“Merhaba naber?”

“Iyidir işte ne olsun. Her zamanki gibi.”

“Al benden de o kadar. Misafirlerim var yurtdışından, onları gezdiriyorum.”

“Dur bak benim yeğenin yeni bir restoranı var, Ortaköy’de, oraya da götür.”

Turkish is difficult (not even Google translate helps much). It uses the Latin alphabet and actually has a simple structure but except for words borrowed from languages such as French and Persian, it resembles no other tongue. It is spoken mainly by people living in Turkey and nobody else.

Learning languages is important. However, it requires time and a great deal of effort. What generally happens is that once we achieve a certain basic level, we make plans to go to a country where that language is spoken and continue the education there for a while.  When we do that though, we typically find ourselves surrounded by rookies like us, speaking another common language with each other, hence not being able to learn the language that was aimed for.

So, if you want to learn Spanish, for example, by all means go to Spain, but enroll in an Italian course. That way, you will be surrounded by Spanish people, you will speak Spanish with them outside of the class, you will learn some Italian, which is structurally so similar to Spanish that it will ultimately help your understanding of Spanish.

Another tip is to let go of boring, extra-large language textbooks and read children books before going to sleep. Do this with a dictionary in one hand and you will learn the language in no time.

I recommend Le Petit Nicolas by Goscinny and Sempé. The series has been translated in many languages and Goscinny is the brain behind Asterix and Lucky Luke.

Iyi günler.

Virtual bureaucracy

Bureaucracy is inevitable. And the consequence of any kind of bureaucracy is that you have to wait. Hence, waiting is inevitable.

The other day I was waiting, again. I had gone to a public office to collect something. I arrived at 10.59 according to my ticket, which also showed my number: 370. I looked at the counter; it was at 169. The place was packed. Everybody had something in their hands, mostly their cell phones, playing games, tweeting, googling, reading, writing on other people’s virtual walls.

169 people were attended since 9.00. That would make my waiting time more than two hours. After just five minutes, I gave up and went to my office. I worked, ate, killed time.

At around 12.50, I decided to make the 15-minute trip back to the place. It was still very crowded. I hesitantly looked at the counter. The number was 367. After two minutes, I was attended.

There has to be an easier way.

All these people had their smart phones in their hands, constrained to wait there, doing nothing smart. I thought the counter could be online. People could be at their homes or offices, looking at the counter on their smart phones. They could go there before their turn and avoid all the hassle. That would be smart.

This is not very difficult to do. Yet you don’t see it everywhere. Hence perhaps bureaucracy is designed to make you wait.

Hence, waiting is inevitable.

Big surprise

The relation between success and creativity is complicated. Clearly creativity is considered to be a determinant of success, but the correlation is far from perfect. An idea could be impeccable, but apparently chance has a lot to say about the outcome.

How then can one predict whether or not a creative process will lead to a desirable outcome? How can one judge the quality of one’s insight and brilliance when introducing a new concept or product?

When thinking of creativity, we primarily base our judgments on how successful the idea will be. We even use creativity and success interchangeably sometimes. Is that a healthy way to look at things though?

Makridakis, Hogarth and Gaba’s book Dance with Chance is full of illuminating anecdotes on the issue. For instance it quotes instances from recent history of technology, where it emphasizes the surprise factor in creativity based success. It tells the story of Google, whose $1.6 million price tag was considered unacceptably high by internet giants, just a decade ago. Silicon valley success stories did not see coming one of the greatest ideas in their own world.

But wait a minute. Google’s insightful creators tried to sell their own super-successful idea for just $1.6 million. It seems the success of their idea was a surprise for them too.

The book provides many other examples, including how Apple’s visionary and creative leader Steve Jobs was rumored to have almost given up his stock options in 2003, which made him a multi-billionaire, just 4 years later. Somehow, he also failed to foresee his own uncontested success.

I wish you surprise yourself big time one day.

Life saver

There are many great ideas out there. From arts to science, technology to popular culture, everyday we face new concepts that affect us. We do not have to like them all, but at least most of them deserve our respect and understanding.

Lifesaver Bottle is beyond that. It is almost too good to be true. It is not only a great idea, but it has already been developed into a great product. I haven’t seen one. I never used it. But it sounds absolutely fantastic.

The idea is very simple. It is a small, portable bottle that transforms any dirty, disease-infected source of water into a safe, drinkable, sterile one. You can literally get some water from the nearest muddy and filthy pond, filter it through the Lifesaver Bottle and drink it after just a few seconds.

When a disaster hits, finding clean water becomes one of the main concerns. In many parts of the world, you do not even need a disaster to make drinkable water scarce. People die by millions. One small bottle can prevent it.

I am disappointed in myself. Why did I not find out about this before? As far as I can tell it has been around for some time. Why aren’t news channels and government agencies shouting about this bottle? Why aren’t there any competitors with similar products/technologies?

Here, you can hear its inventor talk about the Lifesaver Bottle and see what it accomplishes.

Is it too good to be true?

Great grey ideas

You have a great idea. Perhaps more than one. An innovation. Maybe you had one at some point in your life. I am absolutely sure of this. It can be an artwork, a book, a project, a web page. Something original and exciting. When you think of it, it makes you feel good and content with yourself. You feel unique.

That’s too bad. Because, regardless of where you are, be it a firm or academia, you are stuck.

In business, there aren’t any incentives for your idea to come alive. No extrinsic motivations, such as funds or time, are present. Most probably your idea is not about your work-life at all. Instead it is something related to your life, something that will make things easier or more enjoyable for people around. Even if it is about work, most of the time you are part of a status quo, a constant and established system that cannot be bent.

In academia, you are weird. In that world, new things have to be linked to the existing theories, conjectures. If not, they are inadmissible, unscientific. They do not have a place. Ironically, most of the time it is difficult to publish an innovation.

Your idea is grey. It does not have an immediate commercial value, nor it features a scientific contribution. It has a great potential. I know. It can change lives; the way people think and do things. Unfortunately the market for such ideas does not exist. In order to survive, they have to be transformed into black-and-white; into something that leads to a sizable commercial value or that conforms to the established academic structure.

Alternatively, you will have to realize your ideas by sleeping less, spending your savings, risking rejection and possibly going a little crazy in the process.

Otherwise, they will die with you.