Sunday, March 30, 2014

What does your customer want?

Some weeks back we were working on an exercise. The discussion was a very useful one. Between us, those who would design the exercise, we were discussing what the customer wants - preferences, working styles, current need and so on and so forth.

As we were discussing this, we realized that the customer wants something different from what we have currently (and that is no surprise). Our current offering was too time consuming for him and he did not have the patience for that kind of an exercise. However, we still had to offer that service for the benefit of the other members in the team - and as part of the hygiene factor of the exercise.

What did we do? We came up with an alternate way of doing the same thing - that would get us there - without the rigmarole (the customer) associated with our original textbook approach. With a bonus, it tied in neatly with what the customer wanted out of this particular exercise. We spoke about stated and unstated needs and inside in and outside in perspectives and ultimately came up with the design.

When we shared the design, it was a superhit. And we while we ended up making runtime modifications, the design itself has established a foothold for future engagements.

Very often, we face this dilemma. The customer wants something - faster, shorter, cheaper and simpler than what we have. We face this everywhere. The question is do we modify our offerings to what the customer taste is or do we stick to our guns at the risk of sounding fossilized.

The answer is simple. Unless you have the credibility (built over many years of solid service) to push the customer (most likely a business leader - so your business knowledge and domain knowledge is crucial) to see the benefits (which he can see only if you have the ability to articulate, measure and deliver) of your methodology (of which you are unquestionable rock of solidity) - the latter will happen only with the risk of sounding fossilized.  (We are not talking of compromising basic principles and values - so that confusion can rest.)

On the other hand, knowing your customer need - you build credibility by building what the customer wants - try to show benefits with the new approach and later on go back and argue how the solid methodology would have got him better benefits will get your a foot in the door the next day.

Yes, knowing what the customer needs (stated, unstated, future, current) is perhaps the biggest thing in design - leave alone training design.

The size of the solar system on your screen

Stumbled upon this beautiful representation of the solar system.

It is quite difficult to explain the size of the solar system - it is clearly beyond comprehension for most ordinary people - leave alone kids. This beautiful representation shows how to make it comprehensible.

Things like this make one go a-ha.

The best thumbrule for most ideas is "Why did I not think of that" and this one gets there, by a mile.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Millennials, Schmillennials

Millennials, millennials, millennials. Millennials are the new black sometimes it seems in the human resources world. Every discussion is about how to accommodate them in the workforce, how managers need to change for the millennials and how to change learning strategies for them – to name just a few.

So, in order to keep with the neighbours I read up a little

Clearly, as in almost any human behavior trait description, there is no one size fits all. But my primary thought that was that really, Millennials, like many other sociological archetypes is a state of mind as well. Especially as seen from an Indian perspective. While technology may play a part, the state of mind is independent of technology.

It may also be a ‘confirmation bias’ in a need to be seen as ‘millennial’.

Maybe I am confused with my own understanding (read the traits and values in the above link), but the more I think of it, the more I think it is as much a sociological trait driven by the zeitgeist of the times as much as a state of mind – with the difference in numbers that can be attributable to a need to be seen as millennial and some technology influence.

This is my own theory, but will preserve it for later use.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


One of the things I do to keep up with the Learning and Education space is look through apps on the iOS store. This has become a side hobby with people walking up to me and asking what is the new app that you are looking at these days.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon Dragonbox, an app that teaches equations to children without them knowing that they are into solving equations. I was intrigued and let the little one on it. And sure enough over a few weeks, I saw her solve these equations with remarkable speed and awareness - not knowing that she was solving equations.

The game is all about isolating a box using some permutations and combinations - it uses dragons and other beings at the start and slowly, it morphs into numbers and alphabets.

But the app is creative - to get children to solve equations - and it is worth a dekko for all of us who sometimes claim that things cannot be simplified and there is no other way to learn certain things than by some 'tried and tested' way. And best of all, this was invented by a professor if I am not mistaken.

For a detailed review, read this Wired post.