Archive for August, 2010

Fixing the unfixable

August 21, 2010

As relieved American troops happily troop out of Iraq after about long years of occupation of the country the other group of American soldiers stay fixed in Afghanistan preparing for their honorable exit.

Why? They have a job to finish. They want to fix something that appears quite ‘unfixable’. They feel that the local Afghan national army is not yet trained to fight battles and protect themselves and their Government from the hungry clutches of the Taliban.

Well, what might that involve and how many more years would that take?

It would involve, as they say, some well meant rigorous training in the use of arms and honing of skills involved in modern warfare that would take another desperately four long years, if done sincerely. They believe that once this is done they can then leave the country in safe hands.

So a lot of resources are now being diverted to the army. The number of foreign trainers has been doubled to improve the instructor to pupil ratio from a poor 1 to 80 or 1 to 466 to something more respectable. There is also a hike in salary of local soldiers from a measly $ 120 to a handsome amount of $ 165. The local soldiers would now appear in neat bandoleers rather than Rambo style local dresses. That would make them look smarter but would also help Taliban troops to rat them out more easily in the rough and hostile desert terrains. Recruitment is up. The goal is to ramp up the present strength from 134, 000 strong to 171, 600 by October 2011. Quality over Quantity is the motto. However, improving quality and standarization would increase the cost of maintaining and running this well trained outfit from the present level to $ 6 billion a year. This year alone the ambitious training plans bled $ 11 billion from this poor country. How on earth Afghanistan would pay for all this — through internal taxes or foreign loans? Afghanistan can ill afford this expense through taxes so they would have to reach out and take loans from outsiders and always worry about repaying it back over years. However, this supposedly still makes economic sense to Americans since this would in the long run turn out to be cheaper than paying for foreign troops, where each American soldier cost $ 1 million to sustain in Afghanistan. It would also help fuel the military market of the US.

This represents a classic case of hard system thinking. There is an objective and the objective has to be fulfilled at any cost and done well too. Never mind why we want to do it in the first place. We don’t question the underlying assumptions and therefore the plans.

The question is why is all these needed? Is it to civilize the natives? Or is it to bring back democracy in the country that lost it many years back? Or is it have a hold over a strategic military position between Iran, Russia and Pakistan? Or is to divide and rule the Muslim world? Or is it simply to lay a proper claim over the largest deposit of thorium that lies untapped under the soil of Afghanistan? Or is it to create a virtual monopoly in the military market, a source of high on going revenue for country desperate to cling to its standard of living which some say has gone down by 20% in the last 2 years?

No one seems to know for sure. The problem is that such objectives are never spelled out clearly. The public face is always more gentle and nobler than what it really is.

All this happens because public memory is usually short. None seem to realize that Afghanistan is possibly the only country in the world that could not be humbled and made to taste defeat by any of the world’s military power in its entire history. The British failed and retreated. The Russians failed and fled. And now it is the turn of the Americans. They have realized this after trying hard enough but are now putting up a brave public face in the face of clear defeat.

This proves that no system, including social systems, can be changed from the outside however good the intention might be. All changes of any significance are to be done from the inside by insiders with the available skill, knowledge and resources. Interference of any sort with well meant foreign helpers rushing in never help. Strange that this principle holds true even for one’s personal development.

So, what is the need of such wide scale military training to local Afghan men who have remained invincible for the last 300 years? They know how to defend themselves and they know how to fight and fight well. These local boys know how to train and fire sophisticated weapons whether it is American or Russian. Both parties have been supplying them such arms for about half a century most of which were given free. What remains is the classical ethnic fight between the Mujahideen and the Taliban that has been raging on for years each tenaciously clinging onto their side of their territory, their beliefs and their stories.

Why not let Afghans sort out their own fate? People anywhere are not foolish to accept anything that is thrown at them. They never have nor will they.

We simply have to be patient for the natural emergence to take place where the people would decide what is good or bad for them. One can, if one likes, certainly help if asked for but never become a helper fighting their ‘battles’ to decide their collective fate shoulder to shoulder.

One simply can’t fix the ‘unfixable’ from the outside.

But is anyone listening?


When can Design Thinking Fail & how to Succeed?

August 17, 2010

The photograph shows the some of the top executives who gathered at the Aspen Design Summit in early August 2010 to solve complex social problems.

This was covered by Helen Walters, the editor of Innovation and Design at Bloomberg Businessweek, through her article “Inside the Design Thinking Process”: Change Observer: Design Observer:(3rd August 2010)


Some relevant excerpts from her critical but interesting article.

“The Aspen Design Summit brought together 60 top executives to apply design thinking to large social problems.”

“The 64 invited attendees, including Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, Chris Hacker, chief design officer at Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), and Ted Chen, director of learning and innovation at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, rolled up their sleeves and got to work. Divided into five groups, each team was tasked with coming up with a solution to a specific problem. To try to prevent participants from being creative but impractical, the organizers told us our solutions needed to include a clear plan of action, with a goal of implementation within 24 months.”

“Not surprisingly, team members brought their individual areas of interest and expertise to the table. Dr. Jay Parkinson is the co-founder of Hello Health, an online network that connects doctors and patients. He was keen to use Web 2.0 principles and techniques to create a virtual community for Austin, featuring videos of local heroes taken by school children and including a diary of local wellness-themed events. By the final presentation, he had even mocked up a prototype of what the Web site might look like. It was a bewitching concept, and Parkinson put together a beautiful piece of design. It was also the idea that stopped me from sleeping.”

“My suspicion, as I thought about it in the middle of the night, was that we were falling into a trap. Our intentions could hardly be faulted. But without deep understanding of the community we were trying to serve, our efforts seemed doomed. After all, a brilliantly creative idea in the eyes of Aspen Design Summit attendees, most of whom live and work in large cities on the coasts of the U.S., might seem like entirely inappropriate bunk to those actually living in Austin. We didn’t know, for example, whether the area had broadband Internet connection. Moreover, many of Austin’s residents are non-native English speakers. Yet here we were, conspiring to offer them a Web experience freighted with bells and whistles?”

This case resonated with my experience. I saw exactly the same design done by my friend Sanjay Banerjee in 1998 — an web based design that connected patients and a group of doctors whom the patients might call up anytime in case of a problem or an emergency. He even empathetically named the experience as ‘Ah! Doctor’. Needless to say that it too failed miserably and my friend lost a lot of good money on this design and venture.

It appears that it is a different cup of tea when we apply Design Thinking to solve social problems.

My friend Paula Thornton says:

“Indeed IDEO themselves will admit that they too had to evolve to embrace the larger realm of design thinking to apply it to things like services, originally being focused only on product.”

When the context changes from product to social problems I think the approach has to change. I feel that some of the earlier attempts of IDEO to apply DT to social issues and challenges serve as examples of failures.

An example that readily comes to mind is when IDEO claimed that they have solved the problem of women carrying water in rural India by designing special containers (changing shape, form, materials and strength) that makes the deary and useless job easier. Was that a solution? Definitely no.

The problem is how to stop the massive wastage of manpower (womanpower in fact) and time involved in carrying water from a distant place. Some of the other problems that need to be solved are — a) how to protect the water source and b) keep it clean and potable.

As soon as a social problem is ‘defined’ DT or any thinking for that matter would fail and lose its power. For example, ‘War on Drugs’ — 9 American presidents in a row have had pursued various solutions till 2009 when it they realized that drugs can’t be stopped in the way they thought it could be and all the so called ‘solutions’ have come to naught. It is now sort of funny that in 2010, California legalized the drug trade and taxes it too to bolster additional income for the state.

Similarly, climate change issues were taken up and discussed for a fairly long time in the UN Security Council till they realized that it is not a security issue at all.

DT or any thinking would fail in taking up social challenges once the social challenge or problem is ‘defined’ to limit or narrow down the scope. This is a fundamental flaw, which interestingly, is not a flaw when this principle is applied to product design.

It appears that Design Thinking (DT) would often fail in addressing social challenges when the solution is not a tangible product or when tangible products occupy a very small part of the solution space. So a ‘product challenge’ and a ‘social challenge’ would need different treatments in terms of application and principles.

Other examples would highlight the issue;

a) When Coke came to India their tag line thinking was that they would make Indians forget about drinking water. Today they are in rough weather. No amount of advertisements and lowering prices or making smaller bottles or family pack seem to be working.

b) Similarly Kellogs thought that they would change the breakfast habits of the country. They are now thinking of making some Indian dishes to keep floating.

c) Rayban had to close shop in India. The solution did not appeal to Indians.

d) Nike and Rebok are also thinking of folding up.

e) My friend Dan Strongin adds: In Greece, in the 1970’s, the world bank, at the behest of its “donors” GE and the Petro’s, financed a project which cut down all the olive groves leading to Athens leading into the city and replaced them with the king of input consumers, corn. When the corn was ready to be processed they spent 14 million dollars on an Ad campaign trying to get the Greeks to switch from Olive Oil to corn oil and margarine. It flopped.

f) He also adds: In the Dominican republic, General Mills tried to get people off their traditional diets for breakfast, with some effect, but at a tremendous cost.

So, is there a common thread that links these examples? Surely, it is a matter of collaborative choices not affordability. Social problems are much more broad based and mucky. It would need a lot of deep understanding before one strikes out for a solution.

Paula’s take on this is: “those looking for a prescribed way to implement design thinking are destined to be disappointed. It’s a messy, opaque process that depends as much on group dynamics as intellect or insight.”

What we also see is the collective thinking that goes on in a society or community based on tradition, culture and the benefits people have seen and felt over generations. It gets deeply embedded in the collective psyche. Hence the ‘local’ wins over the global designs to solve social and economic problems. Well, almost always.

What then would be the way forward to solve complex social problems?

To my mind, we would have to combine the principles of Design Thinking, System Thinking and the ideas of Social Sustainability to come up with viable and acceptable solutions for social problems — solutions that would be engineered by the people of a community for them through a service or business locally created of the people of the community, which may, if the need arises, extended to help other communities.

So, for success in solving social problems and bringing about social changes it is ‘BY the PEOPLE, FOR the PEOPLE, OF the PEOPLE’, under democratic set up.

Think Global: Act Local would be the mantra. This is because the ramifications of a social problem is always global but the solution to such a problem always have to be local.

Therefore, the industrial age mind set of ‘scalability’, ‘standardization’ and ‘globalization’ is to be summarily dismissed and discarded for good, when it comes to solving social problems. This is precisely because this mindset actually caused most of the social problems that we face today.

Can we solve the problems with the mindset that created it in the first place?

What Design Thinkers can learn from Einstein?

August 14, 2010

It is said that Design Thinking is about learning to think about a problem like Designers, where we 'think by doing'. That appears to be the creative way.

But what about learning to think like scientists to solve 'wicked' and 'messy' problems? To me it is just the same way any designer would go about solving problems. There is absolutely no difference. The difference exists only in our minds, which is then a myth.

Here are some of the ways Einstein went about seeing and solving tough, complicated and wicked problem — far tougher than the problems we see in everyday organizational life.

I have arranged Einstein's quotations just the way the best of Design Thinkers think. And I see no difference, absolutely no difference in the way any good scientist or any good designer thinks. Try to find the difference between the two apparently opposed approaches to solving problems.

1. Be Curious

"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious"

Note; Da Vinci's first commandment to thinking differently was just the same — 'Curiosity'.

2. Approach from different Perspectives and Levels

"One can't solve a problem from the same level it was created"

"Insanity; doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"

"It is not that I'm so smart; it's just that I stay with problems longer."

3. Rooted in the NOW

"I never think of the future. It comes soon enough"

"Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves"

4. Create the Future through Imagination: Not through analysis of the Past

"The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination."

"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of Life's coming attractions. Imagination is more important than knowledge."

5. Learning by Doing, Prototyping, Mistakes

"Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience (direct)."

"A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new."

6. Aim at Excellence: Not Success

"Strive not to be a success but rather be excellent"

"Learn rules of the game. And then play better than anyone else."

Isn't it time that we do away with the myth that scientist and designers think differently? What happens when we do so? The term 'Design' becomes irrelevant. Only 'Thinking' remains as the important thing. Or is it? Or is 'Imagination' and 'Intuition', validated through prototyping and experimentation (either physically or in the mind) more important than thinking?

I think it is 'Imagination' and 'Intuition' that we are aiming at. The process of Scientists, Designers and Engineers have the same 'starting', 'middle' and 'end' points when confronted with a problem. They start with 'Deep Contemplation' and then go through the mind by experimenting, prototyping and improvising and then end by going beyond the mind by 'imagination' and 'intuition' to come up with really new solutions.

If this is so, why then must we make a distinction between Humanities and Science? Make a distinction between Designers and Engineers? It is meaningless.

Aren't their approaches to solving problems fundamentally the same?

So why can't we simply say that Design Thinking is an approach to solve 'wicked' and 'messy' problems through 'imagination' and 'intuition'.

I see no reason as to what stops us from saying so.


Fires in Russia & Floods in Pakistan: Case for System Thinking?

August 14, 2010

While Russia burns and gets baked to a drought; Pakistan & northern India experience heavy rains and floods affecting human lives, homes and food.

Are they related? Surprisingly, they are not only connected as a whole but also interdependent thus providing us with a fine example of System Behavior and a case for System Thinking.

The upper atmosphere (the part through which the jet streams run) is gently rocked by what are known as Rossby waves—movements of air towards and away from the poles. These waves usually travel east or west, depending on various conditions. But they can also stand still, trapping the weather beneath them. Presently it is in a gridlock.

As the air stands still and the pressure is high no clouds form. So the ground below starts releasing the heat and the water it holds along with the heat. These heat waves along with the water vapor quickly gets carried to other parts experiencing low pressures (in this case moved towards Northern part of the Indian sub-continent). Since it meets a low pressure zone it starts forming excessive clouds and rain — flooding the area (the potential energy is now released into kinetic energy).

In the meantime, the ground that released the water owing to the reinforcing heat wave cycles became dry. The first effect is the drought, the worst that Russia have had in the last 100 years. Prolonged exposure to this condition starts off bush fires. And why does the smoke stay low and affect people? It stays low because the high air pressure still being exerted on it does not allow it to float upwards.

So, while fires, drought, rains and floods, all of which affect people badly, form the system ’emergence’ (’emergence’ is a set of problems) what is the cause or the ‘essence’ of such emergence?

‘Entropy’ is the ‘essence’ that causes the emergence.

From second law of thermodynamics we know that entropy can’t decrease. It can only increase or more or less remain steady. If it goes up, chaos increases and our problems (emergence) are accelerated. We can contain the problems in a sustainable way if it remains constant.

Unfortunately, at present entropy is going up. The rate of utilization of resources (energy) is much faster. With the entropy going up an equilibrium point is soon reached when all the free energy of a matter possessed is given up. Naturally what happens next is emergence leading to death.

There is another thing that happens with the rate of dissipation (arising out of increase in entropy) changing. Let us consider the world as a thermodynamic system with the outline of the earth along with its atmosphere as a natural boundary of the system. Energy enters the system (from the Sun) but finds it increasing difficult to get out of the system boundary, owing to ‘greenhouse effects’. When this happens we are allowing heat in the system to gradually increase (reinforcing cycle) and with such an increase the water in the ocean and matter like ice of say icebergs start to change form (water to steam and ice to water). Same would happen to the air and it starts changing its density at different layers and starts changing its state from that of say a ‘non-chaotic state’ to chaotic state (turbulent flows). If that be so, entropy starts increasing in the system. As entropy starts increasing the wind and the water of the oceans start changing directions of their flow patterns seeking new paths of least resistances and the velocity of the flow also goes up to keep up with the increase in the entropy within the system (they just try harder enough to dissipate the energy through increased friction of ferocious storms or creating regions of high and low pressures – the only way available to Nature so as to maintain a constant rate of change of entropy). But slowly it loses the battle. What happens next is easy to understand from the viewpoint of nature. Climate changes, vegetation changes, species start their desperate attempt to adapt for survival. But when the ‘adaptation rate’ is slower than the change itself, species (both plant and animal) die.

This is exactly what is happening.

Shall we wake up and ‘not blame it on Rio’?

Do we still have time to do something?

Green Taxes always hurt the poor & underprivilaged of the society

August 13, 2010

Few days back the Government of Maharashtra slapped green tax on old vehicles -(Green News – Article – MSN India).

What do they want to do? They want to abolish all the old vehicles plying in the state so that pollution levels decrease dramatically. That is of course a good idea or is it?

Who gets hurt in the process? The poorer section of the society are hurt most. These yellow and black taxis that we see in the picture are mostly owned and driven by poor people who just manages to eke out a living that allows them to live in slums and vulnerable shacks without access to any modern amenities of life like sanitation, water and electricity. Asking them to go for a new taxi is simply a torture and a burden.

The big assumption is that old vehicles pollute. This is entirely wrong. Pollution of any well maintained engine is certainly within the existing pollution norms. And if the norms get tighter then why not ask them to change the engine. No other part of a car actually pollutes. Throwing away a car only for an engine is simply a waste of good money.

Asking people to change old cars actually serves the hidden interest of the car manufacturers and nobody else. The number of cars that get added to the city of Mumbai is the highest in India. But that has now reached a limit of growth. Hence the well calculated move to further the interest of a few businessmen and business houses with an eye to increase car sales. In a way, the Government serves the interest of the corporations rather than the ordinary citizens of the country.

Let us take another example: The Green Tax on Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) in the UK — An excerpt from Mr. Tim Henry of the UK who retired as Chairman of Wolfson Maintenance, formerly a industrial consulting wing the University of Manchester.

“We like many other people in the UK are being penalized for owning a SUV with about 80% tax on fuel and vehicle tax 10 times that of a minicar. This winter we had a long cold winter with temperatures falling as low as -18 deg C. We live in a hilly area- our house is at 800 ft and the hills rise to 2000 ft. Without our 4X4 we would not have been able to get out as the local authorities failed to keep the roads clear of ice. In Wales in the summer we live about ½ mile from the nearest surfaced road and contend with a rough track that floods in bad weather. We would love to be able to have an energy efficient vehicle but the current route of tax to dissuade is not helpful. It particularly penalizes the poor. Some route of incentives is needed once the energy efficient alternatives are provided.”.

It is clear that Green Tax in any form is not helpful to make things greener. Taxing is not the preferred route to greening — building awareness, encouragement and financial incentive are.

Governments all over the world are getting it wrong.

This reminds me of Peter the Great of Russia. He imposed a stiff tax on anyone wanting to sport a beard. Why? Simply because he did not like it and he wanted citizens of his country to look smarter and more modern like him. But the sad fact was that most of the poor citizens who actually wore a bread did not do so to start off a new fashion. They simply did not have the money to shave regularly. They just wanted to save whatever they could.

No amount of ‘System Thinking’ might help such Governments to see the light of the day. They already have a solid opinion about the whole thing.

Jugaad: A New Growth Formula for Corporate America – Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, and Simone Ahuja – The Conversation – Harvard Business Review

August 12, 2010

The ‘Jugaad’ culture of India is a splendid culture of the country that others might like to emulate.

From my personal experience I may say that many of the products of ‘Jugaad’ culture can really be patented, which Indians don’t care much about (might not be required too for the collective good).

If one takes the cumulative effect of the Jugaad culture that goes on in any Indian industry one would see that it is applied R&D at its best but again not recorded or accounted for. If accounted it would be a substantial figure. However R&D and its spending are defined differently. And that is why such figures and efforts get hidden.

The point now is how to we leverage this excellent culture of ‘making do with little’, which is the need of the hour. For this 3 things might be needed:

1. Education & Propagation of System Thinking in schools, colleges and industries
2. Education & Propagation of Design Thinking (project based learning) and innovation rooted in System Thinking.
3. Achieve a balance between ‘reliability’ and ‘innovation’; ‘development’ and ‘growth’; ‘sustainability’ and ‘profits’.

This I Believe (TIB): because I have the satisfaction of implementing and leveraging Jugaad culture in Indian industries (for products that address the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ concept of C.K. Prahalad) — e.g: shampoos sachets, liquid cleaners, toilet cleaners & powders.

This I Believe (TIB); because I have also effectively employed the Jugaad culture to improve the reliability and energy efficiency of industrial systems (capital intensive plants) with an eye to sustainability and affordability to great effect without sacrificing profit margins (in fact enhancing it) and improving ‘standard of living’ of the employees of the organizations.

But to leverage this excellent culture we have needs a systemic understanding and its application that is augmented by strong strategy, innovative business models, inclusive nature of the entire buyer-supplier-producer chain, & use of global collaborative resources for creation & diffusion of knowledge.

TIB: N = 1 & R = G, where —

N –> personalized & differentiated, co-created experiences &
R –> collaborative resources through global networks

Wholophilia of the LIPS

August 7, 2010
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Essence.pdf (210 KB)

As human beings we all (well almost all) do the following:

1. Learn & Decide
2. Innovate & Play
3. Plan & Change
3. Create Systems

The beautiful and enticing acronym for this is LIPS (Learn, Innovate, Plan and Create Systems)

But are there methods to do these essential activities effectively on a regular basis?

The Principles of System Thinking and Design Thinking provide the way forward. For example, we can learn and decide about anything through System Thinking. Innovate and Play through Design Thinking. Plan and change through Design and System Thinking and then create new systems through System Thinking.

In this way Design Thinking and System are inseparably linked. One is rooted to the other. However, describing it in this way creates confusion as it appears rather paradoxical. My friend  Vlad (Vlad Kunko a great designer in his own right) actually helped me out of this confusion by terming this as 'Wholophilia' which is a great and appropriate term to use. It means that we explore any issue in a holistic manner but we do so in two different ways which are integrated. We do this by exploring the whole as a prerequisite for systems thinking, and as a manifestation of design thinking & action.

In other words, it focuses on design or creativity as the holistic unison of aesthetics and spirituality, beauty and structure, form and the essence, order and chaos, discipline and love and provides a context for rigorous inquiry into wholeness materialized into solutions through the act of design.

Vlad states this in his unique style (exactly as he wrote to me): "Co-evolution of understanding and meaning making / memory and concept / Enkidu and Gilgamesh / Dionysius and Apollo / yesterday and tomorrow / autopoietic immanence and enaction … nicely done Dibyendu — a Whole Person approach for living Whole Systems Design … Wholophilia … "

Let us make it simpler. Wholophilia helps us to understand problems as a whole and create new solutions that help sustain the purpose of the system without causing any short or long term unintended consequences for life and living.

The simplest way to apply Wholophilia is to think in terms of 'Emergence' and 'Essence'.

Emergence is what we can see and feel. It is the 'Shakti' or the 'Yang'. It is the manifested pattern in 'Space' and 'Time'.

Essence is the relationship that helps the manifestation or the Emergence to take place. Essence is invisible though one can feel it. It is the 'Shiva' or 'Yin' It is the energy that holds things together. It is timeless and not limited by 'Space' and 'Time'.

The play is between the Emergence and Essence. It is happening all the time and all around us, It appears as the play of opposites or appears as the paradox of opposite. But essentially there is unity & balance in this paradox of opposites. Or we can say that there is always 'UNITY IN OPPOSITES'.

This basic understanding helps us to LIPS.

A simple story would be appropriate here for clarity.

A modern and sophisticated chemical plant used an ultra modern state of art control system to control the operation of the plant. A strange phenomenon was happening there. One of the electronic control panel was blowing off frequently and rather randomly. It was a strange phenomenon since very reliable electronic control panels were installed. It was also strange that only one of them was behaving in this manner. Nothing happened to the similar electronic boards. Even the ones on the two sides of this particular board remained unaffected.

This caused sudden plant outages. This is not only costly but also dangerous in a chemical plant. It is costly because valuable productive time is lost with the subsequent loss of energy, material and human efforts in starting up again. That it is downright dangerous need not be emphasized. Bhopal, Alfa Piper and Chernobyl stand as living ghostly memories in the minds of all. It affects life and living for generations.

The cause of this strange but important problem was not apparent and people struggled with it for months till the 'Whophilia' was applied. 

Wholophilia in action:

The ambient temperature of this place in summer is around 42/47 degrees C while the room temperature of this modern control room is maintained at 22 degrees C. It is also necessary for people to constantly get in and out of the control room, which they did through the glass door as shown in the slide show (attached).

So the 'Wholophilia' understanding is as follows:

Emergence –> Frequent failure of the electronic panel. (visible pattern manifested in time and space — the Shakti or the Yang)

Essence –> 'Thermal shock' owing to sharp temperature difference between the outside and the inside initiated by frequent ingress and egress of people through the nearby door. (Invisible energy that creates the relationship between the Emergence & the Essence — the Shiva or the Yin).

The connection between the Emergence and the Essence completes our understanding of the issue in 'whole' in the simplest possible terms.

This same understanding of 'wholeness' also helps us to materialize the appropriate solution (sustains the purpose of the system without giving birth to unintended consequences to life and living) through the act of design (decision, creation, …).

The simple solution was to lock the door permanently and use another door at the other end of the control room (where it is not possible to generate thermal shocks).

The other associated solutions were to put sun film on the doors to cut out unnecessary radiation and trapping heat in the room that would lead to increase in air conditioning load.

Increase the temperature of the room from 22 degree C to 24 degrees C. It helps in three ways. First, less energy consumption by decreasing the air conditioning load of this fairly large control room. Second, it provides better effectiveness of the electronic components and their functioning since these function best between a temperature of 24 to 27 degree C. Third, the thermal gradient is reduced for any possible thermal shocks in the future.

The result: The strange problem vanished for good. No failure observed in the next 4 years. 

This simple solution illustrates the power & application of Wholophilia of the LIPS.

It helps organizations to learn, create and implement changes effortlessly and effectively.

The existing systems gradually transform to more sustainable solutions.


The accompanying slide show. (Wholophilia of the LIPS) (Connecting Emergence to Essence to Innovate)


The strange case of the electrical panel burnout

August 3, 2010
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Electrical.pdf (301 KB)

This was a very 'naughty' or 'knotty' problem that almost tripped me over.

This strange case of electrical panel burnout happened in one of the most modern, sophisticated and well maintained chemical plant I have ever set my eyes on.

A particular set of electrical panels was burning out year after year. It was impossible to predict when it would burn or say as to why would it burn out so randomly?

However, there was a common pattern in all the failures, which was made up of the following components:

a) Whenever the panels got 'shorted' and failed the engineers opened up the panel to find dew like shining droplets of water hanging precariously from the top of the panel.  

b) The failures always happened in a particular period of the year (April to September).

The engineers & managers were at their wit's end not knowing how exactly they can overcome this problem.

They questioned, 'How can water seep into the panels?'

They took all possible precautions like

a) sealing the 'supposed' gaps in the panel door so that even a tiny drop of water can't enter

b) maintain and clean up and dry the panels every six months or whenever they had an opportunity

But nothing helped. It kept happening year after year.

They almost decided to go for a new design of panels.

Fortunately that was not needed. And they have lived happily ever after.

So, how do we connect the Emergence (the problem) to the Essence (the relationship)?

What might be the approach to do so?

What we need to avoid to really understand 'emergence' that continually floods our lives?

The extremely brief presentation reveals the interesting answers.

Hope you would enjoy it.


a) the post: (Connecting Emergence to Essence)

b) the post: (Illustration of the 4th Design Thinking Principle)

c) the post: (General Principles of Design Thinking)