Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cool graphs

This is in some sense more of a business story, but the organization and presentation of data is key to the sciences as well. According to this story, LEGO has saved General Motors $1 million. Two executives from very different areas (healthcare and car manufacturing) were old friends, and they often talk with each other about their problems. They were each struggling with innovative ways to keep track of data. Their solution - LEGO. Using LEGO they could create a very simple three-dimensional graph to keep track of work flow and patient care. As data changes, it was easy to shift pieces around to reflect this. The placement of the bricks, their color, and the sizes of the stacks all have significance. They note that this is very useful in team meetings, as everyone can be sitting around the table and instantly see how things are working. Also, as Mark Wilson writes: "By mapping real world problems to an icon of our youth, each challenge must be approached with an inherent playfulness. And because Legos are, by their very nature, expected to be rebuilt, patterns don’t appear stuck in stone--or just as bad--printed in ink." This is overall a pretty cool idea, and could have applications in any area where information has to be manipulated.

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