Yanny or Laurel?

Are you Team Yanny or Team Laurel? If you don’t yet know, make your mind up here!

This was the question that divided the nation last week when an audio clip hit the internet, featuring a single word being repeated. But what is that word? Whilst some people unmistakably hear the word “yanny”, others hear the word “laurel” just as clearly. It is the audible version of the black/blue or white/gold dress debate.

Experts have explained the science behind the illusion – it has to do with sound frequencies and the way our ears work. It also has to do with technology (the bass levels on the device you listen to the clip on) and age – younger people are apparently more likely to hear ‘yanny’ because their ears pick up higher sound frequencies. Commentators have also pointed out that perceptions and the unconscious preferences of the listener play a part too. We are influenced by what is familiar to us and what is important to us – which may be why I heard ‘laurel’, because, well, what on earth is a yanny after all?

These notions are not new to Lean Six Sigma practitioners, who develop Operational Definitions to overcome ambiguity and reduce the potential for things to be perceived in different ways by different people.

Operational Definitions are an invaluable part of the Lean Six Sigma toolkit, particularly in the Measure and Control phases of a DMAIC project. Very often, the requirement to measure the performance of a process can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and with various different aspects being considered. An Operational Definition provides a clear and detailed description of exactly what is being measured and how, to remove the potential for different interpretations and to bring consistency to the measurement outputs.  For example, when measuring the time taken to operate a process, the Operational Definition should define the exact start and end points, the unit of measurement, the degree of precision, and the method of timing. When measuring the quality of the output of the process, the Operational Definition should set out which characteristics to measure, as well as how to measure them.

Without Operational Definitions in place it is questionable whether the data we have can be relied upon as a sound basis for decision making.  Diversity is encouraged in all aspects of Lean Six Sigma other than this!

There may be no Operational Definition possible for gaining agreement when it comes to the Laurel vs Yanny debate, and it’s true that a lot of different flowers make a bouquet, but what a great way to start a discussion about divergences.

Here’s my favourite Twitter joke on the subject:

Stranger: “What’s your baby’s name?”

Mother: “Laurel”

Stranger: “Yanny? What an unusual name!”