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    Sunday, May 04, 2008

    Force Multipliers : A Paradigm for Technology and Tool Development

    The concept of force multipliers originated in military science. Force multipliers are fulcrums that allow you to have an effect that is exponentially proportional to the amount of resources employed. Radar is a good example of a force multiplier. An air force that uses radar will be able to successfully attack or fend off a much larger force that does not have the benefit of the technology simply by being able to track their opponents in the battlefield. Sometimes, the force multiplier does not physically exist. For example, the coordinated use of air and ground forces as a blitzkrieg is more effective than an uncoordinated force of the same size. The blitzkrieg tactic is the force multiplier in this case.

    It seems to me that viewing tools and technologies as force multipliers is a good paradigm for guiding technology and tool development.

    1. Force multipliers do not replace; they complement. Did they disband the air force after inventing radar? The objective of tool development in a force multiplier context should not be to create a software version of your engineer. It's about creating a tool that will allow them to control a lot with very little. In a design environment such as Pyramid or IC-Catalyst, the engineer is in control but the environment takes care of all the small stuff (generating scripts, checking reports, firing jobs...). An engineer using a design environment is in a position to accomplish a lot with very little effort.
    2. Force multipliers need not be complex; just effective. Creating and supporting a complete design environment is a lot of work. plus, there's always the chance that you're over-solving the problem. Small utilities addressing the right issues in the flow can add value with much less effort. Think scalpels, not broadswords.
    3. Force multipliers need not physically exist.A stable design methodology does not physically exist, and yet, guides the engineer in the direction that will produce the optimal result in the shortest time.
    4. Force multipliers stack. The effect of more than one force multipliers is not the sum of their individual effects but their product. For example, a good hierarchical methodology and a good timing fix utility employed together will accelerate timing closure beyond the sum of their individual effects.

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