Play & Success: Capgemini’s Data Science Comptetition

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Einstein once said that “Play is the highest form of research”.  I agree. Play is such an important part of what we all do and surely a driving force for good in the world.  We at Capgemini are sponsoring an international data science competition this summer and so I think it’s a good time to […]

Einstein once said that “Play is the highest form of research”.  I agree.

Play is such an important part of what we all do and surely a driving force for good in the world.  We at Capgemini are sponsoring an international data science competition this summer and so I think it’s a good time to ‘play’ with this subject some more.  

“Play is the highest form of research”

One of the great things about life is playing, it’s fun!  So it should be and work too, after all it is what we spend many hours doing. 
We all play, humans and animals, especially the young.  There are plenty of reasons suggested for this, development of co-ordination, collaboration, experimentation etc. 
Would Lionel Messi be such a good footballer if he hadn’t spent a childhood playing in the street with his friends?
Or how about Einstein, he was essentially playing when wondering what would happen if a train passed him at the speed of light and then turned its light on.  Yeah, pretty interesting!
So, this blog is about play, and competition, and fun, and just how they make the world a better place, especially in one of my areas of play – analytics and data science.


Data Science Play

The Capgemini hosted international data science ‘play’ event at our beautiful Les Fontains chateau near Paris will be a Data Science Game for post-graduate students from a global network of universities led by French Grandes Ecoles.  Entrants will be given challenges to solve using Data Science, Predictive Analytics, and Data Visualization.  Cool stuff.


Why Play Works

It’s fun:  People are much more creative and effective at ‘brain work’ when they are playing.  Intrinsic motivation (like fun) is a far more important driver of performance than extrinsic motivation (like money or punishment).  See this great TED talk by Dan Pink.  http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation

Individuals develop:  In play animals get to practice what they know, perfect techniques in a safe environment, and experiment with new things.

We learn from others:  When someone plays with others they become inspired, they learn what is possible, see the best moves or thoughts of someone else, and get an opportunity to emulate them.

Team cohesion is created:  participants get to understand how they can work best with others, what combined tactics work best, and how they can leverage the knowledge or skills of others to create something bigger than what they are capable of alone.  Just look at the England football team  🙂

Winning behaviour revealed: Winning is usually fun too, but more importantly it highlights what works, what the best solutions might be in a particular scenario.
All of this is essentially an evolutionary mechanism.  I’m fascinated by what we can learn from nature and I’ve written extensively about the application of evolutionary mechanisms to human challenges. See Biomimicry at http://ow.ly/OhS4r
Evolution creates great solutions to complex problems through inheritance, mutation, and competition.   Play is a fantastic example of this.


Play in Business

Each time my work-friends and I whiteboard out a solution, say an information architecture or a delivery approach to a particular project, we’re playing…  ‘competing’ with each other for the best ideas, learning from each other’s experience, and experimenting in a safe environment to find a great solution…. even better if this is with the client too.  This is a response to ‘Joy’s Law’;
“No matter where you are, most smart people are working somewhere else” 
(Bill Joy)

No matter how smart I am, most of the good ideas will come from collaboration…
Crowd sourcing is an example of corporate playing on a different level.  Some examples:

Kaggle is a Silicon Valley-based leading platform for predictive modelling competitions with the slogan. “making data science a sport.”   At the time of writing there is a prize of US$ 100,000 to identify a leading indicator of blindness.

The Netflix Competition offered a grand prize of US$1,000,000 for the best algorithm for predicting customer’s ratings of videos.  The team that won the prize beat Netflix’s own algorithm for predicting ratings by 10%

Capgemini Norway worked with Oslo city authorities to develop an app to crowd source the perceived road safety dangers along school routes from school children themselves.

The Imitation Game, a film about Computer Scientist and 2nd world war codebreaker, Alan Turing shows how he published a crossword in the London Daily Telegraph in 1942 to encourage the best applicants to apply
for a job on his team.


Have Fun

Whether you’re in the data science competition or not, whatever you do, remember to have fun and play games…  The impact may stretch way beyond the smile on your face.

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