Friday, December 07, 2007

And we all made our choices...

Choice - that taken-for-granted option that is the birth-right of today's generation can be a pain in the ass sometimes.

Was a time when we didn't have much of a choice. We read what book we could lay our hands on, we watched whatever movie was playing at the local theatre, and we tuned into whatever channel was offered on the radio. And this was not really that much into the past, I maybe old, I'm not THAT old. But today - you dont need to lay your hands on any book - you have stores on end stacking them, you have unlimited choice online and whether you go looking for one or not there is a good chance one will come your way and bump you on the head. Movies - there for the asking - the plethora of multiplexes, dvd rental stores and ofcourse all the online stuff. Same goes for the music.

I'll not get into those examples. There are many more examples I could give but they are too complicated and best analysed by the web pundits of today. I'll stick to an example which is closer to my understanding. I am at a multiplex standing in line for a ticket (I can hear the sniggering "use the online booking dummy" - I do many times, only this time for the example I stand in line). I need tickets for the current show which is going to be starting sometime soon. I am maybe a couple of people away from the window when I notice that the guy at the window is taking a little longer than usual. I look and see that he is in deep discussion with the ticket-giving person. They both have their eyes scanning the monitor studying a seating plan which is staring back at them.

You see in my day, which was not so long ago in the past, we really didnt have a choice. When it came to your turn at the window, you stuck in your money, asked for the required number of tickets, and walked away with the tickets the ticket-giving person stuck in your hand. And these tickets already had the seat numbers scribbled on them. So you didnt really get to choose your seat. No choice. No delay. A simple in and out.

So getting back to our friend at the window and the ticket-giving person - they were now discussing viewing angles and reclining comfort as a function of the distance of any given seat from the screen. That having been put behind them, they moved on to weighing the trade-offs on choosing an aisle seat in the middle of the hall vis-a-vis a corner seat further down - viewing distance and reflection losses figuring in the discussion. An explanation on the different pricing followed with a short commentary on the state of the economy and its impact on multiplex box-office collections. By this time my movie was getting all warmed up and the show, as we say, was about to begin. I looked around and the others in the line didnt seem too concerned - they were deep in conversation with their others and so I casually glanced around and hummed and hawed a bit. Internally, I was yanking the guy at the window away from his post, reaching in for the tickets and ripping them off after shoving in the money for them. But no - that couldnt happen here. Choice - you could choose your seat, and take your time doing it. For mine is the right to choose, and choose I shall, and take my time doing it.

Finally they seemed to arrive at the optimum seats, spent a few more minutes deciding what the title of their elaborate thesis should be, and parted ways. By now my movie had reached the interval, so I just bought tickets for the next available show. And it wasnt necessarily the movie I had wanted to see.

So much for choice.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

If you dont like your veggies - play them!

Check out this amazing orchestra - all green, all veggie, and all - well - you figure that out. But all in all, it sure is different.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Strategy or What?

Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France, master of strategy and conqueror of most of Europe sure knew how to freak the enemy. He didn't rely so much on brilliant innovation while strategizing, rather he spent time studying the innovations of others and then thought about how it could be reused in the present context. He relied on flashes of insight to tell him what to do. When he first set out to conquer with a badly impoverished army from southern France, he goaded them saying that there was wealth to be had out there in the world and that they should go and get it. He advanced into Italy, and the Italian and Austrian generals identified Turin and Milan as strategic objectives. The Italian army spread out to defend Turin, and the Austrian army fanned out to defend Milan. Napoleon headed towards neither and went in between them. This confused the hell out of the Italian army which sent out troops looking for him, which allowed him to pick them off at his leisure at various points that were advantageous to him. He then headed not towards the Austrians defending Milan, but towards Austria. This panicked the Austrians who then set off in pursuit to defend their country. Napoleon picked a town along the way, set up in the middle of the town and allowed his artilery and then the infantry to take out the Austrian army on the bridge leading into the town.

This concept of finding the right thing to do at the right time came to be known as "Napoleon's Glance" - as recorded in a work On War by Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian, who ended up fighting on the losing side in many battles with Napoleon. He went away and pondered over twenty years on the genius of Napoleon and what made him tick, and came up with the concept of the coup d'oeil, meaning a stroke of the eye, or glance.

The source for this is the book, Napoleon's Glance by William Duggan.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Mass collaboration changes everything! Or does it?

For a treatment on this subject you could read Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams.

Openness, Peering, Sharing and Going Global: these concepts are dealt with in the book covering a wide range of examples from a mining company that opened up its internal data to the world to get people around the world to come up with locations where they could mine to the well known ongoing Linux collaborative effort. Do organizations still need to follow the strict closed door approach to innovation and research or would it make sense to throw open the doors and allow the collective mind to go to work for them. Is the wiki workplace really what we are heading towards? Peering, a marketplace for ideas, the Prosumer, collaborative research, common platforms for innovation, and above all, the collaborative mind making for a new world. Is this really the direction that we need to go in?

An interesting read.