What does 'Satisficing' mean

Satisficing is a decision-making strategy that aims for a satisfactory or adequate result, rather than the optimal solution. Rather than put maximum exertion towards attaining the most ideal outcome, satisficing focuses on pragmatic effort when confronted with tasks. This is because aiming for the optimal solution may necessitate needless expenditure of time, energy and resources. The strategy can include adopting a minimalist approach in regards to achieving the first attainable resolution that meets basic acceptable outcomes. Satisficing narrows the scope of options that are considered to achieve those outcomes, setting aside options that would call for more intensive, complex, or unfeasible efforts to attempt attain more optimal results. The term "satisfice" was coined by American scientist and Noble-laureate Herbert Simon in 1956.

BREAKING DOWN 'Satisficing'

The theory of satisficing finds application in a number of fields including economics, artificial intelligence and sociology. Satisficing implies that a consumer, when confronted with a plethora of choices for a specific need, will select a product or service that is "good enough", rather than expending effort and resources on finding the best possible or optimal choice. If a consumer were to require a tool to process and resolve a problem, under a satisficing strategy they would look to the simplest, most readily accessible piece of equipment regardless of more effective options being available at greater cost and time. For instance, that may include the use of a single software title versus procuring an entire software suite that includes supplemental features. 

How Satisficing Is Applied

Organizations that adopt satisficing as a strategy might seek to meet the minimal expectations for revenue and profit set by the board of directors and other shareholders. This contrasts with attempting to maximize profits through concerted efforts that put higher demands on the performance of the organization across sales, marketing, and other departments. By aspiring towards targets that are more attainable, the effort put forth may be equitable with the final results. Such a strategy might also be applied if a company’s leadership chooses to put only nominal effort towards one objective in order to prioritize resources to achieve optimal solutions for another goal. Reducing staffing at a tertiary worksite to minimal operational levels could allow for personnel to be reassigned to other divisions and projects where more substantial labor is required for maximized results.

A limitation of satisficing is that the definition of what constitutes a satisfactory result has not necessarily been determined, nor is it universally clear that such a result differs from pursuit of an optimal outcome.