Einstein on simplifying

Here is another quote that has often been paraphrased, and the recursive nature of that concept is particularly appealing in this context:

It can scarcely be denied that the supreme goal of all theory is to make the irreducible basic elements as simple and as few as possible without having to surrender the adequate representation of a single datum of experience.

— Albert Einstein

The variant

Make everything as simple as possible, but no simpler.

is what we want to do on TSC with our proprietary performance management systems. It no longer makes sense to track financial performance based on 10-Qs that are stale by the time they’re released. And internal management doesn’t always have better information available, despite what you might think. We’ve written before on the need to refine masses of data to the appropriate level of abstraction for the decision at hand. Remember, there’s little sense shooting yourself in the foot with the wrong data, which is the same as too much relevant data that doesn’t have an empirical impact on your decision.

Make everything as simple as possible, then stop.

Going further is how we lose richness of data or information and make ourselves more limited than the original data required. The hallmark of data preservation in BI systems is the ability to “drill down” to the underlying data. (CapitalIQ does this with financials in their very nice interface.) What we add, what we demand, is deliberate, thoughtful organization at each and every level of abstraction of the firm’s data.

NB: In the wikiquote article, this quote is identified as “Einstein’s Razor,” which is a great name for it. If I ever take up yachting or buy a spaceship, that’s the name I’m using.– RJC

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