My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0115

Posted August 2, 2015 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, Design thinking, Motivation, My Experiences

Tags:

First blog of the year?

It is a sad moment for me to start my first blog of the year with news of passing away of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. There was a flurry of condolence messages and remembrances of this great personality in the news and social media for the past one week or so. Lot has been said about this great man and hence I will not repeat any of those here. The bodily Abdul Kalam has left us but his vision and teachings will ever remain eternal. I want my readers to focus on one thing he wanted from all of us – to be Unique. I quote from one of his speeches which has remained with me forever.

 

Quote:

The question is: are you willing to become a unique personality? Let me share an experience.

I have, so far, met 12 million youth in India and abroad, in a decade’s time. I learnt, “every youth wants to be unique, that is, YOU! But the world all around you, is doing its best, day and night, to make you just “everybody else”.

The challenge, my young friends, is that you have to fight the hardest battle, which any human being can ever imagine to fight; and never stop fighting until you arrive at your destined place, that is, a UNIQUE YOU! Friends what will be your tools to fight this battle. There are four criteria for building a unique personality, what are they: have a great aim in life, continuously acquire the knowledge, work hard and persevere to realize the great achievement.”

 

 

If you want to further get inspired by him, please read his book” You are unique” written and published in 2012.

 

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

I remain greatly inspired by Denis Waitely, who, in his book titled “Empires of the Mind” talks about “what worked yesterday, won’t work today”. Again, it was Dr Abdul Kalam who inspired me to read this. I have quoted a few below with my own modifications for my readers to ponder on what works today may not work tomorrow. So are you thinking about this?

 

  1. Yesterday – natural resources defined power. Today – knowledge is power ( when shared)
  2. Yesterday – Hierarchy was the mode. Today- synergy is the mandate (move away from ‘me’ to “We”)
  3. Yesterday – leaders commanded and controlled. Today – leaders empower and coach (they are facilitators- leaders would lead by asking thought provoking questions)
  4. Yesterday – shareholders came first. Today – customers come first (they will be everything)
  5. Yesterday – employees took order. Today – teams make decisions (supervisors will vanish)
  6. Yesterday – seniority signified status. Today – creativity drives status (innovation will be your daily agenda)
  7. Yesterday – production determined availability. Today – quality is the key (innovate or perish)
  8. Yesterday – value was extra. Today – value is everything (keep adding value)
  9. Yesterday – profits were earned through expediency. Today – Work with integrity and succeed with integrity (integrity will improve sustainability)

 

Get bored and start thinking

 

Two months back I went to an eye doctor to check my vision and was made to wait for almost an hour. What did I do? I put on my blue tooth speaker and started listening to music and at the same time started surfing internet, following people on FB and intermittently replying to “Whatsapp”. Did I get bored? Absolutely not! I go back to the 80’s and was playing back what I did waiting for an appointment. Scan around and get fixated on a dull wall calendar or make faces expressing one’s boredom and hoping that receptionist will get the message and call you quickly. Did I get bored? (Rhetoric). Of course, nobody likes to be bored but by avoiding the chance of getting bored, we have also lost the time we used to have to think and process. Those days waiting for an appointment, since there is nothing much to do, you will pay attention to various thoughts coming to you in that empty time space… which was an escape from day to day happening. Today I have no escape until I consciously create one for myself.

In order to focus, we need to escape to focus. Get inspired by Bill Gates, takes a week off twice a year from his busy schedule just to think and read. He has consistently done this for the past three decades. You need those escape and think. Let me announce to all that I am going to follow this from this year. Since I have lost first six months of the year.. I will have one week off just for reading this year. What are you waiting for?

Date literally

As some of you know, Courtyard Marriott at Secaucus was my 2nd home for the past couple of years. Naturally, I was known to most house staff at this hotel. One of the receptionists always taunted me by asking for a date whenever I was getting out of the hotel on weekends. In one such occasion I told her that she will have a date during my next visit. So when she spotted me in the next visit… she reminded my promise of a date. I said “give me a moment” and rushed back to my room and brought a packet of Arabian dates and gave it to her. I said to her “I have kept my promise of giving you a date”. It was an experience to see the various emotions from her face but sportingly she said “Mr Suresh you are smart”.

Dessert

 

Imagination leads to creativity

Creativity blossoms thinking

Thinking provides knowledge

Knowledge makes you great ( of course when you share it)

I promise that I will write more frequently in 2015 as compared to 2014- With that promise I bid good bye with my usual signature “Life is Good”.

PS: Another promised fulfilled as this blog is only 1000 words.

 

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 1214

Posted December 30, 2014 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, inspiration, leadership, Motivation, My Experiences

Tags: , , , ,

Last blog of the year?

People who are following my blogs must have noticed that my blogs 0714 to 1114 has gone missing. I was tempted to write on few topics and even had a sketch and outline on what I wanted to write but did not follow through as I thought those topics would create controversy in my social and professional circle and therefore reserved it for better and appropriate time. I am sure this is sounding curious and this will raise many thoughts on what those topics could be. Have patience it will be pressed (sic) sooner than later. I did not want to give a simple explanation for my disappearance such as “I went on sabbatical”.

Another year has come to an end and like any other year this year has been different in many ways. Couple of thought provoking events that stand out, from my perspective, which we need to be aware and conscious of

  1. Disappearance of three Aircrafts  this year – Is this a noise or a signal
  2. Uber rising to fame – Can the disruptive idea/model be copied in other businesses (albeit recent  bad publicity)
  3. New way of terrorist thinking- Recent attacks on school Children in Pakistan.

As you stay with these thoughts, I will write more on these topics in 2015.

Let me take this opportunity to wish all my readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

Back to the future

In early 80’s, an ordinary movie ticket used to cost RS 4( 50 cents)   and  Coke or its substitute was around Re 1 per 200 ml ( 12 cents based on exchange rate prevailing in those days). As the years progressed invention of VHS and mushrooming of cable television made access to movie very easy. Many liked the concept of viewing movie in the comfort of their drawing room or bedroom. Further invention of DVD made the quality of viewing better. The digital content also posed a big challenge to anti- piracy. Many theatres in US went bankrupt and people seriously questioned the survival of movie industry. Few television movies and success of soap operas added fuel to the fire. In India the concept of multiplex was at nascent stage (one could spot few in Chennai but not in other cities) and no business was willing to invest on a sunset industry.

Fast forward to present

Transformers: Age of extinction grossed over a billion dollar in 2014. Iron Man 3 grossed a similar amount in 2013. Avatar was the highest revenue earner with $2,7 billion in 2004. Coming to Bollywood, PK an Indian movie grossed around $36 million in 11 days.  Lingga, a regional Indian movie, has grossed $6 million in first six days.

What has changed since 1980? An industry once categorized as sunset started grossing billions of dollars in revenue? Take a guess – to me it is a four letter word. Don’t let your imagination get wild as I was referring to IMAX.

IMAX story:

IMAX is about filming in IMAX cameras and using a different film print as compared to normal print and projecting them in a curved screen that gave a unique viewing experience. The initial experiment of projecting a movie was confined to museums showing natural documentaries as the proposition was simple and less expensive. In 90’s it started licensing its technology to its theatres. This meant an investment of around $ 5million to create space for projection and cost of projector (as normal projector can’t process IMAX format). This was seen as expensive given that the movie industry was seen as sinking. Further, in the pre-digital era, IMAX version of the film print was $30,000 as compared to $1,000 for a normal print. An IMAX print was bulky and it needed extra efforts to lift to the projection room. All these factors made things difficult for IMAX. IMAX also tried producing their own movie using IMAX cameras but the venture was not that successful. Although, everyone acknowledged that IMAX experience was much better than normal theatre experience, the cost and the effort was not worth it even though the initial investment got reduced from $5 million to $1.2 million.

In early 2000, the company took the strategy of installing IMAX projection free of cost and let the theatres deal with the cost of renovating the space (which was roughly 10% of initial investment). In return, IMAX received 12.5% as revenue share for providing the projectors. The theatres could charge at least 20% more on IMAX format of the movie. Further, another technology breakthrough of converting existing movies to IMAX format helped them to make a dent in their market share. But these were not sufficient reason for them to celebrate as their main goal was changing the way Hollywood was producing pictures using IMAX technology and giving differential experience.

They continued to struggle as there were still not enough believers in investing in IMAX. Changing the Hollywood way of doing business over 100 years was another barrier. No bankers came forward to give them line of credit and shares were traded at paltry 55 cents and effort for LBO failed miserably. Mid 2000 was sternest test for IMAX leadership in keeping the morale and motivation of their employees high.

In 2006 another technology breakthrough of replacing their projectors with a plug and play hard drives (costing $150) helped them install in more theatres. In the next few years network of IMAX screens grew from some 350 to 700.

Eventually, their perseverance and new business model of revenue share ( 20% to IMAX) paid off in 2009 with the release of Avatar in IMAX screens. IMAX made $250 million dollar in revenue. It was a win-win situation as theatres could charge premium on tickets for IMAX version and shared portion of that to IMAX. Currently IMAX is adding some 100-150 screens every year and has penetrated various geographies.

Today the stock price is hovering around $30 per share ( as compared to 55 cents few years ago) You can make an impactful change in the industry you are operating with and its reported revenue is close to $300 million in 2014.

You can make impactful change in the industry you are operating by remaining flexible on your business model and keep innovating. The company took several wrong turns before navigating into the right path. So my recommendation is to keep plan B and C handy to change over quickly

By the way, today in a normal theatre a movie ticket would cost you RS 100( $1.40 cents) and IMAX Rs 250 ( $4) and bottle of coke costs approx. Rs 12 (20 cents)  for 200 ml. Coke price increased by 60% over three decades whereas movie tickets increased three fold( all in dollar terms)  Who would have predicted this two decades ago.

Dessert

“Change your thoughts and you change your world” – Norman Vincent Peale

I promise that I will write more frequently in 2015 as compared to 2014. With that promise I bid good bye with my usual signature “Life is Good”.

PS: IMAX is thinking of coming out with affordable home theatre. Will this create an impact on the theatres? Take a guess.

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0414

Posted May 25, 2014 by Suresh MK
Categories: Humor, inspiration, leadership, My Experiences, politics, Uncategorized

Is India Inc finally getting out of family (sic) politics ?
My last blog was one of my rare political blog and was thrilled with some of my desires coming true. So I thought of venturing into writing my second political blog and wanted to see the outcome. When this blog hits the web, India would be ready to embrace a new PM and refreshingly the country has a given their mandate to one single party. This has not happened in the past two decades as the outcome in previous elections was either fractured majority or coalition comprised with vested interest of regional parties.
Another outcome of the election is that political parties ruled by the family has been heavily punished. Nationwide congress party controlled by Gandhi family (mother and son) had to bite the dust. In other states viz Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Tamil Nadu, three different political parties controlled by father and son combination have been decimated. This is no coincidence and do not treat this as noise but certainly a signal. Unfortunately, the parties have not learnt from it as no heads have rolled nor the families have taken responsibility for their defeats. Does this surprise anyone?
My unsolicited advice to Congress party and other parties controlled by family: Wake up! The writing is on the wall. I suggest that the family members resign from their party posts and let the party be taken over by efficient talent. This election has clearly taught the political parties one lesson which is ‘reward for performance’. Mr Modi, who led the campaign of BJP was rewarded for good governance in Gujarat.
Some initial indication leads me to believe that Modi is going to perform. He clearly sent a message in his acceptance speech by asking his party men to focus on serving the nation rather than positions. His emotional speech was pointer that he will empathize with poor people and take appropriate actions to lift their lives. He did surprise many people by inviting heads of state of all neighbouring countries including Pakistan. He did not worry about opposition from his own alliance partner for inviting Srilankan Prime Minister. In fact his invitation to Sri Lanka’s PM resulted in counter good gesture from Sri Lanka of freeing of few hundreds of Tamil fisherman. Like a typical corporate CEO, he has asked all the cabinet secretaries to give a presentation about their vision for the next five years. If this trend continues, he will surely create a reputation of zero tolerance for nonsense and reward for performance.
Mr Modi if would benefit from roping in Dr Manmohan Singh as one of economic advisor as I feel that this man has lot to offer and Congress Party made him ineffective. I still can’t forget how he turned around the financials of the country between 1991 and 1995. He deserves some respect and dignity.

Lastly, one advise on the newly formed AAP (common man party), who failed miserably in the election, please use this as a learning lessons and build the trust of people. Please do not indulge in dramatics and antics as these neither help you to build trust or win elections. Take the first opportunity to guide your leader to refrain from such antics. Yes I am referring to his recent act of not providing bail on defamation case (bail amount $150) and volunteering to go to jail. Indians will appreciate you going to jail for a good cause such as fighting against corruption but not when you call someone a thief and fail to provide adequate proof.
Enough of politics and let me switch to other things as I promise not to write on politics for an undefined period of time.
How silly is your idea?
Benjamin Franklin said ‘I have not failed; I’ve had 10,000 ideas that did not work.’ Thomas Edison said ‘Of the 200 bulbs that did not work, every failure told me something that I was able to incorporate into the next attempt.’ Be bold in your ideas and remove your mental blocks. Here is the test for you all. Come up with a name for a new wine that will be launched in the market next week. Stop here and take a moment to come up with the name you believe will be a top seller.
Start being wrong and then you will realize that anything is possible. The common mistake people is that they want their idea to be accepted at the first go. There is often a fear of failure while articulating an idea but the success of idea getting realized is in the belief that you are not trying to be perfect or infallible.
By the way “Fat bastard” Chardonnay is the name of the wine which became famous in just six years. Did you measure up with this silly name? I rest my case here.
Dessert
If you are fired from your job, do not worry as these are seen as sign of initiative these days. Getting fired often means that you at odds (due to your action) with your company. I know a person who got fired three times and every time there was a progress in his career. So give yourself a spin and re-launch your career. With those fearless thoughts, I bid you good bye saying “life is beautiful”.

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0214- “In God we trust. All others must bring data”

Posted March 17, 2014 by Suresh MK
Categories: Big Data, blog, Humor, inspiration, leadership, My Experiences, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , ,

If you are reading my blog for the first time, please read my previous ( MELT 0114) blog to get the context and continuity. Let me start my blog with a famous quote “In God we trust. All others must bring data”
Elementary Mr Suresh your topic for next blog is “Big Data” This was the answer I was expecting. Unfortunately no one really predicted this although some were close but not on target (sic).

We did not target your daughter but future moms
Last week I wrote about how a father got upset on Target for sending e-mail promotion for baby cloths to his 16-year-old daughter. “The father visited the store again within a week and met the manager. Here is what transpired
“I had a talk with my daughter,” he said. “It turns out there’s been some activities in my house I haven’t been completely aware of.” He took a deep breath. “She’s due in August. I owe you an apology.”
In some 600 hospitals across the United States, new mothers get gifts from the various companies. Those companies have started a separate division to focus on parents of infants. Procter & Gamble sends gifts to new moms at the hospitals where they deliver the child.
Target thought it was too late to approach in the maternity ward and wanted to predict future moms through their buying patterns. They asked Andrew Pole, a data expert to develop pregnancy prediction algorithms based on certain trends such as buying lotions, unscented soaps, vitamins etc.
Here is the sample of what those analytics did based on buying patterns
Jenny Ward, a twenty-three-year-old bought cocoa butter lotion, a purse large enough to double as a diaper bag, zinc, magnesium, and a bright blue rug? The tool predicted that there is 87 percent chance that she’s pregnant and that her delivery date is sometime in late August. Liz Alter, a thirty-five-year-old who purchased five packs of wash cloths, a bottle of “sensitive skin” laundry detergent, baggy jeans, vitamins containing DHA, and a slew of moisturizers? She’s got a 96 percent chance of pregnancy, and she’ll probably give birth in early May. Caitlin Pike, a thirty-nine-year-old in San Francisco who purchased a $ 250 stroller, but nothing else? She’s probably buying for a friend’s baby shower. Besides, her demographic data shows she got divorced two years ago. Amazing isn’t it?
Who is the big brother of the modern world?
We are undergoing a revolution in the way that information about our purchases, our conversations, our social networks, our movements, and even our physical identities are collected, stored, analyzed and used. The immense volume, diversity, velocity, and potential value of data will have profound implications on privacy, the economy, public policy and corporate strategies.
Government collects data for various reasons and so do corporates for improving their market share and profits. Social network collect data to attract advertisements. Imagine the implication where are all data are combined to start predicting and tracking your behavior. This is the big brother of modern world- BIG DATA.

Big Data- What is it
We have been using Data for analytics since ages immemorial so my readers must be wondering what the hype all about is. In the last five decades data have been used for decision making in various terms such as decision support, executive support, online analytical processing, business intelligence and analytics. Typical characteristics of data analytics in the past have been based on sampling, trends and/ or structured data (most often static). Inability to process data faster and judicious allocation of budgets for analytics were limiting factor in leaping to “Big Data” world. . We often heard “Data Costs Money”.
Netflix, Amazon, Google and others have proved through robust analytics that Data costs money but also could make tons of money. Target retail chain in this blog is a classic example of using data to enhance sales and market share. Amazon tries to predict your next purchase based on your shopping history, and gives their recommendation. They are using data although voluminous but mostly generated internally. This is where the shift is happening.
Big Data is much more than this. Typical characteristics of big data are as follows:
1. Large volumes, unstructured, continuous and in multiple formats (texts, pictures, voice)
2. Move away from sample and use whole (all) Data
3. Accept messiness for the reasons mentioned in one and two above
4. More importantly to accept correlation
5. Multiple location of data
Big data comprise of 100 terabytes to petabytes as compared to few terabytes or less in traditional analytics. To give you a feel, if we have to store 100 terabytes in any digital format, it will occupy every inch of the tallest building in the world (somebody prove me wrong here).

What will you do with the big data ? Torture the data until they confess
Ronald Coase said” If you torture the data long enough, it will confess”
An abortion lead to drop in crime rate was the conclusion drawn by the authors of Freakonomics but by a sheer coincidence and not by structured correlation. Now through Big Data we have a tool and methodology to look for other correlation for example drop in prices of condoms or arrival of new birth control pills.
We are living in age of data abundance and business leaders are ready to exploit this abundance and bring transformational change in the way we do business.
Some provocative thought on how data could transform some business
1. Auditing: No more statistical sampling. Audit the whole data as it only takes a fraction of time to process data and throw the deviations. Will auditors be responsible to report on frauds?
2. Human: Resourcing: Use intranet social network (surf through chatting trends) to formulate teams and determine effectiveness of collaboration
3. IT: Instead of reacting to hacking or security breaches how about predicting and preventing it.

What is your new career?
Leaders who took decision on hunch (due to lack of robust analytics) can now dump those hunches and rely on Big Data. What skills they need to develop? Correlate unrelated events as in the future as there are no casual occurrences. As I write this blog, MH 370 disappearance has shaken the world and this can’t be treated as casual or one off occurrence. Big Data is certainly going to take over aviation and military space (countries will now be more willing to share data in this regard to prevent such happening).
If you are young and want to build career, think about learning machine language ( Coursera offers some good on line course for free). As someone said ‘Data Scientist” will be the sexiest job of the future.

Dessert
One blog is not sufficient to write on Big Data and I will be writing more on this and hence watch out in this space. I bid you good bye saying “Data is always predictive” and of course “life is beautiful”.

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0114

Posted March 4, 2014 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, Humor, inspiration, leadership, Motivation, My Experiences, Uncategorized

Tags: , ,

Here is the challenge for my readers. Kindly connect the dots between various unrelated events listed below and predict the subject of my next blog. Wear your Sherlock Holmes hat and tell me Elementary  Mr Suresh your topic for next blog is ……..

Whatever your answer might be one thing is certain that my topic of the next blog has transformational impact. Is it a clue? You may think so.

Why are you targeting my daughter?

It was business as usual in a large retail store in Minnesota and suddenly an angry man stormed into the store and wanted to see the manager. Seeing the mood of the visitor, the staff hurried him to fulfill his desire to meet the manager. As he entered the manager’s office the visitor raised his voice and thundered “My daughter got this in the e-mail. She is still in high school and you are sending coupons for baby clothes and cribs. Are you encouraging her to get pregnant?

The manager looked at the e-mail and was perplexed and was wondering how this could have happened and made a mental note to discuss with the IT folks. He then turned towards the angry father and apologized profusely and promised that these type of mistakes will never happen again.

The father still in his angry tone quipped “you may be big target store but don’t target my daughter” ( wow what a pun) and walked away.

The father visited the store again within a week and met the manager. Guess the conversation that transpired after a week.

1948 returns but is not 1984 but 2014

It was cool morning in October 1984; I was reading George Orwell novel 1984 and suddenly my father walked into my reading room and seeing 1984 book in my hand made a sarcastic observation” I never knew that 1984 was part of your syllabus for Auditing exams” and walked away. Yes I had my Chartered Accountancy final exams scheduled the next day.

I sheepishly kept the book aside and switched to Spicer and Pegler’s Practical auditing. But my thoughts were around big brother a symbolic character in the book. Is my father a big brother? Is he monitoring all my actions?

For the benefit of people who have not heard about 1984, here is the gist about the book:

The book was written in 1948 , the year that gives the book its title was still almost 40 years in the future. Some of the things Orwell imagined that would come to pass were the telescreen, a TV that observes those who are watching it, and a world consisting of three megastates rather than hundreds of countries. In the novel, the country of Eastasia apparently consists of China and its satellite nations; Eurasia is the Soviet Union; and Oceania comprises the United States, the United Kingdom, and their allies.

Winston Smith , character in the novel wrestles with oppression in Oceania, a place where the Party scrutinizes human actions with ever-watchful Big Brother. Defying a ban on individuality, Winston dares to express his thoughts in a diary and pursues a relationship with Julia. These criminal deeds bring Winston into the eye of the opposition, who then must reform the nonconformist. George Orwell’s 1984 introduced the watchwords for life without freedom: BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU.”

Who is the big brother of the modern world? Keep thinking!

The tip: Abortions leads to drop in crime rate so does  broken window.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Tipping point”   discusses the incredible transformation of New York in the late ’80s and early ’90s from a crime and drug ridden city to a modern, relatively safe metropolis. While crime rates went down nationwide, New York saw a massive reduction in crime. He eventually proposes that the cause was a new policy that was adapted by the administration called “The Broken Windows Theory“. It goes something along these lines: A single broken windows can have a far greater influence than one may realise. It can spread a certain attitude and create assumptions that it’s acceptable to behave in a certain way or, in other words, “ maintaining and monitoring urban environments in a well-ordered condition may stop further vandalism and escalation into more serious crime. By the way the Broken Window theory was initially formulated in 1982 by James Q Wilson and George L Kelling.

No one predicted it. Everyone thought that high crime rates were a permanent feature of urban life. And the standard arguments to explain why crime falls don’t seem to work in this case. Levitt and Dubner ( author of Freakonomics) went through all the usual explanations for crime decreases—a booming economy, decline in the crack trade, innovative policing strategies, tougher gun laws, aging of the population—and find only two that they think really matter. Putting more police on the street  and number of young men put away in prison in that same period. But neither of those two factors were sufficient to explain the full magnitude of the crime drop. There has to be something else—and their candidate for the missing explanation is the legalization of abortion.

People undergo abortions, in other words, for a reason: because they are poor, or don’t want a child, or live in an environment where it is hard to raise children. An unwanted child has a higher chance, when he or she grows up, of becoming a criminal. By removing a large number of unwanted children, legalized abortion ended up lowering the crime rate

So be the jury and decide whether it was Broken Window theory or Abortion the reason for decline in crime rate in New York back in 1990.

 

 

 

Performance Report or Minority Report ( this event has not happened but may happen)

John walks to Jim’s work place and stood behind as he continue to work without acknowledging any human presence. John taps Jim’s shoulder which evokes a freezing reaction as he did not expect John to show up at his work place. John says “congratulations Jim you are rated 5 for the performance year 2016”

Jim mumbled to John “ Sir we are still 2014 and how can you give performance rating for 2016? “John replies that “we went through your past performance and have come to this conclusion based on your potential”. John prophesized “you will execute transformation program in Japan successfully in 2016”.  In his bubbling voice said “Good stuff son” and he moved on. Jim was still in shock and was wondering could this be real. This is something similar to “Minority Report” where some is arrested before a crime is committed.

Now readers connect or correlate these events and predict my next topic of my Blog. If you have time try reading the book “Black Swan”

Dessert

Success is how high you bounce when you hit the bottom- General George S Patton. With those inspiring thoughts I bid you good bye. As always “life is beautiful”.

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 1213

Posted February 16, 2014 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, Humor, inspiration, leadership, Motivation, My Experiences, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

Why I write?

I wrote this blog some few weeks back and was about to publish it during 1st week of January this year   but never got to compete it. So I read my blog again before posting it and asked myself few questions. Who are the readers of my blog? What do they want? Why am I writing this blog? Am I selling or sharing? I did not get answers to all my questions and hence continuing to search for answers. Should step back and stop until I find answers? I was not sure of that approach and hence, I decided to continue writing my blogs and make course correction as I discover answers to those questions. Ok let me start on a lighter note

Starter- De Blasio’s Way of Eating Pizza

The pizza arrived, steaming and delectable, a smoked-mozzarella-and-sausage pie presented to Mayor Bill de Blasio ( Mayor of New York). The mayor, on a pilgrimage on Friday to Goodfellas, a venerable Staten Island pizzeria, smiled, nodded at his slice and then proceeded to do the unthinkable: eat it with a knife and fork.

“Disaster,” declared a writer at New York magazine, citing the longstanding city protocol of devouring pizza, no matter how greasy, with the hands, and the hands only. The fourth pillar of democracy pronounced it as “first mistake of the Mayor”. I was amused by the news coverage and was wondering how many times Indians and Asians are ridiculed for eating with their hands.

Why Pizza should be eaten by hand and not sandwich or burger? Why most Indians eat with their hands and not with the fork or a spoon?

Vedic reasons for eating with the hands:

Eating food with the hands in today’s Western society can sometimes be perceived as being unhygienic until and unless you are eating Pizza( sic). Nobody questions where the hand was before eating Pizza but if you are in India or China these questions are raised. It can border to bad mannered and primitive if you are eating with your hands. Indians these days are more aligned with western culture and started using cutlery without understanding the reason behind eating with their hands.

According to Indian Vedic literatures eating food with your hands feeds not only the body but also the mind and the spirit”. The practice of eating with the hands originated within Ayurvedic teachings. The ancient native tradition of eating food with the hands is derived from the mudra practice, which is prevalent in many aspects within Hinduism. Mudras are used during mediation and are very prominent within the many classical forms of dance, such as Bharatnatyam.

The hands are considered the most precious organ of action. Our hands and feet are said to be the conduits of the five elements. The Ayurvedic texts teach that each finger is an extension of one of the five elements. Through the thumb comes space; through the forefinger, air; through the mid-finger, fire; through the ring finger, water and through the little finger it is earth.

Each finger aids in the transformation of food, before it passes on to internal digestion. Gathering the fingertips as they touch the food stimulates the five elements and invites Agni to bring forth the digestive juices. As well as improving digestion the person becomes more conscious of the tastes, textures and smells of the foods they are eating, which all adds to the pleasure of eating. Hope De Blasio is reading this.

Lies, Damn lies & Statistics – I don’t care

“The success rate of people climbing Mt Everest is 56%”

“30 years of mergers and acquisition success rate is 56%”

“Almost 50% of ERP implementation had cost over runs /project over runs or un realized benefits”

“Out of 3500 athletes in 2015 Winter Olympic only 1300 is likely to win medals which makes the success rate at 35%”

Why am I rattling these statistics? One of my colleague asked why CEO/CFO”s embark on mergers or acquisition even though there is considerable risk in it. He went on to add his bit of cynicism by saying by getting in to mergers and acquisition they keep themselves busy and securing their job for 5-6 years.

I tend to put a positive spin into this. Leaders who embark on a risky projects are the one with the courage (one of the requisite attributed of great leadership) and think big. They are not only aware of the risks but conscious about game changing outcomes if they are able to execute this well.

Just imagine the feeling of an athlete winning a medal after four years of hard work. Visualize the euphoria of an individual conquering Mt Everest after years of patience, hard work and penance.  These are special and unique moment in one’s life.  A good leader also strives for those unique moments. Not sure I convinced my friend but I was convinced. “Many eyes go through the meadow but only few see the flowers in it”.

Project manager way

One of my acquaintances narrated this to me while playing golf during my December vacation. I dedicate this to my PM colleagues.

A clergyman, a doctor and a project manager were playing golf together one day and were waiting for a particularly slow group ahead. The project manager exclaimed, “What’s with these people? We’ve been waiting over half an hour! It’s a complete waste of time.” The doctor agreed, “They’re hopeless, I’ve never seen such a slow pace in golf course.”

The clergyman spotted the approaching green keeper and asked him why the group ahead was playing so slow.  The green keeper replied, “Oh, yes, that’s a group of blind fire-fighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime.”

The three golfers fell silent for a moment. The clergyman said, “Oh dear, that’s so sad. I shall say some special prayers for them tonight.” The doctor added, rather meekly, “That’s a good thought. I’ll get in touch with an ophthalmic surgeon friend of mine to see if there’s anything that can be done for them.”

After pondering the situation for a few seconds, the project manager turned to the green keeper and asked, “Why can’t they play at night?”

Dessert

““ Learning is not compulsory… neither
survival is
” With those inspiring words of W Edward Deming, I bid good bye
with my usual signature Life is Beautiful

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 1113

Posted December 29, 2013 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, Humor, leadership, Motivation, My Experiences, Uncategorized

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As promised in my last blog, I am dedicating this blog to one of the greatest man ever lived on this planet.

Nelson Mandela- Greatest transformation Phenomenon of our life time

Prisoner number 466 of 64, Nelson Mandela released were the headlines on February 11, 1990. The 46664 Mandela number also became the symbol for the AIDS campaign. 46664 was the Nelson Mandela number that is known all over the world, both for the suffering he went through and as the AIDS campaign that he supports and that runs his birthday celebrations. The Nelson Mandela number and the Nelson Mandela date will live on. 27 years of suffering and never once faltering from the cause he eventually won are just part of what make up the nature of this man. Nelson Mandela in jail, Nelson Mandela as President, Nelson Mandela the man was and is an inspiration to us all.

Almost after 4 years from date of release of Nelson Mandela, Mr John Kotter wrote an article for Harvard Business Review entitled “ Leading Change: Why transformation efforts fail?” This paved way for development of Eight-stage process of creating major change. As I was writing this blog an interesting thought surfaced on how Mandela’s change and transformation would fit the Kotter’s model. So I have attempted below to plug in some quotes, speeches and thoughts of Mandela to the eight stage process of creating major change.

How do I describe Mandela?

The best way to describe Mandela was to reproduce the poem by William Ernest Henley. This  pretty much personifies Nelson Mandela.

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

He drew his inspiration from this poem. While he was in prison, Mandela would read William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” to fellow prisoners. The poem, about never giving up, resonated with Mandela for its lines “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” He truly was captain of his soul which transformed the world’s thinking. Now I attempt to fit Mandela’s thought and action into Kotter’s Model.

Mandel’s Leading Change- Action fitted into Kotter’s Model

  1. 1.      Developing a vision and strategy

“Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, vision with action can change the world.”

“I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses.”

  1. 2.     Communicating the change vision

Nelson Mandela clearly held a positive vision of a racially harmonious South Africa during his 28 years in jail and helped bring it into reality peacefully– to the amazement of the world. His medium of communication was not words but demonstrate through his actions.

  1. 3.     Establishing a sense of urgency

This is what Buthelezi has got to say about Mandela “ From the beginning, I perceived in Mr. Mandela a sense of urgency in almost everything he did, as though there was just not enough time to accomplish all he had in mind, or as though there was no time to waste in achieving it. There was always a dignified air about him, but always that underlying sense of urgency.”

  1. 4.     Creating the guiding coalition

“As a leader, I have always endeavoured to listen to what each and every person in a discussion had to say before venturing my own opinion. Oftentimes, my own opinion will simply represent a consensus of what I heard in the discussion. I always remember the axiom: a leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

  1. 5.     Empowering employees (people)  for broad-based action

But Mandela used his training as a lawyer to hamper many of the attempts by warders to harass prisoners, and insisted on their right to study for university degrees. He also made a point of trying to talk to prison guards, most of them Afrikaans-speaking whites.

Besides his iron will and principled stance, Mandela’s easy charm and generosity helped to chip away at the prison’s strict rules and disciplinarian barriers. “The inmates seemed to be running the prison, not the authorities,” Mandela said. Educating the prisoners and giving confidence to them was one of the key success factors in his fight against apartheid.

  1. 6.     Generating short term wins

Remember to Celebrate Milestones As You Prepare for the Road Ahead

Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison in his struggle for justice, said, “I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

An entrepreneur’s work is never done. We can always do better.. Sometimes it feels like we haven’t accomplished anything at all. It’s important to stop and celebrate those small successes and milestones and take in the “glorious vista” along the uphill climb. Remind yourself how far you have come as you look at the road ahead.

  1. 7.     Consolidating gains and producing more change

“The power of imagination created the illusion that my vision went much farther than the naked eye could actually see”

Nelson Mandela consolidated the democracy by setting important precedents in acknowledging the constitutional limitations on his executive power. His good-tempered acceptance of Constitutional Court judgments that ruled against the government was particularly important in this respect. His famous gestures of reconciliation and empathy with white South Africans fostered among white South Africans broad acceptance of the new government’s moral authority. His role in shifting ANC policy perspectives in the direction of a pro-market policy undoubtedly helped to reassure white South Africans and foreign business. In choosing to serve only one term and presiding over an orderly succession procedure within the ANC he certainly strengthened ANC commitment to constitutional procedures

  1. 8.     Anchoring new approach in the culture

I recall how he stoically announced the passing of his eldest son, Makgatho Mandela, in January 2005. In an environment still reticent toward disclosure, he boldly stated that his son had succumbed to HIV/AIDS, urging us to break the silence around this disease.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Dessert

Mandela had a great sense of humor and audacity. Mandela even amused the British royal family with his casual, overfamiliarity with the Queen, whom he called “Elizabeth” and not “Your Majesty.”  “Well, she calls me Nelson,” was his repost, when one of his grandchildren asked if it was not perhaps in bad form to call the Queen by her first name.

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

With those inspiring thoughts, I bid good bye with my usual signature Life is Beautiful

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 1013

Posted December 14, 2013 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, Humor, inspiration, leadership, Motivation, My Experiences, Uncategorized

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Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is no more in physical form but his teachings and spirit is all pervasive. We are all blessed to be born in the same age as Late Mandela. He is a great role model on transforming the human race and its culture. His soul will rest in peace when apartheid is totally eradicated not only in form but in substance. This space is not enough to give a tribute and hence my next blog will be wholly dedicated to Nelson Mandela.

Carrot or Stick- Don’t spell out

One of the lessons I learned over a period of time in motivating people is to choose the right carrot and stick approach.  I prefer a powerful carrot which is long lasting rather than the stick. To me simply withholding the powerful carrot by itself would become a stick. At the end of the day I want the motivation to stick( sic).

The important thing in carrot and stick approach is never spell this out or else people would start evaluating the risk and reward and choose the option for their convenience. Just to drive home my point, I relate a story which I read sometimes back:

A stranger arrives in a village on a horse back. He stops in front of the liquor shop and gets down and bolts the horse it in front the shop. He orders a drink, slowly sips it and after finishing it heads down the exit gate and finds his horse missing. Astonished with the loss, he maintains his balance and heads back towards the bar and orders another drink. Then he raises his voice “Somebody here took my horse and I am pretty well aware of that. I am going to finish this drink in few minutes and before I empty the glass, I want my horse bolted back in the same place or else I will do the same thing what I did in the neighbouring village a year ago. Don’t blame then”. He then slowly finished his drink and walks outside to find his horse in the same place. He mounts the horse and when he was about to gallop, the shop keeper comes running and says” Sir I am very impressed but tell me what did you do the neighbouring village last year?. The man answers “ I walked home without the horse”.  I rest my point here in terms of maintaining silence on reward or punishment.

What is your choice

You have two job offers for CEO role from company A and company B which have identical challenges and you prefer B purely based on location. However, B is putting a condition on taking their current CEO as your deputy. You don’t like that condition and have communicated your expectation of an unconditional offer.  Company B seeks time to have internal discussion and promises to come back by 15th December 5PM. You have in the meantime, committed to respond to company A around 6.30 PM on the same day after knowing the outcome from company B. You eagerly wait for call from Company B and to your disappointment you don’t receive call until 6.30. By 7PM Company A calls you and wants your decision and you play it safe by accepting their offer as you have not heard from company B. At 7.30 PM fate plays a cruellest trick on you as you get a call from Company B accepting not to insist on their condition. What would be your decision? Kindly respond to this situation through word press or FB.

What is Success ?

Success is like a coin with two sides. One side of the coin is what world sees as a success and the other side is what you define as a success. Many people see winning as success but to me learning and focussing on executing is more important than the outcomes. In this uncertain world, we can’t control all the factors that contribute to the outcome. Whichever way you view success it is an accomplishment and results in satisfaction. Satisfaction can drive two behaviours ,one to be contended and other to drive for more. In most cases satisfaction leads to contentment or complacency and sows the seeds for failure or maintaining status quo. My advice is not to let infection of success to take control of you. I am fortunate to be part of an organization where the status quo is “Change”.

Draft a policy?

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all the other monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result – all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana.

Why not? Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been done around here. That is how policies are written.

Dessert

Things turn our best for those who make the best of how things turn out. With these inspiring thoughts, I bid good bye with my usual signature Life is Beautiful

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0913

Posted November 29, 2013 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, Humor, inspiration, leadership, Motivation, My Experiences, Uncategorized

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Humor in Management

“When I was born I was so ugly that the doctor slapped my mother”. This is not about me but a joke I heard some time back.

When I was born I was cute and I believe the doctor said “He looks like a European child” which made my father nervous. However, as the time passed my father relaxed and Doctors slapped himself.

Recently I was in a stressful meeting and suddenly I cracked a joke which had a great sense of timing thus releasing the tension in the room and thereafter the  meeting became very productive. This made me think on how we under estimate the value of humour in day to day management. We focus on lot of soft skills but never on building humour as one of the skills.

Humor on self

Early in my career, I had the reputation of having a serious and poker face but people who are/were close to me know that I can be comical and witty. My subordinates swear that some of the decisions taken by me are a bundle of Jokes. Did you laugh? I did not! Jokes apart, I worked hard to  change people’s perception about me.  Back in 2007 when we launched a new shared service center, each time we deployed a new function or services, I was asked to address people. I would start with an inspirational story to motivate new joiners’ and end my speech with a joke. By then I had created a new reputation of a being a story teller which is acknowledged by all and more so my by bosses (pun intended).

In one of the launch function we had, our world leaders addressing our staff and I was showered with some praise for all the hard work.  One of the leaders said “It is great to see people respect you so much”

Me: Yes John, they respect me so much that they have my photo on their wallet

John: Quizzical look

Me: Whenever they encounter a problem, they open their wallet and see my photo and get inspired and the problem disappears

John: Really?

Me: Yes, they see my photo and get convinced that no problem can be worse than me.

John laughs hysterically and says he should insist on having his direct reportee have his photo.

Humor on others-effective at times

Back in 1986 when I was working for a British company, all the staffs were invited for a Christmas dinner. Our marketing manager was very loud and had compulsive disorder of blowing his trumpet. As we were all junior to him, in line with (then) Indian culture, had to put up with his self-praise. As he was going on and on, we were saved by arrival of Vice President who after exchange of pleasantries settled down to join the discussion. But our marketing manager did not relent and went to say “without Amol (his name) nothing happens in the company. The Vice President saw our discomfort and immediately retorted “ Yes Amol! A pack of card is not complete without a joker”. We for the first time saw how a face shrinks in seconds. I was feeling bad for Amol but others had a different view. At times we need these types of witty comment to shut people off especially when they exceed their limits.

Years ago, I was running a brain storming session and my boss walked into the room. After sitting through the meeting for ten minutes and hearing everyone voice their opinion said sarcastically “ It seems Everyone Knows Everything”. There was silence in the room. I quietly said” Really I did not know that”. There were giggles and my boss left sooner.

Humor- to rekindle bad history

I have come across many jokes against Pakistanis and Jews and the hidden agenda is to keep the resentment alive.

Here is an example:

Q: How many Jews can fit in Volkswagen? (Wie viele Juden passen in einen Volkswagen?)

A: 506, six in the seats and 500 in the ashtrays ( 506, sechs aud die Sitze und in die Aschnbecher)

Holocaust is not funny even if it is mentioned in lighter vein. It is better to leave the baggage behind and move on with life.

Ridicule your boss

I asked one of my friends “Who was the gentleman I saw you with last night?” My friend replied “ that was not gentleman, that was my boss”

In another instance I heard someone referring his boss as an organ of elimination (three letter word followed by a four letter word ). This reminded me of an contemporary joke where different parts of the body argue about which of them is most important. The argument is finally won by exterior part, which points out that if it chooses to stop functioning, every body part shuts down. So punch line boss is A  Hole.

The reason I mention here more of defensive and pre-emptive move.

Ridicule others- See yourself in the mirror

We easily start making fun of other people. In fact, it could be the only way you’re most likely to make a joke. Ridicule, teasing, and sarcasm can be aggressive and downright mean, and following up such statements with “just kidding” or “just a joke” doesn’t soften the blow. Be aware! This is a tough type of humour for most people to relate to, especially when it’s your go-to method of cracking a joke. Before ridiculing others, just reflect(sic) by looking yourself in the mirror.

 

Dessert

Humour is needed to keep our spirits high. But it needs to be appropriate and timely. Maybe you can dig deep and find a way to be funny that isn’t done at someone else’s expense? But surely these skills need to be developed to be effective socially.

With those humorous thought, I bid good bye with my usual signature Life is Beautiful.  I wish a great thanks giving week to all my American friends.

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0813

Posted November 12, 2013 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, inspiration, leadership, Motivation, My Experiences, Uncategorized

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Am I dead ?- have not received SMS or mail from my network or no FB updates
In my last blog I talked about improved networking and communication through social media. Social media has enabled to connect in a unique and powerful way which otherwise would not have been possible. However, I have observed it comes at a cost.
I am sure you would have witnessed in many public places such as airports, train station, bus terminals, shopping malls etc kids holding on to some electronic gadgets and getting immersed in them. They are totally unaware of what’s happening around them and clueless about how to interact with someone for few minutes.
This is not happening only to children but also adults. The other day when I was reading a book (on my return to Bangalore), one of my fellow passenger admired my tenacity to read beyond two pages at a given stretch of time. Our attention is all drawn towards electronic gadgets and emotional rapport is missing these days.
Easily our attention span for important things has reduced. We have now concepts of elevator speech to communicate important announcements. More complex the communication and wider the reach, the speech becomes shorter. Overheard a comment from a reputed business school professor “ if your vision is not explained in 40 words, you lost the plot’. Why do we have so less time for important things? To me this is knowledge imbalance of wanting to know more than what we need to know. We have too much of data to interpret and floods of e-mails to read whether relevant or not.
The inability to resist checking email, FB or SMS has become compulsive disorder. Here is the test for everyone. Keep your phone or computer in front of you and refrain from checking any message/e-mails for at least an hour. Can you do it?
I have observed people go with laptop, blackberry’s and smart phones in important meetings and get themselves distracted from important issues. We can very well imagine the quality of decisions coming out of those meetings. They should ask themselves what opportunities they missed while they got themselves distracted.
So you must be wondering why am I saying all this to you. I want you to get rid of this addiction and start a movement akin to AA( Alcoholic Anonymous) and transform our corporate and social life. How can we get people to become more aware of how they use attention? Any insights suggestion to improve will be most welcome.
Here is what one of the restaurants in San Francisco does. It takes away your mobile devices as you enter and give it back when you are finished with Dinner/Lunch. Of course, you can insist on taking the device with you but at a higher cost of some 10% which will be added to your bill. They do this to in order to facilitate quality time with your near and dear ones.

Catchy tune
Some of you would have heard of analytical tool to support technical analysis, trend analysis etc which aims at predicting the future be it stock price, profitability, market growth and product success. Have you heard of software that will predict whether a tune/ song would be popular or not. A company called Polyphonic has created a software which analyzed mathematical characteristics of a tune and predicted it popularity. I am told that this program predicted popularity of Norah Jones’s Come Away with Me even though DJ’s and experts thought it would fail. If this was true then every song would be popular as people would not like to release unpopular numbers. Life is not that simple. Some songs have become popular even though it was not predicted to be popular. How do they do it ? It is no different from promoting a product. Typically, promoters of an album or a song do their bit to ensure it becomes popular. They often use radio stations to play a particular song repeatedly. Sometimes they use a song before or after a popular song to get rub off effect. The more it gets played; it gets registered in one’s mind. Once you are familiar, you would like to listen to a song again and again so it is a vicious circle. So in short, a song which you did not like during the first time becomes your favorite tune after a while. Another thing music industry does very well is insert a catchy tune or note which is already popular into their new composition. The bottom line is the listener would want to hear a song only when it is familiar to them.
Now why don’t we perform a test on your own taste on music. Pick a song you like and try to trace any familiarity with a song that was/is already popular or successful. I would be happy to get your feedback and test this hypothesis.
Dessert
Dig the well before you get thirsty. This is a Chinese proverb which means that you should be prepared for known and unpredictable outcomes. In the era of disruptive technologies which transforms industry over night, this proverb assumes greater importance. Do not wait to get to the point of no return and then wish things were different.
It is ironic that I thought of this Chinese proverb as there is also a book with similar title by Harvey Mackay which claims to be the only networking book. I have seen people boasting about 500+ connections in Linkedin but I am not impressed. Show me six connections with whom you interact often and have shared values.
I would like to keep this blog for less than thousand words as I know many can’t read two pages at a stretch as claimed by one of my past acquaintances. With those noble thought, I bid good bye with my usual signature Life is Beautiful.

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0713

Posted August 19, 2013 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, inspiration, leadership, Motivation, My Experiences, Uncategorized

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Appetizer

“The buck starts here”. Recently I was introduced to the owner and Managing Director of a renowned home goods company and we had lunch together. We talked about many things such as currency, taxes, politics etc. I was curious to know as to what kind of goals he sets for his CEO and asked him how he measures the performance of his CEO. He described in detail various performance measures such as productivity of assets, employee performance, brand image etc. and elaborated on how he monitors them at regular intervals. He summarized it by saying “At the end of the day… the buck stops at my CEO desk”. I paused and said “The buck starts at CEO desk”. He looked puzzled and had a questionable look. I clarified saying you talked about everything but did not make your CEO responsible for innovation which is where you can make money. He became thoughtful and I was not sure he registered my good bye greetings.

Careful of what you share

Social media has certainly helped in improved networking and communication. It is considered to be a powerful tool for persuasions and messaging however, it comes with certain cost. People often share and like status when they encounter something different without necessarily going into the authenticity of the facts. I recently observed someone sharing about Indian National Anthem. The message was that Indian national anthem originally written by Rabindranath Tagore was in fact praise of King George V. It convinced by interpreting word to word and concluded that the Indian National Anthem has nothing to do with praise of its motherland. I saw one more provocative share about Mahatma Gandhi and was not sure how to react to such bigots.

People fall for misrepresented revelation and start sharing which invites comments along with expression of anguish and shock. One should look back into the history and get full insight before jumping to any conclusion.

Do you learn by mistakes?

‘Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes’

Have I learned my lessons?’ I am referring to your own mistake and mistake of others. You will not be encouraged by the honest answer. You are not alone. Fedor Von Bock, a Field Marshall who served Germany during World War II, led successful invasion of Poland and France. He had great reputation of being a fiery lecturer and a person with great determination. His success earned him a promotion to the rank of General Field Marshall in 1940. In the winter of 1941 he led Operation typhoon (invasion and attempt to capture Moscow). Bock’s attempt to invade Russia was met with stiff Soviet resistance. Further fury of Russian winter increased German casualties resulting in Bock biting the bullet (sic) and decided to retreat. He was subsequently relieved of command by Adolf Hitler. A person who was promoted a year ago was relieved of his responsibilities on account of this failure. What lessons did he not learn from the history that could have avoided this ignominy? General Bock forgot the lessons from Napoleon’s humiliating retreat in the winter of 1812.

The question that begs is why we can’t one learn from the mistakes? There are multiple reasons why we fail to learn from others mistake. Firstly, we rate ourselves higher than what we are capable of. I call this over confidence. We attribute reasons and rationalize that mistakes committed by others and feel it will not be repeated. I call this as irrational. When someone points out the pitfalls, we ignore them. We accept praise easily but do not want to respond to constructive feedback. I call this arrogance.

Are you familiar with this analyst?

1979, a United International Press reporter’s additional responsibility was to report on weather. In those turmoil days, who cared what the temperature was in Beirut. Here is what he would do by calling one of the office assistant: Hey. Ahmed, how does it feel out there today? Ahmed would answer “yeah it feels hot here’. About 90 degrees the reporter would ask and Ahmed replied “Sure, whatever you say. The reporter would file the weather report stating “ high 90 degrees”. Later in the day the reporter would ask “Kind of cool out there now? Ahmed would respond Sure, sir. About 72 degrees would you say? Ahmed standard answer was Sure sir. “72 degrees cold” would be the weather report filed. (The reporter is none other than Thomas Friedman, author of ‘World is Flat”)

The reason I am bringing this to your attention is, I read one of the analyst predicting how the rupee would behave in 2013. Here are the excerpts:

“There is lot of speculation that rupee will weaken to 58.00 against the US dollar in F/Y 2013. This may happen only if there is a midterm central election or nymex crude oil float over $125 for two to three months continuously. Crude oil price is more a bigger risk to Indian economy than political instability.”

Hey, Ahmed will the Rupee hit 58? Sure sir whatever you say.

I watch with amusement as the Rupee has already touched 60+ and none of the predicted even happened. Most of the so called experts are good in advancing convincing logic to their predictions. But, lo and behold, did they get their predictions right? Let me tell you my opinion – their prediction or analysis is not better than weather predictions. Do they learn from their wrongful prediction? Apologize for my rhetoric here. They clearly fit into my three letter acronym AIC (Arrogance, Irrational and Confidence). They will attribute reasons for each of their failure to predict accurately (the mistakes is not theirs and it is always somebody else) and will not hesitate to predict again (over confidence). Guess what when the prediction goes right.

What can we learn from aviation industry?

In my last blog I took three examples of air accident to advance my theory that people normally do not learn from their mistakes. However, airline industry is one exception with regard to learning from their mistakes. Number of accidents has come down drastically in the past few years. In terms of avoiding the accidents, airlines industry has outperformed six sigma consistently in the past few years. The probability of road accidents is much higher than air accidents these days. Why? They learned quickly that most accidents happen because of poor decisions which are termed as pilot error. First of all they started using flight simulators to give training to the pilots. Pilots learned to make decisions under various simulated situations such as practice landing with one engine, reaction to sudden adverse weather conditions, landing on ice etc. The class room lectures and theoretical learning was substituted by learning through simulators. The objective of this method of teaching was to let pilot make mistakes in the simulator so that they can learn from it and not repeat it. As they internalized their learning and applied them in real life situations, accident rate went down drastically. However, this by itself was not sufficient. They also implemented Cockpit Resource Management (I referred this in my last week blog).

Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) is a decision strategy to minimize pilot errors. Research showed that most pilots took decisions in God like certainty ignoring advice from other crew members and disregarded other alternatives. The goal of CRM was to promote diversity and teaming. The captain was no longer the dictator of the plane. It took 1977 Tenrife accident to implement this methodology. Nowadays, CRM has moved beyond aviation and now moved to medical field as well. Concerns are expressed and freely shared after every surgery in Nebraska Medical Center who implemented CRM in 2005. People engage in productive debriefing after every surgery and all mistakes are analyzed. After CRM training it was observed that people expressed their concerns and opinion freely.

Can corporates learn from this experience? Are we learning from our mistakes? Are we empowering employees to express their opinion freely? Whether you have Customer Relation Management (CRM) or not but surely implement Cockpit Resource Management (CRM) methodology. Your will certainly avoid obvious mistakes which we ignore.

Shoot the past and suckle the future

Many companies are obsessed with their past success and miss an opportunity to forge into future. They become obsessed with their product or technology which has served them well in the past and cling on to it. It is like horse with the blinder and losing the peripheral vision. Here are examples:

a) IBM clinging dearly to its IBM AT innovation based on 286 chips until Compaq 386 chip microprocessor made a dent on the blue harmony.

b) Intel finding difficulty to let go one of its most successful product ‘memory’ over ‘microprocessor’ which was the product of the future.

c) Sony failing to kill its most successful product ‘Walkman” over digitized music even though they invented the technology. Guess who took advantage of their invention- Apple.

I can easily give few more example of corporate world failing to recognize the future. Is this only relevant to corporate world? My answer is ‘No’ as this is relevant for individual as well. Acquire new skills and do not hesitate to let go skills that are not relevant for the future.

Dessert

Avoid perfection in non-value added activities (does not even matter when it gets done)

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0613

Posted August 5, 2013 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, inspiration, leadership, Motivation, My Experiences, Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

Catch Up
After a long pause I resume my blogs again. I did not stop because I did not have enough to write but felt giving some break to my readers. I intend to catch up now and will be posting few blogs at short intervals. I was intrigued by one recent reporting on aircraft accident which made me think how people make mistakes and what we could learn from it.

What a mistake?
On July 6th Asiana flight 244 crashed at San Francisco airport leaving 3 people dead and some 305 people survived the crash. Exact cause will take months to determine but news channels always in their eagerness to report something new, keep speculating on the cause including loose oil cap. They invite retired pilots and aviation engineers to their channels for the interviews. Some go a step further and start naming the aircraft crew. Here is what happened.
Reading from a teleprompter Friday, The TV anchor told the viewers that the names of the plilots on Asiana Flight 214 were “Sum Ting Wong,” “Wi Tu Lo,” “Ho Lee Fuk” and “Bang Ding Ow.” Campbell, mentioned that the names had been confirmed by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The irony is the news anchor read the names loud seemingly unaware of the ludicrousness of what she had just read. The TV had apologized for its gaffe saying that it had made “several mistakes” that had led to announcement of the phony names. Here is the account of their admissions:
“First, we never read the names out loud, phonetically sounding them out,” the news outlet said in a statement. “Then, during our phone call to the NTSB where the person confirmed the spellings of the names, we never asked that person to give us their position with the agency.” The board explained that an intern had been the person who had confirmed the pilot’s names. “We work hard to ensure that only appropriate factual information regarding an investigation is released and deeply regret today’s incident.” What a mistake?
Why this mistake?
One of the most famous incidents of an aircraft disaster attributed to pilot error was the night time crash of Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 near Miami, Florida on December 29, 1972. The flight was routine until 11:32 p.m., when the flight began its approach into Miami Airport. After lowering the gear, first officer noticed that the landing gear indicator, a green light identifying that the nose gear is properly locked in the “down” position, did not illuminate. The pilots cycled the landing gear but still failed to get the confirmation light.
Pilot, who was working the radio during this leg of the flight, told the tower that they would discontinue their approach to their airport and requested to enter a holding pattern. The approach controller cleared the flight to climb to two thousand feet (610 m), and then hold west over the Everglades. The cockpit crew removed the light assembly and second officer was sent to the bay beneath the flight deck to check visually if the gear was down through a small viewing window. Fifty seconds after reaching their assigned altitude, captain instructed first officer to put the aircraft on autopilot. For the next eighty seconds, the plane maintained level flight. Then, it dropped one hundred feet (30 m), and then again flew level for two more minutes, after which it began a descent so gradually it could not be perceived by the crew. In the next seventy seconds, the plane lost only 250 feet (76 m), but this was enough to trigger the altitude warning C-chord chime located under the engineer’s workstation. The second officer had gone below, and there was no indication by the pilot’s voices recorded on the CVR that they heard the chime. In another fifty seconds, the plane was at half its assigned altitude. As first officer started another turn, onto 180 degrees, he noticed the discrepancy. The following conversation was recovered from the flight voice recorder later:
First officer: We did something to the altitude.
Pilot: What?
First officer We’re still at 2,000 feet, right?
Pilot: Hey—what’s happening here?
Less than 10 seconds after this exchange, the jetliner crashed. . The pilot, first officer and first engineer were so disturbed by the issue of landing gear lamp failed to realize that no one was in control of the flight. The distracted flight crew did not notice the plane losing height and realized it too late as the aircraft struck the ground in the Everglades, killing 101 out of 176 passengers and crew. Why this happened?
How this mistake?
The Tenerife airport disaster occurred on Sunday, March 27, 1977, when two Boeing 747 passenger aircraft collided on runway of Los Rodeos Airport (now known as Tenerife North Airport) on the Spanish island of Tenerife. With a total of 583 fatalities, the crash is the worst accidents of aviation history. .
After a bomb exploded at Gran Canaria Airport , many aircraft were diverted to Tenerife. Among them were KLM Flight 4805 and Pan Am Flight 1736 – the two aircraft involved in the accident. The threat of a second bomb forced the authorities to close the airport while a search was conducted, resulting in many airplanes being diverted to the smaller Tenerife airport where air traffic controllers were forced to park many of the airplanes on the taxiway, thereby blocking it. Further complicating the situation, while authorities waited to reopen Gran Canaria, a dense fog developed at Tenerife, greatly reducing visibility. When Gran Canaria reopened, the parked aircraft blocking the taxiway at Tenerife required both of the 747s to taxi on the only runway in order to get in position for takeoff. The fog was so thick that neither aircraft could see the other, nor could the controller in the tower see the runway or the two 747s on it. As the airport did not have ground radar, the only means for the controller to identify the location of each airplane was via voice reports over the radio. As a result of several misunderstandings in the ensuing communication, the KLM flight attempted to take off while the Pan Am flight was still on the runway. The resulting collision destroyed both aircraft, killing all 248 aboard the KLM flight and 335 of 396 aboard the Pan Am flight. Sixty-one people aboard the Pan Am flight, including the pilots and flight engineer, survived the disaster
The accident had a lasting influence on the industry, particularly in the area of communication. An increased emphasis was placed on using standardized phraseology in ATC communication by both controllers and pilots alike, thereby reducing the chance for misunderstandings. As part of these changes, the word “takeoff” was removed from general usage, and is only spoken by ATC when actually clearing an aircraft to take off. Less experienced flight crew members were encouraged to challenge their captains when they believed something was not correct, and captains were instructed to listen to their crew and evaluate all decisions in light of crew concerns. This concept would later be expanded into what is known today as Crew Resource Management (CRM) training is now mandatory for all airline pilots.

Conclusion
1. In the first case, the TV broadcaster was so obsessed with breaking the news by giving the names of the crew; they did not pay attention to what was being said. The names are so obvious that anyone could have spotted this as spam. Secondly, in their eagerness to give this news first they did not perform the verification properly. The TV Company mentioned that they worked hard to verify the facts but did not say they exercised diligence before going on air. This is typical mistake committed by many which is reacting in haste and wanting to be in limelight.
2. In the second case everyone was looking into the problem and no one was managing the plane.. It was discovered that the lamp did not lit because the light bulb was burned-out. The pilot had the knowledge that landing gear could have been manually lowered either way. This happens often in company where everyone jumps to solve the problem but nobody sits back views the problem objectively
3. In the third instance although it was painted as communication issue and pilot not listening to his deputy, it is much larger than what meets the eye. The pilot was in a hurry to take off.. Immediately after lining up, the KLM captain advanced the throttles and the aircraft started to move forward. The co-pilot advised the captain that ATC clearance had not yet been given, and Captain Veldhuyzen van Zanten responded, “I know that. Go ahead, ask.” Further research revealed that the pilot had a great reputation of being on time and was restless due to the delay and wanted to take off at the earliest opportunity. Do you always want to be seen as right at any cost? Do the companies have proper checks and control to encourage subordinate challenge their boss?
Reflect on these three situations and see whether you see such patterns in your work place and what actions you can take to prevent such mistakes. What could you as individual avoid taking those decisions?
Dessert
We learn from failure, not from success – see you soon.

My Experiences – Last time (MELT) – 4012

Posted October 6, 2012 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, My Experiences, Uncategorized

Tags: , , , , , ,

Circa 2022 8th October 4.30 AM I was woken up by a friendly voice from my ‘LIFETAB’ (it is named so because it keeps a tab on my life) saying that my blog was ready and I could review and add dessert (which by now all of you know is the last part of my blog). The LIFETAB has an application called dare (should be pronounced as dar-e rhyming with Seri) which automatically articulates my thought without diluting or editing any of my thoughts. The only manual job it has given me is to write dessert not exceeding 148 words.
I put my electronic tooth brush in my mouth which has been pre programmed to use softer bristles, 23 strokes clockwise and 27 anticlockwise lasting for 1minute 42 seconds. It finished my brushing and soon after that I had an urge to drink coffee. I approached the multipurpose vending machine and pressed cappuccino. Immediately there was a voice from my LIFETAB saying “you are not allowed to drink coffee as you have already quit in Jan, 2012”. I asked Dar-e, “Can I not revoke my pledge?” “Yes”, was the answer with a pause. I was delighted but before I could get carried away with happiness it continued “but you need to go back to 2012 and revoke and relive last 10 years”. The proposition was too daunting and as you know I never look back so having coffee was not an option.
ESD (E -shopping and delivery) was the order of the day. I scan either a barcode or picture of things that I need through LIFETAB and say “deliver’. It sends the order to e-bay and items are loaded in e-cart (similar to golf cart) and it fetches the item to my electronic cottage (in 2022 there are no homes but electronic cottages which is multipurpose office cum residence). The cart talks to my door which opens and sends a signal to my e-trolley. The e-trolley goes near my door, transfers the content from electronic cart with the help of a built in robot. E-trolley, in unique voice identification, declares,” shopping completed payment authorized”. The voice is recognized by e-cart which declares that three items are not processed. I asked my lifetab why those items were not processed and it rattled the reasons as below:
1. Coke – 2 = My fasting sugar was already 130 mg and hence no more coke for 27 days provided I burn 750 calories per day for the next 26 days.
2. e-Pen – 1 = You have lost 32 pens in the last 856 days and e-search has been invoked 3450 times and I am sick and tired of it. So no need for you to write, just use voice recognition
3. One dozen of golf balls = Rejected as you have not been able to hit one ball straight in the last seven games you played. Try some other game, may be revive an extinct game called ‘cricket”.
I was frustrated and in typical human behavior wanted to beat the system. I decided to walk to the nearest E Wall Mart to buy rejected items through manual exceptional process. I put on my electronic shoe and programmed it to take me to ‘E Wall Mart’ which was some seven kilometers from my electronic cottage. Once I put on my e-shoe, I had no control as it takes its own pace ( @ 7 km per hour based on my age and heart beat), talks to the traffic lights, negotiates with vehicle and reaches the destination. I manually order those items and lo to my frustration it says that this trick has been tried before and now system upgrade has taken care of that loop hole.
I walk back to my electronic cottage and there were three beeps on my LIFETAB, one each from Ernst and Young, KPMG and Deloitte asking me to handle three unique situations in their core account processing. You must be wondering whether I am moon lighting but remember this is 2022. I am part of Swarming work style and follow workplace 2020 culture.
By the way “swarming” is a work style characterized by a “sudden flow of activity that needs immediate attention by a person who is available to add value. This happens in highly automized environment which displaces routine situations.” In this situation resources are shared not only within company but outside as well. A person is paid on number of ad hoc request addressed.
I finished those ad hoc requests and sat down to finish dessert for my blog. I ran out of ideas, my dull mind refused to work and hence I chose to reword one Gandhi’s quote which reads as follows” If you don’t see god in your LIFETAB, it is waste of time looking for him in the next version” With those monotonous thought I bid good bye with my usual e-signature “LIFETAB is beautiful”
Suddenly I was sweating in my bed and woke up with a shiver and looked at my clock it was 3 AM on 6th October 2012. Thank god it was a dream and not reality. I was reading workplace 2020 Gartner research the previous night and it had a powerful impact which released through my dream. With the noble intent of share and share alike I am giving the link here for my readers to read and get more dreams (and more dreadful than mine).
http://www.cio.com/article/602066/Your_Workplace_in_2020_Gartner_s_Predictions

Back in 1985, I read a book called ‘Reinventing the Corporation’ by John Naisbitt which pretty much predicted our current work culture such as remote working, net banking, telepresence etc. Given this back drop, I have no reason to disbelieve Gartner’s prediction. Most routine jobs will disappear in the next few years. What this means is that the younger generation have to be more innovative and creative in their work.

Tribute to Gandhi – 2nd October
When Gandhi conceived Independence, he had only four people supporting him and slowly and steadily his followers increased and it became a mass movement. Any public meetings by Gandhi those days attracted huge crowds. Imagine those days we had no FB, Twitter or any other means of social communication. He attracted the crowd by his principles and values. He had great charisma and one of the visuals has a lasting impression on my mind even today. This is a video of Gandhi’s public rally and as usual he had a huge gathering and there was lot of restlessness and noise before he could start his speech. He starts off his address by pressing his index finger against his lips and makes a sound shhhhhh. The crowd goes quite and there was pin drop silence and crowd was ready to receive his messages. I wonder whether anyone had such control over such a large gathering. During his school days an investigator arrived to test the efficiency of teaching and gave a test to the students by asking them to write the spelling of few words. Gandhi did not spell the word “kettle” right the teacher, in all eagerness to show 100% result, prompted Gandhi to copy from his neighbor. Gandhi ignored the advice even though it came from his teacher. This is in stark contrast to our politicians and leaders who live to the idiom of “pot calling kettle black’.
Will you do business with you? – VFS Global Service Pvt Ltd
Last week I walked out of US consulate hoping that my passport will arrive within three days (as promised by VFS Global Service Pvt Ltd) as I paid extra courier charges for delivery to my office. I was told that I will be getting SMS on my mobile giving status of my passport. They also wrote down an additional telephone number on the back of the receipt where I can call. The receipt also provided their web address and helpline numbers. Here is my experience
Day 4 – I called the number provided on the back of the receipt but was shocked to discover through a voice that the number does not exist. So I called their usual help desk which starts off by saying that the information you get here is also available on the website. I press my unique identification number to track my passport and it says that my passport has been handed over to the courier. Normally, in any helpdesk, one would have the option to talk to someone but this was not the case here. IVR was responding in a mechanical fashion.
Day5 – I went to their website to track my passport but the information under tracking was blank. I called their helpline but it was a repeat of day 4 with some modification. I pressed my id and heard the voice “please wait as we transfer to the next available agent… for quality purposes this call may be recorded”. Then there was silence (not even a music) for some 5 minute after which I hung up. So they were recording a call with no one attending it. So after all, they are true to their word in one respect, “same information is available on website”, which is no information.
Day 6 – Today I was fortunate to get someone on the help desk. When enquired about my passport he said the same thing what IVR said on day 4 – stating it has been sent to courier and I could go and pick it up. I said that I had paid extra charges for passport to be delivered. He responded casually saying “In that case it will be delivered soon”. I asked “How soon?” His simple answer was ‘wait’.

Not sure why people promise something that they can’t deliver. Later I found out that it was not only my case but it was a systemic issue and there was no one willing to explain what that was. I called their corporate office several times and asked for someone responsible to answer me but the best I got was their telephone operator saying all the time that their bosses were in a meeting. My only question to those who are managing this is “will you do business with you”? I hope not. I am not sure how major consulates and embassies are relying on VFS.

Presidential Debate – India needs political reform and not economic reform
I watched the first debate between Governor Romney and President Obama with a lot of interest. There is a lot of discussion surrounding who won the first debate but let me tell you the obvious, winning the debate does not guarantee winning the election in November. There were few takeaways from my perspective.
• They showed respect to each other. Lot of times I heard them telling that they agree on certain issues. They did not show any temper even when they were criticized and took it in the right spirit. Even after the debate, they showed compassion towards each other ( even though people may say it is optics)
• The person who was moderating was impeccable.
• Neither of them out-talked each other. They waited for their turn to speak except on one occasion.
Imagine this in the Indian context, moderators such as Arnab Goswami and Karan Thapar would have talked more than the contestants. Most Indian politicians would have raised their voice, thrown tantrums, out-talked and shouted at the other. They would have never agreed in public even if it was against their conscious. Today BJP, main opposition party, is against economic reforms that have been proposed recently. They forget that they wanted almost the same reforms when they contested their elections some three years back. The ruling Congress party is proposing reforms as they are close to the next election. So it is not economic driver that drives the changes but political consideration that dictates the day. During the last two decades, mushrooming of regional parties and coalition government has been detrimental to India’s growth. So, the need of the hour is political reform which can create a platform for a strong economic reform. Not sure when we are going realize that Nation’s interest comes first.
Project Management – Sridharan Model
I was fortunate to hear E Sridharan, who is popularly known as Metro Man of India, last Sunday. He totally changed the public perception that Government project can’t be managed on time and without cost overrun. Some of the projects he handled include re-building Pamban bridge in a record 46 days, the rough and tough terrain of Konkan railway covering 760 km ( 93 tunnels and 150 bridges) and the recent Delhi Metro. All these projects were completed on time. Such a humble personality while addressing Project Management professionals, he acknowledged that he did not posses any qualification on project management. It is amazing how he managed such huge projects without any interference from the government. Someone in the audience asked him how he achieved those. He mentioned that ‘integrity’ was the key to his success. He empowered people to take decisions. He partnered with right contractors and created an environment for their success. He was not swayed by the reputation and recommendation during vendors/contractors selection process. He was courageous and did not believe in the old adage “No one ever got fired for hiring IBM,” He is a living example for inspiration and leadership. All generations of people should learn a lot from him for his courage and integrity.

On the lighter side
Try pronouncing this 45 letter word ‘Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg’, a lake in Webster, Massachusetts. This is the longest name of any place in the United States. It means, “Fishing Place at the Boundaries”. One local newspaper editor translated, “You fish on your side, I fish on my side, and nobody fish in the middle.”
Dessert
Someone during the week asked me a question referring to my previous blog. His question was pertaining to the 5W1H model and he asked which of the questions is more important. I thought for a while and narrated this story.
Armed with all ammunition to fire, Samuel Pierpont Langley set out in the early 1900s to be the first man to pilot an airplane. Highly respected, he was a senior officer at the Smithsonian Institution, a mathematics professor who had also worked at Harvard. His friends included people like Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell. Langley had a dream team and had all the resources, a sure recipe for success. He was being watched with keen interest by people all over the country. A few hundred miles away, Wilbur and Orville Wright were working on their own flying machine. Their passion to fly attracted a dedicated group in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio. Unlike Langley’s project, there was no grant, no influential friends; none of the members had a college degree including Wilbur and Orville. But the team bonded together and made their vision real On December 17, 1903.
What happened here? Two teams pursuing the same goals and one comes out successful. How did the Wright brothers succeed against all adversities? What was the x factor missing in Langley’s effort in spite of having all the resources? Only the Wright brothers started with Why. Langley’s purpose was ‘what’ he was building. He wanted to be first to build a plane and become famous. Wright brothers knew why it was important for them to build the plane. Therefore, WHY assumes significant importance in our day to day life. This is another example where it is clearly established that fame, position or money does not necessarily drive positive results.
With those thoughts I sign off with my usual signature “Life is Beautiful”

;
PS: Why do you love your near and dear one (husband, wife, girlfriend, boy friend, boys, girls)- watch this space next week

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0614

Posted October 4, 2014 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, Design thinking, Humor, inspiration, leadership, My Experiences, Uncategorized

What is Design thinking?

In my last blog I talked about Design thinking and I promised more on this subject. When I was growing, my parents wanted me to develop the habit of saving by asking me to put coins or notes in a small earthen pot with a hole. Whenever we get money by way of pocket money or gifts from relatives and friends, we were encouraged to put money into the earthen pot (which is called Piggy bank in the Western world – it has nothing to do with the animal Pig although it is shaped like pig as etymologically it also means earthenware). The Piggy bank was a great tool to save as people used it in different way viz put money daily or put in leftover change after shopping, etc. However, when the technology advanced to plastic money the concept of Piggy bank slowly started disappearing. The question is how do we bring the Piggy bank concept to the modern world. How do we create the technology to support an observed behaviour or habit? One of the Banks extended this concept in their debit card account. The customers who use their debit cards to make purchases can choose to have the total rounded up to the nearest dollar and the difference deposited in their savings account. This was the birth of electronic piggy bank. Few others leveraged this idea to promote donation by asking to round off the dollar to a charitable fund or trust. The key to the concept is that innovation or creativity is powered by a good understanding of what people want through direct observation. Now having grounded you with the concept, here is a test for my readers. Go through my experiences and suggest a good design to improve services in restaurants.

Show me the way!

Scene 1: On 18th September, 2014, I missed my early morning flight from Toronto to Newark and had to spend more time in the Airport until my next flight could depart. I walked past the waiting area and was heading towards a small coffee shop and observed tables with Ipads. I assumed that these were kept for people to browse internet and check their e-mails. My immediate thought was centered on the technology progress we had made moving away from desktop browsing to Ipad browsing in public place. I needed a shot of caffeine to boost my thought process and so I approached the coffee shop and asked for a cappuccino. Lo and behold, what the person on the counter mentioned was a pleasant surprise. He pointed to the seating area and said you can place the order through Ipads, which were placed in each of the tables. Next to the Ipads were credit card swiping machine (which I failed to notice earlier) to facilitate payments. I quickly ordered a Cappuccino and used my credit card to pay for the transaction and within three minutes one of the staff served me what I ordered.

Scene 2: On 27th September, 2008, during my visit to Jakarta, my close friend Shahul Hameed invited me to have dinner with his family at Saravana Bhavan (not sure if this is owned by the Chennai chain). What impressed me in the restaurant was that the waiters had a PDA in their hands and were taking order and relaying the information to the kitchen. Once we finished dinner, the payment was also done through the PDA.

Scene 3: It was 4th September, 2010, and I was treating my wife to an anniversary dinner at a Bangalore restaurant which is reputed for its good food. We were seated in a comfortable table but it took a while for someone to show up and take our order. Any wait is frustrating these days and I was telling my wife about an idea which occurred at that moment. Instead of sending someone to take an order, I quipped that a device in the table should take the order and convey to the kitchen. This was really not a novel idea as it was a modified version of what I saw in 2008 in Jakarta. I did not think this would be a reality until I experienced it in Toronto airport.

Scene 4:On 2nd September, 2014, I went to Mas Malo at LA for lunch with my wife and a beautiful lady walked towards our table and gave us a Menu card and was guiding us in navigating through the dishes in a pleasant manner. It took me a while for me to believe that she was a waitress employed by the restaurant. I whispered to my wife “why is she here? She should be a model or actress”. Of course, my wife had a typical reaction like any wife would do which is to focus my attention on food and not on the bearer of the food. However, my earlier thought of having a device in each table disappeared quickly and immediately concluded that it was a stupid idea. Really!!!

If you have to design a service model for restaurants, what would be your design? My answer will be posted in my next blog with more emphasis on further design thinking. Please do respond with your answers.

Dessert

Minds are like parachutes; they only function when open. With those thoughts I sign off with my usual signature “Life is Beautiful”

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0514

Posted September 21, 2014 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, Design thinking, Humor, inspiration, leadership, Motivation, My Experiences, Uber

Everything has changed, is changing, and will continue to change ?

Lot of people would have seen the change “Uber” has brought to ground transportation. The idea was conceived by Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick in 2009 and implemented in Los Angles around 2010. In four years the company has operations in 45 countries and is valued at $15 billion. Travis wanted to ride in style which resulted in the realization of this concept. I can very well relate to this as recently, I was waiting with my wife outside one of the fancy restaurants in LA and a stylish black car pulled to the kerb side to pick us up. Not sure how many people, witnessing this were aware that it was a car I booked through Uber.

The concept is very simple. One pre requisite is that both driver and customer need to download “Uber” app which is an enabling technology. If you have a decent car, you can register yourself as a service provider with Uber. Uber will send you a message as and when the demand arises in your vicinity and you can accept that offer. As a customer or user you need to register yourself by securing your credit card information. If your car is travelling beyond 18 per hour then you are charged on distance but when the speed drops below that you are charged on time meter. It is very convenient and cheaper. I have become a fan of Uber and have started using this for my office airport pick up and drop in NJ. The cost of travel to Newark airport works out to $35 whereas with toll and tip, a normal cab used to cost me ( my firm) something like $55-60. You need not tip the driver and they encourage cash less transaction. However, once the trip is completed you have the opportunity to rate the driver. The driver’s continuance with Uber is dependent on their rating.

When I use Uber, I often engage in conversation with the driver as they appear professional and knowledgeable ( maybe I am profiling here). One of the drivers gave me useful information that even the customers are rated by the drivers. On probing further, he said the drivers usually rate the customers based on their conduct and their friendliness. Another fact I was made aware was that if a customer keeps ordering and cancelling, their rating goes down. I asked him what the relevance of customer rating is. He replied that if a customer had low rating, then not many drivers would come forward to pick them. This was useful information. My behaviour with Uber changed significantly thereafter. Once I order Uber, I will call them greet them and give them the exact location so that they don’t have to search. Why do I do this? To get a good rating and be eligible for further usage and saving cost for myself and the firm. A great example of how behaviour changes once you know that you are being measured.

 Food for thought: How about asking all your direct reportees to rate you as a boss and see the true meaning of “Servant Leadership”
The reason I am so fascinated by this concept is because it generates employment, brings structural changes to ground transportation and is a great example of how ‘crowd sourcing’ can be executed. Imagine we had similar apps for many of our needs such as cooking. You want to throw a barbecue party, search which chef is available, see his/her rating, costs and request their services at short notice. This concept is a great boon for all free lancers in whichever areas of expertise they practice.
I certainly see a big transformation ahead of us based on this concept. Do you see as well?

Design is closed, Long live the Design !

I am currently in a project where the Project leadership declared that the ‘Design is Closed’ which kept me wondering is Design, as a term not future continuous? How can you ever close a design? You can stage or pause it for its realization but Design can never be closed. I am great believer in continuous “Design Thinking”. One of the definition that caught my attention which I quote “Design thinking is the search for a magical balance between business and art; structure and chaos; intuition and logic; concept and execution; playfulness and formality; and control and empowerment.”
It is not an experiment; it encourages us to experiment. An organization that promotes ‘Design thinking” will always be ahead of the competition and one that maintains status quo will perish soon.
I used to be proud of my typing skills using a qwerty key board either in desktop or laptop with advent of tablets and Phablets, I have to unlearn and relearn my typing skills. What was the core strength yesterday could be your weakness today and therefore, every organization and individual need to reinvent themselves constantly. This is where the tool of design thinking comes handy. Expect more on the topic of ‘Design thinking’ in my future blogs.

Dessert

When you buy a product what do you look at? I am sure you look at the functionality and configuration of the product but more importantly you buy because of the manufacturer and associated quality that comes with the brand. People decide to buy Nikon or Cannon camera because they have confidence in the brand creators. But we don’t use the same yard stick when we evaluate our potential. God or the creator has created man who in turn created or innovated beautiful things in this world. So how can we not trust the creator of creators of these products. So have trust in the creator. God has not created you to do ordinary things in life. If Pawn in chess can invoke a powerful queen, I am sure you can unleash your potential. With those thoughts I sign off with my usual signature “Life is Beautiful”
PS: I forgot to tell you that whatever savings I achieved by using Uber was treated as allocable surplus by my wife towards shopping. Can I ever complain?

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0314

Posted May 11, 2014 by Suresh MK
Categories: blog, leadership, My Experiences

India waiting to be led.

When this blog hits the web, India would have almost finished their 8 phase election spanning over a month. I was not physically close to what happened as I was mostly living outside of India. However, I followed the news through NDTV and Times Now so that I get different perspectives. One thing was clear that it was a fiercely fought battle with lots of accusations and counter accusations. Politicians were slandering and sledging each other which is unfortunate and could have been avoided. India is the largest democracy but not necessarily a very healthy democracy for various reasons.

  • One of the largest party  which ruled majority of the years is dependent on leadership from one family.
  • One of the key opposition parties was banking on Charisma of one person instead of exhibiting pool of leadership talent they possess.
  • The number of regional parties that has emerged over the last two decades is not healthy as it stifles growth and liberalization. No economist would disagree with me that coalition government in Indian context has limitation as regional, religious and caste politics takes precedence over national interests
  • Lastly any new party which throws their hat quickly gets house trained and changes its color within days (yes I am referring to AAP party) – They lost a great opportunity to stand out.

I never state a problem without a solution. Here is my very simple model.

Political reforms:

  • One of the key changes that needs to be carried out is that, only parties with more than 20% seats in the parliament should be represented for national politics. Any party winning less than that should surrender their seats to other parties in proportion of % votes gained. Regional parties can fight state election but need 20% seats in the national assembly to be recognized as national party.
  • Ban politics based on religion (which is dividing the nation) and encourage inclusiveness of all religion. No religion will be treated as minority in the new world as it is a personal preference of an individual. Discourage or ban support institution such as hospitals, universities, schools which has religion bias.

Socio-Economic reforms

  • We are well past 67th year of independence and for historical reasons; we had reservation based on caste. Change that with immediate effect and provide infrastructure and support structure for economically backward people and their regions.

 

Environment reform

In the recent UN report there was a forecast that India will go to war due to climate change. Asia is facing the brunt of climate change and will see severe stress on water resources and food-grain production in the future, increasing the risk of armed conflict among India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China.. The report also predicts an increase in extreme weather events, such as last year’s flash floods in Uttarakhand and cyclone Phailin in Odisha, if steps are not taken to control the rise in temperature.

  • Take immediate steps as a national priority to unify all the major rivers in addition to other environmental initiatives.

To me these reforms are precondition and necessary to any good economic model. If we miss these basics, we will continue in our status quo and see history repeating itself.

You must be wondering why I did not touch upon corruption. One of the main causes of rampant corruption is weak government (pulled in different direction by regional parties) and dominance of power by single person. I still believe that Dr Manmohan Singh with executive power backed up by majority would have far better results than what we witnessed.

It was one MK who dreamt of Independence and led the nation in their fight of independence. Here is another MK (nowhere near the calibre of the great man) having a dream for India. Will the nation deliver? Time will say.

Poll prediction and exit polls- Lies, damn lies and poll predictions.

Staying with Indian politics, I was fascinated to see how much importance is paid to these. If any of the poll prediction comes true in Indian context, it is just a coincidence. I fully understand the science, art and algorithms of prediction but fail to understand how much importance it assumes in election prediction. By the way I love the book ‘the signal and the noise ‘written by Nate Silver (became famous through accurate prediction of US election). Any forecast such as weather, currency, stocks have a purpose as it is supposed to serve as input for people to take appropriate action. What am I supposed to do with poll prediction? Go along with the prediction when I vote. How does this help political parties who develop blind spots by believing that they would win the election anyway? What do I do with exit polls when the actual results will be known soon? Why am I against poll prediction and exit polls?

When voting ‘predictability irrationality syndrome” kicks in. Couple of examples: One of my near and dear one was in favour of voting for a national party and was totally against AAP (new kid on the block) but on the day of the election, voted for AAP because the candidate was good. Another friend of mine kept criticizing Congress on corruption but on the day of election voted for congress as it is a secular party. We do not know how our mind will think at the time of pressing the button. Sometimes voting happens by human instincts or peer pressure or other loyalties.

I can boldly predict now that none of the pre poll or exit polls will be accurate and if they are found accurate, it will be by sheer coincidence. It will be funny to see how various channels will defend their prediction with such terminology such as ‘last minute swing’, increased % of votes polled’orregional polarity.

I guess the media is playing with people psychology of wanting to know the unknown. Here is another channel doing its bit. I was also greatly inspired by CNN with their coverage on MH 370 wanting to know the unknown and hats off to them for their perseverance. Even yesterday there was coverage on MH 370 for couple of hours.

Dessert

This is one of my rare political blog but like any other media I wanted higher TRP staying with current topic. I bid you good bye saying “you don’t have to be creative to be creative” and of course “life is beautiful”. By the way my next topic is “ how good you want to be”.

 


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