Eulerian Path: Never commit the same mistake twice

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Reylito A.H. Elbo

Reylito A.H. Elbo

TWO golfers were annoyed by an unusually slow twosome in front of them. One of the offending pair was standing aimlessly while the other player was searching diligently in the rough. “Why don’t you help your friend find his ball?,” cried one of the impatient golfers.

The reply was vexingly succinct: “He got his ball. He’s looking for his club.”

You’ll appreciate the math and science behind this story if you have a sense of humor, and you would always appreciate one. While humor is best appreciated at random, the next best thing that we can do is to follow a disciplined process to discover other opportunities that are best suited to business management, rather than show anger, in that golfing situation.

It’s one reasonable approach to avoid trouble with fellow golfers. Pause for a minute to think about a management solution to such problem. Seems crazy and unnatural, right? Of course, but that’s what innovators are doing—you have to stand way above irritation, if not anger by positioning yourself from a different perspective.


You know what I mean. You can choose to see a glass as half-empty or half-full. Abraham Lincoln said: “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” In other words, while few golfers experience such trouble from time to time, the overwhelming majority enjoy their golf to the max and without any problem.

I don’t play golf but I guess the best way to have a different perspective is to learn from the Eulerian Path, which means a trail in a graph which touches every point without doing it twice or thrice. The trail was first discussed by Leonhard Euler when he attempted to solve the famous Seven Bridges of Konisberg problem in 1736.

In lean thinking, the Eulerian Path is best applied by mizumashi (material handlers) who deliver parts and supplies to every factory work station without repeating the process or going back and forth. Otherwise, it is a wasteful spending of time, money and effort. The Eulerian Path can also be applied by LBC delivery mail service or similar businesses, and much more by the Philippine Postal Corp. or whatever is left of it, even when the volume of hard mail started to decline many years back.

Going back to golfing, one of the biggest challenges facing golf buddies is how to develop an understanding of the unwanted problems they face inside the green. “I’m here to play and relax, but not to think” or so they say.

I can tell golfers how to play, relax and think at the same time. Don’t go with a female caddy. However, most golfers actually don’t do a very good job in heeding that simple advice. And too frequently, that advice leads to nowhere. So here I am asking myself what I’m doing to golfers some of which have a warped perspective.

Now I try to follow my own advice about the Eulerian Path. You only have to ask questions like—“What is the next best thing that I can do given this problem?” Albert Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”

That means you really have to think outside of the box, no matter how trite it may appear to be. The truth of the matter is, you even have to kick the box out of your face. Back in 1997, when I started my consultancy—Kairos Management Technologies—I was oftentimes faced with the question: “How can I face other consultancies for the small portion of the market that often purchased management seminars at low rates?”

My solution was to offer cutting-edge, fast-track, special colloquia and benchmarking series designed to attract top-level corporate executives, not ordinary participants. I flipped the problem on its head. Instead of offering cut-throat, low-priced products, I doubled our seminar rates and offered never-to-be-repeated topics at Makati Shangri-La.

It’s my own way of applying the Blue Ocean Strategy of W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne. Whatever strategy you want to apply, the best thing to do is look for opportunities where people are facing some limitations that prevent them from solving a problem. Then, go there and solve it.

But whatever happens, don’t interrupt your competitor who is making a mistake, even when he’s in a golf course.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to elbonomics @gmail.com or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn for his random management thoughts.

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