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Assumptions vs Accomplishments

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I’ve been lucky enough to find myself in a team that’s intent on finding the best circuit design for a given application. This doesn’t happen often to many people, but I feel that I’ve had more than my share of this opportunity.

The conclusion is usually that we come up with some topology (let’s call it circuit X) that optimizes all the performance criteria. I walk away wanting to generalize the experience with the lesson that circuit X is the best circuit ever, and I want to use it everywhere.

Inevitably, I find that some other topology Y is better suited for some other application. There were some specific constraints or conditions on circuit X that don’t apply to circuit Y, and as a result, circuit Y is more optimal for application Y.

Looking back on this behavior, I think the main fault is the tendency to remember only the conclusions and not the assumptions. Why do we* do this? Well, because the assumptions are where we start. The lesson learned is where we end. We’d rather remember the finish line—the victory—rather than the starting line. It’s certainly more glorifying to remember your accomplishments rather than the mundane criteria that drive us to the goal. We are also rewarded for the results, not the specification of the problem.

I’ve periodically re-learned this tendency to form generalizations by forgetting assumptions and by only remembering the conclusion of the thought process.


* Maybe I should say I, not we: perhaps I am generalizing again.

Written by PoojanWagh

June 11th, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Posted in Behavior

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