Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Two Ways To Move Up

There are two ways if you want to move up in the system(I mean any system).  
  1. Create your own system.
  2. Work with the system.
There is no rocket science involved in this and if you get this thing right then you can achieve what you set to achieve in the system.  If the central government is not in your favor and they don't support you then you cannot create your own central government.  Think from a state's chief minister standpoint of view.  What will you do?  Work with the system and learn how it works.  That is exactly what Shree Narenda Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat, India has done till now.   He has implemented different projects which no other state government has even thought that those could be done.

Hence either you can complain all day hoping that manager don't understand your problems or take a different approach that would solve problems.  There is one thing though that you cannot afford to waste and it is time and opportunity.  You don't get thousand opportunities to become the president of United States or live your life to the fullest.  You only get one.  That's it.  Go make something happen buddy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Difference With $2, $20 And $200

I didn't liked playing sports back in college days where the only game you played was cricket.  As a spectator I enjoy cricket but I don't play it.  Since few months I have started playing Badminton and I am loving it.  It is great.  If you play it regularly your game will improve drastically.  We bought a pair of badminton racquet  from Walmart for a mere $4.  That means one costs $2.  Cool.  I was delighted already with the price.  But after few days those racquets fell apart.  No big deal we bought another pair since it was only $4.  I already spent $8 on two pairs and now both are broken.  Not to mention  the frustration and round trips that go into buying these. The problem with those is they break often and in the long run you end up paying more.

Then we came across Wilson's racquet worth $20 each. That is 10 times the price of the ones that I bought from Walmart.  As soon as you hold that piece in your hand you can feel  the design.  It is light weight.  And they even last longer.  And you don't end up paying frequently since they don't break often.  Your game improves and you have better chance of winning.  Now that I have realized the difference I wanted to learn from watching how stars play to improve my game.  I noticed they were playing with Yonex racquets.  I was curious to know the price difference.  It was another increase by the multiple of 10.  Shocking.  Yup. A whopping $229 worth of just one racquet, and it was the cheapest in the starting range.  They are engineered for higher performance.  Star players use them.  The design of such product is an evolution of multiple lab tests and high quality standards.  That is just not going to happen with those $2.

The point is if you want to be the best and if you want to get better at your game (could be your business, studies, job) then you will have to get the best tools and settle for nothing less than that.  If you want to hire programmers then you have a choice either hire an average cheap programmer(not that they aren't good) or hire a star programmer who costs twice as much as the cheaper one.  The problem with the former one is you will end up hiring such programmers more often who produce buggy softwares.  And worst of all you might never ship your product. Whereas if you hire a star programmer that programmer can produce 10 times efficient code then that sloppy programmer who never listens to you.  In the long run you will realize which bets paid off really well.

Key Takeaway: At any given point you have a decision to make, a) Settle for average or b) Select the best one.  In the second case you will be always better off in the long run.  

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Numerous articles and books have been written on "How to be an effective manager?".  And almost every piece mentions about having a "TO- DO-LIST".  Great.  To do lists work best if they are religiously followed.  Not on my list sorry I have not time for you.  Otherwise these lists are useless.  I too have taken my shot at them and you can read them below.  Those who deal with creativity are always challenged with these lists but they eventually manage them.  However in this post it is all about managing a Think List.  OK. Is that something new?  No not quite.  So what is a Think List?  And Is it another list that I have to maintain when I don't believe in a To-do-list?  Please stay with me to get full idea about think list.

When we are dealing with challenges and solving problems that make our lives easier then quite often we are facing with problems or concepts of which we are not sure so we need to think more to get a better understanding.  For example,  You are working on designing a desktop table out of wood.  And there are different designs to choose from and some design concepts are really bugging you but you aren't quite sure what it is. Hence you need time to think them thoroughly before you decide.  And you can't decide until you are sure.  I know that is not the best example but hang on for sec.

A more better scenario I can think of is a personal one where I have to implement login feature in a website.  And literally there are dozen ways to implement it.  Right now I have to get it done without thinking which one is the best approach.  I am half way through and I reach a point where I discovered a new way that people are talking on forums.  At this point I am not sure whether the new approach is going to work or not. I don't even know how much time it will take to learn and implement it.  And I don't want to waste time on it only to find that it is not suitable for our site.  Hence this is something which should be scheduled under a think list.

One might argue that this could fall easily under TO-DO-LIST why bother creating one more list.  True.  Even I don't want to maintain a Think List on paper and keep doing it.  But here is one thing I have found.  We don't allocate specific time for thinking.  It is something that we do it continuously.  Even while we are driving.  Yes. Thinking process needs to be organized in a way that addresses our problems.  Problems act like distraction, distraction and even more distraction.  We need to train our subconscious mind to think continuously.  Trust me sometimes I have found solutions to my problems when I am half asleep.

People who are doing research and those who are super engrossed into one thing can't think about other things.  They have mastered the art of getting the most out of their mind and their time.  All kinds of distractions are avoided.  They just keep thinking about the stuff that needs to be done and that needs to be solved.  It is not a rocket science really. Keeping your mind from what not to think is equally important as what to think.  I have noticed back in those day when I was in college, I used to think utter non-sense.  We think crazy stuff which doesn't make any sense.  So make a list of what to think and what not to think.  Don't think about competition or your appearance.  Since that's not the point.  Think about what you care.

Previous posts on To do lists
1. How to follow a to do list?
2. Do You Have A Stop Doing List?
3. How To Make One To Do List That Works?
4. On Productivity
5. Power of Sticky Notes

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Take One Step Back And Go Two Forward

When we continue to do our daily work with almost exact precision it becomes a routine.  And when it becomes a routine we keep doing some things even if they doesn't make sense after some time.  I am re-thinking everything about my blog right now.  Few months ago, I had fallen into the trap of writing it everyday and it became a routine for me.  I would open the editor and start writing whatever I liked.  Now I am falling back(as you might have noticed infrequent posts from me) and I am thinking of taking a step back.  Taking a step back to re-think few key issues about blogging.

Writing everyday is not difficult, in fact after continuous practice you can do it almost flawlessly and you will even get ideas frequently.  The challenge is to do something different and in a big way which pushes the limits.  Since few days I am thinking to write with more substance and more research(noticed the Learning in a Digital Age Series).   Ya ! I heard you saying that you liked the smaller format of my blogs so that you can read them in a short time.  I agree to that.  In fact that is what makes me blog and you read.  The format of JOURNEY blog will still stay the same.  But it would be more researched and well thought of.

In terms of difference, I want to experiment with different forms of blogging which would be interesting.  For example, Podcasts(I know I am late to the party), You Tube Video posts, presentations and pictures.  The reason to take this decision is it will take me and the blog two steps forward in the future.  And also it would take the community a step ahead.  Oh did I said community.  Yeah now you can participate in comments sections.  So what do you think? You can comment using your Facebook credentials.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

How Accessible Is Your CEO?

Have you heard of CAI?  CEO Accessibility Index (CAI)?  Don't worry I just made it up.  How accessible is your CEO?  Or If you are the CEO then how accessible are you?  I wish there was a metric like CAI which would measure a CEO's accessibility within a company.  Of course that would be subjective to each company and wouldn't be too realistic.  But try to find out how accessible if your CEO.  For example.

1.) Can anybody email the CEO?
2.) Can anybody meet CEO?
3.) How often does your CEO addresses employees? Once a year, twice a year or frequently.
4.) Is the CEO often found behind closed doors?
5.) How far is the CEO's office from the main entrance of the company?  In short how many steps it would normally take to reach to the CEO's office.
6.) Does your CEO hold open meetings?
7.) Does your CEO conducts video conferencing company wide?

I know many of the above cases, some are not realistic for many companies because of their company culture.  If anybody (of course within company) can reach the CEO then wouldn't it be like CEO would be meeting everyone and will not have time to get things done?  No it is not like that.  If everyone has issues with the CEO and wants to talk to the CEO then there are big problems within the company, which the CEO should address in a forum.   But tell me isn't it the duty of the CEO to reply to its Tribe.  Isn't that a CEO's formal duty?

Secretaries sometimes act like, "The Great Wall of China".  They make your CEO almost inaccessible.  Even though secretaries are friendly and super cool but still it sends feeling of inaccessibility.  CEO's and front line managers should often conduct open friendly meetings and discussions via company's intranet or in that French Cafeteria across the street.

When companies are founded there are no wall and almost everyone in the company is reachable and often within sight.  As they grow they start adding layers and layers of bureaucratic nonsense that prevents open discussions and spreads cynicism  across departments.  In technology this slows down many companies that initially grew so fast.  Remember Microsoft, Google.  These companies are now fighting back and coming strong.

A growing company CEO is and always will be facing with challenges and in the midst of this he/she should make every effort so they don't become guarded and inaccessible.  

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Invest Into Cafeteria And Restaurants

Important Note: If you are reading this from cafeteria of a silicon valley company then please ignore.  If your company has a cafeteria and a restaurant paid by the company then please ignore.

Of course if it was my company I would also like to have sleeping beds on campus.  But that is going too much the Google way.  It is not bad though.  So in this post I am arguing as always that companies should invest more into cafeteria and restaurants rather than installing more and more individualized compartments for people.  Compartments add more bureaucracy and halts open discussions.  Yeah! I heard those privacy advocacy groups rambling about needing more private space, but what is private in a company after all.  Shouldn't everything within the company be considered open?

Cafeteria and restaurants is a nice way to bribe your employees to do amazing stuff and help company innovate with bright ideas.  Don't give me that windmill idea once again.  Anyways just think for a second what makes any one step out of a company everyday? Lunch, Dinner, Breakfast (if you are working night shifts).  Guess what people think when they want to network with anyone?  Ans. Let's go out for lunch at the Mediterranean restaurant.  What will I do when those business partners come next week?  Aha! I will take them out for lunch of course.

Everyday we seek to get out of the company to get lunch, dinner and breakfast.  I know I missed those 15min breaks where you seek for a vending machine to get snickers.  Afterall who wants to eat from vending machine or go out of the company if there is something available within the company.  I want to work extra hours (even if the company doesn't pay me more for that) and not worry about my hungry stomach.  Programmers who juggle with their mind every day to get the logic right, use up most of their energy pretty fast.  When we are hungry we can't work.  Even if we feel that after some time I will be hungry, I still cannot work worrying about it.

Just like me I know everyday there are many people longing to have cafeterias and restaurants within the great wall of their company.  I am surprised to see how some companies just get this idea and see them doing it brilliantly.  Example Google, Facebook.  Do you know any one?  I get creative and excited if I go out for lunch with my co-workers.  So many amazing ideas pop out of our heads.  It would be impossible for those ideas to come outside of our brains within the great wall of our mighty corporate.  Everyday just imagine how many people work, go out for lunch, network and meet at restaurants.  And imagine how many great ideas that lead to innovation would be popping up on their tables.  And how many of those ideas are wasted everyday.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The Best Mango Will Be Picked up

The logic is very simple and after continuous observation it becomes obvious that best people always land up at the best places in the world.  Some people either find best places to work (superstar employee) or they create their existing ones the best place to work (superstar CEO) or they create ones from scratch (superstar entrepreneur).

If you have one fresh mango in the midst of 100 rotten mangoes then either one of the two things will happen:  fresh mango will be picked up(most likely) or one fresh mango will make rotten ones fresh (highly unlikely).  If one invests in becoming the very best in the world or in one's domain then sooner or later the best company will pick'em up.