Sunday Reads #123: The Grand Unified Theory of Management

+ why vaccine patents are not the constraint.

Hope you’re keeping safe and sane. It is a troubling time in many parts of the world.

Welcome to the latest edition of Sunday Reads, where we'll look at a topic (or more) in business, strategy, or society, and use them to build our cognitive toolkits for business.

If you’re new here, don’t forget to check out the compilation of my best articles: The best of Jitha.me. I’m sure you’ll find something you like.

And here’s the last edition of my newsletter, in case you missed it: Sunday Reads #122: The Universe Beyond your Filter Bubble.

Before we get into this week’s newsletter, a request - India needs help! The second wave of COVID has ravaged many parts of India. Hospitals are out of oxygen and people are suffering. If you can support, I recommend donating to GiveIndia’s COVID relief initiatives.

Donate to GiveIndia

This week, let’s talk about the Theory of Constraints. It’s the closest we have to a Grand Unified Theory of Management. It cuts straight to the problems that matter, be it in business or your personal life.

Next, let’s apply the Theory of Constraints to the COVID-19 vaccine shortage. Everyone’s clamoring to waive IP rights to the vaccines, so all countries can manufacture them. Will that help increase vaccine supply to the world?

Here's the deal - Dive as deep as you want. Read my thoughts first. If you find them intriguing, read the main articles. If you want to learn more, check out the related articles and books. Oh, and do subscribe if you haven’t 😊.


1. The Grand Unified Theory of Management.

The Theory of Constraints is the closest we have to a Grand Unified Theory of Management. It cuts straight to the problems that matter, be it in business or your personal life.

It’s a simple statement:

Any system with a goal has one limit. Worrying about anything other than that limit is a waste of resources.

Eli Goldratt propounded it in his 1984 book, The Goal, as a series of observations on assembly line manufacturing. But it applies to nearly everything.

Why is it so powerful? And why do we not do this, although it seems totally obvious?

When your business struggles to deliver its output, or you struggle to lose weight despite all your attempts – it’s usually because of one of three reasons (and a fourth meta-reason).

Read on at the blog, to understand how to cut through the noise and solve the problems that matter.


2. Patents are not the constraint!

There’s been a lot of public outcry about patents for the COVID vaccine. About how the US needs to forcibly waive IP rights of the pharma companies. As the rationale goes, this will help other countries manufacture the vaccines faster, and help us defeat COVID-19.

Sorry folks, but this is a waste of time.

Yes, there are things we can do (and we are morally obligated to do) today to save millions of lives. But waiving vaccine IP is – quite fundamentally – not one of those things.

Remember the Theory of Constraints:

Any system with a goal has one limit. Worrying about anything other than that limit is a waste of resources.

So, is Vaccine IP the bottleneck to worry about? Or is any progress on this front an illusion, because the real bottleneck is elsewhere?

And even if Vaccine IP is the bottleneck to worry about, is this the right way to solve it?

I discuss these questions and more, on the blog.


3. Stuff that blew my mind 🤯

This demonstration of Neuralink’s brain-computer interface is amazing! This is now officially something that exists.

Tyler Cowen’s post about this (where I found it) is hilarious.

I was also amazed by Magnus Carlsen’s prodigious chess memory. Watch the video to the end.


4. Stuff that made me laugh.

Now all I need is to find a rat and Neuralink it, and I’ll be a bitcoin billionaire.

And this just made me laugh out loud!


That's it for this week! Hope you liked the articles. Drop me a line (just hit reply or leave a comment through the button below) and let me know what you think.

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PS. I’m slowing down a little bit for the next few weeks. Will be back to weekly soon!

As always, hope you’re staying safe, healthy, and sane.

Until next time,

Jitha