Monday, April 28, 2008

Physicists Quantify the 'Coefficient of Inefficiency'

One of the skill one learns as a physicist is to tackle a problem systematically, and to quantify it, if possible, by making an effective, accurate model of the system. This problem doesn't have to be in physics. It can be anything. I mentioned earlier of someone who tried to find the most optimum way to load an airplane, simply because he became curious after observing how an airplane is typically boarded. Well, this is a similar problem.

Three physicists from the University of Vienna examines the efficiency of committees in making a decision in terms of the number of people that makes up the committee.

To understand why, Thurner and fellow physicists Peter Klimek and Rudolf Hanel turned to the British historian C Northcote Parkinson, who studied how the British Navy was once administered. Parkinson, who died in 1993, discovered a strong correlation between a committee’s ability to make a good decision, and its size. In particular, Parkinson found that committees with more than about 20 members are much more ineffectual at making decisions than smaller groups — something he dubbed the “coefficient of inefficiency”.

You can read the preprint of the paper from a link given in that article. It is a clever way to quantify and model this problem. Now if only people who form such committees would pay attention to it.


1 comment:

voodooKobra said...

If and when I form a committee or some kind of independent business entity, there will only be 14 members (including myself).