Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Return of The Da Vinci Puzzle

Oh well, I was not inclined to publish the solution. However, as Spielberg said to Harrison Ford, or as Sly Stallone thought to himself, never say never.

The Original Da Vinci Puzzle is here:
Sure beats calling it The Vulcan Mind Meld, doesn't it? Beats Einstein's Puzzle hands down? I suspect you will find clues in the puzzle once you see the solution.

Anyhow, I got some awesome, and some crazy, solutions. Below are two approaches I thought of. In the first one, we take liberties with the puzzle/ twist the puzzle rules a bit. In the second one, we incorporate optimization ideas to fit the rules of the game.

Approach 1:
1> Cut the sets of balls, so that each set of balls has a prime number numerator in a ratio that makes up its weight.

2> Identify the duplicate set of balls on weighing the balls once by using properties of prime numbers.

Approach 2:
1> There is no unique solution.

2> Avoid using the scale. Solve this on paper or write a program.

3> You would like to minimize the error in the solution. The error here is the possibilities of jars holding the duplicate set of balls. E.g. You could come up with a solution where you weigh set 1,2,3,4,5 and the weight indicates that the duplicate set could be 1,2 or 5,6. You could also come up with a set 3,4,5,6,7 where the duplicate set could be 3,4 or 5,6 or 8,9. You minimize error with the first solution, i.e. the first solution would be *more* correct.

4> As pointed out by a Mensan, you have to try out all the possibilities before you can identify the optimal solution set. Yep, welcome to the weary world of The Traveling Salesman. This is literally a "hard" problem.
Pick any solution string from the optimal set as your solution. At this point, if you haven't lost your cool already, you are welcome to also weigh this solution string on the scale. Once.

5> The same bright Mensan suggested a book for this kind of funky thinking:
Numerical Recipes in C: The Art of Scientific Computing
I don't have my copy of this book anymore. Its been a while since I was in engineering, however, I might borrow it if you have a copy.

6> Don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger for the crazy ideas running about in my attic. :-D

So, what do you think?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Good Product Management and Delegation?

What does it mean to delegate as a Good Product Manager?
I found myself at a site on "Good Product Management" that recommended delegation as an important tool. This led to some discussion on what it means for a product manager to delegate responsibilities. Some bloggers were of the opinion that delegation is irrelevant to a product manager- he should be focused on helping others get their job done within an integrated product management framework.

I don't think the two viewpoints are different. They are really only approaching the same idea from different perspectives. Let me explain.

The Dynamic View: Fire, Fire Everywhere!
Having been involved in a massive product turnaround, I can attest to the fact that you will find ample opportunity to get sucked into fires (a reference to "The Goal"). These fires are not just specific high visibility issues, but also cases involving process variance/ risk factors where you have leaders defined and contingency plans in place. This is a dynamic view in product management reality.

Should you step into each case? What's the best way to do so? Or should you let the defined leader find a way? Should you step back and spend your time drafting "Integrated Product Management" processes for each exception?

The Static View: We Have a Magic Bullet!
At the other end of the product management spectrum, you risk complacency (we are only getting started here) when you think you have the right "chess pieces" with the right processes in place, when you are in a dynamic business environment that will unflinchingly sneak problems past your Product Management framework. This is the static view in product management reality.

A product manager may thrive with a static perspective of his role thanks to serendipity.

Dynamic Solutions to Dynamic Environments
While being a facilitator is important, a product manager is likely to find himself working toward building levers and an ecosystem that improves outcomes.

This is essentially change management. Similar to the decision making of a good general manager, who realizes the limitations of the environment he operates in, a good product manager will wisely exercise judgement in taking up tasks- even choosing tactical tasks- toward change.

What do you think?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Movies and Brands: Iron Man.

Iron Man made $100 Million over a weekend. i.e. about 3% of the US population has seen the movie across 2000 theaters.

While movie marketing/ branding/ merchandising is an interesting topic in itself, how many brands do you recall jumping onto the cobranding bandwagon?

Alternative Energy Investments: The BioFuels Story Continues.

There has been a lot of negative publicity on biofuels lately, given the context of high food prices. Here's an interesting story about second generation biofuels (energy from agriwaste) that would strengthen the hands of folks who would like a more realistic perspective on biofuels research:

The ruckus on Biofuels, from the Food vs. Fuel perspective, has been causing governments and institutions to rethink biofuels support:

My take on alternative fuels last year is here:

What do you think?

Turnarounds and Distressed Company Decision Making

I remember thinking about incentives during a restructuring course I took a couple of years ago:Consider a pre IPO company whose value has been falling, and it's liquidation value is now close to its debt value (we have all heard of a startup that burnt through its cash). The management has an option to make an investment that is 3x as risky as any they have considered so far.

Should the management optimize:
1. shareholder value?
2. company value?
3. creditor value?

At an interesting case study session recently- amidst turnaround professionals- an insight was that the legal "line in the sand" varies from state to state, besides varying from country to country.

What do you think?