Occam’s Razor

Definition

The simplest explanation is probably correct.

Why Use It

For every accurate explanation of something, there is an infinite number of more complex and incorrect possibilities.

When confronted with competing solutions for the same thing, the simplest is likely the correct one.

When to Use It

Best suited for rapid decisionmaking when you’re missing data.

How to Use It

The razor is a great way to one-up that gut check, identify a possible solution by stripping away false ones, and have more confidence in its validity.

How to Misuse It

Reducing something to its simplest form isn’t always the answer. Sometimes it will miss on a more complicated truth.

Next Step

Take a solution to the next level by developing a way to test the assumption. Choosing a path will lessen the load of testing many separate ideas that do not merit investigation.

Where it Came From

Occam’s razor, aka Ockham’s razor, aka the law of economy, aka the law of parsimony, was developed by the Scholastic philosopher William of Ockham sometime between 1285–1347.

While Durandus of Saint-Pourçain coined the principle before him, Ockham used it more frequently and pointedly to win arguments.

And to be honest, were we ever going to let it be called Saint-Pourçain’s razor?

What Are Mental Models?

Mental models are thinking tools that help guide and shape our perceptions of the world. They simplify complexity so we can understand life better, make decisions confidently, and solve problems.

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