Know Everything!

stock-vector-jack-king-queen-of-spades-vector-28951519When I was doing my undergraduate I was used to be regularly questioned by my friends on my interests in information technologies being a Chemical Engineer. I used to reply back stating that I am trying to find a link between the two. Though at that time my interests were not really based on what I claimed, I found my job requiring skills in both the areas and hence helping me perform better.

Today I find knowledge of ‘finance’, ‘history’, ‘psychology’ and ‘economics’ are essential to move up. Many technical people want to stay focused in their areas of interest which are mostly very narrow and expect to gain expertise in that field. But the whole idea can be challenged. Lack of knowledge in subject areas which seem totally unrelated can be a hurdle to professional growth even on technical areas of focus.

Knowledge of ‘history’ and ‘culture’ is very important to understand why your counterpart in an overseas affiliate behaves differently, knowledge of ‘finance’ is very essential to understand why and how top management decisions are made, knowing ‘psychology’ can help handle your sub ordinates better. Applying technical judgments in business world will fail miserably. Many technical people feel decisions are forced upon them because they fail to understand business needs and in a globalized environment they feel deserted when they fail to understand the history, culture and psychology of their colleagues.

Even technically many people want to ‘focus’ their expertise only on certain technical areas. Either they consider other areas not as challenging as their areas of expertise or they feel even their focus area is too much for their lifetime. And even to reason this behavior, knowledge of Indian culture and psychology is important. In Indian society ‘engineering’ enjoys higher status as compared to basic sciences, literature… And if you apply some ‘statistics’ you will find that this is purely linked to the higher average pay engineering graduates enjoy. Whether the JOBS really do any ‘engineering’ is a BIG QUESTION! I personally felt science more challenging and difficult than engineering. And today when I read the ‘history’ of ‘science’ itself it is difficult to make judgments on the validity of engineering we are doing now which are again based on science.

From childhood this idea has been drummed into us again and again: stay focused, jack of all trade makes king of none etc.. It might be true if our objectives are broader considering our lifespan on earth. Pathetically these objectives are too narrow or too ‘technical’ that it prevents achieve these objectives. Most of the seemingly unrelated subjects are highly correlated and technologies have very small lifespan. Hence to be successful it is essential to ‘KNOW EVRYTHING’

Note: The word ‘technical’ is not used with the right meaning in this blog. Even I was stamped non-technical by few people. To them technical is IT and rest of the world is non-technical 🙂

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The Power of ‘Charm’

“But charm is more valuable than beauty. You can resist beauty, but you can’t resist charm.” – Irene (Hors De Prix)

Very powerful is ‘charm’ that it tends to bias people against rational decisions. Throughout history men who were charming got more public recognition and rewards than men who really performed. And charm is not beauty, only charm can make popular a person as weird as Einstein. Though Niels Bohr had more results to his credit, he is no way near Einstein in popularity. Successes of many such people including Rajinikanth  (Tamil Actor) cannot be attributed to anything but charm.

This irrational bias can be attributed to the Theory of Thin Slices as explained by Malcolm Gladwell in his book ‘Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking’. In his book he claims most of the decisions taken by humans are in the time period of ‘Blink of an Eye’ without applying conscious judgment. This sort of decisions he claims tend to be more successful than conscious decisions except for cases where people fall to ‘charm’.

Though every human claims that at the conscious level they treat all equally, there exists an implicit bias that tend to provide unconscious favor to people who are more charming.

‘Charm’ provides an advantage in cases where decisions are to be made in short span of time. That is why the leaders who are selected to represent political parties for President or Prime Minister are the not the ones who are really capable political administrators. They are the ones who the people find ‘Charming’ enough to vote.

How many times we have heard of, seen to ourselves, people getting selected in interviews may not be as good as their competitors. I feel the ‘Charm’ effect provides this advantage. However the beneficiary has to be beware, while ‘Charm’ can help getting through and interview only performance in the long term will help sustainability.

‘Charm’ is definitely powerful.

Note: The Book ‘Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell’ does not make any references to ‘Charm’ and is not a reference to view points mentioned in this blog. The ideas mentioned in this blog are purely my views and inferences made from other sources such as this book. No proper research has been done by the author and no claim has been made for the correctness of views mentioned above.

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Analysis Paralysis

I was wondering how helpful is ‘blinking’ (http://blog.shankarananth.com/?p=208) a few weeks back. Now when I have take crucial decisions I really find value to blinking. Too many facts and figures are only confusing as much as not allowing to take a decision at all. I wonder about the equilibrium that exists in this universe that does not give a distinct advantage to a particular option for final decision. This phenomenon can be explained mathematically too. When the degrees of freedom are positive we try to arrive at best possible solutions. However when the degrees of freedom is negative (too many information) it only leads to finding which of the available information is faulty (data reconciliation). Thinking at the next level makes it too philosophical and leads to rethink the validity of known facts.

Follow your heart, they mean much more than facts and figures.

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Blink!

If you rewind life’s experiences you would note that most decisions are made at minimal time rather than planned and informed decision. While some attribute it to luck and some to experience Malcolm Gladwell attributes it to what he calls ‘Thin Slicing’: our ability to gauge what is really important from a very narrow period of experience. In other words, spontaneous decisions are often as good as—or even better than—carefully planned and considered ones.

Gladwell also mentions that sometimes having too much information can interfere with the accuracy of a judgment, or a doctor’s diagnosis. This is commonly called "Analysis paralysis." The challenge is to sift through and focus on only the most critical information to make a decision. The other information may be irrelevant and confusing to the decision maker. Collecting more and more information, in most cases, just reinforces our judgment but does not help to make it more accurate. The collection of information is commonly interpreted as confirming a person’s initial belief or bias. Gladwell explains that better judgments can be executed from simplicity and frugality of information, rather than the more common belief that greater information about a patient is proportional to an improved diagnosis. If the big picture is clear enough to decide, then decide from the big picture without using a magnifying glass.

Gladwell tells the story of a firefighter in Cleveland who answered a routine call with his men. It was in a kitchen in the back of a one-story house in a residential neighborhood. The firefighters broke down the door, laid down their hose, and began dousing the fire with water. It should have abated, but it did not. As the fire lieutenant recalls, he suddenly thought to himself, "There’s something wrong here," and he immediately ordered his men out. Moments after they fled, the floor they had been standing on collapsed. The fire had been in the basement, not the kitchen as it appeared. When asked how he knew to get out, the fireman thought it was ESP. What is interesting to Gladwell is that the fireman could not immediately explain how he knew to get out. From what Gladwell calls "the locked box" in our brains, our fireman just "blinked" and made the right decision. In fact, if the fireman had deliberated on the facts he was seeing, he would have likely lost his life and the lives of his men.

How many times in our life have we made judgments just in a matter of a sec. Unless they go wrong we never put our minds into what made us take the decision while we would have had no prior information on the subject of judgment. To say ‘blinking’ is as good or better, my life experience is too small. Have to wait.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blink_(book)

http://www.gladwell.com/blink/index.html

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