Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dealing and Stone Soup

I went to a conference a year ago, and one of Silicon Valley's most well known venture capitalists, Tim Draper, gave a talk. He mentioned something along the lines of "You can't get anywhere in business without dealing. Creating a business is a series of deals.  Dealing to an entrepreneur is like breathing to a person" A light bulb went off when he said that, and since then those words have been rolling around in my head, because I think they carry more usefulness than just the business sense.

First of all, do you know how to make stone soup?
Once upon a time, there was a great famine in which people jealously hoarded whatever food they could find, hiding it even from their friends and neighbors. One day a wandering man came into a village and began asking questions as if he planned to stay for the night.

Stone Soup"There's not a bite to eat in the whole province," he was told. "Better keep moving on."

"Oh, I have everything I need," he said. "In fact, I was thinking of making some stone soup to share with all of you." He took a giant pot, filled it with water, and built a fire under it. Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a velvet bag and dropped it into the water.

By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come to the square or watched from their windows. As the soldier sniffed the "broth" and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their skepticism.

"Ahh," the soldier said to himself rather loudly, "I do like a tasty stone soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage -- that's hard to beat."

Soon a villager approached hesitantly, holding a cabbage he'd retrieved from its hiding place, and added it to the pot. "You know, I once had stone soup with cabbage and a bit of onions as well, and it was fit for a king."

The village butcher managed to find some onions . . . and so it went, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was indeed a delicious meal for all.
When the people were unwilling to share what they had, no one had a very appetizing possession.  It was only when they began to share did they all jointly benefit.  In fact, everyone went in on a deal.  They gave up some of their product to collaborate on a greater product that was exponentially better than what they started with.  By working together, with everyone contributing what they can, a greater good is achieved.

The way I see it, no one knows or has everything in life.  Sometimes we are up, sometimes we are down.  You could cope with this by yourself...or you could choose the better option.  You could join a community.  Joining a community entails contributing what you have for the greater good, and then you'll find that when you are in need of something your community will be there to help you.  We are much stronger as a whole than we are as an individual.  Use your strengths where you can helping others, and when you need help, don't be afraid to ask for it.  We are all be better off when we each contribute what we have to offer...the soup tastes much better that way.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Basics of Product Design

A designer must develop a product that by definition has the capabilities to meet some need that is not fully defined

Seven basic actions of Problem Solving:

1. Establish the need or realize that there is a problem to be solved
2. Plan how to solve it
3. Understand the problem by developing requirements and uncovering existing solutions for similar problems
4. General alternative solutions
5. Evaluate the alternatives by comparing them to the design requirements and to each other
6. Decide on acceptable solutions
7. Communicate the results

Planning occurs mainly at the beginning of a project.  Plans are always updated because understanding is improved as the process progresses.  These are called design iterations.

There are 2 well known methods of design, the over-the-wall design method, and concurrent engineering.
With the over-the-wall method, more often than not the customer is not content with the product that comes out of production.  Because, like the children's game 'telephone', there is much important information that gets lost in translation along the way.

The more effective method of design is concurrent engineering.  In concurrent engineering the primary focus is on the integration of teams of people, design tools and techniques, and information about the product and the process used to develop and manufacture it.

Ten features of concurrent engineering:
  • Focus on the entire product life
  • Use and support of design teams
  • Realization that the procceses are as imporant as the product
  • Attention to planning for information centered tasks
  • Careful product requirements development
  • Encouragement of multiple concept gerneration and evaluation
  • Awareness of the decision-making process
  • Attention to designing in quality during every phase of the design process
  • Concurrent development of product and manufacturing process
  • Emphasis on communication of the right information to the right people at the right time

The success of the design process can be measured in the cost of the design effort, the cost of the final product, the quality of the final product, and the time needed to develop the product.  In addition, how well the product is received by the end user is a true measure of a successful design process.

The above is just a glimpse at some of the basics of product design.  Much of the information above can be found in the book The Mechanical Design Process (Mcgraw-Hill Series in Mechanical Engineering). This is the book that was used in my sophomore design class and is used throughout industry.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Theories and Lessons Learned

As I live life I tend to create my own theories/thoughts/guidelines as I start to notice patterns.  I like to document them as they come.  Here are some thoughts that have hit me lately.
"Just before you begin to get smarter, you first feel really stupid"- SM
    •  The graph below represents the population as a whole.  As people mature in their environment they are within one of the brackets and progress from 'dumb' to 'smart' as they understand the world around them better.  If they stay in their current environment, less is unknown to them and they maintain in a lower bracket in the pyramid, but at the top of their bracket.  If they choose to change their environment or a change is brought on forcing a drastic change, they will break through to a higher bracket , realizing that they knew less than they thought they did, but their potential for learning increases.  The pyramid represents the world population, people have a different 'maximum bracket' that they will achieve in their lives.  It all depends on how much they decide to explore, discover and learn in their lifetimes.  In order to keep progressing up the pyramid one would have to break out of their comfort zone each time they feel like they are quite knowledgeable able their current surrounding environment and no longer being challenged.

"Everything is always changing.  Nothing is constant.  It's about being flexible and adaptable to your environment"- SM
  • successful companies are the onces that are constantly changing their business and business model to fit the ever changing needs of their consumers and environment.  There is no one business or product that has remained forever constant.
  • Relationships with people are not always perfect, but the ultimate personal relationship knows how to handle different situations and issues in a constructive manner and the people will evolve and change together. 
"There is no ultimate truth.  Everything is how we perceive it to be in the moment" /"The only reality that exists is perceived"- SM 
  • Combined with different experience, ages, emotions, view points, i.e., no two people will ever view a situation in the same way, and even one person at different points in time will view a situation differently.
    • A clear example would be fashion.  People will love or hate the same thing.  You could love an outfit one day, and then 30 years look back at a picture and think to yourself, "what the heck was I thinking?!"
    • One second you could think you are in a perfect relationship.  The next moment you may only see flaws.  In hindsight you will see the same situation very differently again. 
"Decide something.  It doesn't always need to be perfect.  Things are always changing anyway.  You just need to be able to adapt to your changing environment"- SM
  • Don't be afraid to fail.  We learn more from failures than we do from success.  Indecision which leads to no action is much worse than a wrong decision that can later be corrected or modified.
  • Why Fail?
      Failure encourages us to look for other more creative solutions that we ordinarily would not have thought of.
      If we had succeeded immediately without the disappointment associated with failure then we may not get familiar with the full scope of the subject matter.
      We can learn from the experience, gain confidence, build character and become more the person that we ideally wish to be.  In the process you'll also find out more about yourself.  When you take the time and effort to overcome hardships you'll figure out how badly you actually want it.
      Becoming thickskinned is really a by-product of character building with a bit more; it shows the development of the individual and reflects the change in attitude that brings the best out of us all.
      Working hard and trying multiple routes will give someone more knowledge than the person who made a couple of lucky right decisions to start with.
      By being more aware of where you are weak, you can improve yourself or then begin to focus more on your strengths.
"Its never a good thing to seek or expect the approval of everyone, it is impossible to receive it, there will always be critics.  Go with your gut, and when you need a more objective view, select a few people which of whom you trust and value their opinions."- SM