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Parkinson’s Law of Triviality

2011/02/17

Over that past ten days or so I found myself making constant references to Parkinson’s Law of Triviality in order to explain certain dilatory behaviors. If (like me) you do not have a copy of the book, Poul Henning-Kamp has written an excellent write-up on the concept which is hosted on bikeshed.com:

Parkinson shows how you can go in to the board of directors and get approval for building a multi-million or even billion dollar atomic power plant, but if you want to build a bike shed you will be tangled up in endless discussions.

Parkinson explains that this is because an atomic plant is so vast, so expensive and so complicated that people cannot grasp it, and rather than try, they fall back on the assumption that somebody else checked all the details before it got this far. Richard P. Feynmann gives a couple of interesting, and very much to the point, examples relating to Los Alamos in his books.

A bike shed on the other hand. Anyone can build one of those over a weekend, and still have time to watch the game on TV. So no matter how well prepared, no matter how reasonable you are with your proposal, somebody will seize the chance to show that he is doing his job, that he is paying attention, that he is *here*.

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2 Responses to “Parkinson’s Law of Triviality”

  1. Angelos Karageorgiou Says:

    Επιτέλους και μια καλή εξήγηση ! Αυτό εξηγεί και γιατί ο κόσμος είναι περισσότερο έτοιμος να πληρώσει για μούφες παρά για μικρά αληθινά προγραμματάκια.

  2. thanos Says:

    Γενικά το ανθρώπινο μυαλό δεν τα πάει καλά με μη γραμμικές σχέσεις (γι αυτό και τα τσακάλια γδύνουν τους αφελείς με debt compounding) και με πολύ μεγάλους αριθμούς.

    $1Μ is (was…) a lot of money. $1T is just some number that nobody can grasp…


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