Thursday, December 27, 2012

Backup photograph

Over the past few gatherings, where we have had so called professional photographers at functions, I have seen this trend of taking more than one picture at a time. The photographer takes a picture and holds up the hand with the index finger and clicks one more picture.

Now, back in the days of analog photography, there was no way one could be sure, but yet, very rarely, we took backup pictures. And of course, the film storage method was price intensive, and the results were not visible until the film was 'washed' and 'developed'. But in the age of instant gratification, the picture takers tend to take up back up pictures - when in reality that is not needed.

Why does this happen? One possibility - is that the picture takers are not 'professional' photographers. And in many weddings, 5 year olds crowd around with digital cameras taking pictures - so it is not a big deal for anyone to be taking pictures - even with an SLR - and many of them rarely adjust the settings.

The second is just a behaviour thing - just to be sure, take two pictures of every scene and pick the best. Not sure why this should be so, but people do it.

Third, not sure, if this is an India specific thing, but this idea of taking back up pictures is amusing...

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Facilitation Skills

Yesterday, I had a privilege of attending a lecture by Dr. Simon Priest on facilitation organized by the good OELT.

The title of the session said, How to Design better experiential training programs, though I read it as How to design better training programs. The event even had a Graphic Facilitation alongside.

But more important was what I learnt about facilitation skills. Even though the context of Dr. Priest was about experiential learning, what he said would be useful to practically any type of training.  His classification of experiential learning types was an eye-opener (and how people mix one for the other or ask for one type of session and expect the results of another session, and the level of facilitators required for each of them). As was the way he expounded many a 'facilitation skill'. And the techniques used to generate the appropriate response. Perhaps many of us know this intuitively, but knowing the technique is a great thing (As I have learnt across different situations over the past many years - technique and intuition are not at all mutually exclusive as some people make it out to be. Indeed technique sharpens intuition, is my view and there is no way to learn something new and practice it than by technique).

Facilitation skills, like Consulting skills is probably the most misused word in the training industry. A lot of people talk, deliver sessions, preach, but I suppose, very few facilitate.

But what were those things he said ?

 That, well, will be a separate post, when I get around to learning them :-)

 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Presentation skills

One of the most asked for, repeated and perhaps most pedestrian of all trainings is the Presentation skills. In terms of numbers it is possibly the most delivered session across the service industry. And yet, it remains one of the trainings that can be continuously re-imagined. Those two words, Presentation skills are more two words - they are a world of stuff to do there. There are many who deliver it using theatre, art and many more technology oriented modes - while there are others who help it the traditional way - including the Toastmasters. So, this is also not an easy session to deliver since the audience knows a lot of things anyway.

The last time I did this was a few years back. As I went through the slides of that time now, I found myself cringing at the quality of the presentation. And that is the beauty of presentation skills - each time there is scope for it to be made more contemporary.

So, this time around, I put some thought to it and am thinking how to make it more contemporary and meaningful for the participants. I have got some ideas on how to make it happen...I have about 3 weeks to prepare and think about it...

Evolving thought...


Thursday, November 29, 2012

At your next meeting

Through a series of coincidences, a book on philosophy landed on my reading list. And the book was not meant to be read, but to be returned. But in the process of returning, I decided to take a shot at reading it. And, while it did not change my life (if that was what you expected), I read through what are known as logical fallacies. Take a look at this list here...

Seemingly sound arguments fall by the wayside when one looks at them from this perspective. The next time you are in a meeting, count how many logical fallacies are used by people while advancing their arguments.

My favourite one out of all those is the argument from personal incredulity. Whats yours?

Whatever else, you wont be bored!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Moores law of training

Last night, I was reading a book that talks about high performance teams and how to create a high performance team culture. The book made for very interesting reading and had a few aha moments for me. While the premise is simple - and I thought I knew it all - the way the book structured its story seemed simple and more importable - doable and replicable.

All went well, till I reached a chapter where the example was 'Lance Armstrong'. Now, I myself used to admire Lance Armstrong. I read his book, 'Its not about the bike' and thought about this man who kept on winning despite the odds. All that seems so long ago now given the recent news around him.

And once I read this part, I kind of put the book away. In all probability, I will return to the book since it did have many an a-ha moment in it. But the example of Lance set me thinking.

Is management theory or theorizing only about present heroes (and of course, past successes?). But talking only about past successes does not hold much water for the future - so talking about the present becomes important. And therein lies the trouble. The same Lance who one upheld as a hero yesterday is gone today. The same Nokia which till yesterday marched like Alexander into emerging markets is now more of an Alexander who has lost his way. And these are but two examples.

Really, people like us who are in the training line use examples of great companies and individuals as paragons of the topic we are talking about. But do we really know if that is what got them there? Do we really know the secret sauce, if there is one? Or is just a fallacy at work - to use a theory to justify a success?

And perhaps there needs to be a Moores law of training - which could state that all training examples will be antiquated in 12 months. Or that all recent successes will fit into any new theory you decide to teach. Or some such.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Tour Guide

In the age of the mobile internet and gps, a tourist guide is a bit of an anachronism. All the information is already out there - the history, the details, the maps, the guidebooks (in many languages that too) - much more than what a human guide can hold or comprehend. All this makes the job of a guide that much difficult.

But when we went to Hampi, we hired a guide for a day. Chandru, was his name. We were not that well prepared as many others - we had read up a bit of history, read two books on Hampi and generally had some idea of the main things we wanted to see. So, we were reasonably aware.

But the way the guide brings a place alive is through stories. He told us of the Muslim invaders who destroyed the Hindu kingdom. He brought alive the palace with his vivid descriptions of the functions. He was able to bring life into the old performances. He was able to describe battle scenes with elan. He spoke about the elaborate rituals, the grand feasts, the magnificent festivals, the glorious processions and the grandness of life in the olden days.


That brought us back to a similar incident of many years back in Golconda Fort, Hyderabad. That guide was amazingly loquacious and added enough spice to many a story. Most of his stories were probably folk lore with a heavy dose of fiction and imagination - with enough masala to fill a Hindi potboiler. But yes, it was fun interacting with him - and he did know many things that were beyond what we had read about the fort.

So, a great tourist guide will tell you stories. Bring the place alive. In his descriptions, you can see the place come live before your own eyes and that is something technology cannot do, not yet.

At any rate, Hampi is one of those places which when you visit once, the experience is unlikely to not move you. The place is magnificent in its scale and grandeur. The imagination of those people who built this magnificent city and the brutality of the invaders is hard to miss. One is left with profound admiration at the geniuses who were able to conceptualize and execute such a great vision.

Truly, a giant of a learning experience...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On Signages

 An example of a great signage at Hampi...Relevant, Informative and Appealing.
And seen at many places in Hampi, another one, relevant, but nothing else. Tells nothing about what is the protected monument all about...

Interesting eh?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mini is the way?

Recently, I travelled on work. As part of work, I had to lug a laptop along. And I wondered if I should carry a tablet device as well while at it. After a bit of thought of carrying two devices through airport security, I decided against it and settled just for my phone.

Now my phone is a smartphone - with wifi access even in airplane mode (yes, I am not rich enough to afford international roaming). And my laptop takes about the duration of one ice age to boot - among other things. So, through the duration of the travel, I used my phone for everything - mail, twitter, skype, reading stuff - which I would have used a tablet device.

Sure, it makes for better reading etc., but other than that, the phone works just as well. And that set me thinking. The tablet is perhaps an overrated device - since one cannot do without a phone. Therefore, a phone does all what a tablet can do is much better than the other way round.

So, is a mini-tablet the way of the future?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Perspectives

A city is not a museum. A lot of things about a city remain what they are -unlike a museum, where you can have travelling exhibits and themes and so on. It is a little difficult to do that for a city. By and large atleast. And cities need to be the ‘same’ in order to preserve character as they call it.

Boston is a great example of a ‘happening’ city with a deep underlying character – yet, there is only so many ways and so many times you can see a city. Why would you come to a city a second time to see and do the exact same thing? And that is what struck me this time while I walked around Boston.

I have been to Boston before and used one of the trolley bus tours to see the place. This time I opted to explore it on foot. But there are still more options to explore the city which have come up in the past few years. There is a bike (bicycle) option and there is a Segway option. The same damn city – yet some 5-6 different ways to see it. Each of those trolley tours are slightly different – there are amphibious tours, old bus style tours and so on. And this is just the city at the surface – if you have more time on your hands, you can explore the city by yourself and spend a longer time at many of the sites – some of them as much as a day or a half day depending on the depth which you want to soak it in.

We all know this by the way – I mean, a lot of cities on the tourist circuit have figured out innovative means to get people to come to their city multiple times. And yes, we in India do all we can to ensure that anyone who steps into our city by mistake does not repeat that mistake. But that is a rant for another day.

Think of this from a learning perspective. If a student could explore the same subject multiple times through various means, will stickiness go up? The more perspectives we offer, the better it is for a learner right?

Learning from Street Performers

Right outside Fanueil Hall in Boston was this set of street performers.

While I watched them, it did not immediately strike me, but as usual, I got the thought a little later.

A street performance is really, like a training. Except that, you and I, walking on the street have no obligation, much less motivation, to attend and cannot be ‘pushed’ to attend the performance. So, they have to do much more to attract and retain an audience – which for a trainer is easier, since his audience is atleast in the room. And the techniques these guys used were so simple, so good…

First, as they were about to start their performance, they get the audience to come closer – near the markers they have set up. They do this very respectfully, though at this point, many people are not even sure if they want to see the performance. They realize that.

And while doing this, one of them begins his spiel. He tells the audience (mostly whites) that they have nothing to fear from them (blacks). And they wont hurt them – atleast they cannot hurt all of them at the same time. That breaks barriers instantly. And then he asks the audience to clap and not stand with folded hands – and points to a statue – that is standing in precisely that position – again peals of laughter. Then he asks them to put their hands up – and then tells them, no it is not a robbery.

Each of these statements just endears them to the audience – sentence by sentence. And then he asks them to clap, loudly, continuously and clap if they like something or do not like something. Wry humour at its best. And he signs off by saying, don’t let us down. And that really makes you want to cheer for them.

Lovely audience connect. Now he has established the connect with the audience, got their attention and committed to their cheering his performance. And then their breathtaking routine begins…And by now, you must have realized that when the tip jar is finally circulated, they will get it filled each and every time…

Imagine us delivering training like this. Establishing a rapport. Making the audience comfortable. Delivering a breathtaking training. And getting great feedback!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

An Apple Service Experience

Sometime last year, I purchased an iPad. And that was purchased outside the country. All went well until one fine day the little one somehow managed to get gravitys attention to it from the sofa. Gravity, promptly pulled it towards the center of the earth. Luckily, the fall was broken by our floor. And coincidentally, post that the 'home' button stopped working. And for good measure, the iPad refused to recognize electricity as well - it stopped getting charged.

Our iPad was bricked more or less.

Taking it to the US was out of question and we thought of exploring some local service options. After all, a company like Apple would have some service center somewhere in Bangalore. Turns out they do.

Now, one does not expect an Apple product to fail. And in any case, most companies do not have anything called an international warranty. With the foresight that comes with experience, I had destroyed any proof of me having purchased the iPad. The chances that I will find the receipt when required tends towards zero in any case, so I dont bother keeping receipts.

So, we landed up there half expecting that nothing will work. But it turns out, Apple does have an international warranty. They took a look at our product and confirmed that a problem did exist and they will come back to us. Sure enough, they called - they had figured out that it was still a few days before a year ran out - and the warranty expired - and as per the warranty terms, hardware issues mean that the product will be replaced.

And here is the point. They could have easily sent me away since I did not have a receipt. Or if I did, they could have sent me away saying that since I purchased it in US, I would have to go back to US and get it serviced, at my own expense. And, it was after all damaged by us or so we thought - and that was reason enough for it to be turned back.

But they did not. And obviously for me that was a great service experience.

This is not a unique case. Please.

I had an HTC phone. Purchased in the US. The chap in India refused to open the phone (some lengthy debate about how they could not or were not allowed to ensued  - with the same result). I sent it to Singapore - same result there as well. And I have that Google phone lying on my desk as a paperweight - a great way for geeks to showcase their sunk cost.

Another friend had some e-reader device. That got replaced after she managed to nearly break into two - but it had to be returned to the country of purchase.

Even in India, for simple purchase returns they look at the preserved receipt and then look at you as if you made the receipt in your house and are trying to swindle money out of them.

Ultimately, you either have a great customer experience or you dont. Apple does. The rest, have, excuses.

Update: I visited a Canon service center in Bangalore and while I waited I heard the person there give some huge excuse to someone on how there is no international warranty and excuses like that. If you are Canon (and really, Canon is a big name in cameras), this is your time to get your service levels to that of Apple!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Where do you want to be?

Last week, I discussing with a friend on career moves. 

And my career has been anything but linear. And when I say that I don’t mean stratospheric growth, it means that over time I have moved my career in many a direction before finding my feet. I have worked in many a function, technical, operations, support before settling down on what I think is what I want to do. 

That decision has not been easy. You see, my qualifications are different – as per my qualifications I should be doing something else. As per my experience, I should be doing something else. If one combines qualification and experience it is something else (whatever that is). 

There are no established rules for success - your qualifications need not hold you back at all. And the real world is all about such people. I am sure you have met such people. As much as it is great to have your interest building up your qualifications leading to your experience, it is also equally great to build your career with the bricks you find on your way.
 These are some examples I have encountered in my life. Think about it. A medical doctor friend of mine started working in a brokerage. No apparent connection. But he used his medical knowedge with his financial interest to focus analyzing pharma companies. A finance friend of mine went into medical sales and then onto travel. Again, he used his knowledge of finance with an interest in marketing to succeed. And you will find such entrants in many industries - changing the way the game is played - simply because they dont have "dogmas" that often come with qualifications and experience. On the contrary - their cross industry experience, often makes it easier for them to challenge status quo by asking, "if we could do it there, why can it be done here?"

But the key is to love what one is doing. Putting interest in the mix did not ring bells, until one fine day it happened (or so I felt). The trick for the interest question is perhaps (again, my experience), “Do I like doing this on a consistent basis.” YMMV, of course. Ask this question day in and day out as you reach your desk each Monday. Ask the question do you dread your week days or do you look forward to them? Do you feel stressed doing what you are doing or are you able to do it effortlessly (does not mean lazily). Does work feel like work or play? Do you wake up in the middle of the night with a Eureka idea or would you rather not wake up at all?


Point being, as we move roles, there is a good chance that it appears that the qualifications or experience are not adding up. So, if I am a technologist who is trying to get into something else, it is not about what you left behind, it is about what you are going toward. And in that journey, what you left behind is a sunk cost. It will help you, by and large, but don’t let it hold you back from trying out something new.Also, it appears that it wont add up, but you can make add up if you want it to. Making it all add up will add more juice, if you will, to your career.

Therefore, in your career, always think about this – It is not where you were, It is where you want to be.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

When problem strikes

Ever so often, be it in our work lives or in our personal lives, there are problems that need resolution. Sometimes something happens, something breaks and each time a problem strikes we are dumbstruck or blindsided and worse clueless how to go about in future.

Typically, a problem breaks an 'established' routine which leaves us feeling lost as well. At this point, we typically have two choices: Fix the problem or Do something different.

Most often, we go for the former (and many a time that is the right thing to do) - and try and see if there is a way that we can fix the problem. By and large that works, but sometimes, a fixed problem reappears in a different avatar. That is when most of us realize that the problem was only partially solved - or fixed.

However, if one takes a different approach - take a look at every problem as an opportunity to redefine a process, there is a great chance that the problem will be resolved for good and be used as a chance to make things better.

A lot of times, problems crop up because a process that was conceptualised has run well past its sell-by date. And if such a process breaks, it is a great time to say, hey, this has finally broken, what can we do to make this situation better?

Treating the problem as a re-imagination opportunity will help us get there. Yes, the demons of 'this is how it is always done' or 'why are you tampering with an existing process' have to be slayed, but this is a good opportunity to make an attempt to do so...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Switch

I recently read Switch, a book by Chip and Dan Heath - same guys who wrote, Made to Stick.

The book is about how to push change, be it in teams, organizations, villages and perhaps even countries. What I liked about the book is that it is almost like a to-do manual on bringing about change.

They have characterised the human mind as an elephant and rider. The former, the emotional side of the brain and the latter as the rational side of the brain need to be co-opted in order for the change to be accepted, implemented and not reversed. They have used it give several examples of successes and failures of implementing change.

Another thing we often do not do while attacking a problem is to not look at bright spots (as I discovered myself recently) within the affected area - which may have a solution in itself, many a time.

So, the next time you are implementing a large change management initiative, this is a good book to have by your side!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

On Appearances

Appearances are important - in everything. A part of being in business is the appearance of doing business.

Exhibit 1: I was travelling in a bus a few years back - and the bus made a halt at some unearthly hour for 'tea'. The tea-shop was a bustling place with atleast 10 buses at that specific point while we halted and I am sure over the night, serviced many more vehicles. For 3 am, the place sure was busy. But what was intriguing was that a biscuit stall owner, right next to the tea stall was busy, incredibly busy arranging his biscuits, moving them a bit here, a bit there and generally appearing busy. And he was doing brisk business. There was no reason to be cleaning the shop at 3 am which in all probability was his busiest part of the day. Perhaps.

Exhibit 2: There is this 'pressure cooker' repairman I often see. To be fair, I have seen him handle a real customer just once. At all other times, he is incredibly busy. Walks up and down, cleans the cookers he has, rearranges his shop and generally appears incredibly busy. He has another trick up his sleeve, he walks around apartments with a cooker in his hand - he appears busy.

This is typical behaviour that you see, and not in the bigger shops, but in the smaller ones - the ones which are the old world types. Those small restaurants that you would see near railway stations, bus stations, tourist hot spots and the like.

And the explanation I have for it is that people like to walk into a shop which appears busy (and that means they are 'doing' business) and not at a place where the shopkeeper is sitting, waiting for business.

And bring that back to your business. How do appearances matter? What do you have to do to 'get' business? What do your people have to do, when they are 'apparently idle'? And how can you use that to keep them focused and sharp?

Learning from the Olympics

Arguably, the greatest show on earth, the London Olympics 2012 has come to an end. Until the next edition in 2016, Rio De Janerio Brazil, all will be quiet -for people like you and me, the armchair viewers and keyboard experts though.

It is anything but quiet for those aspiring to be there in 2016. Those athletes who will make a mark in 2016 are likely training each day in quest of that elusive gold medal. There are a few from 2012 who will be around in 2012, but a big chunk of them will be new.

They will spend the next four years doggedly in pursuit of that goal. They will rise in the morning, focus themselves and get into training. Day and day out. For the next four years – perhaps exceeding 10 hours each day. That will roughly give them 10,000 hours of practice just in the next four years. And most likely, these athletes, sportspersons would have already reached that 10,000 hours milestone multiple times in their lives already. And each 10,000 hours they will perfect one more nuance, one more skill, one more muscle, one more move until it all falls in place.

Or perhaps it wont. Who knows? For each sport, there are exactly 3 medals on offer (give or take a few depending on rules). 3 medals for the entire world. And if  you miss that chance, it is an only chance. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you get it 4 years later. And then for many, age wont be on their side. Or an injury may show up. Or something else.

How many of us can find that focus to pursue one single thing all our lives and practically give up everything else in its quest? Each of our sportsmen, India in the last couple of Olympics have produced stellar performances from individual athletes, has done that. Abhinav Bindra, Saina Nehwal are great examples. And someone like Sushil Kumar is the first Indian athlete, ever to win a medal in two consecutive Olympics. Phew. To get to the top of the world and stay there for 4 years? Takes some focus. And shut yourself from the world – its distractions, its troubles, its politics, its temptations and whatnot.

What is true for Olympics is true for almost anything else. To reach the top a single minded focus is necessary. Whether it is career or sports or politics or arts or anything else. But not everyone can do it. Some can focus, some cannot.

Some do it their own way and stay interested in a million things all their life. They wont win Olympic medals for sure, but then that is perhaps not what they are after in any case.

As Robert Heinlein said, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

So what is right? Neither. What is right is what makes you happy. If you are happy staying focused, stay that way. If you are happy doing a thousand, stay that way. So, don’t crib. To win that elusive medal a lot of hard work, sacrifice is required. If you are not willing to do it, that medal is not yours. Rest content knowing that fact.

So, as someone who cannot focus and who likes to do a thousand things – I doff my hat to those who can stay focused and chip away at a specific goal. Hats off to you.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Do what you love anyway

This lovely post from Big Think, got me thinking. A long time fan of Malcolm Gladwells writings, it was nice to see this insight. What Gladwell says is very simple, keep doing what you love, whether you see an immediate payoff or not.

And we know it, instinctively, but we keep getting distracted by short term speedbreakers.


Keep focused on work and don’t worry about the results.

Which can be reinterpreted as Do what you love and success will follow.

Which is essentially what Mr. Gladwel is saying.

Therefore as he says, Do what you love – whether it succeeds or not, you will still be doing what you love! And what is a greater payoff than that!

Sometimes, random reading and thoughts come and pop into our minds at the right time (call it coincidence, providence, confirmation bias or anything else). Just when you thought you had it all figured out, there is a googly to keep you thinking yet again. Such it goes...

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Radio and songs

No, this is not a post that evokes memories of a bygone era and wishes that we were still in an era where there was socialism and a radio.

Now that I got that out of the way, lets get onto the topic.

When I grew up, we heard songs on the radio – at home, at the barber shop, sometimes in a shop - more than on television. Since televisions were far and few to begin with and there was just one channel, so the chances of seeing a song was quite rare and chancy. Thus it was, that our mind created images of the song in the way that we created our own picturization of a song. So, when I heard a song, I would have no idea who it is picturized on (though sometimes I did) and how. And our mind creates a mental map of how the song would possibly look like.

And later, when you see that song on say, a youtube or even a TV, sometimes you go – what? This song was picturized this badly? Or I did not know this song was picturized on XYZ.

On the other hand, there are those that make you go wow…

Similarly, sometimes we go with an idea of what we are going to learn and the entire content underwhelms us or overwhelms us. How to avoid that? How does one walk the tightrope walk of getting everything so right that it all feels "perfect"?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Flexiwork, but no flexischool?

The arrival of IT companies in India (both India and MNC) has opened to the door to a very different work culture. A lof of the IT companies let you work from time, work flexi time, sometimes across locations. Some of the more progressive ones do not even measure (or track) your attendance. Whether you come by to work or not each day is not important as long as you deliver what you are supposed to to deliver. And that sounds quite right, does it not? Why do people have to assemble at a place for working together like an industrial age factory - in which it was required because the equipment and raw material would be available only in the factory.

But today? In an age of cloud computing, BYOD, computers as powerful as anything available at ones home - do people really have to assemble and dissemble each day in order to work? Why not work and collaborate virtually? Sure, there are security concerns and the like, but other than that?

Well, the future is work is at home and the companies that have cracked this are reaping benefits. Those who are not are in some stage of denial, in my view.

Now think about schools. For all the flexibility we get at our workplaces, schools are notoriously stuck in the industrial age. Uniforms, fixed times, fixed timings, fixed curriculum, one size fits all -you think of it, they have it. And if you compare, many children spend about as much time at school, than your average adult spends time at work. And the adult numbers at work are coming down even as school hours are remaining constant or going up.

Is there a reason a child has to go to school each day of the week? If the child can finish off some of the work at home (with parents or extended family) why bother going to school each day? If the curriculum can be split between spending time at home and completing stuff that is prescribed, they why bother to send the child each day to physically attend school?

When we grew up (or perhaps a generation earlier) schooling was a lot more flexible while workplaces were more rigid. Today,there is flexiwork but no flexischool - sweet irony is it not?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ideas of a feather flock together

The original quote goes Birds of a feather, flock together, but when you think it is true for a ideas as well. Take any thought process and you will find a remarkable similarity across ideas in a particular generation.

This struck me as particularly obvious as part of our ongoing googling on car designs, something struck me as quite amazing. When you see car designs over a period, say the 50's, 60's or any other period - the majority of cars look similar. When I say similar, I mean that their overall structure, proportions, shape and lines are similar. There are variations in engine, accessories, interior layout and so on, but by and large they do appear same. In the sense, if you picked out a particular car it is easy even an untrained eye to observe the, quite obvious, similarity.

This was something I knew intuitively as a "car watcher", but the fact that this has repeated consistently over many eras was quite something.

There is an explanation for why this is so, in what is a very famous statement by none other than Steve Jobs.

You know how you see a show car, and it’s really cool, and then four years later you see the production car, and it sucks? And you go, What happened? They had it! They had it in the palm of their hands! …What happened was, the designers came up with this really great idea. Then they take it to the engineers, and the engineers go, ‘Nah, we can’t do that. That’s impossible.’ And so it gets a lot worse. Then they take it to the manufacturing people, and they go, ‘We can’t build that!’ And it gets a lot worse.” [The whole piece from Time, in case you want to read it]

It is not that people are not creative, but when people get together to review someones design, collective decision making takes over. Then, there is this urge for everyone to contribute something and in that bargain, partly make it "less risky", partly put their stamp, partly want to conform to some vague established norms and ultimately make the conceptually brilliant idea into a wonderfully diluted caricature of the original.

Something fantastic to read, if you have never read it before "What colour is the bikeshed"

And the winner, almost everytime is the breakthrough idea.

When you think that is the normal procedure for any creative idea to become a reality, you suddenly have more respect for those ideators - one for coming up the idea and second for relentlessly pushing it through the system till it becomes a reality. Think of any standout design idea and the first thing that you think is "Respect". We stick to cars on Indian roads - say the Santro, fhe Swift, the Ace, the Nano and to a certain extent the Scorpio and the XUV5OO, but other than that, every car looks like every other car.


It is not necessary that breakthrough ideas are always successful, but mostly successful ideas are breakthrough ideas.


Now think about the designer who would have designed a "standout" car and then watches as his concept is whittled down. What happens to his confidence? It goes down.


But the actual process of whittling down creative confidence starts much earlier - at home and then at school. For more on this, watch this awesome video on a TED talk by David Kelley.

More later...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Google auto suggest

Google boy at work: Think of a car brand. Type it into the Google box -which I suspect is his worm hole for reaching out into other dimensions. Wait for auto-suggest to kick in. Wonder what are each of those suggestions, click them one by one and expand knowledge. Said modus operandi has worked very well.

One day, Googleboy was typing Morgan (yes, it is a car company) into the Google box - And google helpfully suggested, "Freeman". With the result, that from staring at cars one moment, Googleboy found himself staring at the pictures of an oldish man in a French beard. Much peevishness resulted from the incredulity that Google could not figure out that Morgan was a car manufacturer and when combined with Freeman, it was a person not a car.

And for us, that caused much hilarity...while for Google, that might be some feedback!


Imagine

Imagine -how creativity works is the title of a book by Jonah Lehrer. There are numerous books on creativity and yet creativity is one of those topics that is quite tough to be captured inside a book. And yet, Imagine does this quite well.

What Imagine does is it looks at examples of people across disciplines - music, sports, literature, technology among others and also explores the science behind these and tries to connect the two. That makes for very engrossing reading.

One part that had me enthralled was the part about how population density and people interactions in cities can give rise to ideas. Another section was on the way the Pixar workplace is designed so as to increase interaction and give rise to higher levels of creativity. Both these are great reading for someone who wants creativity in their workplace and are all worth thinking about.

As we think about this for the next generation, education is definitely an area that can be looked at in a different perspective, but thats my ongoing thought.

All in all, a great read - especially when you are about to take that flight and are searching for a book that will surely spark some thoughts!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Googleman

I am a superhero. Googleman. Without google, I am the ordinary human being. But with Google at my disposal, I become the superhero. 

I also strongly suspect that between the age range of 3 and 8, children believe their parents are superheroes. Post this age, the power of the internet is available to kids and they discover googlesearches themselves.

Parents the world over should be thankful to google for increasing their question answering by an exponential factor. Earlier there were a zillion questions that could go unanswered. But not any more. The internet gives parents the power to answer the most obscure of questions. I am not sure if this is good or bad, but it does seem like the fact that answers are available means that more questions can be asked.

Sample this:
Why do buses have bigger steering wheels?
Why does Audi name their cars one way and BMW another way?
Who invented soap (and this screaming from the bathroom)?
Who invented shampoo?
Who invented bathing?
What is a turbocharger?
How does a petrol engine work?
Why does one need a spoiler on a car?
What is an air-dam?

(As you can see, atleast one persons life revolves around cars at this point.)

With the power of the internet, almost every question can be answered. And that feels pretty cool for the kid, until at some point they discover things themselves.

Now, our modus operandi is not to answer questions directly, but ponder over it a bit and then get our own local, personal Eureka moment by googling and zeroing in on the answer. Whoever thought Google search skills would be so rewarding.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why does a bus have a bigger steering?

Many things around us, as adults, we often take for granted. Which is why questions like the one above from children, often leave us stumped for answers. 

A bus steering is bigger than a car steering, and that is quite obvious. Why does it have to be so, nobody ever asked. And thankfully, on the internet, there are answers to such questions as well and we did get the answer. Do google the question and see what the answer is - the answer in itself is quite interesting.

Which brings me to the point that as adults, we often take many things around us for granted. And since we take a lot of things for granted, there is no enquiry in that direction and thus no learning happens in that space.Where there is no enquiry, there can be no learning. 

How does one keep oneself curious and asking questions and enquiring and learning, in an organization? And if you run training, how do you do that?

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Once upon a boat


The Internet is a wonderful place. A few months back, we had successfully created paper airplane designs from the web. And then, I thought, surely, there must be good boat designs available. And thus it was that I stumbled onto the design of a putt putt boat.

It was tempting to try and make it. The steamboat as a toy was available when I was a child, but not very easily. And despite searching high and low for it, I never managed to own one.

So I went through the site and figured most of the things required, bar one, were easily available. The one that was not available - glue gun - was also procured after some investigations and some asking around. So far so good. We spent a few weeks collecting the requirements one by one - soft drink cans, straws, epoxy, cardboard, tape and so on.

And then yesterday we embarked on this project. After a day of hard work, it worked beautifully. The joy of making things with ones own hands is amazing and the learning stays for a lifetime...

Thank you ScienceToyMaker

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

From amateur learning 2

When you train under a pro, the way they teach you is different. Especially, if you are going to learn something as a pro that you have already played as an amateur. If you are learning for the first time, there is no unlearning or what you typically want to call as instinctive.But if you have played the game before, a long time goes off in erasing those bad habits and learning the new way.

The new way, or coach way you will observe in most of the games is all about technique. Each day you have to go through a warm up, a few routines, learn a few things and then try it out and see if you can bring it all together. They key here is learning those techniques and replacing those old methods with these new methods until it becomes "instinct". At that point, you will always, no matter what, not run to pick the shuttle in the court, but take steps. You will, no matter what, keep your guard up, not down. Your footwork will, no matter what, never let you down.

How does that happen? Pure practice. Nothing else.

And then the game that you play is a game of technique versus technique. What your opponent does versus what you do - both of you know essentially the same thing, right. How error free is your game versus your opponents. How many gaps can you pick versus your opponents. It is almost like a chess game where your opponent pit your moves, mind and strategy against each other.

Point being, it takes time. A lot of time. And willingness.

Take a closer look at sports training, trainers!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

From amateur learning 1

There is a big difference in learning something in an amateur way and learning it in a "professional" way. And by professional, I dont mean, learning it in a way so as to make money out of it. When I say professional, I mean, learning it from a coach than by learning it yourself. Or learning it the right way is perhaps a better way to put it.

We all learn to play badminton for instance. The way we play is an antithesis to way it is played in a "real" game. In the way we learn, the objective is to hit the shuttle at the player -so that the amateur game does not get spoilt by having to pick up the shuttle. Also remember, most of the time, the amateur game is played not on real courts, but just a few lines that define the boundaries. And really, we are playing, "goodminton" not badminton - where the objective is to keep the shuttle in play, not outwit your opponent. You play this way for a few years and then by chance hit the courts for a "real" game and then realize that the whole idea of the game is to outwit the opponent which in turns means that you hit "cross" or "away" from your opponent is standing. The objective is to outwit your opponent by tiring him and making him run cross court (which is the longest distance).

Take Scrabble for instance. Scrabble, when played in the amateur fashion is all about making long words and creating as many opportunities for each other to "join" words. Yes, you will try and block some of the scoring opportunities, but the thrill is about making long words. And yes, dont think of making 2 and 3 letter words - they are for sissies. And then you realize that "pro" Scrabble is exactly the other way round. You dont necessarily make long words - the idea is to use those 2-3 letter words and create a lot of "joining" opportunities with those small words and crowd your opponent out of the scoring tiles and use them yourself.

A lot of times, the transition from amateur to professional happens in ones own minds when you figure out that you can win by using these techniques. It is apparent, but not quite obvious at first sight.

Part of the answer is in the fact that when you play as an amateur, you play for fun. When you play as a pro, you play for fun too, but the fun is in winning through strategy. More on this!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Coming up...

I was discussing with an uncle on Professional Courses and in those few minutes, we ended up discussing quite a few thoughts.

Like, the effect of having coaching classes for professional courses.
Like, how everything is broken down to beat the system.
Like, how does one find ones own intrinsic motivation.
Like, the need to know how to break through the first inflection point during studies and get to the next level.
Like, the need to work with ones own hands right from childhood.

The answer for each of these may not be intuitively believe to be wrong (and there may not even be a right or wrong answer) and I hope to examine each of these over the coming few weeks.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Strength and Weakness

Each time I have had a discussion on strengths and weaknesses, the question I have been asked or faced with is should I work on my weak areas or areas of strength. Conventional wisdom states the former, but over the last few years the view has veered towards the latter. Certain weaknesses are "fatal flaws", but other than that I believe that working on your strengths are far more rewarding in the long run.

I cant think of a better example than sports. And in particular, this story comes to mind. The story of the one armed boy who learnt judo.

But think about it. Think of how Virender Sehwag would have felt when he was drafted into the Indian cricket team to partner with a certain Sachin Tendulkar. It is a different matter altogether that not too many people have as de-cluttered a mind as Sehwag (read this interview of his), but any other person in his place would have worried about how they can ever keep pace with Tendulkar.

So, if you were Sehwag and you were in the team where a certain Tendulkar was already there, what would you do? Remember your goal is to maintain your place in the team and perhaps carve a name for yourself.

There are two options - one, try to fit in the great mans shoes and second - do your own thing.

Most people when they move into a job or position where the outgoing position was held by someone successful make the mistake of doing the former. They try to fit in their predecessors shoes. And that is always a losing proposition - the comparisons are inevitable and it is a slippery slope into oblivion.

And when faced with that situation, remember Sehwag and Tendulkar. You can never out-Tendulkar a Tendulkar. You can only out-Sehwag a Tendulkar. Take any situation (industry, movies, sports, wherever) where a reigning champion has been dethroned - it happens only because the incumbent has used a different approach and that approach has to be based on the incumbents strengths.

Therefore, it is always smarter to focus on ones strengths rather than papering over so called weaknesses giving you an "all-rounder" who is good at a few things, but not great at anything.

So, hone your strengths like crazy!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The power of imagination

Mahatma Gandhi once said, Stone walls do not a prison make, nor do iron bars a cage. He was probably talking about human imagination that cannot be shackled. Thats why bad ideas like thought policing will never survive, even though there are societies where there are, quite literally, thought police!

To Gandhis quote, I might add, A cape makes you superman, fly all you want.

As you might have seen, children need just a small straw to clutch at and leap into the clouds of imagination. A few days back it was "Superman" . All they need is a cape to leap into the wonderous land of imagination. The cape gives them superpowers to leap over buildings, climb over mountains and do things that they never thought possible in their "human" avatar. These days, the little one sleeps with the said "cape" one so that she continues to be "superman" in her dreams as well.

Whats your cape? Wheres your cape? Why are you not wearing it often and leaping off a cliff of your imagination and flying?

Ramayana, Divine Loophole

I recently purchased this book from Flipkart (where else). The title of the book is Ramayana, Divine Loophole. I got the link from Varnam, a blog I hugely respect.

So, without thinking much, I ordered the book. The book is basically Ramayana, but the way Sanjay tells the epic with graphic, technicolour illustrations is quite nice. The structuring of the book is quite simple and it retells the story so familiar to all of us - but I just liked it. Who knows, you may too!!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Secret of Success


Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.


Via Brainpicker 

The joy of creation

Our activities together involves a lot of imagination - sometimes it is storytelling, sometimes it is sports, sometimes both of us will be poring over a screen learning about seaplanes or “the worlds largest car” or “satellites” or something else.

But the biggest joy we derive comes from creation. We have made paper airplanes off the net, made random things that show up in childrens shows (MAD used to be a favourite and we made quite a few things out of that) and made other even more random things – like cutting out a cardboard phone or a gun or creating a "scene" using cardboard. And more often than not the idea comes to the little one when he looks at the raw material. So, he holds up a soap box and then he will say “let us make something with this” or at other times, it is a shoebox “make me a guitar out of this” and sometimes we succeed and at other times we do not. 

So much so that he now has a box in which he fills all this raw material with which at some point, we will make something.

Working with hands is an experience children ought to have. Whether it is using water colour or mud or making things, working with ones own hands and creating something and then playing with it has been some of our best loved experiences thus far. 

Our recent find along this route is a site known as sciencetoymaker. And this is a lovely site. Has detailed pictures and videos and scientific explanations to boot.

And our first project here is stuck – the putt putt boat – which is in a state of limbo now since we cannot figure out how to get a glue gun. But we have tried a few of the more simpler things and we are happy to say that all of them have worked!

Creation is a great way to learn!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Professor and The Trainer

Recently, I had to chance to attend a session on "Strategy" by two people. Let us call them Professor and Trainer.  (No, the ending is not what you think it is)

The Professor had a lively interactive discussion - as did the Trainer.
The Professor spoke for the same time as the trainer - but the Trainer was more interactive, had exercises for us to complete and had reading material.
The Professor spoke about experiences from his work and around the world including historical examples- the Trainer spoke about data points around the world.
The Professor was not the most suave, articulate - the Trainer got all his accents right and could speak like a dream.

So, whose talk do you think we enjoyed?

If you thought that we enjoyed the Trainer, you got it wrong. The Professor beat the Trainer by a wide wide margin.

And therein lies an important lesson for me. That is about understanding the audience.

Sometimes, we focus on making trainings interactive, lively, fill it up with valid data and interesting snippets, but much of that information is public. I mean, if all your talk about strategy is about the usual suspects (Refer my post on customer service), then why do I need a trainer or a professor?

With the spread of the internet, anything that you can get by googling (esp the first page of google) - the chances that your audience can get the same information is as high. Or if you are using the same data points that are available and/or evident to everybody, there is no point.

What you have to say has to be thought-provoking, insightful and create wow moments for your audience along these lines (not the font of the ppt or colour or your accent).

And in this case, the Professor was able to do that far better than the Trainer.  Simply because he gave us more insight and sparked many more "Idea" moments in our brain.

As someone who runs trainings, understanding the audience better will help us create more of those moments. I am not saying knowledge can be substituted (thats a given), but the important realization is that all that jazz in making trainings interactive is useless unless there is substance. As a former boss of mine used to say, "There is no icing without cake".

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sardar Patrappa Road and the Scientific Temper

During my chat with the students through the Science Exhibition, I casually enquired with them about the components that they had put together. The list of things included, LDRs, Solar Cell assemblies, Flexible LED panels, Programmable robots, Assembled Helicopters, Spy Cameras and the usual assortment of Batteries, Motors and Bulbs. Each time the answer was, SP road, short for Sardar Patrappa Road.

It was nice hearing that from them. Most people here know this place. Sardar Patrappa Road or SP road as it is known is at one end of the road leading to Chickpet (an adventure in itself, but this much I can say – If you have not visited Chickpet, you have missed much in Bangalore). This is the place for electronic junkies. Bangalores answer to Funan Square, to put it mildly, but much more exciting, in my humble opinion. You want to assemble your own computer, check. You want newer electronic toys, check. You want to buy some gizmos or connectors to some gizmo you got or want replacement spare parts for something that everybody has given up on, check.

This is the place to come to for all electronic stuff. And if you are a tinkerer or a student working to think what she will put in her exhibit, you cand spend a day here and not get bored. If it exists, they would have it.

I think SP road is doing much in building the scientific temper amongst students and it was nice to see them talk about SP road. And that reminds me, I need to go there as well…

SP Road is one of those areas which a mall can never replicate - of course, they could make a Funan Square type of place right there, but thats a different story.

We need more SP Road kind of places that provoke curiosity and make one want to do things by themselves and get the fun out of making rather than just the fun of unboxing!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Science Expo memories

Over the weekend, I chanced upon a board at a school which was holding a science expo. The board said, “Open to all”.

So, in a bid to give “exposure” to Science to the little one, we landed there. And walked around, talking to students – who were explaining things with a lot of gusto. The little one was, of course, impressed, seeing children do stuff and explain to him was a thrill in itself. Also, to see them demonstrate concepts such as robotics, electronics was something else. I can imagine the rush of adrenaline he must have had on seeing it. More on that in a moment.

But first, a word on the exhibition itself. The Chemistry and Biology section were quite ordinary – not in terms of the exhibit itself – or on the enthusiasm of the students. What I mean here is that, as concepts go, the concepts that the chemistry and biology section were talking about are all atleast 50 years old. When I was in school (and that was not 50 years ago), we had pretty much the same exhibits then as well – the sugar and vinegar volcano, pollution, ozone layer. Or thinking about biology, the double helix, human heart and so on.

However, the physics section is where all the action is. There were programmable robots, exhibits using sensors, assembled electronic kits, solar panels, led lights and all that. The work was very impressive. And the students (all below class X) had great answers. There were a few laptops being used as part of their exhibits for control purposes. Overall very impressive. So, why the big difference between Chemistry and Biology on the one hand and Physics on the other?

The answer, in my mind is that Chemistry and Biology are dependent on school labs for putting up things. So, in order to put up a really cool exhibit on Chemistry and Biology, one needs specialized equipment in the school lab or access to it outside. Both of these are not easy, I suppose. Because schools are wont to do what the syllabus prescribes and knowing our syllabi, we may be quite behind in the times. However, when it comes to Physics, while the labs are pretty much at the same levels as the other two, a lot of items are available in the private domain quite easily. So, electronic kits, batteries, sensors are available quite easily, than, say, liquid nitrogen or a bunch of rabbits. Which is why the physics section was way cooler.

Again, more on this later, but in my mind schools need to focus on getting ahead of their syllabus and making students think ahead than just sticking to what the board says. Especially in subjects where it is not possible straightaway – like Chemistry and Biology.

Which brings me to the science exhibition of my school days. I recall us building three exhibits. One was a cardboard space station, a thermocol city and one was a magnetic door that opened when a vehicle (with a magnet)came near it. Yes, our exhibits were quite unimpressive when I see what these students had put up.

Even in those days, 80s, there were a few intrepid students and parents who put up something that was quite mindblowing by those days standards. The dads or uncles (in all probability) who dabbled in electronic components put together something that blinked with a few lights and did something quite unique and it was quite a crowd puller. I remember an automatic direction finder or some such contraption that was part of one such exhibition. I also remember someone cobbling up a fortune teller in one of those then available computers and people would not let go of the exhibit.

And there were cool electric items like fans, elevators and hydel power stations.

One thing I remember was that somehow, one of the students managed to get approval for making soap as part of the exhibit. And his stall was right next to mine. All day he just made soap – and soap making was quite a tedious process. He had a huge stove and a wok and a long ladle and he stirred all day long. For anybody who came and asked him what was his exhibit all about, he pointed them to a flow chart where he then explained which part of the process he was at. When the exhibition ended on day 1, his soap was ready. And given that it looked rather different than normal soap (his soap had no fragrance and perfume) nobody wanted it and some of the school support staff were happy to take lumps of washing soap home.

When I look back, it amazes me that this kid got such a great idea and was allowed to do it. Imagine making soap in the middle of a huge assembly hall. And now think how these things stick to our minds…Whether it is flying helicopters, robots or soap!

Whatever it is, expos are generally great for stickiness...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Google and Magic

Quite simply, the best opening para I read in a long long time.

" When the first Harry Potter book appeared, in 1997, it was just a year before the universal search engine Google was launched. And so Hermione Granger, that charming grind, still goes to the Hogwarts library and spends hours and hours working her way through the stacks, finding out what a basilisk is or how to make a love potion. The idea that a wizard in training might have, instead, a magic pad where she could inscribe a name and in half a second have an avalanche of news stories, scholarly articles, books, and images (including images she shouldn’t be looking at) was a Quidditch broom too far. Now, having been stuck with the library shtick, she has to go on working the stacks in the Harry Potter movies, while the kids who have since come of age nudge their parents. “Why is she doing that?” they whisper. “Why doesn’t she just Google it?”
That the reality of machines can outpace the imagination of magic, and in so short a time, does tend to lend weight to the claim that the technological shifts in communication we’re living with are unprecedented..."



Read more http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2011/02/14/110214crat_atlarge_gopnik#ixzz1lEPRsYNm

MSExcel and the progress of technology

Once upon a time at the beginning of my career, I was poring over some data. That data happened to be in MS Excel. And I tried to sort it, sum it all of it to no avail.

I was facing a classic problem that we see. Whenever any new technology replaces an older one, we look for it to be incremental or the same. So, in this case, technology had replaced paper, but we were still using technology as paper. So, the spellings in the sheet were not organized, they were entered as text and there was no uniformity in the sheet at all. Hence most of the standard functions were useless, unless the sheet was cleaned up.

After about a week, I finally was able to produce a sheet that blew the minds of the people who saw it. And it was nothing great. Just totals, subtotals and a reverse sort by value. Which was difficult to come by in a paper mode, but far far easier when we move technologies.

Why did initial digital cameras have the sound of the shutter? Same reason.
Why does the ipad have a tap to mimic mechanical keyboards? Same reason.
Why are we thinking about sounds for new electric cars? Same reason. (On that note I believe there are better ways to for electric cars to develop – there is no real reason they need to look like IC engine cars from outside, but that’s a different rant for some other time)

Why do most MSPowerpoint presentations look just like digital flipcharts? Or why is MSPowerpoint itself like Flipcharts? And that’s why something Prezi is a smarter way to use the digital presentation medium!

I asked for Super-Man

and they gave me an office person! said the little one.

He was playing Scribblenauts Remix on the iPad. If you have an iPad please download Scribblenauts Remix and read the rest of the post.

If not read it anyway. The game has a simple premise. You are given a situation to solve – pretty simple ones – like giving someone a haircut or painting a car. And how do you solve it? By asking for tools that help you resolve the issue at hand. How do you ask for tools? You spell it out and the game provides it. That’s it.

Simple as the premise is, the little one (and his dad) has gone crazy over playing it and in the process both his spellings and his imagination have gone up. Take a scenario – where the character of the game has to reach something in the sky. You could ask for a hot-air balloon, a winged horse, a magic carpet or an aeroplane! If he is hungry, you can ask for a idli, a burger or anything. We once asked for a nuclear bomb and as you might imagine, it killed everyone in the level – pretty neat way to learn, I suppose. You can pretty much ask for anything that’s in the dictionary and your imagination! And that what makes it so lovely.

Few rules, lots of fun and learning is imbibed. Wow. Whatay combination.

And it does not allow for the player for copyrighted names and trademarks, hence no Superman when the little one decided to invoke him in a game. And as you can see by the response on top, he was quite disappointed by the response. Be that as it may, it gave us a few laughs at the way he said, “office person” (someone wearing a suit or dressed formally, I presume). Yay, son, your dad is no superman either, he is, indeed, an office-person.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Keynote slides!


Keynote1.0And the actual speech, atleast, a part of it:  
View more presentations from neelearning

My first keynote

A few weeks back, I was invited to deliver a keynote at a college in Mumbai. Since, I have not delivered any keynote ever before, my initial gut feel reaction was to say No. And then I thought about The Flinch and stepping into uncomfortable territories and then said yes!

That was the easy part. The tough part was to put the keynote together; in a way that  it goes down well with the audience and then, deliver it as well.

First week: So, I started off. Finding out about the audience, what they might be interested, what I could cover and so on and so forth. The initial part of the presentation was reviewed by a few close people and they all felt while, it was good, something was missing.

Second week: Search for the missing ingredient meant more reviews, more googling, more reading. And then I got the feedback that “I was not in it” – meaning, what I stood for and why I was delivering the keynote was not getting captured at all.

Third week: So, again it was down in the bunker trying to piece it all together and tell a compelling story. So, the little ones had to sit through my presentation practice as did a few others.

Fourth week: It did seem like it was all in place, except minor trims here and there and fine tuning. This part is a loners job where you mentally walk through each and every aspect of the details – be it colours, be it fonts, be it size and everything. Sort of like editing before the actual show.

So, yes, finally, the keynote was delivered well (more on the delivery part later) and it was a rocking success. I enjoyed every moment of it.  Some lessons:
  • Understand your audience
  • Do your background work
  • This is not easy – it takes time
  • “You” have to be part of the talk
  • Leave the audience with a few points to take away
  • Don’t give gyaan
  • Ask, provoke, make them think, empathise with them
  • Inspire!
  • Practice, practice, practice!

So, that’s what I was doing for the past few weeks and yes, alls well that ends well. Will try and post the video whenever it becomes available...