Knowledge for Aristotle & Plato

It might be useful to look at how these two great (somehow contradicting sometimes) philosophers approached the concept of knowledge and knowing. Let’s start with the sooner – Aristotle.

Aristotle describes three approaches to knowledge. In Greek, the three are episteme, techné and phronesis. Roughly speaking, they translate to ‘scientific knowledge’ , skills and crafts, and wisdom, respectively. In more detail:

  • Episteme : Epistemology, the study of knowledge, is derived from episteme. Episteme was viewed by the Greeks as a partner to techné. Plato used episteme to denote ‘justified true belief”, in contrast to doxa, common belief or opinion.
  • Techne : is roughly craftsmanship or art. Aristotle viewed techné as an imperfect human representation of nature. Socrates and Plato also used the word, and distinguished craftsmanship (which they viewed in a positive light) from art (which they viewed in a negative light).
  • Phronesis : This is more of practical wisdom. It is practical wisdom, and deliberation about values with reference to praxis (contextual). Pragmatic, variable, context dependent. Oriented toward action. Based on practical value-rationality.

It is very interesting that phronesis (wisdom) is defined as a practical and actionable… as opposed to knowledge, true wisdom is knowing what to do.. !


Socrates and the Starting Point:

Note.  Aristotle, in Metaphysics, accredited induction to Socrates:   “… for two things may be fairly ascribed to Socrates – inductive arguments and universal definition, both of which are concerned with the starting-point of science.”


Plato & Aristotle:

Before Aristotle, Plato argued that what we sense is, at best, a pale reflection of a superordinate reality consisting of pure and perfect forms or ideas.  Whereas our sensory reality is reminiscent of this higher plane, it is a debased copy that flickers and changes across time and space. For Plato, a transcendental level of perfect forms allowed us to reconcile the presence of that which is immutable and a material world in constant flux.

Aristotle, however, questioned the explanatory value of a higher layer and saw this construct as potentially unnecessary.  Plato had suggested that pure forms were superordinate and therefore could not exist within material things.  Aristotle, however, wondered if this was so, then how can we gain any knowledge of pure forms?  That is, Plato’s definition of forms provided us with no method of connecting material objects to those forms they seemingly reflect. To Aristotle, forms — in this context — made no logical sense.


Plato and Aristotle appear as arch-exemplars of rationalist-objectivist philosophy; Plato with his preference for visionary theorizing (the turning toward a ‘distant heaven of Forms’), and Aristotle the ‘first scientist’, who spent much of his life analyzing the ‘substances’ of nature (the turning toward ‘earth’).


The Root Dimensions of Being:

LOGOS (Spirit)

  • God, Creator, the measure of all that are
  • Plato and Theistic philosophers
  • The Way of Heaven

NOMOS (Culture)

  • Man the measure of all things that are
  • Social philosophers (Protagoras)
  • The Way of Man

PHYSIS (Nature)

  • Nature the measure of all things that are
  • Naturalist philosophers (Aristotle)
  • The Way of Earth


Theories & Paradigms:

Foucault’s use of episteme has been asserted as being similar to Thomas Kuhn’s notion of a paradigm, as for example by Jean Piaget. However, there are decisive differences. Whereas Kuhn’s paradigm is an all-encompassing collection of beliefs and assumptions that result in the organization of scientific worldviews and practices, Foucault’s episteme is not merely confined to science but to a wider range of discourse (all of science itself would fall under the episteme of the epoch).


Aristotle's Episteme

Aristotle’s Episteme




Plato's Knowledge


Aristotle (384 - 322 BC)

Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)


Plato (428 - 348 BC)

Plato (428 – 348 BC)



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Fewer in Rich Countries say ‘Today is a Good Day’ – US an exception

Very interesting poll by pew reveals that less and less people in the rich world say ‘Today is a Good Day’ … There seems to be an inverse relationship between ‘GDP per Capita’ (National) and the number of people who describe their day as ‘Good’ …

Here is the curve describing the results:

More GDP per capita --> Less 'Good' Day

More GDP per capita –> Less ‘Good’ Day


It would be very interesting to think about the reasons of such a relationship … Is it mere dissatisfaction, lingual differences and social conventions, or does a particular day simply have a higher probability of being ‘particularly good’ in less-rich countries?

Posted in Finance, Economics, and Accounting, Fun & Humor, Psychology, Sociology, Thinking and The Mind | Tagged , , , |

Brain Waves, Meditation, and Binaural Beats – An exploration

What Do We Mean When We Say “Brain Waves” ?

The Brain is made of billions of brain cells called neurons. Neurons are interconnected and communicate with each other by sending electro-chemical signals. When large numbers of neurons send signals at once, a significant (but not too high) electrical activity is generated – and can be measured using sensitive equipment like EEG (See Below). The Brain (collectively by the firing of neurons) can generate up to 10 watts of electrical power.

This electrical power characterizes different brain waves, because it is cyclic. The collective electrical signal has a frequency, which is what helps us ‘classify’ these brain waves into four types. [The frequency is how many cycles per second a certain signal does]

 A signal of Brain Wave Activity

A signal of Brain Wave Activity

So “How many times the signal goes up and down” is the frequency.

Even though the brain doesn’t have one pure wave, this is our approximation of the electrical activity of the brain.

What Are the Brain Waves, and What Do They Correspond to?

Our classification breaks the types of brain waves into four:

  • Around 15 to 40 cycles per second (Hertz) : These are Beta Waves . The most alert and Hyper ones. A strongly engaged mind.
  • 9 to 14 cycles per second : These are Alpha Waves. Correspond to basic rest and reflection. Imagine how you would be after finishing a brain-engaging task
  • 5 to 8 cycles per second: These are Theta waves. Think about when you’re drowsy or day dreaming. Someone driving for a long distance on a freeway might go to that stage.
  • 4 cycles and below per second: This is when the Brain Waves are called Delta waves. It corresponds to the stages of deep sleep.. Below 2 cycles per second the sleep becomes dreamless. Note that the cycles never reach 0 , because that would mean brain death.
Brain Waves: Ned Hermann, The Creative Brain

Brain Waves: Ned Hermann, The Creative Brain


Cool Applications of Brain Waves?

 To illustrate how our brain activity level changes as we sleep , consider this: When we go to bed and read  before attempting sleep, we are usually in low beta. As we put the book down, turn off the lightsm and close our eyes, our brainwaves will descend from beta, to alpha, to theta and finally, when asleep, to delta.

The Theta Brain Wave activity stage is sometimes associated with getting good and creative ideas, for example when running a long distance and alternating between the Alpha and Theta states.

Studies have shown that learning in Alpha State enhances the performance of students, as opposed to being in beta (concentration and alert) the whole time. That makes sense because these short periods of relaxation help recharge and re-energize the mind. Frequent gaps of 2 to 3 minutes after every 30 minute study period relaxes their minds and the alpha state will prove its efficiency with great ease and fun.  (See this)

Though Alpha has been mostly agreed upon as best for learning, many would assert that Theta is the best state for memorization and creativity.  In the Theta state the brain activity slows below Alpha (at approximately 5-8 Hz) and a greater connection occurs between the conscious and unconscious mind. [See this]

Interestingly , some classical music has been shown to induce Alpha brain wave states in the brain – see this :

What does meditation do?

Meditation can lower your brain activity level and allow you to access the Alpha or Theta states. They are associated with being able to raise creativity, relax, and regenerate learning ability. The Key is to focus on the breath. The breath and mind work together, so as breath begins to lengthen, brain waves begin to slow down. (See This )

According to the same source,  the attentive or deep relaxation (alpha or theta), produce increases in the levels of beta-endorphin, noroepinephrine and dopamine, linked to feelings of enlarged mental clarity and formation of rememberances. It is ideal for some of the proper functions of the right hemisphere.


A General Thought..

Remember that this ”brainwave frequency” is an approximation of the frequency of the overall electrical activity in the brain – in other terms, it is something we conceptually created, and it somehow serves like an average. So, although one brainwave state may predominate at any given time, depending on the activity level of the individual, the remaining three brain states are present in the mix of brainwaves at all times. In other words, while somebody is an aroused state and exhibits a beta pattern, there can also exist a component of alpha, theta and delta, even though these may be present only at the trace level.


Recent EEG Scans of Brain Activity: Notice the richness and diversity of Waves

Recent EEG Scans of Brain Activity: Notice the richness and diversity of Waves


What are Binaural Beats? More Relevant Things?

A further application of this concept of brain waves is what’s known as ‘Binaural Beats’, which provide an interesting insight.

H. W. Dove discovered that when signals of two different frequencies are presented separately for us to hear, one to each ear, the brain detects the phase variation between the frequencies and tries to reconcile that difference. That is done by producing a third – imagined – sound which has the frequency of the difference (heard only inside the mind of the listener).

So for example if you hear – through your headphones – (Note this only works by using a headphone/earphone because otherwise it is very hard to hear two different sounds in each ear), a sound with a fixed frequency of 200 Hz in your right ear, and another sound of fixed frequency of 220 Hz in the left one, the actual sound that you will hear in your mind will be a 20 Hz one… This is the binaural beat.

Research has shown that after some time, the brain starts resonating at a similar frequency of the binaural beat… so effectively by having a binaural beat with a frequency of 10 Hz (for example) , we can help the brain get into a relaxed / meditative state easily by using the binaural beat. Binaural beats are hailed by some as a great tool to help the brain reach certain specific states, and even some specifically defined points within each state (Example: N hz corresponds to dopamine release, etc..)

Note : The brain requires about 7 minutes to entrain, or fall in sync, with the audio stimulus. In practice, around 15-30 minutes of listening time are needed to experience results of the binaural beat.

Binaural beats and the Frequency Following Response in action

Binaural beats and the Frequency Following Response in action

What is an EEG by the way?

EEG: electroencephalogram. Made of small metal discs with thin wires (electrodes) that are placed on the scalp. These electrodes detect the brain’s electrical activity and send signals to a computer to record the results.

Eeg Electrode Cap

Eeg Electrode Cap





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The Sleep Reader : Sleep , Insights , Knowledge , and the Mind

How much sleeps should we get each day?

How is sleep regulated, and what good exactly is it to our mind and learning?

What are sleep “best-practices” ?


This article assembles inputs and blurbs from different places to try and build up wide understanding of the topic of sleep,


Why do we sleep?

This isn’t as easy to answer as you’d expect. There are many theories on why we sleep, some of them relate this to evolutionary needs (energy conservation, enabling inactivity, etc..) or restoration (of what’s lost when awake), etc…

More and more links however are established between ‘brain plasticity’ and sleep. The effect is obvious for infants who sleep up to 14 hrs, half of which is REM (see below). A link is established for adults too, and sleep deprivation is consistently shown to lead to impaired and weakened cognitive functions.


So How much sleep is enough?

While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between seven and a half to nine hours of sleep per night to function at their best.

Other studies say that 7 hours of sleep is actually better than 8 and more, which is correlated (key word) with health problems and higher mortality rates (See this)

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco discovered that some people have a gene that enables them to do well on six hours of sleep a night (and sometimes less). This gene, however, is very rare, appearing in less than 3% of the population. For the other 97% of us, six hours doesn’t come close to cutting it.


The Nature of Sleep? Stages ? How? 

Sleep is broadly split into two big categories: REM ( Rapid-Eye Movement : Most of the dreaming is done here, brain most active, progressively longer) sleep, when we’re dreaming, and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep moves through several, progressively deeper stages:

  • Stage I: a light doze, not very restorative (N1)
  • Stage II: middle sleep, restorative (N2)
  • Stage III: slow-wave deep sleep, the most restorative of all (N3) [[During the deep stages of NREM sleep, the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system.]]


Typical Length of the different Stages of Sleep over a night

Typical Length of the different Stages of Sleep over a night

(Notice how REM length increases with each subsequent cycle)


How does the body manage sleep?

The Body has two Sleep control components:

  • circadian clock – This clock is a biological clock in our body that times different functions of the body. See below for a graph of what activities it can regulate.. the circadian clock produces sleepiness in 24 hour cycles by releasing a hormone (usually after around 15-18 hours from waking up, roughly at 21.00)
  • homeostatic control – wake-meter measures the period in which we stay awake and triggers sleepiness after we stay up for long enough


Features of a human 24hr circadian rhythm

Features of a human 24hr circadian rhythm




Interesting Applications: 

Alarms are bad for you:

Getting out of bed can be difficult if your alarm goes off when you’re in the middle of deep sleep (Stage N3). You’d feel best if you wake up at the end of a sleep cycle. Try setting a sleeping time that’s a multiple of 90 minutes, the length of the average sleep cycle –> You will wake up feeling better if you don’t wake up in the middle of deep sleep.

Sleeping and Weight-gain:

Sleep deprivation is correlated with overeating and weight gain.

There are two hormones in your body that regulate feelings of hunger and fullness. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, leptin sends signals to the brain when you are full. With less sleep than needed, ghrelin levels go up, stimulating your appetite so you want more food than normal, and your leptin levels go down, meaning you don’t feel satisfied and want to keep eating. So, the more sleep you lose, the more food your body will crave.

Then and Now

“If you look at the 1960s and 1970s, people reported average sleep times of 8-8.5 hours a night,” an assistant professor in the University of Utah’s division of pulmonary medicine and a sleep medicine specialist says. “Today, it’s much more likely to be 7-7.5 hours or less.”

On Sleeping habits of remarkable People:

The below Infographic was created by RJ Andrews that summarizes sleeping habits of a number of geniuses (and which has gone viral) , inspired by Mason Currey’s (2013) book “Daily Rituals”.. :


Sleeping Habits by RJ Andrews

Sleeping Habits by RJ Andrews

Not many seem to have ‘weird’ sleeping habits… Many studies seem to point out that you need to sleep ‘as much as the body demands’ because these needs can vary genetically. Better levels of creativity and alertness seem to be correlated with good and long sleeping habits.

Additionally, even though it has become ‘pop’ to speak of Da Vinci’s poliphasic sleeping habits (20 minutes sleep every four hours for a total of 2 hrs of sleep per day), and similar claims for Tesla, Napoleon… It seems that these claims aren’t well substantiated.  [ See Here and Here ]

Salvador Dali, and many other creative people, like Edison, were reported to have ‘power naps’ or hypnagogic sleep, wherein the nap includes just the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep. Dali would famously hold a key in his hand, and rest on a sofa with his hand over its arm, and a dish on the ground. As soon as he starts falling asleep the key falls, makes a noise and he wakes up.

Monophasic , Biphasic, of Poliphasic Sleep??


(see below for a representation of different sleep patterns)

It also seems that biphasic sleep is very natural for humans, considering that our homeostatic cycle seems to ‘demand’ sleep after around 7-8 hours from waking up (the siesta)  [[ Read more on that Here ]]

Although poliphasic sleep is hyped, a critique of Uberman sleep, and other types of poliphasic sleep, [ A sleep where a person sleeps many ‘short’ times over the course of a day; See here ] is that the result could be reduced mental strength and power, loss of concentration.. Additionally they are very hard to maintain. Scientifically, a poliphasic sleep has been proven to be better than an equivalent sleep for sleep deprived individuals, but not compared to the general (This means that using poliphasic sleep to sleep 3 hours over a day is better than sleeping 3 hours at once ,, but poliphasically sleeping 3 hours isn’t better than regular sleep).


So for now, Monophasic, or Biphasic sleep (7 or 8 hours) seems to be the best choice !


Sleep patterns for different sleeping styles, the darker color represents sleep:







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The Education Dilemma – Questions on Teachers, Schools, and the Educational System

This is a very interesting discussion, about the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the school system. other than being the main educational tool in a society, it is also supposedly an important contributor to the process of social mobility (allowing for the possibility of individuals moving between ‘classes’) … That – however – is just in theory …

One can count many problems with the educational system … Lower literacy, knowledge of languages and maths , low engagement have all been continuously measured and documented.

There were some interesting insights on an article recently appearing in the Economist magazine reviewing two books ( The Teacher Wars. By Dana Goldstein. Doubleday ; Building a Better Teacher. By Elizabeth Green)

Here are some excerpts:

When a California judge recently struck down teacher-tenure, education reformers around the country cheered.

For policymakers the solution is now plain: use data (such as exams) to ditch the duds, reward the stars and steer the strongest teachers to the neediest students.

[This however won’t have a real good impact on the quality of education] The real challenge, both authors argue, is not to get rid of the bad teachers, but to attract and keep good ones and improve the middling majority.

This is where most American education reform goes wrong. By fixating on the hard data of inputs (incentives) and outputs (student performance), reformers neglect the most essential part: what happens in the middle. Most teachers enter the classroom with minimal practical training and little professional support. Only half the candidates are ever supervised as student teachers in a real classroom. Everyone seems to assume that good teachers naturally know what to do. But this is a myth, writes Elizabeth Green in “Building a Better Teacher”. Teaching is a skill, a trade, not an innate gift.


So how should the teachers be taught? There is no simple answer. […] Ms Green and Ms Goldstein agree on a few basic points: the best training should include regular feedback, collaboration, mentoring and observation throughout one’s career.

In Japan, for example, teachers observe the lessons of mentors and dissect them afterwards. Colleagues collaborate on new lesson plans. Unlike the learning-by-rote maths classes typical of America, where teachers demonstrate (and often fumble through) sample problems and then have students solve similar ones on their own, Japanese classes are often devoted to solving a single problem all together, which creates a far livelier atmosphere of inquiry, full of mistakes and opportunities to learn from them.



Some important comments:

Tenure, Incentive Schemes, and the Teacher market:

Is it essentially useful in the case of school teachers ? What can be gained from that vis-a-vis their performance and contributions?

Teacher compensation: Why are teachers generally low-paid?How does this contribute to making teaching a less-attractive profession overall, thus reducing the natural competitiveness that can exist for getting in? Is this a failure in the intrinsic use of a ‘market’ for managing the demand and supply in terms of school teachers?


Teacher performance and Selection:

What mechanisms are in place to make sure that teachers perform well and develop their skill-sets ? If the main challenge is developing the majority-around-the mean of teachers (instead of just weeding out the bad ones) , can there be a uniform system for better preparation and selectivity of teachers?

Is there a better system to ensure that Superstar teachers get more compensation, thus driving more highly qualified people to the field — is this not dangerous in itself ? Also, are student grades a fair-enough measure in this regard ? probably not.


Elitism in Schools:

Is there an unhealthy concentration of educational resources (human and otherwise) , and what impact does this have?


Ideas for solutions:

– Measurement of Teacher Performance:

First there could be a uniform measure for student progress that is defined on a national level (according to the specific learning requirements in that region) — This measure should typically be defined for each academic year. It also must be calculated based on random, representative, diverse samples of students. Monitoring this measure allows to give a fair assessment of the teacher’s level in terms of the change (variance) that applies to the student’s grades in those tests.


Outside the box thinking — REVERSE THE PROBLEM :

Why focus on teachers in the first place ??

Could mobility of students be an easier solution ? Moving students based on their academic performance from one place (and class) to another more freely, and in a ‘sponsored’ manner (Sponsored by organizations / government (which anyway is paying so much to try and ‘fix’ the existing system — what if it just is non-fixable)? This selection process would be based on rigorous sampling of significant numbers of performers and could be done on topics that transcend what they are normally taught in schools to try and reach their mental capabilities not knowledge.

On some level this solution applies better to the concept of the inevitable difference between the innate competencies and skills of people, and would allow for a much better effectiveness of the educational system in terms of promoting social mobility. Additionally, a solution that avoids teachers and focuses more on students is much – much – less costly to implement (although it just doesn’t feel as fair) .

In this sense, the resources will be shifted from a random and country-wide pool of educational institutions and individuals (educators and administrators) to a very specified and better developed and closely controlled pool for more academically distinguished students. It is much more practical (and easier) to manage closely much smaller organizations, that have more defined needs. This in turn will help tackle one important problem of the existing school system which is bringing down some of the best students to the more average level …. eventually the system can evolve toward breaking up the existing highly compartmentalized system which forces uniformity on students, thus allowing more students to excel, and in turn more students to receive attention more suitable to them !


Interesting food-for-thought —– How are new IT platforms capable of enforcing this kind of solution, and of providing many – many – more students with top-notch educational lessons ….










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On the road to Emotional Intelligence : The Emotions Map and other things ..


Emanuel Derman (here) draws a nice similarity between how Spinoza in his ‘Ethics’ approached human emotion as Euclid approached geometry :

  1. Defining three Primitives and ( Pain (sorrow) , Pleasure  (joy) , and Desire ) and then proceeded to
  2. Defining emotions in their relation to their primitives. These definitions are nicely illustrated in the diagram below.


A Map of Emotions – Enlarge to see the definitions of the different emotions and how they related to primitives


So in this sense , we can start defining some emotions in terms of these three primitives :

  • Love (Hate) : Pleasure (Pain) accompanied with the idea of external cause
  • Sympathy : Pleasure (Pain) from another’s Pleasure (Pain)
  • Fear (Hope) : Expectation of Pain (Pleasure) tinged with Doubt

You can also see some more definitions here :


It is valuable to have an understanding of the different emotions that affect us… This point is also stressed in the two books by Daniel Goleman (Emotional Intelligence and The New Leaders) … Being aware of our emtions and how they influence us (self awareness), and of how to control our reactions (self control) are pillars of emotional intelligence, and are studied heavily in those two books.


Interesting and related (not directly) table :

Basic emotion Serotonin Dopamine Noradrenaline
Shame/humiliation Low Low Low
Distress/anguish Low Low High
Fear/terror Low High Low
Anger/rage Low High High
Contempt/disgust High Low Low
Surprise High Low High
Enjoyment/Joy High High Low
Interest/excitement High High High

Lövheim Cube of emotion : Some Basic Emotions and the corresponding Levels of some neurotransmitters


Sources :

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Paradoxes … Interesting Mental Sports

Paradoxes are interesting logical structures which might look as true but are internally contradicting.. They are many times ‘invalid’ (logically) , but are very helpful in promoting critical thinking … They are very interesting in literature and philosophy, and a very good mental sport


The Liar Paradox

A basic form of paradoxes is the ‘liar’ paradox …If I say : “This statement is False.” …. If it was false, then the statement itself is true, then it is false , then it is true and so on …

Many people mention the Epimenides “Cretans are always Liars” as a paradox,well … it is a paradox only in one condition … here it is  :

Epimenides, wrote: “The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!” —(Epimenides was a Cretan) :

  • If he is NOT lying, then cretans are always liars (obviously) and his statement is false (He is a Lying Cretan), so they (Cretans) are not always liars but he is NOT Lying, and they are always Lying .. and we’re stuck
  • If he is Lying , then cretans are not always liars this is where we can resolve it :

If Epimenides is a Cretan and a liar, then his statement, “The Cretans, always liars” is a lie and False ..  (it can be so if Epimenides knows at least one other cretan who is not a liar: Epimenides is a liar now, his statement is a lie (and false), but this other guy isn’t, so Cretans aren’t always Liars and the statement is False !!!!) — Time for a small  headache of consideration, but it works : Epimenides is a Cretan Liar, but not all Cretans are liars always.


Let’s try one more :

A Prediction Paradox

A monster steals a son from his father, and promises to return the child if the father can correctly guess what the monster will do. What happens if the father guesses that the child will not be returned to him?

Here … there seems to be no resolution … . If the monster keeps the child, then the father predicted correctly, and the monster should return the child , but then the father was wrong and the child shouldn’t have been returned , but if that happened then the father was right … and on and on … If the monster returns the child, then the father guessed wrong and the child shouldn’t haven’t been returned but if it hadn’t been then again the father was right … and on and on …


Now for a relatively more popular one :

Back to Future … ?

A man goes back in time, and kills his grandfather before he can meet his grandmother! Simple – right ? No …  This means that one of the man’s parents will not have been born, and the man in turn, will not have been born. This would mean that he could not have traveled back in time after all, which means the grandfather would still be alive, and the traveler would have been conceived allowing him to travel back in time and kill his grandfather….

Wait … What ? Ok this works if you believe in parallel universes (somehow), and at every jump back in time there is a split of universes …


For a more religious one :

A Divine Paradox

Can God create something so heavy, that He cannot lift it?

God by definition is omnipotent – he can do anything & everything … If he can create something so heavy he can’t lift, then his lack of strength means he is not omnipotent , but by definition he is .. so he can create that … but if he does then he can’t lift it … then he is not omnipotent … and we’re stuck …

Some resolutions of this statement include saying that “can not lift” does not make sense, or that the question itself is a contradiction, like a “square circle”.


An interesting paradox that relates logic to identity , and thinking about being is the paradox known as the Ship of Theseus … ( See this ) …. Also if you do get the chance , watch the brilliant movie with the same title..


Visual Paradoxes

A great genius created amazing visual paradoxes … the artistic/mathematical/geometric genius here is the great M.C. Escher (Maurits Cornelis Escher) … he created many amazing paintings that exploit illusions to create brilliant visual paradoxes and here are some of them :

Maruits Escher - Illusion 1

Maruits Escher – Illusion 1



Escher - Relativity - Which way is Which ?

Escher – Relativity – Which way is Which ?


Escher - How is the water flowing ... Up or Down ?

Escher – How is the water flowing … Up or Down ?


There are many examples and geometric manipulations now that create the same surprising effects…


The Beauty of the Paradox

Søren Kierkegaard, in the Philosophical Fragments, that

(..) The paradox is the passion of thought, and the thinker without the paradox is like the lover without passion: a mediocre fellow. But the ultimate potentiation of every passion is always to will its own downfall, and so it is also the ultimate passion of the understanding to will the collision, although in one way or another the collision must become its downfall. This, then, is the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think


Can’t agree more …


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Interesting ( .. maybe ?) Facts on distances / size of things : Some Perspective – II

What is the Size of:

Here is a nice list of the size/length (diameter) of some things in the universe (in meters) :

  • The Size of a proton or a neutron can reach 10-12 meters in length
  • The Size of  an Atom : roughly , the covalent size of a silver atom is 1.5 x 10-10 meters
  • The Size of a Cell : A bacterium is roughly 10-6 meters in length
  • The Size of a Human : 1-2 meters
  • The Size of the Earth : diameter in the order of 107 meters (1.2 x 10^7)  
  • The Size of the Sun : diameter in the order of  109 meters
  • The Size of the Galaxy : roughly  1021 meters in diameter
  • The Size of the Universe : A lower bound of  1027 meters

At the end of this post there is a link to an interesting interactive infographic that gives a nice idea of the size of things, starting from the infinitely small (Planck area) , to the largest possible (universe)  … Although I am not very sure of the correctness of the estimates (and visualization integrity) of extremely large quantities in that infographic , especially when we reach the size of the universe …  – there is a discussion on them and ‘observable’ universe is different from universe …

Also we must differentiate between the ‘size’ of things , and the ‘distance’ between things in space … keep in mind also that size in terms of length/diameter , is very different than area or volume (in case you’re trying to figure out how many items of x does y fit)


Side Note:

A googol ( 10100 ) is 1 followed by a 100 zeroes :


A googolplex is the number 10googol, i.e. 10(10100)


More on Upper Limits

Some upper limits on the size of the universe are 10115 , 10122 or 1010122 meters (a unit doesn’t really matter much at this scale)  … 10122 is 1 followed by 122 zeroes, or a gogol multiplied by a quadrillion. 1010122 is 1 followed by a quadrillion googol zeroes. 101010122is 1 followed by 1010122 zeroes. These numbers are so vast that they are essentially the same in whatever units we could use to list them.

essentially these somehow become ‘philosophical’ limits … one of them is calculated based on the probability of reaching another volume in space that has similar conditions and structure like our universe (1)



this topic is just a small opportunity to contemplate  the sheer scale of things in our world … how insignificant some numbers can be , and even some concepts.

The idea of something so large that the unit in which you measure it doesn’t matter is an interesting mental shortcut into understanding the sizes we’re talking about.

Thinking about these numbers raises beautifully the issues of how centric can we really be in this universe, as the sizes here put a new light on the 20-80 rule if we are to assume some uniqueness for ourselves as human..

Hard not to be moved and amazed  !



Here is a video that helps illustrate the power of an extra 0 , and some sizes of things :


Here is the infographic too :

The Scale of The Universe 2 — Click to open



1. “Parallel universes. Not just a staple of science fiction, other universes are a direct implication of cosmological observations.”, Tegmark M., Sci Am. 2003 May;288(5):40-51.



See the Previous Post about ‘Perspective’ , but in terms of Time here :


Posted in Knowledge & Education, Math & Physics, Science, Studies, Thinking and The Mind | Tagged , , , , , , , , |

Left Brain & Right Brain : Good Advertising

Came across this ad (by Mercedes Benz) … Although it is a bit too “linear” in terms of the separation of the functions of the left brain and right brain , it is is visually very creative and beautiful … good use of concepts and a good metaphor for the art-science balance , which is something crucial in design and engineering :


Mercedes Ad : Right-Left Brain (Click to Enlarge)

Posted in Art, Business, Psychology, Sales & Marketing, Thinking and The Mind | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Interesting (… maybe ?) Facts on the Age / Time of things : Some Perspective – I

What is the age of :


The Universe :

The age of the universe is  estimated to be around 13.8 billion years (See this , and this ). This age is defined as the time elapsed since the big bang. An uncertainty of 37 / 59 / 80 million years (let’s assume its a 100 million) upward or downward is applied to this figure. Different studies and projects are confirming this number … [ well , they use the same tools and same mentality so it makes sense 🙂 ]


The Solar System & Earth  :

The solar system is considered to have been formed with the collapse of a part of a giant molecular cloud, resulting in the formation of solid parts, most of the mass centered in the sun [this is known as the nebular hypothesis, formulated by swedenborg, kant, and laplace]. The age of the solar system is estimated based on studying the age of solid constituents of some meteorites formed within the solar system. It is estimated at 4.56 billion years old. (See This , and this).

The Age of the earth is around 4.5 billion years, and that estimate is based on radiometric age dating, based on some of the constituents in rock layers within the earth’s crust. It is also deduced based on an upper limit deduced from the age of the solar system. (See this)

The solar system and the earth have existed for roughly a third (33%) of the age of the universe.


Life on Earth :

Till today, the oldest undisputed fossils appear in rocks from 3.2 billion years. Rocks dating back to earlier than that (3.6 to 3.8 billion years) have been found to contain traces of carbon which can be assumed to be of organic origin (this is done by considering the concentration of the C-12 & C-13 ;; Presence of a higher ratio of C-12 isotope than expected in nature in general is assumed to be caused by existence of organic cells) … [see this] … For around 1.6 billion years there were only basic cells with no differentiated nuclei and cell organelles. (This)

There has been life on earth for approximately 26.8% of the age of the universe.


Multi-cellular organisms / Mammals:

The first multi-cellular organisms are estimated to have evolved around 1.2 billion years ago. They had very limited complexity, and were basically in the form of cell colonies or types of algae (see This ).. However, the first large multicellular complex organism that can be thought of as an animal is assumed to have appeared around 580 million years ago  – an enigmatic affair – (See this ). Around the time before 500 million years ago, the cambrian explosion happened, and there was an unlikely growth of different life forms (basic animals belonging to different phyla) [see this , and see this]. This means that complex organisms have existed on earth for only around 4.2% of the age of the universe.

The first mammals (and most dinosaurs) are estimated to have appeared around 225-250 million years ago.  (See This ) They have been present for around 1.6% of the age of the universe.


Man on Earth :

Man is considered one of four branches of primates and the first variations of this genus is assumed to have appeared around 2.2 million years ago. Humans anatomically similar to modern man (called ‘Homo Sapiens’), are the only surviving species of the group, with the last neanderthals assumed to have gone instinct around 24,000 years ago, have appeared around 200,000 years ago.  (See This and This ). This means that man has been present on earth for around 0.015% of the age of the universe.


The Age of (Click to Enlarge)

The Age of (Click to Enlarge)




It is amazing how the current diversity on earth is mostly the result of events that are heavily concentrated in recent time.. someone who likes symmetry, might think that all this is just a start of something somehow.

The rate of increase of complexity in our world (naturally) has had an amazing exponential growth curve.. It took around 1.5 billion years (roughly more) for a cell to transform into a cell with specialized functions, and another 1-something billion years for multi-cell (extremely simple) organisms to appear. Where and How does civilization fit into this accelerating ladder of complexity..


This excellent figure gives an idea of the evolution time of the universe (and its estimated temperature) starting from the big bang :


Time & Temperature (Click to Enlarge)

Time & Temperature (Click to Enlarge)

Fossil & Reconstruction of the first animal


File:Utatsusaurus BW.jpg

Ichthyopterygia – not just a cool name



File:Homo Models.JPG

Homo Models (starting 2 million years ago)


Diagram showing geologic time

The ‘Ages’ of earth : See



Posted in Knowledge & Education, Philosophical, Science, Studies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Brunelleschi : The Dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence) — Creativity and Innovation


Brunelleschi and the Dome !

There are many interesting things about Brunelleschi’s genius and the architecture and beauty of this amazing structure. One of three important landmarks in ‘Dome’ building : The Roman Pantheon, Haigia Sofia, and the Dome of The Florence cathedral.



Haigia Sophia

Haigia Sophia

The cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Saint Mary of the Flowers) in Florence holds the dome whose curves, size, architectural genius, and innovative construction is a monument to the creativity of Filippo Brunelleschi.

Interesting facts on the thought and intelligence behind the dome :

  • The Dome has a ‘double shell’ design (there are two shells) , and this makes it far loftier and lighter than a dome of its size could be. The dome remained the largest till modern technology allowed construction of similar sized domes (42 to 45 meter diameter , around 500 years in the lead as the biggest dome)
    • The Inner (lighter) dome also helped in solving the scaffolding problem
  • No known mechanisms at the time could allow for lifting and managing the heavy materials (including beams) , so he invented a custom set of tools including a three speed hoist which had a very intricate system, and a 65-foot tall crane… these tools weren’t rivaled till the industrial revolution
  • Brunelleschi also had a genius idea for letting the bricks stay in place:  He created a herringbone pattern with the bricks that redirected the weight of the bricks outwards towards the dome’s supports, instead of downwards to the floor.
  • When the project was launched different suggestions (before brunelleschi) for achieving the construction of the dome included supporting the dome with enormous pillar in the center of the church , using a ‘sponge-stone’ to minimize weight, and using a mountain of dirt and coins as scaffolding (the coins so that citizens would willingly and happily clean the mountain when construction is finished).

Brunelleschi’s work with the Dome is credited as the beginning of a new Age of architecture and art, and the dome itself is symbolic of florence and the early renaissance..


Brunelleschi's Death Mask - in The Dumo Museum

Brunelleschi’s Death Mask – in The Duomo Museum


The herringbone brick patter

The herringbone brick patter


The Last Judgement - Under the Dome

The Last Judgement – Under the Dome


The Dome

The Dome


Filippo Brunelleschi

Filippo Brunelleschi


Some References:




Posted in Art, Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Thinking and The Mind | Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

KWEST : The Mind’s Adventure





How far can you go ? 

Can you rebuild the Tower of Wisdom? Uncover the hidden quests and solve the mysteries behind them? Train, Challenge, and Learn as you go on this adventure of the mind in the pathways of KWEST.

This is NOT an adventure game, a trivia game, a mystery game, or a brain-training game… It contains better versions of all these, blended and calibrated, along with other dozens of features and surprises – KWEST will take you on a quest to into the known, the unknown, the real, the magical, the fast and strong, and the deep and profound!


Different Ground

Some games take learning and ‘brain-training’ too seriously, and by doing this they transform gaming and playing into work and studying (Have you been painfully bored of “Brain Training” games)… Some games don’t offer any educational or useful content, and are just made of long and endless repetitions of similar activities… KWEST tries to bring the best of the two worlds: A challenging, meaningful, and entertaining adventure, that let’s learn new things, and exercise your mental muscles.

A complete adventure of wits, strategy, and thought: KWEST is a new species of mobile games; it is powerful, diverse, mysterious, challenging, and entertaining… while being very educational and capable of exercising your mental muscles.



KWEST is an adventure that mixes the abstract with the imaginary and the concrete, and it requires you to collect resources, advance through the eras, rebuild the lost mystical tower, and solve a set of mysteries… The catch, however, is that game play in KWEST not a simple activity of shooting objects or jumping above obstacles, it is a set of challenges and activities that will expand and test your knowledge, and exercise your brain, while your work on achieving your goals and beating the game.

You can develop and advance your character, and acquire resources, by going through the Brain Arena or the Knowledge Path, where you receive Gold and KNOPs for your achievements and improve your Karma if you’re that good. Decide what tools you want to take on your quest, and be prepared! The tower of Wisdom may not be very easy to rebuild, and the Quests will remain hidden if you aren’t powerful enough, but there are magical resources that might help: The Key of Energy, The Hammer of Strength, The Knot of Knowledge, The Oracle, The Well, The Tree …


The OracleAvailable_on_the_App_Store_(black)
KWEST mixes adventure, strategy and planning, mystery, and knowledge with concentration, attention, and mental speed. To learn more try the following :

From KWEST :

iOS Simulator Screen shot Mar 19, 2014 12.13.59 PM



iOS Simulator Screen shot Mar 19, 2014 12.14.12 PM



The Topics of KWEST





More Links:

Posted in Think-Grow News, Thinking and The Mind | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Ancient Mystery : iOS (iPhone / iPad) App

@ ^ == v @ m


Games and Learning run hand in hand many times. Games can be used as tools to encourage learning and curiosity for knowing more about a wide range of subjects. The imaginative environment and challenges within games can encourage players to develop a good set of skills and competencies, as well as develop mental abilities.

So, What is the hidden mystery?

Download Here (App store link) ]

How can solving a number of riddles and brain teasers take you on a deeper and further quest, to uncover a great hidden truth?

What is the secret ‘code’ that connects Plato Socrates, Myths, Dragons, Greek Gods, Ancient Philosophies, a Cave man, the beginnings of civilization, Astrology, and many jewels of wisdom from different thinkers of different ages ?

Can you spot the clues, survive the challenges, acquire the objects of wisdom, uncover the big puzzle, and unlock the chamber of secret teachings?
Use your wits, knowledge, friends, and … your favorite search engine to overcome the obstacles of nature and the limitations of the obvious.

Discover, Think, Read, and Learn as this ancient and thoughtful magical quest takes you to different challenges of observation, intelligence, insight, knowledge and wisdom.

“Even dry and trivialized truths can gain amazing power when we view them in a new creative and practical light.”



Download Here (App store link)


Ancient mystery is a game in the iTunes application store (, available for the iPhone and iPad and iPod Touch. The game was designed to be educational, interesting and fun to play. It offers many different intelligent aspects that most games in the iTunes App Store do not provide. The ‘Hidden Secrets’ Sections offers in-depth explanation for some of the icons, symbols, and items within the game. A hidden mysterious ‘code’ connects all the game’s elements, and the player is invited to discover it.

Is Ancient Mystery free to play?

Ancient Mystery can be downloaded for free, and a free version of the app lets players play the full game. However, to access certain features of the game (like a detailed explanation of the symbolism and significance of the game’s story line, Two Levels of Hints, The ability to reset the game, removing ads,…) players have to unlock the premium version for $1.99.

Too Hard??
Ancient Mystery challenges both the intelligence and knowledge of players. It can be quite difficult at times, and the clues can be ‘cryptic’. But all this is part of the learning… With real head-scratching, and search for answers, the player learns many new things, sometimes related – and sometimes not – to the game’s Story.

Two Levels of Hints can be used within the game (making it ‘Easier’ and ‘Easiest’ respectively) if the player gets really stuck.

Play, Think, and Learn .. and Have Fun !


Posted in Fun & Humor, Knowledge & Education, Philosophical, Think-Grow News | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Obliquity by John Kay – Book Review

This book discusses how it is impossible sometimes to pursue our goals directly, where oblique (indirect) paths yield better results.


The writer basically validates this by examples from three fields. The happiest people aren’t those who pursue happiness, the most profitable companies aren’t those fully and directly focused on profit, and the wealthiest people aren’t the most materialistic seekers of money. Even forests most resistant to fire aren’t those whose firefighters target extinguishing every fire.


There are three broad senses of the term happiness, where the lowest most basic level includes momentary pleasurable feelings. The intermediate level is a state of mind and not a physical response, a sense if satisfaction and well being. The highest level eudaimonia (Aristotle) is of quality of life, flourishing, and fulfillment of potential. Parenthood is for many a great second and high level achievement while being a source of discomfort on the most basic level. Higher level objectives are very loose and unidentifiable. Direct approaches make distinction between means and ends that don’t exist in reality.


Relationships are neither causal nor linear nor uni directional . In any complex enough environment, healthy decision making can’t advance be defining objectives and linearly seeking discrete solutions .. Only by continuously balancing the incompatible and incommensurable components of such problems can solutions be found.


Problems often simply can’t be solved directly. A number of causes support this. ‘muddling through’- a process of initially building out from the current situation step by step and by small degrees.  This mode of decision making as opposed to the direct comprehensive one, is a much more efficient, realistic and successful mode in life’s complex situations. Root analysis and detailed objectives simply don’t work for achieving high level goals. Unlike sudoku, problems not characterized with one unique solution, interactive and interdependent, with no complete list of possible actions, and non-bounded complexity, call for muddling through as a decision making strategy.


The incremental, indirect, collaborative, open, flexible, and ‘testing’ components of problem solving constitute strong foundations for the oblique method when situations arising include plurality ( multiple solutions ) , interactivity ( intermediary  outcomes , different components , and multiple contributions add nonlinearityv and increase complexity ), complexity ( available st of possible actions and difficulty of describing the problem analytically ), incompleteness ( information and inputs), and abstraction ( models are imperfect descriptions of reality).


How do we solve problems in a complex world?
First we need to clearly get rid of our attribution bias and not always infer design from outcome. What happens is frequently not what was intended, as outcomes arise through complex processes whose totality no one grasps.


How to successfully utilize oblique decision making:
– actions are chosen from a limited constrained set of options ( by successive limited comparison )
– taking into consideration our limited knowledge
– being eclectic in use of models narratives and sources of info ( implicit)
– continual and gradual adaptation
– the  importance of  expertise
– consistency is minor and order emerges spontaneously


Posted in Education, Knowledge & Education, Leadership, Management, Personal Development, Psychology, Selected Readings, Sociology, Strategy, Thinking and The Mind | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Upside-Down Thinking: Interesting Examples

These Examples of Upside-Down Thinking are adapted from ‘The Age of Unreason’ by Charles Handy.

  • Upside-Down Thinking wonders what magic it is that determines that forty hours spread over five days should be the working week for most people.. Why not distribute the 2000 hours per year in a wide variety of chunks?
  • Upside-Down Thinking recognizes that it must be desirable to reward some experts for NOT using their skills.. At present dentists are paid per treatment.. Shouldn’t they be paid for no-treatment because no one has bad teeth ?
  • Upside-Down Thinking suggests that instead of National Curriculum for education what might be needed is an individual curriculum for every child- within common guidelines maybe
  • Upside-Down Thinking wonders why assistants are always younger than their principles.. why couldn’t people retrain in mid-life to be part time assistants to doctors, teachers, social workers, and lawyers.
  • Upside-Down Thinking wonders why roads are free and railways expensive in most countries, and suspects that it ought to be the other way around.

Upside-Down Thinking

Posted in Business, Finance, Economics, and Accounting, Fun & Humor, Leadership, Selected Readings, Sociology, Thinking and The Mind | Tagged , , , , , , , |

On Knowledge and Wisdom

Lao Tzu:

” In pursuit of knowledge, everyday something is acquired;

In pursuit of wisdom, everyday something is dropped ”


Posted in Knowledge & Education, Philosophical | Tagged , , |

Weick: the case for SenseMaking

This feeling of thrown-ness and the need to make sense of it are just what we would expect if we took seriously the psychological implications of quantum theory and chaos theory. Both of these theories suggest that the world is less like a machine and more like a shifting pattern of relationships. These patterns are unknowable because any effort to measure them changes them. These patterns are also unpredictable because very small differences in initial conditions can lead very quickly to vast differences in the future state of the system. (McDaniel 1997). In an unknowable, unpredictable world, sensemaking is all we have!


– By “thrown” he means: people can’t avoid acting, can’t step back and reflect on their actions, can’t predict the effects of their actions, have no choice but to deal with interpretations whose correctness  cannot be settled once and for all, and they can’t remain silent.


This is from his book : “The Future of Leadership” – Chapter 8: Leadership as the Legitimation of Doubt

Posted in Leadership, Philosophical, Selected Readings, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

On Innovation

Innovation is a key survival instrument for corporations especially in our fast-paced evolving and disrupting times… The below discussion tries to cover different aspects of the innovation process… 


The blockers to innovation lie in organizational entities and interaction dynamics.. and an important aspect of innovation averseness is clearly manifested in communication patters… an article on HBR blogs lately gave a healthy discussion of the issue, looking at how communication can foil innovation efforts.

Communication is the ‘stuff of interconnectedness’ in organizations, and with increase of focus on innovation as an organizational growth engine, the links between communication and leadership and innovation are yet to be explored in a deeper way, especially with the increased focus on collective intelligence (group intelligence), brainstorming, and teamwork as crucial components of innovation success.

This includes communication within the core team, in the organization, and with key stakeholders outside the organization, including distribution channel partners, suppliers, journalists, investors and of course, existing and potential customers.

As organizations move towards innovation focus, they need to pay attention to some rules, Including:

  1. Begin in the right place: Communicate Meaning and Purpose. Innovation takes time and costs money so projects that aren’t clearly linked to the “core” are especially prone to failure. innovation teams need this level of clarity to guide their efforts and thinking and your leaders need it to inform decision-making related to innovation and how it contributes to future growth.
  2. Keep the vision alive – Look for the long-term. Complexity & uncertainty of innovation make it easy to get lost. thinking should be visible to help teams stay on track and reinforce their goals.
  3. Be very clear about processes. Although many aspects of innovation efforts need to be kept confidential and might have sensitive timing issues, the process should not be secret. Successful initiatives are supported by well-defined processes, which become the foundation for successful internal communication.  It should be shared broadly in the organization and progress celebrated.
  4. Don’t under-communicate. The different teams should be tightly linked and communicate continuously.. General management, human resources, marketing, communications, and sales teams should be informed along the way.
  5. Control Cynicism. Healthy skepticism from positive team players is important and vital unlike cynicism.
  6. Don’t let jargon hide the truth. Recognize power of words in getting the development team aligned and achieving the positive results. Simplify the language and let interdisciplinary teams and groups work closer and more cooperatively.  Widely-Resonating terminology is vital.
  7. Your Brand Strategy, and Your innovation.. a strong connection should link growth initiatives to brand strategy. These two inform and sustain each other. Consistently communicate the benefits and attributes of your brand with development teams so they are embodied in solutions they create. Develop a brand audit tool. This also guides decision-making



Scarcity is frequently the driving motive behind innovation efforts, pushing corporations beyond their comfort zones, and squeezing them into innovating their use of resources. 

How should an enterprise go about inventing something novel and useful? Is there a structured thinking process that reliably produces results? At least 162 different answers have been proposed to that question. That’s the number of invention methodologies my colleagues and I have perused in the course of assembling what we call The World Database of Innovation.

Only a small subset of these processes for inventing are based on hard evidence. TRIZ is a model devised by Russian inventor Genrich Altshuller and is an empirically based method, followed by SIT (for “Systematic Inventive Thinking”) and a few other updated versions of it. The“Productivity” method popularized by Tor Dahl is backed up by solid experience data as well. Various consultancies have also tracked their clients’ results from proprietary methods over periods of decades. These several schools of thought have statistically significant information behind their processes for inventing.

All of us have heard stories or seen images of resourcefulness under daunting constraints. In our daily lives, moreover, we can see a very persuasive natural experiment playing out in the realm of marketing communications and advertising.

The examples are many: Faced with new limits on audience attention, advertisers that once assumed 30-second ad spots now must pack potent messages into the most fleeting of impressions. In an era of marketing budget cuts, they make innovative use of new — and cheaper — media. Needful, especially of tech-savvy talent, they now engage in new forms of partnership, collaboration, and crowd-sourcing. Thus, in an era that anyone would recognize as challenging to marketing, we have seen unprecedented levels of innovation — to the point that an expert today may be old hat in less than 3 months. A Forever21 billboard now reaches out and grabs you. You can test-drive a Mitsubishiwithout leaving your living room. Geo-targeted ads on taxis give you game scores when you’re near Madison Square Garden. Time Warner advertises to you when you drive into a coverage area.

It’s almost as if the constraints coming from all sides have squeezed the advertising world so hard that incredible new things are starting to pop out of it.

This is not merely a logical theory. Again, it has been the finding of the empirically-based studies we reviewed. (One such collection of work alone looked at more than 500,000 patents and innovations.)

By deliberately imposing scarcity of one kind or another on their problem-solving, inventors become demonstrably more creative, and the ideas generated under such conditions enjoyed greater success in the marketplace and society than ideas invented in more “blue sky” modes. Thus, the SIT method relies heavily on “subtraction,” “constraint,” and “closed world” techniques. Of the 40 methods spelled out by the TRIZ approach, 8 involve what we would term scarcity.


31 Innovation Questions (and Answers) To Kick Off the New Year

This part includes a list of questions that can be helpful in understanding the innovation process and intricacies.  (by Scott Anthony, on BusinessWeek:

  1. How do you define innovation? Something different that has impact.
  2. What are different types of innovation? consider different strategic intents (e.g., create a new category, extend current business) or innovation mechanisms (e.g., new product, distribution channel, marketing approach).
  3. How to spot opportunities for innovation? Go to the source: the customer you hope to target.
  4. Which customers to target? Look beyond your best customers to those who face a constraint that inhibits their ability to solve the problems they face in their life.
  5. What should I look for? As Drucker said, “the customer rarely buys what the business thinks it sells him;” look for a job-to-be-done, an important problem that is not adequately solved by current solutions.
  6. How should I look? Start with deep ethnographic research; avoid focus groups!
  7. How do I come up with an idea? Remember the Picasso line “good artists copy, great artists steal;” seek to borrow ideas from other industries or geographies.
  8. What is disruptive innovation? An innovation that transforms a market or creates a new one through simplicity, convenience, affordability or accessibility.
  9. What is the best way to disrupt a market? Embrace the power of trade offs. Seek to be just “good enough” along historical performance dimensions but introduce new benefits related to simplicity or affordability.
  10. What does “good enough” mean? Performance above a minimum threshold to adequately solve a customer’s job to be done; sacrificing performance along traditional dimensions can open up new avenues to innovate.
  11. What is a business model (and how to innovate one)? How a company creates, captures, and delivers value; codifying the current business model is the critical first step of business model innovation.
  12. How can I “love the low end”? Build a business model designed around the low-end customer’s job-to-be-done.
  13. How do I know if my idea is good? Let patterns guide and actions decide; remember Scott Cook’s advice that “for every failure we had we had spreadsheets that looked awesome.”
  14. How can I learn more about my idea? Design and execute “high return on investment” experiments to address critical unknowns.
  15. How can I get other people behind my idea? Bring the idea to life through visuals and customer testimonials.
  16. How long does it take new businesses to scale? Almost always longer than initial projections; be patient for growth and impatient for profits.
  17. Why is innovation so important? The “new normal” of constant change requires mastering perpetual transformation.
  18. Why is innovation so hard? Most organizations are designed to execute, not to innovate.
  19. Who are your influences? Academics like Clayton Christensen and Vijay Govindarajan, leading-edge innovative companies like Procter & Gamble and Cisco Systems, and thoughtful writers like Michael Mauboussin and Bill James.
  20. How do I encourage innovation in my organization? Stop punishing anything that smells like failure, recognizing that failure is often a critical part of the innovation process.
  21. What is “the sucking sound of the core?” The pull of the core business and business model that subtly influences new ideas so they resemble what the organization has done before.
  22. What is an innovation “safe space”? An organizational mechanism that protects innovators from the sucking sounds of the core.
  23. How should I form and manage innovation teams? Keep deadlines tight and decision makers focused.
  24. What is in a good innovation strategy? Overall goals, a target portfolio for innovation efforts, a mechanism to allocate resources to achieve that portfolio, and clearly defined goals and boundaries for innovation.
  25. What is the best way to manage an innovation portfolio? Make sure you correctly capture current activities and measure and manage different kinds of innovations in different ways.
  26. What does ‘prudent pruning’ mean? Recognizing that destruction is often a critical component of creation.
  27. What role should senior executives play in innovation? A big one.
  28. How can I personally become a better innovator? Practice – innovation is a skill that can be mastered.
  29. How can I find more resources for innovation? Shut down “zombie projects” that are a drain on corporate resources.
  30. How can I more quickly turn good ideas into good businesses? Remember what Edison said – genius is “1% inspiration and 99% perspiration;” get ready to sweat.
  31. Has anyone built the ability to innovate at scale? An increasing number of companies, such as Google, Apple, Procter & Gamble,, Cisco Systems, Godrej & Boyce and General Electric.


3M’s innovation revival (From Fortune)


The below discussion is interesting because it touches on the important clash between efficiency and innovation… between trying to optimize processes and operations, and the possible loss of versatility and innovation that it can cause.

FORTUNE — 3M is everywhere. This is the point George Buckley, the chairman and CEO of 3M, is trying to make as he talks about his favorite subject, inventing things: “even in the worst economic times in memory, we released over 1,000 new products.”

“I’m told there’s some 3M inside that phone,” I say. Buckley replies, “There’s lots of 3M inside.” He can’t say exactly what 3M (MMMFortune 500) gadget is in the iPhone; Apple’s (AAPLFortune 500) skittish about such things. But point well made: 3M is everywhere.

Apple and many others couldn’t do what they do without 3M. 3M produces a mind-bending 55,000 products. Some of them you know — Post-it notes, Scotch tape, Dobie scouring pads, Ace bandages, Thinsulate insulation. But most you don’t, because they’re embedded in other products and places: autos, factories, hospitals, homes, and offices. Scientific Anglers fly-fishing rods and Nutri-Dog chews? Yup. They also come from 3M.

Somehow they all add up to a business with $23.1 billion in revenue and $3.2 billion in net income in 2009, placing 3M at No. 106 on the Fortune 500.

3M has long been synonymous with innovation. Founded in 1902 as the Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co., it has deployed a range of practices to promote out-of-the-box thinking.

Long before Google (GOOG,Fortune 500) gave its engineers one day a week to pursue their own ideas, 3M let its researchers do the same with up to 15% of their time.

In another unusual practice, 3M awards annual Genesis Grants, worth as much as $100,000, to company scientists for research. The money is allocated by their peers and is spent on projects for which “no sensible, conventional person in the company would give money,” says Chris Holmes, vice president of 3M’s abrasives division.

Management efficiency came at a cost to creativity

Despite such practices, many inside and outside 3M, including Buckley, think 3M lost some of its creative juice under James McNerney, the acclaimed GE alum who led the company from 2001 to 2005 and is now CEO of Boeing (BAFortune 500). It’s not that McNerney, the first outsider to run 3M, did a poor job. The company had become sluggish, and McNerney whipped it into shape. He streamlined operations, laid off 8,000 people, and imported Six Sigma management techniques, popularized by GE, to analyze processes, curb waste, and reduce defects. “He brought the discipline and the focus on execution we needed,” says Mark Colin, who oversees a 3M business that makes products for mobile devices. Earnings grew, margins improved, and shareholders cheered.

But the efficiency gains came at a price. Scientists and engineers griped that McNerney, an MBA, didn’t understand the creative process. Six Sigma rules choked those working in the labs. “It’s really tough to schedule invention,” says a mechanical engineer who has been with 3M for 30 years. (Boeing said McNerney would not be available for comment.)

Why is that important? Because as 3M’s older products grow outmoded or become commodities, it must replace them. “Our business model is literally new-product innovation,” says Larry Wendling, who oversees 3M’s corporate research. The company, as a result, had in place a goal to generate 30% of revenue from new products introduced in the past five years. By 2005, when McNerney left to run Boeing, the percentage was down to 21%, and much of the new-product revenue had come from a single category, optical films. (3M also has a history of acquisitions and has announced deals recently.)

Turning over a new leaf

The board turned to Buckley, now 63, who had demonstrated his business chops as CEO of Brunswick, an Illinois company known for bowling gear and boats. But the most important thing to know about Buckley, a Brit with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering, is that he’s a scientist at heart who has several patents to his name. In other words, he’s a good fit for 3M. “This is to me an engineer’s and scientist’s Toys ‘R’ Us,” Buckley says.

Buckley has laid out some clear business goals for the company. He wants managers to protect and strengthen 3M’s core businesses, like abrasives, industrial tapes, and optical film. He wants 3M to develop lower-cost products to compete in emerging regions. He wants 3M to be part of future growth markets (example: renewable energy, water infrastructure, and mobile digital media). Above all, Buckley has been an outspoken champion of the labs. Last year, despite the recession, he kept R&D spending at more than $1 billion. Says management guru Ram Charan, who advises 3M: “George has accelerated the innovation machine by devoting his personal time, his energy, his focus, to empowering the researchers, opening up their minds and urging them to restore the luster of 3M.” The results speak for themselves: The percentage of 3M’s revenue from products introduced in the past five years is back to 30% and may reach the mid-30s by 2012.

Six Sigma remains in force in 3M’s factories, but it’s gone from the labs. Each of 3M’s six major business units has its own research lab, which is product-focused, while the corporate research staff works on core technologies that are shared by all the businesses. Altogether, 3M employs 6,500 people (out of about 75,000) in R&D.

It’s the core technologies — things like abrasives, adhesives, imaging, and films — that drive growth at 3M, often in unexpected ways. Consider microreplication, a process 3M uses to create tiny, precisely shaped structures that can be arranged on a variety of surfaces; the technology dates to the 1960s, when it was used to make low-cost overhead projectors for schools and offices. The projectors are mostly gone, but microreplication is alive and well, embedded in 3M products that enable traffic signs to be brighter and golf gloves to deliver a tighter grip with less effort. Currently 3M is seeking regulatory approval for a drug-delivery device — a skin patch made of pain-free microneedles that barely pierce the skin and could replace hypodermics.

It’s safe to say that no 3M product will generate the buzz of, say, the next iPhone. But 3M has never been about inventing the Next Big Thing. It’s about inventing hundreds and hundreds of Next Small Things, year after year. Things like Cubitron II. Buckley explains that Cubitron II is an industrial abrasive that cuts faster, lasts longer, sharpens itself, and requires less elbow grease than any other abrasive on the market. Introduced last year, it’s selling like crazy, to the CEO’s delight. “How the heck do [you] innovate in abrasives?” he asks. “A 106-year-old business for us! For goodness’ sake — it’s sandpaper!” Catching himself a moment later, he jokes, “I probably need to get out more.” Maybe so, but you can understand what he’s excited about: little things like grains of sand that add up to the big business that is 3M.

(Reporting by Marilyn Adamo and Betsy Feldman contributed to this article.)

Posted in Business, Leadership, Management, Strategy, Technology, Entrepreneurship and Innovation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

On Multitasking: Can you Multitask ?

Think-Grow: Multitasking is a huge discussion now… How beneficial is it ? Can it really deliver considerable benefits? a short article on HBR blogs discusses a negative point of view on multitasking and how it can actually reduce personal effectiveness.

Based on over a half-century of cognitive science and more recent studies on multitasking, we know that multitaskers do less and miss information. It takes time (an average of 15 minutes) to re-orient to a primary task after a distraction such as an email. Efficiency can drop by as much as 40%. Long-term memory suffers and creativity — a skill associated with keeping in mind multiple, less common, associations — is reduced.

Actually, the article claims that multitasking does not exist, at least not as we think about it. We instead switch tasks. Our brain chooses which information to process. For example, if you listen to speech, your visual cortex becomes less active.

Then, When you talk on the phone to a client and work on your computer at the same time, you literally hear less of what the client is saying.

But… Why do we do it then ?

We tend to respond strongly to social messaging, verbal or non-verbal. Knowing and improving our status, expanding awareness of our group, is important to us, and as a result information that helps us do that is often processed automatically, no matter what we are trying to focus on.

Remote distractions, the ones aided by technology, often are unaware of current demands on us. People calling you at work, send you emails, or firing off texts can’t see how busy you are with your current task. Nor can Twitter feeds or email alerts. As a result, every communication is an important one that interrupts you.

Also, we crave access to more information because it makes us comfortable. People tend to search for information that confirms what they already believe. Multiple sources of confirmation can increase our confidence in our choices. But Paradoxically, more information also leads to discomfort, because some of it might be conflicting. As a result, we then search for more confirmatory information.

What can we do about it?

Technological demands are here to stay. How to avoid overload?

Here are the Recommendations:

  1. Make an effort to do tasks one at a time & stick with one item until completion whenever possible. If attention starts to wane (typically after about 18 minutes), you can switch to a new task, but take a moment to leave yourself a note about where you were with the first one. Give the new task your full attention, again for as long as you can.
  2. Know when to close your door. Before, people did this when they had to work hard on something. Doing the same thing to the different electronic interruptions is probably even more important if you want to be productive and creative. Set aside time when people know you are going to focus.
  3. Admit that not all information is useful. Determine which communications are worthy of interrupting you, and what data you should seek out. When doing a Google search, ask yourself if you are just accessing links that confirm what you already believe or those that challenge those beliefs. Similarly, know the difference between social networks, which are likely to confirm your choices and therefore make you feel good, and knowledge networks, which might challenge them, and therefore help you make a better decision.

Other than this article, the discussion on multitasking is quite rich… A study ( estimated that people being distracted by emails and phone calls (multitasking) suffer drops in their IQs higher than those caused by Marijuana !!! An average multitasking drop of 10 IQ points happened to those people according to the study !

Another study says that the more you multitask, the worse at it you actually get — heavy multitaskers do worse than light multitaskers:

Peter Bergman wrote about his multitasking experiences after he decided to stop multitasking for a week and recorded the following results:

First, it was delightful.

Second, I made significant progress on challenging projects

Third, my stress dropped dramatically. (Research shows that multitasking isn’t just inefficient, it’s stressful.)

Fourth, I lost all patience for things I felt were not a good use of my time.

Fifth, I had tremendous patience for things I felt were useful and enjoyable.

Sixth, there was no downside.

How did he say he did it?

“First, the obvious: the best way to avoid interruptions is to turn them off. Often I write at 6 am when there’s nothing to distract me, I disconnect my computer from its wireless connection and turn my phone off. In my car, I leave my phone in the trunk. Drastic? Maybe. But most of us shouldn’t trust ourselves.

Second, the less obvious: Use your loss of patience to your advantage. Create unrealistically short deadlines. Cut all meetings in half. Give yourself a third of the time you think you need to accomplish something.

There’s nothing like a deadline to keep things moving. And when things are moving fast, we can’t help but focus on them. How many people run a race while texting? If you really only have 30 minutes to finish a presentation you thought would take an hour, are you really going to answer an interrupting call?”


This interesting video helps illustrate the concept of multitasking weaknesses to you:

This Article on NPR  ( has a detailed discussion on why we are not really multitasking when we think we are, but are rather switching between tasks back and forth. An article on the website of the american psychology association titled “Is Multitasking More Efficient? Shifting Mental Gears Costs Time, Especially When Shifting to Less Familiar Tasks” discusses a number of studies on the time costs incurred by switching through different tasks.

Posted in Education, Personal Development, Psychology, Studies, Thinking and The Mind | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Speech Therapy

Speech therapy .. Stuttering .. Children .. more

The Economist had an interesting article on speech therapy, inspired by the movie ‘the king’s speech’… It discusses historical approaches to the problem, including blaming it on dryness of the tongue (In the second century – Galen), or on a stiff tongue (In the 17th, Francis Bacon reckoned), or In the 19th, surgeons suggested too large a tongue. In the 20th, parental neglect and even an unfulfilled urge for oral sex were considered (the movie itself stresses psychology). The suggested remedies were just as diverse: Galen : wrapping the patient’s tongue in a cloth soaked in lettuce juice , Bacon recommended wine. The Victorians wielded scalpels. The psychiatrists, the couch.

Regarding treating stuttering / stammering with children, there are different recommendations. Many sources argue that stuttering with children should be fought be providing a relaxed home environment that allows many opportunities for the child to speak. This includes setting aside time to talk to one another, especially in the times of excitement, and when a child and has a lot to say. Negativity when a child stutters doesn’t reduce the problem but aggravates it. parents should react to the stuttering with gentle corrections and praise and positive enforcement whenever possible. Parents should also be less demanding on their children to speak in a certain way or to perform verbally for people.

Also, Speaking in a slightly slowed and relaxed manner can help reduce time pressures. Attentive and engaged listening, and not trying to finish the child’s sentences also helps. In addition, help the child learn that a person can communicate successfully even when stuttering occurs.

there are also anti-stuttering gadgets that stop stuttering and enable ‘a smooth speech’

These days, many arguments about stuttering seem to be taking the direction of brain anatomy and genes!!! Luc De Nil (Toronto Uni) found that parts of the brain linked to the production of speech are more active in stutterers than non-stutterers, while those involved in perceiving sounds are less so. Brains of Stutterers tend to have more densely packed grey matter in the areas associated with processing and producing sounds. so … are those causes are genetic or environmental ?

Dennis Drayna of America’s National Institutes of Health: stuttering is at least partly a matter of genes and It runs in families!! Studies of twins suggest a genetic component larger than those involved in high cholesterol and osteoporosis.

Dr Drayna’s analysis suggests that stuttering is linked to mutation of a gene calledGNPTAB—In January Dr Drayna and his colleagues published a paper in the Journal of Human Genetics tracing the responsible mutation (of people in the study sample) back almost 600 generations, to a common ancestor who would have lived around 14,000 years ago.

Another study of South Asians indicated that mutations in two other genes, GNPTG andNAGPA, are found in individuals who stutter, but not in non-stutterers.

Posted in Health, Personal Development, Psychology, Sociology | Tagged , , , , , , , |