Towards the end of my studies, I started to work in the field of Operations Research. After that, my PhD topic was also in the field of Operations Research. Currently I work for paragon, which is the developer of AIMMS and as can be seen on the website of our company, we strive to enable people to apply OR successfully.

Now there always was the problem that I have to explain to other people what exactly Operations Research is. The other day I found the perfect post about this on the blog of Michael Trick, who in turn got this from the first OR post on the blog of Jim Orlin.

After reading the comments, I have to say that I like the explanations I found in the comments, like “practical math”. But I fully agree with the modified definition given by Michael Trick: “The science of better decision making.

Also, I really enjoyed the following algorithm that Jim Orlin gave that helps me explain what exactly OR is:

Algorithm for describing operations research to a friend or colleague.

*Step 1. *Find out a system about which the other person is both interested and knowledgeable.(e.g, sports, entertainment, communication, travel, or anything relating to a person’s job.

Step 2.Develop a plausible scenario based on the system in Step 1; e.g., scheduling sports teams, designing wireless phone systems to provide for the best possible reception, or designing queuing systems at Disneyworld. (I have found that it is very useful to give an example that addresses a problem at the other person’s work that he or she just told you was important.)

*Step 3. *Explain how operations research can be used to find an excellent solution for the scenario in Step 2 or provide very useful information for the scenario in Step 2.