Lab Reactions: When U.S. Air Force Discovered The Flaw Of Averages


| March 23, 2016 | in

Jarrod and Chris share their reactions to this article about the Air Force’s struggle to tailor redesigned cockpits to the “average” pilot.



Chris Apple says, “The most interesting thing that stood out to me is how eerily similar this is to issue resolution with non-technical partners. When presented a problem, everyone has developed a bias based on past experience about how long and how easy/difficult an issue is to fix based on previous issues. The main problem is, there is no average issue. Oftentimes the best programmer might program the greatest work of digital art, but it just might not work because the thing the code is trying to solve was based on a misunderstood assumption of the original problem and how you might solve that for an “average” user. I think this article is a really great example that illustrates the issues/problems that often arise from technical projects. Sometimes the best programmer with the best resources available is going to encounter problems when trying to apply a solution to a problem that might be designed to the wrong audience.”



Jarrod Wubbels says, “The reason this article caught my attention is that it focused on the ‘average’. In our work, we often try to solve problems for the average user. This average can and will vary depending on the product/solution being built, but is still the average nonetheless. I found it quite interesting that in the course of trying to solve the problem – planes falling from the skies – researchers measured more than 140 characteristics of pilots to try and figure out what the problem was. Knowing what to measure is more important than ‘Measure all the things’.


The takeaways for me were that there is really no such thing as the average person, unless you are looking for a very, very thin group of characteristics, and that increasing what you’re measuring does not guarantee an improvement on your outcomes. Only through validation of need are you able to improve the end product.”


DPL Lab Reactions highlights short responses to articles we’ve read and about which we have thoughts we’d like to share. Join in the conversation in the comments below.

Related posts