Published in Proceedings of the 1999 ONR Decision-Support Workshop Series: A Decision-Making Tools Workshop, April 20, 1999, pages 21-46. RESU64
Human beings are inquisitive creatures who seek explanations for all that they observe and experience in their living environment. While this quest for understanding is central to our success in adapting to a changing environment, it is also a major cause of our willingness to accept partial understandings and superficial explanations when the degree of complexity of the problem situation confounds our current cognitive capabilities. In other words, a superficial or partial explanation is considered better than no explanation at all. As flawed as this approach may be, it has helped us to solve difficult problems in stages. By first oversimplifying a problem we are able to develop an initial solution that is later refined as a better understanding of the nature of the problem evolves.
Unfortunately, now we have to contend with another characteristic of human beings, our inherent resistance to change and aversion to risk taking. Once we have found an apparently reasonable and workable explanation or solution we tend to lose interest in pursuing its intrinsic shortcomings and increasingly believe in its validity. Whether driven by complacency or lack of confidence, this state of affairs leads to many surprises. We are continuously discovering that what we believed to be true is only partly true or not true at all, because the problem is more complicated than we had previously assumed.