Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Who stocks this search?

Have you ever tried to find out whether your nearest highstreet shop will stock the item you want (or an item of the type you want)? It's a pain. I would definitely make use of a "Who stocks this?" search engine, especially if it were linked with a businesses search engine (i.e. "Who stocks this near/in X?").

How would it work? Shops would need to submit stock data to the search engine, which would categorise it and search it for the customer. Whilst this could be difficult for smaller shops, it could be a standard exportable dataset from an electronic stock control system.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Snooze your smoke alarm

Some people might think this is the stupidist idea in the world, but hear me out:

Have you ever burnt the toast? Did it set off the smoke alarm? Did you take the battery out of the smoke alarm to stop it making noise? Did you forget to put the battery back in the smoke alarm? Did you burn alive, having not been alerted to a fire by the smoke alarm that you took a battery out of?

Ok, ignore the last question, but the point is serious. Everytime I burn something, the battery comes straight out. And I forget to put it back in. I'm sure I'm not the only one, and there may have been cases of people dying because they'd taken the battery out. So why not provide a snooze feature that stops the noise for 5 minutes while you get the burnt-toast-smoke out of the kitchen window.

Risk management risks

The risk management process, as I understand it, consists of the following processes:
  • Risk identification
  • Risk evaluation
  • Risk response
  • Risk monitoring
There are of course variations in this, but that gives the basic approach. What occurs to me is that there are risks associationed with the risk management process, what I would describe as metarisks. These consist of:
  • Risk of incompleteness of risk identification (forget/don't identify a risk)
  • Risk of misevaluation of risk (think its not high risk when it is, and vice versa)
  • Risk of unsuitable response
  • Risk that response fails
  • Risk of inadequate monitoring
Of course, there is a risk that this list of risks regarding the risk management process is incomplete, that the evaluation of these risks is inappropriate etc. These are metametarisks; there is infinite regression and questions of "quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" (who will guard the guards).

Aside from the discussion of infinite regression, the issue of addressing metarisks is a serious one; the solution a simple one. I recently had the pleasure of seeing a piece of software called Stream, produced by a company called Acuity, in action. It mitigates the risk of incompleteness of risk identification by having a large database of risks; it mitigates the risk of an unsuitable response by having response suggestions; and it mitigates the risk of inadequate monitoring by storing monitoring data in the database. It may not be the first or best of its type, but it certainly seems to do a good job.

No balls games

In the age of obesity, "no ball games" signs should probably be banned. Short of that, their negativity to exercise should be tempered by accompanying them with maps/directions to the nearest park/court/pitch were games are allowed. The practical problems associated with this are customising the signs to the vicinity, however a map with local facilities on could be used for several sign locations.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Visualising results

It is important for staff to understand the results of their work; their contribution needs to be comunicated to them by their managers. One way of doing this would be the use of posters to make the results visual. For example, for a factory making components for mobile phones, the poster would show the components they make, with an arrow to the phone, with arrows to the different outcomes of that phone's existence. These would include a person smiling while making a conversation, a person ringing the emergency services after an accident, a person taking a photo of a beautiful sunset (for camera phones obviously. Whilst this might be considered cheesy, I think it is important for people to understand that whatever work they do, it is doing something positive for someone somewhere.