Solutions to the puzzles in the previous post

If you have not solved the puzzles at the end of the post “Why do I call them Insight Miners?” here are the solutions.

Puzzle1: Suppose you are given a candle, a match box and a set of pins/tacks. Your job is to light the room by attaching the candle to a wall.

Solution: Empty the matches, fix the match-stick tray on the wall with pins/tacks, light the candle and affix on the tray.


Puzzle 2: Connect the nine dots without lifting the pencil and using no more than four lines. The nine dots are in three exactly parallel rows with each row having three dots.


nine dots

In the above solution, there is another form of functional fixedness that has cropped in. Further, there is a possibility to connect them with three lines instead of four. Anybody who solves these two problems gets a free dekko of my next post.

Puzzle 3: Connect the three words – aid, rubber, wagon. Answer: Band. More here.

Why do I call them Insight Miners?

At we started a new cool group called the Insight Miners. I am often asked a question why are they called so when the usual nomenclature may be Data Miners or Business Analysts.

Well, I think it is an oxymoron to call them data miners? What is the necessity to mine soil? One mines for precious things such as diamond or insights from soil or data respectively.

I also have another reason why I would prefer to call them Insight Miners. Data usually tells what has happened and rarely why it has happened so. For e.g., at we collect information whether a male member is a regular smoker, an occasional smoker, or a non-smoker. One of the insight miners came up with a very counter-intuitive data on preference of women. They preferred, of course, a non-smoker the most. But surprisingly, the preference for ‘occasional smoker’ was lower than that of ‘regular smoker’. This piece of data became an insight when a separate short-survey revealed why women preferred so: they thought men who declared themselves as occasional smokers are actually not so honest. Data becomes an insight when such causal relationships (i.e. answering why) are established.

The short survey was not the first thing that occured to us when the problem surfaced. Several probable reasons were put forth. In psychology, insight is the sudden discovery of the correct solution following incorrect attempts based on trial and error. This is just like the way one mines for diamonds.

So what does it take for an Insight Miner to succeed?

Of course, the basic is data mining 🙂  One becomes an amateur with skills in logic, deduction, induction, etc. But it takes a lot more to become a pro.

A pro is when one has broken functional fixedness, has spatial ability and has verbal ability! What are these?

Breaking functional fixedness is when one uses objects in a way not accustomed to. Suppose you are given a candle, a match box and a set of pins/tacks. Your job is to light the room by attaching the candle to a wall.

Spatial ability is when one can think outside the box for solutions. Example, connect the nine dots without lifting the pencil and using no more than four lines. The nine dots are in three exactly parallel rows with each row having three dots. Or imagine a square with dots occupying the corners and centers of each side. The ninth dot in the center of the square.

Verbal ability is to actually connect seemingly unconnected words. Crosswords are good examples. Consider connecting the three words – aid, rubber, wagon.

If you have not cracked the above three…read my next post (and desist from applying for an Insight Miner’s post at

A good practice borrowed from Sports Analytics

I was recently reading about Roland Beech, the performance analyst of Dallas Mavericks. He sits in the benches along with the players and observes them up and close, before and after his performance analysis of players (Sports Analytics). So do analysts from SportsMechanics India. They literally travel along with the teams. You may ask ‘so what is the advantage’?

I think the key advantage, when the analysts are so close with the teams, is an immense feel of the real dynamics of sports & its players, its intricacies & nuances, and ultimately understanding what really works. Consider a match of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) with Mumbai Indians (MI). Lasith Malinga (MI) has destroyed the top three within the power play of CSK. Real time analytics from SportsMechanics will suggest which player may be the best to face Malinga. But if the analyst is deeply journeying with the CSK team, he may suggest the next best player. That is not all, the analyst can include several key variables into the modelling engine that were ‘visible’ in the trenches but not back in the ‘war room’. Says founder of SportsMechanics, Ramky “If Shikhar Dhawan feels that 150 is a par score and our engine says it’s 180, we ask the team which option they want to go for. Then we give the team five ways to approach both par scores.” That is the advantage of analysts fighting it out in the trenches.

Often, we miss the benefits of such proximity in business analytics. I find analyst teams work in isolation and have little understanding of what really is needed and what works. Many business leaders keep analysts right next to them giving a feeling that such analysts are actually ‘in the trenches’. But I disagree. The trenches are actually the last mile connect of the business operations / development: the telecallers / sales force, the programmers, etc.

At the business analysts (called Insight Miners) work very closely with the business teams and are responsible not for insights but for actionable insights. The insight miners have to implement / action the insights with the business teams. Recently, the Insight Miners developed MIMA (’s Intelligent Matchmaking Algorithm), a machine learning recommendation engine working on big data. The key metric for their success is not just developing, but also having it implemented with scores of technologists and ensuring that key metrics move up significantly. The team may generate lower number of insights but whatever generated will make much more impact.

Of course, there is added benefit of higher motivation due to every insight fructifying into action.