Uncommon Common Sense

In the last 6 hours, I have been told twice that Common Sense although appears very common but in fact, in reality it’s very uncommon. The first person to do that was Prof. Ahluwalia when he came to teach us Advertising Management and the second was Prof. Sanjay Bakshi when he came to teach us BFBV. I talked about him in my other BLOG at http://egyaan.blogspot.com/2004/12/prof-sanjay-bakshi.html

I had been waiting for this cause ever since Term 3 started and today I finally got to see him. As they say, the looks could be deceptive, I expected him to be a funky kinda person, who would have an athletic, lean body type, would be wearing Denims to class. I expected him to be very informal kinds but when I finally saw him, I realized that I shouldn’t make presumptions about people.

I thought I was the biggest techie around until I saw his desktop. He had about 20 icons lined up on QuickLaunch, and I could not recognize most of them. His taskbar was as heavy. He of course had minimal icons on the desktop. Just like any other techie ;)

Coming on to the class, he talked about Mental Models today. Everything was fine and going good until something called Backward Thinking was introduced. Simply put, Backward Thinking is not doing things that are not expected. For example, you want to run a business effectively. You list down things that you should not do to avoid ruining the business. And you make sure that you don't do the things in the list. Sherlock Holmes said
It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
So everything is fine, he said it, gave a few supporting arguments and that was that. But when you actually think about it again, you realize that Backward Thinking is just another tool to just be in the rat race, not win it or emerge as a winner.

Here is a very simple example to illustrate this further. You are among a batch of 100 students in a school. Assuming that you won’t be expelled until you fail in academics, your objective is to pass through the school, you just need to get passing percentage in the examinations. For passing percentage, you don't have to read the entire text, don't have to attend all the classes etc. You do just the bare minimum. The result: You are not expelled, you pass but you don't perform exceptionally or you don't top the class.

Extending this further, assuming that the objective is not to just pass the course but actually come first in the class. Now not to be the first among the class, you don't have to skip anything (means read everything), not miss any class etc. Two inherent problems here are identifying the right variables (you are never sure that the thing you are not doing is the right thing to not do), interaction of variables (you don't know how other variables that you have not considered affect the outcome). Bottom-line is that you do not do the things that you decided not to do and still might be far from the objective.

I know due to the amazing control over the language, I have made Backward Thinking absolutely gibberish... :( Wish I was better at English.

According to backward thinking, if you want to prove something as correct, assume that it is incorrect and prove that it is not incorrect and hence the original proposition is bound to be correct. Taking an example where Backward Thinking has been applicable (according to Prof. Bakshi) and extending it further to prove it wrong. He says that
Instead of thinking how to make your business better, think how to ruin it, and then simply avoid those things.
is an example of application of Backward Thinking.

Our ultimate objective here is to make the business better. We list things that would ruin it. A list could be ignoring the daily operations, getting the wrong people for the wrong situations, taking decisions without analysis etc. Assume that there are no interactions and the list of variables is complete. Now to achieve the objective (to make the business better), we just have to make sure that we don’t do these things. We do the opposite. We concentrate on day to day operations, get the right people and processes in place, and take decisions rationally (another word and concept I am fond of). The result? We run our business just normally, not exceptionally. We end running the business the way others do. We thus should be able to get the result others are getting. Others are doing well, We also do well, X also does well, the level of average is raised and end of the day everyone is pretty much same. We do not achieve the objective. The preposition is thus wrong. Backward Thinking thus failed.

More Later ...

chirayu said...
how about thinking "not to be placed below the top 10% in the class" ?
Sunday, September 18, 2005 2:55:17 AM

ORIGIANALLY POSTED ON Tuesday, September 13, 2005

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