Monday, November 24, 2008

Burned by the human factor again

Interesting observation by the New York Times on the financial crisis. Fields like finance and economics are the domain of the "quants," the people who build mathematical models of market behavior. However, the models are only good as the assumptions that underlie them, and managers' abilities to see what the models can and can't do. The models aren't reality, despite the economists trying to sell them as such.

The hardest part to understand in any complex system where human behavior plays a part is the human. And that's the part that's invariably over simplified in finance and economics. There's very little "human factor" in economics, except perhaps in the sub-field of behavioral economics.

As a voice user interface designer, I see it all the time. Project teams spend a great deal of time on the technology itself, because the technology is pretty difficult to implement. Unfortunately, the behavior of customers and callers and customer service reps is often given short shrift. That's too bad, because that's the really hard part to understand, and the success of an implementation is dependent on understanding and designing to accomodate the human part of the system.

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