What does optimization mean to you?

By: Wendy Greenawalt

Optimization has become somewhat of a buzzword lately being used to solve all sorts of problems. This got me thinking about what optimizing decisions really means to me? In pondering the question, I decided to start at the beginning and really think about what optimization really stands for. For me, it is an unbiased mathematical way to determine the most advantageous solution to a problem given all the options and variables.

At its simplest form, optimization is a tool, which synthesizes data and can be applied to everyday problems such as determining the best route to take when running errands. Everyone is pressed for time these days and finding a few extra minutes or dollars left in our bank account at the end of the month is appealing. The first step to determine my ideal route was to identify the different route options, including toll-roads, factoring the total miles driven, travel time and cost associated with each option. In addition, I incorporated limitations such as required stops, avoid main street, don’t visit the grocery store before lunch and must be back home as quickly as possible. Optimization is a way to take all of these limitations and objectives and simultaneously compare all possible combinations and outcomes to determine the ideal option to maximize a goal, which in this case was to be home as quickly as possible.

While this is by its nature a very simple example, optimizing decisions can be applied to home and business in very imaginative and effective means. Business is catching on and optimization is finding its way into more and more businesses to save time and money, which will provide a competitive advantage. I encourage all of you to think about optimization in a new way and explore the opportunities where it can be applied to provide improvements over business-as-usual as well as to improve your quality of life.