By Deane Barker

A rule, tool of evaluation, or method of thinking that someone uses to solving a problem or frame an issue. From the Greek “heuriskein” which means “to discover.”

Heuristics can be anything from a simple rule of thumb (“still water is likely to be dangerous to drink”) to a pernicious stereotype (“all Jews are greedy”).

It’s best described, generally, as “a mental tool for understanding.”

Why I Looked It Up

I had an idea of what this meant, but I had always wondered about specifics. It gets used across a broad range of situations.


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In The Model Thinker:

An analysis of the actions of Harold Zurcher, the superintendent of maintenance for the Metropolitan Bus Company in Madison, Wisconsin, found that he made near optimal decisions about when and whether to replace bus engines.

Though Zurcher did not write down any mathematics, he relied on heuristics. These heuristics, informed by experience…


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From How Big Things Get Done:

Heuristics are fast and frugal rules of thumb used to simplify complex decisions. The has it’s origin in the ancient Greek word Eureka!

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