Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Improving restaurant performance with analytical models

I came across an interesting article that shows the financial impact of mathematical models, which enhanced the sales performance in restaurant business.

Operating a restaurant needs highly effective service management skills. Merging the soft customer management skills with analytical approaches such as Six Sigma produced dramatic results for chefs in Las Vegas.

Six Sigma is a quality management philosophy with a set of methods and techniques that aims to eliminate defects in products by reducing process variability. GE and Motorola are the pioneers of this approach that goes back to Japanese idea of Kaizen (continuous improvement) of processes.

Monday, October 30, 2006

My trip to Edinburgh and beyond...

I have recently visited the lovely city of Edinburgh that was long due. Scotland is a pretty country. The nature beyond the city made me excited, especially the Braan River and the Hermitage forest area was so impressive. I also had the chance to visit a few small towns in the Perthshire. These looked almost abandoned by 5 pm, which gave me an eerie feeling.

The city looked beautiful from its ages-old castle. Here is a photo just after a downpour. The green colors mingled with the fall reds, yellows and browns created a perfect composition, which cannot be found in any painter's canvas.

The second photo shows myself with the Braan river. It was flowing wildly. The water was crisp and muddy. The atmosphere was fresh and I had the chance to fill my lungs with the much needed oxygen. London sometimes consumes the air too fast as the need to go outside of the city becomes inevitable.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I am back!

I am back to blogging. After almost a year, I am back to putting some words onto my blog. I am welcoming myself warmly.

Months have passed quickly and I did visit different countries for various reasons.

I will discuss some of the take-aways of these visits.

So, be ready to embark on unexpected journeys.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

How the Web is changing us

This article by Kevin Kelly is eye-opening. It talks about what happened to the web in 10 years' time, from 1995-2005 and how it may evolve in the future.

It is evocative, thought-provoking cornucopia of ideas.

Read it, think it. Loved every bit of it...

A New Book--Interesting Ideas

I just have read the book titled, Everything Bad is Good for You, by Steven Johnson. His main argument is that popular culture with its TV series, such as Seinfeld, The Simpsons, ER; video games like The Sims, Age of Empires etc., the ubiquitous and more creative use of Web, SMS, blogs, IMS, in fact enhance the thinking and life-management skills of people from all ages.

His argument is compelling with illustrative examples from the past and the present. Yet, there may be counter-arguments whether we need to be multi-tasking all the time with so many interruptions that preclude a deep understanding of issues, conversations, interactions with other fellow human beings.

In the end, he suggests that the popular culture is adding valuable points to the ever-increasing demands of today's life. On the other hand, old-school habits like regular reading --fiction, non-fiction-- should not be abandoned, yet complemented with the technology's mind stretching gadgets. This is true and should have been more emphasized rather than getting a little attention.

Overall, an interesting perspective into today's popular culture society and its rather positive influence on our lives on earth.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Creative Thinker

Here is a list of creative thinker's characteristics, from the book "Are We Creative Yet?", Du Pont Employees, 1990.
  1. Has an absolute discontent with the status quo; stirs things up.
  2. Is never satisfied with the first solution to a problem; seeks better alternatives.
  3. Explores people, places and things outside own environment for leads to something new.
  4. Has constructive attitude in problem-solving; turns negative into positive.
  5. Knows when he/she has a good idea and ‘warriors’ for it.
  6. Works hard, has an intense interest in what he/she is doing.
Do you agree with these characteristics? How so? Please send your comments.

Creativity and Production of New Ideas

Centuries ago, Descartes stated that, “I think, therefore I am”. Thinking was the main action no matter there is an end purpose or not. In today’s world, we should better say, “I think, therefore I do”. Doing is more critical than thinking. Once you do something useful, then it is a clear manifestation of your creative thinking. You constructed something. You may have designed a new method.

When we talk about creativity, we need to take a pragmatic approach and ask ourselves whether in the end of the creative process, a new design comes out. Creativity is thus intimately connected to designing and constructing rather than analyzing what is already there.

In the previous blog, I began to describe random word technique. Here, I will provide a different description to clarify possible doubts. This technique is also called provocation. Any random word can be used as a provocation tool to change the flow in the pattern. This will force the pattern to switch to other patterns and therefore form new flows around or across patterns. Rain falling onto the soil and changing the topology of the soil is quite engaging. We can state that the speed, size, quantity of rain matters in these formations. It is a physical change in the surface. Using this analogy, one can clearly say that, how the new information enters the mind, its speed, its sequence, its quantity all matter in the formation of the patterns. Hence, by manipulating these parameters, we can expect to trigger differences in the patterns. Then, the question is: What is the optimal design of information entry process into the brain? How can we devise rules, tools so that patterns formed could be easily used in the future to generate innovative ideas? I think, this part of the problem is still not answered.

We can think about how to design these tools. Is there a process that highly creative people use to acquire information? What is the most effective process to acquire different types of information? How does the acquisition of specialized information differ than the general information? What is the impact of using different contexts in this process? What is the optimal bundle of contexts (Books, magazines, journals, TV, courses) that will be most beneficial for a person while retrieving and using the information?

Of course, obtaining information is necessary but not sufficient to be creative. Information needs to be turned into knowledge, which is actionable. How do you change information into knowledge? This is via the process what I call learning. To learn is to have actionable knowledge. Knowledge that you can use design, construct the future. Then, you can claim that you learned. Information assimilation is not learning due to its ephemeral feature.

On the other hand, when we observe the schools and how subjects are being taught, we see a cemetery of information. Children are bombarded with information all the time. They are asked to assimilate this information. Unless the information creates strong patterns in the brain, then this information will be useless in the future. It was not transformed into knowledge.

Real learning can also occur when you strive to explore something that does not exist. Scientists create hypotheses about the phenomena they want to study. Then, these hypotheses are tested with tools and techniques of their specific area. They may be refuted or accepted. Even if they may be accepted, there is always a chance to improve the current state of thinking on any topic. Therefore, science does not stop. The finish line is infinity.

All in all, learning is process that is intimately connected to creativity and thinking.

Thinkers learn all the time while creating new knowledge from existing information by making interesting, unexpected connections between fields, approaches, methods, and techniques.

The more effective the thinking, the better that person in learning, and the more effective that person can design the future by new ideas, innovations.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Thinking for the New Millennium

If you have always thought in the same way as you did before, you would probably end up with the same or similar set of solutions. Digging deep on the same surface to mine gold may not be a useful strategy when there are chances of finding gold around different locations if you dare to look and examine.

Most of the time, people are complacent to move away from the established norms and standards. Yet, this strategy is very weak to produce new ideas, models, concepts that may actually help us move forward. This default method can be regarded as analyzing the current problem deeply with the given tools without ever considering designing new models. This second method --designing new models-- necessarily requires abandoning the rusty, old-style thinking, which we name logical, mathematical thinking. In the logical, mathematical thinking, you follow certain steps sequentially to be able to reach solutions. However, the uncertainties in life is so paramount that there is little probability that known methods even can yield feasible solutions!

In the age of dynamic uncertainty, new thinking, design thinking needs to be taught and used. We have to think about how we can design an idea, model, concept, tool, technique from scratch. We need to begin with clean slate. Design thinking can be the most critical survival skill anybody needs in the new millennium. Noone is immune to the abrupt changes. It becomes very difficult to foresee the upcoming changes. We live in world of funk according to two Swedish academic-turned-to-be-gurus, --Dr Ridderstrale and Dr Nordstrom--. Their interesting book --Funky Business-- is an innovative approach to today's battle of brains. I will talk about their arguments in the book in future essays. In short, I claim that learning to think as if you are designing is a necessary skill to become successful in this funky world.

This skill can be taught by using different methods. One significant method area comes from lateral thinking. Dr Edward de Bono coined the term --lateral thinking--in the late 60s and right now this term became a part of the cognition/thinking jargon. Instead of thinking vertically, i.e., deeply on one approach, we need to move horizontally across patterns of the brain. This is the main idea behind lateral thinking.

The brain, described as a self-organizing and maximizing system, works according to previously established patterns. However, these patterns may not always result in creative, let alone useful solutions in this changing world. So, what is required is to leave the patterns in different positions and locations in order to jump towards other irrelevant patterns. These so-called irrelevant patterns may prove to be very useful as they allow us to make connections across unrelated concepts, ideas, models. For example, random word method is highly effective to break away the pattern and jump to other patterns, thereby forming connections. Once we force our brains to connect unrelated ideas, concepts, with a trigger of certain words, surprisingly connections appear in subtle and innovative ways.

While using such random words, we may also enter a pattern from a totally different location as opposed to the usual entry point. This entrance may lead us towards an insightful solution. Because, self-organized patterns may have different directions for idea flows depending on the specific entry location. Hence, we may understand a complicated phenomenon by creating an unusual, counter-intuitive insight, just by entering through a different location. This entrance cannot be left to happen by itself. It can be done deliberately. So, random word entry is just one of accomplishing this task. And we see that, these cretive insights usually occur when the brain is in a relaxed condition or performing completely different tasks. This sudden phenomenon is also called the "Aha Effect". There is in fact a close connection between "Ha-Ha" and "AHa" effects. This brings the importance of humour and jokes that always breaks established patterns and moves along different directions and connects the unrelated. Maybe we need to design our teaching of subjects using humour more extensively and strategically. As the story goes: Archimedes has obtained his great insight on the floating of matter while he was taking bath in a bathhouse (Turkish hamam). His Aha moment occurred all of a sudden at that point that made him shout "Eureka!" and causing him to leave the bathhouse naked. Isaac Newton grasped the essence of gravity by feeling an apple on his head.

If these great thinkers of their time did not form any thinking patterns beforehand for their topics of study, by logical/mathematical thinking, they would never get the insights. "Favor always favors the prepared mind," is a true statement by Pasteur. In that sense, lateral thinking needs to be coupled with logical/mathematical thinking while attacking a problem or designing creative ideas, concepts, methods. Both are necessary by themselves, yet not sufficient unless they are used together in the thinking process.

We owe gratitude to Dr Edward de Bono for his ground-breaking research and books on lateral thinking and creativity. For further information, please visit his official site here.

I welcome your comments on how to approach thinking for the new millennium...

Costly Product Recalls

Dell on Friday recalled approximately 35,000 batteries in several laptop models, saying that the faulty units could overheat and start fires.

The bad batteries were sold from Oct. 5, 2004, through Oct. 13, 2005, said Dell, which issued the recall in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The batteries were sold separately or included with a wide swath of Dell's Latitude and Inspiron laptop lines, ranging from the Inspiron 600m and XPS Gen 2 to the Latitude D410 and D810.

The Round Rock, Tex.-based computer maker said it had three reports of batteries overheating, with subsequent fires causing minor damage to tabletops, desktops, and other personal effects. No one has been injured by hot laptops or the fires they caused, Dell added.

Users can check to see if their Latitude or Inspiron notebook's battery is on the recall list by calling Dell or visiting its Web site. Free replacements will be shipped to users with affected batteries.

The warning affects about 22,000 Dell users in the U.S., far fewer than the nearly one million faulty power adaptors recalled last October.

The Wisdom of Crowds...

Here is what Management guru Tom Peters said in a recent writing:
LOVE IT! Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica are about equally accurate when it comes to science articles, John Paczkowski says in an article in Good Morning Silicon Valley. "A study published in the journal Nature Wednesday [12.14] found that in a random sample of 42 science entries, the collaborative encyclopedia averaged four inaccuracies to Britannica's three. 'Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each encyclopedia,' reported Nature. 'But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions or misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively.'"..."

In my opinion, this is the ultimate success of open source production/distribution and the wisdom of unrelated crowds with a definite purpose in mind. Give the humanity to develop/edit/publish work, they will do it much better than book/journal/magazine publishers who are run by a few human brains.

It is also reported that the editing happens for Wikipedia in just few seconds for ongoing, hot topics. Even this process quickens in case there are also a few controversial ideas on the table.

In the meantime, you can take a look at the highly interesting book whose title I have borrowed for this blog entry, "The Wisdom of Crowds". There, New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki explores the collective forecasting capability of a group of people, compares it with one-man shows, and shows its benefits.

King Kong and Peter Jackson...

I really admire Peter Jackson for his creative endeavors. The last piece in his creative chain turned out to be joyful movie ride, which is awaited "King Kong". Just go and see it. It is 3 hrs long journey.

My take-away from this movie and its director is as follows: If one is sufficiently patient and hard-working to create a product of great value, then benefits earned could be just great! His trilogy --Lord of the Rings-- made millions around the world. That was a huge bet, which won the hearts of some and the minds of others. His clever thinking to find untapped talent in his home country, New Zealand worked so well that NZ is soon to become the second Hollywood open air studio. There is one critical difference. The film sets are in most natural settings of a gorgeous, lonely island in the middle of the Pacific.

New Zealanders get the point of differentation and uniqueness to create lasting value very quickly. Well done! To compete in this "brave new world", they need to be able to develop creative talent. And they do it with full force. I think that we will be seeing more and more films being shot in NZ settings in the coming years. Added benefits accrue from the smart government policies that provide tax cuts to the production companies. This idea is still used by Czech Republic that aims to bring film makers to Prague.

So, I salute NZers and their great director. They understand the talent war for creativity very well. They use it to their advantage. The products being developed are in the market to be experienced by millions.

People want to feel a variety of unique experiences in this new world. Entertainment industry will make money as it sharpens the knives of creativity. I am happy to see different regions and locations of this small planet that develop original competencies. One of them is the film industry and its suppliers and there it is, New Zealand.

Finally, one should thank Peter Jackson to bring out the love affair so deeply between the Kong and the Naomi Watts to a level that may bring tears in your eyes. How does it happen? How is this possible? It is quite possible. Just combine creative talent that is composed of diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds with open-minded directors/producers that are ready to use the cutting-edge film technology together with the natural atmosphere. In the end, what you get is a beautiful product that can be appreciated for decades...

Thank you Peter Jackson! Thank you King Kong!

Ideas Rule!

This blog is a new beginning for me to improve myself and develop my thinking on cool, creative ideas that have an arbitrage opportunity in the future. I define "Idea Arbitrage" as the ideas that generate or may generate new business, investment at any time in the future. This possibility has to be clearly defined and then explored fully. In almost every blog I will create here will have an idea, thought that may be useful somewhat for someone. Therefore, it will surely refer to books, web sites, other thinkers, doers, gurus, experts, geeks, nerds, quasi-experts in different fields. Overall concept will be on how to think more effectively to be able to create insightful knowledge. We will observe the process as it enfolds.

As a fresh beginning, I would like to quote the great thinker Dr Edward de Bono, he states that: "Understanding is thinking." Just ponder on this sentence. Contemplate a few minutes. To really understand something is actual thinking. Without actual thinking skills, one cannot claim that he fully understands a particular topic. Therefore, learning how to think is so crucial action that cannot be taken lightly.

Every individual is responsible for his/her thinking in life. The quality of thinking determines the quality of understanding, which determines the quality of producing further ideas. So, we need to take an immediate responsibility to gain and improve our impoverished thinking skills. Improverished, because we were bombarded with useless information and tonnes of data during our gigantic teaching years. It will be a lot of work to remove the bad habits of non-thinking. Then, we can begin afresh to obtain the necessary thinking skills.

All in all, the blog's first articles will focus on thinking and its importance in 21st century, a century of bold, brave, cool ideas that rule the world from one end to the other. Think Apple, think Steve Jobs. Think IPod.

Ideas ruled the world. Ideas will rule the world. Therefore, my invitation is to create idea arbitrages across cultures, technologies, sciences, communities, people, locations etc. Unless one can earn a sustainable and defendable idea arbitrage, one cannot guarantee a life of success and intellectual development, thus impact on society at large.

Let us together create idea arbitrages dynamically. As water flows and rain drops on soil, our goal is to move towards being more creative. So, let us create, abolish, recreate, recreate innovative ideas that will help people become happier, more peaceful on earth. That is the exactly what creates wealth and growth.