Operations research is the discipline of making better decisions. We have to solve the right problem to better inform decisions, and sometimes solving the right problem doesn’t involve math.
One of my favorite stories about solving the right problem comes from MIT Professor Dick Larson (Dr. Queue!). He summarized his story in an article in Slate about queuing theory [Link]:
Midcentury New York featured a rush-hour crisis—not out on the roads, but inside office tower lobbies. There weren’t enough elevators to handle the peak crowds. Complaints were mounting. “One solution would have been to dynamite the buildings and build more elevator shafts,” says Larson. “But someone figured out the real problem isn’t just the duration of a delay. It’s how you experience that duration.” Some buildings installed floor-to-ceiling mirrors near the elevators and, entertained by their own reflections and by the flirting that sometimes ensued, people stopped complaining quite as much about the…
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