Evaluating Ideas

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Our brain keeps working all day. Even when we are sleeping. Thoughts waft in and out of our consciousness. There is always an inner voice babbling something about everything. There is a constant nagging in our minds, whether we choose to act on it or not is a different discussion. There are a thousand ideas that we get throughout the day- ideas that are silly, stupid, crazy, impossible, ambitious and a host of other varieties. All these ideas may be great as such. But in reality, not all can grow into something more than just an idea. There are other external and internal factors that influence and the situations that one is in lets only certain ideas to grow and thrive.

Spending a great deal of energy on an idea that is bound to fail due to the various conditions surrounding it is not an intelligent thing to do. True that “Nothing is Impossible”, but practically somethings are impossible. For example, for all the climate change that’s going on, you still cannot make it snow naturally in South India. As of now, that’s impossible. So, if your idea is to ice ski in Chennai, it’s not going to work. You might instead want to settle for ice skating in Chennai on an artificial ice rink, or get ready to go to a place where you can ice ski. In totality, you should be ready to alter your idea to fit in with other worldly and practical factors, simultaneously making sure that you don’t change the basic idea itself.

Well, so the first step to achieving great actions out of great ideas is to evaluate the plethora of ideas that your brain brings up all through the day, and pick the right ones that can become great. To simply put it, you have to evaluate your ideas.

For example, in the book “The Value Strategy” by G. Jagannathan, there is a chapter titled “Evaluation Phase: Weighing the Options”. This chapter basically talks about how ideas that have been taken from all the sources in a business meeting have to evaluated later for the “best alternative idea that will equally satisfy the basic function, at an overall reduced cost”. So, here we can see that the practical factor that would be key to the selection of the final idea is based on this. Some of the factors as identified in the book for the business that they discussed are safety, durability, reliability, cost, availability, acceptability by the user, etc.

Generally ideas can be evaluated by sorting out priorities. One should ask questions to oneself before they start implementing or working on an idea. Is the subject of the idea in itself most important to them? Or is it the end result that the idea can achieve more important? If the end result is more important, then is there any other idea that they have in mind that can lead to the result with lesser investment and better productivity?

What must be invested to carry out the idea? Is the subject of investment available (eg. money, time, land, etc.)? How sure does the result look? Is it a stand-alone idea or inter-dependent one?

The nature and type of questions will be different for different ideas. In fact, not all questions can be answered at the beginning. But these questions must be revisited every now and then to stay on track. As a final note, humans are passionate creatures with a powerful brain and our actions are driven by intuitions. So, on the pursuit of answering such questions and methodically sculpting ideas, one should not ignore the gut feeling that prompts us to do something even when the odds are against it. The evaluation phase is just to be statistically and cognitively informed. A balance is what we require for success.


The Need for Office Kaizen

Sitting late in my office on a rainy evening last week, I was putting the final touches on a book on 5S. At the end of a long and tiring day, the steady beat of the rain on the windows and the cool wind blowing through the door acted as soporifics. Yearning for a cuppa of something hot, I pushed my laptop aside to get up. Some books on the other side of the table tumbled down and followed by an avalanche of loose papers. All thoughts of a refreshing drink vanished as I stooped to recover the papers and books. This set me thinking.

I looked around at the other tables in the office. Like mine they too were piled high with books, though the staff had taken care to file the papers away before leaving. Clearly my office needed to be cleaned up. But was that enough? Would mere cleaning up solve the problem?  I realised that the problem ran deeper than that.

Where would the manufacturing industry the world over have been but for the productivity improvement tools emanating from Japan? Certainly industry in India would still be locked in the self defeating cocoon of low productivity, poor quality, and thin margin trap. In the last two decades, the need to survive and grow in a competitive global environment has impelled manufacturing businesses, to adopt several methods to improve productivity and reduce defects.

What if I adopted similar tools to improve the productivity in my office? Was this just my thinking, spurred by my angst at the state of my office, or was this a universal phenomenon? Did other offices too face such problems? What about the offices of businesses that had successfully adopted productivity tools? This is when I realised that I had the answer right in front of my eyes. Namely, the book ‘Office Kaizen’, by William Lareau.

‘Office’ implies any business process and function that is not a pure ‘factory’ task, such as assembling, welding, machining, fork lift driving and so on. The word kaizen is a compound Japanese word. ‘Kai’ means ‘little’, ‘ongoing’, and ‘good’, according to William Lareau.  The word comes from the Toyota Production System. In fact it is an integral part of 5S, lean manufacturing, reengineering and what have you.

Till now kaizen has been practised on the factory floor with great success. Flexible, synchronous, pull, and other manufacturing systems, have increased factory productivity dramatically. Inventories’ have plunged and lead times shortened by factors of two to ten. Marrying a very productive manufacturing system with an old fashioned office system is like fitting a motor car engine to a bullock cart. The engine works just fine but the cart can go only at its own pace. Result, there is a significant deficit in overall performance. Every business needs a strong back up from the ‘office’ side of the enterprise to reap the full benefits of improvements in factory productivity. In fact office organisation and productivity is essential if a business wants to be world class.

According to Lareau, Office Kaizen creates office and administrative processes and work groups that generate a competitive advantage, not compromise it. The business will reap advantages from several sides. Costs will decrease as fewer errors are committed. Planning and analytics will improve, since reliable data will be available quicker. This will help the business organise its entire production schedule better.

For businesses eager to improve their overall performance, ‘Office Kaizen’ provides the foundation for the next great step-wise competitive advantage.

I wonder…..

I wonder…..

Today I came  Necessary but not Not Sufficient  by Eli Goldratt being offered on landmarkonthenet site at Rs 961.00 per copy.


obviously, it is the imported edition.

I wonder why they are offering this when our Indian edition is available at Rs 375.00 per copy.  See http://www.pqp.in

It can’t be that the company is not aware of the existence of the  Indian edition because they do stock this book in their shops.  Well, at least sometimes.

I wonder if the online shop and merchandisers are in touch.

Or could it be that they prefer  to sell the more expensive imported edition because the yield is better ?  I wonder….

In my experience, I have found that there are takers for both – the less expensive Indian edition and the more expensive imported.

Some years ago, I experimented by offering the imported Toyota Way at US$ 25 and the Indian reprint at Rs 275 side-by-side.  One customer, in fact bought both !  I asked why.  His answer was simple, he wanted to present the imported edition to the big boss and wanted to keep the Indian edition for himself.