaustive search is impractical, heuristic methods are used to speed up the process of finding a satisfactory solution via mental shortcuts to ease the cognitive load of making a decision.”

So heuristic “is a way of thinking about the mystery that provides a simplified understanding of it… Heuristics are open-ended prompts to think or act in a particular way.” (Martin, 2009) For example, there is a very technical heuristic rule of Single Initiator in SAN. Many storage professionals even don’t know the real reason for that, but it works well, and experts follow this rule of thumb.

“Heuristics offer no guarantee that using them produces a certain result. Rather, they contain the vague promise that, all things being equal, using the heuristic in the context it is meant for may, or on average, will be better for you than not using it. Heuristics are different from hunches in that they are explicit: they bring intuitions to language.” (Martin, 2009)

ReflectImplement  When we put heuristic into operations and study them more, it can be converted to formulas, Algorithms. “They guarantee that, in the absence of intervention or complete anomaly, following the sequence of steps they embody will produce a particular result.” (Martin, 2009) If a mystery is about Exploration, an algorithm is an Exploitation phase.
An example of algorithms is a description of specific actions given in administrator or user guide.

Algorithms define processes in the Simple and Complicated Cynefin domains. Heuristic methods are mostly applicable for the Complicated and Complex domains. Mystery understanding and definition are the tasks of the Chaotic and Complex domains.

Knowledge funnel combines with Cynefin domains
Knowledge funnel fits the Cynefin domains

Simple Simple domain requires good performer. That is administrator’s role.
Chaotic Chaotic needs a leader who has the power to get the ball rolling. That is the manager’s role.
ComplexComplicated Most of Service Designer’s everyday work is focused on a problem-solving in the Complex and Complicated domains. So Heuristic methods have to be the main tools for this role.

Humans are tool-making animals
“Humans are tool-making animals” – a phrase attributed to Benjamin Franklin

People have some physical limitations. That is why we apply special tools to get our job done. To lift a heavy object, a lever has to be used. Human nature also limits our mental capabilities. Heuristic tools like a lever help Service Designer to lift up “heavy” problems in the Complex and Complicated domains.

Let’s make an overview of some of the tools. A detailed discussion of heuristic is out of the scope of this blog post. There are many books and web resources devoted to this topic.

What are the most useful tools?

“There exists a huge variety of different tools and methods that support service design process in the broad context and each of its stages in particular. Each service developer is entitled to choose whatever is suitable for some particular case and make any combinations while designing a new service concept. Moreover, active experimentation with the existing tools and finding new ways and opportunities in using them is highly welcomed and recommended.” (Stickdorn & Schneider, 2012)

Only several examples of heuristic tools are observed in the article. The main idea is not to explain tools in details or make their comprehensive overview but just give some feeling of their diversity and power.

(Mind Tools, 2011) describes a great number of the other heuristic tools. Below is the brief list of several tools those often used in the real IT-related projects.

  • SWOT Analysis is a simple but powerful framework for analyzing your Strengths and Weaknesses, as well as the Opportunities and Threats that you face in your specific situation. That helps you focusing on strengths, minimize threats, and take the greatest possible advantage of the opportunities that are available to you.
  • Flow charts are easy-to-understand diagrams that show how steps in a process fit together. They help you recognize and clarify the details of how things currently work. This allows people to understand and discuss processes and identify any flaws within them.
  • Brainstorming is a popular tool that you can use to develop highly creative solutions to a problem. It’s particularly useful when you need to break out of stale, established patterns of thinking to develop new ways of looking at things.
  • TRIZ draws on the study of more than 3 million patents to provide a systematic, database-driven, and comprehensive set of solutions to general problems. By linking your problem to a TRIZ-standard problem, you can find TRIZ-standard solutions. You can then develop these into specific solutions to your problems. Originally TRIZ was developed for engineering, but can be creatively adapted for IT-related problems resolutions.
  • Cost/Benefit Analysis allows you to compare the cost and benefits of a potential solution so that you can decide whether the improvements are worth the time and money they would require.
  • Project Evaluation. Many financial decisions are made by Net Present Value and Internal Rate of Return calculations.
  • Decision trees provide a highly effective structure within which you can lay out options and investigate the possible outcomes of choosing those options. They also help you form a balanced picture of the risks and rewards associated with each option.

I’m going to cover these tools in later posts.

Value flow diagram

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