Sunday, November 12, 2017

The pace of change

Many years ago, when I was a newbie in my corporate life, our team was managing an xl sheet. And I was looking at the xl sheet when my boss told me, well, that is basically used an electronic ledger. It is not a real xls. Indeed, another of our colleagues had this adage, “it is not an xls until it has atleast 1 pivot table”.

It took us a few weeks of cleaning the records to harness some part of the analysis powers of xl and then we figured out what we could do with it.

As I read The second machine age, in that it says, how when Steam engines were the prime source of power in factories, the factories were often driven by a huge steam engine and all machines were connected to it via different shafts to derive power from the engine. This meant that the orientation of a factory was largely vertical due to mechanical reasons of machines having to be closer to the steam engine (above and below). When factories switched to electric power, the layouts continued for a while (almost 30 years) until people began to change it to a more horizontal layout because electrical power had no such constraints.

And therefore, the authors argue that productivity gains from new innovations often have long time gaps.

When we think of digital transformation of industries or companies – often this is the case. Transformations do not give results immediately – at some later point, it kicks in and one has to be patient enough to live through it.

I strongly suspect that this is the case of newly learnt skills by humans as well, but for now that is just a thought…

Friday, November 10, 2017

Whats a carriage?

The digital native in my family was reading an Agatha Christie book.

"Whats a carriage? Does it mean a horse drawn carriage?"
"Perhaps yes, that’s what it should mean in Agatha Christie times, though it is possible it is also a motor carriage." I was about to continue the story of how carriage became car and so on, before which he said
"But how does this carriage have so many parts – second class carriage, smoking carriage and all that?"
"Oh, then it should be a train"
Yes, it is a train, I read a little further

So many words that have a specific meaning for us have no meaning for digital natives. It is the same for every generation – many words lose meanings and many words acquire meanings.

In my generation, a lot of our mother tongue words have gone – we no longer use them – which is sad – separate story for some other time.

As this digital native generation comes into the workplace, they will not relate to many words and terms at work that are basically a continuation of the previous non-digital generation. Today we have not thought of it and we continue these terms as hand me downs when they have no real meaning or when the meaning has changed.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Washing machine to Dishwasher - an urban adaption story

During our generation, our parents coped with the advent of the washing machine. Why washing machine and why not TV or refrigerator or Internet? Because the washing machine made them do a particular chore differently. Clothes which were hitherto washed by hand had to be washed by a machine. They were not sure if this was good or bad. There were rumours that clothes would be damaged by them. There were rumours that people died because of washing machines. There was of course proof that washing machines were not cleaning clothes as good their maids would.

All in all it was a difficult transition. Washing machines saved time. And also saved water - by and large - if used in the right load and configuration. But the quality of the work was still suspect. Most people figured that it worked and in a generation, people adapted it.

Now, this generation (as much as they consider themselves progressive as compared to the previous generation, like every other generation), is facing the same situation with dishwashers.

I for one, was surprised to hear that the dishwasher only consumes 9 -12 litres of water. Compared to manual washing - that is atleast 4 times lower is my estimate. But households are still not ready to adopt. It is happening. The early adopters were there a few years ago - this is now the middle zone in my view. And when I pitched this at home, I was faced with resistance (I still havent won) - thats how I write this post.

Like the washing machines - the early adopters are the ones who want to save time/money or have seen its effectiveness. Thus, dishwashers today are being adopted by the eco conscious (yay, it saves water) or the time conscious (I cant wait for the maid to do this tomorrow). This might be a bit of a mind-read, but the point I am trying to make is the transition.

This generation is the generation when the dishwasher will make it big in homes. In 10-15 years, every household in India that has a washing machine will have a dishwasher.

And then the next one, will do away with their dependence on maids- and move to robotic floor cleaners and dusters. And that is a story for the future!

Think how work cultures are also transforming generation to generation!

PS: This is all entirely anecdotal - and I havent bothered with the numbers. The washing machine part I am fairly sure, the dishwasher part is pure anecdote. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Homo Sapiens

I am a little late to this party - Homo Sapiens by Yuval Noah Hariri is the kind of book I love to read. Takes up a concept - human evolution  - about which we think we know everything and then turns it upside down bit by bit.

How humans became agriculturists from foragers? (some interesting answers there)
What happened to the other human species? (Yes, there were other human species and what happened to them is not pretty)
What happened to large mammals when they were encountered by humans?
How did civilizations die?
What made certain civilizations prosper?

What has this got to do with the work we do?

I feel that a lot of what humans have undergone in their evolutionary journey over millions of years stays with them as they take up jobs in the corporate jungle as hunters and foragers or agriculturists or whatever.

A lot of our behaviour stems from there and at some level it is important to understand this evolutionary journey.

All in all, a wonderful book to read - as has been acclaimed by millions of readers, so I am a bit late to the party...

Monday, October 30, 2017

Dunning Kruger effect

This is why the internet is great. Suddenly, sometimes, one gets to learn something new. And if you are on the right sites (really content pipeline), you get to learning something new everyday. Such it was that I bumped into reading about the Dunning Kruger effect, thanks to Seth Godin.

I smiled reading about it, mapping my own journey and I can say that this resonates with me...Does it resonate with you!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Myths that persist

Over the last few years, I have had the privilege of viewing learning and development from a ringside perspective as well as from the inside view. It is interesting to see how many myths persist in this space. This is just my perspective  - based on what I have learnt.

The myth of Left Brained and Right Brained people. This myth refuses to die - despite being proved by research. Like many myths, there is a certain element of truth - the brain is indeed divided across hemispheres The brain is far more interlinked - this much is very well known-- but to categorise a person as Left (artist - yay cool) or Right brained (accountant - hence boring) is just laziness.

The myth of multi-tasking. This was hight on the radar a few years ago - it still persists, but again, has been largely disproved. There is almost no such thing as multitasking - the changeovers during switching affect productivity - and all our devices make it worse. Read this piece for all collection of insights on it...

The myth of Learning Styles. This myth which states that people learn through various styles - visual,  auditory, kinesthetic - among others. This myth has been comprehensively broken down here...but we continue to have conversations about 'how are you going to tackle this learning style'. The fact is that we mostly, only learn by doing. There is no other way. Step out of your comfort zone, learn, do, repeat till it becomes a habit - everything else is a shortcut that goes nowhere.

In your experience, which other myths continue to persist?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

An Entrepreneurial Journey and a lesson

As the Leader of a reasonably large sized team, the team does have ups and down. Sometimes, an initiative we design does not see light of day or is rejected by stakeholders. Sometimes, it is a moment of frustration. Sometimes it is dejection. These things keep happening.

One of my managers told me the other day, "The one thing I see about is a never say die quality. Whatever happens - be it the worst thing - you only see it as an opportunity and you always see the positive side"

As a leader, we do not have a choice. You cannot be dejected or have a hang dog expression. It is important to keep the spirits up. It is important to show a positive direction to people.

And when you go off on the entrepreneurial journey, some amount of optimism is needed. Well, correction. A large dose of unbridled optimism is required. And this time, there is no team. All that optimism is for you, with you, inside you.

I have read all I can about this. How to handle rejection. How not to click refresh 847 times in a minute to wait for the email that you expect to receive. The difference between role and identity. Have many sets of small victories to celebrate. And so on.

The entrepreneurs journey is a lonely journey.

It is also a deeply personal journey.

It is a journey of a loss of identity.

It is like running to a cliff with a glider on your back. The glider has not really been tested in the open air. It works well in closes spaces where there is no draft or vagaries of weather.

Will you fly, will you fall? Will you fall and then a timely updraft will rescue you? Can you read the wind? Or will you land safely enough to take the next attempt.

That glider is your identity. The old one. Its gone. Weathered. You need to build a new one.

And discover a new identity.

It is like the hero's journey...Fly...