Tip: Removing a Junctor

A user wrote and asked:

I’m evaluating Flying Logic Pro on a Mac. I found that an edge with a negate or complement operator in it can’t easily have the operator removed. Selecting the operator and hitting Delete removes the operator and the edges connected to it. It should just remove the operator and unify the input and output edges. This should happen for any operator with one input edge and one output edge. I also think it should happen when an entity with one input and one output is deleted.

Part of the problem here is that when an edge is deleted, large-scale rearrangement may occur on the graph, making the previous state obscure to the user. I expect that it would be common to remove unary operators and want the connection to remain.

The situation described is like this:

flying-logic-ng001.png

If the junctor or either of the two edges is selected and then deleted, the two entities will end up unconnected. This is because edges must always be connected at both ends, and junctors must always have at least one incoming edge and one outgoing edge.

It turns out there is a very easy way to remove the junctor and keep the entities connected. To do this, we use the “redirect” gesture, which is used to redirect the head or tail of an edge to a different entity or junctor. Redirect is initiated by clicking and dragging right at the end of an edge, and is signified by a special arrow with a circular head.

flying-logic-ng002.png

By redirecting the head of the arrow before the junctor to the entity after the junctor…

flying-logic-ng003.png

The junctor and the second arrow are removed, while the redirected arrow remains.

flying-logic-ng005.png

You could just as easily redirect the tail of the second edge to the leftmost entity. Since edges can have different annotations or weights, this method gives you choice over which edge will remain after the junctor is removed.

Errata: Pricing Incorrect in Program

If you downloaded Flying Logic before today, you may notice that when you use the in-program “Purchase Now” features, the price you are given is incorrect (far too high!) although the prices have always been correct in the Sciral Store ($149/Pro, $79/Personal, $39/Student).

All copies of Flying Logic downloaded from today on do not have this problem.

We apologize for any confusion.

The Two Types of Thinking

Humans have two distinct systems for solving problems, both of which have their place. Psychologist Keith Stanovich termed these simply System 1 Thinking and System 2 Thinking.

System 1 Thinking System 2 Thinking
Automatic Deliberate
Effortless Effortful
Faster to act Slower to act
Slower to adapt Faster to adapt
Habitual Intellectual
Reactive Proactive
Specific-purpose General-purpose

When we instinctively reach out to catch a ball, or habitually snap at a loved one or co-worker, we are using System 1 thinking. When we carefully consider the positive and negative consequences of a set of possible actions, before deciding which to take, we are using System 2 thinking.

Creating a habit can be thought of as the process of training System 1 to behave in a way deemed beneficial as the result of System 2 thinking. If you have ever deliberately made a positive habit or broken a bad one, you know how much effort it takes. Nonetheless, we can do this when we are sufficiently motivated.

System 1 thinking is absolutely the best way to go when the situations you are facing are highly similar to previous situations you’ve faced over and over. Managers who have honed their System 1 thinking and are in a position to apply it are effective and powerful— they project a sense of mastery. In fact, System 1 thinking at its best can literally seem magical. For example, magicians such as Penn & Teller use painstaking System 2 thinking to develop their illusions, and then practice them to the point where they require no System 2 thinking at all to perform, no matter how spontaneous they may seem to onlookers. Every possibility in performance is handled by System 1 thinking.

Penn & Teller Demonstrate System 1 Thinking

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Unfortunately, when business conditions change many managers continue to apply the same System 1 thinking and cannot understand why the company’s situation continues to decline. Why is this? It is certainly not that companies move on such a short time scale that only System 1 thinking is applicable. And it is also not often a shortage of managers trained in System 2 thinking.

The answer is that applying System 2 thinking in an organizational context requires managers to shed their “cloak of invincibility” and demonstrate willingness to re-think the organization’s processes as a unified system rather than as a collection of parts. This usually requires the input of all stakeholders and the help of methodical analysts trained in systems thinking techniques such as the Theory of Constraints. The apparent loss of direct control this kind of program entails is what causes managers to resist. But the positive view (setting aside the potential for great improvement in the business itself) is that successful implementation of such comprehensive change is a true leadership challenge to which only the best managers rise.

Work to increase your awareness of the roles that System 1 and System 2 thinking play in your personal and work life, and let that awareness provide you additional choices— both for solving problems and for taking advantage of opportunities that come your way.

Flying Logic Writeup in TidBITS

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Today Matt Neuburg posted a nice writeup of Flying Logic in the well-regarded TidBITS newsletter.

Read the whole thing here. A short quote:

You could learn about the Theory of Constraints and develop a diagram on paper, on a blackboard, or using a diagramming tool such as OmniGraffle; but Flying Logic has some important advantages. It is dedicated to the appropriate kinds of diagram, so its tools and automatic layout and formatting facilitate rapid, accurate diagram construction without your having to worry about presentational details. A diagram is constructed, developed, and rearranged by a series of extremely simple mouse and keyboard gestures; for example, a simple drag connects two entities causally, and the diagram magically rearranges itself to reflect this. Thus you spend your time entirely on content, letting Flying Logic take care of form.

Edge.org: Danny Kahneman on Thinking About Thinking

Edge.org has some excellent excellent excerpts from a two-day talk given by psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman on Thinking About Thinking, including video with transcripts. I find cognitive biases fascinating, and this man has devoted a large part of his distinguished career to studying them. Some quotes I found interesting:

On the Two Views of a Problem

I’m deeply ashamed of the rest of the story, but there was something really instructive happening here, because there are two ways of looking at a problem; the inside view and the outside view. The inside view is looking at your problem and trying to estimate what will happen in your problem. The outside view involves making that an instance of something else—of a class. When you then look at the statistics of the class, it is a very different way of thinking about problems. And what’s interesting is that it is a very unnatural way to think about problems, because you have to forget things that you know—and you know everything about what you’re trying to do, your plan and so on—and to look at yourself as a point in the distribution is a very un-natural exercise; people actually hate doing this and resist it.

On Knowing What Makes You Happy

Just to give you a sense of how little people know, my first experiment with predictive utility asked whether people knew how their taste for ice cream would change. We ran an experiment at Berkeley when we arrived, and advertised that you would get paid to eat ice cream. We were not short of volunteers. People at the first session were asked to list their favorite ice cream and were asked to come back. In the first experimental session they were given a regular helping of their favorite ice cream, while listening to a piece of music—Canadian rock music—that I had actually chosen. That took about ten-fifteen minutes, and then they were asked to rate their experience.

Afterward, they were also told, because they had undertaken to do so, that they would be coming to the lab every day at the same hour for I think eight working days, and every day they would have the same ice cream, the same music, and rate it. And they were asked to predict their rating tomorrow and their rating on the last day.

It turns out that people can’t do this. Most people get tired of the ice cream, but some of them get kind of addicted to the ice cream, and people do not know in advance which category they will belong to. The correlation between what the change that actually happened in their tastes and the change that they predicted was absolutely zero.

On Remembering Happiness vs. Being Happy

Millions of people have been asked the question, how satisfied are you with your life? That is a question to the remembering self, and there is a fair amount that we know about the happiness or the well-being of the remembering self. But the distinction between the remembering self and the experiencing self suggests immediately that there is another way to ask about well-being, and that’s the happiness of the experiencing self.

But first I thought I’d show you the basic puzzles of well-being. There is a line on the Easterlin Paradox that goes almost straight up, which is GDP per capita. The line that isn’t going anywhere is the percentage of people who say they are very happy. And that’s a remembering self-type of question. It’s one big puzzle of the well-being research, and it has gotten worse in the last two weeks because there are now new data on international comparisons that makes the puzzle even more surprising.

So what is the puzzle here? The puzzle is related to the affective forecasting that most people believe that circumstances like becoming richer will make them happier. It turns out that people’s beliefs about what will make them happier are mostly wrong, and they are wrong in a directional way, and they are wrong very predictably. And there is a story here that I think is interesting.

When people did studies of various categories of people, like the rich and the poor, you find differences in life satisfaction. But everybody looks at those differences is surprised by how small they are relative to the variability within each of these categories. You address the healthy and the unhealthy: very small differences.

Age—people don’t like the idea of aging, but, at least in the United States, people do not become less happy or less satisfied with their life as they age. So a lot of the standard beliefs that people have about life satisfaction turn out to be false.

On the Way We Develop Answers

There seems to be a very general psychological principle at work here, which is that sometimes when you are asked a question that is difficult, the mind doesn’t stay silent if it doesn’t have the answer. The mind produces something, and what it produces very characteristically is the answer to an easier but related question. That’s one of the heuristics of good problem-solving, but it is a system one operation, which is an operation that takes place by itself.

You ask people, How many murders are there every year in Michigan, and the median answer is about a hundred. You ask people how many murders are there every year in Detroit, and the median estimate is about two hundred. And again, you can see what is happening. The people who notice that, “oh, Michigan: Detroit is there” will not make that mistake. Or if asked the two questions next to each other, many people will understand and will do it right.

The point is that life serves us problems one at a time; we’re not served with problems where the logic of the comparison is immediately evident so that we’ll be spared the mistake. We’re served with problems one at a time, and then as a result we answer in ways that do not correspond to logic.

When I was living in Canada, we asked people how much money they would be willing to pay to clean lakes from acid rain in the Halliburton region of Ontario, which is a small region of Ontario. We asked other people how much they would be willing to pay to clean lakes in all of Ontario.

People are willing to pay the same amount for the two quantities because they are paying to participate in the activity of cleaning a lake, or of cleaning lakes. How many lakes there are to clean is not their problem. This is a mechanism I think people should be familiar with. The idea that when you’re asked a question, you don’t answer that question, you answer another question that comes more readily to mind. That question is typically simpler; it’s associated, it’s not random; and then you map the answer to that other question onto whatever scale there is—it could be a scale of centimeters, or it could be a scale of pain, or it could be a scale of dollars, but you can recognize what is going on by looking at the variation in these variables. I could give you a lot of examples because one of the major tricks of the trade is understanding this attribute substitution business. How people answer questions.

COMMENT: So for example in the Save the Children—types of programs, they focus you on the individual.

KAHNEMAN: Absolutely. There is even research showing that when you show pictures of ten children, it is less effective than when you show the picture of a single child. When you describe their stories, the single instance is more emotional than the several instances and it translates into the size of contributions.

Sciral Introduces Flying Logic Planning Support Software

For Immediate Release

LOS ANGELES/EWORLDWIRE/Sep 24, 2007 — Today Sciral (“PSY-ruhl”) released the first version of its innovative planning support software, “Flying Logic.” Originally developed for a major defense contractor as part of its advanced concepts development program and targeted for use in military Course of Action Analysis (COA), Flying Logic uses a patented, highly visual interface to support techniques employed by strategists, planners, and consultants in the creation of plans at the earliest, most fluid stages.

“We set out to create a fresh, visual approach to the sort of critical thinking that military planners must apply to every mission, and realized that their methods had much in common with those used by professionals that specialize in business process reengineering and process improvement – they both have the goal of creating new, better situations out of existing, problematic situations,” said Robert McNally, Sciral’s president and the designer of Flying Logic.

Like spreadsheets do for financial planners, Flying Logic encourages strategic planners to play “what if” with cause-and-effect scenarios, giving them the ability to try many more possibilities in a shorter time than would be possible with any other kind of software. Planners focus on their planning, and Flying Logic takes care of the layout and formatting details, including using smooth, animated transitions as the diagram changes and grows. “Flying Logic is not a drawing program even though it is used to create diagrams,” said McNally. “It is a new kind of spreadsheet – a spreadsheet for general rational thinking.”

McNally continued, “When a system has problems, learning what really needs changing – and what to change to – encompasses a set of methodologies that are distinct from traditional project management. Answering these questions becomes even more complex in the world of organizational strategy: root causes must be identified, solutions created and tested, obstacles identifed and overcome, and negative outcomes mitigated or circumvented. There are proven practices for accomplishing these goals, but until now there has been no targeted software support for quickly and easily creating the cause-and-effect trees necessary to think them through.”

Flying Logic is available for Windows and Mac OS X in three editions at special introductory prices: Professional ($149), Personal ($79), and Student ($39). All editions are available for immediate download from FlyingLogic.com and include a fully-functional 30-day trial.

About Sciral

In business since 2000, Sciral develops innovative productivity tools for individuals and organizations.

CONTACT:
Robert McNally
Sciral
157 N. Glendora Ave.
Suite 209
Glendora, CA 91741
PHONE. 626-963-7760

KEYWORDS: software, productivity, strategy, business, improvement, consistency, flying logic, software, planning, project management

SOURCE: Sciral

Flying Logic: Software for Visual Thinking

Whew! Today I’m finally ready to talk about the secret software project I have spent more than three years on: Flying Logic.

Flying Logic logo

I’ve had a really great client for the past several years: a small independent think tank near where I live in Los Angeles that has major clients in industries ranging from entertainment to automotive to furniture to defense. This little think tank is where these big players come when they want “imagineers for hire—” in other words, when they want some of the most highly skilled out-of-the-box thinkers to put their heads together and come up with some really innovative concepts— and prove that they will really work. (Sorry, these companies must remain nameless for now.)

So, one of the tasks their defense contractor client gave them was that of creating a better tool for Course of Action Analysis (COA), an essential part of the process in any military venture. My client in turn specializes in finding people like me— who have experience innovating in areas ranging from robotics to architecture to software interfaces (my specialty) and turning them loose on these problems demanding creative solutions.

Now, military planning is something I know very little about. But I could tell two things right off the bat: 1) It shares a lot in common with business process improvement, and 2) The artist conceptions of a new COA tool they had shown their client would never work (although they did get their client’s imagination moving in the right direction.) So (as is often the case) I found myself in the usually unenviable position of telling the client what they really want.

Fortunately, this wasn’t your usual client. Since this is imagineering, they were quite open to my ideas.

A couple of years before this time, I was VP of Engineering for a startup in the late dot-com boom era. Although they cratered like so many of their peers, the CEO of that company fatefully introduced me to a set of remarkable techniques and practices known as the Theory of Constraints. In particular, he recommended a book called Thinking for a Change: Putting the TOC Thinking Processes to Use. It was an easy yet exciting read: it described a visual language of cause and effect used for improving any dynamic system— business or personal.

This was great! I am a very visual person, and here were a set of visual techniques that could be used to describe a seemingly intractable situation, discover what needed to change, discover what to change to, and finally discover how to cause the changes that will lead not just to incremental improvement, but often to radical improvement. The techniques can be used by children to resolve conflicts, couples to improve marriages, or Fortune 500 companies to streamline manufacturing and multiply their markets, and they are especially applicable to groups containing diverse points of view. I remember thinking that for a complex situation, the diagrams needed could also become quite complex, and the suggested tools for creating these diagrams (whiteboards and typical drawing software) really weren’t up to the task: what was really needed was a sort of visual spreadsheet for rational thought.

But I was busy with other things at the time, and shelved the idea… until my client asked me for my take on a new COA tool. I showed them Thinking for a Change and pointed out that the techniques it described— using cause-and-effect reasoning to create new realities— closely mirrored the methods used by military planners. I said I wanted to create software where someone working with these cause-and-effect techniques could just say what boxes needed to be in the diagram and how they were related, and have the boxes and lines all fly around by themselves into the best configuration— the software would take care of all the little graphical details no matter how complex things became, and leave the human to do what they do best: creatively solve the problem at hand. To their great credit that they gave me full creative control over the project pretty much from the time I began my fanatical handwaving.

Of course, being a “Mac person,” and knowing that my client doesn’t produce finished, commercial products for their clients but only takes them to the proof-of-concept stage, I wrote the software as a native Mac application. Here again my client had no problem— they believe in giving the creative talent all the best tools that they’re comfortable with, and no-one wants to get real work done with a mere proof-of-concept. …At least that’s what we all thought until the software reached the stage where I could really demonstrate how it worked. Then their clients and the various government planners I gave demos to (even inside the Pentagon) began to ask for copies— they actually wanted to start using it right then! They were offered copies of the existing version but pretty much everyone in government uses Windows, and my software just wouldn’t play there— although I did get a few reports of executives justifying the purchase of Macs so they could run it.

We discussed what to do. My client wanted to be able to put the technology into the customers’ hands, but I wasn’t about to start writing native Windows software, so that was out. However, I did have a lot of experience writing in Java, although I had never used it to write anything so graphically intense— one of my selling points for going with the Mac in the first place was its great facility for graphics. Would Java be up to the task?

I did some research, and concluded that Java technology had advanced a long way since I had last looked at it— enough that the graphics could be drawn smoothly and the animation required might be fast enough. After a few more weeks of experimenting, I knew we had a winner— my software could be re-written to run anywhere Java would run (including Mac and Windows), and the performance would be excellent.

One of the sayings we programmers have is “Plan to throw one away. You will anyway.” So I embarked on writing version 2.0 of my software in pure Java, which became version 1.0 of Flying Logic. One of the great advantages of having to do something all over again is that you get to apply all the lessons learned you learned the first time around— and I had gotten plenty of excellent feedback on my Mac-only version.

From early in the project, I had come to understand that neither my client nor my client’s client (the defense contractor) were in the business of publishing shrink wrapped software— their speciality is integrating useful technology into larger systems for defense and other government customers. The results of my work would be broken into bits and used as they saw fit. But unless something was done, a stand-alone product would probably never see the light of day.

But I’ve never liked doing something cool and then just shelving it (especially something having such great potential), so I began a conversation with my clients about a deal to distribute the software as a finished commercial product. To my delight (and to make a long story short) they agreed and today I launched Flying Logic.

I am convinced of the critical importance of sound reasoning and its role in building solid paths to improvement in every facet of society. This opportunity has put me on a professional and personal mission to increase awareness of these essential subjects. If you are of like mind I hope you’ll check out my software and tell others about it— selling rational thought has never been an easy task!

Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” I hope you’ll agree that Flying Logic is like a great lever with your mind at one end, and the world at the other.

— Robert McNally