The HeadScratcher Post Archive
August 2005
Gadanken Experiments
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August 2005               The Headscratcher Post ©  Headscratchers LLC           Edition 4


Gedanken Experiments are “thought” experiments.  Pronounced “Ga-Dan-kin”.  Used in situations where conducting actual measurements is extraordinary difficult, expensive or time consuming.  To avoid incurring these expenses and time, create a “thought” experiment using assumptions, rules, and reasoning in an attempt to predict a result.   In many cases, an indirect measurement can then validate the prediction.  Here is an example in action.


Example Headscratcher:  “Why is our communications cost so high?”  Communications is a large chunk of an IT operating budget, consisting of per person costs such as phones, and PDA’s, to corporate costs, such as the corporate intranet (LAN, WAN), Internet and wireless access.  While usage and complexity are growing, price-performance continues to improve.  When looking to reduce expenses, this Headscratcher is often raised.  In other words, “Is there an opportunity to significantly reduce the cost of communications?”


An approach:  The most common approach to reducing communications costs would be to gather all the invoices from vendors and look at where some services might be priced above market or no longer needed.   Processing months of invoices, from all the service vendors, and understanding what they all mean, can be somewhat time consuming.  In addition, this is a look at what is, as opposed to what could be.


Wouldn’t it nice to know the approximate amount of savings that might be found, before one spent the time looking for it?   If it was to be large, then allocating resources to find it would be a welcome and a worthwhile investment, however, if it was going to be small, you might focus your cost savings initiatives elsewhere.


The Gadanken experiment: 

Create a “thought” experiment, or exercise, that goes like this.  Given the number of employees, their distribution, your company location(s), the services desired, etc., what would the theoretical cost of your network and communication services be?  This is not a difficult exercise.  Of course this is the theoretical cost and there will be real world inefficiencies that increase this cost.  However, at the end of this “thought experiment”, you’ll have a number.  Compare it with the Communications costs on your P&L.   Are they close?  If yes, then move on to some other savings effort.  However if the Theoretical cost is significantly below what your actual costs are, then this is now an exciting “Headscratcher” to solve.   Now you can afford to look at why, knowing that there is a good chance that a significant savings will result.   You will also have many clues as to where to look for the savings as you will have predictions from your Gadanken experiment in specific areas. 


The Takeaway:  One of the key techniques in effective Headscratching is to minimize the amount of data gathering, analysis and labor in the early stages of figuring out what is going on.   Thinking through how to test your idea without having to spend a lot of resources saves time and money during business problem solving.   Resist the temptation of asking for more reports, data, measurements, etc., but think through what you have and what it means.  In many cases, that’s enough for you to eliminate paths or point you in the next direction.


Headscratchers, LLC enhances the problem solving skills of people, resulting in more innovative and successful solutions.  We do this by combining the cognitive skills that people already possess, with building blocks such as logic, invention and leadership.   We specialize in the application of this process towards Product, Services and Operational challenges and partner with you to solve these business Headscratchers.


Previous editions of Headscratcher Posts at The Headscratcher Post - Archives.    

The Next edition will cover how “Because!” interacts with Headscratching. 




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