Archive for the ‘Design thinking’ category

My Experiences -Last time (MELT) – 0115

August 2, 2015

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.



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”.



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) – 0614

October 4, 2014

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.


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

September 21, 2014

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.


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?

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