How computers are changing leadership definitions ? Accuracy, bias and the cyborg perspective.

What does one see in one half of a torn picture lying trivially on a work table? A girl nervously smiling next to what is unmistakably a white kitten and that is only half the story. As one draws closer, one sees other half of the picture and one is taken aback by what is a ferocious white lion next to the kitten or oh well, it isn’t a kitten anymore. Is it? It is rather a white lion cub. How foolish of one at the first place to have reached such a conclusion that it was a kitten? Or yikes, is that how the brain infers after all?

Anchoring bias specifically, is a response to brain’s need to make decisions from incomplete information to carry out day to day activities. Bias exists to make sense of the information around us and make sensible decisions. Every time, one sees a white kitten, one would panic otherwise. It is important to observe a girl (man to be less gender biasedJ) next to a seemingly cute white cat and infer it as a cat. It is important not to panic every time thinking there might be a white tiger next to it. Of course, it comes with a penalty called accuracy.

By having biases and completing the incomplete information, we sacrifice accuracy. In the example above, it is a white lion cub (and therefore our accuracy went for a toss) and in real life situations, having access to that level of accuracy of information could have saved one’s life. But hey, accuracy comes with a penalty too. Why would you labor thinking out all the possible animals and imagine that a cute looking kitten on the doorway might be a lion cub? It makes sense to have some biases to be more practical, but nevertheless dangerous sometimes too. How dangerous and futile is it to complete the information of being rich with happiness and endlessly work towards it? We will find out soon below.

Consider a wildlife forensic expert. His education removes some biases (as does all education, in general) and he would immediately infer from the first half of the picture that it was a lion cub. He has more information, thanks to his education and experience which reduces bias of this kind. Welcome the expert. To have experts is to make more accurate decisions in any organization or any situation. And how to make better decisions when experts are absent? Welcome the so called intuitive leaders, experts in none, but have inbuilt biases which discern patterns from incomplete information and make mostly reasonable and sometimes extraordinary predictive decisions based on biases of hunches alone (You can say they are experts with owning remarkable biases). Put in some leaders and some experts and you have a fairly solid organization to make accurate decisions when information is available with the helps of experts and fair predictions on the basis of biases when information is unavailable with the help of leaders.

So what’s new? The trade-off between accuracy and biases is well known. This time, I welcome the future cyborg. He has all the information on the planet in his brain and sensors and processing times zillion times sharper. He has all the information and therefore he makes 100% right decisions every time in a fraction of a second. Why biases, when you can compute from all the information every time? Experts who built this cyborg, felt so much less knowledgeable in comparison to the cyborg and leaders who hired and yes the same leaders lost their jobs in this role or they became cyborgs themselves.

Good leaders traditionally have been intuitive leaders who made good predictive decisions with incomplete information with their inbuilt set of biases from vast experience in a wide array of situations. Here is the new definition. Good leaders are cyborgs with the best computing capacity J  If cyborg is too strong a word (the world’s first cyborg is already out there and therefore is within our reach) an external supercomputer will do too.

One final thought. I previously asked how dangerous and futile is it to complete the information of being rich with happiness and endlessly work towards it? It might not be dangerous and futile after all and it might be a step towards surviving the future itself. Save yourselves to buy some expensive computers and become cyborgs 🙂 and predicting on the same lines rich enough to achieve mortality :). Who says happiness? We are talking survival here 😉

Disclaimer: Rich will survive and therefore we need to become rich is very much subject to many counterarguments and I fully appreciate the same, especially the immortal soul spiritual counterargument (what with support from quantum theory increasingly gathering scientific voices of an illusory world tending towards such explanations) and the above blog is meant to be in no disregard to such spiritual theories/otherwise.

How did Leicester City win despite 5000:1 odds against winning? (for the stat savvy)

How did Leicester city win despite 5000:1 odds? (Warning: for the stat savvy only)

Leicester City winning the EPL despite 5000:1 odds against winning has been such an extreme phenomenon that it is more extreme than the odds against Elvis Presley being found alive- 1000:1. At the beginning of the season, Leicester City were ranked 17th out of 20 teams and barely managed to escape a relegation last year. Since 1992, the year in which the premier league was established, only the top 5 teams have won the League (22 times), except in 1994 by Blackburn Rovers and they too were runners up in 1993, which means they were amongst the expected teams to win. Leicester City’s whole team was bought at a price less than 1/10th of the league’s most expensive buy.

The event is quite inexplicable and even more confounding considering the below two facts:

  1. Success doesn’t follow a bell curve and therefore it is even more difficult to win for a low ranked team:

lognormal curve

By Central Limit Theorem, the mean of most natural phenomena follow a bell curve (normal distribution). Let me explain: If we take the mean heights of human population it will be a bell curve. This is because the height of individual A let us say is dependent on three random variables- nutrition, spend and weather.

Now these can be expressed as an equation:

Height = B1*nutrition+B2*spend+B3*weather+E, where B1, B2, B3 are the constants and E is the randomness (unexplained variance due to randomness). Central limit theorem says the 3 random variables are independent and have an additive effect on the natural phenomenon- height of an individual. Additionally, the mean height of these individuals put together results in a bell curve.

However, success follows log normal-distribution and not bell curve. That is, as shown like the picture above, whenever there is a competition among various individuals (or football teams), the resulting mean score of merit is distributed log-normally. That is most of the individuals will be in the lower end of the distribution and the successful few will be at the higher end.

This is because the factors contributing to merit are not additive, but multiplicative. For example let us say merit is explained by the following equation for an individual:

Merit = (B1*environment)*(B2*spend)*(B3*talent)+E. They are multiplicative because, an individual having higher spend and better talent will have a multiplicative effect on the merit, whereas the same individual will have an additive effect on the height (natural phenomena). It is like saying that if one is talented as well as does hard work then he is not 2(sum) times more effective but his effectiveness is a product of talent and hard work. The Central Limit Theorem fails in success because it is for independent (additive) random variables and as soon as the multiplicative effects happen the resulting distribution is no more normal and is log-normal (there is also a log normal Central Limit Theorem if you want to delve more into multiplicative effects)

Therefore, in EPL we obviously observe that the same top 4 or 5 teams win repeatedly, because they recruit better talent, spend more and also the victory effect of the previous seasons are all multiplicative to produce the resulting merit. The rest of the teams have no way of winning/getting to the right side of log-normal distribution since they already possess lower talent and lower scores and on top of that merit is multiplicative. So the victory chances of Leicester city are very low.

2. Law of large numbers:

The lower ranked teams might win one or two games (due to chance), but over an entire season of 38 games the individual random variables show their true colors and the merit gets averaged out. As a result the summation of the scores for merit for Leicester City will result in a quantity proportionate to their rank and they are bound to end at the bottom of the table most probably.

Now, despite the above 2 factors how did Leicester city manage to win?

The answer lies in two important factors:

1. Leicester city capitalized on the randomness factor E: Now, let us first define randomness (definition from information theory). For example: If a coin is flipped, there is no way of identifying whether it will return heads or tails with human eye. This is because the randomness (unexplained variance) is so high that we cannot predict it using human eye. However, if we use better tools and sensors, then it is actually possible to predict a random event like tossing a coin. The randomness associated can be decreased. In game theory randomness is like luck. In some of the video games, the developers purposefully inculcate randomness in order to increase the unpredictability of the games. Therefore, higher the E, higher the randomness/luck factor.

Chess for example has zero randomness if played by 2 computers because every move can be associated with definite odds. But, so is not the case when humans play. Humans can bear in memory only a definite number of future moves and after that, the game becomes unpredictable. Similarly, football has a certain degree of randomness. The data analysis has reduced randomness a lot (ex: the Money ball movie) though. The machine learning algorithms can include hundreds of thousands of variables and therefore in our equation the E (unexplained variance/randomness) gets converted into more and more explainable factors and becomes smaller. The simulation algorithms can run games with the opposing teams’ formations and strategies/tactics and therefore the luck factor is greatly reduced esp. with teams having better spending capabilities and data hacking capabilities. Therefore Leicester city did not have much randomness left in the game hereafter to produce unexpected outcomes.

In addition, Leicester city did not compete with regards to the possession variable (ranked 18th) at all, which has been a major point of discussion among the competitors. It also seems logical to conclude that higher the possession, better the chances of scoring a goal. Well, Leicester city has turned that upside down we know. In terms of pass percentage they are placed 19th. So they basically do high risk passes with high degree of randomness. They did not/could not compete with the variables that are usually explained to calculate merit of the teams because they know they cannot do that with the kind of talent and money they possess.

So how did they beat the giants in the game?

They capitalized on whatever randomness was left in the game, to the most. As soon as an opposition attack is thwarted, there is unlimited chaos and randomness in the game of football. Here the formations go out of shape. So all the tactical and strategic moves from the opposition are out of picture. The E is at the highest. And during this vulnerable chaotic situation Leicester masters the game and scores. Rest of the time (and also overall) they are the same below average team in terms of merit. But they hacked a way to increase the score line with the help of capitalising on the few randomness moments that are left in the game today (technology, I am sure will soon consume that too and make it predictable).

Leicester did this with the help of long passes (they have the highest) and sheer pace when other teams were focusing on regaining position and composure from chaos. Leicester’s game itself was modelled around creating (to some extent using 2/3rd of the playing area only at any point of time, long risky passes) and capitalising on the chaotic situations the most (pace and high conversion %). Since most premier league teams work on short passes and possession oriented games, Leicester created new variables that explained the remaining E. There is a big lesson in how to defeat stronger teams/opponents here. Identify the E (randomness) and develop a strategy to score when it is high. There is no way to compete in the usually explained variables like possession. Considering Leicester’s talent, they obviously loose there and that is not their focus. But whenever E went high they capitalized the most and made it count to the score line.

Next time when you face a tougher opponent bear in mind the E he has left out and the E you can create and capitalize on in every situation.

2. Once Leicester found a way to capitalize on randomness and built the variables around the E, they also made sure the team was very fine tuned. A fine-tuned team again takes up multiple variables and creates a multiplicative (if not more) effect on the merit. Using these fine-tuned variables they were able to quickly move to the right of the log-normal table, just like they consistently moved into the D. Team spirit itself takes up many individual random variables and creates an output which has more than just an additive effect. The fact, that they ended up at the very extreme of the log normal table despite having low talent means they gelled the random variables really well to create a multiplicative effect on the merit outcome. The team manager’s role in building such a fine tuned team cannot be ignored.

And that is how Leicester won the league. By capitalising on the randomness and building a very fined tuned team around the same according to me. I would be very keen to hear any counter arguments on the same J

Top 5 things that will change when “Internet of things” and Yoga come together

In about 5 years, smart refrigerators are expected to become household things. Your refrigerator will scan the things in it and report a stock update. It could add things to your shopping cart in the retailer website. It could also compare with your friends’ refrigerators and rank the contents in your refrigerator based on a health index. You might hear suggestions from refrigerator like “above average fat content” or “you will run out of milk today” or “your friend purchased a bottle of Chateau Latour”

The age of “Internet of Things” will soon dawn upon us. It will (and has already: For instance Ralph Lauren) connect the day-to-day things to the internet and also multiple things between themselves with the help of sensors, electronic devices and of course the internet.

How could internet of things transform the way we practise yoga?
Here are my 5 points:

1. Asanas/Postures: Smartmat can give you feedback on alignment of postures and distribution of weight on the mat immediately. If you are practising yoga alone or away from your tutor this could make a world of change to your yoga practise. Check out this video and you can pre-order a Smartmat here
2. Breathing: Your smart phone/sensors could find when your normal breathing is altered during a yoga practice. It could give a warning too. There is no app on this now. (You have to be content with heart rate measuring apps or simulated breathing apps which are not Internet of things)
3. Bandhas/Body locks: Whenever Bandhas/body locks are not engaged sensors could detect the same and give you instant feedback
4. Meditation: There are several brain wave devices with apps which can detect what type of brainwaves your brain is emitting. Since your brain emits waves of certain frequency during meditation you will be able to get instant feedback whenever you deviate. Check one of the items here. Remember there is difference between calmness and mindfulness, so these devices might not be 100% accurate all the time
5. Interconneted devices: Now, you can connect the devices with each other too. Breathing device can be connected with the postures one or integrated together. This can help give proper feedback about complex postures where your breath is allowed to go out of pace when you are an apprentice. Also, these devices can be connected with similar devices that are used by your friends or your tutor, so you can instantly compare.

I know yoga doesn’t necessarily require technology, but if props can help progress faster, then why not “internet of things”. Isn’t it a prop too?

I got to go. My smart Diwali fireworks are updating me that it is time to burst them!

References:

Smartmat (2015) Smartmat. Available from: https://www.smartmat.com/ [Accessed 13 November 2015].

Wikipedia (2015) Internet of things. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_of_Things [Accessed 13 November 2015].

Have you commissioned a big data art piece yet?

As big data captures the imagination of the world (facts of the world, to be more precise!) and the data invasion transforms the way we live every day I have attempted to cherry pick its baby steps in the field of art.

The presence of data in art is probably as old as the humanity itself. Palm impressions in ancient caves could be one of the earliest examples of data art, but here I am trying to peek into the world of big data, which was probably unheard of 10 years ago. A few shining examples have been linked here which is really a tip of the iceberg of what is to come. When combined with the latest innovations of digital art, big data art can mesmerize and challenge some of the best works in traditional art.

Data is about facts (well mostly!) and if you ask me that is the USP of big data art – facts. If the purpose of art is washing the dust off our souls (my favorite art definition), then big data art makes it real. When facts are placed and the veil covering the truth is lifted it is more appealing simply because it is true. The impact of such an art piece is far reaching and more importantly it can move the shallowest of minds into action because of the truth factor. Picasso once said that art was never true. It was a lie which brings out the truth. But with big data art I feel it is different. It is the glaring truth right in the face which cannot be ignored very easily by anybody and therefore that much more powerful. It also adds an aesthetic touch to numbers. It gives us the unique opportunity to bring into life the biggest canvas of them all – Life. Yes, the facts of our life itself can be laid bare and visualized as big data art. Can you visualize your life? To say it is exciting is still an understatement when it comes to big data art.

Here are a few examples I picked online. There is lot of content here. Don’t forget to bookmark this page and come back whenever you need some data entertainment. Also, if this gave you new ideas regarding big data art feel free to share in the comments section. I would be very keen to hear them.

  1. Open data institute (University of Southampton is an honorary founding partner) has come up with innovative ways of generating awareness using big data art. Here is a link from WSJ:

http://www.wsj.com/video/what-happens-when-big-data-and-art-meet/35E2390E-D2D5-4F03-B849-542761FBCECA.html

  1. Quantified self (http://quantifiedself.com/) is an inspiration for collecting personal data. ‘Blocks of time tracked’ by an individual, color-coded by activity is brought into life here. Can you make art out of your Fitbit data? What would it look like?

http://www.lauriefrick.com/time-blocks/gzc9ab4yd8x8w6wa77oyxhn7jjojit

https://vimeo.com/52984751

http://dataphys.org/list/data-necklace-of-good-night-sms/

  1. Data music presents the truth here:

https://vimeo.com/118358642

  1. In this artwork, survey data is 3D printed to give unique representation for a community. Has your community got some unique numbers? Get an artwork done for them based on those if they mean so much to you

https://vimeo.com/51591994

  1. Ads and interactive data art– Prudential’s domino commercial is soaring high from stacking the numbers into art here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZpjmBGIp44

  1. Corporates have been queueing to get big data art installations in their workspace

http://www.computerweekly.com/photostory/2240107387/Photos-Barclays-hi-tech-Piccadilly-branch/4/BeingLondon-interactive-video-wall-installation-at-Barclays-Piccadilly

http://www.domusweb.it/en/art/2012/05/03/ryoji-ikeda-data-anatomy-civic-.html

http://dem-global.com/works/ctbc-bank-multimedia-interactive-installation-art/?lang=en

http://o-c-r.org/2015/03/09/006-meetings-meetings-everywhere/

  1. Media churns infinite numbers every day. Here Facebook summarized its political conversations and showcased them beautifully on none less than the London wheel during the UK elections

http://bompasandparr.com/projects/view/london-eye-chart/

https://informationstrategyrsm.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/art-in-big-data-and-big-data-in-art-ii/

  1. What do colors in Flickr and Instagram tell? Art tells the story without words in these visualizations.

https://datavisualization.ch/showcases/flickr-flow/

https://flowingdata.com/2015/03/09/on-broadway-shows-city-life-through-data-cross-sections/

  1. Earthquake data– Whenever earth shakes near Hayward Fault in California, it is detected by a seismograph and processed to generate this piece of art.

http://memento.ieor.berkeley.edu/bloom/Mori.html

  1. Social awareness– If you are fighting for a cause data art could be the game changer.

http://www.stefanieposavec.co.uk/data/#/airtransformed/

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/06/big-data-art-flash-intelligence-trigger-word

http://nautil.us/blog/big-sky-big-data-art-made-from-atmospheric-science

 

More links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99gMbK2QCKE

http://dataphys.org/list/

http://www.pcworld.com/article/2048715/the-art-of-numbers-who-knew-big-data-could-look-so-cool-.html

http://o-c-r.org/work/

https://googleblog.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/art-made-with-code-opens-at-londons.html

http://tulpinteractive.com/

Promoting zero

Sometimes in a noisy world which tends to get immersed in all things present, I paused and thought ‘how about promoting the very absence of the thing that is present?’ I call it promoting zero. A few examples below:

The surreal presence of an empty billboard amongst a clutter of ads in a busy street, the respect conveyed by silence amidst a heated argument, the mute in the middle of a song which pleasantly suffocates, the comforting tastelessness of water after a full course meal, the weight in the pause before that defining statement of the speech, the striking stillness in pose that lasts after a Sachin Tendulkar straight drive, everlasting memory of that ad you saw which was aired to make no statement at all, the eternal glow you come across in a face that has conquered fear and reduced it to zero after battling it a million times before, the absence of wonder at the latest capitalism’s blunder, the deafening silence that fills a boisterous stadium before that penalty kick which decides the final,  the joy in imagined absence of media furore over the so-called gross injustice of living in the times of Justin Bieber, the eternal silence of the hungry kids who die with an empty plate in their hands, that conspicuous absence of a clear message in an abstract painting, the missing bite from the apple logo, that silent film “the Artist” which roared to fame, the colourless Galadriel in the Lord of the rings, the power of silence in response to a persuasive argument, the mystery of the black box, the despair and missing joy among the seven participants who lost to Usain Bolt, that Lincoln’s letter which was never posted, the hushed silence of the library which empowers, the absence of reality in the world of humans who google “Is Tom and Jerry real”, the silence which follows a gun shot, the nothingness when you stop thinking, the missing continuity whenever a long sentence ends.

Zero has no meaning without all the noise. It exists because of noise. However, promoting zero amidst all the noise can make zero sound the loudest and thereby it becomes the most influential. The strategy can sometimes be a pleasant change in a noisy world.

I would be very much interested in knowing where you observe zero in your lives or any new ideas regarding how zero promotion can be used for positive results. Do let me know.

Is marketing analytics based on customer segmentation adequate amidst the gathering waves of liquid modernity?

What do all of these have in common?

  1. Your customers want to change their contact preference among mail, chat, phone number, second phone number, personal visit, text message, missed call and call back and so on and so forth. Every time you contact them, they wish you had contacted them from a different channel
  2. You have changed your Facebook profile picture 5 times today (officially). One before the job interview, one before meeting friends, one before meeting grandparents and the rest you can imagine
  3. You don’t recognise yourself as a proponent of any political party. You have a set of transient ideas in mind which are scattered among the manifestos of multiple parties
  4. Your next Facebook profile picture was automatically updated by an algorithm that predicted your behaviour faster than you could
  5. Your customers not only wish that you provide them payment services from their mobile app whenever they wish to buy– to avoid queues (Ex: Starbucks in the recent case), but also wish that their coffee was served at that very moment they wished to have it. Yes, whichever location, whenever they want, whatever they want, however they want. That is what they have been after. Isn’t it?
  6. You constantly complain that you are unable to pinpoint customer needs in a system that has become impossibly dynamic

It is liquid modernity.

Eastern contemplative philosophies and Buddhism in particular place impermanence as one of the everlasting truths of our existing world. It appears that, in the liquid modernity era, which is coined and researched by one of the eminent sociologists Zygmunt Bauman, world will exhibit impermanence in such an unprecedented pace that it will impact the way we observe and interpret the prevalent ideas in every institution mankind has so far built: social, political, economic and corporate– including marketing, to name a few. One of the repercussions of such an era that has already made inroads into our very lives is the imminent crashing of the concrete pillars on which such institutions were built (Bauman, 2013). And the more uncertain and staggering part of such a repercussion is that those solid pillars will be replaced with no pillars at all, unlike what used to happen before: such as the transition from product centric to customer centric approach. We will be left to feel the absolute freedom in the absence of such concrete pillars and will exist momentarily and whimsically: such as in that YouTube video film of abstract shapes and colours that are projected endlessly till; hopefully death– that is if today’s technology permits (Read Google’s brain). In its extreme manifestation of liquid modernity, the very idea of questioning and making sense of the current state itself is rendered meaningless. It is like the abstract that is trying to understand itself– which can only reflect more and more abstractions of various kinds.

I will try to summarize in a simpler way. Liquid modernity states our lives are becoming more fluid: lighter, faster and consisting more transient options (Bauman, 2013). Those examples I gave earlier demonstrate these. We will no more have solid ideals, relationships, individuality, locations, sexual identities etc., but we will and we already have lighter shades of a mixture of these solid states at different points of time thereby demonstrating impermanence– so much so, that this frequent change itself will become the state of affairs. In such a transient state of things, one can say that only those business systems flourish that can take shape, function and dismantle at a rate which is even faster than the impermanent fluid states which we assume momentarily. Technology will be the prime mover behind these immense changes in the thought and form of mankind and is going to dismantle the solid pillars we had built, thereby establishing unparalleled freedom. Was this the freedom that you were after?

Having said that, it appears that as liquid modernity takes shape, it will not be without resistance as any such huge movement shall face when it tries to impose itself universally. Also, human mind in its continuous search for change can always revert to those solid pillars as a change from fluidity itself. One can argue that the changes are so fast that such a solid state cannot be retained for long. But, time and again we have also observed freedom coming under the grip of solid ideals and countries stagnating and flowing alternatively. Despite all opposition, this time it is the technology that is driving such a freedom and it is competing with the mind itself and bringing forth changes that even the minds which create such a technology are unable to anticipate. So it appears, technology can take over our lives to a certain degree and reinforce fluid modernity. This is how far my dissolving liquid modern mind can anticipate. I give up here.

Coming back to segmentation: In marketing segmentation there is division of prospect base into segments such as traditionalist segment: which is more loyal, young segment: which is less loyal, family segment: which can be marketed with combo products etc. However, under the influence of the forces of liquid modernity each individual changes continuously with time. So, from an analytics perspective we need data and algorithms that can capture these changing individual states and aggregate them continuously, rather than having fixed segments and plans. Each individual can be imagined as a market in itself– with all the varieties of the market displayed at different points of time. In such a scenario, instead of looking into segments, each individual is treated separately depending on his temporary fluid state. The aggregated information of such fluid states of all the individuals concerned can be captured real time and based on such an aggregation the teams and processes form and dismantle seamlessly to cater to the instantaneous needs.

The above interpretation is of course an idealistic scenario. But we now at least know the direction that the marketing teams need to take: More fluid– lighter, faster and more and more transient options for every decision that is to be made. I have cherry picked a few scenarios related to marketing analytics here. The applications of liquid modernity can be extended to every possible field and it will be very interesting to listen to such ideas.

Ufff. I will try and use a speech to text application next time in the true spirit of liquid modernity J

References:

Bauman (2013), Liquid Modernity, Polity. Available from: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Liquid-Modernity-Zygmunt-Bauman-ebook/dp/B00E6OQBAE/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr= [Accessed 1 October 2015].

Molesworth (2015), Key themes in Marketing, lecture notes distributed in the module MANG6262, Marketing in the 21st Century, at the University of Southampton, 28 September.