Sunday, January 26, 2014

Website for Carnatic Music Learners

I dont remember clearly, how I stumbled onto Shivakumars website for learning Carnatic Music. It was a sheer coincidence, but this is probably the single best learning site ever. And it is completely free.

The site has lessons from basic to very advanced, songs sung at different pitches, the 'swarams' and the 'sahityams', downloadable mp3, explanations - I could go on and on. It is a treasure trove for anyone who wants to learn music or is learning music. And with this wealth of information, it could very easily have been a 'paid' site. But keeping in tune with how music has spread over the years - the site is just that - free.

From a learners perspective, it has everything one needs to know. Especially if you are learning Carnatic music and want a little bit of guidance or want to know more at any level or to revise your knowledge or have fun listening or practicing, it is a great site. Comprehensive is the one word for it.

And perhaps one of the great examples of harnessing the web for putting up something so comprehensive - that would be impossible in any other mode.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Son of Somebody

Recently, someone called me up and spoke about  <Insert Famous name> and then just as my ears perked up said, <his son> is coming down for an event, would you like to attend.

My instant response was a 'whyever'. Why would I ever want to meet a famous persons son, however famous that persons father may be. If at all, I would be interested in meeting the man himself.

At any rate, on googling, I found that this son had established himself quite well - but, if that were the case, these guys were getting the marketing wrong. If the son had established himself well, he did not need the additional tag of the father. And that tag is actually a hindrance from getting the son to establish his own name. And if he has not established himself, it would be a waste of time.

After all, nobody likes dynasties. We all like self achievers. Those who have come up the hard way, from a simple background. The world does not really like people born of silver spoons and who think that meritocracy is for others and all they needed was to born in the right household.

But human tendency is as such to glorify the next generation - and one sees that in many single person organizations - where there is no second line - because you see, they want their next generation to be that second line and such places are bad places to work - whether it is in politics or at business or for anything else.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

3 projects and a weekend

One of the best ways to spend time with the little ones is doing something - rather - making something. This process is a very energizing process for all of us. We identify what we want to make, scout materials, make it, commit mistakes, patch up and finally we make something. We are seized with the energy and passion of getting to make something. A whirlwind of activity takes over the house and the floor is strewn with things - one might think we are in the process of reimagining the whole world. The entire process is just great fun and at some point, the outcome kind of becomes immaterial - the fun is in the journey. And thus it was that we started off this time too.

Project 1: Snow Globe
Project 2: Pinhold Camera
Project 3: Solar Cooker.

As you can see, our scale of ambition was unlimited - and not related to our capability at all.

Result wise, Project 1 was a success, if you leave out the fact that we did not account for the refractiveness of thick glass which led to some distorted views. There is also impending danger of the globe becoming a fungus settlement warned the biotech expert.
Project 2 was a success, if you leave out the fact that the pinhole camera required some amount of visual dexterity and extraordinary levels of IQ to figure out what it was showing. The camera is far away from winning any excellence award in pinhole cameras.
Project 3, well, I think we need 48 hour days to cook anything more than melt butter. Or we wait until the Sun becomes a white dwarf and the whole earth is cooking anyway.

But as far as journeys go, they were absolutely rocking. Paint, mess, paper, water, glitter and what not and a glorious weekend to look back at. What else does one want!

Yes, sometimes, someones measure of success may not be someone elses measure of success and rightly so. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ludo and sports

Just last week, we were all playing Lego Minotaurus, and while the game is similar to Ludo - it has its own tricks and very cool variations.

But the thought was that any Ludo-like game is placed on not letting someone win. And while that may be how one plays games, fundamentally, the aspect of other real games is about wining - by being better and not winning by preventing someone else. That may be a rather thin line, but it does lead to a difference in thought process.

While playing Ludo, I am not trying to get better (and I cannot get better at throwing dice) - I am only using my chance against my opponents chance in order to not let the other person win.

While playing sports however, I have to consistently get better at doing something so that I beat my opponent by virtue of being better. In that case, my real competition is myself and not the other person.

And in real life, the latter is a surefire way to satisfaction while the former method is a surefire method to feeling bad about onself and hating others as well...Random thought!

Save the world from boring training

I found this really cool video

From Cathy Moores website that talks more about Training Design Ideas. Lots of things there resonated with me. The latest post there which is about Tips for webinars or Virtual Training is just what everybody would want these days. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Time Span of Discretion

I stumbled upon this recently - on the Time Span of Discretion - a theory propounded by the Late Elliott Jaques.

Jaques also noted that effective organizations were comprised of workers of differing time spans of discretion, each working at a level of natural comfort. If a worker's job was beyond their natural time span of discretion, they would fail. If it was less, they would be insufficiently challenged, and thus unhappy.

Time span of discretion is about achieving intents that have explicit time frames. And in Jaques model, one can rank discretionary capacity in a tiered system. Level 1 encompasses jobs such as sales associates or line workers handling routine tasks with a time horizon of up to three months. Levels 2 to 4 encompass various managerial positions with time horizons between one to five years. Level 5 crosses over to five to 10 years and is the domain of small company CEOs and large company executive vice presidents. Beyond Level 5, one enters the realm of statesmen and legendary business leaders comfortable with innate time horizons of 20 years (Level 6), 50 years (Level 7) or beyond. Level 8 is the realm of 100 year thinkers like Henry Ford, while Level 9 is the domain of the Einsteins, Gandhis, and Galileos, individuals capable of setting grand tasks into motion that continue centuries into the future.


Jaques' ideas enjoyed currency into the 1970s and then fell into eclipse, assailed as unfair stereotyping or worse, a totalitarian stratification evocative of Huxley's Brave New World. It is now time to reexamine Jaques theories and revive time span of discretion as a tool for understanding our social structures and matching them to the overwhelming challenges facing global society. Perhaps problems like climate change are intractable because we have a political system that elects Level 2 thinkers to Congress when we really need Level 5s in office. As such, Jaques ideas might help us realize that the old saying, "he who thinks longest wins" is only half the story, and that the society in which everyone explicitly thinks about tasks in the context of time will be the most effective. [Edge]

I don't have an answer on this, but the thought was interesting enough for me to bookmark it for later use.

My own thoughts are that there is some time requirement from a time standpoint...and this is worth a thought perhaps!

Success and Risk

Over the last two weeks, I had a school reunion and I resumed my reading of David and Goliath - a book by Malcolm Gladwell. While I will post a longer review of the book at some point in time but, the meeting with the batch that we passed out made for some interesting thoughts.

Two things stood out in particular. One was that the best students in school - those who topped the exams, those who did well in studies - are all in one band. The band that does the 'predictable' stuff. Perhaps in marquee names, perhaps in the big companies, perhaps with the so called bigger destinations - but working on what I call as 'predictable' careers.

On the other hand, are those who were not 'great' at studies at school, but are following their passion and /or working on non-mainstream fields. These are the guys doing the unpredictable stuff. Those who took a leap of faith and found themselves rewarded in the end. Now not great does not mean bad in studies - and I believe there is no such thing - except perhaps bad measurement - but not great meaning that they were people who were the 'average' or the 'mid rangers' at school.

There are many other types and exceptions, but let us leave that out for now.

There is this part which Gladwell touches in his book - about people with apparent weaknesses - having to work extra hard to do something - and hence achieve a different type of success.

Putting two and two together, it strikes me that people who have early successes in school - and when I mean school, I mean, a kind of assessment based system that in hindsight seems to reward mainly compliance and obedience and low risk taking - are precisely those people who take lower risks and hence land up in predictable fields.

On the other hand, those who do have these early successes, explore more, ask more questions, perhaps are not so scared of 'failure' and 'trying' and 'knocking doors' - are the ones who end up taking more risk and usually better rewarded.

Which brings me to the second question - does greater success in early education lead one to take lower risk (and this is a question I have thought about often)?

And what if we connect this back to the organization and organization development?