Two poets, politics and search engine

Omar Khayyam was poet, mathematician and philosopher during the rule of Seljuq dynasty in Iran. He was also astrologer. He designed calendar for Sultan, which was called Jalali Calender. Unfortunately in Western world he is known only for his poems- rubiayts (thanks to translations by Edward FitzGerald).

A Book of verses underneath the bough, a jug of wine, a loaf of bread— and you, beside me singing in the wilderness…

…And oh, wilderness is paradise now

-Rubiayat of Omar Khayyam

Post assassination of Sultan, he became victim of court politics (just like our office politics) and widow of Sultan wanted to get rid of him, but better sense prevailed and he was allowed to remain in court, but only as an astrologer.

His Chinese counterpart was Xin Qiji, like Omar he was poet, but he was also a warrior. His dream was to free China from Jin Dynasty and establish supremacy of Han people (under Song Dynasty). He fought many wars with Jin. Tough he was successful, due to court politics (again!! And you thought only you are victim of office politics) he was banished from court by emperor. Post banishment he started writing poems. Later emperor realised his mistake and called him back.

She chatters happily, I sense her light perfume.

In this crowd, I’ve searched for her a hundred times,

Then suddenly I wheel around …

.. and here she is!

In this very spot where lanterns fade.

–   Xin Qiji, Green Jade Table in The Lantern Festival

This poem of Xin Qiji is famous for some other reason. During Xin’s era,  girls were not allowed to leave their house, so Lantern Festival (just like our Diwali) was only occasion when lovers could see each other. If they missed it, they had to wait for one more year.

Here poet talks about last night of lantern festival and he is desperately searching for girl he loves and after searching for her hundreds of times he finally finds her. This searching – baidu, was name given to famous Chinese search engine- Baidu.



Remove all obstacles on path to success.


Vivify wishes all a happy Ganesh Chaturthi.

I don’t believe in making new year commitments, they don’t last long. After reading some articles on making change happen, some things were common in all.

1. Make commitment to someone whom you trust and who will ensure that you stick to  what you have committed.

2. Make 3-4 commitments, not more .

Here is my commitment …

I will…



Promotions and Premack Principle

David Premack, a professor of psychology came with Premack principle which says that a highly desirable activity should be used as reinforcement for less desirable activity ex. if you want your child to study ( least desirable activity), then you should use ice cream ( highly desirable activity) as reinforcement, so you child gets ice cream only when he completes his studies.

This principle, with minor variations, is used in corporate world. A person is made to do lot of tasks which all hate to do with promise of promotion or pay hike. General theme is ” I know you don’t like ….but if you want to grow ( i.e. get promotion in next appraisal)…. then…”

This “if…then” statements are examples of Premack Principle.

Game theory and timing your job search

In game theory there is interesting game called minority game.

Without going into details of statistic, what it states is those who are on minority side win.

We will take classical example of bar which can accommodate 60 customers. If too many people i.e. > 60 go to bar, it will be overcrowded and customers will have feeling that they should have stayed at home. But if too many people stay at home i.e. < 60 people go to bar, they will miss the fun.

Solution is if you study trend of people going to bar over a period of time, you will get maximum benefit if you visit bar when majority is staying at home or you stay at home when majority is going to bar. Those on side of minority win.

Minority game has been applied to variety of fields ex. in finance is it applied to buying and selling of shares. A winner will sell when majority is buying and buy when majority is selling.

Unfortunately, operations research is not used much in field of HR, but things will change as with increasing focus on HR analytics.

You can use minority game for timings your job search. Search for job when few people are looking for change or avoid job search when too many people are looking for change, as those on minority side win. Someone should do research on this.


Probability, Prosecutor’s Fallacy and Mr& Mrs Collins

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

-Benjamin Disraeli

In 1964 at Los Angeles, an elderly lady while walking down an alley saw a young lady with blond hair in pony tail running with her purse. From other end of alley a gentleman saw young white lady with blond hair in ponytail get into yellow car whose driver was black man with beard and moustache.

Few days’ later police arrested a couple- Janet Collins and her husband Malcolm Collins and charged them with theft. Though they met description, the elderly lady and gentleman could not positively identify them.

Then prosecutor decided to make use of statistics. He called a professor of statistics from local college. Professor explained rules of probability to jury. He first identified six features and treated them as independent events – black man with a beard, man with a moustache, white woman with blonde hair, white woman with a ponytail, interracial couple in a car, yellow car.

The prosecutor made some assumptions based on which he asked professor to calculate probability of couple being innocent. Probabilities based on assumption given below.

  • Black man with beard: 1 in 10
  • Man with moustache: 1 in 4
  • White woman with pony tail: 1 in 10
  • White woman with blonde hair: 1 in 3
  • Yellow motor car: 1 in 10
  • Interracial couple in car: 1 in 1000

Professor then used multiplication rule for independent events. So for ex. probability of finding black with beard AND man with moustache is calculated as…

P(black man with a beard AND has a moustache) = P(black man with a beard) x P( has a moustache) = 1/10 x 1/4 = 1/(10 x 4) = 1/40

So probability of a random couple satisfying above conditions was one in 1,20,00,000 i.e 1/10×1/4×1/10×1/3×1/10×1/1000=1/1,20,00,000.

Based on this it was concluded that chances of couple being innocent were 1 in 1, 20, 00,000 i.e. 1 in 1.2 crores. Based on these calculations jury declared couple guilty.

Couple went to Supreme Court. The Supreme Court reversed the judgement and freed the couple. The Supreme Court observed that … Mathematics, while assisting the trier of fact in the search for truth, must not cast a spell over him.

Supreme Court observed that professor made errors in calculations and misused concept of probability.

First, it was incorrect to assume six features as independent events ex. Black man with beard and man with moustache are not independent events. Men who grow beard also have moustache.

Secondly, what professor had calculated was probability of finding a couple matching description, but jury equated probability of match with probability of innocence- which is classical prosecutor’s fallacy. P (match) is not same as P (innocence)!

Thirdly going purely by probability in Los Angeles area it was possible to find one more couple meeting such conditions, so maybe it was other couple who committed theft and not this couple.











Using discourse analysis for predicting winner – Modi vs. Rahul

Martin Seligman is authority on optimism. He predicted that people vote for candidate who exudes optimism. To prove this he did discourse analysis of two candidates for US presidential election in 1988- George Bush and Michael Dukakis.

Seligman and his team went thorough their interviews in newspapers, debates, speeches etc. They started coding these for words, phrases and body language that showed optimism.

They found that George Bush sounded more optimistic than Dukakis; hence felt that public will vote for Bush. Election results proved that they were correct.

Discourse analysis as a research methodology is not very reliable or valid. But in hands of expert psychologist like Seligman it is a great tool for predictions.

Today we have lot of material for discourse analysis- media articles, interviews etc. but some how I don’t find anyone doing this kind of analysis in India.



During current election, no news channel could say with confidence as to who will win. They spend hours interviewing Modi and Rahul Gandhi, covering their speeches in various constituencies etc. They could have hired experts to do discourse analysis and made some predictions. Instead they were more interested in collecting spokesmen who wasted time shouting at each other.

Indian electorate is not very different from US electorate, they too look for candidate who is optimistic and whom they feel can solve their problems.

Modi being a superior orator, scored over Gandhi. He sounded confident, optimistic (“progress of 125 crore Indians”) and spoke on two topics that are very dear to 125 crore Indians- inflation and unemployment.

Gandhi covered too many topics- woman empowerment, rural poverty, welfare, escape velocity of Jupiter for dalits, inflation, communalism, tyranny of capitalism and his family history. There was gap between intensity of his speeches and his optimism.


In addition to opinion polls, experts could have used discourse analysis to predict winner.

Karen Horney, Anxiety and Successful Managers

Karen Horney was a well-known psychologist. She came up with theory of neurosis. Anxiety affects every person, right from birth esp. the way our mother treats us, parenting style etc. To cope with anxiety people develop coping mechanisms given below…

  1. Move toward people– try to please people by seeking their approval, look for partner who will love them and solve their problems. These are also called compliance needs.
  2. Move against people– try to control others, indulge in manipulative behaviour, try to promote self, seek limelight and exploit others for own benefit. These are called aggression needs
  3. Move away from people– try to become less dependent on others (try to be self-sufficient), avoid tasks that require interaction with people, live life within self- defined boundaries. These are called detachment needs.

All of us use all these mechanisms in our daily life- we sometimes please people, sometimes we withdraw, sometimes promote ourselves, but some people exclusively use one of them ex. they will always try to manipulate others and seek limelight and this where they move from normal to neurotic.

Three good tests to understand our inclination are Enneagram Test, Hogan Development System and Horney-Coolidge Type Indicator. All of them are influenced by Karen’s three coping mechanisms of moving towards, moving away and moving against people.

So which types are more successful in corporate world? Research has shown that most successful managers belong to category – moving against people. The famous (or is it infamous?) dark triad lies in this category. Dark triad consisting  of Narcissism, Machiavellian and Psychopathy is combination of high self-esteem, self-promotion and use of power and exploitation of people, for own benefit.

The other two types i.e. those moving towards people (pleasing people and seeking approval of boss) and those moving away from people (“invisible” type) are not likely to succeed.