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Collective Intelligence

We learn different things in different ways. Which are the ways in which we learn that we enjoy and more importantly can trust?

When I was at school, I veered towards the sciences, especially physics, electronics and maths, I guess very much in common with those of us in this industry. I steered well clear of subjects such as history and geography. For me, there seem to be four elements that contributed to me learning things.

The first element was learning the facts. Trying to memorize facts which had little relevant meaning or interest for me was very hard going. History had a lot of names, a lot of dates. All I can remember from Geography class is which South American countries produce rubber. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t value this knowledge.

The second element is reading someone else’s opinion. I have less interest in this than learning facts. At least you usually know where you are with facts. Opinions are always “flavoured” with a person’s point of view which I may or may not share. In order to be noticed, people often dramatize their stories. Drama is fine for fictional TV shows, but is not really what I would consider as a firm base for learning. Interestingly, today, the internet consists more and more of these first two elements, moving more towards drama than facts it seems. Is this our knowledge base of the future?

The third element is creativity. In electronics and physics, there is plenty of scope for experimentation. I have often lost bits of finger and the odd bit of tooth (don’t ask) trying to answer my own repeating question of “What would happen if…….”. This is my area of interest, this inspires me to learn. Some things that I learned took many years to forget.

The fourth element is discussion and exchange of ideas with other people. This can be either on a one on one basis or with a group. It does not take a clever person or even an experienced person to have a great conversation. Everyone has a unique perspective and ability to understand and explain. The challenge is to pick up the thoughts that one otherwise might never have considered. It is an opportunity.

A couple of weeks ago, I presented at a two day meeting focused on our Valor Process Preparation software, where many of our current customers exchanged views about what they had achieved in their operations, sharing openly their successes, which thankfully included the use of our tools. At the same meeting, there were other people from the industry, not yet our customers, who came along to learn about our tools, but mainly, learn from the experiences of others who already had the success stories. Could these stories be repeated in their own operations? It was amazing to hear how people were using the tools. Even though I have grown up in the industry, I always see something new. There seemed to be an overwhelming positive vibe to the whole event as ideas were exchanged  on how to do things better, how to handle certain issues, how to compete against lower cost geographies, what we as manufacturing have done and can do to differentiate and prosper.

This kind of event is very special for me. It is a relief that people are not only trawling the internet for their daily dose of drama, but actually people still relate together building ideas and sharing experience, all for the good of each other. There is nothing like a good case study…..

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About Michael Ford

Michael FordMICHAEL FORD SENIOR MARKETING DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, VALOR DIVISION, MENTOR GRAPHICS Michael started his career as a computer software and hardware engineer in 1982. Working for Sony in the UK, Michael became one of the first successful adopters of computer technology into the manufacturing shop-floor, going on to manage in Japan Sony’s global Lean Manufacturing solutions. Joining Valor Computerized Systems in 2008 gave Michael the opportunity to apply his experience into the main-stream of the industry. With almost 30 years’ experience, Michael’s key strength is the instinct of finding solutions and opportunities where there had been challenges and problems. Michael is currently working as part of the Marketing Development team within the Valor Division of Mentor Graphics, focussing on the realisation of real and practical solutions for manufacturing based on the application of Lean Thinking, end to end, from design through the entire manufacturing process. Visit The Michael Ford Manufacturing Blog

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