Archive for December, 2005|Monthly archive page

Unpredictability and Epsilon

What is one thing that you fear the most? Most of us would answer – the future, in other words something unpredictable. How many of us are comfortable with the idea that there is a remote possibility that we would not be alive tomorrow or the guy/girl you marry wouldn’t suit you or for that simple matter, we would not get tickets for a movie at a theater. Not many and I would even say that each one of us is trying to manage(should I say,mitigate) this unpredictability in some or the other way, everyday all the time.

Statistics has a word called noise/error factor given to it, and has ‘epsilon’ representing this factor. Any model can be created to explain various phenomena in life, but an epsilon is always tagged to it, just to say that there are certain things, which are unexplainable and cannot be captured by these models and this is precisely what I am getting at.

I see attempts being made by people to rationalize life, to explain everything, to put blame on luck or God, etc. Life cannot be explained. There are too many events, which just happen and have no correlation or association per se with our scheme of things. No astrology, not palmistry, not zodiac signs will help these. The maturity lies in accepting these things as being purely random and completely uncontrollable (in spite of my passion for ‘free will’ as a driver of decision making). The only way to control these is by learning to control our responses to these events, rather than by trying to control these events themselves.

Despite all the best efforts, not getting what you want could be the work of epsilon factor. The best response here is to control the response to such event and think about ways to diversify/reduce risk such epsilon factor can bring…unpredictability is uncontrollable but mitigation of it is!!



So very often, what we do or how we do a particular job depends on what mood we are in. More often than not, how we perform depends less on ability and more on the mood in which we are in. Some people have violent mood swings, while some have fleeting. But one feature that is common across humanity is mood and its swings.

How frequently have we come across people who act rude although they had no intention of being rude? Accidental rudeness happens alarmingly often (courtesy:Dumbledore), which brings us to the fact that people generally associate mood swings with negative qualities like anger, irritation, sulking etc. Have we ever done a reality check as to whether our mood swings can be associated with positive emotions like happiness, laughter etc; For what is a mood but a function of the perspective you see/feel a situation in!!

The most vivid example of ‘mood behavior’ affecting the economy is the Stock market, where it is essentially called ‘Investor sentiment’. Although this sort of mood is non-distinguishable as it cannot be attributed to a particular person/entity, its ‘Mood’ decides as to who will be in a happy mood(made profits) and who will be sad(made losses). Marketing departments across companies work overtime to manipulate moods of people-good or bad to buy a product(and the moods cost them billions!!). The most important facet of moods is ‘Boss Management’, where the answer to what you ask depends less on ‘what’ you ask but entirely on ‘when’ aspect(and I am sure most of us faced it-whether its a boss in a company or a teacher in school).

Mood is a very important aspect of human behavior. There could be a difference in the degree but never the absence of it. People vacillate between extreme performances due to ‘mood swings’. Hence Management by Moods, I feel is going to be as important and on par with other management theories like Management by Objectives, Management by Walking Around etc.

(For my regular readership, another important ‘M’ affecting everyone’s lives :-))

The Power of Context…

I have reached the pinnacle of ‘busyness’. No one asked me to start a blog. Having started it, it was only reasonable to expect regular posts. From the feeback I get, I realize that the readers have got tired, if not vexed, of visiting the site and finding the same old post for more than a month. While a long hiatus is unexplainable as well as unpardonable, I hope the readership will pardon this and excuse me this time.


I was wondering about the power of context as well as perspective. Sultan of Brunei has his aeroplane fitted with lots of gold…How much do I care? However, if my neighbour purchases a new car, it begins to hurt me. Bill Gates riches don’t inspire me for a better performance but if my colleague wins a lottery or gets a promotion…a sudden rush of blood question, ‘why not me?’ is asked.

People crave for particular things at various stages in life. During childhood, its winning a game; youth is about winning the hand of a particular guy/girl; a career is about a specific job profile and the list goes on and on. Coming to think of it, how does it matter? For example, consider a MBA grad looking for a consulting job…at present, this is the only job that he would ever consider. However, if that doesnt happen, will he brood about the same thing 10 years later?…I think not. His priorities will be to benchmark against the ‘best guy’ around and surpass him, which will engage his thoughts all the time, consulting being the least on his priorities.

Such is the power of context…a drastic terrorist activity a few years back seemed horrendous while it is commonplace now. Globalisation was opposed by the Chinese back in the ’80s while they are the frontrunners at present. There was a time when people used to respect people who stood for morals. Nowadays, technical ineptitude is a greater sin than moral turpitude. The world was not the same before as it is now nor will it ever be the same again. The same holds good for people and their thoughts.

So how do we rule ourselves out of this ‘context’ and hence be unbiased. Distance gives perspective. It is very important to distance oneself from the context to be able to make the right decision. Another of the easier said than done types!!!

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