Throwing money at a problem always ensures expensive outcomes.

Updated: Apr 11


There is a story making the rounds on the internet. It is an interesting but untrue story.


When NASA started sending astronauts into space they quickly discovered that ball-point pens would not work in zero gravity.

To combat this problem, American law makers approved a program, and NASA scientists spent a decade and over US$165 million developing a pen that writes in zero gravity, upside down, on almost any surface and at temperatures ranging from below freezing to over 300 degrees Centigrade. The Russians used a pencil...

Though the story is apparently untrue it highlights two things. First a flaw in our human nature and second a management reality. Generally, when we humans are not part of an individual, or group's success story we tend to deride and dismiss its achievements. In terms of management my experiences have taught me that, when challenged by a resource crunch, we humans are capable of developing ingenuous solutions that require few resources. It is useful to remember that, expenses always rise to meet the budget allocated to any activity or project. Throwing money at a problem always ensures that you have the most expensive possible solution. To add insult to injury, it might not even be the best solution. Generally speaking there are no absolute solutions to social and technical problems, there are only trade offs. The best solution is the one that imposes the least cost elsewhere.

Interesting Links:

Fact or Fiction?: NASA Spent Millions to Develop a Pen that Would Write in Space, whereas the Soviet Cosmonauts Used a Pencil - Scientific American


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