Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Be Nice to Nerds

I watched this video last night from TED Talks. Regina Dugan, who was a director at DARPA (now at Google), does an outstanding job chronicling the experience of her group as well as bringing in some larger context on failure and the role that it plays in innovation. It reminds me of the quote from Einstein; “If we knew what we were doing it wouldn’t be called research”. Many discoveries are serendipitous and being able to pursue an endeavor without fearing failure can allow one to fail early rather than committing a larger amount of resources (both time and money) to a project as it continues.

Prediction Markets in an R&D Organization

An area I have been interested in investigating further is metrics that can show the performance of a research organization. I put a lot of credence in the  expression, “If you can’t measure it you can’t improve it”.  As such metrics to measure the performance of a research and development organization would give the organization a better idea of where hold-ups are in the product development cycle.

One idea I would like to see implemented, which isn’t really a metric based system,but would give an organization an early warning system for projects would be a prediction market setup. In James Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds and in case-studies of both Best Buy and Google the utility of prediction markets has been shown for use both in predicting events like sales as well as a project dashboard which can indicate a problem is occurring well before an official status report communicates the problem to the appropriate decision makers.  The reason I say this isn’t a metric based system is because while individuals participate in the prediction market each uses different metrics and bits of knowledge to make a call on a particular project rather than everyone collecting the same metric.

A prediction market works similar to a stock market where you can buy or short a particular “stock”. That stock might be “Best Buy will open a store in Alaska by Jun 2015”. Market participants can then buy or short the stock thus giving a probability of perceived success.  The beauty of a prediction market is the ability to aggregate large amounts of unfiltered data and communicate those results to key decision makers on a real-time basis.

If anyone has examples of this used at various companies I would be really interested in hearing about it. As always thoughts and comments are welcome!



GTD: Application of “Getting Things Done” as a Research Scientist

About a year ago I was transferred to a new role within my company. I am working on feasibility testing for technology to include in future high power products. This new role is a real growth opportunity for me. With this increased responsibility I have am working on a large number of projects reach with a different set of people for each project who are contributing. Keeping up with both the projects and the commitments that I have made  to them has been a challenge keeps me on my toes. To help facilitate this I have been more diligent about implementing Getting Things Done (GTD) as well as keeping my mindmap up to date. This has allowed me to keep track of commitments I have made as well as keep me thinking about next actions and reminding me to follow up with people who have made commitments to me.

GTD is allowing me to practice what I call guerilla warfare on my projects. What I mean by that is feeling empowered and keep hammering away at my projects. This quick and dirty methodology is allowing me to  be very versatile with my projects and rapidly react to changes and make projects relevant in a changing landscape. Additionally, it allows me to think more about the bigger picture as I already have mapped out actions to proceed and make progress on each project.

If anyone else has suggestions to share about keeping things in order and helping encourage follow-through on actions please post and let me know!

Carlson MBA

So I started my MBA this week. I am taking three classes this semester including Management of Innovation, Strategic Management and Financial Management. So far the professors have been really down to earth and interesting. The Innovation class should be a lot of fun as it takes us through a text called the Innovation Journey by Van de Ven et al. So far there is quite a bit of required reading between my three classes but the material is interesting. I hope to be able to apply what I learn at work and gain a better understanding of why some decisions are made and others are not. Also I hope to gain a vocabulary that will help me pitch projects and such to management in a “common” language. I will post as this unfolds. I found a really funny video about MBA students that I am linking to this post. Please watch it as it is hilarious!  

Freemind and Organization

I am beginning a new position in a research group! I am incredibly excited and looking to get a head start by organizing my projects and making sure ideas do not fall through the cracks. To do this I am using Freemind to break down my projects and set up reminders for tickler ideas and so that I  wake up less frequently in the middle of the night . This is along the lines of a GTD implementation. One of the features I am excited about it the scripting feature using Groovy. I am trying to learn groovy so that I can generate lists on demand. For example if I have a number of calls to make to different people I want those calls to be items under a specific project.  A way to poll the different nodes and grab each one that is listed as say a phone contact and put them into a call list would be incredibly helpful.  Another nifty idea would to be able to generate a daily or weekly action list.This way I can still have my folders and not worry about duplicate entries. I realize I can partially do this through filtering but am looking to get a different output form. If anyone has some expertise in Groovy and has ideas on how to implement this please feel free to post!

P.S. I am writing this post from Jackson Hole, Wyoming sitting on the porch of a cabin waiting for my fiancee to get back from her class. The weather is absolutely perfect and we are going white water rafting this afternoon. I will put up some pictures from this and the trip to Italy once I figure out how to put up a photo gallery.

MBA for Scientists

So, first off I want to apologize for not consistently posting on my blog. I have been studying for the GMAT and got my application ready for University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management. I did really well on the GMAT and hope to be accepted this fall. The more and more I think about what I want to do with my professional life the more it makes sense for me to get my MBA. It is my goal to get into technology scouting and form collaborative relationships with other researchers in both academia and industry. It is really exciting sheparding new technology and trying to see how it can fit into future products or open up blue-water opportunities. Currently I am trying to get two such technologies into future products. One idea I have had great success and the other is finally picking up some momentum. I think that having an MBA would really help in my quest to find new technologies to find them homes within my company. If anyone out there has any stories on bringing in new technologies to a company or academic setting please share them.

Guidelines for Encouraging Flow

Because it has been a while since I have posted, let me review what FLOW is and then I am going to present some guidelines for encouraging FLOW situations as well as some examples from my work. First off, FLOW is a state of mind where an individual or team of individuals is at their best. In this state you don’t consciously think of anything but rather a natural course of action comes to you and things just happen. People usually describe FLOW as an event where time flew by and afterwards they look back and are amazed at either how well a job was done or how much they got done. An example of this would be when an athlete is in the zone or on top of his or her game. A team can also be in the zone where when everyone has the same goal. That goal would be to win and not think about personal glory, i.e. rather than one player making a risky shot the player would pass the ball to someone who had a better shot. The team would just work together seamlessly. Now onto a set of guidelines for encouraging FLOW: 

  • The task must be well defined and the goal must be clear (i.e. in basketball the team with the most points win).
  • There must be some type of challenge associated with the task. 
  • Progress must be assessed and feedback received often.

Lately I have been really organized using a Getting Things Done (GTD) system and setting up tasks while trying to implement the above guidelines. In my job I do a lot of tasks that I am still learning. One of these tasks is to segment CT datasets. So, I take a CT dataset and segment out different anatomical structures of which I can make various physical and numerical models. So I take a particular anatomical structure and go through and segment the structure out. I know that I have a given number of structures that need to be visualized so that I can make some measurements. I have broken this task down to discrete steps so my goal is very clear. Because I am still learning and trying to figure out more efficient ways to do this segmentation the work is challenging. I look at my work and I get constant feedback so that guideline is also fulfilled.  

   There have been two nights this week that I have worked very late because I lost track of time and was so tied up with my work. This push has really put me ahead and I have learned quite a bit through these experiences.  If anyone else has any experiences, suggestions or ideas, please share! 


Achieving Flow in Science

Personal productivity is a topic of interest to many people, one might not think of productivity as being applicable in a scientific area but as a scientist I can tell you that it is a big topic with me. I often look back to my grad school days and remember when I could work on my dissertation or do data analysis for hours on end and time just seemed to fly by. This period of concentration (or Flow) was a state where I was at my best, I could write a program to do some image analysis, figure out a way to display information that made sense or come up with an innovative way to overcome a problem and most of all I really enjoyed it!

One idea I had is the incorporation of periods of time where you are naturally productive. It may not be possible to really be “productive” from 8:00-5:00 five days a week. One of the freedoms you have in grad school is to set your own schedule (in industry this can be done but not to nearly the same extent). My most productive time is once I get home and pull out the laptop and I can really get things done. There are fewer distractions and it is a more comfortable environment. When I was in grad school my most productive time was in the morning before everyone else in the lab arrived.

As a scientist I like to be on top of my game when I am faced with a question, problem or a particular need that is presented to me and needs an answer. Even figuring out some way to more efficiently do some repetitive data analysis gives me great satisfaction. I am looking for ideas on how to encourage Flow experiences and incorporate them into my daily life (especially in but not limited to work).