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I visited a chemical plant where an analyst had been trying for 2 years to improve a process by manipulating 2 decision variables. He would choose values for the variables each evening before leaving work and start the process simulation program. The next morning he would see if he had made an improvement. He was a very patient man, and so was his boss.

I made a gentle suggestion - not in front of his boss - that pattern search methods could help. He did not take my suggestion. It was clear that thinking about how to set the variables for the nightly run had become an enjoyable part of his day.

It is common for decision makers to enjoy twiddling the decision variables, but they are no match for our algorithms at that piece of the problem. I will advocate tools that free the decision maker to concentrate on the essentially human part of the process - using judgement.

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