COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE & EDUCATION (Updated 7/21/15) - WIP
Prior to sharing my thoughts on how individuals can utilize comparative advantage for identifying opportunities, I would like to start sharing my thoughts on what should have happened, and what should happen when it comes to comparative advantage in organizations, and why it is important?
What is comparative advantage?
Assignment for you -
When and how should organizations use comparative advantage?
Personally, my belief is that utilization and the extent of comparative advantage depends on the nature of the organization. An organization focusing on innovation should always separate out strategic initiatives from operational enhancements while utilizing comparative advantage. Moreover, in this flat, knowledge based world revolving around globalization, organizations and countries should clearly have a strategic view on how things will evolve at least over a 10 year period in order to devise right strategic initiatives involving comparative advantage.
The strategic management team should also consider the 80/20 rule usually presented in operations management where 80% of the work is usually done by 20% of the workers (it need not be 80/20, but there tends to majority/minority split when it comes to this distribution), and the individuals who are actually involved in developing innovative initiatives tend to build tacit knowledge that is not easy to verbalize in words. It has to come by actually going through that process (hands-on experience). At the same time, these individuals, for various reasons, can't be in the same place or same nature of work - some reasons being, family, nature of work, vertical mobility, organizational changes, environment to grow as a person or for the simple fact that the nature of job is not interesting any more.
Further, decade to couple of decades back, the individuals who took such heavier and challenging load tend to be categorized as geeks/nerds, and stayed in the same place for ever (again for various reasons). But, with right education and various platforms available now to seek knowledge and information, those individuals have also started figuring out ways to market themselves.
In addition, with decrease in the average life of organizations, these individuals have no other option other than to diversify their experiences to increase the cumulative life-time relevant employment.
What is Tacit Knowledge?
Let us take the example of Nobel Laureate, Albert Einstein. Einstein worked in the patent office prior to becoming a famous scientist, but in the process, I am guessing (based on the limited experience that I gained working on patent filings), started connecting various areas while going through the patent applications to build onto his earlier knowledge. While fulfilling this role as patent clerk, most probably, he must have gained tacit knowledge connecting various areas that potentially helped him in his later research findings. (See references below)
To add to this explanation, let me give you a personal example. While working on a project, I had to dig deeper into the fundamentals of that area, which was not part of my job description, and which I did out of my own interest in my own leisure time. In the process, I even had to limit spending quality time with my family. The goal of venturing out using google searches, and other library sources along with actually doing the work combined with 15 years of earlier research experience (at that time), and five degrees (at that time) in interconnected areas helped me to understand how something fundamentally worked in order to provide right solutions later on. Going through that process helped me to not only offer solution for that project, but also another solution later on for a totally different area. This ability to offer such solutions is difficult to verbalize due to the tacit nature of it.
Let me give you a third example. My 4 year-old daughter had a class on invention recently, and was asked what she would like to know more, and she answered "PEOPLE". Though I have heard my family members and friends sharing their experiences on the challenges of answering questions from kids, I really understood what they meant only after I gained that experience myself with my own daughter. By the way, both my wife and I are still trying to work on our communication skills to answer her questions (communication skill targeted towards the audience - In this case, our 4 year-old).
How is education connected to comparative advantage and tacit knowledge?
While addressing this topic, it is important to first understand why education is important. Let me give my personal example again - My PhD research focused on utilizing a technology named Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) to study the science behind how certain molecules functioned, and my Master's degree research project revolved around Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), the one used for medical applications. As soon as someone without relevant education reads this experience, the first question that I receive is whether I worked on nuclear energy as NMR has nuclear in it. Immediately, I clarify that Nuclear magnetic resonance is distinctly different than Nuclear energy, and is not one and the same. For that matter, I have been away from even NMR since 2003 as I went more towards developing (B2B & B2C) customer related products completely irrelevant to NMR (until 2008). For the last seven years, I have been focusing more on business and data analysis/management involving various interconnected areas through academic roles, and through my consulting firm.
As explained in the above example, getting right education goes a long way in reducing misunderstanding, and to improve clarity in thinking & communication. It is also the reason that the the graduation rates for bachelor's degree needs to improve from 30% to at least 50% (with relevant, and meaningful education) in US.
Secondly, right education, as I have repeatedly stated, gives confidence to become adaptive, and learn new things as and when necessary in order to meet the demands of changing times without succumbing to short-cuts (if the person prefers to).
Thirdly, education without passion, and without curiosity to learn will not take us anywhere. It is also the reason that we need to define our passion. For example, I prefer to keep my feet well-grounded, and connect various areas together from ground up whereas, someone else might like to explore space by being there. For those who would like to explore space, one of the best places in the world is NASA.
While analyzing education, we need to understand that education without quality teachers means nothing. Recently, I watched a TED talk given by Mr. Gates where he mentioned about the need for quality teachers. I respect Mr. Gates more than for his 90 billion dollars, for his respect towards his father, and his father's profession, teaching.
The one area where I have a slightly different view is with regard to quartile ranking system for teachers. Here, I would like to share the thoughts of several renowned philosophers with two that I could think of here being, Thiruvalluvar (Tamil poet), and Confucius. Both Thiruvalluvar and Confucius stated through their media channels that environment has the potential to define and refine personality. In the modern times, Deming and many other psychologists, operational experts emphasized the importance of training to transform workers from bad to good to great. For that reason, the first step in improving quality of teaching should be through appropriate training. After providing all the resources, supported by stability in employment and decent salary, and still if the teachers don't show improvement, then performance evaluation certainly should determine the future employment.
What is my experience with teaching?
I have had the opportunity to teach at U of M, Ann Arbor around 10+ courses, 20 courses in Harper College and at least 40 + courses at Argosy University at varying levels, and in various areas. For that matter, the total count that I have taught until now is what most of the professors teach throughout their career lifetime.
Having invested so much time and effort on teaching, along with research during the last seven years, I would like to move onto next passion in order to not get burned out. The passion that I would like to move on revolves around building unique research centers around the globe connecting various areas together, and help form a talented human network to compete with machines of the future.
What is my experience with research?
I have published and presented close to 20 articles in number along with 14 international patent filings. Further, I have six degrees in various areas, and the ability to connect them in unique ways due to the depth in understanding in each of those areas. I also believe that patents without meaningful products is of no relevance.
I am proud to mention that the patents which I worked on went onto become successful products. For that matter, only 1 or at most 2 patents out of 100 patents really become successful products. If not for this thinking process, I could have transformed several other ideas and memorandum of inventions into patents, and could have increased the numbers.
While developing products, I have worked through various phases of project and product development initiatives in the role of leader and team player, involved in prototyping, worked directly with marketing directors in coming up with marketing campaigns, VPs and Key account managers (KAM), and also sales force in launching and/or selling products.
Why did I share this information?
To give readers some idea on my background, and experience.
Do we need to be a juggler in the 21st century?
Is connecting various areas equivalent to juggling? First of, the art of juggling is not easy, and requires complete body and eye coordination. It is the reason that even now people would not mind seeing quality jugglers. When it comes to offering education connecting various areas, the justification is simple. If machines are utilized for machine learning, and to connect various areas, it is important that the education offered to humans should be similar in order to compete with machines of the future.
It was a coincidence that my wife brought a DVD titled, "STORYBOOK TREASURES", from the library couple of days back, and one of the stories in that DVD was the story of "Seven Blind Mice".
As you may know, it is the story about six expert mice with each of the mouse investigating the same object from different angles, and coming up with distinctly different & wrong conclusions. Finally, the last mouse takes the time, and puts on necessary effort to look at the entire object, and figures out that the object happens to be an elephant. In this case, though each of the six mice was an expert, strong attachment to each of their areas of expertise could have caused a bias in perception resulting in the wrong conclusion. If we were to extrapolate this story to the real interconnected world, we have to understand that thorough analysis of problems should include perspectives from various stakeholders, and different areas in order to come up with an optimal solution.
What should educational institutions realize while devising educational strategies in the 21st century?
Quality educational institutions that teach technology, branding, and quality need to understand the following:
a. Brand should bring money, and not the other way where money tries to hold onto brand.
b. Quality of education should define Investors, and not the other way - I prefer more state run systems, where state governments have more control to generate continuous revenue stream for the state (especially, right now).
c. According to Mr. Jim Collins, technology is an accelerator to an organization's strategy, but I believe that we have reached a point where technology is becoming the strategy.
What are the concerns with technology becoming a strategy?
Let us consider three hypothetical examples -
During Dr. Einstein's time, Einstein was able to share his work with Dr. Planck while looking for a faculty role, and the work was appreciated, recognized, and later fetched him a Nobel Prize. Now, with all cookies and malwares out there, I believe Einstein, whose work focused on relativistic theory, may not be knowing that while he is writing his research article or even conceptualizing his idea, this information could be transferred to other parts of the world without his knowledge. In the process, his work would never be published, or someone else would take credit for it. - Note: Einstein had no prior academic experience while working at patent office, and was trying to make a name for himself.
Einstein, if he were to work in economic behavioral sciences area, might be thinking that sharing his website could help him in getting visibility and offered right opportunities matching his experience, and qualifications, but instead the data in the website could be used without his knowledge and without due credit by those with extensive resources. This scenario change could potentially impact the whole landscape of hiring personnel for organizations in the future. Not only that, with not much privacy in place, Einstein could potentially be exploited by those with power from every front especially, in this networked world. Instead of getting appropriately compensated with right level of opportunity and funding, he would most probably be sent coupons for his work.
Another example is that, let us say there is a great mathematician, who had asked his students' to work on Benford's law for a data analytics project, and later utilized this law to identify unusual activities in a massive blog section, and pointed out in a discussion forum. Within months, someone else with resources can write a research article, and find funding for that work without even this mathematician knowing it.
When these examples are shared, immediately, one of the aspects that is brought up is the introvert nature of individuals in the mould of Einstein. But, such individuals nowadays, due to exposure and experience in the real world need not be introvert. I am confident that such Einsteins' in the 21st century has built the ability to go to a customer site in the western part of the country on the first day revolving around one industrial segment, and then travel from there to the southern part of the country on the next day, and work with a different kind of customer, and from there travel to the eastern part of the country, and work with a customer from a totally different industrial segment, and also successfully implement a new product in the process.
I can extend it further with more scenarios as there are potentially various avenues available to take away even hard work, but the above four examples should give the gist of it.
If these are the issues, should we move away from technologies? Does it mean that we don't need technological innovations?
No, not at all.
We need technological innovations including IoT, but policies and law should be optimized regularly to limit/eliminate the misuse of technological innovations. Moreover, technology experts should keep a keen eye on the business and strategic point of view of business leaders, and how the technological innovations are going to be/being utilized by companies.
Additionally, technology experts should also need to understand the psychological aspect of how money, fame, and power can lead to myopic decision-making, and should devise exceptional control measures while developing next generation technologies. On the policy front, implementation of right policies is a necessity to limit the misuse of technological innovations, while maximizing the constructive value of technologies. Moreover, the same technologies can also be utilized to level the playing field, where the competition will be fairly contested, and would let the best minds to come to the forefront.
In the due course, by creating a right environment through a mix of education, awareness, and understanding of the psychology of decision-making, our human society will be able to discover many Dr. Einsteins' (including me - einstein^6 :-)) in the 21st century.
More on IoT will be shared in another article.
Note: Human mentality is that we don't care unless it happens to us. But take it from me, if it were to happen to Einstein, it will be a matter of time before it happens to another person.
When will comparative advantage, and globalization work to the fullest?
It is simple - when educational standards, legal system, political environment, & policy making are standardized to a greater extent across the globe, then globalization will bring in full fruition. Otherwise, though overall nominal incomes might increase across the globe, real incomes will not increase, and disparities in income within countries would widen as seen right now.
Would taxation be a solution to reduce the above-mentioned wealth gap?
Yes, but there are deeper issues in the society that I have presented in my earlier articles. The concept of family changing, increased divorce rates, inflationary rate for education, housing, health care increasing disproportionately with respect to real income are some of the factors playing a part in increasing wealth gap and most importantly, misuse of technological innovations. Taxation would still not resolve these issues. For that matter, those who find loopholes in taxation tend to have resources to find loopholes still.
On the other hand, unlike ever before, data analytics provides us the way to look at the granularity in the data, and by understanding the demographics, it is possible to optimize some of these issues, if not all through offering right education, improving legal system that helps the masses, and by implementing right policies. Even individuals can do their part, as I have done with my analysis.
By the way, the kind of analysis presented here was never done before, and I am the first to present it in this website. All the previous work revolved around wealth gap, but no one digged deeper into the real issues.
To be cont'd --
How to tackle rising educational costs using comparative advantage? Would MOOC be a solution?
- As I had mentioned before, I am concerned more about the inflationary rate of educational costs, and not hinting on free education, which can result in other problems. For example, in this flat world, an individual can get free high quality University education offered by his/her country, and then utilize his/her connections to find a lucrative position in a top university in another country, while there would be 100's, if not 1000's with right qualifications and load of educational debt still trying to find a right opportunity in the same country. This example should also give you insight on why there needs to be more standardization in education not only in terms of quality of education, but also the fee structure.
- Though MOOC appears to be the right disruptive technology for offering mainstream education, it could result in more problems over the long-run along the lines of other disruptive technologies. For that reason, it is better to ask as many questions as possible on how it will impact various stakeholders early on, and also offer solutions prior to expanding it further. Most importantly, it will reduce social interactions, which is an essential part of growing up as a person.
- Moreover, as mentioned earlier, it will certainly shift the supply/demand dynamics further in favor of employers especially, if we were to have 500 MNEs determining 50% of the world trade.
- Another factor to consider would be popularity psychology that plays a big part in selecting courses. In a MOOC set up, with 100000's of students' taking the course, preferential selection of courses based on popularity of an instructor and university will play a much bigger role compared to the traditional college/university model. In addition, with 100000's of students' taking courses, it could potentially impact the HR needs in education/academics to a much larger extent than ever seen before.
- The most important reason that forces me to have reservation with this stream of education is for the fact that this mode of education will offer an easy avenue for those already with resources to gain further, and will not reach the people who really need this education. In order to reach the bottom of the pyramid, we need to rely still on the traditional route of improving the infrastructure from the roots by building stronger connections with the local community.
To be cont'd -
References added on July 13th:
After posting a section of the above article, I was curious to add onto my knowledge on Nobel Laureate Albert Einstein, and came across these interesting articles:
Readers of these articles need to understand that there is nothing wrong in appreciating excellence whether it were to be sports or science or engineering etc, and this appreciation for a person need not align with religious and personal views of that individual. Personally, I believe, faith can take us a long way, and religion with right polymath leaders plays an important role to take the community and society forward.
By the way, being polymath does not mean that you need to be strong in math. Polymath means that the person is versatile in connecting various areas, and can come up with a holistic solution taking various stakeholders into account. At the same time, in this 21st century, with technology taking us forward, having a strong math background is becoming more and more essential.
1. I have nothing more to prove with respect to my credentials, and took courses from Coursera and EdX mainly to have a positive influence on my close friends and family members (especially, the younger ones), and to remind them about the need to update with latest developments, and to make younger generation recognize the value of holistic education.
2. The rate at which these articles are happening, which I believe are unique, certainly convinces me more about the presence of some universal power beyond us. I am also getting more and more convinced that daily meditation, faith in god (preferably a religion of your choice - human minds can't decipher abstractness, and may need a visible source to start with), learn interconnected areas, having strong family bonding, and helping others with minimal expectations could be the factors to go beyond our capabilities not limited to our physical strength. I believe that above factors over time provide deeper insight in acquiring tacit knowledge in the area of our interest. Though it might take a while, once it happens, there will be an eureka moment.
3. I had worked on fMRI in 2000, and have always been intrigued by brain, and mind power. I was curious to see how my perspective, and perception towards education has changed over the last 30 years, and its impact on memory; I was also curious to know how re-learning impacts memory. - My findings will be shared soon.
4. I still believe that we have to be careful with MOOC, due to the disruptive nature of it. It is important for policy makers to understand that if we were to go this route of socialization on every front (education included), government policies should start incorporating more subsidies for education, healthcare, and other common amenities over time.
5. Please also note that the standards and views of education, and its connection to jobs varies a lot across the globe. This complication along with diversity in population dynamics between countries can make deeper inroads into job insecurity for the majority over the long run.
6. Do we need Mahatma/Great Soul in the 21st century? A brief overview of an article, which will be coming up soon -
In this 21st century, where values are wavering, I think that it is sufficient for those with strong positive values to remember the great achievers of the past, and their impact on where we are now. While remembering their sacrifices, and the environment they were in, we can keep ourselves occupied by working towards providing the best for our family, and by growing as a person on every front.
It is also important that we take every meaningful action possible by working together to prevent those forgettable events of the past from happening again.
7. The suggestions put forth in these articles are based on current conditions, and will obviously change when conditions change.