Saturday, March 29, 2014

A little Drama...a Twist....a Smile...

Picking up from Pankaj Ghanshani’s blog: Don’t just Solve, Solve Beautifully

I’ve enjoyed traveling in Indigo – not only for Indigo’s ontime performance and clean seats - but also for the surprises I may get. Here’s a picture of a snack I asked for…

It could have well been the boxy snack box with airlines name written on it…but more than the food …the box became the delight.

And here’s another example, from a new age ‘Darshini’ (South Indian fast food) place near my home (called Vasudev Adiga) . A rather unwilling trip to get breakfast gave me something to smile about when I found this hanging on the wall:

A little humor, some creativity, an attempt to go that extra mile to bring a smile to the audience…a little LIGHT-HEARTEDNESS…

…goes a long way in creating a positive experience.

Whatever be the task, some humor…a nice surprise…a smile… makes it better…
Apparently there’s some science to it as well (see There’s magic in your smile )

Creativity is a good thing…and I think it’s natural to us humans (am making an assumption here J ) …but perhaps we think of it as something to be done for a special event.

However, we badly need more creativity in our “usual tasks” – stuff that needs to be done in our daily routine. The Mundane!

Ever noticed how little kids walk…?

It’s rarely in a straight line.  There’s a hop, a skip and touching the flower bed on the side (or the dusty metal railing)…there’s always something that adds some drama…

Can getting a drunken driving test (Sobriety check) from policemen be less painful?

Well, the Bangalore Police tried something…

It’s the Yamaraj (God of Death) making a point…

So, look around you…do you see anything that needs a little drama?

…………………………Go for it!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Inertia & Forces of Comfort

The concept of Inertia, as we know, is fundamental in physics. Newton described it as:

The vis insita, or innate force of matter, is a power of resisting by which every body, as much as in it lies, endeavours to preserve its present state, whether it be of rest or of moving uniformly forward in a straight line.

I think, Newton got it right when he said “everybody”. 

For mortals, I’d like to introduce the concept of ‘forces of comfort’ – which are the unknown forces that act on your body and mind, to bring it to a known state of comfort.

I’ll start with myself and this blog. The last post (How to kill a good idea) before this was written on 1st  March 2011.  It was a good post and I got a fair amount of online and offline comments appreciating the writing. 

At first I enjoyed the appreciation and then I got busy, i tried to beat my previous best and so on!  A few months passed by and Inertia set in!! After that, every passing week and month, Inertia was bigger and harder to fight. I tried several times, over long weekends and 16 hr flights – but the thoughts just wouldn’t flow. There was always something else that I found comfort in.

The forces of comfort prevent us from creating a change and show up in different forms. Here are some I could think of, this morning:

  • Comfort of familiarity: I know this place/people/routine, I’m comfortable
  • Comfort of knowledge: I understand it, i'm comfortable. 

  • Comfort of Inaction: If I don’t do anything, It probably stays largely comfortable.
  • Comfort of minimal satisfaction: It’s not really great but I’m comfortable because i'm OK.
  • Comfort of busy-ness: I’m so busy, i don’t have time to bring a change in what I do. 
Today, I’m trying to break the Inertia for myself. Let’s see if I can fight the forces of comfort and continue writing and create a new inertia, where i feel uncomfortable if i don't write. 

Wish me luck!  and please share forces of comfort that you experience.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How to kill a good idea

10. Keep it to yourself.
Sure way that it’ll not see the light of the day. Soon somebody else will bring something similar to the table, and you’ll say, “ year 2010, I was thinking about the same thing”.

9. Improve it – on paper.
It’s just an idea, which needs to be refined. Lets analyze and analyze again, create scenarios and keep doing it…till you get the feeling, it’s not going anywhere.
Get as many people to opine on it…get all the feedback and improve it. Sooner or later, the shape of the idea you started with will be mellowed down to unrecognizable.

8. Don’t time it.
When product release is only a few months away, you come up with a great design idea and try to get others involved into it. People may like it but they have no time to invest into it…soon it’ll be forgotten.

7. Don’t tailor it: If it worked for them, it’ll work for you too.
You discovered a great idea that is working wonders in another place…and believe that it will do the same for you. After all it’s a great idea…it’s got to work. Like serving the American favorite ‘cheese burger’ to Indian consumers.

6. Don’t worry about Practicality & Cost
Believe that if it’s a really good idea, it must be implemented at all costs. Who cares about the savings it brings in.

5. Think of the impact in isolation
When evaluating the impact of an idea, think of the benefits and problems as if it’s the only idea (or process) in play.

4. Be skeptical
Question all the time. When putting in effort into it, worry about what will happen if it fails…be tense…take extra defensive measures.

3. Be the only champion
It’s your idea and it should be seen like that. If someone else talks about it, make sure you add your own comments to it, correct the language if possible. Soon people will stop trying to champion it.

2. Pursue many of them together
There are so many good ideas you have, which deserve implementation. Start them together, so focus is lost, costs are high and people are confused. Most ideas will die soon..

1. Don’t follow up – Slow Death
Let it die a slow death…like most good ideas do. Start implementation…do it one week, skip it next week…be erratic and let other priorities take over. Results won’t show, slowly interest will be lost…soon nobody will remember it.  Mission accomplished!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

P for Preparation

Whether it’s a small birthday party for my 6 year old, or a marriage gathering of about 500 people…whether it’s a team picnic or a product launch event…one thing that goes un-observed is the preparation that goes into it. But invariably the events where more preparation goes in…seem to turn out stellar. It’s a direct relationship.

There’s really no substitute for preparation, even if it’s something that you do on a daily basis…like participating in a design meeting. If you spend an extra 10 minutes prior to the meeting, a day before or right before the meeting, your contribution to that event will be much higher and perhaps it can lead to a better result for everybody.

Sad part is, that we see lack of preparation everywhere…from people who show up to a meeting not really knowing what’s the agenda is to the worse kind of offence, people conducting meetings without any agenda. It leaves no chance of preparation for anybody.

We see roads being dug for laying of pipes and then pipes not arriving for days, while hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people pay the price of bad traffic and higher blood pressure.

Personally, I have better days when I spend 20 mins to half an hour, first thing in the morning to prepare for the day or two ahead. There are many unknowns, but that only means that there are many known items too. There will never be a case, when you know exactly what is supposed to happen in that day…if you did, consider a career in astrology. You can prepare only so much, but knowing what you know, will always help in figuring out what you don’t know.

Key part of Preparation is warming up…it gets your body and mind into a somewhat higher state to take on what’s coming up next. Warm up is just a natural thing to do. Every physical activity requires a good warm up…although it’s the same body, it seems to perform at a higher level, once it’s warmed up.

Besides warming up, preparation is also about making sure you have the right tools and details required. If you look ahead, you may be able to gather the required data before hand and hence make the most of the occasion.

None of this is unknown really, and we all prepare. But we tend to keep preparation as a special activity before something BIG…however, your 90% of time will be spent in activities which are ‘not so big’, and there’s no reason why you wouldn’t want to be as successful in making those small successes. In fact, small daily dose of successes is what keeps the usual workday very satisfying.

As simple as it sounds, preparation is not easy…I’m still working on it. My 20 mins a morning has served well…What works for you? Please share…

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Playing positions

It’s a so much fun to watch the kids play football (soccer)…specially the 5-11 yr olds. Every player has one simple objective… kick the ball. Everywhere the ball goes, ALL the players go…and kick the ball. Somehow the ball gets kicked out of the big group of players and once again the cycle starts. Not too many goals are scored, but everybody has a lot of fun! Of course the game has to stop, every time some kid gets kicked on the shin!

Contrast it to a game of soccer between two professional teams…even a well-coached school team. There’s hardly any time that the ball has more than 2 –3 players at it. Everybody seems to know the ‘square’ in which they have to play…

It’s a feature that you’ll see repeat itself all over the place. A place where people play their position will seem to have more productivity and less chaos….less noise, less tempers flaying and more customers being served.

So many times this happens in well-set organizations. People start to play too many positions, moving from one to another…creating confusion, and doubt. This makes it hard for others to pass the ball to them, as it’s not clear what position they may be playing. It also makes it hard to pass the ball to others, who may actually be playing their position, since there’s confusion. Result is a loss of productivity and perhaps a loss of peace as well.

Sometimes, it’s eagerness to ‘grab opportunity’…sometimes it’s just a force of habit, when you think ‘you can fix everything’ and sometimes, it’s genuine desire to ‘help out’. Either way, when you leave your position and move into another person’s square…it must be done discreetly and with better understanding in place.

In order to play a position, you need to first know what position you are supposed to be playing…and many people in the org, just don’t know it. Hence they don’t know the expectation and regardless keep working…. making it harder for themselves and for others around them.

Playing positions is another skill that sportsmen display all the time, and is another great take away from playing team sports, and a big reason for every kid to play team sports, even though it’s becoming harder and harder in today’s urban living.

If you are looking for a New Year gift for your child, get him or her enrolled into a team sport.

For yourself, identify what position you are supposed to play, and what skills are required for it. Find your ‘square’ and pass the ball where others can play it better.  And you may also avoid getting kicked on the shin.

Wish you make all the goals in 2011. Happy New Year.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Good Old Elephant Story

Remember the story of the Elephant and four blind men. How every person feels one part of the elephant while blindfolded and reports what he ‘sees’. I’m not sure what was the lesson back when my mom would have told me the story…she probably didn’t spell it out and left it our imagination.

The story of course has great universal appeal because it’s so simple and yet so powerful. If the four men were left to argue, they would continue on and on about what they saw…If the four men are dumb they’ll continue making the same point again…and if they are smart they may form a better, more complete understanding of the animal.

Life and work is so much like that. Our opinions are shaped by what we have seen, our own experiences and our perspectives.  

Many a times I see smart people arguing to great lengths about how things should be…and many a times all they have is one reference point. “I saw this at so-and-so place” or “I know this is how it is”.

Lets change the course of the story, a little, and figure what the four men could ‘agree’ on.
- An elephant is a living breathing being
- An elephant is large
- An elephant is something I have not yet seen visually.
- There are other people who ‘view’ elephant much different from myself.

With the above agreements, it would be much simpler to move forward…
- Each person sees respect for their own views
- Each person accepts, ‘there may be more out there’
- There are some agreements, so people aren’t from different planets

Once people are looking for agreements, they can find more.

Everybody is correct in what they report, but they aren’t complete. In today’s complex world, it’s increasingly difficult to be ‘complete’ with what you know. There’s way too much out there to know it all. The only way to make a larger, better understanding is to pool in knowledge, perspectives and opinions from different sources.

When people come up to you and say something that you don’t agree on…it’s very likely that the person was at the other end of the elephant !

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Ah! The joys of festivals. We just can’t get enough of it. The decorations, shopping, fireworks, parties and ofcourse, food, food and more food.

Isn’t it interesting that the MTV generation seems to be fully immersed in celebrating Diwali.

We were supposed to be spoilt on western culture and should have forgotten about Diwali and Dusshera…but 20-25 yrs later…most of us still haven’t. We certainly have more days to celebrate though.

Some things have surely changed. …more diyas are wax based, readymade of course…safer and burn much better…lights are LED…consume less power and more reliable, Sweets are less Mithai and more of other snacks…dry fruits, cookies, some chocolates too…perhaps more healthy.

Come of to think of it, we may have actually improved upon the celebrations.

Isn’t it great! And proves a point that we must not forget.

A good thing isn’t going to go away, just because another new strong, radically different influence comes in. It may actually improve and get better over time because of the new influence.

What MTV was to earlier generations, Internet is to today’s generation.

Once again, similar apprehensions exist, and nobody clearly knows how to deal with it and what all influences it’ll bring to us.  But most certainly there's confidence that it'll turn out well.

And guess what happened to MTV…today, it’s hard to find english music on it. MTV has become just TV...but for the logo, it could be any other channel.

Anyway, Here’s a great example of why MTV wasn’t appreciated by our parents and was so cool for us…one of my favorite. Be patient, listen & watch the whole video.