Learning Vibration Analysis

Every year we gather at NTPC, Noida, for our animated dialog on real life Vibration problems. This year there were 39 of us happily engaged for four fun filled days. It is a type of annual conference where engineers and practicing vibration specialists across the country come together to interact, exchange and learn from each other.

This year, the workshop was designed differently. We gently moved away from the traditional methods of vibration analysis and instead emphasized the application of complexity science in analyzing system problems through vibration patterns. I think this approach is the first of its kind in the world.

So, what was new?

First, only cases from the real world of engineering were discussed and explored. Twenty cases were discussed. Each case was unique. They were something like Zen koans waiting to be cracked for enlightenment.

Why?

There are two sides to reality. One is the phenomenal one — what we can sense. The other is the essential one — what we can’t “see” through our senses. The phenomenal side manifest as events that we experience while the essential side provides the cause that precipitates such events. Problems of vibration offer us the opportunity to explore both sides of reality. Through measurements, we can easily see the phenomenal one (the degrees of freedom, amounts of vibration and their frequencies) — that is all about sensing oscillatory movement and its nature. But to understand the cause of vibration we must be able to “see” the essential part of reality – what induces vibration?

The cases forced the participants (practicing specialists) to take multiple takes and interpretations of the cause of vibration before the reason finally clicked. Initially, each case left the participants perplexed.They sort of provided the proverbial “whack” on the head for realization to dawn.

Why is this so? Cracking one problem does not ensure that the next problem can be solved by following the same method. If one tries to use the same method that helped one to solve a problem one has to use thoughts and concepts culled through previous experiences. By trying to apply a standard method and tactic one can’t see the essential part of the reality, which often proves to be a frustrating experience. Any effort to solve a vibration problem with a standard approach ties up a practitioner in knots. Not surprisingly, even vibration specialists find vibration problems paradoxical. They are paradoxical in the sense that seemingly logical, rational and conceptual thinking held in the minds of a practitioner are challenged when dealing with vibration problems.

Therefore, for each case, the essential part — the induced cause(s) — had to be built separately — bit by bit — connecting one bit to the other till the essential nature of the problem was self evident.

At the end of the four days the participants were left smiling, relieved to know that they need not remember any standard method or approach or a formula to tackle vibration problems — more so, for the most complex ones. They only need to see through a problem with patience or perseverance to develop deep intuitive capability, which would then help them see through the essential nature of any real life vibration problem quickly and accurately.

On the whole it was great fun and we all basked in the enjoyment.

 

Note: In conducting this course, I was helped by Mr. Anil Sahu, my co-facilitator. He had a bunch of paradoxical cases to share.

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Observing Complexity

To me, observing real life systems is something like this:

A real life System comprises of a meaningful set of objects, diverse in form, state and function but inter-related through multiple network of interdependencies through mutual feedbacks enclosed by variable space, operating far from its equilibrium conditions not only exchanging energy and matter with its environment but also generating internal entropy to undergo discrete transformation triggered by the Arrow of Time forcing it to behave in a dissipative but self organizing manner to either self destruct itself in a wide variety of ways or create new possibilities in performance and/or behaviour owing to presence of ‘attractors’ and ‘bifurcations’; thereby making it impossible to predict the future behaviour of the system in the long term or trace the previous states of the system with any high degree of accuracy other than express it in terms of probabilities since only the present state of the system might be observable to a certain extent and only a probabilistic understanding may be formulated as to how it has arrived at its present state and what would keep it going, thus triggering creative human responses to manage, maintain and enhance the system conditions, function and purpose and create superior systems of the future for the benefit of the society at large.

Such a representation of an observation looks quite involved. Perhaps it might be stated in a much simpler way. Most real life systems behave in a complex manner creating multitude of problems of performance and failures. But how do we get rid of complexity and uncertainty as exhibited by systems? We may do so by deeply observing the complex behaviour of the system to improve our perception to gain insights about the essence of the system; find out the underlying ‘imperfection’ that causes the apparent complexity and uncertainty and then find ways to improve the existing system or create new system and maintain them in the simplest possible manner. We do this by applying the principles of chaos, reliability and design. Surprisingly, the same process might be used to troubleshoot and solve problems we face on a daily basis. If done, we are no longer dominated or dictated by the ‘special whims’ of the system.

The crux of the matter is how we observe reality and understand it so as to make meaningful choices as responses to life and living.

What is stronger — the Written or the Spoken Word?

While some take written word to be inherently superior to the spoken word others believe that what is communicated verbally is inherently stronger than the written word.

This conflict existed for thousands of years. And different civilizations took different stands on this. But the conflict assumes greater importance in the 21st century, especially when ‘transliteracy’ skill (ability to learn from different media and from diverse sources — not necessarily in the written form or within a limited space or limited time period) is now considered to be a vital skill to survive and thrive in the present age.

How to make sense of this conflict?

May be a good starting point might begin by considering what Thamus, the god-king of Egypt, spoke to god Thoth, when he was congratulating Thamus on having invented the alphabet to produce written documents:

“…. this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them.

The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory but to reminiscence and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth.”

(Source: as quoted in de Santillana, p 348)

Today, we learn not only from books but also from many other sources, which are essentially based on human interactions in varied forms of communication through spoken words – some of which are storytelling, dialogs, discussions, debates, global conferences, workshops, negotiations, narrations, collaboration, sharing ability and evidences, coaching, mentoring etc. The media through which such communication flourishes are varied like, emails, cell phones, various social media platforms, direct experience, teaching …. etc.

Surely the volume of spoken word outweighs the written word in our present bit (binary digit) world where often the spoken word is presented in a written format.

If we look back, even two decades earlier, the memory capacity of our computers were going up by the day facilitating storage of ever increasing volume of data (written words). But the trend is now being reversed. Now we are using smart phone, tablets, audio, video, podcasts and net books, which have just enough memory to work smoothly. Software development is giving way to sharing information over shared platforms through development of specific applications.

And perhaps, when faced with increasing complexity, we are all forced to learn on the go — meaning instantly — in the here and now, with the full awareness that what we learn now might be replaced by new learning in the very next moment. The reason for this is simple — all complex situations are so unique that learning from one complex situation may or may not be directly translated to another complex situation, however similar that might seem to be.

Though the learning environment has become more complex than ever before the simplicity in this situation lies in the fact that we are increasingly relying on learning directly from direct human interactions in the form of varied types of conversations in which we become an intrinsic part of our personal learning experience.

For instance, the open learning culture that is expanding very quickly, fundamentally relies on the spoken word (videos, audios and podcasts) on diverse subjects (e.g. MIT opencourseware, Khan Academy) for learning to take place. Such videos are usually supported by brief notes and not elaborate text books (written word).

As I see it, there would be an exponential increase in learning through conversations that would rely more on the spoken word whereas the size of elaborately written documents would continually decrease and be limited to issues where correct transmission might be endangered.

In today’s world, to learn we must become a part of the process that produces the knowledge applicable to our needs. For that to take place, conversations would occupy the center stage of learning. In that case, spoken word would gradually assume greater importance than sole reliance on written words in form of books and textbooks.

It means that the way we would develop and use our mind-body complex would assume utmost importance in the coming years.

Learning Quickly & Adapting Rapidly – A Simple View

If I were to make a very simplified understanding of our brain it would be this:

Our brain has three parts, which are: –

1. The Rear Brain

2. The Mid Brain

3. The Frontal Brain

The Rear Brain

The rear part of the brain is an alarm, which sets off as soon as it senses danger that can threaten survival and life. It works on the principle of ‘fear’ (the modern term is stress) that propels us to either fight or run away. When faced with anything new this part of the brain triggers first. Though for city dwellers, tigers and snakes are mostly not around to scare us to death, this ancient part of our brain sets off alarms by sensing anything which is unusual, uncommon, seemingly big for us to handle, new or doesn’t fit our regular routine or schedule. But isn’t learning all about embracing something new? So we have a big problem to learn quickly and adapt rapidly to changing situations.

The Mid Brain

This part of the brain stores all our sensations and experiences as images including the lessons we learn. It is the memory section. It throws up information as and when we need those. So when faced with something new this part of the brain searches for something similar and prompts us to take note of what is already stored there for us to act. At times, it conjures up new images by combining existing images some of which can be illusory or false, which may create stress or delusion. Under stress, it communicates to the rear brain triggering fight or flight response. When deluded it induces us take actions without thinking of undesirable consequences. Now, these become big problems to learn anything new or different when faced with familiar objects or situations making it difficult for us to pick out something new or different from seemingly familiar patterns. The mid brain would say, “You know that. There is nothing new in the world.” This is because mid brain would force us recognize existing patterns only, which usually prompts routine or scripted behavior as a response. This then poses as a big impediment to learn quickly and adapt rapidly to changing situations.

The Frontal Brain

This is the new part of the brain that is responsible for learning from any situation and under any condition enabling us to create new solutions and new actions. However, this part of the brain isn’t powered up fully so long the mid brain and the rear brain dominate the show. That appears to be a big problem too for learning quickly and adapting rapidly to changes.

So what is the way out?

The way out of the mess may be summed up in a neat mantra — 3S which stands for Slow, Small and Steady.

Slow:

Slowing down offers many benefits. The most important one is relaxation of the body and mind. Once the body and mind are relatively relaxed, the rear brain, which is usually very alert lets down its guard allowing other parts of the brain to act fully. This facilitates learning something new.

Small:

When we notice small and subtle things; think in small pieces and connect those; and take small actions – the rear brain doesn’t interfere since it doesn’t consider small things to pose any danger to survival. Likewise, when we see, think and do small things the mid brain doesn’t quite interfere with the new experience either since it usually fails to conjure up an existing pattern to match the small experiences other than trying to judge by giving it a name and form . So, once we suspend our judgement while experiencing something new the possibility of new learning grows exponentially. However, once the small things are done the mid brain would faithfully store the lessons for better adaptation and survival in the future.

Steady:

So what happens when, over a time, we steadily exchange value through small actions? Obviously, the small actions accumulate, coalesce, combine and recombine in self organizing way to produce new learning, which usually grows wide and deep enough to allow us learn quickly and adapt rapidly to changing situations.

Go Slow. See Small. Engage Slowly, Think Small. Act Small. Go Steady.

That is perhaps the easiest way to learn new things quickly and adapt rapidly to changes promoting resilience and sustainability for organizations, groups, communities and individuals.

Note: This is a part of a forthcoming book — “Sleeping with a Stranger” — a new book belonging to the Nemetics series.

Engaging with Love

How can one engage with anything without love?

How can one engage with love without understanding?

How can one engage with understanding without learning?

How can one engage with learning without questions?

How can one engage with questions without concentration?

How can one engage with concentration without “seeing?”

How can one engage with “seeing” without imagination?

How can one engage with imagination without inspiration?

How can one engage with inspiration without embracing the vastness of relatedness arising out of nothing?

Feynman — on Connectedness

On this day in 1988 we lost Richard Feynman — the great explainer.

He saw the interconnectedness of all things more clearly than most.

Here is what he sees in a glass of wine:

A poet once said, “The whole universe is in a glass of wine.” We will probably never know in what sense he said that, for poets do not write to be understood. But it is true that if we look in glass of wine closely enough we see the entire universe. There are the things of physics: the twisting liquid which evaporates depending on the wind and weather, the reflections in the glass, and our imagination adds the atoms. The glass is a distillation of the earth’s rocks, and in its composition we see the secrets of the universe’s age, and the evolution of the stars. What strange array of chemicals are in the wine? How did they come to be? There are the ferments, the enzymes, the substrates, and the products. There in wine is found the great generalization: all life is fermentation. Nobody can discover the chemistry of wine without discovering the cause of much disease. How vivid is the claret, pressing its existence into the consciousness that watches it! If our small minds, for some convenience, divide this glass of wine, this universe, into parts — physics, biology, geology, astronomy, psychology, and so on — remember that nature does not know it! So let us put it all back together, not forgetting ultimately what it is for. Let us give one more final pleasure: drink it and forget it all!

Seeing anything in this manner is incidentally the fundamental secret of:

1. Enlightened Learning

2. Enlightened Problem solving

3. Enlightened Living

Did I miss anything?

Ruthless Honesty & Integrity

Excerpt from my forthcoming book — Solving Complex Problems through Vibration Analysis; An introduction to Non-linear Dynamics

 

One last thing before we move on to the next chapter. We have had a glimpse into the fundamental process of seeing a problem. We start with an open mind. Then we ask lots of questions out of curiosity, being mindful that we don’t know the answer. We intently observe. We then make intelligent guesses to come up with a hypothesis that relates all the problems in the system, interdependent as they are. Finally, we should still doubt as to whether we understood the system to sufficient depth. We simply can’t get rid of this nagging doubt till our solutions are proven effective through practical implementation. If proven, we learn. If not proven, we learn to unlearn our ignorance and set out to learn again. Either way we learn something useful.

This reminds me of an incident. Long back when I was studying vibration analysis under my Guru, Tim Henry of the University of Manchester, I was working on a small experiment with accelerometers. I was bit upset about the funny results I got and was ashamed about the wasted effort at the end of my week-long experiment. Tim asked me as to why I look sullen on a fine English morning.

When he came to know the reason for my long face, he just said, ‘Well, there is nothing to feel bad about. What you got is also useful knowledge. It would tell others that this method of finding out of what you wanted to find out does not work and this is why it doesn’t work and here are the results as evidence. There is no question of shame. Don’t you think it would save a lot of time and energy for other researchers who would come after you by choosing to avoid the path you just found to be incorrect? And you just learned more about the subject. Haven’t you?”

What a relief that was. Thanking him, I promptly went out to soak in the rare sun on a cold English morning. And that is where I was hit by the truth — all human search must be based on honesty – ruthless honesty — so that integrity of human learning can be preserved since quality of that integrity decides whether we survive better or not. I vowed — from now on, I must learn to take things as they are.

I also think: by learning to be honest with our failures and vulnerabilities and to resiliently respond to uncertain outcomes and situations is a vital step to get rid of fear and shame that hold us back.

 

Note:

This book acts as a further expansion and exploration of my previous book – Winning Anywhere – the Power of ‘See’

General Principles and Methods of Rapidinnovation

The following forms part of the course notes for the workshop on Rapidinnovation I would conduct on 26th April 2013 at Indian Chamber of Commerce, Kolkata.

 General Principles and Methods of Rapidinnovation:

A) Management Perspectives:

1. Follow your aspirations but check the facts (failures are all around) and re-purpose if need be.

2. Aspiration shapes strategy; Strategy provides vision; Failures stop us from arriving at vision; Improvisation/innovations to eliminate failures pave the way to arrive at the vision.

3. Take failures of any system as the starting point of learning and leadership. Learn to face failures and fears through improvisation and innovation to balance both efficiency and effectiveness.

4. Through inventions, innovations and improvisations we can release the untapped potential of any organization for higher Productivity, Performance and Profitability simply free of cost giving on-going benefits.

B) Read on-going organizational stories:

5. What is going on?

6. What does it mean?

7. What might we do about it?

C) The nature of failures: Catching the snake

8. All failures in organizations are stories of tiredness & unhappiness of the human spirit. However, no management would like to fail. The Loss to the society is irredeemable. What might we do about it?

 

9. Whatever is visible would fail; whatever is invisible drives all failures.

10. Whatever fails is never the cause or culprit of the failure.

11. All failures are stories of interdependence.

12. Problems only appear when the necessary conditions to solve or resolve them are present.

13. The solution/resolution of any problem lies in the ‘motion’ of the problem itself.

D) The underlying process: PLS3D Awareness

14. Pay attention to a failure or problem or issue, called a point (Point)

15. Connect other points (Line)

16. Connect the lines to form surfaces (Surface)

17. Create a 3 Dimensional view of the failures and problems (3D)

18. Transcend the 3D view (Beyond)

E) What we might do:

19. Achieve balance of forces and fields through re-design

20. Balance contradictions

21. Eliminate imperfections within the interactions

22. Change quantity to improve or change quality

23. Allow ‘negation of negation’ to its natural conclusions.

24. Optimize time between negations.

25. Recreate a new story by changing the stories that cause failures.

F) Learning:

26. Learning is a personal responsibility. It is about personal mastery.

27. Collaboratively learn through self-study, observations, thoughts of others, interactions with peers and mentors and feedback from your own work since learning, understanding and gaining insights might not possibly happen in one stroke.

28. To learn continuously and deeply stop learning; do, think, reflect, experience deeply, bring your unique perspective into anything; be the discipline; arrive at wisdom

29. Use the stories of all failures in an organization to develop training and education within the organization.

30. Luckily, all of that happen in a blink through perseverance and patience, aided by the power of emergent complexity of our 800 MB human genome in a self-organizing way that can beat the best super computer of the world.

G) Measurement Criteria:

31. Productivity, Performance and Profitability (Effectiveness)

32. Reliability, Availability and Maintainability (Efficiency)

33. Health, Happiness, Creativity (Human Spirit)

How to Win Anywhere in the World?

Last Friday evening, Mr. Giri called me up. Mr. Giri is one of the middle level managers of an Indo-Japanese production unit in the state of West Bengal, India.

He was very happy and excited to announce, ‘You must know that we have broken all previous records of production’.

“Is that so?” I asked; my voice laced with excitement.

“Yes, it is true… almost unbelievable.  We have shot up from producing 200 units per day to 2000 units per day from the same machines. Our quality rejection has dropped from 14% to around 5%. We have crossed the 8000 tonnes per month target… ” he almost gasped for breath to continue, ‘… and I must thank you so much…”

Indeed, this was incredible! His company was struggling for the last five years to crank up production and make some profit. They identified the bottleneck of the plant but were simply unable to do anything about it. The Japanese introduced all their famous improvement tools and techniques they had in their arsenal. Everyone sweated and puffed and huffed but no improvement was forthcoming. All efforts were in vain. The Japanese management team blamed the Indians for their ‘work attitude’, ‘lethargy’, ‘incompetence’ and gross overall ‘stupidity’… This obviously made the Indians angry. They in turn called the Japanese ‘overbearing’, ‘conceited’, ‘racists’, ‘foolish’ and what not… But at the end of the day in spite of all that shouting, mud-slinging and sledging no iota of improvement was in sight. In fact, things went for a nose dive. Crisis of closure loomed in the horizon as losses mounted.

‘Thank me for what?”, I asked with a tinge of eagerness.

Then he went on to tell me a story. “You know what the great music maestro Tan Sen said?”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tansen)

“No I don’t have a clue about what he said’ I mumbled.

Giri continued with a tone mixed with excitement and reverence, “‘Tan Sen said if you only know how to sing the first note of seven notes in music very well, you automatically get to sing all notes fluidly’.

‘Hmm..’ I nodded in agreement. ‘Right, but what has that to do with me?’ I asked.

‘Everything’, he quipped back. “You taught us the first note so well that I have now learned to sing anything.’

Absolutely clueless about what he actually meant I asked with curiosity getting better of me, “And what was that first note?” This was because I have tried to teach them many things to improve their performance over a period of 18 months.

“Oh! Didn’t you teach us how to pay attention or observe things and their connections in their own settings without seeing what the mind already knows?” he replied bit incredulously.

‘Yes, I remember that. And you think that was so important?’ I pressed in to learn more from him.

“It was. And it would continue to be so for the rest of my life. It makes me so confident that I think I can work and win anywhere in the world, tackle anything in the world and solve any problem in the world”, he said with a slow deliberate voice exuding lot of conviction.

“Thank you again and would you mind if I come over to Kolkata to meet you some day to learn more of what you say as NOTICE.?” he seemed to stress the last word.

This was the first time in five years they made a decent profit.

As the conversation ended, I sat on the sofa with waves of happiness sweeping over me. I thought to myself, OMG! The power of the humble NOTICE is just amazing! Nothing more is needed. We need not teach people how to think. They know how to think. We need not teach people so many tools and techniques. They would discover those by themselves. We simply don’t need to waste their time doing things which we think must be done. We need not bore them to death to the point of getting disengaged. We simply need to teach those who really want to sing well the first note of the seven notes — “NOTICE“. That’s all!

I noticed my tea getting cold…

Qualities of a Teacher…

We all need teachers/gurus/mentors to get ahead in life and do good to self and others.

But what are the qualities of a teacher that make a ‘teacher’ the right teacher for us?

There are at least seven qualities any good teacher has: –

1. Knows about a practice learned from past masters or having created a body of knowledge developed over years of practice through direct experience.

2. Knows the nuanced meaning of the body of knowledge.

3. Sense of oneself . Knows one’s convictions, values, virtues, weakness, ways or methods of learning, degree of discernment, wit, humor, kindness, emotions, feelings…

4. Sense when enough is enough. That is having a sense of enough food, shelter, clothing, health, knowledge, practice, application, concentration, thinking, effort, ….

5. Sense of time and place. Has a sense of timing of when to act, speak, think, concentrate, when to eat, when to rest, when to listen, when to memorize, when to collaborate, when to cooperate, when to ask questions, when to stop, when not to act ….

6. Sense of social gathering. Has a sense of what is to be done in a social setting. How much is to be spoken? How to behave? When to speak or act what? How a thing is to be told or communicated? What and how to tell whom and what… that brings out the best in self and others…

7. Sense of individuals. Has a sense of whom to follow, whom to learn from, whom to copy, whom to collaborate with, whom to cooperate, whom to stay close to, whom to avoid …..

First two qualities are related to knowledge, which can be transmitted through words, books, lectures, debates, dialogs. The last five are related to sensing, which can’t be directly transmitted but are to be developed by the student by copying the teacher and staying close enough to experience various situations and learn how the teacher faces and negotiates such situations.