I’m an avid science fiction reader, and one of my favorite authors is Douglas Adams.  I think virtually everyone has heard his infamous quote from the novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – “The Answer to life, the universe and everything is 42”.

I’m constantly thinking about life’s big questions and I ponder them on my morning runs.  This morning I was thinking about a problem at work with the way our software is accessing our database to manage information and report to the end users.  That got me thinking about the very basics of how databases work.  I have a bit of experience with database management and development from when I worked at Texas Memory Systems.  TMS develops hardware that is performance-focused on getting data to and from end users as fast as possible.

TMS makes great products (their website is horrible and don’t blame me, I had nothing to do with it and they refuse to listen when I suggest they improve it).  The key to database performance is IOPS meaning: Inputs/Outputs per second.  This led to the realization that:

“The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything isn’t 42… It’s I/O”

Trying to answer big questions with big answers rarely works.  This was something I recently heard at a seminar with Dan Heath as the keynote speaker.  Dan Heath co-wrote the book Switch with his brother, and is a noted author in business and marketing strategy including the book Made to Stick.  I wrote more details about this seminar on the Tendenci Blog Post “Let’s Switch from Talking About the Elephant in the Room to Motivating the Elephant to Change“.

Dan shared a case study about a doctor who went to Vietnam to help stop mal-nourishment in Vietnamese children.  Most people were telling the doctor that poverty and poor education were the problems to solve before children in Vietnam would be better nourished.  Instead of trying to solve the BIG problems like poverty in a 3rd world country – the doctor went to one village, looked at the children that weren’t malnourished and compared what their parents did differently from the malnourished children’s families.

The point is to break down the big problem – in a way that is what Douglas Adams was also saying in his big revelation.  42 is a very simple response to such a giant question.


“Keep It Simple, Stupid” or since my life began with a background in science and logic, I prefer Occam’s Razor:

Occam’s razor is a principle urging one to select among competing hypotheses that which makes the fewest assumptions and thereby offers the simplest explanation of the effect.”

Instead of asking the BIG question of “how do I develop a marketing strategy, communications and PR strategy, integrate my social media and digital advertising campaigns with my direct marketing and traditional PR?”

Ask “What do I want to get out of my marketing and what do I need to put into it to get those results?”

Inputs and Outputs are what you want to look for… where you want to begin your work to solve the big problems.