Sunday, September 24, 2017

A workshop for 200 people

Can you craft a workshop for 200 odd people? Was the underlying question of a leisurely call a few months ago. The idea was enticing, ticked all the boxes of creativity, comfort zone (out of), challenge, credibility (of who it came from) and purpose (who it was for).

And I found myself saying yes.

As soon I kept the phone down - I began to think. I have done large format working sessions, handled large offsite gatherings, given speeches at conferences and spoken at panel discussions - but none of them were 4 hour long and none of them were workshops - with this level of interactivity.

And then began the planning. Creating an xls with the plan, the detailing of each segment, curating content for each slide - running it through the lens of 200 people audience, talking to people who think differently - thinking of audience engagement, audience interest and takeaways - planning each aspect of the workshop, scripting, rehearsing, inserting an activity, anticipating questions.

And then as it progressed, making run time adjustments - using an app, design a learning map, plan interactions, questions, breaks, fun and dives....

Suffice it to say that all the hard work paid off...with the session leaving people asking for more. So, well, thanks for the idea @Koushik!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Brainstorming for Khaki Tours

I love brainstorming sessions. Whether I am a participant or a facilitator. So, when, Khaki Tours invited me over for a Brainstorming session - I jumped into it with both feet. The session generated a whole bunch of ideas - as you might imagine - what with people passionate about the idea of heritage evangelism. And with Bharat Gothoskar (the man behind the idea of Khaki Tours itself) fine tuning the aspects of the session in his own creative ways, it was probably the second best way to spend a rainy Saturday morning (other than being a heritage walk). 
The venue (Ministry of New) was charming. The session structure, the timing, the people (everyone with unique skills and passion) - were energetic. Room filled with post -its, charts, presentations - and yes - with plans to takeover the world!
Here is seeing this start up grow in all the million direction it has plans in...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Podcasts ahoy

I am a reader. I can read anything. Anything. Fact. Fiction. Humour. The wrapper of a biscuit packet. The newspaper cone which the peanut vendor passes on. Anything.

On the contrary, I cannot understand when I have to hear. Not beyond a point atleast. And that beyond a point is as immediate as tears on cutting onions.

Mildly put, I like to read and understand. I cannot bear to hear lectures - either in person or on video or audio or anything. My only experiences with audio-books have been as sleeping pills. Yes, I can listen to songs - but nothing that I have to reflect and comprehend.

I have tried a couple of podcasts as well many years ago - when it was the rage - but gave up because of the above reasons.

But at the urging of a friend, I decided to give it a shot again. Its just two podcasts thus far, and I seem to have been able to hear and comprehend.

Looking back, I realise that perhaps when I tried it earlier, it was off a desktop or on a device that did not have mobile internet. And the second difference is that I hear it when I am doing nothing else - like walking - and not while I am doing something else...

So, one is convenience - and the second is uni-tasking...But this is a revelation to me that I can actually hear and comprehend stuff...

Lets increase our domain knowledge

I was listening to a podcast (more on this later) by Dr. Jason Fox - on The Great Work Podcast and something he said caught my attention. His overall topic was all about how people do a lot of work, but how progress is not the same as doing a lot of work/attending a lot of meetings.

He referred to something as trait based language - where he said the leader says things like "We should be digital" or "We are a world class company" or "We should meet customer needs" - and he argues that these are just empty words - that nobody can disagree with and yet shoot off peacefully.

Instead what if the team spoke about and argued real issues and made progress. The trait based language part of it resonated with me - since this is a staple in many meetings.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tale of two 40 odd years old...

A few days back as I walked out from a place, I saw this man standing. Unassuming - like any other person - but he had a ring of familiarity about him. I smiled at him, he smiled back - but the difference was that only I knew him - he did not know me.

It took my mind a few seconds to register who he was - but in that split second - I am sure he sees many people look at him and take that second to recognise him.

The smile was from a 40 plus male to another 40 plus male - perhaps therein ends the similarity.

One who has conquered all there is and yet remains simple and humble. Years ago, I have watched him on TV deliver for the country - on television. In sports.

He is known to be a gentleman player - the finest of the lot - someone who stands for the highest values, totally unaffected by stardom, a man who plays for the team, a man for him his skill is his highest temple of worship, a man who to paraphrase Kipling - can hold his head when all around him are losing theirs, a name never sullied by controversy,  a man who truly represents the gentlemanly form of the game.

I did not want to take a selfie or take an autograph from him - respecting his privacy. But in that moment, in that smile, as a 40 year old who has now moved into a different career track, I processed these notes in my own head marvelling at this gentleman who smiled at someone who walked past when he could have, very simply, ignored...and that is perhaps what makes a difference between ordinary and extraordinary...A gentleman star...

No prizes for guessing who he is, but I wont spoil the fun by revealing the name...


Irresistible, by Adam Alter is all about behavioural addiction. This is a relatively new form of addiction - as opposed to the others - like substance addiction - which have been around for a while.

In this book Adam Alter explores behavioural addiction which is becoming rampant in these days of technology. We cannot clicking and checking our phones - whether it is Whatsapp or Facebook or Twitter - checking for messages or likes or RT's - on the one hand. On the other hand, we are behaviourally addicted to data - and apps like Fitbit put us in an addiction loop.

The book traces the path of these addictions and how it progresses and how technology has prevented  the 'stopping rules' that would stop us from doing something addictive - even shopping. Or binge watching - and how it is encouraged by the way the storyline is built.

The book talks about the Zeigarnik effect. This is interesting for those in the business of learning (and other businesses as well). It has an interesting section about Instagram stole a march over its competitor at the time it was new (and it is a really interesting story).

In my view, it adds a new dimension to what we have known all along as 'influencing' and depending on how it is deployed, it is close to 'manipulation'.

Recently, I read more about the ludic loop - as well - and this is the part where it does get scary:

To keep drivers on the road, the company has exploited some people’s tendency to set earnings goals — alerting them that they are ever so close to hitting a precious target when they try to log off. It has even concocted an algorithm similar to a Netflix feature that automatically loads the next program, which many experts believe encourages binge-watching. In Uber’s case, this means sending drivers their next fare opportunity before their current ride is even over.
And most of this happens without giving off a whiff of coercion. 
Some of the most addictive games ever made, like the 1980s and ’90s hit Tetris, rely on a feeling of progress toward a goal that is always just beyond the player’s grasp. As the psychologist Adam Alter writes in his book “Irresistible,” this mental state has a name: the “ludic loop.” (The term was coined by the anthropologist and slot machine expert Natasha Schüll.)
Uber, for its part, appears to be aware of the ludic loop. In its messages to drivers, it included a graphic of an engine gauge with a needle that came tantalizingly close to, but was still short of, a dollar sign.
And towards the end it also talks about how one can free themselves from this maddening loop - all in all a recommended read...Do click like on this, so I can keep checking :)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Of coaches and kings

Much has been written about the Indian cricket team and how one respected coach resigned (or was asked to resign) and how another one has taken over. There are reams written about it elsewhere on the mechanics of it, but here is my two cents on how this can play out.

Think of a business. That is doing very well today. And like all businesses, it is caught in its own narrative fallacy - of how its business model, its mode of working is indestructible - until the nimble competitor knocks its socks off. This can happen to businesses, sports persons, teams, individuals - anyone who doesn't take life (or work or anything else) as a continuous developmental effort.

Also known as hubris. Sometimes from the leadership. Sometimes as a culture. Whatever the reason, any business or individual or team who is complacent to believe that they are good enough will soon be knocked off their pedestal.

For the cricket team - they are on a high now. The coach is expected to work with the team to the next level - the other teams are there, on their heels. And in general, a good coach can whip the team into a  fighting, winning machine.

Take any sport or business - examples abound of nimble competitors, un-fancied underdogs and of fighting machines on a winning cycle. And behind each of them is a success story of great leadership...

But in sports, like in business there are no permanent heroes or winners. What will be interesting to see for the cricket team is whether this coach will set the team in a 'growth mindset' to get back to its winning ways. That is worth watching...