There are a couple of ‘razors’ worth knowing about. Not the ones we use to cut hair or shave. But some basic principles we can use to make better decisions. The first is Occam’s razor, and the second is Hanlon’s razor. Easy concepts, but useful.
- Occam’s Razor: Simple is best. Simple is beautiful. That’s the gist. In an increasingly VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world, we tend to fall for the complicated. If a financial get-rich-quick-scheme sounds complicated and hence attractive, it is probably dubious if not heinous. Likewise when people speak complex jargon, we think they are intelligent. Occam’s razor says that when you weigh alternative hypotheses, the one with the least assumptions should be chosen. Of course, not everything can be simplified as H.L. Mencken said, “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” But the idea is to reach the optimal solution with the least confusion.
- Hanlon’s Razor: This one is very useful in all sorts of relationships. Maybe we asked someone for some help a few times, and they just don’t get back to us? We immediately get frustrated and think the person doesn’t like us, or that there is some other negative intent. Hanlon’s razor however says that before assuming negative intent, there is probably a viable alternative explanation – like ignorance, incompetence, lack of time or different core-beliefs. By thinking in these ways, the important thing is we transform our minds to having more happier fulfilling relationships. Here too a caveat exists: There are a small section of people who might indeed have ill-intent, and there we need to be careful, of course.
Finally, if you were wondering why these are called ‘razors’, that’s because using these is likely to help cut through the noise and clutter.