Posts Tagged ‘Wall Street Journal’

Bangladesh, Kahneman, and Browsers

May 2, 2013
Daniel Kahneman

Daniel Kahneman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Random notes make yet another appearance on TPS Planet today. Today’s excuse? My System 2 is a little overloaded after a week of deep procurement thought. Guess what I’m currently reading…

  • Looks like Bangladesh has deeper problems than poorly constructed buildings…and that’s not to underestimate the building problem. Prime Minister Hasina of Bangladesh embarrassed herself on Amanpour Thursday evening.
  • Just found out that Kahneman and Nassim Taleb are friends (or at least outwardly friendly). This revelation gives me a warm glow inside…I feel my own cognitive dissonance slowly melting away as two of my favorite intellectuals have found some common ground.
  • Currently powering my way through Thinking, Fast and Slow by Kahneman. There are so many good parts that it is hard to randomly choose one, but when has randomness ever stood in the way of fairness, right?! During his discussion of people that are seemingly dominated by System 1 (rapid, but often inaccurate) thinking, I couldn’t help but recall dinner conversations in which I became bored beyond belief as System 1 cannons made the air murky with their dark smoke.
  • Jon Stewart may be the funniest man of our current generation. He has proven that generating a laugh at the expense of one’s opponents is approximately 30 times (trust me…I’m a stats guy!) more effective than giving a lecture. 85% of all statistics are invented on the spot anyway.
  • Firefox is attempting to do the near impossible – i.e. make me switch browsers. A couple years ago, a few reports that Safari was insecure (teenagers can be so cruel), led me to hop on the Mozilla wagon train. Now, even though I have allowed cookies in my Firefox preferences, I’m blocked from, among other things, reading my favorite right-wing propaganda business news in the Wall Street Journal.

Have a great weekend, and for heaven’s sake, leave a comment. There are enough of you out there that I should be getting more than the occasional spam bot trying to sell knock-off Nike’s.


Quick thoughts and links

May 30, 2012

English: This is a photograph from the assortm...

Taking the lazy way out, here are some links that I found educational. And a couple snarky comments thrown in at no charge.

  • My man Nassim Taleb gets angry with a Bloomberg article. And check out commentary here. Taleb is a sensitive guy, and a bit extreme in his views, but he’s still the man. Even if he was taken out of context, I think his point about the US deficit putting us at risk is an important point, even if I want no parts of the political debate  here on the TPS report.
  • WSJ reports on a Booz-Allen study that says that CEO’s hired from within last longer and do better for shareholders. I think there is something to be said for an insider being better positioned to gain support for change. He/she knows who the power brokers are. Plus, it unmasks the prima donna effect – it takes a team and a leader that makes it more about the team than about himself/herself. Having said that, this is a good example of rationalizing after the fact.
  • Taleb talks about the danger of centralization…kinda goes along with the point raised by the TPS report the other day regarding not being able to rationally plan or centrally dictate a “complex” entity such as an economy.
  • Who’s going to win the mobile ads race? I’ve got one idea on how, but clearly, the crowd will make a solid decision.
  • Jeff Haden weighs in on business cliches. He hits home on a couple, and draws a couple shoulder shrugs. Implicit in number 6, “transparency” is a solid message. Leaders that are not upfront or try to hide real motivations are quickly discovered. “Pulling levers” is as ineffective as it is demotivating. On the other hand, face-to-face “telling it like it is” builds trust.
  • Google building Nexus 7 tablet. I’m still happy in my iWorld. Our ability to come up with ways of locking others in has outpaced our rational decision-making.
  • Jason Busch provides some praise for Ariba’s business decisions leading up to its acquisition by SAP.

A rigid, step-by-step guide to creativity

March 10, 2012

curse of knowledge

Irony is a good time, although sadly, there are people out there that live by what’s in the title even if not immediately recognizing that that is, what in fact, they are doing.

John Lehrer wrote a nice piece on how to be creative. Check it out here (with WSJ subscription).

We’ll start with the bad part of the piece, which is generally overshadowed by all the good.

  • He is slightly ‘fooled by randomness’ (see Taleb, book by the same title). He talks about knowing when to relax your mind versus knowing when to keep struggling toward the answer. The only problem is that you can’t know how close you are until after the fact…huge reliance on hindsight bias here.
  • His ten tips at the end are pulled out of nowhere, and take away from all the good work he does describing the research earlier in the piece.

Now on to the good:

  • His main thrust is that creativity comes from connecting things that were previously thought to be separate disciplines. Basically, creativity is not about coming up with something completely new, but rather connecting things that already exist in new ways.
  • He talks about having knowledge in many areas. Working in one discipline all the time tends to restrict one’s knowledge to accepted wisdom in that field. If better application of conventional knowledge could produce great results, we would have already found them. He references Innocentive, which is one of my favorite innovations in itself. It involves using crowdsourcing to solve problems that people blinded by their knowledge of only one field can’t solve.
  • He reinforces the notion that relaxing the brain and stepping away from a problem can be what is needed to solve something particularly difficult. Google has ping pong tables and other methods of relaxation as part of its company culture. I have seen cultures where this sort of thing would never happen…employees must work like machines for 8 hours, then go home to have any fun. Attempts at doing anything different, if not controlled from the top, are subjected to scrutiny. Ultimately, people don’t even bother asking. These cultures occur in companies slightly less successful than Google. My best problem solving, and other types of creativity come when I am going for a run. Just need to figure out a way to capture notes while on the treadmill…

The bad news is that your work environment may not be conducive to creativity. The good news is that if you think about this stuff when it is your chance to lead, you’ll stand out.

Google cloud storage

February 13, 2012

All Google all the time lately on the TPS report. It won’t always be this way, but felt I had to pass along the news.

Google is set to launch a cloud storage service that will compete with Dropbox and other similar services.

Image representing Dropbox as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

The WSJ report declares that the service will be fairly cheap for relatively large amounts of storage.

Dropbox is an outstanding service, and the price for up to 100GB is not bad ($19.99 a month). Given the amount of photos and videos that Mrs. TPS report takes, we may need every last GB. Let’s hope a little more competition brings the price down even further.

Hasso Plattner – CEO of the year?

January 27, 2012
Deutsch: Joachim Gauck im Hasso-Plattner-Institut

Image via Wikipedia

Ok, it’s early, but people like awards and lists, right? In fact, I think that is the next feature of the TPS report. I’ll put up a poll with my favorite CEO’s and let TPS planet decide the winner. This promise is based on two factors: a) I remember and b) my wife does not go into labor.

In an effort to out-flank bureaucracy and group-think, Hasso Plattner, CEO of SAP, has done something radical. What, you ask, did he do? He created a mini R&D department full of 20-somethings, and sidelined his current group of engineers. These irreverents are knee deep in a project to provide CEO’s with quicker, more complete delusions of grandeur  management information. For more, check out the WSJ article here with subscription or others below.

For this, regardless of outcome, Hasso hops into the competition for CEO of the year. He could have locked up the award by employing a crowdsourcing model, but I understand the challenges involved here.

Plattner further proves that it is not about age (he’s 68), but rather, an understanding of how the human mind works.

Rethinking our conceptions of work

January 22, 2012

This is the first blog post that I have written with my new iPad 2. For both of you without one, it’s pretty sweet.

Had to pass along a blog in the Wall Street Journal that takes a look at what it means to move toward an adult conception of work. You will need a subscription, but for those that have one, check it out here.

I also recently learned what the Republican candidates for president stand for, instead of just relying on what I remember from when I hadn’t completely lost hope in politics. My conclusion: a TPS planet-led write-in campaign for a certain smart-aleck blogger.

Smart-aleck? Hey, it’s a family blog – i.e. there is at least one family’s worth of viewers every day.

Regulation and leadership is not about explaining the rules

December 4, 2011

I wasn’t going to write tonight. Really wasn’t. Then, I read this article in the Wall Street Journal. If you don’t have a subscription, I’d suggest buying one just for articles like this.

It talks about the state of regulation. If we could only regulate everything, then bubbles and crashes wouldn’t happen, right? This view is conventional wisdom, which means it has a very good chance of not being correct. Which it isn’t.

I was recently told that we needed to send letters with certain wording before engaging candidates for an interview. Otherwise, I could inadvertently offer employment to someone to whom I had clearly not offered employment.  I suspect that this is not true. If it is true, then can we just stop it?

One could (almost) be forgiven for mistaking leadership with caution regarding compliance with relevant regulations. I’ve seen it happen. Leadership can be overly proscriptive, thus leading to a decline in personal responsibility. Thus leading to worse outcomes. What makes us think that overly proscriptive regulation might not have the same effect?

We can’t imagine every scenario for the people that report to us. The ‘principles’ that we teach won’t apply in every situation, especially regarding client requests. The temptation will be to massage the principles to include what we are currently thinking at a given point in time.

Brains are squishy and difficult to fit into templates. Encouraging good judgement works wonders even when we don’t agree with every decision. Why would those principles not apply when it comes to regulation?

Instead of tweaking words, let’s hold people (including the regulators themselves) accountable. Agreed?

Google to buy Yahoo!

October 24, 2011

Absolutely irrelevant, but cool nonetheless. Image via Wikipedia

According to Yahoo finance, Google is considering a bid for Yahoo. I have read a few analyses, and there doesn’t seem to be a good reason why Google would want to do this.

I was almost won-over by the idea that Google wants to reduce competition. Thanks WSJ. But then I thought, what competition?

The conclusion here is simple. Google is bored. And they don’t like the financial press writing a story about a potential big deal without being mentioned.

Which German city is on the rise for start-ups?

September 28, 2011
Berlin Hauptbahnhof

If you know what this is, let me know in the comments section. Image via Wikipedia

If you are like me, you are sitting at home pondering which German city produces the most innovative start-ups these days. Well, according to the Wall Street Journal, Berlin is the money play.

My (theoretical) money was on Frankfurt, but that one was not even mentioned in the article.

Either way, it is encouraging to hear that European Venture Capital firms are excited about anything on the Continent these days. With the debt crisis dominating the headlines, its good to see there are still people out there willing to take a chance and make things happen.

Good luck to Earlybird Venture Capital and Ciaran O’Leary (yes, he really is German).

Safety, Off-shore oil rig workers, and game theory

September 15, 2011
080723-N-0780F-002 SOUDA BAY, Crete, Greece (J...

Not the Gulf, but WordPress just made this one so easy! Image via Wikipedia

I was about to drift comfortably off into the Bordeaux vineyards tonight when a story in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention. As they do, the WSJ triumphantly pointed out that off-shore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is back at pre-disaster levels.

Before dwelling too long on whether this development was good or bad news, I turned my attention away from the important issue to a minor detail of the story. Apparently, US regulators are considering giving any worker the power to stop drilling if they suspect that something might be going wrong.

I know what you are thinking…what could possibly go wrong with drilling 3000 feet below the ocean’s surface into highly pressurized rock?! Leaving that aside, let’s consider the options for a worker who suspects something might be going wrong.

Option 1 – The worker suspects something is awry, but says nothing. In this case, there are two possible outcomes:

  • Outcome 1 – Nothing happens. The worker goes back to his cabin, tells himself that the accident was not that close to happening, and never says another word about it – until he’s retired and the next oil spill happens, at which point he clearly remembers telling his superiors of the pending doom.
  • Outcome 2 – The pipe breaks, the oil just won’t seem to do what it’s told, and mayhem ensues. Let’s assume there is no explosion and no one is injured. No one blames the worker, but the CEO is caught taking a vacation and the uproar falls upon her.

Option 2 – the worker reports the problem. Again, the outcomes are twofold:

  • Outcome 1 – Nothing happens. A minor correction is made before the situation gets out of control. The worker is made to look a bit ridiculous for raising such a minor issue rather than just performing a quick fix and getting back to work. Deep down, superiors suspect he may be lazy and just wanted to get a quick break from work. In the meantime, the worker has to go through the hassle of filling out paperwork, being interviewed by compliance personnel, and otherwise disrupting a semi-comfortable existence. Ok, maybe not the last part, but he gets paid enough to put up with the everyday nonsense. But not this nonsense.
  • Outcome 2 – The pipe breaks anyway. The worker noticed the problem when it was already too late. Now, he becomes the center of attention and possibly even the investigation. Ultimately, everyone recognizes that the causes go much deeper than one worker who noticed the problem too late, but the worker is forever associated with the failure.

Which option do you think people normally choose? The scary thing is, we could do the same exercise for anyone at any level.

In game theory, a Nash equilibrium results when each player knows the strategies of the other player(s), and no one can improve their destiny by any unilateral decision they may make. The result is not necessarily good for anyone. Oil rig, meet Nash.

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