As a doctoral student in Ohio State’s School of Public Administration, I became an adherent of Herbert Simon’s theory of satisficing, the process of combining satisfying with sufficing. Google provides an example: you want to pay the least amount for gas, but you wouldn’t drive for miles to find the gas station selling the cheapest gas. As an offshoot of this economic theory, I developed a modus operandi. I satisficed by making many decisions based on imperfect or incomplete information, such as first impressions and gut reactions. My decision to go with what I had rather than investigate further, often as not, did not serve me well. This is an example of a situation where asking a couple of questions may have made all the difference:
A sign sat in front of the wide stone stairs leading up to the entrance. “Oh no,” my mother sighed. “It says the art museum is ‘CLOSED ON MONDAY.’”
“But there are people walking in,” I objected. “I can see a light on in the gift shop window.”
Mother smiled and started trotting up the thirty broad steps “Come along,” she called. “Sometimes the gift shop is the best thing about a museum.”
We visited the gift shop and left the premises. On the street, I looked again at the sign: CLOSED ON MONDAYS. “Sad,” I mumbled.
Mother turned to me and I noticed a slight shadow flit across her face. “It’s Tuesday,” she said.
Sometimes it’s just better to take the time to optimize.