Decision making nexus — June 19, 2017

Decision making nexus

If I gave you 100 research articles advocating daily consumption of grains for breakfast, would you decide to do it?

Some people might, because the evidence is persuasive.

For those who might not, the possible reasons are in two broad categories:

  1. Implementation – but how will I eat grains? I have no time to cook grains! Are grains more expensive?
  2. Values – I grew up eating fruit for breakfast! Pancakes for breakfast is a family tradition!

That is, decisions are never reliant on evidence alone. Evidence, Implementation, and Values all interact to influence the final outcome.

For those who decided to eat grains after hearing the evidence, it does not mean they ignored their Values and Implementation, but merely that there was no discord on those two elements.

This three part framework – Evidence, Implementation, Values – gives an interesting way of framing how we make our own decisions, and how we might influence others to make theirs.

What are other decision-making frameworks? Are they better than this one?

Lacking context — June 18, 2017

Lacking context

“Often, it is extremely difficult to judge wheter a given administrative chore is worth doing – they always seem worthwhile, especially to workers who have no overall picture of the process.

Unless there are eagle-eyed managers who are obsessed with overall efficiency, office tasks will just naturally grow and grow, and more and more people will be needed to push the paper around.

every… [individual] is afraid of upsetting their boss. Senior officials issue arbitrary orders and everyone scrambles to obey.”

Source: Lee Gough, C. Northcote Parkinson’s Parkinson’s Law

These sentiments ring true for many office workers, who operate with incomplete information. This is not to say that full information is always possible. But it should always be shared as far low as possible. Without context – without a ‘line of sight’ between a worker’s task and the bigger picture – individuals are left to guess about what is important and what is not, and often become dissatisfied and produce lower quality work.

The role of those in senior positions is to provide context – why do we exist? What does success look like? How do we get there? – and then repeat, repeat, repeat.

As the environment changes… — June 17, 2017

As the environment changes…

“Incubators survived and prospered by making themselves relevant to their surrounding environment. In the first generation, they were providers of desk space; in the second generation, of basic office services too. During the tech boom in the 1990s, incubators moved into investor matching services. Now, incubators are providing equity investments, standardised education programmes, and access to mentors. As the environment changed, so did the incubators.”

“Singapore has survived and prospered by making ourselves relevant to the world. In the last century, we traded in spices; this century, in tin and rubber. After independence in 1965, we moved into simple manufacturing. Now, we are in wafer fabs, pharmaceuticals and Asian currency units. As the world economy changed, so did we.”

Source: Wit and Wisdom of Lee Kuan Yew

X has achieved A through B, in relation to C. At first B was this, then B was this. Then, B was this. Now, B is this. As C changed, so did B.

“How did you learn to cook?”

“My cooking skills were honed and developed by copying chefs on the TV. In the beginning, I followed the legendary Roux brothers; then, Marco Pierre White. After Masterchef became famous, I followed Gordon Ramsay. Now, I watch Heston Blumenthal, Nigella Lawson, and Luke Nguyen.”

Efficiency and resilience — June 16, 2017

Efficiency and resilience

Greater efficiency is sometimes achieved at a cost of resilience.

The shop that operates on ‘just in time’ is more efficient than the warehouse- dependent shop.

But a stoppage in the supply of one component can break the whole chain, because there isn’t a warehouse of stock to fall back on.

Efficiency and resilience – when is one more or less favorable than the other?

Outdated books — June 15, 2017

Outdated books

In a conversation today, I mentioned my reading strategy:

  • We can’t read everything in our lives, so we have to be selective.
  • To learn, we should read books, not material on the internet, because the former is written with a lot more thought than the latter.

And the response was, “but by the time a book is published, a lot of its content is outdated! So you can’t just read books. You have to access the latest information from the internet.”

That’s a fair point. Though, the expanse of the internet, where anybody can publish their own material, means there’s a fair amount of rubbish material, and so the filtering / sorting cost is higher than when choosing books to read.

Courage of conviction, certainty of consideration — June 14, 2017

Courage of conviction, certainty of consideration

Another way of articulating the superior mindset and approach of ‘strong views, weakly held’ is to have ‘courage of conviction; with a certainty born of long consideration.’

This is an approach that focuses on evidence-based decision-making, that encourages robust discussion of ideas, but is also open to other perspectives.

“…Always he spoke with the courage of his convictions; with a certainty born of long consideration.

At the dining table, he never argued opportunistically – he never took a position he didn’t believe for a tactical advantage.

The facts were the facts – our beliefs should accord with the evidence, and not the other way around.”

Source: Li Shengwu, Eulogy of LKY

Machine learning monitoring app — June 13, 2017

Machine learning monitoring app

What features would you install in a machine learning app to help with parents’ caring duties of their kids?

Stage 1: time home from school, remaining battery life, anomalies in patterns of movement; inappropriate content alerts, daily routine habits, location tracking, unrecognised calls alerts.

Stage 2: social networks changes – work with psychologists to develop predictors or indicators of child bullying, such as sudden and mass friend loss on social media.

Stage 3: sleep monitoring and data and cues on indicators of mental health, mood detection.

This is not a thought experiment – it is what one of many parental awareneness app startups is working on.