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Location: Mumbai, India

A dreamer to the core. A thinker. A writer. A marketer. A poet. A management guru in the making! A keen observer of business, organizations, leaders, society, economic environment, consumers, and innovation. A confirmed maverick who loves to turn conventional wisdom upside down!

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Thoughts on Managing Adversities in Life

Everyone comes across numerous adversities in one's life. Some of us get bogged down by these adversities while some of us flourish in the face of it. Why some people thrive on adversity while other bow down complaining about gross injustice and bad luck? Is there a mantra to manage adversities in life? There has to be one considering the fact that adversities are constant companions, even though hated ones, in our life.

What is an adversity? The dictionary meaning is “distress or misfortune". Another way of looking at adversity would be to say that anything that doesn't fit the patterns of our conditioned consciousness and reflexes is adversity. It is a kind of disruption from the norms, which we are habituated or conditioned to think as normal. The first step to managing adversity starts with acceptance of the fact that adversity is a new kind of reality that till now had been unknown to us. It is not something to be feared about but something that has to be managed, in all likelihood with a new paradigm.

Once we have changed our outlook towards adversity, the next step is to acknowledge the presence of the particular adversity. There is no point shying away from adversity. It's best to accept it and acknowledge that it does exist. Friction generates heat and conflict and results in wastage of energy. Non-acceptance or non-acknowledgement of the presence of adversity simply creates a friction of sort in our life that wastes our energy. It’s better to accept and acknowledge its presence and reduce unnecessary friction that wastes our energy. Ensuring a path of least resistance will ensure that our energy is productively used in managing our adversities.

The next step in managing adversity is to explore and understand the positive sides of it. Adversity is not all about despair; it is equally about hope. In their book, Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude, Napolean Hill and W. Clement Stone wrote, “Every adversity has a seed of an equivalent or greater benefit”. The key perhaps lies in remaining calm and indulging in out-of-the-box thinking to strive for getting innovative insights on thriving on adversity. Adversity demands action. Thinking of adversity and sulking never helps. In managing adversity, the mental framework must change from burden to opportunity. Even challenging the logic of a situation or conventional wisdom might help. Adversity has to be thought of as a temporary disruption – a change of the status quo, a new reality. It is like a wild bull that has to be tactfully tamed and then put to some good use.

Having managed some adversities at a young age – I am still managing – I must admit that it is not easy. At times it is frustrating. At times it is painful. At times it is emotional churning. At times it feels like giving up. Yet, the spirit of overcoming adversity, which comes from viewing adversity from a different mental framework, is so powerful that all the pain, frustration, negative emotions are short lived. They occasionally do visit but the spirit of overcoming adversity overpowers them every time they rear their ugly head. It’s tough but it’s worthwhile. We never get the best things in life without slogging hard for them with determination and perseverance.

The mantra for managing adversity is simple: Take adversity as a challenge and work towards excellence.

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Friday, April 28, 2006

On Bringing Smile to Someone's Face

Bringing smile to someone’s face is something that gives me immense joy. It’s simply pure bliss. It is, in fact, beyond expression through words. It can only be felt. I don’t know how others feel about bringing smile to someone’s face, but for me it is something that gives a lot of satisfaction and a feeling that I have made a little, albeit insignificant, contribution towards making this world a better place to live in. I am sure that the joy I get from bringing smile to someone’s face matters much more than the joy one gets from money or fame.

Well, smile is a small gesture with big impact. Someone once said, “Smile is a curve that sets everything straight”. I can’t agree more. A simple smile can make a difference that worldly and material things can’t make. It’s something that reflects the calmness and warmth of the heart. And to be a catalyst in bringing this calm to someone’s heart that reflects on lips is simply amazing.

All of us, at some point of time in our life, are upset, sad, depressed, or worried. At these points of time, we are engulfed with negative emotions. And our smile vanishes taking our calmness as well as our warmth. Instead of calmness and warmth of our heart, the negative emotions take to stage and reflect on our downcast faces. And these are the times when bringing back that benign smile on someone’s face can make all the difference. It doesn’t take any effort from your side to do this. It neither demands your money nor your time. It just requires a few soothing words that show that you care and a genuine smile that shows on your lips but reflects the warmth and concern of your heart. It hardly takes a moment but it’s soothing for someone who is engulfed with negative emotions. And these small gestures from you ensure that your calming words and warmth of your heart are conveyed through a smile to the heart of someone who is suffering. This transfer of your calm and warmth calms the sufferer’s heart which, then, reflects on his/her face in form of a smile. It’s as simple as this.

But it doesn't mean that you can bring smile to someone's face only in times of sadness. It can be an everyday phenomenon - in both good times and bad. Whatever may be the time or the circumstances, your smile that reflects your genuine concern and caring nature is enough to bring a lovely smile on someone's face and make his/her life cheerful.

The best part is that bringing smile to someone’s face affects you too. It makes you also smile. It's like smile begetting smile resulting in more warmth, shared joy, a feeling of human bonding, a calming and soothing effect, and above all bringing back the positive emotions back to our heart and mind.

You smile and the world smiles with you :-)

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Entrepreneurs = Consultant's Nightmare

A few days back, I and my cousin, a management consultant, were discussing entrepreneurship. At one point he said, "As a rule I don't have entrepreneurs as clients. Professional managers are suckers for consultants. Entrepreneurs are a consultant's nightmare". Interesting, I thought. Though we didn't discuss it further, I started thinking as to why entrepreneurs are a consultant's nightmare.

Well, first of all, why professional managers are suckers for consultants? There are two reasons for this, as perceived by me.
  1. Transfer of responsibility
  2. Consultant's fees are not paid from a manager's pocket.
Whenever a professional manager hires a consultant, it is for taking advice on relatively bigger issues. These issues may entail high level of risk. By training, majority of professional managers are risk averse, thanks to excessive reliance on quantitative analysis and databaazi. They want to find comfort in data and analysis. And consultants provide ample doses of data and analysis. But the best part is that you take decision based on a consultant's advice and if any thing goes wrong, you can very comfortably pass the buck to consultant's advice. So a consultant keeps a reasonably good manager's decisions blemish free and even shares credit with him in case the decision clicks. And these boosters for a manager's career are available without a single rupee being spent from his own pocket. The consultant provides services to the managers while milking the manager's organization.

But why are entrepreneurs a consultant's nightmare? When entrepreneurs, if ever, go to a consultant for advice, they don't take everything at face value. Apart from being a rational activity, entrepreneurship is also a highly emotional activity. Entrepreneurs treat their ventures as their baby. So any decision proposed to them will go through a string of hard questioning and unless they are satisfied by all answers to their questions, they are not going to think that the consultant has added any value. This test by fire, that entrepreneurs put the consultants through, might be too annoying, uncomfortable, and wastage of their costly billing time. And to add to the trouble, entrepreneurs are stingy. In fact, they have to. An entrepreneur's limited money demands attention from myriad activities. As such, he can't blow the money like a professional manager. And when there is more demand for a consultant's costly time from a client that doesn't has deep pockets, it's natural that it will appear like a nightmare!

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

A Successful Man

"If you get up in the morning
and go to sleep at night
and in between do what you like
consider yourself a successful man"

- Bob Dylan


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Core Competence of India

A few days back, Atul raised a question on his blog: What are Core Competencies of India and Other Powerful Nation? Well, I will try to put forth my views on core competence of India. At the same time I will ignore the core competence of other powerful nations because I am fairly ignorant on affairs of other countries.

What is core competence? C K Prahlad and Gary Hamel, fathers of core competence, said:
A core competency is "an area of specialized expertise that is the result of harmonizing complex streams of technology and work activity."

Core competencies are the collective learning in the organization.

Basically, core competence is something that is unique and literally impossible to imitate. It is something that with the passage of time and repetition becomes ingrained in the DNA of an organization or the fabric of a nation. Something is core competence of an organization or nation if on speaking about it the name of the organization or nation comes to the mind. A few examples: Miniaturization (Japanese), Finance (England), Precision engineering (German), Science and Technology (American), Business and Enterprise (American), Fashion (French), Low cost production (Chinese) etc.

Coming to India, what is it that describes India in a profound manner? Is it Intellectual capital, cheap manpower, IT skills, diversity, rich past, miracles, superstitions, yoga, religious monuments, agriculture or something else? Almost all of the above can describe India in parts but definitely none of these sums up the essence of India. These are basically what Prahlad and Hamel call core products, business units, and end products.

The diversified corporation is a large tree. The trunk and major limbs are core products, the smaller branches are business units; the leaves, flowers, and fruit are end products. The root system that provides nourishment, sustenance, and stability is the core competence.

But where is the Indian root? If there are flowers, fruits, leaves, branches, and truck, there has to be a strong root system as well that provides nourishment to our country. What is it? This is the ultimate question which will lead us to find India’s core competence.

If we carefully look at the recent success story of India, we will notice a pattern. All the success of past decade has its origin in a few phenomena. Let’s ask a few questions to find the answers. What fueled India tryst with IT? Why recently Indian managers are gaining worldwide prominence? Why India is making waves in outsourcing and auto components arena? Why Indian engineers are getting recognition on the world stage? There are some things common in all these. If you look beyond the obvious you will see that answers to all these questions are linked in someway to:
  1. Importance given to education by a large Indian middle class
  2. Quest for knowledge and skills in application of knowledge
  3. Adaptability, assimilation, and quick learning in the event of changed realities or new opportunities.
  4. Comfort level with complexity
  5. Managing diversity

I think these five aspects of India and its people constitute the core competencies. Delving a little deeper in each one of them will make it clear why they are core competence and how India can play around these competencies to race ahead of other nations. Here we go:

Importance given to education by a large Indian middle class
Educating their children is a passion for a large Indian middle class. They consider it as the best investment they can make for their children. And this obsession with education is paying India reach dividend there days. The result is a large base of educated individual. All the students passing out from leading colleges and university symbolize this obsession with education. This is something of a value that every generation imbibes. I think national IQ of Indians is fairly higher than that most of other nations. When this IQ is combined with proper education, it results in a large base of aware individuals who have a strong mental foundation. Definitely this is an asset.

Quest for knowledge and skills in application of knowledge
From time immemorial, Indians are said to have a strong inclination towards quest for knowledge. From the ancient time to till date, Indian had strived to gain knowledge. Of course in ancient time this quest for knowledge was for unknown while these days it is more about acquiring knowledge of the known. Perhaps this current trend to acquire knowledge of the known is a direct subset of Indian middle class obsession with education. Personally, I feel the ancient practice of searching knowledge of unknown was a much better option. But that doesn’t undermine our current tendency to get knowledge of the known as it has some advantages of its own. The advantage is that we are well versed in the past and present knowledge and live in the present with a better understanding of how this knowledge base can be optimally utilized in the present. That turns us into good doers. The obvious disadvantage of this, compared to ancient style of quest for knowledge, is that it doesn’t help us in thinking futuristically; hence as a nation we lack innovation and creativity to a large extent.

Adaptability, assimilation, and quick learning in the event of changed realities or new opportunities
We, as a nation, have great adaptability. We can quickly sense a situation and adapt ourselves to the new realities. Take for example the recent IT boom. Way back in mid 90s, computer had just arrived on the Indian consciousness and within a decade we turned it into a big opportunity. How? By sensing something big and grabbing it with both hands. If you think that IT revolution happened because of IIT or other top engineering colleges, you are dead wrong. It happened because of numerous average college going youth, many of whom might have remained unemployed. Still not sure? Well, think of all those Aptechs, NIITs, and other neighbourhood computer centers which mushroomed on streets across entire length and breadth of India. They made great money but they also imparted computing skills to millions of average youth who would have spoiled their life giving competitive exams. And many of these academically average youth turned out to be fairly extraordinary geeks. This is the genesis of the Indian IT success story. But how it happened? It happened because we sensed a new opportunity and quickly adapted ourselves to tap into it. We as a nation love to play around with new toys. Give us something new and we will immediately get absorbed in it to figure out how it works and how you can have fun with it. This theme was present in medical transcription business a few years ago. The same theme is present today in BPO industry and in the dynamics of all call centers. And the same theme will be in play in KPO very soon. This is what I call Indian’s ability to quickly adapt, assimilate, and learn in the event of changed reality or a new opportunity.

Comfort level with complexity
We, as a nation, are good at managing complexity. We don’t get buckled under complexity. Our strength lies in finding a way out of the complexity to find a solution. Just think of Indian bureaucratic setup, Indian legal system, Indian laws, Indian businesses, Indian consumers, Indian joint family, etc. What comes to the mind? Complexity. But do any of them deter us from finding a solution. Despite a complex bureaucratic setup, many of us get things done by pulling in the right strings of the network. Despite a complex legal system and even more complex Indian laws, lawyers and litigants find a way out to help their case. Despite extreme complexity involved in setting up and running both small and large businesses in India, some people simply thrive on it. Go to large wholesale markets to understand how the system works despite extreme complexity. Or go to Heaven and ask Late Dhirubhai Ambani on the art and science of managing complexity and profiting from it. Now take the Indian consumers. Ask any marketer how complex their buying behaviour is. And yet the marketers always find a way out to find simplicity amid complexity and sell their goods and services to Indian consumers, be it men, women, kids, or grannies. Another superb example in managing complexity is the great Indian joint family. Anyone who has lived in a joint family knows how complex it can become to manage a complex network of relationships.

So a typical Indian is born into a complex world and grows up navigating through complexity. In the process, he/she becomes an expert in finding simplicity amidst complexity. This is definitely one of our core competencies. World is fast becoming complex and in coming years managing complexity will be a much sought after competency. And who can be better placed than a typical Indian, who navigates through complexity of one kind or the other every moment of his life, to comfortably manage complexity.

Managing diversity
We, as a nation, are a nation within nations. Unity in diversity as the cliché goes. Despite our inherent bias for caste, creed, religion, sex, regionalism etc. we are more or less a harmonized nation who are fairly good managers of diversity. Go to any national institute or university, or to various private or government offices and you will see that amidst diversity and a subtle visible discrimination there is a well balanced harmony and a good deal of bonhomie.

Today the world is fast turning into a global village. Tomorrow, if one skill will be at premium, it will be the ability to bring unity in diversity. Individuals as well as nations will have to be sensitive and receptive to various cultures and societies. And citizens of which nation would be more competent than a typical Indian to understand the nuances of this diversity and how to manage them. This is a competency that will play a big role in India global march.

According to me, the five competencies discussed above constitute the core competencies of India. And these are competencies that are unique to India and are a result of years of social and environmental conditioning. Hence, these are sustainable competencies. Moreover, these are competencies that cannot be imitated by competitors in a short period of time. It will take decades of conditioning for other nations to create this set of competencies. In short, we could say that these competencies pass the three tests enumerated by Prahlad and Hamel;

At least three tests can be applied to identify core competencies in a company. First, a core competence provides potential access to a wide variety of markets…Second, a core competence should make a significant contribution to the perceived customer benefits of the end product…Finally, a core competence should be difficult for competitors to imitate. And it will be difficult if it is a complex harmonization of individual technologies and production skills.

Now having identified the core competencies of India, the big question is how to build on these competencies to put India into an orbit of sustained development and global superiority? Well, that is going to be the subject of anther post some other day.

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Indian Whisky: Whisky or Rum?

Bhaichand Patel has written an interesting piece about authenticity of Indian whisky in today’s edition of Brunch, the Sunday magazine of Hindustan Times.

He says that majority of Indian Whisky is fake. By definition, Whisky is made from grain, mainly barley but other grains like wheat and rye are also acceptable. But in case of Indian whisky the constituent is not grain but molasses, a by-product generated in production of sugar. Technically, whisky made from molasses is not whisky at all. It is, in fact, rum, which has been given a flavour of whisky.

He further says that the modus operandi is to add colour through caramel and taste through addition of essence and tinctures in the alcohol to pass it off as whisky. This is the story at lower end of the market. One step above, the practice is to add small amount of Indian malt whisky to this alcohol produced from molasses. But this doesn’t stop here. Even reputed mid-level brands like Royal Challenge, which costs 400 bucks for a bottle, have molasses content blended with Scotch and matured Indian malts. In fact, 90% of Indian Whisky brands are made with molasses content.

There are only few brands like Royal Stag and Blender’s Pride that don’t have molasses content and are made of “only Scotch and matured Indian malts”. Royal Stag and Blender’s Pride are the brands I like because of their full bodied taste which is equally smooth. In fact, I prefer Seagram brands and avoid touching other Indian whisky brands. Now I realize why!

Well, why the Indian companies use molasses instead of grain? First, grains are costly compared to molasses, a waste material. Second, making whisky from grains is a time consuming process (maturing for years in oak casks). On the other hand, molasses based alcohol can be produced in relatively short span of time. So it turns out to be a case of making big bucks fast. Now I can understand how Vijay Mallaya made his fortune.

And this is the reason why other countries, including European Union, are not allowing import of Indian whisky labeled as whisky since it is not whisky.

So the bitter truth is that in India, the largest consumer of whisky in world, there is dearth of genuine whisky brands. Indeed, a pity for the lovers of full bodied, smooth whisky.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Reservation in Education or Propagation of Educational Impotency?

Once again the monster of reservation in education is rearing its ugly head. The rationale behind increasing the reservation to 49.5% and its possible benefits is still hazy. But one thing is crystal clear. The vote bank politics still rules the roost in modern India.

Coming to this magic figure of 49.5%, I am certain that it will turn out to be a deadly sin. For me, this move is like propagating a “culture of educational impotency”. In future, it will breed mediocrity and will seriously undermine our reputation as knowledge powerhouse in the global arena.

Will 49.5% reservation solve the miseries of underprivileged people?
Hardly. And excuse me; I am talking about casteless underprivileged people and not about the tagged individuals like SC, ST, OBC, and General. According to the government, it wants to help discriminated people and people who are socially and economically backward. But does the government know how many people from SC, ST, OBC are economically or socially backward and what is the corresponding number of such backwards in General category? I am sure the government doesn’t know or if it knows then is not very willing to disclose the numbers. This entire political gimmick is being played on some statistics that was generated in 1931, a good 75 years ago! Yes, the Mandal commission and all this reservation drama is based on the data of 1931 when the Indian population was last enumerated on the basis of caste and Mandal commission estimated from this data that OBC constitutes 52% of Indian population. So we are assuming that there was neither any demographic change nor any upliftment of OBCs during all these 75 years!

Another startling fact is that one Kaka Kalelkar Commission in 1953 identified that there were 2399 castes that could be designated as OBC and the entire women community was part of the OBC list. And then after 25 years or so the Mandal Commission identified 3743 castes belonging to OBC list. This is some statistics that I don’t understand. So while at the time of independence we were really underdeveloped and backward as a nation and 2399 castes were backward. And as we were slowly progressing as a country the number of castes in OBC list suddenly jumped by 56%! Is there some direct relationship between economic progress of India and number of castes in OBC list? Or does the government want to believe that as the nation progresses number of people in OBCs also increases? I am sure that is not the case. But even if that is the case then what was the government doing all these years after independence? Sleeping? Or playing number games?

As far as India is concerned a lot has changed since independence. There has been a quantum leap as far as overall economic progress is concerned. There has been economic and social upliftment of general population irrespective of caste and creed. But in the process many of the individuals, again irrespective of caste and creed, failed to rise economically and socially. These are the people who need help. The point is simple. Are we concerned with castes or underprivileged people? Do we want to give opportunity to community or individuals? Do we want to help economically and socially challenged individuals or the communities with the dramatized persona of exploited people who may in reality be the exploiters? It doesn’t take the knowledge of rocket science to accurately predict who will benefit from this 49.5% reservation as in its present form.

Known problems, rotten solution, and murder of meritocracy
Reservation, per se, is not going to uplift economically and socially backward people be it from SC, ST, OBC, or General category. In the name of reservation in education the government is just trying to save itself from getting blame for failure to follow the Constitution of India. Our Constitution promises free and compulsory education for all. But what is the scorecard of Indian government in ensuring primary education across the entire spectrum of society? Had it ensured good quality education for all till class 12 then the need for reservation would not have been there. And this holds true today also.

If the government is serious about welfare of socially and educationally backward people or community then it should do things that make the educational system till higher secondary level robust. If it has to use reservation as a tool use it till class 12 but spare the higher education. Higher education and professional courses require a certain level of expertise and mental development. An unprepared or under-prepared mind cannot cope with the rigours of higher education. Through the system of blind reservation we will simply open the doors for many unprepared minds to enter the system that could hamper the overall quality of education as well as kill meritocracy. It would be better if the government tries to prepare the underprivileged minds to ensure a level playing field for them in the battle of meritocracy.

A progressive approach is needed
Every problem has a solution. The key to solving is understanding the problem and structuring it. In this case, the problem is about ensuring equality of opportunities. The problem will perhaps become manageable if following steps could be taken:

  1. Admit that it is not a problem of caste but a problem of social and educational backwardness irrespective of caste.
  2. Rise above vote bank politics at least in matters related to higher education. Educate the people from all sections of society that seeking reservation is not dignified.
  3. Invest in a robust system of imparting primary education. Try to ensure that everyone has access to education till higher secondary level. It would be a better idea to accord special status to economically backward people in schools based on annual income. Make legislation for the schools, including private schools, to impart education to these economically backward people at a highly subsidized rate. And those who feel that this will not work because annual income can be fudged; please wake up to the reality that even caste certificate can be faked. I know of a high caste youth from a well to do family who got a certificate of SC and availed many benefits. And those who have seen small towns of India will not be surprised by this. Period.
  4. Remove all kind of reservations from the higher education scene.

To sum up, the solution perhaps lies in promotion of meritocracy while ensuring that underprivileged people get enough opportunities to prepare themselves for competing in the system of meritocracy. 49.5% is definitely not a solution. It will make our country "educationally impotent".

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Can Great Innovations Happen in India?

Atul has written something interesting on Innovation and India.

Well, I feel that India and Indians have still a long way to go before we produce earth-shaking, life changing, path-breaking, billion dollars innovations. The problem is neither with Indian brains nor with existing conditions in India. The barrier to innovation lies in our collective mentality that discourages innovation. Despite having world class institutions like IIT, IIM, AIIMS, IISc, etc., we are yet to produce a decent number of remarkable innovations. We have the talent, we have the institutions, and we have the right environment, yet why we lag behind in innovation? The problem is in the way a child is brought up in India. From childhood we are conditioned to conform rather than confront.

Innovation is a creative process. And creativity is loud, wild, and non-conformist. Creativity is all about breaking rules and established norms. It’s about challenging the status quo and asking “why this” and “why not this” all the time. It’s about putting a pair of wings to your thoughts and soaring high in a creative paradise where nothing seems impossible. But if someone behaves like this in India, he/ she would be immediately branded a day-dreamer or an irrational person. That’s the problem. Majority of Indians love to live in the comfort of known and hate to venture in the exploration of unknown.

As a child, if you memorize whatever is written in the book and ask related questions, it is fine. But the moment you start asking seemingly absurd questions or questions for which the answer is unknown, you are told to shut up. Any question that increases the level of discomfort is discouraged. As a child, we ask a lot of questions but when there is constant suppression of the natural questioning process, we ask lesser and lesser questions as we grow up and by the time we are grown-ups, we are already die-hard conformist.

Even our process of learning is flawed. Focus is on rote learning rather than applications and critical analysis. We are lovers of theory but poor in practice. In India, it is more important to exactly reproduce Newton’s three laws in the examination hall rather than understand the real life dynamics of Newton’s law. You will not be considered worthy of anything if you have poor grades (because you didn’t memorize text books) even though you might have loads of real knowledge on the subject acquired through assimilation and critical analysis of the practical aspects from sources other than text books. I even feel that this reverence for text books is also a culprit in India’s performance on innovation front. If you revere the text books so much, it is highly unlikely that you will ever dream of challenging all those theories printed there. This is another way of conditioning of the mind to become a conformist!

So, we grow up to become intelligent, educated people who know whatever is known to the world. We have loads of raw intelligence. We do great work wherever manipulation of known to get a desired result is required. We are great foot soldiers who follow the established norms, directions, and practices in the most optimized way. We excel where we have to conform. But very few of us excel when we have to confront and those few are known in India as “rebels”. These are the people responsible for whatever little innovation we have done till now. These are the people who have “creative intelligence”, the prerequisite to path breaking innovations.

To usher in an era of high quality innovation in India, the first thing we need to do is to overhaul our education system. We need to have an education system where our children could explore things without fear. Let them dabble in various things before they make up their mind about what they are best at and what they want to pursue. Inculcate a habit of questioning in our children. Let us not do anything that suppresses the natural curiosity of our children. Let them soar in the flights of imagination. Let our children be free from the “fear of failure”. Let them fail and learn rather than not fail and remain unlearned.

Children of today can make India an innovation powerhouse tomorrow if we give them an atmosphere to develop “creative intelligence”. India and Indians have everything except a missing link that is required for great innovations. The missing link is the critical mass of “creative intelligence”.

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Random Thoughts On Time Management

Nothing annoys me more than people wasting time - their own time, my time, and others time. I value my as well as others time and expect the same from others. But to my astonishment I have found that majority of people neither value their time nor other's time. And that gives me fits!

As far as wastage of time is concerned, there are two categories of people - those who deliberately waste time and those who just can’t manage time well. People in first category are hopeless and never ever rise above the level of their incompetence. People in second category can do well to learn techniques of time management and personal productivity and rise above the level of their competence.

Typically, wastage of time due to poor time management has its origin in one of the following:

In life, the word priority is spoken with increased frequency by a large number of people from various walks of life. But I have my doubts about whether they really understand the meaning of the word "priority". Priority can mean different thing to different people and hence so much wastage of time. I have seen a number of people prioritizing the work without any thought to importance or urgency of the work. They seldom give a thought as to why they are assigning some work a higher priority than some other work. On the other hand, people who are great time managers often follow the "Importance-Urgency" framework while assigning priority. They simply put any task or work in one the four categories viz. "Important-Urgent", "Important-Not Urgent", "Unimportant-Urgent", and "Unimportant-Not Urgent". First they hit the "Important-Urgent" type work and then devote maximum amount of their time on "Important-Not urgent" type of work. Spending more and more time on "Important-Not Urgent" type of work also reduces the number of work in "Important-Urgent" category as they are taken care of before they become urgent. As far as the remaining two types of work (Unimportant work) are concerned, great time managers try to avoid them or minimize the time spent on them.

Improper allocation of time
Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fill time available”. From my observations and experience I can say that this law holds true at least 95% of time. So, proper allocation of time to a task is one of the key to managing time effectively. If you allot too little time, your work may suffer as well as affect your schedule creating a spiral of events that may go out of control. If you allocate too much time, Parkinson’s Law will come into effect and it will result in sheer waste of your productive time.

Focus on to-do lists rather than objectives
To-do lists are quite fashionable, particularly in corporate world. No doubt, they have their importance in managing time. But getting obsessed with to-do list is a sure sign of trouble in time management. To-do lists can at most be a means to an end. Time management could become much efficient if people get obsessed with objectives rather than impersonal to-do lists. Making objectives the driving force would result in greater focus and less diversion to unimportant things.

External factors
These are the factors beyond our control. Things like unimportant phone calls, interruptions, junk mails etc. We could manage around them and minimize their impact on productivity but cannot eliminate them. These are basically things which are either unimportant but urgent or unimportant and not urgent. These are things that must be avoided whenever possible.

To sum up efficient time management and resulting personal productivity is a matter of being ruthless with time and understanding the value of each and every moment and how to use them in the best way. It’s more of an attitude rather than a philosophy or science. If you have an attitude that advocates milking every moment to the maximum and in the best possible way then time management will become as easy as breathing.

Someone once said, “Time has hairs in front but is bald behind”. So catch it while it is there. Once gone it would be too late!

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Wisdom of a Saint

"When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary task, all your thoughts break their bounds: Your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great, and wonderful world. Dormant forces, faculties and talents become alive, and you discover yourself to be a greater person by far than you ever dreamt yourself to be.”

– Maharishi Patanjali; 500 BC