Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On Being More Appreciative

Have you ever written a testimonial for someone?  Or Have you ever Endorsed someone on LinkedIn?  If you have then it is very nice of you and I want to thank you for doing so for whomever you did.  I realized that in our daily lives we do a poor job appreciating people whom we meet everyday.  I don't blame anybody but try to write few paragraphs about somebody.  And it will not be so easy unless you are doing on a daily basis.  Now try same thing with some other person and some another person.  It is really hard to come up with different expressive words every time reflecting a person's identity.  If you want to experiment then try to ask somebody to tell a few words about some person X.  See how long it takes before they stop.  Ask same thing about person Y.

As a leader it is very important to know key strengths and weaknesses of your team.  And knowing is also not enough, expressing is also crucial.  It boosts morale of the whole team.  If you are meeting a team or someone who is walking in the lobby then just imagine some keywords floating above their head (just like Tom-Jerry Cartoon).  And you realize how much valuable they are and you will become more appreciative.  Just to tell somebody that "You are doing an amazing job" is just a blow-away kinda feeling for the receiver.

This takes a good understanding about people.  You have to be genuinely interested in people around you.  As human beings we do things that are visually compelling and obvious to us.  We will take action on things we see.  Try to imagine some "?" marks over people's head whom you don't know.  And try to know more about them by eliminating those "?" marks with keywords specific to them.  Know as much as you can and be interested by asking counter questions.

If you have to lead a team then you will have to spend a lot of time building morale.  You might have to rally for them.  Fight for them.  Motivate them.  This could be done by being more appreciative in our daily lives.  Try to come up with at least 5 "smile bringing" key words for every person on your team.  Even if you don't do anything these words will come up in your conversations with other people.  Best feelings are those which are passed on by someone else.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

We Will Miss You Steve!!

As we all know that Steve Jobs, the legendary innovator has passed away and left many people in tears around the world.  I was in a shock on Wednesday when I heard the news after I was done with my Art class.  It felt like a close family member had passed away.  I cannot do justice by writing about a person whom I have never met.  And lots of intelligent and smart people around the world have written about Steve Jobs.  Take a look at this Techcrunch article on Steve Jobs which aggregated some famous stories on Steve Jobs.  So me writing on Steve would be like a just another fan writing on Steve.  But I couldn’t help it as every other fan so I am just writing what I am feeling.  Just a coincidence, today is 14th October 2011,  the day iPhone 4S goes on sale and Apple has kept a celebration to remember Steve Jobs.  What a day to give a tribute to a legend. 

I have been reading lots of articles on Steve and also eagerly waiting for his Biography written by Sir Walter Issacson who wrote Biography of Einstein.  According to this video conversation feature on Charlie Rose on Bloomberg website, Steve Jobs wanted his Biography to be written by the person who wrote Einstein’s Biography.  Amazing!  And for those who don’t know it is coming this October 24.  I was long ago waiting for Steve’s Biography to come out as a I have read lots of his stories before he passed away.  I knew the biography was going to come in March next year.  Then I found out that it was due in November this year.  So I pre-ordered it on the same day Steve died in the afternoon before I heard the news about his death.  So in the evening when I heard the news I was devastated and in tears.  ‘How could that happen?” – I told my wife and we both were sad to hear the news.  People who met Steve Jobs at some point in their life must have felt the same way (Fast Company article on people who met Steve).


We realize the true value of a person when the person is away from us.  I realized this long ago when I came to United States leaving my family back in India.  Steve Jobs was the person who realized what the true value of life was.  He lived life to its fullest. 
I had been posting Steve Jobs’s quotes n my Facebook wall for a while and I want to re-post them here which I believe are life changing.  I often remember these quotes whenever I am struggling with some problem.  Here they are.

The only thing that kept me going was I truly loved what I did.”  - Steve Jobs.


“It's your heart running around outside your body." -- Steve Jobs quote on children and family as told by Eric Schmidt on BW.

Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” - Steve Jobs

"Apple was a very bottom-up company when it came to a lot of its great ideas. We hired truly great people and gave them the room to do great work. A lot of companies — I know it sounds crazy — but a lot of companies don't do that. They hire people to tell them what to do. We hire people to tell us what to do. We figure we're paying them all this money; their job is to figure out what to do and tell us. That led to a very different corporate culture, and one that's really much more collegial than hierarchical." -- Steve Jobs 1996 Interview with Terry Gross as seen on NPR.ORG

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.”  - Steve Jobs at Stanford Commencement speech in 2005.

He will always be at the top of my mentors list.  I never met him but he influenced me the most.  Here is one more classy statement from Naval on Twitter,

I never met my greatest mentor. I wanted so much to be like him.  But, his message was the opposite.  Be yourself, with passionate intensity.” – Naval

Steve Jobs was different from any of us in the world and there can be only one Steve Jobs in the world.  Steve cared deeply about what he did and that reflected in all Apple products.  And through all his products we will miss him.

Steve you will be missed…!!  And for all Steve Jobs fans I have one thing to say yet, "The best of Steve Jobs is yet to come."

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Meeting Management: IPAD


In my earlier post on meeting management I wrote on how to keep meetings shorter and frequent to get the most out of meetings.  Shorter meetings bring a sense of urgency.  Remember people will work their butts off to ship a product on time.  In this post I want to talk on other aspects of how to get the most out of a meeting.  There are many issues related to it but I will just focus on three of them and they are very simple to remember.  

The principle is known as IPAD principle.  Ok.  Very simple just remember IPAD.  It is very simple.  IPAD means I will come to the meeting Prepared with an Agenda and leave with a Deliverable (read outcome).  These three aspects of meeting (Preparation, Agenda, and Deliverable) are very important if you want to get something productive out of a meeting.  So what do I stand for?  It stands for Responsibility.  It means I will be held responsible for not having these things done.  That is why I have written it as an Oath.  I feel that if these aspects of business meeting are not met then it is not business meeting, it is just a hangout. 

Preparation
When someone comes to the meeting unprepared without having any clue as to what is going on is such a frustrating experience.  It wastes everyone’s time and energy.  If everyone comes prepared to a meeting then conducting a meeting goes effortless.  Sometimes you might even get solutions to problems even before you have a meeting.  Your team mate might even email you the solution.  Everyone contributes to a higher level if they are prepared. 

Agenda
Walking into a meeting without an Agenda is like wandering in a Jungle where you don’t have a clue where are you going.  Having a fixed agenda which has definite outcomes at the end of the meeting is very important.  A good agenda should have definite outcomes also known as deliverables assigned to specific individuals.  Sometimes meetings go on forever and they seem to achieve nothing.  Another thing to include in an Agenda is a quick overview of last meetings deliverables being met or not.  If your team doesn’t have agenda then volunteer to create one and send email to everyone requesting inputs and review them.  Send agenda in advance. 

Deliverable
As mentioned above Deliverable or outcome is a must after you have conducted meeting.  A deliverable will give a to-do-list to your team to work on.  Each deliverable should be assigned to a team member with a deadline.  Otherwise people would land up with sentence, “Oh, nobody told me”, “I don’t know what we were supposed to do”.  Be relentless in your approach to reach to a definite outcome of a meeting.  

Always remember the IPAD principle for meeting management and PDF principle for general management.

Friday, September 16, 2011

On Creativity: For Whom Do We Really Work?

Money covers our eye, instinct, emotion and common sense most of the times.  Its domination prevents us from executing our art.  So for whom do we really work?  We spend most of the time in offices staying away from our loved ones and sometimes we get angry or upset with our family for a bad day at job.  After risking everything for whom do we really work for.  Is it your boss? The company? The Money?  No. You work for yourself.  You work for your happiness.  You work for your joy.  If you aren't happy working for yourself then it's not going to produce great work.  It is not going to be a master piece.

Check this video by Marian Bantjes titled, "Intricate beauty by design" on TED.com  In the video she talks about taking a more personal approach in graphic design her art got better.  In art and I believe in almost everything we should keep our egos out.  Marian examines if her work brings to her joy or not.  Let me tell  you a personal story related to Art.  Back in college days, I used to do sketches and sell them.  Some I did for my friends' girlfriends and other I did it for fun and my interest.  Whenever I did it for money and under pressure I almost did a pathetic job at it.  I was not happy for whatever I did.  I even had to consult my teacher over where my fault was.  It was even embarrassing at times.  And whenever I did it for my fun and interest it turned out to be effortless.  And they were really great.  I loved them.  

We should approach our work in a similar way.  If you are hiring a person don't check for what they bring to the table on a sheet of paper.  Check for passion, Check if the person is happy for his work and Check for enthusiasm.  People who are intrinsically motivated and not by money or any other performance metrics produce far more and great output.  We often forget the aspect of happiness and joy.  Money destroys your motivation to great art.  It kills creativity.  So don't let money come under your way.  Just do your art.  Because you do it for yourself not for somebody else.  And truly just think if you don't enjoy what you do then it is really difficult to have it sustain for long.  Life is too long to live unhappy.  Find a job that gives you happiness.   On an ending note check this another video by Don Norman on "3 ways good design makes you happy" again on Ted.com.   Read this book Drive by Dan Pink too on what motivates us.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Working Backwards

Did you knew that Amazon internally approaches a product from the consumers' perspective first and works their way backwards?  What does that mean? OK. They first write a press release of their product and then they grill down on each and every aspect of the product by asking questions and answering them.  That Q&A stuff gets built into what is known as FAQ section of their product.  Before even starting work on the actual product they have worked on press release, frequently asked questions, user manual, and customer experience. All the questions that people would ask and would be confused about are tackled internally first by the team.  This way they are on track to deliver the most engaging and simplistic consumer friendly products. 

Everyone should approach consumer products or service in a similar fashion.  Recently Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple and lots of comments were made online on various websites regarding his leadership.  He is and will always be a great leader.  But as this article on HBR nailed it down on how Apple works ridiculously hard to execute the perfect consumer experience which they have defined long ago before even working on the product.  Many forget about how much extra mile Apple to goes to deliver that consumer experience.  Apple believes in the philosophy that the more you compete inside the less you have to compete outside.

Lots of companies and even creative individuals have a tendency to get excited on any new idea.  I have been through this and been burnt a lot of times.  Companies get so excited they jump on building product as soon as they feel they came up with an idea of next iPad or Facebook killer and then try to push a product to consumers which they really don't need.  Apple can convince you that you need this product and that they have built it just for you.  Amazon and Apple have worked their way backwards.  They have shown resistance to get excited on new ideas and ship half baked products to market.  Instead they choose to wait until they built the perfect consumer experience. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

On Vision: Multiply Your Efforts By "N" Times

Leadership is about steering like minded people to achieve a common goal, a shared vision, mission or solve a problem.  A project leader might have like minded construction workers who will build something as he says.  His job would be to steer them so that project achieves what it promised to achieve on scheduled time.

How can a leader have everyone agree to a common goal? A leader can create a compelling shared vision that everyone strives to achieve.  A vision that is created in isolation inside board room without public participation will not go too far.  Sometimes leader's persona is enough to have everyone agree his/her vision (Remember Steve Jobs?).  But that is not the case always. 

If you keep telling people about your vision or what you believe in continuously then ultimately you will have people around you who think like you and now instead one person working, now you have n number of people working for your vision.  Again if people in your company or team agrees to your vision then virtually you have cloned yourself and multiplied your effort by the number of people in your team. 

A vision is really a nice way to say, "Do as I say", if created by a single individual.  A shared vision which is created by the community or a tribe within your organization could mean, "We will do as we say".    Great leaders are said to be visionaries not because they imagined future but they were able to convince their troops to work day and night in one direction without giving up.  When there was no sign of hope, the troops looked up to the leader for inspiration.

A single person can only solve few problem on his own.  But a person with a shared vision among millions of people can also bring governments down.  Vision is not good on its own.  It has to be shared and spread among thousands in the community so that it becomes a vision of the people.   

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You Are Only Smart And Capable As Your Tribe

Tribal leadership is the book one should read no matter if you are a leader or not. One of the coaching tips offered by the book is deserves to be framed and should be placed on everyone's wall. Here it goes.

Coaching Tip:
The central theme of the book is that you are only smart and capable as your tribe, and by upgrading your tribe you multiply the results of your efforts.

If you think you don't have a great team or you are not satisfied with your results then change your tribe. Or if you think in the future you will be faxing with bigger problems then you have to start thinking ahead regarding upgrading your tribe. As the book further mentions, "What kinds of triads will help us spot and fix problems so big that we can't even think of?"

Why people switch careers? Why people make a move to choose to work for a startup? People want to work with a team or tribe that will be able solve a problem.   People want to be a part of that tribe.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Networking Tip: Everyone Is In The Same Boat

If you ever went to a Networking event and felt that you are a bit shy to talk to people then don't think that way.

I went to a conference and met some people. Earlier that day I was sitting at one place, not talking to people other then very next to me. I asked one gentleman sitting next to me, "what should I ask people and I am unsure as to how others would react and so on".  He said one nice thing to me, "Don't think too much, everyone here is in the same boat. And everyone wants to make a contact with people here. And that is the reason everyone came here. So don't think. Just start talking."

After some time I realized that I don't have anything to loose to get started so let's talk.
So don't think too much, get started. And always try to finish with the sentence, "let's see how can we help each other".

Saturday, September 10, 2011

You Can Do It

Have you heard about the story of a tree where the tree gets destroyed?  You may or may not believe it but it has practical implications in our life, so its worth a mention.

Once upon a time there was a tree and a guy named Joe. He used to cruse the tree everyday because it didn't gave him any fruits.  He cursed the tree so much that one day the tree died. The moral of the story is equally true is you take it in a positive way. If everyone around you just said that you can do it then one day you will definitely get it.

I am blessed for having such people around me all the time in my life.  Eventually you too start to be like those people. You will tell everyone that yes you can get it. Imagine how much it can boost the moral of an entire team working on a project.

To stay happy it is very important to surround yourself by happiest people in your life. Those people will encourage you, motivate you and will always say, "You can get it".  And you need an equal number of people who will correct you if you are putting your effort in the wrong direction.  

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Mentoring Women

This is a very challenging topic to write leaving my male ego apart.  However, over these many years I have grown to respect women from all parts of my life even more.  People close to me would agree to it.  Men respect women and they do want to see them reach higher in life.  But sometimes they don't offer enough mentoring required for women to get excited and motivated.  From a husband's point of view, who wouldn't mind seeing his wife succeed in life?  Why wouldn't he mentor her?  He should mentor her enough so that she achieves what she aspires for.  And if I am right most men would do so.  That is not the problem.

The problem starts when you have to mentor another woman which is not your wife or sister or girlfriend.  What if she is a co-worker in your office?  Or some woman or a girl junior to you at your job or your university?  Will there be same level of mentoring?  This is a very tricky pothole in which people fall often to distant themselves from such kind of mentoring.  Such mentoring could look like an affair.  And as mentioned by Harvard Business Review article cited by this article on NewYorker, "the greater the power disparity between the male and the female, the more intense the speculation becomes that the relationship is more than professional.  If the woman is subsequently promoted, her achievement will be undermined by office gossip that she earned it illicitly."


Many would not want to associate themselves with such office gossip and the overall perception of the people. This is only one reason out of many which prevents mentoring.  Another and perhaps the biggest one would be how the husband and wife deal with such mentoring taking place.  How much understanding and openness is shown from both is crucial to have this kind of mentoring.  To reach higher in life, women need to be ambitious and carry a fighting spirit within them.  They have to pass all kinds of hurdles.

If women need to be educated and mentored then men also should be educated.  Why?  Let me talk about myself.  I had a different take over women issues and such out of the house mentoring relationships.  Sometimes the man inside me awakens and takes a very egoistic stand to prevent such kind of relationships from happening.  But it takes a very big heart to move on and give an unconditional support to your counterpart.  I learned that this larger than life attitude didn't come natural to me.  It took a while.  It took lots of questioning, self-confrontation, reading books, and looking at the larger picture of life.  This is something not everyone would do.  I am talking about both male and female.  Both have to show equal maturity, support, openness, and shower some big time unconditional love.

This is a big and complex issue in our society.  I mean around the world.  It is impossible for me to do any justice to this issue.  However, I would be glad if you would share your views on it to take the discussion further.  I will write another post on it.




Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Meeting Management: Keep Meetings Short And Frequent

Time is the most valuable, scare, underutilized, and wasted resource on earth.  And very few are able to understand this fact depending on how much they see value in time.    

Time and time again we have been to endless meetings resulting into huge waste of time for everyone present there.  Everyone forgets that even though it's one hour meeting in reality it's not.  For example, if four star developers are scheduled to meet for one hour with one business analyst then let's start counting how much time is wasted.  We will assume that our fictitious meeting turns out to be useless.

First let's put 5 hours straight since they all could have worked 5 hours on their projects.  We are talking about star developers which are far more productive and produce less bugs than the average developers.  So now we are talking even more hours wasted.  Let's put 30 mins extra for each star developer.  7 hours wasted and counting.  Ok we are still not done yet.

Developers work in the zone so if you pull out them from their zone for just one hour then they cannot get back into zone quickly.  Since we have assumed that the meeting has turned out to be useless and emotionally challenging, our developers are disturbed and they cannot put their focus back to work quickly.  Put another 30 mins per developer.  9 hours wasted when we only scheduled the meeting for 1 hour.  And many times meetings go beyond 1 hour so you can do the math on a specific situation. So let's round the number to 10.  

If all five of them earned $100/hour then 1*10*$100=$1000 is wasted every hour.  Of course when you have to conduct meetings then you have to.  There is no way out of it.  In that case you will try to minimize the damage as much as possible by keeping meetings as short as possible.  Read this article from Harvard Blogs on Extreme ways to shorten and reduce meetings and another one from 37signals on Meetings considered as harmful.

There are many companies which implement strict rules managing meeting times.  Keep it short and if required conduct more meetings but keep track of outcomes from previous meetings.  


Monday, August 08, 2011

You Don't Watch TV on Moon

If you landed on the Moon for the first time then will you watch TV?(assuming it is there)  No.  Right.  Who cares about TV on moon?  If your are exploring a place for the first time, then will you waste time watching TV inside your hotel room?  Nobody would do either.  That's right.  Then why people watch TV everyday and that too for hours?  There are so many things to do besides watching TV and wasting precious time.  All the happenings on TV are already crafted anyway and they are catering to a specific audience then why so much craving for it.  There is no reality on TV except your TV itself.

There are more interesting things going outside that 42 inch screen.  5 PM to 12 PM everyday is enough time to do something that will change your life dramatically.  So what about family life, kids and all that stuff?  I think there is enough time left just by not watching boring TV.  It is about managing one's time more effectively.  So I would be more busy by doing extra work right?  Yes why wouldn't you be?  If we aspire to do something different and big we will be busy in the future anyway.  Because of economic pressure we are doing more work and because of gloomy prospects we even learn new skills.  Since there is uncertainty over everything then why not do something that will be there even if you lose your job.

There are many small projects that you can do during your TV time and who know with those ideas you might turn into an entrepreneur.  Experimenting with new will give new dimension to your life.  If we never do anything different then we should not expect to get different results.    

Friday, July 29, 2011

Priceless Moments

If you haven't taken a vacation since long time then I urge you to take one.  It's an amazing feeling.  Even if you can't take a vacation, then go to some place in your town or city which is quiet and peaceful.  Go alone or with your loved ones.  Go out there, take a deep breath and just let your feelings come out.  It will bring freshness to your life.  I think this is a form of meditation.  Everyday people spent time in front of bright television listening and watching not so bright news about world.  You might not remember every episode of "Lost" series but these moments will stay in your memory lanes forever.  In a not so happening city like Toledo, you can still enjoy such moments.  I think there is lot more to explore and enjoy in this world.  These moments are priceless and you have to create them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

We Are Going Through A Cultural Revolution

I first realized this through Fred Wilson's blog(A VC).  In this post, I am trying to describe why I think that we are going through a cultural revolution.

More power to People
Prior to social media and the internet, the world population was disconnected. People could not share or communicate crucial information to different parts of the world.  People now have a voice through social media.  And they can share anything to world in just a matter of seconds.  They have more power than ever before.  We have witnessed Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Watch this interactive timeline from guardian for more on Arab revolution.

First time like poles attract each other
With increasing internet connectivity and more people joining twitter and Facebook more people are sharing.  And sharing is likely to increase exponentially.  As a result of this, more like minded people are able to connect with each other.  So if you believe in something then you don't have to restrict or inhibit yourself from sharing what you believe in.  Instead you can find an online community which has people like you.  And as a result, you will be more happier than ever before.  StackExchange is network of  57 sites of highly engaged audience contributing knowledge to millions of users everyday.  Such forum like sites are sprouting everywhere.

Better communication and collaboration
We are getting better at collaborating with each other over challenging tasks, which are impossible for a single individual to do.  This power is used around the world in both constructive (solve world problems) and destructive (hacking websites) ways.  

It's an open and transparent world.  You cannot hide something from the people.  Why hide people's information from them? Why should people guess on what is happening with the community?  Why hold on to all the power?  Let's give people the power over their destiny.  India will be the biggest country in the world to tackle corruption in a meaningful way.  Thanks to all the responsible citizens who acted this time.  World governments are bound to become transparent as a result of such a cultural revolution.

This will open flood gates for innovation around the world.  And like minded people collaborating with each other to solve world problems will be a key trend in this cultural revolution.  

I would like to quote what Fred Wilson wrote,
The Internet is not controlled by anyone or anything. It is a highly distributed global network that has at its core the concepts of free speech and individual liberty. This ethos, which includes but is not limited to hacker culture, is in many ways at odds with big companies, institutions, and governments which seek to control, regulate, and "civilize" the Internet.

1. A VC: Investing in a cultural revolution
2. Wikileaks Articles
3. India fights corruption
4. USA Open Data
5. NYC opening up its data for entrepreneurs to innovate.
6. See this Google trend on word Hackedhttp://www.google.com/trends?q=Hacked
7. See this guarding article on Arab world timeline.
8. Hundreds of sites getting hacked.

I am sure you can find hundreds of articles on governments, big corporations in trouble and lots of companies innovating.  Cultural revolution will increase innovation and business opportunities.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Bad Bosses

There are bad bosses.  And there are good bosses.  You can't escape them until you quit you job or change positions within your company.  It depends on your perspective about your boss too because in reality that boss might be doing his or her job.  The problem for most people is that they keep thinking about their bosses and what they are doing to them and how unfairly they treat them.  And that's the trick that will put people in a never ending thinking loop until they find another job.  Such a waste of emotional energy.  Just not worth it.

If you feel your day with your boss was not good then for a second put yourself in your boss's shoes and think how his or her typical day might look like.  How would you have reacted if you were in that place?  Would you make similar choices?  The moment we switch places, our perspectives changes.  For the most part, I believe it is the communication problem that keeps the other side thinking wrong stuff that they are not suppose to think in the first place.  For example, if a boss can just tell the employee that today is just not a good day please bear with me.

Most of our life is spent working.  We have to deal with bosses more frequently than we meet and talk with even our family sometimes.  And it can be very hard to survive and deal everyday if one has a bad boss.  Our personal life can be affected by this.  It is very important for us to gel well with our boss.  It is highly unlikely that your boss behavior might change overnight if he/she has been treating you unfairly or any other misappropriate way.  However, you can do few things to overcome a bad boss and I tried to cover just five of them below.  Read at your own risk though as I am no expert on it.

1. Consult different people over this situation and be honest.  If you are honest then people will tell you the truth and advise you over the right thing to do.

2. Be open and think wisely.  You can just ignore and keep doing awesome job and hope things might improve.  Sometimes a highly unrelated situation might force you to think different stuff about your boss which might not be good.  Just ignore it.

3.  Don't judge your boss based upon someone else's opinion or thinking.  This is quite prevalent in many work places.  Rumors and gossip just amplifies things which they might not be true in the first place.  Judge based upon first hand information.

4. Talk things out with your boss.  Clear cut communication with your boss will help you sort things out.  Be persistent and communicate often.  If it does not work out, then you know that the place is not right for you.

5.  Listen to everybody but do what is right for you based  upon your situation.  Like every disease has its own prescription, do what is right for you.  So don't take AIDS prescription for a minor fever.

Note: This blog post in no way reflects my opinions about my current employment or my boss.  This are my observations in general and my research during my MBA studies.  Finally, these are my opinions and please assess your situation independently and act at your own risk. 

Friday, July 08, 2011

Preserving Our Local Languages

With globalization reaching its new high, English language is becoming more and more ubiquitous.  Preference for sending kids to English medium schools is on the rise.  Our cultural values are diminishing and merging more towards a global culture.  It is difficult to measure culture and argue on numbers but it is happening.

So are we about to loose our cultural heritage and integrity?  What should we do to create awareness about local culture among everyone?   Who will teach Gujarati(regional language for Gujarat state in India) and who will do marvelous poetry that we used to learn in schools?  And most important of all will anybody care for it? Shouldn't we preserve our rich culture of local language?  In different countries they have still preserved their languages.  In fact in many countries they have computer key boards in their languages.

In a world of globalization it is very important that we learn a universal language but an equal effort should be placed in promoting and preserving our own language strictly speaking other than English.  With the advent of English medium schools and now international schools it is becoming a status symbol for middle class in India.  Well it is all good but at the same time equal emphasis should put on teaching our kids the prevalent local language.

I don't say that we should send every one to Gujarati medium schools but we should keep more Gujarati courses available in universities and colleges. And why not, for Free.  We should create platform which provides motivation, incentives, and recognition to upcoming talent in local languages around the world.  In U.S. universities have couple of courses on foreign languages and people take those courses as a sign of prestige and it represents that they are intellectual.  Why same can't be done elsewhere in the world?  It is of prime importance that we acknowledge the need to preserve them.

The problem is more prevalent if you think of people who can understand and speak in their languages but cannot write or read.  This is a common case with immigrant children or children whose parents were immigrants.  What if those parents are willing to teach their children their mother tongue?  I mean in all aspects, reading, writing and speaking fluently.  And why would they even want to care for it?  Is there any incentive for their kids in a global society?  Those who don't find any answers will give up teaching to their kids.

Evangelism about local languages and local culture should be done by all responsible citizens of 21st century.  We are living in a more responsive society and I believe that we can achieve such goals.  At the same time our moves should not be counter productive either.  We should not make it harder for those who speak global language to live.  If you ever visit a country or a region with strong presence of local culture, then sometimes it is so hard to get things done even though if you know English.  "Think Global, Act Local" slogan best fits here.  We should not only embrace globalization but also keep a strong focus on localization.  At least that's what is the mantra going forward with technology companies.

So if you are still with me then suggest some ways we could address this issue in the comments sections.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    On Comfort Zone: Your Comfort Zone Has More Control Over You Than You

    If I were to put up a comfort zone light bulb on everyone's head then I bet it would never blink for most people around the world.  Comfort Zone Rules!  95% of people don't do anything radically different or change anything that is out of their comfort zone 90% of the time.  Breaking a routine, making tough calls, pushing beyond limits, building networking skills, challenging other person's thoughts, building life long relationships, calling just to say hi to someone unexpected are some of the out of comfort zone things.  These things many people hate to do or simply it is not in their top to do list.

    No matter how many apps related to time management or other things you put up to change yourself, they won't last long because of the comfort zone.  We seldom make the first move to keep in touch with some rare friends or business contacts.  It is tough work to beat your personal buddy aka EGO.  It is difficult and challenging task to change some part of yourself overnight and expect it to last that way forever.  Because it won't.  Our everyday routine acts like a software program that is trained to do exactly how we programmed it by doing some things daily.

    We are so comfortable in doing our daily stuff that we rarely go out of the bounds of our comfort zone.  We will try to hit facebook, twitter, some famous games, news sites, etc. again and again.  And simply stare at it.  Click, Click and Click.  Change TV channels over and over with nothing useful and meaningful.

    "Your comfort zone has more control over you than you."  - via Twitter from Somebody.

    It is important that we remain explosive and dynamic as a young child full of energy, willing to explore everything around.  Once we get what we want, the success factor reins in.

    I don't know real answers on how you could challenge yourselves to get out of the comfort zone because I am not you.  In this post I made a point not to write on "Top 10 things you should do to get out of comfort zone".  Because those are people specific things and it might work for me but might now work for you.  I think as long as people acknowledge that they operate within a comfort zone then half the work is done.  The rest is about breaking the software and forcing it to do unexpected things.   Over a time you will learn how to continuously challenge your status quo.


    Saturday, June 11, 2011

    The Need To Change Indian Politics, Governance And Constitution

    Is Indian constitution so helpless that we cannot bring about any change without carrying out procession or disrupting assembly sessions with violence and dis-respecting our fellow politicians? Can change be only brought through Satyagraha or non-cooperation movement?  If it was a country like Egypt ruled by Monarchy it would have made sense to take your anger on streets.  Guys, this is the largest democracy in the world.  Why after so many years we feel that we are still ruled by an alien government, who is helpless in cleaning up its own mess?

    After almost 64 years of India's Independence, there are many loopholes in the system which need to be addressed and fixed for a modern society.  In a modern society people are more civilized and are willing to play a role in governance.  They are willing to be socially responsible citizens.  But people of modern India need clean and honest politics, better governance and commanding leaders in order to participate in our social upheaval.  There is no such rule in our constitution that would combat corruption and punish law offenders.  Thanks to recent protests by Anna Hazare our government has at least acknowledged the need for has started making progress towards anti-corruption law known as Lokpal Bill.(Updated: Thanks to Rishabh)

    But a Lokpal bill in itself is not sufficient to combat corruption.  We need better, responsible and transparent governance for our society.  Why there is no transparency in every undertaking of our government? Policies which affect masses and which can bring change in our daily lives should be done in open and by public participation.  Local lawmakers should consult local people over what they feel is appropriate for everyone.  Corporators in our municipal corporations should conduct town hall meetings and address issues at large in public.  For all this to happen a cultural shift has to happen among our leaders.

    I am awe struck by how White House shares information on their website.  Amazing stuff.  Oh! and by the way there is also an iPhone app for it.  We are not too far away from such a future.  Gujarat state government is most advanced in sharing information to public from the rest of the state governments in India.  Our politicians should embrace openness and be more willing to engage with the Aam Junta (common people).  The wikileaks saga still haunts our politicians and many are still defending their turfs over exposed information in the public.  Would that happen if governments were more open?

    Regarding politics, I would like to share following tweet by Shri Jaya Prakash Narayan of Loksatta party on twitter.  He says, "The only antidote to corrupt politics is more politics and better politics.  Hating politics will end democracy and make things worse."  When we are going through a major change in our country then we need better politics to withstand such change.  More public debates, respect among our leaders, debating on facts and numbers, and accountability are some of the aspects of better politics.

    There is a famous saying and I love it immensely, here it is, "You can fool some of the people all of the time, and of people some of time, but you can't fool all of the people all of time".   I don't know who said it but it is very relevant in politics.  Modern India who is well educated needs data.  You cannot fool people over false claims and vague promises.  As an engineer if I don't see real numbers behind a process then there is an information gap in my mind, which makes it difficult to understand reality.  As is the case with modern governance, people need public data available on a public platform which can be broken down into its minutest details for them to bridge their knowledge gap.   If you protect data from people then it would make them handicapped and they would feel less responsible because they couldn't take any action.  It is now the time that we embrace openness, transparency and honesty in our politics and governance.  

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    We Are Underutilized

    We are not operating at our 100% capacity. We are under utilizing our resources and wasting on top of that. Just for introspection, Do you know all the features of Microsoft Word? I doubt if everyone knew just how powerful Microsoft word is. In your company, if it is like very big then do you know all the different stuff it does? Many people as citizens don't even know what their rights are. It is no wonder why so many Attorneys are making millions in doing just basic stuff for their clients, forget about lawsuits.

    How many times we throw away food because it's date had expired? Why do we buy things that we would never use them? First of all, we don't utilize the existing stuff we have and then we complain for not having access to enough resources. It doesn't make any sense. In an organization, many of its functions are unknown to its members. Because no one took care to explain them or make them simple enough to be understood. Why dealing with government stuff has to be so complex? I don't complain that governments don't do anything. I feel that they don't make it super easy for others to use their services. And some of them are improving greatly thanks to social media. Check NY City for example.

    Now this one is my favorite burning point of this post. Before companies hire and fire people, why the heck they don't evaluate to their core whether they really need to hire and fire people. I believe very few companies go through a rigorous internal process of evaluating their needs before making a decision to hire a new person. Hire only if you desperately desperately need that person. And fire only when you can not find any other job for that person in your company. Firing people is the not the only way to cut costs in your company. In extreme cases like when you have outsource your business processes, it makes sense to fire people. But hey you can avoid that too.

    If you want to find out how much potential your company has then put up an internal website that accepts people's inputs from Janitor to CEO of the company and display that information uncensored to everyone. And allow the entire company to submit their ideas on major issues that a company faces. Finally implement public voting system that would rank all ideas. It would be earth shattering in many companies. Honestly to do this kind of stuff it requires guts and tons of ego thrashing. You must absorb all of your ego like a Black Hole in the Universe that absorbs all light passing through it.

    Even in the age of social media we under utilize lots of our facilities. Quick question. Does everyone realize just how powerful Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin is? Whenever we log in we just check the wall, pictures, status updates, play games and then log off. Next day come back, do same stuff and log off. We do it multiple times a day sometimes. That's not the only function of these platforms. If you use some of the features efficiently then you can build a community and address bigger problems of the world.

    Ok, enough of me venting on the inefficiencies of the system, but remember there lies an opportunity in every inefficiency you find in a system. What the heck I am saying here? It's like, if you find that lots of people's computer just crashes because they don't keep their systems updated then you could provide a service that helps them solve their problem and then make money out of it. So if you are looking for a business opportunity then go find some system inefficiencies in any system of your choice and build a business out of it.


    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    The Next Generation Will Be Those Of Entrepreneurs

    I want to start this post with this status update I did over the weekend on my Facebook wall.

    "When I went to school, college it was all about Engineers and Doctors. That's it. No questions asked. It was all the rage then. In the next generation it will be all about Entrepreneurs. If you are in dilemma to choose a country to settle, then go where Entrepreneurs are treated like Rock stars. Ever heard of Chile? Search about their Entrepreneurship program."

    Although it didn't received it's share of discussion, I think Entrepreneurship is something everyone should strive for. No matter how big or small is the competition, you should not be deterred by it. Even if you are against Google or Apple, you can still be different and sell.

    However, the point of the update was if you are in a dilemma to choose a place to settle then choose a place where Entrepreneurs are treated like Rock stars. Where lawmakers are pro-business, who can get things done in order for a new business to flourish in his/her area. Why? It becomes a lot more easier to focus on your core competency when you don't have to focus on government bureaucracy. Have you ever heard of Tata Nano Project? Yeah, the one that got shifted to a different state(Gujarat, India) within less than 3 days due months of agitation by farmers and West Bengal state's incompetency in handling the situation. That's true within 3 days. Waiting for months just to get approval from government to start a manufacturing facility is very damaging to a company.

    An interesting point I mentioned in the status was about Chile's startup program. The program is sponsored by Chilean government, where a qualified entrepreneur gets $40,000 subsidy(no equity) to participate for six months, and a temporary 1-year visa to develop their projects along with access to most potent social and capital networks in the country. Chilean government is inviting global entrepreneurs to their country to solve their local problems with innovation. It is amazing endeavor by a Government.

    The kind of environment(government and place), you choose for your business to operate can make or break the future of your business. The future entrepreneurs will solve real world problems and the businesses they will start will be global. Pay close attention here. The next generation will focus on global markets right from the start. Just see how Groupon has reached global markets within such a less time. Amazing. So if your place is not entrepreneur friendly then go where entrepreneurs are received with a red carpet, because going global is much easier than before.

    And if you think what if there will be too many entrepreneurs then, I think it doesn't matter because there is a scarcity of entrepreneurs in the world and the world is still struggling with big problems. Almost half the world over three billion people live on less than $2.50 a day(see here). Answers to world's problems is not easy and not something even Google or Apple as figured it out. So I think there is lot of room for innovation and market opportunities. Just go pursue your dreams.

    And if you are worried about millions of entrepreneurs then just think about the long tail. In the future, markets will be more fragmented and so much more opportunities will be created. It is just how you see it. And I don't say that stop pursuing engineering or medicine and hardly would anyone do on my words. But I believe our current and future generations will be more entrepreneurial.

    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Consistent And Sustainable Effort

    Have you ever started something with great enthusiasm and then later found that it was over the very next day?  Many times I have found something working awesome for a moment but something happens and I loose focus, interest and I move on to next thing.  I have made schedules, calendars, timetables, and agendas hundreds of times and found that sticking them to it is very difficult and requires a diligent effort.  Almost always it never works for me.

    We put tremendous amount of effort in taking an initiative but sometimes those initiatives go nowhere.  Have you tried doing sit ups, where you stand up and sit down, and do them like for 20 times?  When you do it the very first day, you start with great enthusiasm.  You do something like 10 to 15 and feel pumped up.  Awesome.  The problem starts when you wake up next day and realize that you have problem even lifting up your leg.  It pains like hell.  And this is only if you haven't done them since like very very long time.  Now next two days it pains so much that you just avoid doing it.  And in the midst of that you loose interest and focus.  I think this happens to most people and they just give up on that sit ups.  And they are never able to go back to it.

    But the key in building great thighs is you do sit ups even the next day when it is paining heavily.  And as days pass you will develop great strength and you will be ninja in sit ups.  I think where most people screw up when they undertake any new initiative is over doing it.  Over doing something is a sure way of bringing that initiative to a halt.  You cannot force something on yourself overnight and then expect that it will last that way forever.

    Reputation cannot be build over night by tweeting out 10 messages at time and then never do it for next few months.  It is built drop by drop.  To align your business around culture and its vision required a consistent and sustainable effort.  You cannot expect to have a stage 5 culture by conducting one giant meeting in a stadium with your people and be done with it.  Not gonna happen.


    Wednesday, May 11, 2011

    On Being Stupid

    We do not want act stupid.  We want to be intelligent and smart.  Brave and Bold.  Being stupid doesn't feel right. It is not the preferred choice.  Will you make a smart choice or a stupid choice?  Smart of course as anyone would say it.  Wonderful but it is not always true.  The "smartness cover" on our mind makes us blind while making gutsy decisions.  Decisions on where we have to rely on our gut instinct.

    Sometimes we have to leave our personal differences to make a smart choice and we can still look stupid.  These are tougher situations in life where you have to trust your heart and hope that some how dots will connect in the future.  And when those dots connect, you have to be wise enough to recognize them as decisions well made.


    Friday, May 06, 2011

    I Heard You Had A Great Idea

    This is a nice one.  I have three one of the greatest and super awesome friends.  We have shared some great moments together.  Alright this is not a post about friendship and bonding.  It is about ideas.  Just wait a bit.  Oh ya, so whenever we used to hang out together we used to come up with super sexy ideas about starting our own businesses.  Yeah I heard you saying, "I too have had such moments in life".  Awesome.  Back in those days when we were together we used to think that if we execute our ideas then we would be rock stars of the stock market, the next Bill Gates and the next McBrothers of Burger industry.  The reality had different thing for us.  Instead of rocking the future, I am certain that future rocked all four of us apart in four different corners of the world.

    What I found the factor behind our failed attempts of becoming oil tycoons was that we never did anything.  We just talked.  And talked.  Oh ! and again we are still talking.  Just yesterday I was talking to one of my misplaced friend and he said, "I want to start my own business but I don't have any killer ideas now as we used to have".   I believe that Ideas are worthless, absolutely worth no dollar value if they are not executed.   Ideas don't matter if they don't spread and  if they don't create any value.  You and I can make a burger 10% times better and healthier at home than your favorite fast food joint.  But can you and I sell 10, 100, 1000, million and I heard McDonalds sells billions of burgers.  McDonalds have created value not by an idea on its own.  It takes religious effort and hard work to so something.   Microsoft Windows was created by zillions of man hours.  The value is in creating something.

    Have you heard of Friendster?  Yeah in those days it supported social networking.  It was a great idea.  What happened to it now.  Who is the McDonalds of social media?  Facebook.   It is there not because of a great idea but because of relentless effort.  Nights and Nights of hard work has gone into building Facebook.  If you have a great Idea, then it is excellent because not many people have ideas.  But you know what will count even more?  If you did something about it, because not many people do something about their ideas.  Yes.  Do you have an idea about creating efficient cars for the future?  And will you do something about it?

    And this what I told my friend, "Don't wait for the killer idea, because it will never come.  Even if it comes you will think what if someone did it or copied it.  Stop thinking and just start something.  Just start.  Over time you will come to know the real value of an Idea".    

    Sunday, May 01, 2011

    Are You A Day Dreamer?

    I am reading book named, "The Best Software Writing I"  which assembles talks, articles and thoughts on software given by great people like Adam Bosworth, Raymond Chen, Paul Graham and you get the idea of people.   If you don't get it, don't worry, I found something interesting in this book.   If you are a software engineer then do yourself a favor by reading this book.

    Adam Bosworth mentions about what T. E. Lawrence wrote in "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" and I am going to directly quote it below.

    "All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible."

    Adam finishes in style inspiring us to dream with eyes open.

    I encourage all of you to act your dreams with open eyes. I encourage all of you to dream of an internet that enables people to work together, to communicate, to collaborate, and to discover. I encourage all of you to remember, that in the long run, we are all human and, as you add value, add it in ways that are simple, flexible, sloppy, and, in the end, everything that the Platonists in you abhor.

    So for all those who are dream during the day, I feel that it is ok to dream with eyes wide open.  I believe that day dreams persists longer and we strive to make them possible.  I never remember my night dreams.  Your day dreams are about your passion, wish, emotion, ambition.  

    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

    TO THINK LIST

    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.

    Update:
    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.

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Rave Parties

    Heard of rave parties? Right.  Rave Parties where everyone is standing and dancing to music of DJ.  The DJ is the king of the floor in such parties.  He/She controls the environment and the mood of the floor.  DJ knows the crowd: their likes and dislikes.  The DJ serves them music that takes that group on to next high.  The crowd swings to the music.  You get the feeling of such parties.  If you have been to such parties then you know DJ really can make or break the entire experience.

    In an organization, the leader, the CEO is the DJ.  Picture annual meeting of a company taking place in such a format where everyone is swinging to the dance of the CEO.  Of course this is depends a lot on the CEO, the DJ.  Rave parties are great because they bring a sense of togetherness.  Everyone is one.  You jump and the crowd jumps.  Try this out and be a DJ for one party or at least for one song.  You will get the feeling.  The crowd will be frank and thrash your music if they don't like it.  In a crowd, a hidden feeling or a hidden emotion gets an uplift and you would get crowds' opinion amplified.  As a leader if you did great the crowd will say, "You ROCK" and if you did bad the crowd will say, "You SUCK".  

    How many times in an organization have you heard people talking in cohesion about a leader?  How often a corporate culture speaks in one voice?  If there is an incapable leader in house, the crowd can get the leader out too.  It is a great way to know and feel the culture of an organization.  If you allow the crowd to do all the talking then crowd will reflect the culture.   So next time when you do a general meeting, don't do it to just brief the crowd.  Get the crowd talking.  And if you give them enough time then they will come to talk in one voice.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Stop Polishing Your Resume To Every Single Pixel

    Have you heard of Tom Pinckney, co-founder of Hunch.com?  Read this piece of brilliance.  Tom never got a high school degree and none but MIT accepted him in their undergraduate program.  Who all rejected?  Stanford, Berkeley and everyone rejected him.  


    Tom submitted his software programs to all the top colleges and everyone rejected him.  Just because he didn't had a high school degree they didn't even bothered to look his software codes.  How lame!!  MIT recognized his talent and boom.  He is a star and now MIT has set a very good lesson for everyone.  


    I am arguing that stop worrying too much on each and every detail of your resume.  If I do this, my resume will look like this.  If I add some skills, some certifications, some references it will help me a lot.  Well it will but what about solid projects you have done.  Real demonstrable work which cannot be ignored.  


    Lots of startups in their job openings are very flexible.  They want people who can ship products.  Go and make this happen kind of people.  If you are one of them then go ahead and do it.  Resume will catch on later.  

    Execution Will Always Matter

    I do believe in first mover advantage. Does that mean that latecomers have no chance?  Well it depends on each case you consider.  Did Friendster won the social networking despite being ahead of everyone in networking space?  Friendster was launched when Mark Zuckerberg was in school.  Facebook came much later  in the game.  Now we don't even hear about Friendster.  Facebook is the king.  So can Google challenge Facebook in social networking?  Well it depends on execution.  Facebook came and took over Myspace like zoom.  Reason: Facebook executed faster and maintained its simplicity.  Can Google go ahead do that?  They cannot go faster and just do what Facebook did it.

    Another case if we consider is Bing from Microsoft which is doing very well.  Microsoft despite their failed attempts at search having spent billions of dollars still decided that they can challenge Google.  And in some vertical searches for example travel and images I really like Bing.  And Bing is a product very well executed.  My point in all of this is even if you are very late in the game, you can become one of the major players in the market by focusing on execution(provided you have some other advantage).  In case of Bing, Microsoft had huge pile of cash to pump out.  Execution is one of the factors involved behind a successful product.

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    The Day Your Were Hired

    It almost feels magical moment when you think of the day when you were first hired.  Yup! The day when you got your first job.  Amazing memories.  That was the day when you felt that almost everything is possible and now life is going to be an easy ride.  After you heard those magical words, "You are hired", silence spreads in the entire room and nothing is audible.  You are able to feel it I guess.  Fast forward to today and take a deep breath and ask yourself, "Is today the same day like it was when I was first hired?  Is it like the first day at the job?"

    If you get the answer NO, then remember something has changed.   And you would have to change it once again to just like the day you were hired.  What is that something?  Your interaction with your boss, your ego, your perception, how people perceive you, your interaction with people, basically that's you gotta find out and fix it.  Yup fix it.  If you can't then remember there is no fun like the day you were hired.

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Learning In A Digital Age - Part III

    In this third part of series "Learning In a Digital Age" (Read Part I here)(Read Part II here), I want to focus on three important aspects which our schools and universities should adopt.  Those aspects are Adaptive Learning, Life Long Learning & Tasks Based Learning.  


    Adaptive Learning
    One thing our traditional classroom models do not accommodate is adapting to individualized learning needs of students.  It cannot be customized.  All students are not build same and they demand different learning environments.  First of all, in a digital age every student should have access to learning materials available in different formats like audio, video, paper hardcover books, podcasts, webcasts, so that students can choose whichever format suits them best.   


    Currently students have to advance to next level whether to really understood the concept or not.  In online models they can learn at their own pace and whenever they are comfortable.  In addition to that they can practice, watch or review their learning materials and take multiple times exams they would like to have(See this concept in action at Khan Academy).  In other words they only advanced to next level if they achieved mastery over that topic.  Different students need different kind of attention and with nice software tools teachers can provide individualized attention to students.  They can track and monitor progress of students.  Graduation rates will improve drastically just by incorporating Adaptive Learning approach. 


    Life Long Learning
    When we went to school we were brainstormed to go to school just one and get done with it.  In real world it doesn't work that way.  We need to keep learning on a daily basis.  We have to improve our skills regularly to stay current and become expert in our respective fields.  If our schools can incorporate such a philosophy and provide tools, platforms through which we can continue learning then we would solve problems of layoffs of people who cannot keep up.  Life Long Learning is more of a philosophy which has to be deeply rooted into our minds.  In any field you go even even though you achieved star status you would be required to learn new things.  Online Learning platforms are best suited to provide momentum to life long learning.  I graduated from school last year but now I want to learn new things so what do I do then?  I simply do a YouTube or Google Search and there are tons of videos and articles.  I keep a track record of what I have viewed and read them systematically.  There is no requirement and fees involved here that can stop me from learning.  I wonder how it could have benefited universities if they provided such resources.


    Tasks Based Learning
    Last fall semester I volunteered to teach jointly with a Professor on Business Intelligence.  That was a big learning experience for me on what professors at universities should be concentrating on in classrooms. I found that most of the time of a professor in many universities is spent on coming up with resources to provide in classroom.  Many professors love to create their own material.  This is such a time consuming stuff.   And little focus is given to building, creating and innovating stuff.  With the advent of Opencourseware model, where different universities are opening up their coursework to the world for free, there is no need to reinvent the wheel now.  Professors can point students to these resources and tell them to focus on creating and building something that is useful and perhaps change the world.   Students learn from practical examples and if students are given more such tasks they would learn even more.  Hence students should be given challenges, insights into future developments, innovation possibilities and tasks that would build careers.  In my opinion all the "How To Do Stuff" courses should be made available online and then in classroom students would have to do tasks or challenges.  Do these 5 challenges this semester and you get A grade.  


    In a Digital Age if all these principles are implemented then learning can be made faster which would result into more productive work force.  Innovation would be more faster than imagined.  What are your experience with Learning In A Digital Age?  Give your comments below.