Monday, February 20, 2006

(Mis) Adventures In Management: Inspiring Your People.

My thanks to MacPhilly for being such a good sport by granting permission to retell this tale.

In this series I will make managerial errors for you - so you don't have to. Okay, listen up all you entrepreneurs, inventors and team leaders. The ego which gave you the outrageous notion that you could dump the current version of your target product, or service, to replace it with your new and improved version is the same ego which can be wrong! Yes, it can cause you to wonder off into, well, extreme flights of fancy. I submit my unexpected version of this lesson.

MacPhilly has an amazing mind. I know smart when I run into it. (I don't care what he thinks about his mind, trust me, this dude is smart.) I seriously plan on employing him within my invention project. We are also friends. I've worked for and hired friends before. Done right, it is a joy.

It is a lazy Thursday evening, MacPhilly and I are chatting on Skype. I planned on a quick check-in and then a return to my study of physics. Within physics, I believe lies the key to a new way of doing text to speech. MacPhilly was surprised I was studying physics and stated I was smarter than he. I countered that we are both smart, but maybe in different ways.

Some of my fondest memories of college were in calculus and physics classes. These memories are awakening. I relate that physics is like poetry to me. MacPhilly mentions that he hated algebra, but liked geometry. This is logical, he is very artistic and good with multimedia presentations. I then decided that with the correct, simple and beautiful diagram, MacPhilly would discover an entire new world. This assumption was my first mistake.

After signing off I went to my drawing program and began to construct the picture you see at the top of this article. It is simple, clean, clear and uncluttered, reducing my beloved subjects down to one of their essential components. You can take any angular quantity and break it down to its horizontal and vertical parts. To me, this is pure beauty. I crafted an email responding to MacPhilly's latest pod cast and let him know I couldn't resist sharing this simple drawing with him. I figured, since he mentioned that geometry was easy for him, my drawing would open up his mind like a can of sardines. He might even thank me. I mean, there was a triangle there and everything.

The second mistake I made was hitting the "send" button. It was early morning and I floated off to sleep knowing that I'd have a lovely email response waiting for me when I got up. Yes, part of the job of a manager is to inspire your people. I couldn't wait to read how MacPhilly would react to his new found appreciation of at least one aspect of physics: the force diagram.

MacPhilly to CyberGal: (My initial reactions to this email are in parentheses and in red).


So here's MacPhilly's response to the diagram (Gosh, he's using the Passive Voice!?) and the problem with it. (W-H-A-T???! There is NO problem with it!)

a. There's no such thing as a frictionless plane. (Your ungrateful - if you saw THAT demonstration, you'd probably have a heart attack. Sure, its not real, but dealing with The Coefficient of Friction is complicated. Trust me, you'd kiss my feet if you knew what a blessing a "frictionless" anything is.)

b. Who cares? (What? Sacrilege! Legions are turning over in their graves!)

c. (and the reason why I hated algebra) how can I solve for anything when everything is a variable? (Huh? The angle IS A, the variables give the theory of solution.) I don't even know the angle of the plane so I wouldn't even begin to guess at what anything else is. I hate math!
(Something tells me we are failing to communicate. What happened?)

l8r, (I'm thankful he's still willing to communicate. Man, where did I go wrong?)


As a former student of psychology, I wondered if I'd really hit a nerve, causing a laps into the Passive Voice. He absolutely didn't understand the logic of my diagram. I've had five more semesters of math and three of physics. Come to think of it, using variables to show a theoretical overall solution may have come in during calculus, oops. I think an apology is in order. I'm struggling to comprehend this from MacPhilly's point of view. Has this kind of thing ever happened to me?

Yes, I now remember an amusing (for me) set of email and gift exchanges from a science buddy of mine. When I first started my blog, I let him know of its existence and received an impassioned speech decrying my dislike of opera. Yup, right there in my biography: "Like music, except opera and hip hop." His email spun an amazing yarn about how opera was one of the highest achievements of humankind. I had to stop reading, while I laughed. God love this guy, but get serious...

Since we are buddies I replied in more detail that I'd tried to "get" opera, but after attempting to view it on TV and even live, it just didn't make sense to me. The singing, especially the women sounded like screeching to me. A week later, I received several CD's of instrumental operatic music with his road map for my further re-education.

I was amused at his assumption that I would engage in his proposed course of study. After discovering the beauty of the instrumental version of operas, I was to purchase a recommended opera and "follow the English translation, line by line, while listening to the songs being sung." Visually, that is a task I really loathe to do. My basic reaction: snowballs will be forming in hell before I a) spend the money for a full opera CD and b) visually fight through that tinsy print of the lyrics as I listen to said opera. Again, I smile at this dear man's assumptions about my "learning to like opera". I want to pat him on the head, like a sweet, but deluded small child.

Was this how MacPhilly was reacting to me? Hmmm. After another round of email I found out that MacPhilly was just being a wise-guy using the passive voice. He was in no pain at all. Ah, another hypothesis down the shoot! He further enlightened me to the reality that I could produce an entire book of drawings and he'd still hate math, yeah, I don't see myself cuddling up with an opera CD any time soon, either.

So I will return to my frictionless planes and the wacky world of quarks, while MacPhilly continues to create beautiful multimedia work along with computer consulting. I will get my questions together and plum the depths of his mind for the gold, I know I can use. My questions may confuse him, but his information will further my inventive quest for a different text to speech system. Mutual respect continues between an artist consultant and a science math person, even if we don't totally understand one another.

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