Not everything has to do with Operations. You do have to build a product.
I love learning about visual design, and not just like what makes pretty graphics that look like gumdrops – more specifically I enjoy reading things like Edward Tufte and his ideas about the visual presentation of data. I think this is a massively mis-understood (or just never studied) topic that everyone has to actually deal with on a regular basis – they just don’t realize it. Execs love spreadsheets, statistics, number, and evidence. But what really impacts someone is seeing a lot of statistical data represented as a graphic that they can quickly absorb. Poorly represented data is often misunderstood – and well represented data has a huge impact.
One area where visual presentation is tough is maps. Similar to network diagrams or flow diagrams, it’s really hard to display a lot of information in an area and make sure the viewers attention is directed to the right places. The blog post below talks about some observations regarding the readability of Google Maps and what they have done to make their maps more readable than others. I think it’s neat – and if you can apply this same type of logic to your network diagrams, then maybe this can qualify as Operational in nature.
P.S. If you have never heard of Edward Tufte, go to amazon now, search for his name, and buy one of the top 3 books that come up in the search. He is a master at breaking down what leads to understanding and misunderstanding when it comes to visually representing data. If you have a chance to attend one of his talks – do it – you will not regret it.