Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Attention social engineers: Why pilot projects usually fail in the real world 

A big difference between, say, me, and most academic social engineers, is that I believe that in the success of big projects scale matters a great deal. Do not, for example, tell me that the United States should adopt a particular health care system because it works great in Switzerland, or a sex ed policy because the Swedes have shown it can reduce teen pregnancy. Neither will work across a continent over hundreds of millions of people. Take it to the bank. That is why European principalities are poor precedent for American social and economic policy, no matter what your professor told you. Scale makes a huge difference in many endeavors, not least of all because there are almost never enough competent people to extend a good idea that works in a small setting to many locations across large geography. Programs, whether commercial or governmental, that work well as pilots often fail in "production." This excellent post explains why.


By Anonymous tyree, at Wed Dec 21, 10:13:00 PM:

With most of our laws and regulations, they don't even try it out in small groups. They change the law and let us deal with the consequences while they go play another round.  

By Blogger Georgfelis, at Thu Dec 22, 02:01:00 AM:

Flip side of this: Large systems that work are inevitably derived from Small systems that work. (ht Murphy's Laws) One sure way to make sure your large system fails, is to use failed smaller systems as components. (See Obamacare)  

By Anonymous Ignoramus, at Thu Dec 22, 09:07:00 AM:

"European principalities are poor precedent for American social and economic policy ..."

Europe spilled much blood over hundreds of years to define those ethnically cleansed principalities.

Should we be surprised that social welfare programs work differently in the context of a principality where everyone is related.

US is too big and diverse to uni-size.

I once saw a one sentence history of Japan: We are not Chinese.

American version: We are not European, or British.  

By Anonymous Caterpillar, at Thu Dec 22, 10:27:00 AM:

This is the first year that I can remember where you, our generous host, have not linked to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and one of its beautiful, soaring Christmas carols. TigerHawk, give the people what they need this holiday season!
Also, a merry Christmas to you and all your readers.  

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