..it jus keeps cummin bak

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sultan of Swing !?!

Innovation is not just one idea; it is a lot of them put in series. There are a lot of failures, ideas and many moments of problem solving involved to achieve that one thing, which ends up overshadowing it all (which actually is the purpose). Scott Berkun here delivers a great lecture on innovation or, as I put it, how to develop any idea. I have had my share of making, breaking, re-making and often reorganizing my thoughts with one of the ideas at work in past 12 months. I don’t believe it would change your world much, but it has definitely changed mine.

After having attempted unsuccessfully a number of times to develop something out of cricket, an unknown time ago, I copied some code from Google Visualizations into an html file and put it in front of my teammates in Mumbai. We discussed if that was possible, what could be done to reach there and possible resources. For next few days we would discuss it during our brunches at ICICI, but it was not before one of the rock climbing trips that one of them told me he has some hands on web data mining and if we could use it. I said maybe we could mine internet for data and do what we initially planned. I forgot it over other things at ICICI, but Sandy came up with the first skeleton app that made it possible! As soon as we shared the idea with the rest of the team in Bangalore, everyone was on board. It felt easy, such was the intuitive gut that I had that time. And with initial results from the actual models made by our team, it seemed in a hands approach. But as it turned out later, it wasn’t.

There is a direct relationship between the time you spend doing a thing and the amount of learning you are going to get from it. Though everything looked great from a high level, things almost fell apart when we analyzed them in pieces. To make things worse, we had exhausted a lot of time in developing this phase and then were left with only option – quick fixes. Quick fixes have a way of not working sometimes exactly between the times when you need them, they will screw your original solution so bad; you would feel shooting your foot was easier. Though we had something substantial in hand, it wasn’t ready for sure. We sat together again, challenged each other's ideas, helped implement promising ones. In one of these sittings, we almost totally scrapped earlier approaches, and still got good results. Mashed it up with the old approach, added a lot of common sense, challenging our own ideas this time. Many brain storming sessions and thousands of lines code later, it seemed to be doing fine (did I say fine, it rocks!). We bounced back as a team, I am quite sure it has, in pieces, something from everyone in Marketelligent, which makes it even more special.

Last week, we launched the first version of Mswinger, a dial displaying which way a cricket (ODI) match is swinging. Not saying Mswinger has 100% accuracy in gauging the swing, but we are not far from that figure either. We sure have set the bar pretty high for anyone else to match. You can track the upcoming ODIs with it and let me know your opinions.

My takeaways are very high from this project (as for everyone else IMO), innovation is a sequence of events done every day and never settling for something in between.