What The Utilitarian Philosophers Can Teach Us About Prioritization!
I’ve been watching - and loving - the series of lectures on “Justice” (freely available online) by Professor Michael Sandel from Harvard, and I can’t help thinking that what I’m learning can be related to some of the aspects of ITSM we find challenging. In Episode 2, for example, he discusses the concept of Utilitarianism originally introduced by 19th century philosopher Jeremy Bentham (the “utility” pre-fix gives you a bit of a clue as to where we’re headed here!)
Professor Sandel explains that one of Bentham’s proteges, John Stuart Mill, went on to promote how cost/benefit analysis could be done to identify which of our collective values, or preferences, were more “right” than others! Sound familiar? Now if only we could apply this to how we prioritize Incidents, or maybe how one Service should take precedence over another when our systems are under stress. Well - at least I saw the parallels, even if you don’t!
To illustrate the challenges of such a cost/benefit anaylsis, Professor Sandel facilitates a sometimes hilarious discussion on which of three video clips delivers the “highest experience of pleasure”. The choices are an excerpt from Hamlet, a promo for “Fear Factor” and a clip from The Simpsons. You might be surprised at what the students have to say to justify their preferences. I was quite impressed. But after all, these are the folks at Harvard!
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