Monday, April 29, 2013

Sugar bag logic - teaching children to think

My younger son, who is eight, and I sat in a coffee shop for breakfast today. As we were waiting for our food, I figured I might as well make some use of the time we had together. I had wanted to start working on logical thinking with him for quite some time but I never got around to it. My plan, of course, was to do something structured, maybe use the children's' workbooks I got at the Goldratt House. Well, I know that if you fail to plan you plan to fail. There's another part that's always left out. That is that even if you plan you may fail, but fail to execute, and you will absolutely, no doubt about it, get nothing done.

So back to the coffee shop. I decided to wing it. I told him that I know he'd like to be a scientist (he actually means inventor, but I won't be petty), so I'd like to present to him the most important tools for such a vocation. The tools are experiments and logic. Happy to make conversation with me, he told me right away that logic is an important part of his life, since whenever something doesn't make sense he works to fix it. That threw me off a bit so I inquired into it and, as he was finding it hard to explain himself, I requested an example. That was easy. He told me how one of the characters in his computer game seemed to have more than the fare share of something, so he investigated until he found out the details he was unaware of and realized the rules were adhered to.

That was not quite what I had in mind, but you do not want to go around putting your kid down, so I kept my thoughts to myself as much as I could. There is a more basic tool in logic, I told him, and that's the understanding of what causes what. That drew quite a blank stare from him.Good start. So I took a few bags of sugar from the dispenser and I put one down saying: "If you vex your older brother then...", I put the next one after it and he jumped in and said "I get punished". "Not quite, we aren't there yet, though it could lead to that" I say, "this process is like a ladder, you can't skip steps and you want to take small steps to feel secure". I go back to the small bags of sugar "If you vex your older brother then", the second bag of sugar goes down, "your brother gets annoyed, and if your brother gets annoyed then...", another sugar bag is added to our trail, "your brother retaliates, and if your brother retaliates then", another bag, "you get upset, and if you get upset then", another bag and he picks up, "I beat him up". Now we are working as a team, "If you beat him up then?", I put another bag down and he finishes up "I get punished".

"It's like your dominos, Mom", he says. Whenever their quarrels heat up and require parental intervention I use the domino effect to explain why I think they are both to blame. You each had multiple chances to stop this from escalating, I tell them, all you had to do was take 1 domino out. So, he was right, my trail of sugar bags did resemble the domino effect. Ah, the glory of true understanding. We managed to do a couple of AND conditions ("If we quarrel" AND "Grandma finds out" THEN "Grandma is not happy with us" - his example) and then the food was ready.

So, here's what I found out this morning, while waiting for breakfast at a coffee shop: That learning doesn't need a classroom, a format or even much time, that children can grasp logic very easily, that logic is pretty simple to start off with and that small bags of sugar make great entities in a logic diagram.

Have you ever tried to get your kids to think logically? well, that's probably the worst time to teach them. Take 10 minutes when everything is calm to set the stage and plant the seeds for the future.

If you liked this post, please share it with other parents and comment with your own experience. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stop waiting - ask and you shall recieve

I've always wanted a mentor. You could say I have a father figure issue and I'd be the first to agree but it's not relevant. I've recently figured out that in the Theory of Constraints you may learn from the past but other than that you basically let it be gone. It doesn't make much difference how you got to where you are, the thing that's really relevant is how to get to where you're going. So, as I was saying, I've always wanted a mentor.

After I began writing in the TOC groups and in this blog I, subconsciously of course, started a waiting game. I was waiting for someone to pick up a cue of my need, step forward and offer to help me. Impudent, I know (oh, the wonders of retrospect), but I was terrified of asking. Why? basically a whole load of excuses, no real valid reason. I just felt I had no right, it wasn't polite and that kind of hogwash. I told you all I have are excuses. The only thing I can say is I was afraid of consequences without putting a moments thought into why.

Another thing I realize in retrospect is that I have been offered the help I wanted many times in the past. Thing is, just as my requests were not straightforward so were the offers. I was weary of asking straight out in case I would offend someone or be turned down. In much the same way the people who were reaching out to me did not state it straight out, probably in order to make sure not to offend me if they misunderstood. Well, I hope I'm done with playing that kind of immature game. Better late than never. This doesn't change the facts, though - I was stuck, not in a very good place and I was not liking it. Still, I waited. Still, I was afraid to change anything.

When I look now at Goldratt's 4 quadrants of change, I guess I was under the spell of "The Siren". Do you remember that, in some sea going folklore, sirens are mermaids that tempt the sailors and then drawn them?
Well, as I see it, this holds true in daily life as well. The "siren" is that comfortable settling for less, the place where fear of change glorifies the current situation way beyond its truthful value and at the same time vilifies the risks of change to the extreme. When the "siren" sings, the minuscule risk of getting a negative answer that will simply leave things as they are (=nothing to lose, no?) will seam unbearable, best leave things as they are and not risk it.....

There is a parable going around email kingdom. It is about a guru that forces his student to kill the only cow of a poor family. When the student returns, full of guilt, to right the wrong he has done at his guru's bidding, he finds the family became reach. The family explains that when they had the cow and it gave a little milk, they made do with what they had. One day the cow died and they could no longer make do, they had to figure out another way and when they did they realized they could do so much more and have so much more. So sometimes we are forced out of the spell of the siren, someone comes along and "kills" our "cow". That does not happen often.

My claim is that we should not let the spell of the siren control us. We should not wait helplessly for others to come and free us. If ever we are paralyzed by the idea of change or of taking a risk, if ever we encounter a rejection to a change we offer that seems to come from a place of paralysis, we need to use our logic, the analysis tools and a little courage and break free.

So I want to thank Jim, Lisa and the others for offering so kindly to help me out. Thanks Jim for all the help and for leading me to success. It was a lot of hard work but it was not hard as I made it out to be!!!

Have you ever struggled to overcome the siren? Please share your experience. Do you know someone still under the spell? Please send them this post.

Friday, April 5, 2013

What SEO practices reveal about Theory Of Constraints

[Disclaimer - this post does not address SEO how to. To learn SEO - follow my affiliate link and view the offer there]

Intro (skip this paragraph if you'd like to get right to business, it's the background story)
It's funny how things roll about. I am a bit obsessive about this blog's statistics (I'm an Industrial Engineer by nature - I obsess about all my graph-able data), so I noticed when a new referral URL showed up on my list and went over to check the site, maybe there's some new Theory of Constraints content for me to enjoy and share. Well, what I encountered was a total surprise. It was a 1-page static site built in Blogger in order to promote a "get rich blogging" offer. Seems the owner encountered my blog and liked it, so she linked back to it. I am, of course, much obliged. And so I came face to face with this offer to get all the inside info of making money by blogging. As you can see, I am not ashamed to admit I'd like to make a bit of extra padding from this blog, so the offer sparked some interest in me. Normally, though, I would brush these kind of offers to the side, assuming they were aimed at making someone else rich... I know not what was different this time, other than the very low risk associated (1$ for the first 7 days), but I decided to risk it. I enrolled to the website and started looking over the information it offered. It was a complete, step-by-step guide to building marketing blogs to create affiliate income. I liked what I saw and decided to stick around there for a bit and even became an affiliate of his offer (you can find more info through my affiliate link, please note I have no plans to promote it in this blog, this is just FYI). Going through all the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques and trying to apply them for Theory Of Constraints I started seeing some disturbing patterns. After some more research here is what I've come up with.

The Facts
Almost a year ago to the day, in this post, I pointed out that the interest in Theory Of Constraints is on the decline. Well, there has been no improvement since then, as this graph shows clearly:

Note - the number 100 represents the peak search interest.
Before I went off to dig deeper I checked if there is any search term predominant within the Theory Of Constraints world and this is what I got:

All things Theory Of Constraints are more or less equal in the interest they have been generating in the last few years.
Using the analysis tools over on Google's Adwords website, I found that 'Lean Six Sigma' generated 800 keyword combinations. Of these, over 200 combinations that are in high demand for PPC (Pay Per Click) campaigns and over 300 combinations are searched 6,500 times a month or more. Using the same analysis for all the Theory Of Constraints topics combined I generated only 100 keyword combinations. No combination was in high PPC demand and the top 8 most searched combinations were either not relevant (they were actually relevant to lean six sigma) or suspected as such. Running a Google search on "Lean six sigma" yielded 19.5 million results. Running a Boolean OR search containing the words "Goldratt", "Goldratt the goal", "Theory of Constraints", "Critical Chain" and "Thinking Process" yielded 26.8 million results. I also did a few searches of  global terms that could be relevant to Theory Of Constraints such as "process improvement" or "project management" and there is no Theory Of Constraints content to be found in the results, paid or natural, in the first few and critical pages.

My Thoughts
Assuming the internet, as reflected by Google, is a good representation of reality then, clearly, the information is out there. Not so many are interested in it and, it would seem, no one is trying to generate the interest. This leads me to the assumption that the Theory Of Constraints community has become a closed community. This means that even if we, as a group, are happy and willing to accept new comers the group is still experiencing a "negative birth rate". Which is weird, since Theory Of Constraints practitioners are not working in the community, they are distributing the knowledge to companies outside this tight knit group. Perhaps that explains the leveling of the interest visible in the graphs from 2009 to the present. I have no answers here, I just know what the data is showing and I'm trying to relate this to the reality I am encountering.  So, yes, newcomers are accepted happily but they are aliens, which feels weird and uncomfortable, leading them to opt out.
Should this trouble the Theory Of Constraints community? I think it should but is it my prerogative? If we, as a community, want to change this around, we should, of course, do that by using the TP tools. After all - we all want to practice what we preach. I can't decide for the whole community, so, just for now, I'll leave it at that and only share my basic intuitive reactions, perhaps they will come in handy in the future. First, is the need to regenerate wide interest, which requires we look at Theory Of Constraints through the new audience's eyes, with the inevitable conclusion that we must and stop using our jargon when talking to them. Second, to my humble opinion, is the need to create a multiple stream of smooth and easy processes that lead from laymen to proficient. My personal experience shows that every time I look for ways to progress I find that, other than self learning everything (with or without a mentor), almost everything is either too basic or aimed at specific populations such as top managers and therefore at such a premium I can't afford  Why aren't there mid-way options?

This was a hard post to write. Not because it required research and analysis, but because I'm stepping out of my comfort zone. I am posting this knowing that some who may read it will not agree with me, that some may feel hurt or angry. While I tend to shy away from such uncomfortable situations, I decided that, since Theory Of Constraints is important to me, this is worth putting out in the open. Please feel free to comment or reply to me privately with any piece of information that I may be missing. I'd love to come back here just to say I was wrong. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Endless abundance over on Amazon

I'm planning to do a bit of research before my next post so it might be a few days in the making. Until then I just wanted to point out the total abundance of interesting resources I have been finding on Amazon. As you can see in the disclaimer above, I have decided to join their "associates" program and create my own focused store. In the past, all my Amazon searches were very focused. This time I started running wide searches and I collected so many interesting options into my store. Right now I have more than 150 products, mostly books, and more are to come. I will also add categories to make it a bit easier to find stuff. I hope you find this a useful resource.