Archive | May, 2012

If Cricket is a Religion, Sachin is God

23 May

Sachin Tendulkar (Wikipedia)

In India, cricket is indeed a religion. It unites a billion people with diverse traditions, languages, food, occupation, and social status.

A 16-year old boy had made his debut in 1986. In the last 25 years, he broke numerous records, carried the expectations of a nation on his shoulders, made a ton of money, and won an incredibly fanatic fan following.

The Time magazine, in its current Asian edition, featured a cover story aptly titled – The God of Cricket.

From a Time magazine 2010 article
When Sachin Tendulkar travelled to Pakistan to face one of the finest bowling attacks ever assembled in cricket, Michael Schumacher was yet to race a F1 car, Lance Armstrong had never been to the Tour de France, Diego Maradona was still the captain of a world champion Argentina team, Pete Sampras had never won a Grand Slam.

When Tendulkar embarked on a glorious career taming Imran and company, Roger Federer was a name unheard of; Lionel Messi was in his nappies, Usain Bolt was an unknown kid in the Jamaican backwaters. The Berlin Wall was still intact, USSR was one big, big country, Dr Manmohan Singh was yet to “open” the Nehruvian economy.

It seems while Time was having his toll on every individual on the face of this planet, he excused one man. Time stands frozen in front of Sachin Tendulkar. We have had champions, we have had legends, but we have never had another Sachin Tendulkar and we never will.

Suggested readings
Quotes on Sachin Tendulkar
How great is Tendulkar?

Why Motivation Works … And When

15 May

There are two types of motivations:

Intrinsic motivation: comes from within oneself and leads to a person doing more of something for the joy of it, without being much influenced by the outcome. As they say – The journey is the reward. Intrinsic motivation always leads to engagement. When people are intrinsically motivated, their engagement with an activity increases, which leads to further and prolonged engagement that requires sustaining. In the absence of sustained engagement, motivation would go down quickly. In a typical classroom, the students start losing interest after about ten minutes. Extrapolating the same theory to online courses, I’d say people need to be re-engaged every ten minutes or so. When people are motivated, they want to do more of that activity because they find it challenging, interesting, funny, prestigious, intellectual, or it satisfies some other visceral need.

Extrinsic motivation: is triggered by external factors (both positive and negative), usually called rewards and punishment by education professionals; for example, promising a new laptop or a vacation to a kid if she gets an A in a test, or threatening to lock down the video game if she doesn’t get an A. Both approaches might work in the short term. The kid will try her best to get an A, but not try her best to learn the subject matter. The end result is now more important than the effort and learning. This approach doesn’t work in the long term. And in the absence of a reward or punishment, she might not try to get an A. This pretty much explains the current state of our education system.

So why does every school and organization dangle a carrot or show a stick to motivate people? Because it has been the conventional wisdom for hundreds of years. A century ago, during the industrial revolution, the assembly line production became very popular. People didn’t need to think much. They just needed to do the same thing again and again. When they were paid more money, their productivity increased. And thus was born the convention that incentives increase productivity, which is true in cases where people don’t need to use their brain.

However, in today’s knowledge economy, creativity and innovation are the key to being competitive. In tasks that require cognitive skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and reasoning, incentives work in a way exactly the opposite of what’s expected. Thinking and creativity go down as has been proved in numerous research studies. So what works in today’s world? In short – meaning and purpose. Employees are engaged when they believe that they are doing meaningful work, that they have a purpose. Students are engaged when they believe that what they are learning is relevant to their lives or at least makes sense to them.

I got my bachelor’s degree in engineering without feeling, even for a moment, that it serves a meaning in my life. I switched careers. Then I got a master’s degree in education, and got very passionate about educating our kids the right way … by engaging them.

Related readings

Motivational Design
How to Stay Motivated
Grading: The Issue Is Not How But Why

What is Design?

4 May

I love design. My definition: Design is how something looks and functions. I did an Internet search and found lots of definitions of design, some are good and some are terrible.

What is design?

  • Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works.- Steve Jobs
  • Design: to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan
  • Good design is about looking at everyday things with new eyes and working out how they can be made better. It is about challenging existing technology. – James Dyson, Inventor
  • Design is the conscious decision-making process by which information (an idea) is transformed into an outcome, be it tangible (product) or intangible (service).
  • Design is that area of human experience, skill and knowledge which is concerned with man’s ability to mould his environment to suit his material and spiritual needs. – Leonard Bruce Archer, Royal College of Art
  • Design is the process of finding the most elegant answer to the question of ‘how do I…? – Paul ‘Scrivs’ Scrivens
  • Design is what links creativity and innovation. It shapes ideas to become practical and attractive propositions for users or customers. Design may be described as creativity deployed to a specific end. – Sir George Cox
  • Designing is the process of converting information that characterizes the needs and requirements for a product into knowledge about a product.
  • A plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose. – Charles Eames, Architect
  • Design is concerned with the question “will this work for people?
  • Design is the application of creativity to planning the optimum solution of a given problem and the communication of that plan to others.
  • Design is the conscious, deliberate process by which elements, components, potentials, tendencies, etc. are intentionally arranged in the space‐time continuum in order to achieve a desired result. – E. Christopher Mare, Village Design Institute
  • Design is coupling knowledge and technology with creativity, in activities that predict and control an outcome.
  • Design is the process of creating some new version of something as well as something new. -Bill Moggridge Director, Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
  • Design is a process especially suited to divergent thinking—the exploration of new choices and alternative solutions. – Tim Brown, IDEO
  • Design = creative problem-solving
  • Design is directed toward human beings. To design is to solve human problems by identifying them and executing the best solution. – Ivan Cermayeff

The worst article on design is on Wikipedia.

50+ Excellent Posters about Design
Do you Know “What is Design?” 41 Answers to One Simple Question

Suggested readings
Dieter Rams: Ten Principles for good design