The Logical Philosopher

Monday, November 28, 2005

The soundtrack of life

Last week I was on the sitting having a coffee downtown on the sidewalk cafĂ© while listening to some Axwell on my ipod. I was, as Axwell would turn the tables to, “feeling the groove baby”. Watching conversations and actions to a soundtrack gives a total movie experience to the moment. It entertains the mind – like in the movies where you see the actors talking in the next room but the auditory score swelling in the background leading to the scene where Luke discovers his father is actually a sith lord. Sometimes it can be a sweet moment in time.

I watched Kill Bill Vol. 1 this week – it was, to say mildly, a visual and amazing cinematic assault on one’s senses. True to Quentin Tarantino's style it was over the top in blood scenes (almost monty-python-esque when the Black Knight gets his arms chopped off - "tis but a scratch!" x 100). I was fairly disappointed with Pulp Fiction but in his 4th movie the directing and filming was considerably more artistic and fluid than I was expecting. An almost sublime juxtaposition of amine, sub-titles and action.

Translation: It was sweet.

Between my ipod and people watching of late I figured I could make the same Tarantino style of movie (sans blood) by just taking my camera downtown and having a starbucks on the sidewalk. The anxious drivers, talking to themselves; the business men, animatedly engaged with their cell phones; the wandering tourists that get in everyone’s way while not really noticing; the crackhead on the corner doing his dance (to no music) - oh the experience. I could just see Uma Therman doing her thing to the music.

[insert Chariots of fire soundtrack here]

So I sat and pondered my epiphany that maybe, just maybe we all are destined to be directors of our own personal films when we are just people watching. For the price of a song on your ipod and a starbucks on the streetcorner you to can become the director of the show….the soundtrack of life.

Friday, November 25, 2005

No more melancholy moments for you

I was introspective on the bus riding home the other day, so if you want to take the ride with me read on...


Due to a bike accident I was in several months ago, I am still hanging out with physiotherapists, specialists and acupuncturists a few times a week. I unfortunately have to pay them to hang out with them, but it's good company anyways. Every time I go I have to describe how I am and how I have improved since the last visit. Have you ever tried to describe how you are, beyond the usual thinly veiled "how are you" that most people tend to ask? It's frickin' hard! But, the requirement to know has started to help me consciously break my day up and thus, focus on the subtle (or not so subtle) changes in my body. Since my accident I figure I have been asked to describe in detail "how I am" at least 100 times...tedious but necessary.

So I sit and think for a few minutes before each appointment and make my mental list, because I know I''ll be asked. I find that having to answer the question really is like describing a color... you really have to be there to experience it...but with practice you can pick out the visual hues and tones of your emotions and prepare an auditory Picasso for the doctor. How can one do this? Prior to my accident I used to describe the days mood or physical feelings as defined by a few main parts, perhaps morning, afternoon & evening...only a particularly good or bad experience would overshadow the whole day. And people that know will all agree that give me a good coke slurpee and I'd be in a good mood for the day.

But now, forced to actually have to describe "how I am" few times a week to health professionals that really need to know, I've turned to the teachings of my 1 year old daughter to help out. Watching her act in the game of life always provides at least one moment of unbridled laughter at her antics and sounds. She is constantly fluctuating between happy and "pissed off because you took my Arrowroot cookie" moods, both with and equal portion of unabashed wonderment about things like lights in the ceiling, leaves on a tree and dried up pea from last night's dinner stuck in the crack on the floor. To her, almost everything someone does is pure thaumaturgy.

Her aspect of the "perfect day" is segregated into mere minutes (or seconds) as her attention span moves from trying to turn on the nightlight in her room to making a "whoop whoop" sound into a straw that she found somewhere. I've noticed by having such a short attention span an effectively segmenting the day into 1440 minute units (minus 870 for sleep) she is always in a happy mood. I noted the same of our 3 year old, but he is starting to grow out of it as his tolerance for good or bad "experiences" lasts longer in his working memory.

So what's the take-away? What is the 'perfect day' that would keep us all completely ignoring the melancholy moments? It's all in how we narrowly (or broadly) define the segment of time between them.

What makes us respond to "how are you?" in a positive fashion? It's not the perfect bike ride, sunny weather during your lunch break or favorite slurpee but rather the feeling of every experience in the "1 year old child" moment that defines and sets the mood for the rest of the day or week.

Perhaps one should consider (or experiment) on breaking their days up more when considering their experiences. It would be an interesting to see if one found they had more of that unabashed 1 year old happy-about-the-day feeling than the normal stressed out professional worker had. That is, of course, until someone took your Arrowroot cookie. And from a work perspective I wonder of job satisfaction would increase, or managers could use it as more of a motivational tool for your workers. Hmmm, something to try for the staff when I'm back to work....

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The quagmire of the 598

In a perfect world I would be a student forever. Yes, the pay isn’t great but I love the hours, the freedom of choosing my knowledge intake for the semester, compounded by the reality that I get to learn and create cool stuff almost every day. In fact every time, almost without fail, when I go onto campus I get that feeling like it’s Christmas day and there’s a boat load of presents under the tree just waiting for me. I was on campus last week and got that very feeling…tingly all over.

Why are there people like me that actually enjoy grad school? Well consider this - the utopian academic environment is neatly sliced into 13 week segments with at least 3 weeks of holiday before starting all over again. This gives ample free time to hang with friends and other students while consistently indulging in Starbucks in a bohemian style fashion. How cool is that.

However, as we move from student life to professional life, things change. We move to the realization of being gainfully employed by “the man” and actually having to be at work from 9 to 5 every day. No more “cutting work” if we are up too late having a good time and, my personal disappointment, no more hypothetical and esoteric discussions in a clean, quasi-orgasmic intellectual environment on how we would solve the world’s problem of the day. I always enjoyed solving a complex business problem and presenting it in four neat slides to the class – without actually having to implement the plan. In real life the plan’s good, but those details will kill you. Yes, there is a reason I took 18 months longer than the rest of my class to graduate.

And just so you didn’t think I’m the only person dragging out things, I give you with a story of my friend Sandrita. Starting another graduate program similar to mine Sandrita was also required to do a final thesis – but the catch here is that I stated my program 2 years after her and Sandrita had all her coursework done by the time I started, leaving only her thesis to complete.

“Do you know how much your paper is stressing me out?” her father used to say as she would come home on the weekends where a considerable effort was put into her moving her research forward. "Stressing you out? What about me!" was the usual reply.

Yes, she worked full time, but so did I so there was no excuse she could have on me. Four long years later I stand graduated whereas Sandrita, still is no closer to her goal. I also had 2 kids while doing my school, and her none.

So far Logical Philosopher = 2, Sandrita= big fat zero.

The somewhat funny part is that her research paper was (is?) a study on a school program and a few months ago we were discussing that she was in the perfect position to do a longitudinal study on her topic and hit the deadline to defend. “Great,” was her reply “the only issue is that the program has actually closed down!”. Whoops…I guess researching the effectiveness of a program that you know closes down kinda kills the punch-line at your defense. And despite the fact that her advisor actually published an ENTIRE BOOK in the time she has been working on her topic, she still says she will finish it.

So where does this leave me? I graduated this month, after prolonging my thesis 18 months past the finish date of the rest of my classmates. Although I had the excuse of working full time, there were other ulterior motives such as more tax deductions, a free bus pass and the ability to keep doing research on my topic, which I actually enjoyed. However, right now I am on a leave from work for at least another 4 months, and having graduated I find myself caught between the semi-professional and student lifestyle – like the freedom do continue my research but without the financial tenure and prestige of an endowment chair.

So what will I do? Well, blog of course. This is my once in a lifetime sabbatical so I hope you enjoy it. Maybe if I blog enough coherent and innovative thoughts, Sandrita can compile it and do an analysis of them for her thesis.

What do you say Sandrita?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Rotman's beautiful minds


Over the past month the National Post has been profiling several 'beautiful minds' in their search for " Canada's most important public intellectual . They have some interesting people on the list from several aspects of our Canadian roots. Nominated to the list are well known authors such as Naomi Klein, Peter C. Newman, Malcolm Gladwell & Margaret Atwood. Our potential next Prime Minister, Michael Ignatieff, is listed alongside Conrad Black and Preston Manning. And of course what Canadian list would be complete without Don Cherry and Lorne Michaels. I'm honestly surprised with the list given they just didn't throw in Mike Meyers and Wayne Gretzky while they were at it - but that's not the point of my post.

Last year I read an article on Roger Martin, the current Dean of U of T's Rotman School of Management. He was profiled in Toronto Life on his goal of taking Rotman from a directionless school "hemorrhaging cash and staff" that probably wouldn't make a top 50 MBA school list, to be ranked within the top 10 business school worldwide. (See article here). When you think about most business schools it is quite ironic - they aren't run like businesses, even though they supposed to teach business. I remember hearing about the business planning session at the MBA school I attended and it sounded like all the professors were bickering about the direction of the school and how it had to align to their specific research focus. It made it sound like building the school name in the business community and educating the students were unfortunate and necessary by-products of their tenure. But not at U of T - here was Martin, ready to run it like a business which would propel it into the top 10 rankings - and he is half way there. In the past 5 years Rotman has moved from 46th to 21st place in the Financial Times Global MBA Rankings (first in Canada), while other notable Canadian Schools such as Ivey have dropped steadily from 19th to 34th place since 2000. (Source FT.com)

While I have never met him my personal insight on why Martin has been and will continue to be successful can be found in the aforementioned Toronto Life article. Jim Fisher, co-founder of the Canadian Consulting Group where Martin started, noted:

"He did not have a lot of time for people with low aspirations." He sums up his younger counterpart: "Roger has a tremendous impatience with people who aspire to satisfy, rather than beat, the world."

How cool is that.

I have heard from students at Rotman that Martin is a great professor, not because he's taking the school places for everyone but because he is so involved in teaching and in the academic direction of the institution. A core part of the program he helped start is the "integrative thinking" model. The model deconstructs the business decisions of accomplished individuals in various industries, and then turns it into a mental model process:

Integrative Thinking is an approach to problem-solving that views often-imperceptible features as significant to resolution; considers complex cause-and-effect relationships; keeps the 'big picture' in mind, while concentrating on all the elements individually; and refuses to accept trade-offs in the problem's resolution, turning obstacles into opportunities....Instead of taking the world as it is presented to them, integrative thinkers work to shape their context and design creative business solutions.
So where does this leave us? On one hand we've got the National Post's list of beautiful minds which somehow include Cherry and Black, and on the other we've got someone who's noticeably missing from the list. Roger Martin - a Dean poised to be taking Rotman from where most business schools sit to a top 10 international ranking. In doing so he is helping shape the next generation of business students to be equally successful intellects and business "integrative thinkers".

Makes me wonder where the National Post was looking when they picked their candidates.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

No job for you!

Yesterday opinionistas posted a scathing, yet witty, posting entitled "perception", which outlines a story that happened when a sr. partner at her law firm mistook her for the secretary & asks her to make copies and keep the coffee coming. Her witty paraphrased response:

"I would be happy to arrange for a secretary to handle all of this for you, I'm sure one has been assigned to assist you today....in fact, I'll ask my favorite secretary to handle it, who should have some free time today. His name is Richard, I'll be sure to bring him by and introduce you later this afternoon."
I must say O showed restraint beyond what I probably would have done.... While it has (almost) never happened to me it reminds me that you've got to treat everyone the same, no matter their perceived place in life. It amazes me how some people can be aloof and only start to clue in when they realize they just lost out.

I'm sure this guy I met a few months ago still hasn't realized it: I was working on my thesis earlier this year and while I didn't know any of the grad students in the computer lab, I got to know the faces while I pulled a huge long-weekend "write as much as I can" session. One of the students I saw almost every day was in to check email and the job postings as he was obviously very keen to get placed after the program. While sitting there, researching away, I couldn't help overhear him talk excitedly to his friend about this new job posting.

"This is totally up my technical alley...I did this before coming to this town and if I can nail this job, I can stay here. Very good. Very good." he nodded to his friend as he was pointing at the screen and printing off the job posting.

"What's the job requirements?" the other asked. I noticed they were being quiet as not to "disturb" others in the lab. In real life they were hoping nobody else heard there was a new job up. As well I was the only other one in the lab, which made it funnier.

He responded "Well, it's pretty well the same technical field, but they use the technology from Company Z - their XXX product line at the installations. They want someone with who can use these, and it should be easy to do some research on it, figure out how they implement them and put that in my resume".

I looked over and saw, to my amusement, him starting to do considerable research on this XXX product line. Why was this funny? Well because 5 years prior I worked for Company Z and was the main design engineer on the project and received several patents from it. It was safe to say I know how it worked, what features it had and where it was used at the job site he wanted to get in at.

I let him do some reading for a few minutes and then leaned over "What's the new job posting for?". He totally ignored me, even shifted away at the sight of me peering at his "dream" job.

No response so I tried again "Is there a new job posting up?". While keeping his head concentrated on the computer screen I saw his eyes flicker over to me and he mumbled something totally incomprehensible. I guess he didn't want me to get anywhere near his potential job.

This should be fun...A third try sealed the deal when I persisted "Is that Company Z's XXX product?". He shot me one of those "keep your mouth shut" looks and said "yep, kinda busy here if you don't mind." and he went back to his reading.

At this point I was working pretty hard not to start laughing as all I could keep thinking was "what a wanker!". He was looking for information that, within 10 minutes, I could have shared with him to nail his job but he was "kinda busy here" and didn't want to share his potential job posting (which ironically was public for everyone to see). He sat there for 2 or 3 more hours looking over the technical notes for the XXX product, trying to figure out how it worked in the industry and how he could work it into his resume. I noticed he was also looking at the WRONG datasheets for the industry he needed, so anything he found wasn't that applicable to the job...what a wanker.

The really funny part was that for the next 3 or 4 weeks I saw him in the computer lab almost every day looking for a job...about 5 months later I ran into the Co-op coordinator at the university and told him the story. He asked who it was and I described him...his response "yep, some people never learn. In fact, he's one of them and is still looking for a job...".

So, No job for you because you never know who's sitting next to you...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Sex, Blogs & RSS Feeds

A few months Back Mimi in New York wrote an article in Journalism.co.uk on how to promote & sell your blog. As usual she was insightful and offered a well written piece. Her main points included:

  1. Controversy - having some for people to comment on. You want controversy from me? Wait until you hear about my 'noodle experiment' story...
  2. Fain Mail - Reply to your it (good and bad) so they keep coming back. After reading this I will try to avoid using logicalphilosopher@papernapkin.net for all further correspondence. Send me an email and you'll figure it out.
  3. Links - Send out links to both people you may know (or hardly know), while linking to many other blogs. I been thinking of linking to Microsoft and maybe they will do the same.
  4. Anonymity - works for some (Waiterrant, Opionistia, Grumpy Teacher and Clublife) and works well as opposite for others. Not sure where I fit into yet...
  5. Good Writing - That obviously never stopped many a hollywood script writer....Rocky 6 here we come. I have serendipitously come across many well written blogs, but for every good one, there's probably 1000 more that suck. Tucker Max, while funny, fits into that category.
  6. Perseverance - "Is it really a job if it counts as therapy?" I ask.
  7. Do it for the love - yep, you loyal readers can sense writing fear like a fat kid on a smartie. All over it and then *poof*, you're gone.

Mimi has hit on the tops for sure, but a few things she forgot to mention, particularly given the guerilla marketing tactics the new blogging generation is know for.

  1. Suck up to the geek sites - Get mentioned in Gawker or some other syndicated print paper, and *wham*, hits away. Of course, this may lead to the next point:
  2. Get Dooced - yep, sure fire way to get the attention you deserve...as you leave the company with an escort. I'm sure Mark Jen and Ellen Simonetti would probably agree. While I haven't been dooced yet, I came close to it one day but that was before blogs, so not sure what it was called then...
  3. Do some celebrity Hacking - You have to admit, hacking Ashton's Kutcher's phone or Paris Hiltons sidekick probably caused some attention...wanted or not.
  4. Get groupies - This is important to ponder on because bloggers are poised to be the next American Idol pop-stars of the digital generation. Unlike music and the news industry, bloggers trade not in information value, but in thought value. If one can promote thought then discussion and broadcasting just happens.

So, the question is much deeper than you thought - It's not

"Will I sell sex, blogs or rock and roll?", but rather

"How can I sell sex, blogs and RSS Feeds without selling out to the geek sites, getting dooced or put in jail for hacking. Of course, groupies are cool no matter way you look at it."

I hope you didn't notice the logo...oh well, 1 out of 3 ain't bad.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Blink: Book review

As I noted 2 weeks ago I was reading reading Blink: The power of thinking without thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. Overall it was worth the read and it gave some interesting concepts to consider in the area of "rapid cognition".






Intelligence - Did I learn anything?9/10
Content - Well Researched? Well Written?8/10
Context - Can I apply this after reading it?5/10
Overall Rating7.5/10


I would recommend it to anyone that is interested in understanding perceptual biases, how you make decisions and how rapid cognition can work (or not work) to your advantage. Be forewarned that it is a little shallow beyond the stories so it will take some leaps of intellect for the *blink* application of rapid cognition to be used to your benefit.

Overall I thought the book was fairly well done and an easy read. I found his concepts of 'thin slicing' and 'rapid cognition' interesting, mostly due to his story-telling and example based presentation of his research. They made me think (and understand) about some of the decisions I've made or may make based on certain perceptions I may have. It is a definite concept to use when problem solving or digesting complex issues in short periods of time.

The content was well researched and Gladwell tied it together at the end of each chapter (and between some chapters). However, I was fairly disappointed by the lack of context - I was left with the feeling that now aware of my potential to 'thin slice', where *do* I actually apply it? This point comes up because he does note that thin slicing must be done in context, but he doesn't give much depth on how to determine the context. On that point my biggest take-away is you have to be an expert in something to be able to 'thin slice' efficiently and effectively, or you'll probably screw it up or do it out of context (A few of the examples he gave of errors in rapid cognition related to immaturity in the field).

Gladwell inferred that if we want we can control the environment that we 'thin slice' in, thereby we can control the rapid cognition. A step towards application, but it still fell short of the *how*.

Maybe he's just setting himself up for his next
best-seller?

***

A few random notes that I considered (with page numbers). These jumped out as the "should ponder this for awhile" when I read them.

p 124 - there are patters in chaos and thin slicing will help us see that. I inferred that this will work if you are an expert in that particular chaotic environment.

p 122 - explains that becoming reflective of insight type problems undermines the ability to solve them. Why? You lose the 'cognitive flow' that you need to solve them in the first place. So next time you have to stop & think about the problem, you're probably not going to solve it.

p 136 - less is more. Information age gives us sensory overload and as a result we don't make any better decisions.

p 166 - thin slicing must be done in context (but he didn't really expand on that!)

p 250 - 'listen with your eyes' - perception bias is very strong. Next time you make a decision based on having to look at something, your preconceived notions will probably make the decision for you, not the content of the presented decision.

p 252 - if we are aware of the 'blink' and if we are not resigned to taking the first impression we can control rapid cognition's environment and thus control rapid cognition.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Strategic Patenting Decisions and their Influence on Firm Patent Valuation

I'm supposed to convocate next week which means two things:

  1. I get to start thinking about my next degree.
  2. I can tick something semi-monumental off my 43 things listing.
My favorite part of the program was, belive it or not, my thesis research. Most people told me that when I got sick of my topic I would wrap it up and graduate. That never happend, rather my family & friends got sick of me taking so long to finish the program I had to wrap it up. That, combined with the promise that if I finished it on-time I could do a guilt-free race at Ironman Canada this year. If you want to know how that went, you'll have to ask...

For those interested, here's my abstract. Happy reading. If you want a full copy to read, you'll have to convice me that it really interestes you. If not, I do say, you are missing out...

Title: Strategic Patenting Decisions and their Influence on Firm Patent Valuation

ABSTRACT


The economic rents associated with patent portfolios are highly skewed with only a small portion having value. This leads researchers and industry to ask what early strategic patenting decisions around the patent itself will impact the future value of the patent, specifically within the context of small firms. To address this question the paper modeled these ex-ante strategic patenting decisions by using a common measurement of forward citations as a proxy for patent value. The six indicators of family size, breadth, claim count, jurisdiction count, provisional basis and priority claim were modeled using a sample of 386 patents granted in the Mechanical and Electrical field. A focus on the small firm as well as the two strategic patent decision indicators provisional basis and priority claim are areas that have not been explicitly investigated in previous research. Controlling for industry and firm patenting experience resulted in differences of predictors between small and large firms, with a higher likelihood of strategic patenting decisions influencing small firms over large firms. A stronger relationship was found for small firms with indicators of breadth and priority claims, as compared to a weaker relationship of only claim counts for large firms. Research also indicated that from a small firm management perspective the most potential valuable patent is one that covers a broad scope of technology is a new filing and does not claim priority to other applications.

Interestingly one of the questions that my advisor asked was "Does this make you want to do your PhD?". "Why yes, of course" was my quick reply. Onwards and upwards I say.

So, any ideas for the next degree? Business (PhD), Law (LLM) or Econimics (MA) all tie into the basis of my research interests- HOW and WHY does business I am doing work and what else can I do to be successful? The root is understanding both the content and context of decisions and their impacts.

Any suggestions on where to go next?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gladwell's *Blink* and rapid cognition


I always have 4 or 5 books on the go - and this week I've been reading Blink: The power of thinking without thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. It's premise is the thin slice, or ability to process information quickly at almost a sub-conscious level. Essentially it's our instincts at the first few moments of encountering something, or someone, may be right on target. Remember the last job interview you did where you decided in the first few seconds as to hire or not? That is what thin slice is based on.

The premise is interesting, and writing style is engaging enough that you can read it in one sitting. What's going for this book is that Gladwell actually points to examples (speed dating, gambling) where academic based field research has been done that offers support for the rapid cognition or intuition responses. At the current pace of the book I'm not sure if he will get to theories on how to notice your body's emotional or physical cues to capitalize on your thin slice skills more, but I could be wrong.

I'll post a more detailed review later but what I really am interested in is:

In your first 2 *blink* seconds on this blog - what were your impressions?