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Archive for the ‘LEADERSHIP’ Category

Abraham Lincoln

A WORD TO TEACHERS

Last saturday, I visited my dear friends Prashanth & Meera’s home. We were to go out as families to celebrate our birthdays. (Prashanth and I share birthdays on successive dates). While at his home office, watching the cricket match between India and Australia, I happened to notice a framed reprint of a letter written by Abraham Lincoln to the headmaster of his son’s school. I read it a few times. I truly treasure it. I might have reflected on it all thru that evening and the following day. I decided, I have to post the contents of that letter on my blog – lest some of my dear friends don’t get to read it OR not make its reading an accident, but rather, a necessity that will define a purpose – a rather good one!

“He will have to learn, I know, that all men are not just and are not true. But teach him if you can, the wonder of books.. but also give him quiet time to ponder the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun and flowers on a green hillside.

In school, teach him it is far more honorable to fall than to cheat…..

Teach to have faith in his own ideas, even if everyone tells him he is wrong.

Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with the tough.

Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when everyone getting on the bandwagon…

Teach him to listen to all men; but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth, and take only the good that comes through.

Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad… Teach him there is no shame in tears.

Teach him to scoff at cynics and to be beware of too much sweetness.. Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to highest bidders, but never to put a price on his heart and soul. Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob.. and stand and fight if thinks he is right.

Treat him gently, but do not cuddle him, because only the test of fire makes fine steel. Let him have the courage to be impatient.. Let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself, because then he will have faith in humankind.

This is a big order, but see what you can do. . He is such a fine little fellow my son!

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Dabbawalas to market Reliance Power IPO

Dabbawalahs of Mumbai

MUMBAI: Reliance Money, the financial services and products distribution company of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, has latched on to a marketing innovation. The firm has roped in the Six Sigma perfected dabbawalas to get an edge in their run-up to the Reliance Power IPO, among a host of other tradeable financial services. The dabba which arrives on the dot at most office desks with home-cooked food, will have other steaming offers in a bulging paper envelope. Apart from the full bouquet of mutual funds, insurance products and money transfer services, Reliance Money expects to push demat accounts, and IPO application forms through this channel, beginning with the Reliance Power application forms. The dabbawalas will not only carry Reliance Money’s messages across the city, they will even pick up requests and completed forms from customers back to the company.

“Its a dedicated two-way communications channel,” says Sudip Bandyopadhyay, director of Reliance Money. “The idea is to reach out to a maximum number of retail investors.” According to recent estimates, the dabbawalas move around 1.6 lakh lunch boxes everyday across the length and breath of Mumbai, with a workforce of around 5,000.

The alliance ensures that Reliance Money gets access to the most sought after segment of 24-60 year old professionals in the city, “each of who is individualistic enough to insist on fresh, hot home food every day. Reaching out directly to this segment makes more marketing sense than acquiring impersonal mailing lists,” says the director.

Given that some parts of this segment may not qualify as traditional equity investors, putting across a customised value proposition for each individual is an added bonus. According to reports, though the average dabbawala has no formal education beyond class eight on an average, their work practices draw upon a 120-year old logistics system. That means the familiar workforce on Mumbai streets – for whom even the unruly Mumbai traffic stops to let pass – misses no more than one delivery in every 10 million.

Though the deal with the dabbawalas is to be an event-based deal, Reliance Money is also looking at alternate channels to sell its services. It has also tied up with coffee chain Barista, where each outlet has a trading kiosk. Many travel agencies (like Kuoni) as well as courier offices (like DTDC) too will distribute the company’s financial products.

Reliance Money is the electronic transaction platform associated with Reliance Capital, a private sector financial services companies.

 

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It was in 1991 that Kenich Ohmae’s book Borderless World first made its impact on me and got me into trying to becoming a global executive as against a local executive.  In those years, it was an attempt to try and innovate in your functions rather than product innovation.

Being a Product Marketing Manager in India, for products built and developed in the US for most part, it was innovative approaches to positioning, bringing and getting people to adopting it in India.  Sixteen years later, we are now in a completely different world.  A borderless, or FLAT as we call it now, yet, innovating on all fronts.

I had a chance to read excepts of the new book by John Kao, an innovation consultant, who points out in his new book, Innovation Nation: How America Is Losing Its Innovation Edge, Why It Matters, and What We Can Do to Get It Back, all the key advantages once enjoyed by the U.S. are nearly gone.


His strongest point is that the geography of innovation is changing. For much of the 20th century, the locus of leading-edge thinking was the U.S. and Western Europe. The rise of Asia is evening that out, redistributing the fruits of innovation: wealth and power.

 

From Borderless World  to a Flat World to Innovation Nation to Borderless Innovation – how did things change so soon?


Global Talent. The return to greatness of Asia’s older universities and the building of new educational institutions mean that brainpower is more evenly distributed. In addition, a giant reverse diaspora is under way as tens of thousands of Chinese and Indian scientists and engineers, many of them tops in their fields, leave the U.S. to return to their homelands to teach and work.

Venture Capital Availability. Venture capital pools are operating all over Asia and Europe, speeding the generation of new startups. European and American VC firms have offices in most major cities in Asia and Eastern Europe. Initial public offerings have totaled $40 billion in China so far in 2007. Two of my good friends from the Silicon Valley have set up large funds to assist new ventures with a focus on India.

Silicon Valley is no longer only in CA. The social and economic ecosystem that has been so productive in Northern California is being reproduced all over the world. Bangalore in India and Biopolis in Singapore , have found the magic once mainly centered in U.S. innovation hubs.

Dollar is losing its foothold –We see buying power across a few nations growing and Euro gaining strength.  In countries like India, which seem to be delivering the recent additions to the list of billionaires – including arguably the new #1 Mukesh Ambani.

 

_Lower barriers to entry – With access to top computing power, labs, design schools and JIT access to latest and most current, countries like India and China are able to bring out the best products, programs, methodologies that best help their respective economies as well as gain global footage.

 

eShowcase- With the advent of ecommerce, web commerce and ability to show and tell from any part of the world, competitive innovators are able to attract potential clients and user from all across the world.  Thus removing yet another barrier of travel, visa, language and possibly even capital to just show sample work.

 

Kao probably underplays a critical issue: the role of global corporations in innovation’s changing geography. Such companies, he suggests, “operate with increasing independence from their country of origin…. They are shipping manufacturing, design and especially R&D abroad at a ferocious pace.” So fast is this happening, says Kao in his book, that Craig Barrett, chairman of Intel (INTC ), told him his company might not even qualify as American anymore. Is this the beginning of the Borderless Innovation?

Global corporations are benefiting from this global shift. Just as the fall of communism led to a wider pool of labor and capital, so too will the global spread of innovation create a wider pool of talent for companies. Albeit originating this time from the east rather than the  traditional west or to be precise – America.


But Americans are not gaining as much from all this.  In the past, economic benefits have gone mostly to the first mover—the innovator, entrepreneur, or creator. Not to mention the location of the first mover – in a conducive environment like the Silicon Valley for example.

Kao notes that the U.S. already spends more per public-school student than any other major country. He wants new ways to teach, such as integrating game culture with curriculum development. What will it take for more Americans to start getting into the mainstream of engineering, design, technology, medicine instead of the now popular “liberal arts” major?  Will America be able to leverage the education system and potential by collaborating with the universities and curriculum in India and other parts of Asia that is producing these brilliant, wide pool of talent?  Will America start looking at the seeding stages of education while also looking at the seeding capital for Silicon Valley companies?  Will we truly be able to work seamlessly in a world economy that co-exists because of the quality and value of what each delivers and not because of the currency differences and labor arbitrage?

Agood blend of the east and west has always delivered interesting progressive results.  Can we potentially bet on the future by applying some innovative approaches to education and betting on the next generation to bet on the future? Is Global Mentorship an approach?  Is America open minded about a novel “innovative approach”? Only time will tell…..or  will it be too late? 



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Arthur Ashe, the legendary Wimbledon player was dying of AIDS which
he got due to infected blood he received during a heart surgery in 1983. From world over, he received letters from his fans, one of which conveyed: “Why does GOD have to select you for such a bad disease”?

To this Arthur Ashe replied: The world over — 5 crore children start playing tennis, 50 lakh learn to play tennis, 5 lakh learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to semi final, 2 to the finals, When I was holding a cup I never asked GOD “Why me?”. And today in pain I should not be asking GOD “Why me?”

Happiness keeps u Sweet, Trials keep u Strong, Sorrow keeps u Human, Failure Keeps u Humble, Success keeps u Glowing, But only God Keeps u Going…..Keep Going…..

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The very first time I had to think, read and speak about this topic of change was during the ‘dot com’ days. Everything was dynamic – technology, change and response to change. It is during those days that I was prompted to send a communication to my team to create awareness and get them to step up to meet the challenge of change. Here is an excerpt of what I sent:

Adapt to never-ending change

In this rapidly changing market and environment, companies that want to succeed have only one choice: adapt to never-ending change.

Radical redesign of our business model

The endeavor of our new operating model is to be a customer focused organization. The first step – “the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of the business model to produce dramatic performance improvements for our customers and business partners.”

We believe this model will help create challenging and rewarding jobs and careers. We believe this is a critical component in creating breakthrough customer service resulting in higher levels of employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction

What this means to us?

This is an offensive plan. Most of our competitors are taking a defensive approach and basically playing the wait and watch game. This is an approach to take business away from competition. This model helps us go with a laser focus on customers and ensure we have them all covered and delighted with out service levels..

We will drive the customer focus a level higher in our organization thus enabling a top-down business development emphasis. The new structure helps us go “inch wide and mile deep” in our respective territories and regions. It also helps us leverage the entire organization and its various service delivery mechanisms.

Looking back, there certainly were multiple choices of approaching the situation. I certainly do believe the message had its impact and the team responded well to stem the rot.

I had the fortune of approaching the subject of CHANGE again this past weekend. Putting it in the context of what are the different kinds of changes?

I understood that in one of the approaches, CHANGE can be three kinds.

1. INCREMENTAL CHANGE or Organic Change: That can occur in any direction. Sometimes even taking a few steps back or to the side to go forward. Mostly applied to our every day situations.

2. TRANSITIONAL CHANGE: Like the ones we follow in the event of a merger or acquisition of firms. Clear defined process or path with desired outcomes.

3. TRANSFORMATIONAL: What is needed to bring about a complete transformation of the entity or situation. Almost warranting a micro universe of incremental change while morphing the entity from one to another. Sometimes with known defined process and outcomes and other times without.

To be continued…..

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During one of my many visit to book stores, this time in Japan, I happened to pick Prof, Albert Lszlo Brabasi’s book ‘Linked-How everything is connected to everything else and what it means to Business, Science and Everyday life’. I was not only fascinated by the topic, but also intrigued by the way in which he had handled the subject.

Many years later, I would apply the framework and even subscribe to tools to enable me build a good and effective linking system of human relations and associations.

So, with blogging and reading, I was tempted to try and capture a few key elements of this book. I found a well captured essence in the NY Times article I decided to share.

ALBERT-LASZLO BARABASI, a professor of physics at the University of Notre Dame, became fascinated with the structure of the Internet in 1998. He and his student researchers designed software robots that went out on the Net and mapped as many of its nodes, hubs and links as they could. He then began studying other networks and found that they had similar structures. The Internet in particular, he found, had taken on characteristics of a living ecosystem.

That made for a valuable insight in itself. But Professor Barabasi went a step further and analyzed the genetic networks of various living organisms, finding that their genes and proteins interacted in much the same networked way as the Internet.

This conclusion, described in Professor Barabasi’s new book, “Linked: The New Science of Networks”, could alter the way we think about all the networks that affect our lives.

Professor Barabasi’s well written book will be understandable to most readers, but its core concept takes a moment to absorb.

Start by thinking of a highway map of the United States before the advent of the Interstate System. Each city, or node, was connected pretty much at random to others in the network of American cities. Each city has the same relative weight, or “scale,” in Professor Barabasi’s terminology. Knocking out one city doesn’t disrupt the network. Traffic can be rerouted easily.

In contrast, consider the airport hub-and-spoke system that dominates the nation’s airline transportation. A few nodes like Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas-Fort Worth have become far more important than, say, Lincoln, Neb. Knocking out the important nodes has serious cascading effects throughout the network.

This is similar to a disruption on the Internet. Because the nodes of these networks do not have the same scale, Professor Barabasi calls them scale-free, a concept that permeates the book.

Once you understand that concept, you’re off on an intellectual detective journey. Professor Barabasi has invented a vocabulary to talk about the structure of networks.

“We are witnessing a revolution in the making as scientists from all different disciplines discover that complexity has a strict architecture,” he writes. These networks do not operate at random, the author contends; there are laws that govern their behavior.

In the case of human genes, scientists have decoded the genes and proteins of DNA, but that is just the first important step in understanding how genes and proteins interact, Professor Barabasi says. The next step, he writes, is understanding how genes and proteins interact as part of a network, and he predicts the discovery of a clear set of rules for their behavior that will help unlock some mysteries of the human body.

Professor Barabasi makes that prediction partly because he and his researchers mapped out the interactions of 43 primitive organisms and found they took the form of a network with rules.

There are many examples of scale-free networks. Even a cocktail party can be mapped that way: the most sociable people are the “hubs” that link all the guests in a pattern that can be drawn. Other scale-free networks include the electrical power grid, companies and consumers linked by trade and the nervous system of living creatures.


Business writers have long talked about “network effects,” meaning that a network generates more power than individual parts can do by themselves. That was part of the intellectual case against allowing Microsoft to dominate so many personal computers using its operating system.

But Professor Barabasi has put more flesh on the relatively primitive concept of the network effect. His work is relevant not only to physicists and mathematicians, but also to business executives, computer scientists, sociologists and biologists.

Networks have strengths and weaknesses, and Professor Barabasi contends that we have to understand both. On the positive side, because of the multiplicity of connections, some things happen quickly. A good idea can win rapid acceptance.

Professor Barabasi uses the example of Hotmail’s explosion in popularity. Created on July 4, 1996, by Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith, it had one million users within a year. By the time Microsoft came knocking on the door to buy it a year later, it had 10 million. “Innovations and products with a higher spreading rate have a higher chance of reaching a large fraction of the network,” he argues.

By contrast, networks have what he describes as an Achilles’ heel. Knocking out a single major hub can cripple the network, which the Sept. 11 attacks almost succeeded in doing. In the United States, the airline system, financial markets and telecommunications networks all suffered grievous blows.

The extensions of Professor Barabasi’s thinking go in many directions. What caused Cisco Systems and other technology companies that outsource much of their production to be so clobbered in 2000 and 2001? Cisco, in particular, had bragged that its Internet-based supply chain meant that it would never be surprised by having too much inventory. But, Professor Barabasi writes, Cisco did not understand network effects and had to pay for billions of dollars’ worth of components in its extended supply chain; oddly, Cisco, the master of the network, didn’t think in network terms.

“A me attitude, where the company’s immediate financial balance is the only factor, limits network thinking,” Professor Barabasi says. “Not understanding how the actions of one node affect other nodes easily cripples whole segments of the network.”

Professor Barabasi makes a provocative argument about “the market.” For hundreds of years, economists like Adam Smith have argued that there may be an “invisible hand” guiding the market but at the end of the day people cannot understand how the market works because it is too big, too complex, too random.

Nonsense, Professor Barabasi says. “In reality, the market is nothing but a directed network,” he writes. “Companies, firms, corporations, financial institutions, governments, and all potential economic players are the nodes.”

If you understand the structure and evolution of this network, you can, in fact, understand how the market performs, the author contends. That is sure to bring howls of derision from proponents of the dismal science known as economics.

If there is any criticism that can be leveled at him, it is that the reader is left wanting to understand more of the implications of his work. If we understand the network of the human body, can we cure cancer? If we understand the network of the global economy, can we stop recessions? If we understand the network of Al Qaeda, can we eradicate terrorism? The answers may be elusive, but Professor Barabasi’s argument suggests that answers may indeed be found.

 

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When my partner and I started Touchpoints, we wanted to put a framework that will stand the test of time. We pondered about it being technology oriented, domain driven, etc. Eventually, we decided on exchanging notes on our own core values and guiding principles. If we had common core values and guiding principles, the possibility of conflict as well as confusion would be minimized. We decided that while conducting business, transactions or communication we are more than likely to arrive at the cross roads of decision. We would then lean on our core values and guiding principles to show us the right path.

Today, almost three years into the business, we can highlight number of situations, during which, we have potentially been swayed towards what could have been lucrative and resulted in immediate fortune for a minor compromise in our principles. Our ability to say NO and move on to the right opportunity, I believe, has kept us in good stead and we have been able to keep a clean and fearless conscience about ourselves and our endeavors.

The link between values and a purely economic function like management was highlighted by Kaushik Basu, the Economist in the Cornell University in article July,2001 issue of India today. In the article TRUTH ABOUT LYING this is what Kaushik Basu mentioned:

Lying and honesty are intriguing subjects that have engaged philosophers for centuries. Social scientists took very little interest in them. This has suddenly begun to change. It is a much more mundane concern with lying and honesty that has been engaging economists and political scientists in recent times, but it’s a concern of some pervasive importance. Social analysts, notably Francis Fukuyama and Robert Putnam, have argued that societies with a high level of trust — i.e. where people tend to be honest, adhere to promises and respect contracts — tend to prosper. So, faster growth is not just a consequence of appropriate economic policy, savings rate, human capital and fiscal deficits but, somewhat surprisingly, the level of honesty in the citizenry.

This is one area in which the Indian citizenry can do with a little bit of brushing up. The damage usually gets done early, when children are taught that “honesty is the best policy”. As they grow up, they realize whoever taught them that lesson was not quite honest. There are many situations in life where a quick lie, a broken promise or a reneged contract can bring in gains.

Many people make a mistake in trying to cash in on these gains too often, not realizing that each time one does it, one tends to damage a little bit of one’s reputation. If a person breaks too many promises, people will be wary of getting into agreements with him. In other words, excessive dishonesty and corruption, as in our society, is a sign of several things but, importantly, of myopia.

To a person interested in nothing but his own welfare, the Machiavellian lesson would be simple: try not to tell lies so that you can get away with the rare one when you have to. So even if people were very selfish, if they calculated their own interest rationally (that is, without short-sightedness), they would be more honest than they typically are.

Gandhiji once said, “You cannot be honest in one department of life and dishonest in another…..you have to function as a whole”.

We can therefore see that today even the hardheaded experts on management practices are willing to look at the values, which are behind management successes.

I am very excited about the concept of CREST (Center for Research, Education, Sadhana & Training) Center for Research, Education, Sadhana and Training is a program offered by Sahaj Marg Spiritual Foundation to impart personal and spiritual discipline along with knowledge to create living examples of the Sahaj Marg way of living. These courses are designed to cater to all dimensions of existence: the physical, the mental and intellectual, the moral, and the spiritual. Courses will be conducted under the ancient gurukula concept, with trainees living under ashram conditions, providing for a comfortable life in a Spartan setting, without luxury, but spiritually enriched.

The advantage of going back to our roots and trying to understand how management strategy and practices can be evolved by using the traditional Indian wisdom and ethos, therefore, can lead to immensely practical results. Yes, we will have an alternate problem in such a society – no Sarbanes Oxley, no Governance issues and true performance based outcomes driven by strong values and guiding principles. Meaning – IT companies will have not much to forecast growth on. I would rather live in such a society – wouldn’t you?

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