Thursday, August 25, 2011

After Dinner Speech: South African Institute of Industrial Engineering

© VDS Brink October 2010

Many thanks, Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen for your trust and time.
Being an ugly short nerdy type I often stand in front of my mirror and begs:”Mirror, mirror against the wall, am I the fairest of them all? Will I ever be handsome dark and tall?” Ok, you know what the answer about always is: Dead Silence!
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool…
I will be brief as brevity is the soul of wit. I am just trying to be a fool as if we know that we do not know is the start of great things.
This organization is about the Industrial engineer. The Industrial Engineer is about fusing Engineering, Processes, Mathematics and Social Science. 3M: Man-Machine-Money.
In the next, and I promise less than 12 minutes, before releasing you back to good wine and friendship, I will touch on what I believe to be the most important of the three; “Man”. Ladies forgive my chauvinistic approach. After all to err is human, to forgive Divine!
Part of my presentation also serves as a curtain raiser for the great ending of this conference tomorrow.
“Life’s tough”, said the great John Wayne, “even tougher when you are a fool”.
No big deal, I will briefly talk about three things: Some perspectives on the world today, then of 2015 and share some views to arrive there in one piece and perhaps even excel in this turbulent future waiting for us.
Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain - and most fools do. -- Dale Carnegie
What to believe and what not is the question, when is there something rotten in the state of SA and when not? News and newspapers? Dream on!
We believe and act in mysterious ways, with Industrial Engineering is about sensible analysis and application of hard facts bringing sense in a foolish world.
For example:
Hollywood entertained us many years ago with “Jaws” followed by “Jaws II” en the most frightening of them all: “The Son of Jaws”.
Fact is that great whites harm less than 15 people in this world in one year. Yet on idyllic tropical islands, beautiful trees drop coconuts at a speed of 80 km/u hurting and killing more 2500 every year!
I am still waiting for “Coconut!’, “Coconut II” and the “Son of Coconut”!
We live in a world of make believe and we are mere players on this stage.
This brings me to the cricket ball: I am lately working with a star cricket player and provincial captain. When discussed this fact yesterday, he almost attacked me for the heresy I am telling!
As a 22 year old student I part time worked for a full year as an IT geek on the John van Reenen discus world record project and had to dig into the hazy world of sporting objects swerving through the air.
To understand cricket; they wear white, swearing against the rules. At a county match after 2 boring hours of ball blocking, the batsman at last hit a 6, the crowd got on their feet and clapped slowly, the visiting American asked: “Did the game begin..?”
The cricket ball is carefully polished on one side by the bowler, even illegally some Brylcream added by wiping it on his hair. At high speed the ball will move towards the smooth side. It is doing it more so on overcast days. There is a clear inverse relationship between moisture in the air and the runs hit. More moisture, less runs, proven over and over. The ball = Machine, the run up to delivery = process, teh Bowler = Man.
Yet why does it swing a good Industrial Engineer might ask? Bernoulli’s law! It all to do with air pressure. We also know that on overcast days air pressure is less so the ball should actually swings less! Off to the wind tunnel to proved it indeed the case!
Why the solid stats then? In the dressing room the coach and the captain of the batting team plans for failure and the bowling team plans for success and it shows in the result! It is all in the mind...
We believe in many fallacies. Exercise will slim you down?; A study in 4 Virgin Active Gyms proves that 21 personal instructors firstly sell themselves to slim you down. For 90% of the population exercise will let you gain weight!
Diesel cars are always cheaper to run than petrol cars, weightlifting will give you huge bicepses, other cultures are stupid, Nigerians cannot be food are healthier..
With this as background let’s move to 2010:
We live in the shadows of the revolution. Revolutions are quickly over, guillotine the heads of the royalty, have a party, and celebrate, all over and done with! The pain, challenges and adaptation comes in its shadows. We live in several shadows; 1994, the Berlin wall and the greatest of then all, the Internet. It takes time to wind down. Face it, live with it, exploit it!
In 2007 I did a post FIFA scenario misusing some 20 of the 100 that year’s Brightest Young Minds. Had many interviews with athletes, trainers and researched post Olympic events and together we built a scenario according to Schwartz’s “Art of the Long View” I even imported a facilitator from Europe!
We found amongst many others:
·         Every soccer fanatic will bring 5 more for the next couple of years
·         We know now they will speak Portuguese, Spanish, Nederlands
·         Cape Town = Sydney. PE=Barcelona, Jozi=Atlanta
The scattering of our minds by Google, Facebook, Twitter and friends. Facebook being the connector of the global Diaspora, Twitter die nuwe kooperasie stoepstories.
We see and hear 5000 ads a day, spend 10 seconds on a webpage, 20 seconds on a TV channel stupefying us. Whereas the mind grows neurons when it follows a pattern. We are becoming stupider by the minute......
Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10000 hour principle. Focus 10000 hours on one thing will make us superior. So focus, focus, read, read whole books and become even more clever. This conference and every paper presented is testimony of hard working people busy with mind building.
Some trends:
We live in a total disrespect for intellectual property killing music, books and the creation of new artwork. We sadly loose.
We moved from wood to coal to oil to nuclear and every time a period of great innovation. Sun and wind..unlikely and with Electric cars putting more CO2 in the atmosphere than your trusted Corolla. Lots of emotion, lots of political correctness, lots of eco friendly hype not benefiting the earth at all. Little gained and scientists like us can play a major role for reason and reality.
The emergent economies are on the rise, watch them!
Expect many social implosions, the poor are rightfully angry when fat cat corporate bankers reaping millions off their backs. Tolerate and make leeway for the Hi-aces, they also have a role to play!
It is confusing times that gave birth to great things. 1945-1955, 1933-1940 and the greatest of them all 1860-1910 when about everything we know was invented. Sound recording, movies, long distance communications, electricity, radio…
Now is again such a time, consider yourselves lucky, it is not for sissies and needs hair on your chest made of steel, but those understanding that success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration will and must emerge as winners.
Thomas Friedman’s great work “The earth is Flat” proposes that the winners of 2015 will be those that can:
         Work together    
         Put together
         Show them how
         Do it different, Apply it different    
         Do it locally        
         Care for the Earth      
         Put myself in your shoes
We innovated and built tools to help us in our journey (show stone age tool).This one is about 2500 years old made by the Pleistocene man. This friend that lived right here in the Cradle of Mankind.
Winners will be those that can keep on innovate and change faster than the rest. Be those that become more human in their approach, yet unforgiving in setting of strategic direction.
In this confusion many in fear crawl into self made fortresses. The worst is lawyers……… we used to have a trusted family lawyer who discussed our matters in confidence in their offices. These days they arrogantly elevated themselves to be Attorneys and Conveyances and consult in their Chambers! 
The legal industry seems to do the opposite from being innovatively customer focused. Sad.
En-route to 2015 we are dehumanized by technology, yet deep inside you and I and our Pleistocene friends are one and the same: we love to be loved and hate to be hated. Getting into the shoes of others, learn and live to be an emphatic person is key. By then diversity will be power, disruption of the known and the handling of it great, back to basics healthy living. Regions more important than countries with the US of A making a big come back.
Just be yourself.
Wealth creation will be more difficult than ever, arrogant asset managers of our day failed us in 2008 and will fail us yet again. Seek those that are hardworking, diligent, humble and understand that the human psyche is more important that graphs and figures.
The great Carl Jung said that there are 8 types of people:
 A fool thinks himself to be wise... 4 types that think they know it all as Tyrants, Bullies, Wiseasses and Doormats.
...but a wise man knows himself to be a fool… and 4 types that know they do not know: Kings, Warriors, Wizards and Lovers.
Let’s be a King that leads, trusts, protects and stays out of the way. A Warrior that fights tooth and nail for a greater cause, a Wizard that puts together in a creative way knowing that 1+1 can be =20 and a Lover that cares for others, give a shoulder to cry and just says: “take my hand and I will lead you through it..”
"Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom”. Believe in the impossible:
This gentlemen is 81, Sir Roger. Roger Bannister. A great medical man, a neurologist....
As with cricket balls, we believed that it is impossible to run the mile in less than 4 minutes, yet on 6th may 1954 did the impossible and shattered it by 4 seconds. Even more remarkable, he only trained less than an hour a day between his medical classes. Bannister did it in his mind.
He had a single goal, release all his energy in the race, had a detailed, plan, allowed for the unexpected, never upset by problems nor blamed others for it, was calm before the race yet nervous in the build-up, the unfamiliar did not affect him, he was alone in the warm-up, ran the race in his mind. He had one arch enemy and focused all his effort to beat him and grind him in the dust...his name was Roger, Roger Bannister.
We remember the past selectively as “the-good-old-days”, "I-knew-it-all-along" and the “I told you so”.. and chosen options as being correct, we all have blinders over our eyes and see life partially, we resist change...
A fool goes through life alone, and surrounds themselves with a cheering commando less than themselves, like a heap of dung covered with flies.
The wise surrounds themselves with people greater than themselves.
We know so little..greatness is simply to admit it. Follow the guidelines of the great Steve Jobs: “Be Humble, be Foolish, else life will humblify you..”
On the road into the future the Industrial Engineer might be the only one in an organisation and you might lose your roots. The SAIIE is and must be the Mother ship to return to, to find great people to listen to, to find great mentors to grow. Use it!!
To release you back to good conversation and good wine..
Go out tomorrow knows that our remedies oft in ourselves do lie. Be a Roger Bannister as it is all in the mind!
Find words in the wood, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, stories in the sand, love in lavender and good in everything.
I wish you well..

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