on democratically run organizations

Democratically controlled orchestras are very good at getting rid of the best players and not very good at getting rid of the worst ones.

Neville Mariner in interview with Norman Lebrecht

on the finer points of branding

Microsoft, as if to counter Apple where it thinks it stands a chance, is running its own ad-campaign, “Windows. Life without walls.” Now, if that's so, I am replaying someone's thought:
So “Windows. Life without walls” is the campaign slogan. I can already hear what a Seinfeld not paid by Microsoft would say in his monologue: "If you live a life without walls, why on earth would you need windows?" Jan, Mississippi

unsung heroes

By looking at the architectural output of big names like Frank Gehry and Daniel Liebeskind, one realizes that the unsung heroes of today's habitats are the structural engineers. In music this was sorted out once the institution of the conductor was established--late in the 19th century with the likes of Rubinstein, Nikitsch and Mahler. Architects are the equivalent of composers while structural engineers are of the conductors'. Then, we have those individuals who embody the best of two worlds, such as Santiago Calatrava, or Gustav Mahler.

In your profession, who are the unsung heroes? Moreover, what will you do about it?

comparative perspectives to professionalism

Here are two answers to a question asking about paths to a career in quantitative finance:


Stand out of the crowd.If you are really looking for a HF quant career, go for a Master in Math or Physics, learn to program in C++ and mastering the Mathematica software.
Get an extra interest in Radioastronomy (wave theory is very related to financial markets), try to go to work with Prof Henry Lo at MIT Finance Lab.
and add some studies in Behavioral finance aimed at building behavioral quant elements in algos.
But don't go for another MBA (there are dozens out there..with experience) and don't bother for a CFA, unless you really have extra free time and don't know how to use it better.
CAIA may be culturally interesting, but still a young quali to have weight...

I am hiring a Civil Engineer with an MBA, yes, but a an extra Master in Math and C++ programming skills. I would have hired him without MBA...but not without the Math and programming skills.

Stand out of the crowd...MBAS are becoming too common to carry weight, at least that's what my colleagues are saying.


[the previous answer] hit it on the head, stand out from the crowd. But I would lean towards a communication approach instead of a “smart-person” approach.

The quant world is chock full of smart people, it feels like every genius with a PhD has already left academia for the siren call of six-figure salaries. When you talk to investment bankers, what they want today are two things; 1) People who can communicate effectively and concisely, and 2) answers - not more models.

Five years ago, hedge funds were trying to ramp up sophistication because there was a lot of easy money chasing “new ideas”. Researchers got to play with wave-form models and random forests to predict market movements. The recent financial crisis made people take a step back and ask some honest questions. First, how does GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) play into these models? Second, what is the value of these unbelievably fancy models? Can we still support or use them when our researcher with a 190 IQ gets poached by a different fund? Are simple to maintain GLM models good enough? Do our models account for rare events, or are they ignoring the Black Swan? How do I explain this stuff to an investor?!

A good approach to take in today’s environment, is a background in effective communication and illustration of how you can get answers for people. Your background is in marketing, so you should have a leg up on communication skills over pure modeling expert. I would start with an MBA from a top 50 (preferably top 15) school, a CFA is a nice add-on, but school quality is worth more. Make sure and focus on math/statistics/finance/programming, you must have these skills, but IMO, they play second-fiddle to communication these days. Focus on networking at school and lead every group project and every presentation. If you can hack that, you’ll be able to sell yourself as a communicative leader that can manage quant-analysts and get answers.

One is hiring, one is European, one is not working in the US; Go figure!

more randomness than admited by those paid to work to manage it

From a recent Financial Times Lunch Interview with Nassim Nicholas Taleb:
Although most attention tends to focus on “bad” Black Swans, there are also good Black Swans, he says, for instance in scientific research and drug discovery. “There is a lot more randomness in biotechnology and any form of medical discovery. The role of design is overestimated. Every time we plan on trying to find a drug we don’t because it closes our mind. How are we discovering drugs? From the side-effects of other drugs.” Researchers very often “change their story” when they discover something by accident to give the impression it was by design. “The biggest discovery in cancer came from a mustard gas accident in Italy, not from the 130,000 compounds systematically tested by the National Cancer Institute. They were not looking to improve the lives of older men when they discovered Viagra.”
Isn't it so with (some) business models and other types of corporate behavior? Indeed, has anyone figured out Facebook's business model? In fact, this is not as new as the low(ered) costs of trying. And, since we are talking about Facebook, the risk for its kind comes from some startup that's studying all the shortcomings of the Facebook-genera (read, limitations of an ad-driven model at the expense of annoying the hell out of its users) and looking for better ways to connect Jane and Joe.

got innovation?

Recently, Rajnish Sinha, Manager- Talent Acquisition at Fiserv Global Services, has answered with a panoptic of innovation models to a LinkedIn question. Here it is:

Scholars have identified at a variety of classifications for types innovations. Here is an unordered ad-hoc list of examples:
  • Business model innovation: involves changing the way business is done in terms of capturing value.
  • Marketing innovation: is the development of new marketing methods with improvement in product design or packaging, product promotion or pricing.
  • Organizational innovation: involves the creation or alteration of business structures, practices, and models, and may therefore include process, marketing and business model innovation.
  • Process innovation: involves the implementation of a new or significantly improved production or delivery method.
  • Product innovation: involves the introduction of a new good or service that is new or substantially improved. This might include improvements in functional characteristics, technical abilities, ease of use, or any other dimension.
  • Service innovation: refers to service product innovation which might be, compared to goods product innovation or process innovation, relatively less involving technological advance but more interactive and information-intensive .
  • Supply chain innovation: where innovations occur in the sourcing of input products from suppliers and the delivery of output products to customers
  • Substantial innovation: introduces a different product or service within the same line, such as the movement of a candle company into marketing the electric lightbulb.
  • Financial innovation: through which new financial services and products are developed, by combining basic financial attributes (ownership, risk-sharing, liquidity, credit) in progressive innovative ways, as well as reactive exploration of borders and strength of tax law. Through a cycle of development, directive compliance is being sharpened on opportunities, so new financial services and products are continuously shaped and progressed to be adopted.
  • Incremental innovations: is a step forward along a technology trajectory, or from the known to the unknown, with little uncertainty about outcomes and success and is generally minor improvements made by those working day to day with existing methods and technology (both process and product), responding to short term goals. Most innovations are incremental innovations. A value-added business process, this involves making minor changes over time to sustain the growth of a company without making sweeping changes to product lines, services, or markets in which competition currently exists.
  • Breakthrough, disruptive or radical innovation: involves launching an entirely novel product or service rather than providing improved products & services along the same lines as currently. The uncertainty of breakthrough innovations means that seldom do companies achieve their breakthrough goals this way, but those times that breakthrough innovation does work, the rewards can be tremendous. Involves larger leaps of understanding, perhaps demanding a new way of seeing the whole problem, probably taking a much larger risk than many people involved are happy about. There is often considerable uncertainty about future outcomes. There may be considerable opposition to the proposal and questions about the ethics, practicality or cost of the proposal may be raised. People may question if this is, or is not, an advancement of a technology or process. Radical innovation involves considerable change in basic technologies and methods, created by those working outside mainstream industry and outside existing paradigms. Sometimes it is very hard to draw a line between both.
  • New technological systems (systemic innovations): that may give rise to new industrial sectors, and induce major change across several branches of the economy.
  • Social innovation: a number of different definitions, but predominantly refers to either innovations that aim to meet a societal need or the social processes used to develop an innovation.

music making metaphors for teamwork

Following is an excerpt from a signandsight.com write-up on ABQ. I insert it here for its being relevant to how small teams of highly skilled professionals get to work.
Asked what has changed over the years, Pichler says the quartet's "feeling for tempo" has improved. Their sense of both security and freedom has grown too. "The freer you are, the better you breathe and the more easily you can get across what you wish to communicate." He says he does not practice much alone, "really only to strengthen my feeling of psychological security." But this is made up for by the amount the quartet rehearses together: "You can achieve 90 percent relatively quickly, the rest takes a very long time." And you can get on each other's nerves a bit in the process. How can that be avoided? For a long time they tried being polite. But that politeness was too much for viola player Kakuska, who joined the quartet in 1981. "Make rules," he said, "otherwise I feel nervous!" So that is what they did. Rule No. 1: Everyone is allowed to try playing a passage three times. If after that it's still not right, he has to go away and practice in "isolation." Rule No. 2: If someone wants to end an argument, the argument has to end – as in "Shut up…" Another rule was introduced by cellist Valentin Erben: "Please don't criticize me until I can play it!" You don't need other people to tell you about the mistakes you notice yourself. And if it isn't clear where the problem is, "you don't have to figure it out right away," says Pichler. Everyone should first try to find out: "Is it my fault? Whose is the dominant voice? Who blends in? Even if two violins play absolutely perfectly, if they don't blend together well it doesn't sound right."
Rules evolve slowly over time. Each team member is likely to insert a rule. Rules should be kept to a minimum, like everything else. When all is said and theorized, it (r-)evolves round conversations.
Many models people write about are successful for they're unique not because they are general. The generality of the written model is assumed by the writer and presumed by the reader. While it's not hard to see why the former may do so, the latter's behavior is puzzling.

renewed xerox-consciousness vs. busy work

Change of logo at Xerox; Where is it going with it? To build on a new type of xerox-consciousness, or busy work from and round the office of Anne M. Mulcahy? For additional clues, let's keep an eye on XRX.

This is the evolution of Xerox brand identity as expressed by its logo:

Meanwhile, here's what others are saying:
In the ever changing world, human nature is the constant.

On leadership

These are excerpts from de Gaulle's "The Edge of the Sword," an old opus enjoying popularity among folks interested in leadership.

Leadership in the making is attracted to achievable power, demonstrates creative instinct, and pays a price for not being popular.

This speaks to the idea that leadership is common to situations of crisis (e.g. startups as continuous crises) rather than large bureaucracies running on quasi-stationary regimes. This is not to say that leadership cannot exist within large corporate environments--in general it exists only at the top levels in case the corporation has maintained somehow something from its founder(s) culture.