Arranged Scissors 8: Culture fit with parents

That you are in the arranged marriage process means that your parents now have full veto power over whom you marry. Given that you don’t generally want them to veto someone whom you have liked, the most common protocol as I understand is for parents to evaluate the counterparty first, and the “candidate” to get only the people who have passed the parental filter. Then the “candidates” proceed, and maybe meet, and maybe talk, and maybe flirt and maybe decide to get married.

Hypothesis: The chance of your success in the arranged marriage market is directly proportional to the the culture fit that you have wtih your parents.

Explanation: Given that parents have veto power in the process, and given the general protocol that most people follow (which I have described in the first para above; however, it can be shown that this result is independent of the protocol), there are two levels of “culture fit” that an interested counterparty has to pass. First, she has to pass the candidate’s parents’ culture fit test. Only after she has passed the test does she come in contact with the candidate (in most cases, not literally).

Then, she will have to pass the candidate’s culture fit test. By the symmetry argument, there are two more such tests (girl’s parents’ filter for boy and girl’s filter for boy). And then in the arranged marriage setting, people tend to evaluate their “beegaru” (don’t think english has a nice phrase for this – basically kids’ parents-in-law). So you have the boy’s parents evaluating the girl’s parents for culture fit, and vice versa.

So right at the beginning, the arranged marriage process has six layers of culture fit. And even if all these tests are passed, one gets only to the level of the CMP. (given that very few filter down to this level, i suppose a lot of people put NED at this stage and settle for the CMP).

Without loss of generality, let us now ignore the process of boy’s parents evaluating girl’s parents and vice versa (the problem is complex enough without this). So there are basically four evaluations, made by two pairs of evaluators (let us consider parents as one entity – they might have difference in opinion between each other occasionally but to the world they display a united front). Now for each side it comes down to the correlation of expectations between the side’s pair of evaluators.

The higher the “culture fit” you possess with your parents, the higher the chance that you will agree with them with regard to a particular counterparty’s culture fit. And this chance of agreement about culture fit of counterparty is directly proportional to the chance of getting married through the arranged marriage process (basically this culture fit thing can be assumed to be independent of all other processes that go into the arranged marriage decision; so take out all of those and the relationship is linear). Hence proved.

Now what if you are very different from your parents? It is very unlikely that you will approve of anyone that they will approve of, and vice versa. In such a situation it is going to be very hard for you to find someone through the arranged marriage process, and you are well advised to look outside (of course the problem of convincing parents doesn’t go away, but their veto power does).

So the moral of the story is that you should enter the arranged marriage market only if you possess a reasonable degree of culture fit with your parents.

(i have this other theory that in every family, there is a knee-jerk generation – one whose “culture” is markedly different compared to that of its previous generation. and after each knee-jerk, cultural differences between this generation and the following few generations will be low. maybe i’ll elaborate on it some other time)

Arranged Scissors 1 – The Common Minimum Programme

Arranged Scissors 2

Arranged Scissors 3 – Due Diligence

Arranged Scissors 4 – Dear Cesare

Arranged Scissors 5 – Finding the Right Exchange

Arranged Scissors 6: Due Diligence Networks

Arranged Scissors 7: Foreign boys

Don’t use stud processes for fighter jobs and fighter processes for stud jobs

When people crib to other people that their job is not too exciting and that it’s too process-oriented and that there’s not muc scope for independend thinking, the usual response is that no job is inherently process-oriented or thinking-oriented, and that what matters is the way in which one perceives his job. People usually say that it doesn’t matter if a job is stud or fighter, and you can choose to do it the way you want to. This is wrong.

So there are two kinds of jobs – stud (i.e. insight-oriented) and fighter (i.e. process oriented). And you can do the job in either a stud manner (trying to “solve a problem” and looking for insights) or in a fighter manner (logically breaking down the problem, structuring it according to known formula and then applying known processes to each sub-problem). So this gives scope for a 2 by 2. I don’t want this to look like a BCG paper so I’m not actually drawing a 2 by 2.

Two of the four quadrants are “normal” and productive – doing stud jobs in a stud manner, and fighter jobs in a fighter manner. There is usually an expectancy match here in terms of the person doing the job and the “client” (client is defined loosely here as the person for whom this job is being done. in most cases it’s the boss). Both parties have a good idea about the time it will tak e  for the job to be done, the quality of the solution, and so on. If you are in either of these two quadrants you are good.

You can’t do a stud job (something that inherently requires insight) using a fighter process. A fighter process, by definition, looks out for known kind of solutions. When the nature of the solution is completely unknown, or if the problem is completely unstructured, the fighter behaves like a headless chicken. It is only in very rare and lucky conditions that the fighter will be able to do the stud job. As for “fighterization”, about which I’ve been talking so much on this blog, the problem definition is usually tweaked slightly in order to convert the stud problem to a fighter problem. So in effect, you should not try to solve a “stud problem” using a fighter process. Also, as an employer, it is unfair to expect a mostly fighter employee to come up with a good solution for a stud problem.

The fourth quadrant is what I started off this blog post with – studs doing fighter jobs. The point here is that there is no real harm in doing a fighter job in a stud manner, and the stud should be able to come up wiht a pretty good solution. The problem is wiht expectations, and with efficiency. Doing a fighter job in a stud manner creates inefficiency, since a large part of the “solution” involves reinventing the wheel. Yes, the stud might be able to come up with enhanced solutions – maybe solve the problem for a general case, or make the solution more scalable or sustainable, but unless the “client” understands that the problem was a stud problem, he is unlikely to care for these enhancements (unless he asked for them of course), and is likely to get pained because of lack of efficiency.

Before doing something it is important to figure out if the client expects a stud solution or a fighter solution. And tailor your working style according to that. Else there could be serious expectation mismatch which can lead to some level of dissatisfaction.

And when you are distributing work to subordinates, it might also help to classify them using stud nad fighter scales and give them jobs that take advantage of their stronger suits. I know you can’t do this completely – since transaction costs of having more than one person working on a small piece of work can be high – but if you do this to the extent possible it is likely that you will get superior results out of everyone.

Fighterization of food

One of the topics that I’d introduced on my blog not so long ago was “fighterization“. The funda was basically about how professions that are inherently stud are “fighterzied” so that a larger number of people can participate in it, and a larger number of people can be served. In the original post, I had written about how strategy consulting has completely changed based on fighterization.

After that, I pointed out about how processes are set – my hypothesis being that the “process” is something that some stud would have followed, and which some people liked because of which it became a process. And more recently, I wrote about the fighterization of Carnatic music, which is an exception to the general rule. Classical music has not been fighterized so as to enable more people to participate, or to serve a larger market. It has naturally evolved this way.

And even more recently, I had talked about how “stud instructions” (which are looser, and more ‘principles based’) are inherently different from “fighter instructions” (which are basically a set of rules). Ravi, in a comment on Mohit‘s google reader shared items, said it’s like rule-based versus principles-based regulation.

Today I was reading this Vir Sanghvi piece on Lucknowi cuisine, which among other things talks about the fact that it is pulao that is made in Lucknow, and now biryani; and about the general declining standards at the Taj Lucknow. However, the part that caught my eye, which has resulted in this post with an ultra-long introduction was this statement:

The secret of good Lucknowi cooking, he said, is not the recipe. It is the hand. A chef has to know when to add what and depending on the water, the quality of the meat etc, it’s never exactly the same process. A great chef will have the confidence to improvise and to extract the maximum flavour from the ingredients.

This basically states that high-end cooking is basically a stud process. That the top chefs are studs, and can adapt their cooking and methods and styles to the ingredients and the atmosphere in order to churn out the best possible product.You might notice that most good cooks are this way. There is some bit of randomness or flexibility in the process that allows them to give out a superior product. And a possible reason why they may not be willing to give out their recipes even if they are not worried about their copyright is that the process of cooking is a stud process, and is hence not easily explained.

Publishing recipes is the attempt at fighterization of cooking. Each step is laid down in stone. Each ingredient needs to be exactly measured (apart from salt which is usually “to taste”). Each part of the process needs to be followed properly in the correct order. And if you do everything perfectly,  you will get the perfect standardized product.

Confession time. I’ve been in Gurgaon for 8 months and have yet to go to Old Delhi to eat (maybe I should make amends this saturday. if you want to join me, or in fact lead me, leave a comment). The only choley-bhature that I’ve had has been at Haldiram’s. And however well they attempt to make it, all they can churn out is the standardized “perfect” product. The “magic” that is supposed to be there in the food of Old Delhi is nowhere to be seen.

Taking an example close to home, my mother’s cooking can be broadly classified into two. One is the stuff that she has learnt from watching her mother and sisters cook. And she is great at making all of these – Bisibelebhath and masala dosa being her trademark dishes (most guests usually ask her to make one of these whenever we invite them home for a meal). She has learnt to make these things by watching. By trying and erring. And putting her personal touch to it. And she makes them really well.

On the other hand, there are these things that she makes by looking at recipes published in Women’s Era. Usually she messes them up. When she doesn’t, it’s standardized fare. She has learnt to cook them by a fighter process. Though I must mention that the closer the “special dish” is to traditional Kannadiga cooking (which she specializes in), the better it turns out.

Another example close to home. My own cooking. Certain things I’ve learnt to make by watching my mother cook. Certain other things I’ve learnt from this cookbook that my parents wrote for me before I went to England four years ago. And the quality of the stuff that I make, the taste in either case, etc. is markedly different.

So much about food. Coming to work, my day job involves fighterization too. Stock trading is supposed to be a stud process. And by trying to implement algorithmic trading, my company is trying to fighterize it. The company is not willing to take any half-measures in fighterization, so it is recruiting the ultimate fighter of ’em all – the computer – and teaching it to trade.

Preliminary reading on studs and fighters theory:

Studs and Fighters

Extending the studs and fighters theory

Stud and Fighter Instructions

My apologies for the third S&F post in four days. However, this blog represents an impression of the flow of thought through my head, and if I try to time my thoughts to suit readers’ interests and variety, I’m afraid I may not be doing a very good job.

I came across this funda in one of the “sub-plots” of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion, which I finished reading two days back. Actually, there is another post about the main plot of that book that I want to write, but I suppose I’ll write that some other day, maybe over this weekend. So Dawkins, in some part of the book talks about two different ways of giving instructions. And thinking about it, I think it can be fit into the stud and fighter theory.

I must admit I’ve forgotten what Dawkins used this argument for, but he talks about how a carpenter teaches his apprentice. According to Dawkins, the carpenter gives instructions such as “drive the nail into the wood until the head is firmly embedded” and contrasts it to instructions which say “hold the nail in your left hand and hit it on the head with a hammer held in the right hand exactly ten times”. By giving instructions in the former way, Dawkins argues, there is less chance of the apprentice making a mistake. However, in case the apprentice does err, it is likely to be a significantly large error. On the other hand, with the latter kind of instructions, chance of error is higher but errors are likely to be smaller.

A set of “stud instructions” typically tell the recipient “what to do”. It is typically not too specific, and lists out a series of fairly unambiguous steps. The way in which each of these smaller steps is to be accomplished is left to the recipient of the instructions. Hence, given that each instruction is fairly clear and unambiguous, it is unlikely that the recipient of the instructions will implement any of these instructions imperfectly. What is more likely is that he goes completely wrong on one step, maybe completely missing it or horribly misunderstanding it.

“Fighter instructions”, on the other hand, go deep into the details and tell the recipient not only what to do but also how to do what to do. These instructions will go down to much finer detail than stud instructions, and leave nothing to the reasoning of the recipient. Obviously the number of steps detailed here to do a particular piece of work will be significantly larger than the number of steps that a set of stud instructions. Now, the probability that the recipient of these instructions is likely to make a mistake is much larger, though the damage done will be much smaller, since the error would only be in a small part of the process.

Dawkins went on to give a better example than the carpenter one – consider an origami model of a boat on one hand, and a drawing of a boat on the other. Origami gives a set of precise and discrete instructions. Drawing is as good as a set of “continuous instructions”. Dawkins talks about experiments where kids are made to play a version of “chinese whispers” using the origami and the drawing. I won’t go into the details here but the argument is that the stud instructions are much easier to pass on, and the probability of the tenth kid in line producing a correct model is really high – while in case of a drawing, there is a small distortion at each and every step, so each final model is flawed.

Stud and fighter instructions have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. Fighter instructions require much more supervision than do stud instructions. Stud instructions enable the recipient to bring in his own studness into the process and possibly optimize one or more of the sub-processes. Fighter instruction sets are so-finegrained that it is impossible for the recipient to innovate or optimize in every way. To receive a set of stud instructions, the recipient may need to have certain prior domain knowledge, or a certain level of intelligence. This is much more relaxed in case of fighter instructions.

I personally don’t like supervising people and hence prefer to give out stud instructions whenever I need to get some work done. However, there was one recent case where I was forced to do the opposite. There was this IT guy at my company on contract and I was supposed to get a piece of code written from him before his contract expired. Given the short time lines in question, and given that he didn’t have too much of a clue of the big picture, I was forced to act micro and give him a set of fighter instructions. He has ended up doing precisely what I asked him to do, the only problem being that he has  written code in an extremely inflexible and non-scalable manner and I might have to duplicate his effort since this bit now needs generalization.

I have noticed that a large majority of people, when they have to give out instructions spell it out in the fighter manner. With a large number of micro steps rather than a small number of bigger steps. And until the recipient of the instructions has got enough fundaes to consolidate the set of micro-instructions he has received into a natural set of bigger chunks, it is unlikely that he will either be very efficient or that he will produce stuff that will be flexible. It might also be the case that a large number of people don’t want to let go of “control” and are hence loathe to give out stud instructions.

In the general case, however, my recommendation would be to give stud instructions, but have a set of fighter instructions ready in case the recipient of the instructionss wants things to be more specific.

Preliminary reading on studs and fighters theory:

Studs and Fighters

Extending the studs and fighters theory

Arranged Scissors 4 – Dear Cesare

(this is a collection of stuff I want to collectively say to all Cesares out there. Some of these might be based on stuff that has happened to me. Most of this, however, is imaginary. Nevertheless, I suppose I’ll end up saying some of these things sooner rather than later. Rather, I won’t be able to say a number of these things which is why I’m writing them here.

Cesare is a generalized term to refer to the father of the girl that you are seeing/checking-out/blading/marrying. It was collectively invented by Monkee and Kodhi, and alludes to a former AC Milan and Italy manager)

Dear Cesare,

  • You know, we are modern people. Yes, my mother is religious and all that but we think horoscope is a fraud. How do we know you haven’t frauded your daughter’s horoscope? Even if you didn’t, I was born through Caesarian section. What if the time of my birth had been timed to make sure I have a good horoscope? Do you still want it? Do you still think it matters?
  • Your daughter doesn’t look good, but I don’t know how to communicate this to you. Obviously, you won’t like to hear that your daughter is ugly, since that is a comment on the genes that you’ve passed on to her. But given that we’d cleared everything till this round, and are saying “no” now after inspecting the photo, isn’t it clear that we are rejecting based on looks?
  • Maybe next time I’ll ask you for your daughter’s horoscope along with her photo. Fraud it (horoscope) may be, but you think that is a better reason for rejection than looks. So next time I call you up and tell you “jaataka didn’t fit” you know what I’m talking about. Oh, and one more thing – you need to get the timing perfect. Both the horoscope and the photo should be sent together – else I won’t be able to reject based on horoscope
  • Every time I say “no” to your daughter, you ask me why. Why should I give you the reason? What if I had met your daughter in a pub (assume she’s a pubgoing, loose and forward woman) and hit on her for 2 days and then ditched her? Would I have to give reasons then? And you don’t take “not good fit” for an answer. There is a good chance you don’t really understand “fit”.
  • According to you, if I say no, there is something wrong with your daughter. And if she says no, then there is something wrong with me. I suppose you haven’t heard of something called the interaction term right? I suppose you haven’t been taught to add vectors, where there is a cosine term?
  • Yes, your daughter looks decent enough. She is smart enough. She is nice enough. From what I have understood she cooks just well enough. She earns enough. She is flexible enough. I agree with all of these. Excellent Common Minimum Programme, but I’m afraid that’s not what I’m looking for.
  • Of course, for the purposes of symmetry, your daughter can also say no to me without having to explain her stand. I’ll completely respect her decision. Being told “no” without being given reasons is not new to me. It’s happened in different markets.
  • And then you have a problem if I’ve already said “no” to too many women. You think I’m a loose guy, and that I’m in the market only to check out and hit on unsuspecting “hen makkLu”. But isn’t checking out and hitting on the main purpose of this process of finding a partner? Or do you mean that this market is for finding CMPs only, and I need to get out because I’m not looking for one? In any case, it would be good if your daughter were to be suspecting.
  • During the interview, I’m going to ask your daughter if she is a virgin. If you think she is the type that will be scandalized at such questions, you need not shortlist me.
  • Remember that this is the most important decision of my life. And that of your daughter’s life. So please don’t make us hurry up and make an uninformed decision on this. As long as both of us are still interested in each other, you should let us be. It takes time for Interest to move to Desire. Till then, don’t force Action.
  • I understand that you might be scandalized that I’m writing all this on my blog. nODi swamy, naaviruvudu heege (trans: look sir, we are like this wonly). I just hope that you and your daughter don’t really mind this. If you do, then we have a small problem here. Oh and btw, this is one post in what I intend to be a fairly long series on “arranged scissors”. You can find the entire list downstairs.
  • Just one thing – the tone of this post is siginficantly harsher than what I normally talk like. You are validated if you were to un-shortlist me because of the content of this post. But you are not doing the right thing if you were to un-shortlist me based on the tone. My apologies for that.
  • I hope that some day I’ll be able to call up Radio Indigo and dedicate a song to you. The song is by Iron Maiden. It is called Bring your daughter to the slaughter.

Thanks and regards,

(yes, that is my name. And if you came here looking for Karthik S’s blog, I assure you that you have come to the right place)


Arranged Scissors 1 – The Common Minimum Programme

Arranged Scissors 2

Arranged Scissors 3 – Due Diligence


A couple of days back, I was debugging some code. And yes, for those of you who didn’t know, coding is a part of my job. I used to have this theory that whatever job you take, there is some part of it that is going to be boring. Or to put it in the immortal words of a brilliant co-intern at JP Morgan “chootiya kaam”. And in my job, the chootiya part of the kaam is coding. That doesn’t mean that I’m not enjoying it, though. In fact, for the first time in nine years (note that this takes me to a time before I’d started my BTech in Computer Science) I’m enjoying coding.

Coming back, I was debugging my code yesterday. It was one of those impossible bugs. One of those cases where you had no clue why things were going wrong. So I started off by looking at the log files. All clean, and no bugs located. While I was going through them, I got this idea that the strategy sheet might offer some clue as to why things aren’t doing well. Half the problem got diagnosed when I was looking at the strategy sheet. Some problem with cash management.

And when I thought looking at the trades might help. The bug was presently discovered. And then it hit me – that I’d unwittingly followed what seems like a “process”. Everything that I did had been guided by insight and instinct. Yet, the steps that I followed – 1. look at the logs; 2. look at the strategy sheet ; 3. look at the trades – seemed so much a preset process. It seemed to be like one of those things that I’d just ended up reading in some manual and following.

I realize that most “standard processes” that are followed by  various people in various places are stuff that were initially not meant to be processes. They were just an imprint of somone’s train of insights. It was as if someone had a series of insights that led to a solution to whta might have been a difficult problem. And then, he realized that this kind of a process could be followed to deal with all such similar problems. And so he wrote down the process in a book and taught a set of people to implement them. The field thus got “fighterized“.

The argument I’m trying to make here is that a large number of so-called “standard processes” are just an imprint of someone’s insight. They just happened to get into place because the inventor noticed this pattern in a bunch of things that he was doing. They need not be the best way of doing what is supposed to be done. Maybe there isn’t even a single best way of doing it that might work every time.

People who are likely to have worked on processes later in their life cycle are likely to have been people who are process-oriented themselves, and given how these kind of people work, it would have been likely that they would have resisted changes that could make the process worse in the short term. They are more likely to have been incremental in their approach. With a succession of such people working on improving the process, the process of refining the process would’ve ended up taking a hill-climbing algorithm and is likely to have ended up in a local maximum.

Once again, the large changes to the process would’ve happened when someone who was willing to take a large step backward worked on them, and it is again likely that such a person would be driven more by insight rather than by process.

My hypothesis is that most processes are likely to have been largely defined by people who are themselves not very process-oriented, and who thus will expect a certain level of insight and discretion on the part of the person implementing the process. And one needs to keep this in mind while following processes. That it would be good if one were to take a critical view of every process being used, and not be afraid to take a backward step or two in process development in order to achieve large-scale improvements.

The Enhanced DTPH Theory

Dil To Pagal Hai (DTPH) was a nice movie. I really enjoyed it when I first saw it some eleven years ago. The only problem was the message it imprinted on my 15-year-old mind: someone, somewhere is made for you. It ended up completely messing me up for the next 3-4 years.  I took it at face value. Every time I met a new girl, I would start asking the question “is she the someone, somewhere who is made for me?”. I would be lucky if the answer was an immediate no.

As I had explained in a blog post almost three years ago, these kind of questions never give “yes” as an answer. They either say “no” or they say “maybe”. And the maybes are a problem, since a few years down the line they might be converted to a “no”. They will never turn into a “yes”, mind you, and if you are forced to make a decision, you’ll have to make do with the number of occurrences of maybe and the confidence bounds that it produces. So the maybes were a problem for me 10 years ago. I didn’t know how to handle them. And in the one case where the answer consistently came out to be “maybe” (even when i ask the question now, it comes out to be “maybe”), I royally messed up the blade. Disaster was an overstatement.

Now that the digression is done, DTPH similarly messed up thousands of young minds all over the country. It didn’t even spare the married. Everyone started asking themselves the question “is this the someone somewhere that is made for me?” I think Yash Chopra (he directed it, didn’t he?) should shoulder a large part of the blame for the spurt in suicides in the late 90s.

The theory I’m going to state now was first stated by Neha a couple of years back. Back then, I’d thought I need to blog it, since she wasn’t blogging then. She has started blogging recently, but still I think I’ll write about this. As you might have figured out from the title, I call this the Enhanced DTPH Theory. It is quite ironical that this is coming from the fairly irreligious me, since it somewhat endorses creationism. I know the inherent contradictions here, but I think I should write it anyway.

The theory states that there are several people, in several places, who are “made for you” (if you are religious) or are “inherently compatible with you” (if you are not). The key is in finding at least one of them and making things work.

I think this is easier on people’s minds. The constant quest to find “the best partner” should be laid to rest, I think, mainly because it is unlikely that you’ll find a “dominating partner” (someone who is better, in your eyes, than everyone else that you could’ve  gotten married to). Instead, what you will get is what I can call as a “dominating set” – a set of people who are collectively dominating over the rest of the population but cannot really be compared to each other.

Each person has his/her own different evaluation criteria. And based on that, each person has his/her own dominating set. And it is this dominating set that is the “several people who are made for you”. I suppose you are getting the drift. I know this is a bit confusing.

Then, you need to understand that the universe doesn’t obey the Hall’s Marriage Theorem. This is trivial to prove since the total number of men exceeds the total number of women. Actually, as a corollary to this, we can establish that the original DTPH theory is false, unless of course it assumes that the population of gays is significantly higher than the population of lesbians, or if it takes into account animal sex.

Some hand-waving here, but my next hypothesis is that Hall’s Theorem doesn’t hold for local smaller populations also. I’ll probably try give an explanation of this in a subsequent post (else there would be no reason for women to remain single).

Tailpiece: The cost of not marrying the “right person” is significantly lower than the cost of marrying the wrong person.

PS: I also acknowledge Baada’s contribution to the development of this theory.