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  • 1.  When Less is More

    Posted 04-08-2021 04:58 PM
    Edited by Mitchell Winkler 04-13-2021 01:44 PM

    An intriguing article showed up in one of my news feeds with the catch line "When aiming to make something better, people often add elements to an existing design. However, an equally effective strategy might be to steer toward minimalism and remove existing features." The article is titled Our Brain Typically Overlooks This Brilliant Problem-Solving Strategy and is from Scientific American (tiered subscription model).

    In case you can't open the article, here's the link to the embedded video with some great examples. Some so simple you could kick yourself for not having thought of.

    Do you examples or experience from projects you have worked on where less is more? 

    Mitch Winkler P.E., M.ASCE
    Houston, TX

  • 2.  RE: When Less is More

    Posted 04-12-2021 04:05 PM
    Thank you for sharing that article! What a great Monday morning mental stretch.

    I listened to a talk from an Australian engineer that evaluated our approaches (US vs Australian) to implementing water quality BMPs (or SCMs, or your preferred term). He noted that the American approach tends to be to require many components to the BMP, such as forebays, in order to implement the approach and it tended to be all or nothing, as you needed to meet or exceed a nutrient reduction onsite. In Australia, the approach has been more "do what you can", which has meant that more BMPs have been implemented and people are more likely to consider retrofits of existing development, even if the efficiency of the BMP is less. Ultimately this appeared to lead to greater implementation of BMPs, although he hadn't looked into the overall nutrient loads and hypothesized that likely we ultimately ended up with the same overall reductions. The presentation was a part of the 2014 Ohio Stormwater Conference, but unfortunately my conference materials are in my office.

    Stephanie Hanses P.E., M.ASCE
    Brown and Caldwell
    Raleigh NC

  • 3.  RE: When Less is More

    Posted 04-15-2021 09:19 AM
    Thanks for sharing Mitch! I'm definitely guilty of having an additive mindset in a lot of areas of my life. Usually I don't stop doing something until I get so busy that it just naturally drops off my schedule. It would probably be beneficial to me to start thinking about this in advance in the future.

    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 4.  RE: When Less is More

    Posted 04-15-2021 04:31 PM
    That is great, I don't even realize it that it matters. For example in any software right in the layouts, its easy to overlook when things is less sorted, and you can understand it more than what you have done at first, and it's easy to teach it to someone who don't have any idea of the process or the project. Another example of less is more is when we can relate it to program languages, because the way the codes is more, it become hard for the program to run, and we think it needs to add sort of symbol but it just needs to debug and erase things. Also in life, setting pyramids of priorities, knowing and canceling things you don't really need to go is a time saving for your self, business, etc.

    Llala Chrishaye Ocampo S.M.ASCE
    City of General Trias Cavite

  • 5.  RE: When Less is More

    Posted 04-16-2021 02:09 PM
    Indeed minimalist principle (or less of things) of thinking and problem-solving is an attractive alternative – if it works or if one manages to live with it. In religion – Buddhist and Christian monks and nuns vow to live on the minimum required – with the understanding that the more one craves – the more becomes the entanglement of unhappiness.

    Minimalist principle has another attractive name Simplicity. We hear time and again – to see a problem in simple terms – breaking it down to fundamentals – once achieved a problem unfolds itself – opening the vista of alternative solutions. I have tried to point that out in the introductory paragraph of Artificial Intelligence – the Tool of No Limit – quoting Krishnamurti (1895 – 1986). And we should not forget, what the Giant (Albert Einstein; 1879 – 1955) of the giants said: everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

    In engineering of technical solutions of a particular problem – I would rather begin by asking:
    • Are the available infos or tools – as minimum or less as they may be – adequate?
    • Have they been successfully applied in the past for similar cases?
    • Am I confident that they are enough for me to defend the solution I propose?

    If the answers to the above questions are yes then one should feel satisfied to pursue a method – whatever the name of that method might be. But, we should not forget that the horizon of knowledge is continuously expanding – exploring uncharted territories. Therefore what was adequate in the past – may not satisfy one's requirement or awareness at present.
    Google Scholar

    Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCE
    Vancouver, BC, Canada

  • 6.  RE: When Less is More

    Posted 09-21-2021 01:06 PM
    So far, I have been implementing "less is more" for the planned process of completing projects.

    While working for the Energy Management staff on Ohio State campus, I assigned myself projects regarding missing bill data from hundreds of energy accounts and eight years of processable history. I was to search an entire Microsoft Access database for what bills were unrecorded: other workers before me created tools for how to locate missing bills, but we had accounts that could close for months at a time, and start and ending dates that lasted much less than a month.

    To that end, I searched through all the accounts myself (as many as I could consecutively via company), creating empty bills dubbed placeholders and ordered notes of which accounts looked like bills from specific months were simply not recorded. That way, as I split the history by six months at a time, I could keep my eyes on the placeholders in the records and my notes about strange activity to find only what to search for as quickly as I could.

    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Bexley OH
    [email protected]