Hanlon’s Razor is a philosophical razor, rather than a physical one (like that one above ☝️). As a philosophical razor, it is a heuristic or principle that allows us to discard (or ‘shave off’) unlikely explanations and instead focus on more likely reasoning.
Hanlon’s razor proposes that we are best served by first assuming ignorance or incompetence rather than malice. It states:
“never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”
In ‘Murphy’s Law Book Two: More Reasons Why Things Go Wrong!’ (1980) the razor is credited as a submission by Robert J. Hanlon of Scranton, Pennsylvania.
A similar statement is found in the work of similarly named American science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein. In Heinlein’s ‘Logic of Emipre’ (1941) he writes:
“You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity.”
Other variations of this idea also exist, perhaps due to the prevailing utility of the razor in providing perspective to contentious circumstances. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill is quoted as saying of France’s Charles De Gaulle that the latter’s “[insolence] may be founded on stupidity rather than malice”.
An MBA Toolkit Essential
The MBA Toolkit is a metaphoric description of the diverse analytical and operational skills and methods (tools) acquired through studying a Master of Business Administration (MBA) programme. These tools are intended to enable MBA graduates to effectively identify and solve challenges faced by organisations.
Hanlon’s Razor is an essential for any MBA Toolkit. While few MBA graduates genuinely oblige the Type A stereotype, Hanlon’s Razor can be effective method of minimising cognitive bias in the analysis of organisation challenges, as well as the design and implementation of solutions.
By shaving off malice as causation, we can instead focus our efforts on the lack of knowledge and/or ability that more likely drives the challenges we encounter. Hanlon’s Razor helps us educate and develop rather than prosecute and persecute, in the processing helping us more effectively deliver on change.