When we were young, we used to play a really fun game called,
‘color color what color do you choose?’
We had this paper model in hand, with grooves created for each of our four fingers. The moment one color is chosen, that person has to run and find an object of that color.
Then we grew up and started playing a different game:
‘Up or down, down or up, what approach would you choose?’
To the uninitiated, I refer to top-down and bottom-up approach. (To whoever coined these terms: You really didn’t realize that they have such obvious double meanings??).
This elaborate and unnecessary preamble is for showing my skepticism towards bottom-up approach. I think it works well in:
- Market research: Forecasting
- Coding: Creating solution modules for customers.
But where common sense and logic are involved, bottom-up approach totally messes up one’s mind.
For example, lets use the 2009 watch-word – recession. We know its here, and its doing a lot of damage (biggest understatement of this year perhaps). Consider the following exchange:
Q: How do you prove that recession is affecting international trade?
A: Simple, look at the export-import levels between countries.
Q: Well, um, they seem to have increased in the last month of 2008.
A: But recession is here. Q3 and Q4, show a downward trend right?
Q: Oh , well, so do Q1 and Q2.
A: Ignore that. That could have been due to oil price increase..
The above is, thankfully, a hypothetical example ( They do show a perfectly logical downward trend – whew!).
But, this is what happens when we know the end result. The data, current as well as historical, help us in validating the results, albeit subjectively.
Most of the time, our thinking is also bottom-up. For example,
- A highly advertised beautiful scenery spot will appear beautiful even if it is just overlooking a bunch of dry trees and shrubs.
- I-phone is a ‘value-for-money’ product even if it lacks some basic mobile features (the dictionary for one!)
- Rollercoaster are scary-exciting rides because they go upside down, though we don’t feel much of it.
In all these cases, we have the conclusion fed into us. We just back it up with data supporting the advertised claims, and form the main body of the matter.
Reminds me of the Ishikawa or Fish-bone diagram, and how easily it can be misused. Ishikawa would have named himself after hearing someone say:
What a fultoos time-pass Kishi ka wah wah
or maybe its an acronym of:
It’s a Shit k(c)Ausing Wasted Analysis
Ok, perhaps not that either.
This post has been inspired by Michael Crichton’s book State of Fear. I am not for or against global warming, but its true that whenever a change in climate occurs (“its hotter than last year”, “we haven’t had such rains in over 20 years”), we just use one phrase (including me) – It’s the effect of global warming.