Posted tagged ‘inspiration’

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

March 17, 2014

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) – 1213

February 16, 2014

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

December 29, 2013

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

December 14, 2013

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

November 29, 2013

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

November 12, 2013

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

August 19, 2013

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)


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