Dumb Scale-Up = Bespoke + Slow

Dumb scale-up is one-off, bespoke, and slow. It correlates with delays, cost overruns, and benefit shortfalls. Any business, government, or NGO that depends on dumb scale-up is unlikely to be successful. Smart scale-up is the answer.

Bent Flyvbjerg
Geek Culture

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The Airbus A380 jumbo jet has been a financial disaster (source: Wikimedia)

Nuclear power is an obvious example of dumb scale-up, almost embarrassingly so. This is because both the technology and the economics of nuclear are so evidently flawed that the deficiencies are impossible to overlook.

Other examples of dumb scale-up are less conspicuous in the sense that the engineers succeeded in making the technology work, if with difficulty, and the bad economics have been swept under the carpet or simply forgotten about. The Channel tunnel, the longest under-water rail tunnel in Europe, is an example of this.

The Channel Tunnel

The decision to build the privately financed tunnel was made in February 1986, with full passenger service starting almost nine years later, in December 1994. At the initial public offering, Eurotunnel, the private owner of the tunnel, tempted investors by telling them that 10 percent “would be a reason­able allowance for the possible impact of unforeseen circumstances on…

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Bent Flyvbjerg
Geek Culture

Professor Emeritus, University of Oxford; Professor, IT University of Copenhagen. Writes about project management. https://www.linkedin.com/in/flyvbjerg/