Where are the emerging opportunities?
This week we won't be writing any code and there will be no mathematical models! What? No code? Yes put down those manuals and journal papers and let's play a thought experiment. It's fun, useful and can be serious all at the same time. You'll can spend hours arguing about whether a certain opportunity is valid or the implications of bring together a set of components. The game is called "Where the emerging opportunities at?". What happens when you bring together a portable music player and a hard drive, or touch screen technology, wireless technology with portable devices? How do you know where the best opportunities are for you or your company? You can do this by play this fun little game called "Where the emerging opportunities at?".
To play this game you'll need to put aside a few of your own preconceptions about what exactly "useful" is and try to concentrate on originality, after that you can have an internal debate or a discussion with friends or colleagues about what the exact nature of the opportunities could be.
How to play the game
Firstly you need the ingredients, these could be your favourite technologies, programming languages, musical instruments - whatever you think is interesting cutting-edge etc. and create a matrix by writing their names as columns in a table and as row names down the side. We suggest more than 5 and no more than to 10 ingredients especially if you are playing for the first time. After that you can get as crazy as you want. From this point on we will be referring to the ingredients as components, but you can substitute the word "components" with whatever you want, e.g. pie ingredients, music instruments, coffee beans whatever your interests.
We have selected a few of our current favourite components: Google's Go, R, ZeroMQ, Haskell, Python, PHP, C/C++, and HDF5 - no particular order that's how they tumbled out of our heads.
The table is a symmetric matrix, we shade in the diagonal because we are not really interested in components talking/interacting with themselves. The point of the game is this: "New opportunities exist at the interface of components that have yet to be brought together".
For each component at the top of the table, go down vertically and for each other component you meet at the side of the table, think about whether a connection currently exists between them. If there is no current "direct link" between the two draw a circle and colour it red, if the link is there but still new and exciting or not established draw a circle and colour it green, if the components are linked and mature or if they are similar, leave it blank - its boring and uninteresting.
The term "direct link", can be used loosely, it could mean that you don't see this pairing of components in common use, or common use for a particular type of application, or it could mean that those languages do not "talk to" each other. Whether a circle is colour green or red could be debatable. Maybe there is a link but its not stable. You might debate whether to introduce a new colour e.g. amber, but what effect does this have? Does it complicate things unnecessarily? When should you leave a blank space? Two things may be similar from certain point of view and dissimilar when viewed from another application point of view. This is where the debates an discussion occurs.
Two people could start off with the same set of technologies and will probably have differing views on how to attribute colours to them. You may disagree with some of our ratings.
The green circles are what you should be concentrating on now. The red circles are the interesting things - those are where untapped opportunities are and focussing efforts on these could potentially lead to interesting places. If you pursue your red circles you may find yourself producing things that many others have not thought of creating.
Think about what applications could be created using components that intersect green and red circles. The more dissimilar the intersecting components are the more interesting things will emerge. What problems could bringing these tools together solve? Whatever happens the outcome of playing this game should be the same, you'll be thinking about your chosen components in a totally different way that could transform how you approach to product development.
Now go forth and invent something interesting!
Data Science Consulting & Software Training
Dr. Chibisi Chima-Okereke, R Training, Statistics and Data Analysis.