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July 30, 2004


It seems to be human nature to over design things. It doesn't matter if it's an automobile, a software application, a cell phone, or a business model. We tend to think that more complex is better. So, we keep adding in additional functions. But as complexity increases, reliability and robustness tend to decrease. The more complex a system becomes, the more likely it is to crash and burn unexpectedly. And by increasing complexity we are also increasing cost.

Nobody understood this better than Earl 'Madman' Muntz. He made his fortune(s) by simplifying. Figure out what component, or process, or organization isn't really required and eliminate it.

The thought has frequently occurred to me that companies, and governments now days could definitely benefit from a liberal application of Muntz's strategy-

"Muntz was a smart merchandiser, and he knew that his competitors' jibes could be turned to work to his advantage. He knew that his TVs were not built of cut-rate parts - in fact, his receivers were carefully engineered to be at least as reliable as the competitors' sets that cost twice as much - and they would perform just as well, so long as you stayed in a strong-signal area.

And how did Muntz get his circuits designed to be so inexpensive? He had several smart design engineers. The story around the industry was that he would wander around to an engineer's workbench and ask, "How's your new circuit coming?"

After a short discussion, Earl would say, "But, you seem to be over-engineering this - I don't think you need this capacitor." He would reach out with his handy nippers (insulated) that he always carried in his shirt-pocket, and snip out the capacitor in question.

Well, doggone, the picture was still there! Then he would study the schematic some more, and SNIP... SNIP... SNIP. Muntz had made a good guess of how to simplify and cheapen the circuit."

What's All This Muntzing Stuff, Anyhow?

July 30, 2004 | Permalink


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