Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tale of two 40 odd years old...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Of coaches and kings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cafe dreams

A lot of us talk about dreams. That dream is usually an aspiration - something we want to do - it could range from entrepreneurship to fitness to self development to anything else - something ever slightly out of reach.

The commonest place where it shows up is when we are discussing with friends and one thing leads to another and everyone is talking about their dreams. And then post the cafe conversation, it is back to normal - the usual routine existence.

Six months later it repeats.

Sometimes life throws an opportunity in front of you - that could very well make you take up that dream and work on it. Sometimes, you have the time in front of you, but you dont see it. Sometimes, you think you will do it - 5 years later, 10 years later or when you retire.

Based on what I have learnt in the past few years - these conversations amount to nothing unless you take the plunge.

That plunge doesnt necessarily mean, quit the job and start doing it - it means, taking those small steps requiring you to do it. That could mean a few weekends, a few hours each week or some time each day or some investment in terms of money.

What I have seen is people who really want something, go out and do it - whether it is a business or self development or volunteering - they take those small steps - and slowly, but surely, the steps add up.

Otherwise it is just another feel-good, venting conversation that translates into nothing on the ground - until the next conversations.

What are your dreams?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

There are some books

There are some books which you read survive end to end and wonder why did the author write this book? I recently read a book on Creativity that shall go unnamed that made me think of exactly this.

The book has a provocative title and professed to have a lot to say about Creativity. It started off in a promising way as well with a nicely illustrated model that promised to unlock creativity. And then it slid downwards from there.

This is the age of the internet. Most Google-able stuff is just that, Google-able. Add Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter to the mix and most information is already there. One third of the book was this kind of information. About pianos on staircases and trash cans...which has been done to death in other books. Can you not find a single original example?

The other one third was all about what other people have written in their books. Huh? And that too, for someone like me who reads a lot of non-fiction, this was a bad synopsis of good books. I would have bought summaries of all those books if that was all that you had to say.

The rest of the book was about some cool exercises the author did in her class - blah - these exercises are well worn and used for years. And the remaining part was a hyper complicated model that was nothing but an image - totally useless.

Requires a lot of ingenuity to write a book like that. There are always idiots like me who buy such books I suppose.

The name of the book is hidden above...