Wandering Thoughts

  1. Unblocking creativity

I was introduced to Random Object — a technique for unblocking creativity — in a design thinking workshop today. To combat ideation fatigue, different participating groups were given a random object — a stress ball, a pen, a keychain, anything really — and asked to come up with a list of words by association.

The goal was then to “force” connections between these words and the ideas we’ve generated earlier, so that we could reconsider them with fresher perspectives. That worked well on me, especially since I don’t consider myself to be a very creative type. (On that note, creativity can be taught/learned — maybe a personal project).

This draws association to another technique I’ve read about in The Achievement Habit — “Forced Transformations”. There are several ways to transform an idea: by scaling it up or down (magnify/minimize) or combine unrelated ideas (e.g. “fish” and “bench”). The goal is ultimately the same, to break out of the conventional. Scaling up an idea/thinking bigger is actually the modus operandi for Airbnb.

2. The rise of AI

Was just wondering if this is indeed happening or I’m in an tech/industry echo chamber (I could never have imagined Trump would win, and all the publications I read and social networks I’m part of all agreed…).

Google Trends for AI, machine learning and deep learning as search terms, and then with AI removed:

The rise of AI

So I’m not imagining stuff. Good. Seems like AI is in a resurgence. Also, a good read on the rise of AI and what role emotional intelligence will play.

Gonna need more readings on this topic.

3. Amazon principles

Re-read them. Powerful stuff especially for organizational decision-making.

4. Chat bots and language-learning apps

Seems like a good match, especially since feedback and collaboration are so vital to effective learning.

Memrise has jumped on the bot-wagon, although I couldn’t locate the new addition somehow. Neither desktop version or the iOS app.

Duolingo introduced their own chat bot a while ago. A step in the right direction, even though the bot still feels pretty primitive. It accepts (more like dictates) the possible answers you can give, so it’s off of a predefined script rather than a normal conversation.

I guess there’s the need to maintain a specified/limited structure to a “conversation” since it’s a lesson after all — and the minimal acceptance of a feature. I wonder though if they allow a more free-flowing exchange, would that be a much richer data set to work on later?

5. Measuring conversion in an EdTech business

Paid learners v.s. actual learning so to speak. The general funnel would include search & select courses > sign up > learn > pay > the amount of knowledge acquired, which I think is the “true conversion” (instead of the payment). But that’s pretty hard to track. It can certainly be linked to quantifiable metrics like salary increments or new job offers but then again it’s just one specific segment.

If these companies operate as for-profit businesses, is number of paid learners the true-north metric?

I went through three lists of unicorn start-ups (Wiki, CBInsights and Fleximize) and EdTech doesn’t seem to have much of a presence. Also seems pretty hard to scale to unicorn status: an average of 16 years to reach 1B valuation for TutorGroup and Lynda.com.

It’s admittedly a poor metric to look at. There’s no denying that MOOCs (Udacity, Coursera, eDX etc.) and also non-profits like Khan Academy and Freecodecamp are clearly making very positive impact on education. This is just purely from an optimization standpoint.

(On a side note, info is pretty different across lists. Crunchbase numbers don’t correspond at all).