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.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Lucy extended her hand and waited…Mr Tumnus simply looked at her extended hand, not knowing what to do. Lucy says, ‘you shake it’, Mr Tumnus replies, “Why”…

When we meet….we greet and shake hands….no questions asked. Why do we do that? Because that’s how it is done…that’s how we’ve been greeting for as far back as we can remember…that’s how others expect it to be.
A birthday cake is mandatory today…even if you don’t spend a lot on arranging a big birthday party, a simple cake cutting makes up for a lot. A birthday wouldn’t be complete without one.

That’s the power of Traditions. Of Social norms. You don’t question them. You accept them without a hitch. Even the usually unacceptable becomes acceptable.

This is ofcourse, festival time in India, and you can see traditions being literally ‘played’ out all across the country. Gambling or Jua is considered a social evil…but it’s ok to Gamble when it’s Diwali. Even people who would not enter a casino usually…plan and host gambling get togethers.

Although we see traditions as something that has a history…and has been handed down for sometime…perhaps, religious…however, all traditions don’t exactly have a big history.

New traditions can be created. You can create one.

A tradition of writing a song for every product release that you make.
A tradition to cook as a family on Saturday.
A tradition to volunteer, as a team or a family.
A tradition to celebrate and recount all the deliverables made by the team last month.

I lived in Hyderabad once, and noticed that our neighbors always bought some gold or made some financial investment on their kids birthday. It’s a tradition for them, their parents did the same. A great way to ensure some financial security for the kids education!

Is it possible that many of the traditions that we follow today, have some good logic behind them, besides the religious reason? Cleaning up the house and decorating on Diwali, after the rainy season in India…buying gold on Akshaythritiya…donating to temples on special occasions (remember Temples were the center of social activities in the past including development of art and knowledge).

The world around us is changing, and changing drastically…and we need newer traditions to keep some of the good things around. We also need to be open to accept newer traditions and norms…

What are you going to start this festival season? Think...and wish you all a very happy and prosperous Diwali.