A critical analysis of the existence of Santa Claus

  1. No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.
  2. There are 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn’t (appear to) handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total – 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census)rate of 3.5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes. One presumes there’s at least one good child in each.
  3. Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second. This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding etc. This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second – a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.
  4. The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized Lego set (2 pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that “flying reindeer” (see point #1) could pull TEN TIMES the normal anoint, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload – not even counting the weight of the sleigh – to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison – this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth.
  5. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance – this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecrafts re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each. In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake.The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.
In conclusion

If Santa ever did deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he’s dead now.

— Author unknown

An “agile”​ model of creative outcomes

The more I have studied and begun to practice the Agile methodology, the more I have discovered it is not strictly a new way of working. It is a cultural paradigm shift. The culture that supports Agile is one of transparency, accountability, humility (strongly coupled with confidence) and trust. Its purpose is to facilitate both doing the right work and doing the work right. Because Agile is built on the premise of valuing people, working products, collaboration, and change over rigid bureaucracy and strict policy, the natural outcome of Agile is, or ideally should be, innovation.

When we talk about creating an agile culture, what we really mean is how we express our creative capabilities to change or improve our circumstances. Creativity is an innate capability every human possesses. It’s at the heart of what drives our curiosity and passion; it is what fuels our desire to grow, both personally and professionally. It thrives in environments where ideas are welcomed, even if not adopted because they are free to be adapted. Ideas in and of themselves are conduits of creative thought that spark other creative thought. Cultures in which ideas are welcome tend also to be those that allow for experimentation, and the iterative reworking of ideas leads to breakthrough. No one will risk an idea a second time if the first one is shot down. And few ideas thrive in environments hostile to change. Agile cultures are, or should be, fertile soil for cultivating the idea seeds that lead to rich solutions.

If Agile is the soil of innovation, I see Design Thinking as the fertilizer that enriches the soil and makes it receptive to growth; the Miracle-Gro that accelerates ideation and discovery. Since its focus is empathizing with end users, it is the catalyst to discover new opportunities that lead to creative outcomes. The team I work on at IBM has found seeds of novel thought germinate faster when infused with Design Thinking because of the intense focus on the user experience over new a feature set. Ideas are ultimately enriched with clarity of outcome instead of excitement for new tools.

As an ecosystem for organizational growth, there are strong linkages between Creative Problem Solving (CPS) and the Agile and Design Thinking practices. CPS is a well-known, well-researched methodology for bringing novelty to problems, challenges, and opportunities. When we see CPS at the base of any methodology for process improvement, we begin see every process as an expression of creative opportunity. When we look at software development and product design as halves of the same whole, we might begin to consider how all of our work for customers and users is an exercise in harnessing our collective creative energy. Our purpose, ultimately, is to continuously produce something novel that is useful to our customers and end users. To me the implications of this thought are that Agile, Design Thinking, Lean, Scrum and other such practices are elegant frameworks for channeling our creative energy through a specific process to produce a specific type of creative product or outcome.

The Systems Model of Creativity, as articulated by my colleague Dr. John Cabra, is one way of looking at any process improvement effort as a means to producing novel and useful outcomes and therefore, creative change. Substitute “Design Thinking” for process, and you have output specific to empathizing with users. Plug in “Agile” and you have a pipeline for continuously improving a product or service.

This is not to suggest a simple “plug-and-play” model of cultivating innovation. However, considering the strong alignment Agile and Design Thinking practices have with CPS, there is strong evidence to suggest the union of the three offer tremendous synergy. This specific area of focus is rich in potential exploration.