It’s about getting the Cos Theta right

Earlier today I was talking to Baada and to Aadisht (independently) about jobs, and fit, and utilization of various skills and option value of skills not utilized etc. So it is like this – you possess a variety of skills, and the job that you are going to do will not involve a large number of these. For the skills that you have that match the job’s requirements, you get paid in full. For the rest of the skills you possess, you only get paid the “option value” – i.e. your employer has the option to utilize these skills of yours and need not actually utilize them.

Hence in order to maximize your productivity and your pay, you need to maximize the cos theta.

Assume your skill set to be a vector in a N-dimensioanl hyperspace where N is the universe of orthogonal skills that people might possess. Now there are jobs which require a certain combination of skill sets, and can thus be seen as a vector. So it’s about maximizing the cos theta between your vector and your job’s vector.

So it’s something like this – you take your skills vector and project it on to the job requirement vector – your total skills will get multiplied now by the value of cos theta, where theta is the angle in the hyperspace between your skills vector and the job vector. For the projection of your skills on the requirement, you get paid in full. For the skills that you have that are orthogonal to the requirement, you get paid only in option value.

One option is to of course build skill set, and keep learning new tricks, and maybe even invent new skills. However, that is not a short-term plan. In the short to medium term, however, you need to maximize the cos theta in order to maximize the returns that your job provides. But as Baada put it, “But there is slisha too much information asymmetry to ensure that cos theta is maximised.”

There are two difficult steps, actually. First, you need to know your vector properly – most people don’t. Even if you assume that you can do a lot of “Ramnath” stuff and get to know yourself, there still lies the challenge of knowing the job’s vector. And the job’s requirement vector is typically more fluid than your skills vector. Hence you actually need to estimate the expected value of the job’s requirement vector before you take up the job.

The same applies when you are hiring. It is actually easier here since the variation in the hiree’s vector will not be as high as the variation in the job profile requirement vector, and you have a pretty good idea of the latter so it is easy to estimate the “projection”.

This perhaps explains why specialists have it easy. Typically, they have a major component of their skills vector along the axis of a fairly well-defined job profile (which is their specialization). And thus, since theta tends to 0, cos theta tends to 1, and they pretty much get full value for their skills.

At the other extreme, polymaths will find it tough to maximize their returns to skills out of a single job, since it is unlikely that there is any job that comes close to their skills vector. So whichever job they do, the small value of the resulting cos theta will cancel out the large magnitude of the skills vector. So for a polymath to maximize his/her skills, it is necessary to do more than one “job”. Unless he/she can define a job for himsel/herself which lies reasonably close to his/her skills vector.

(there is a small inaccuracy in this post. i’ve talked about the angle between two vectors, and taking the cosine of that. however, i’m not sure how it plays out in hyperspaces with a large number of dimensions. let us assume that it’s vaguely similar. people with more math fundaes on this please to be cantributing)

Why is Ten Sports sitting on so many rights?

I wanted to stay up last night. I wanted to stay up and watch the WI-Eng match till the very end. Waking up this morning and checking the scorecard, it seems like it was a really good match. And Fidel Edwards seems to have become a last-day-shutdown specialist. This is the second time this series he’s hung on. And he’d done so once before against India at ARG.

There was another reason I wanted to stay up last night. I wanted to watch Liverpool play Real Madrid. I woke up this morning and saw that it was an amazing game, too. Looking through the Guardian Football site (btw, Advani seems to be advertising heavily on that site; it’s a pity he never advertises here on my site) I noticed that Chelski-Juve was also a strong game, despite the result. Another reason I would’ve wanted to stay up last night. For the record, I slept at 12:10. Tea-time in the Test match, and before either of the football games had started.

Ten Sports seems to have bitten off more than it can chew. It seems to own the rights to telecast too many different things. I think I have raised this point once earlier, but it pzzles me as to what Ten Sports is trying to achieve by getting rights to telecast so many things, most of which are happening at the same time. For example, over the last couple of weeks I’ve been unable to watch the first hour of WI-Eng even if I’d wanted to, because it was overlapping with the last hour of SA-Aus, which was being telecast at the same time.

The reason I slept off early last night was because I didn’t have the option to watch what I wanted. All the three games that I’d’ve been reasonably interested in were supposed to be on Ten Sports (Zee Sports doesn’t count since Tata Sky doesn’t offer that), and I¬† realized that I’d be forced to watch what the guys at the Taj Entertainment Network would want me to watch. Denied the option to choose what I wanted to watch, I went to bed.

It puzzles me that Ten Sports isn’t subletting its contracts. Devoid of anything decent to show, I suppose that ESPN or NEO would’ve only been too happy to acquire the rights to telecast last night’s Liv-Real game by paying a fee to Ten Sports. And it would’ve unlocked value at the hands of the remote-holder. Ten Sports need not let go of the rights to show all the games. All they need to do is to sell the “out of money options” – the rights to the game which they won’t be able to telecast anyway.

Now, the problem will be if accounting for all costs, no options are out of money. For example, you know you won’t be able to show Liv-Real. But you think that the loss of brand equity of your channel would exceed the money you’d gain by selling this option to another willing channel. The viewers are the only losers at this game, but I don’t know what can be done. After all, viewers¬† are way too dispersed in order for them to take any kind of action.

Extending this question, what can a sports body do to prevent a bidder from acquiring rights to telecast and then mess up the telecast (or not telecast it at all) ? After all, the sports body is out there to make as much money as possible from the TV rights, and they need to ensure significant investment into broadcasting by the broadcasters, so the “i’ll give rights to only those channels that are in the interest of the people” model won’t work.

One option would be to sell the rights to two channels in each market. But given that broadcast is a natural monopoly, the sports body will not be able to make as much by selling to two bidders as it can by selling to one bidder. Is there any other solution that you can think of? If yes, unleash.

Rafa and the Ranatunga Principle

Today seems to be a massive theory session. In the morning, I introduced you to the Mata Amrita Index. Now, as I write this watching the third set of (ok it’s the third set now – when I’m starting to write. for all you know, by the time I finish this, the match might be over) the Australian Open, I think it is a good time for me to introduce to you the Ranatunga Principle of energy management.

The Ranatunga principle states that:

When you don’t need to run, walk.

Yes, it is that simple. And if played an instrumental part in Sri Lanka’s victory in the 1996 Cricket world cup. Arjuna Ranatunga, the captain, was a massive guy. Yet, he was an excellent finisher, converting the ones into twos, and the twos into threes, running them hard, making everyone wonder where he managed to get so much energy and stamina from. The key to his performance was what this terriffic energy management.

He knew that the effort involved in each run wasn’t the same. There were a few that were “obvious singles” or “obvious twos” and he correctly realized that there was no point in running them faster than was necessary. And he simply walked them, saving up his precious energy and stamina for the runs that required more energy. In fact, if you recollect, the defining picture of Ranatunga in the 1996 world cup was his nudging a ball to third man and lazily walking a single.

Similarly, in tennis, due to the unique game-set-match scoring system, not all points are of the same value. Some points are more equal than others. For example, it doesnt’ matter if you lose a game at love, or if you lose it after making 30. However, certain points (break points, especially) can make a tremendous difference to the game, and it is important that you win those.

Tennis, especially of the non-grass court variety, is a highly energy-consuming game. We saw on Friday the Nadal-Verdasco game being played for almost five hours. The final also promises to go on for a similar length of time. Even on grass, as we saw in the last Wimbledon, tennis can become an endurance game. To remind you, Rafa Nadal beat Roger Federer in the final back then, taking the fifth set 9-7 (Wimbledon has no tie-breakers in the last set). It was his superior energy-management and stamina-management that saw him through that day.

It had been a long time since I had seen Rafa play, and looking at him play today, it is clear that he has understood the Ranatunga principle well. In fact, he seems to be an excellent exponent of the same. A while back, Federer was leading 40-0, and Rafa just gave up and allowed Federer to take the game, choosing to preserve his energies for more important point. I’m not saying that Rafa has been completely giving up. What I’m saying is that he seems to be doing some kind of a “value analysis” for each point, and then deciding how much energy he is willing to spend on it.

I don’t know if he is a math stud, but you don’t need to be one in order to do simple Ranatunga analysis. You can get a computer to work out the relative values of points for you depending upon the match score, and broadly remember that when you are playing. And once you have done that a few times, you will automatically be able to figure out how much effort to put into each point (remember that you don’t need to know complicated projectile physics in order to catch a ball).

A lot of managers, especially fighters, don’t like the Ranatunga principle. Their management philosophy is that you always need to be f resh, and be prepared, and if you don’t dive on a regular basis, you won’t be able to dive when you actually need to. However, the Ranatunga reply to this is that as long as you know how to dive, and have general practice in diving, you will instinctively dive when you need to, and you should make sure that you have enough energy to dive.

Extending the analogy to work, there are some managers who like to push their subordinates to meet deadlines even when it isn’t important in the larger scheme of things. Their argument here is that their subordinates should have enough experience in diving so that they can use it when they need it. The Ranatunga response to that is for the subordinate to be smart, and to see the larger picture, and to call the manager’s bluff about the criticality of the project whenever it turns out to be not critical.

Ok, so Rafa has won the third set and leads the match 2 sets to 1. If this ends up being a pure endurance 5-setter, I would put my money on Rafa. He seems to be showing superior implementation of the Ranatunga principle.