Parkinson’s law of triviality (bikeshedding)

Parkinson's law of triviality, also known as bikeshedding, is the tendency for people to spend more time and energy on relatively unimportant details of a project, while neglecting the more important aspects. The term was coined by British civil servant Cyril Northcote Parkinson in his 1955 essay "The Law of Triviality".

According to Parkinson, "the time spent on any item of the agenda will be in inverse proportion to the square of its importance". In other words, people will tend to spend more time discussing trivial details, while neglecting more important issues. This is often due to the fact that people feel more comfortable discussing trivial matters, since they are less likely to cause conflict or disagreement.

While Parkinson's law is often applied to bureaucratic organizations, it can also be seen in other contexts, such as software development. For example, a team of developers may spend more time discussing the color of a button on a user interface, while neglecting more important issues, such as the functionality of the software.

In general, Parkinson's law of triviality can be seen as a way to describe how people tend to focus on the wrong things. This can lead to sub-optimal decision making, since people are not prioritizing the most important issues.

Who is associated with the law of triviality?

"The law of triviality" is often credited to British management consultant and author Cyril Northcote Parkinson, who first described it in his 1955 book Parkinson's Law. However, the idea of the "triviality principle" has been around long before that. In the early 1900s, American sociologist Robert Merton identified a similar phenomenon, which he called the "Matthew Effect" (named after a passage in the Bible).

The basic idea behind both the "law of triviality" and the "Matthew Effect" is that people tend to spend more time and energy on relatively minor issues, while neglecting more important ones. This is often due to a combination of factors, including a lack of understanding of the bigger picture, a fear of the unknown, and a general tendency to focus on what is immediate and tangible.

While the law of triviality is often used to explain why people waste time on pointless tasks, it can also be used to highlight the importance of considering the big picture and not getting bogged down in details.

What is the inverse of Parkinson's Law? There is no definitive answer to this question, as the inverse of Parkinson's Law is largely dependent on the specific context in which it is applied. However, broadly speaking, the inverse of Parkinson's Law states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. In other words, if there is more time available to complete a task, then the task will take longer to finish. This is in contrast to Parkinson's Law, which states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Why we focus on trivial things the Bikeshed effect?

The "bikeshed effect" is a phenomenon that occurs when people focus on trivial details of a project at the expense of more important issues. This often happens in organizations where decision-making is decentralized and people have a lot of freedom to choose what they work on.

There are a few reasons why this happens. First, it's often easier to make progress on small, trivial tasks than on larger, more important ones. This can lead people to mistakenly believe that they are being productive when they are actually just wasting time. Second, people tend to underestimate the importance of trivial details and overestimate the importance of their own skills and knowledge. This can lead them to believe that they are the only ones who can handle a particular task, even if it is actually quite simple. Finally, people are often more interested in working on things that they understand, even if those things are not really important. This can lead them to focus on trivial details instead of more important issues.

The bikeshed effect is a major problem in many organizations, and it can have a serious impact on the success of a project. It is important to be aware of the effect and to take steps to avoid it. One way to do this is to make sure that decision-making is centralized and that people only work on tasks that are assigned to them. This will help to ensure that people are focused on the most important issues and that they are not wasting time on trivial details.