Monthly Archives: September 2011

links for 2011-09-27

  • I have no time to think. Possibly the six scariest words uttered by a leader. But they don't scare us anymore because they are so commonplace. We don't need 10,000 employees to feel too busy to think. Almost all of us feel the same way.
    It's not that we're unproductive; we're astoundingly productive. We produce deliverables. We make decisions. We create and spend budgets. We direct our teams. We write proposals.
    Actually, in some ways, our productivity is the problem. Something's lost in an environment of manic productivity: learning.
    These busy days, we rarely analyze our experiences thoughtfully, contemplate the views of others carefully, or evaluate how the outcomes of our decisions should affect our future choices. Those things take time. They require us to slow down. And who has the time for that? So we reflect less and limit our growth.
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Posted by on September 27, 2011 in Uncategorized


links for 2011-09-26

  • And then the day came,
    when the risk
    to remain tight
    in a bud
    was more painful
    than the risk
    it took
    to blossom.
  • Do not carve on stone or wood,
    "He was honest" or "He was good."
    Write in smoke on a passing breeze
    Seven words… and the words are these,
    Telling all that a volume could,
    "He lived, he laughed and… he understood."
  • All that is gold does not glitter,
    Not all those who wander are lost;
    The old that is strong does not wither,
    Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
    From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
    A light from the shadows shall spring;
    Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
    The crownless again shall be king.
  • I, like many of you artists out there, constantly shift between two states. The first…is white-hot, "in the zone" seat-of-the-pants, firing on all cylinders creative mode. This is when you lay your pen down and the ideas pour out like wine from a royal chalice! This happens about 3% of the time.
    The other 97% of the time I am in the frustrated, struggling, office-corner-full-of-crumpled-up-paper mode. The important thing is to slog diligently through this quagmire of discouragement and despair…
    In a word: PERSIST.
    PERSIST on telling your story. PERSIST on reaching your audience. PERSIST on staying true to your vision…
    So next time you hit writer's block, or your computer crashes and you lose an entire night's work because you didn't hit save…just remember: you're never far from that next burst of divine creativity. Work through that 97% of murky abyssmal mediocrity to get to that 3% which everyone will remember you for!
    I guarantee you, the art will be well worth the work!
  • (Sidin Vadukut on putting your dreams & talents on hold…looking for social approval & 'safety')
    It was perhaps when you were in class VII or class VIII that you first realized that you had an unusual propensity for fast bowling/singing/papier mache sculpting…
    Four years later and you are scrambling around Mumbai to establish the Indian head office of the British company you’ve just been hired to run. Big job. Massive money. Crazy schedule. Your local hires are all morons. So you decide to scout locations yourself.
    You meet a broker at Cafe Leopold. Or maybe have an espresso with “real estate advisors” at the Taj at Apollo Bunder. Maybe a friend at the club knows of excellent properties at Opera House​ and Dadar. And you go to see for yourself.
    And now it is much too late for sculpting or fast-bowling or singing or designing.
  • Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Lord Acton famously wrote. But I don’t think he got it quite right: power may corrupt, but absolute power corrupts a lot less than partial power…
    I am not saying that all people doing lowly roles enjoy lording it over an incompetent, hysterical mother; some of them are remarkably nice.
    However, there is a syndrome of lowly nastiness that tends to get overlooked in management theory. It is often observed that the people at the top are bastards, but we forget that the people at the bottom can be even bigger ones.
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Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Uncategorized


links for 2011-09-25

  • Wherever we look, we see problems of leadership…And I wonder if it is because we don't see how each of us can make a difference by demanding more of our leaders — and demanding more of ourselves as leaders…
    We know that becoming a leader is the start of something, not its culmination. We need leaders who champion ideas, who create things, who fuel cultures of innovation so we can all contribute our biggest and best selves. We need leaders working with us to create, inspire, and show us strength of character in these times.
    Leadership is not an occasional task. It's a way of being. Leadership is not a job or a title, but the set of micro actions we take every day. They add up. Leaders don't just make an appearance to be able to say they were there. No, no, no. Leaders show up having dealt with their other obligations so they can be fully engaged — to participate, to co-create, to inspire. To lead.
  • 1. I'm anti-corruption.
    2. I'm anti-Anna Hazare.
    3. Hazare is a sanctimonious right-wing tyrant so cloaked in his own virtue that he believes he is above the law.
    4. The law is frequently an ass.
    5. Nevertheless, the law is frequently our only hope.
    6. Better the elected asses than the dictatorial unelected.
    7. The government is playing into Hazare's hands with its idiocy.
    8. Yes, these views can be held simultaneously.
  • College students asked about what they regret almost always talk about actions they took that did not go well: asking someone out and getting turned down, getting drunk, or failing a test. In contrast, older people generally regret actions that they did not take: not learning to dance, not asking out an attractive person, not taking advantage of an opportunity, etc. The backward-looking perspective highlights missed opportunities and things left unsaid.
    Throughout your career, there will be many potentially pivotal moments — times when you make decisions that might shape the next several years of your life. In these moments, there is a tendency to be risk-averse. People shy away from opportunities that might go wrong for fear that they will regret failing.
    A second line of research, though, suggests that you should not be too afraid of failure.
  • Seriously awesome videos…will make you wish you were there!
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Posted by on September 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


links for 2011-09-22

  • I thought I'd share the list that emerged after thinking over the past 30 years in business:
    1. You can be in charge, but you're never in control.
    4. You can't be good at who you are until you stop trying to be all the things you are not.
    5. Charge what you are worth. If you don't, you'll begin to resent your employer or client, even though you decided to take the assignment.
    6. You can't control circumstances. You can control your response to them. Those who learn to respond thoughtfully and peacefully are the ones who are accorded trust and power.
    7. Overt displays of position power show weakness. Genuine humility shows power.
    10. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge applied with discernment.
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Posted by on September 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


links for 2011-09-21

  • Most organizations assume that growing complexity is the problem. It’s actually just a symptom.
    Growing complexity only becomes an issue when it surpasses the ability of your people to handle it… Simply trying to confine the chaos with rules is just treating the symptom. Instead focus on maintaining a high talent to complexity ratio.
    As long as you can attract and retain enough quality people to off-balance your growing complexity, you’ll remain an agile and innovative organization—regardless of your size. A few ideas on managing that ratio:
    1. Develop your Talent. Offer competitive salaries. Treat your top performers well. Offer them the freedom and tools to make a huge difference. Stick to your values and concentrate on your culture.
    2. Prune your Bureaucracy. Choose simplicity over complexity. Review your system regularly for “policy creep” and get rid of it. Where you can, consider a values-based approach versus a policy-driven approach to aligning everyone’s behavior.
  • I read someplace that the brain needs some boredom during the day to process thoughts and generate creativity. That sounds right. My best ideas always bubble up when I'm bored. And my period of greatest creative output was during my corporate years when every meeting felt like a play date for coma patients.
    So what would happen if everyone in the world stopped being bored? You might be there already. I know I am…
    it's worth keeping an eye on the link between our vanishing boredom and innovation. It's the sort of thing that could literally destroy the world without anyone realizing what the hell is going wrong. If it reaches critical proportions, we probably won't recognize the root cause of the problem. A lack of creativity always looks like some other problem.
  • What should you do to help your child pursue her dreams of becoming a writer?
    Let her fail. Let her write pages and pages of painful poetry and terrible prose. Let her write painfully bad fan fiction…Never take her writing personally or assume it has anything to do with you, even if she only writes stories about dead mothers and orphans.
    Let her write poetry on her jeans and her shoes and her backpack, even if you just bought them brand new.
    Keep her safe but not too safe, comfortable but not too comfortable, happy but not too happy.
    Above all else, love and support her. Love her and believe in her. Love her, and let her go. In the end, your love is all that matters, and it will be enough. The rest will come from her.
    Fact: writers write. Fact: In order to be a writer you have to write a lot. A LOT. Fact: there’s no shortcut.
    Mick Jagger is reported as saying, “You have to sing every day so you can build up to being, you know, Amazingly Brilliant.”
  • All leaders are problem solvers. Problem solving is mistake making with a goal.
    Smart mistake-making:
    Watch for paralyzing frustration.
    Is there progress?
    Enjoy their new self-confidence and enthusiasm. Complaining that it took too long saps their enthusiasm. Brag that they kept with it for a long time. If it’s taking too long, step in. If it isn’t, stop complaining and start encouraging.
    Spend more time learning from mistakes and less time preventing them. What are we learning?
    Correct foolish mistake-making caused by neglect or misplaced urgency.
    Risk mistake-making on repeated activities
    When possible, make mistakes on low profile activities.
    Repeated mistakes are unacceptable.
  • creating a culture where people feel secure in dealing with others is a long-term recipe for success — whether in geopolitics or your own company. The key is building a shared expectation that deadlines and agreements will be kept, and having a central authority (at the city level, it's government or law enforcement; in companies, it's the boss) that backs those guarantees.
    What does your company do to foster — or hinder — a culture of trust? And how does that impact your bottom line?
  • If you want to improve engagement in your company there are two big things you can work on…
    Top management should make sure that salaries and benefits and policies are fair and human friendly.
    The other thing to work on is the quality of supervision. You don't have to take my word for this. Visit a company that's a "best place to work" and you'll find pockets of awful morale and low productivity. Visit others that are virtual slave ships and you'll find pockets of high morale and productivity. The difference is the supervisor or manager or team leader or whatever you want to call him or her.
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Posted by on September 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


On Stereotyping

All parents should read this post by Daddysan – make that everyone!

Stereotypes classify people based on a set of standardized, widely-held beliefs. This isn’t very different from segmenting consumers in Marketing theory. We use terms like behavioral segmentation, attitudinal segmentation, etc and stereotypes are a special case of segmentation where nuance is sacrificed for the convenience of reducing complexity. Why complexity? Because dealing with humans is an arduous task. Stereotyping may also be an offshoot of the need to process information efficiently to survive. Decision-making becomes tougher as the number of discrete pieces of information we have to process increase…We can utilize the time saved to formulate sophisticated survival strategies instead of spending it merely coming to terms with our environment…

So is this process of applying experience, precedent and biases inherently wrong? Not every time.

So why do cultural sterotypes always sound so wrong? “Rapist Delhi boy”, “Studious, culturally evolved, doe-eyed tamilian girl”, “Stingy marwari”, “Rude Puneri from sadashiv peth” are some prime examples.

Motive, open-mindedness, communication and sensitivity.

If my motive is malice, it’s rather easy to put together the least desirable characteristics of a community and paint everyone with the same brush. Malice could be driven by revenge (assumed in the case of the offending blogpost above), humor (cultural and racial stereotypes are perfect fodder for comedy, as evinced by Chris Rock’s hilarious takedowns of African-Americans and their quirks) or utter joblessness and a nasty streak to put down people perceived better than themselves (trolls). On the other hand, like my example of categorizing clients, one may genuinely be looking to reduce complexity in decisions. Classification in such cases is just that, classification. They turn into stereotypes when there is lack of open-mindedness…

Stereotypes aren’t “wrong”. It’s what you do with them which makes them right or wrong.

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Posted by on September 17, 2011 in Links

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