Archive for Resources

Using Specialization to Analyze and Apply Data

Unimaginable amounts of data are collected about just about everything (ex. Patchoplis has had 175 views since the last post); however, in many cases there are not established controls to filter, analyze, and apply results in a meaningful and reliable manner. As an avid fantasy baseball player I’m accustomed to poring through data to justify any decision I want to make. ESPN’s Matthew Berry annually makes this point in his book Fantasy Life (Berry, 2014). Simply having data and knowing how to manipulate it is useful for theoretical conversations and charting a path, but in execution you must also have have a certain touch – a specialization – to know how to correctly apply the data.

In baseball Alfredo Simon, starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, is a prime example of a specialist using highly developed sense of touch to master his craft. Prior to a start, a data manager certainly shares with him a method to attack each a hitter; however, on the mound he isn’t using that data to make pitch selections. He pitches by feel, judging when to pitch to his own personal strength or against his opponent’s weakness (Tiger’s Broadcast, 4/25/2015). Being a specialist in his trade, he knows something the data can not; he knows when he is at his best and when he is slightly off. While on the mound he assesses when present conditions and his performance that day will allow him to break off his best slider and when he is throwing a lesser version. He is a specialist at what he does and uses that unfair advantage to win his battles on the mound.

Everyone develops an unfair advantage, a specialty they can have that others do not (Peter Thiel, Zero to One). Data and a data driven machine will never possess the ability to apply this specialization because it can not adjust on the fly by feel and experience. Watson, IBM’s world famous computer, recently created the cookbook Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson (IBM and Institute of Culinary Education, 2015). As Mark Wilson discovered, the recipe’s produced by Watson lack a palette pleasing touch (Wilson, Fast Company, April 20, 2015). While the dishes the recipes contributed to were not completely inedible and had a logic, they created a dish that was not enjoyable. Watson understood how to take the parts of the recipe and explain how to prepare and assemble into a dish, but not the flair that would convert them to an enjoyable meal.

Continuing to use food as an example, how many of us can truly say we have that touch? Most have no real training in cooking and less background in nutrition. While 3D printers, refined computer algorithms, and local high quality ingredients can improve our creation of a dish, we do not posses the specialization to make an outstanding and nutritional meal, much less do it with a pleasing daily variety. Add in the factor of where we consume these less than satisfying meals. At the end of a rough day a less than satisfying meal alone in your kitchen is not the best method to replenish and prepare for a fresh tomorrow. Instead look to professionals to prepare meals; those with training in food preparation and nutrition and meet the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours of rule of enough practice to have honed their craft and are now specialists (Gladwell, Outliers, 2008).

Patchopolis envisions a modernized model of community meals outlined in Thomas More’s Utopia.
“…for though any that will may eat at home, yet none does it willingly, since it is both ridiculous and foolish for any to give themselves the trouble to make ready an ill dinner at home when there is a much more plentiful one made ready for him so near hand” (53). Patchopolis envisions a format where individuals order through an app that feeds information to a chef — a specialist in culinary and nutritional arts – who, based on data from the app, knows your personal dietary allergies, general food preferences, and daily consumption in combination with their refined touch to prepare a meal designed for the individual.

Patchopolis envisions a society where specialists use their unfair advantage and data provided to strengthen and contribute to the betterment of the community. Rather than expecting each individual to adequately perform the same tasks, the individual is accountable to appropriately utilize data in combination with their practiced skill and truly shine in service. The community relies on each individual to utilize their unfair advantage as the individual’s right of membership.

Innovation and Opportunity

Patchopolis celebrates the potential of innovation to spur sustainable community development through activating urban environments, improving community partnerships, and developing more efficient urban infrastructure. Through the innovations discussed, developed, and dreamed about this blog searches for local solutions to create better community and business connections today and into the future.

At times when researching for this blog it can be overwhelming to think about the social challenges our communities and others around the world face.  Between current challenges in the U.S. or abroad (ex. malnutrition, healthcare access, civil order) or future challenges (ex. adaption to climate change, resource abundance) it feels at times like an uphill battle against questions without answers. Recently I have been able to enjoy a few pieces that focus not on the challenges, but on solutions and the mindset of how to approach challenges.

Abundance by Peter H. Diamandis(@PeterDiamandis) and Steven Kotler
The Island President, featuring President Mohamed Nasheed (@MohamedNasheed) of the Maldives.
• A video of the commencement speech that Dick Costolo (@dickc) gave at the University of Michigan.

There are any number of similar resources that can provide inspiration (and I encourage comments with suggested resources), but I found the message of these three to be related and empowering, all calling for innovation, collaboration, and making decisions in the moment.

Rather than focusing on the negative, approach challenges of shortages through the compounding benefits of innovation.  Abundance commits chapters to topics including food, water, energy, health, and education, but besides citing the success of new innovations by students, start-up companies, and community organizations, the authors discuss, for instance, how reducing hunger also impacts an individual’s overall health, a community’s access to preventative healthcare, and educational success.  Similarly The Island President encourages not focusing on what is sacrificed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but instead the benefits for nations and corporations to be leaders in their field through finding adaptive strategies that are better solutions than following in the footsteps of U.S. Industrialism from the last century.  Through creating better practices and cleaner more efficient approaches to challenges, nations and new companies become leaders in the new economy rather than playing catch-up.

While the challenges faced are complex, the solutions don’t have to be.  Collaboration between mixed experiences and individual specialties create innovations that address multiple issues more efficiently, using less resources while meeting multiple needs.  While an engineer can create a potentially world changing innovation, they may have no idea how to fund it, role it out to a community, and continue to manage and improve the service.  Even if this can all be achieved by one individual, having ten teams working independently to address the same challenge has a far greater potential to find an even better (more resource or monetarily efficient) solution. Abundance uses the example of the xPrize where issuing a comparatively small prize to the winning idea nets a whole set of solutions, any of which might prove to be a world changing solution.  Through collaborating on issues, different backgrounds and specialties come together to find innovative solutions.

Of final importance is the message to live in the moment — being willing to go for it and chase an opportunity.  We are not able to plan out how the future will unfold, but when an idea or opportunity presents itself we must be willing to accept it and see where it leads.  In 2007, if you had asked me where I saw myself in five years my vision wouldn’t have included this blog or any of my current learning interests.  I wasn’t planning to study at the University of Minnesota for graduate school and therefore wouldn’t have an M.S. In Sustainable Design.  I wouldn’t have worked for a wind company, business sustainability consultant, or as a project manager for building alteration projects.  We can’t plan the opportunities that present themselves, but instead must take what is available, develop our best ideas, and push them to the limits to see what is achievable.  How will the greatest challenges of the next five years be solved?  We can only begin to dream, but if we are prepared and willing, opportunities will present themselves to test great products, make substantial improvements, and have life-ruiningly outstanding experiences.

In Milwaukee June 1-10 is Flying Car 2013, Milwaukee’s Innovation Week.  I plan to attend the Kohl’s Challenge, Millercoors Libation Innovation, and hopefully a few other events.  If you’re in the area I suggest registering and coming to collaborate, network, and mingle socially with other innovators and entrepreneurs from the area.