Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
...even amidst a depressing phase
To know that life is good
...even during an emotional low
To know that life is fair
...even when things don't go your way
To know that life is exciting
...even when you feel empty inside
To know that life gives you opportunities
...even when you lose
To know that life is fun
...even when you don't get what you want
To know that life is full of wisdom
...even when you make ignorant mistakes
To know that life is unpredictable
...even when you plan every move
To know that life is unique
...even when you don't understand it
To know that life has its wonderful moments
...even when you spot the Damocles sword
To know that life has enormous potential
...even when you have spent most of it
Makes you a fine human worth this life...
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Happy Holidays, Folks! Merry X'mas and Happy New Year in advance! :-)
PS: I spotted this charming cartoon today, for the first time ever I think, while searching for a good C&H Yahoo Group to join. It's quite surprising that I don't recall seeing it before. Obviously, Watterson himself drew this. Two things that intrigue me about the pic - One, I'd have thought Hobbes would appear to be as alive - be a real Tiger - to Watterson as he is to Calvin. Two, Watterson's ability to see Calvin as something that transcends his (Watterson's) identity as a cartoonist and not as a 'proud' creation but as an idea that jumps at him from 'outside' is admirable.
BTW, here's some unsolicited, borrowed (some...not all...ok?), random, unorganized, impulsive, holiday-mood-inspired advice....the more of these ideas you pursue, the better.
Enjoy your work, enjoy your life, be good, dance and laugh like a kid, sing as long as it is not cacophonous or..wait.... just go ahead and take the risk, laze around if you have to, be genuine, be straight forward and honest, write some profoundly silly poems, play with colours, run with the dog, tweet and chirp with the birds, scream out loud for no reason, make faces at yourself in the mirror, pretend to be the world's CEO, talk utter nonsense, find something great to do, ignore or learn to handle the trouble-makers, forgive more easily, see things from another person's perspective, smile a lot, pay attention to your physical health, mind and soul, read something hilarious, help someone on an impulse, learn something new, inspire yourself, inspire a sad soul (obviously a captive audience), listen to the hitherto inconspicuous rhythm in your favourite song, travel somewhere new even if it's just a few blocks away from your house, pray for someone who needs divine intervention, listen to your conscience, stop asking "what's in it for me" when you help others, stop calculating the cost (financial) of everything you do, cook a new dish and brush off a speck of dust from your apron when people say it looks life-threatening, break a bad habit, forget your worries, believe that you deserve some cool miracles in 2010, rescue someone from yourself (very very important), watch a squirrel eat, take deep and long breaths, trust yourself, do something different, be original, do something courageous, focus on something with intensity and concentration, look for the funny side of everything, stay optimistic, take your own decisions, claim your freedom, stand up for your values, respect everyone, appreciate existence, watch a tree breathe and exist, be still and travel within...... (Does this add up to two thousand ten things? I am too lazy to count but something tells me it does! He he)
Guidelines: Report progress to me in a month's time. Reports should be in Times New Roman, Font Size.12, With Subject Line as "Two Thousand Ten Things to Do in Two Thousand Ten". Attach a photograph or two for evidence but make sure it doesn't scare me out of my wits while at the same time noting that I am a person whom it is easy to scare out of her wits. Testimonials from people around you will fetch an extra mark or two. However, if the testimonials sound too good to be true, a lot of marks will be ruthlessly deducted. Total marks obtained cannot exceed two thousand eleven. (One extra mark for attempting to contest in this bizarre, er, contest). The winning entry will be added to this blog under the "Inspiration! Influence!" section and will find a place alongside other ordinary people like Gandhi, Shakespeare, Einstein et al. Run now! Or should I say 'slow down!'?
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Second: We live in a world where we cannot anyway control each and every activity of an employee and even attempting to do so will only backfire. If the concerned employee is consistently involved in an inappropriate activity that has a negative impact on his work or is unethical and does not heed to warnings, it may only then be natural to ask him to leave
Third: The best way to get work done is to come up with exciting and useful ideas, provide the implementer with the appropriate environment, tools & training, inspire him and trust him. Fixing reasonable schedules is another dimension. Additionally, if one wants to slide toward a more “controlled” approach, one can obviously follow up and monitor the daily or weekly progress (or at some other appropriate intervals) depending on the situation and type of work. If this process throws up any loop-holes or other suspicions, appropriate action has to be taken to bring the person/project on track. The action could be related to the idea, environment, tool, training, inspiration or even just trust
Fourth: There are times when the team may be admittedly slow and not run like Ostriches or be ready to squeeze out every drop of its blood, but we must accept it to be a reflection of reality (especially in the case of teams as opposed to individual star performers) and be happy (at least till the time you find a way to inspire the team to run faster) if the team is found to be traveling at a reasonably good pace
Monday, December 21, 2009
Freedom is the ink in the mighty pen,
With which we write the story of our lives.
The quality and flow of the ink is often,
Compromised for something unequal, however nice.
Some of us sacrifice it at the altar of holy trust,
At our own paranoid mind's behest,
And then are shocked by self-inflicted ruin,
And wonder endlessly as to why we did not, in life, win!
Were we to think about what we gained, in retrospect,
The trust we apparently gained minus the freedom we lost,
Is an equation that is unquestionably equal to naught.
We'd also ponder over whether trust can ever be bought,
And if better than freedom can anything ever be sought!
For freedom is, arguably, the primary source of thought.
Freedom is the Father of happiness, scarce.
Freedom is the Mentor of responsibility, for the one who dares.
Freedom is the Sponsor of the one who learns,
Freedom is the Foundation of life for the one who yearns.
Freedom is the Mother of the muse,
Freedom is a paradox that prevents its own misuse.
Trust is obliged to be nothing more than a strong thread,
That follows freedom and, in a subtle way, allows to be led.
Freedom, when we are born, is up for grabs and totally free,
Till we stupidly make it as expensive as it can ever be.
Parents charge their children an obligatory fee,
Organizations wear it beneath the mask of hierarchy,
Families trade it for their camaraderie.
So, this is a wake-up call to let freedom just be!
Thursday, December 17, 2009
* Resist the urge to label occurrences as bad (or good). Adopt a neutral view
* One needs to ferociously prevent one's thoughts from straying — stay in the "now"
* ....evaluate the mental models used by Psmith (one of PGW's ever-cheerful characters) and his cheery insouciance when faced with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
*....if you are looking for fulfillment, you won't find it in the job. It comes from inside you
* I encourage executives to invest completely in the process and not the goal. If they invest every fiber of their being into the process they are likely to enjoy the outcome. It is a paradox. When you become detached from the outcome, the probability of achieving the goal rises dramatically
I have a long way to go. I have a lot to do. I have a lot to learn. Thoughts are simply not enough. Action is the only thing that does justice to thoughts. Thoughts are tantamount to getting the fuel. But you need to put the key in the ignition and switch to the first gear....and release the clutch! The speed will come but gradually and naturally.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Injustice is an evil thing
And suspicion is a cruel sibling
These hath my blood boiling
For both have a similar blow
Pushing my tolerance level to a new low
Can a river's flow be questioned?
Can a mountain's growth be arrested?
Can a rainbow's colours be washed?
Can a bird's flight be suspended?
Can the Sun's brightness be blocked?
Can a tree's shade be invaded?
Can a flower's fragrance be filtered?
A life that you can't call your own
A life that is judged by the unknown
A life subjected to a ridiculous verdict
Destiny being destroyed or created albeit?
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Here are my preliminary thoughts on the characteristics or qualities preferred in a KMer.
I think the fundamental dependency of such a definition is on the KM vision and objectives of the organization. For example, an organization that is targeting innovation through KM needs people who are slightly different from an organization that aims to achieve learning/productivity improvements through KM. Having said that, KM, however, needs people with a versatile or eclectic background and profile/competency.
1. People skills: Networking and Organizational behaviour skills to start with. Also important would be insights into how people learn, collaborate and share/reuse/apply knowledge
2. Technology skills: Requirements gathering, products evaluation, design and testing (More skills required in the case of a KM developer)
3. Process skills: I think this is important but neglected. Understanding of business and project management processes in order to lead to improvements from the perspective of knowledge capture, sharing and utilization
I think understanding the big picture with re. to a business scenario (structure, relationships, objectives, challenges and future developments) is very critical as well.
What do you think?
What an accurate description of an idea's life! How the heart bleeds at the thought of what most conventional organizations do to great ideas! Add the complexities of requirements gathering and the apple sauce probably becomes too sour to taste!
Innovation teams should be made up of VOLUNTEERS who are completely committed to the concept.
I don't care as much about experience as I do PASSION, since when all else fails it will be the desire and passion that pushes through the barriers.
I am interested in RULE BREAKERS.
I want people on the team who are willing to go the extra mile.
I want people who are comfortable with ambiguity, since innovation often works outside the lines of black and white, in the gray areas where there are no templates.
I want people who understand that innovation is as much about learning as it is about creating, so they understand that the ideas will occasionally fail.
I need people on the innovation team to be willing to discover what's great about an idea rather than what's wrong with it. I need the first words out of their mouths to be "What if" rather than "But". I want people who don't care how we did it before, or whether the idea has been considered before. I want people who look for opportunities for success rather than reasons not to try.
Monday, December 07, 2009
- Who you are
- Summary of your experience
- 5 fingers
- Little finger – what parts of the effort did not get enough attention
- Ring finger – What relationships were formed, what you learned about relationship building
- Middle finger – what you disliked, what/who made you frustrated
- Pointer finger – what you would do better next time around, what you want to tell those who were “in charge” about what they could do better
- Thumb (up) – what went well. What was good.
- 1 – the most important takeaway from the effort
Friday, December 04, 2009
This is undoubtedly one of the best presentations that I've seen in a while. Reliable research, lots of knowledge up for grabs and, finally, very nice and effective presentation! (Thanks to @johnt for the link).
I will revisit this presentation many more times and let more of these thoughts sink in gradually. Will perhaps add some notes to this post when I revisit it. For now, slide 17 makes it obvious that what most of us (not just in KM, actually, but in all such change initiatives) need to focus on or rather START WITH the user adoption elements in order to realize value (as opposed to software features or other indirect factors).
PS: Whenever I come across such well-made and well-expressed presentations, it makes me recall how two people might have the very same ideas but the way each one puts it forth can make all the difference.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Article 1: The innovator's DNA
"Imagine that you have an identical twin, endowed with the same brains and natural talents that you have. You’re both given one week to come up with a creative new business-venture idea. During that week, you come up with ideas alone in your room. In contrast, your twin (1) talks with 10 people—including an engineer, a musician, a stay-at-home dad, and a designer—about the venture, (2) visits three innovative start-ups to observe what they do, (3) samples five “new to the market” products, (4) shows a prototype he’s built to five people, and (5) asks the questions “What if I tried this?” and “Why do you do that?” at least 10 times each day during these networking, observing, and experimenting activities. Who do you bet will come up with the more innovative (and doable) idea?"Article 2: Learn the 5 secrets of innovation - Associating, questioning, observing, experimenting and discovering.
Extract: (This is why organizations must not demur when employees want to attend conferences. I've been repeatedly saying this to some of the people who demurred but then I was not able to quote CNN in the past)
"They are able to put together something they hear from a conference they were at last week with a briefing they're at tomorrow and come up with a new idea"
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
From HBR. Of course!
....We call such practices “mutualism.” It involves measuring workers not against revenue or other numerical goals, which we have observed to be ineffective as motivational tools, but against qualitative values such as trust, responsibility, and innovation. And it implies that leaders don’t dictate vision or strategy; instead, they enable employees to create a common vision through, for example, off-sites for discussion of strategic issues and regular feedback and education. Hitting numerical goals has been the natural outcome.
Going by Ed’s presentation, it is evident that, for NASA, KM is primarily associated with the vision of creating a learning organization
Ed’s personal achievements and experiences are inspiring. He and his wife put in five years of social service at Lebanon many years back! I think a cornucopia of varied experiences not particularly related to one’s role – especially when it comes to something as universal and open (to interpretation) as knowledge management – is something that I believe would work in one’s favour.
Ed started off with something highly familiar to KMers. He spoke about the challenges he had as a new entrant into NASA and highlighted the fact that he knew he would be looked at askance as an MBA trying to fix problems related to “knowledge” in a domain in which he could not claim to be an expert and that too for a group of elite Space scientists. That, to turn a popular phrase around, would be akin to the pigeon among the cats!
Ed had a lovely presentation with a couple of videos and many visual representations of his approach to knowledge management. He started off with some wise perspectives on KM, which are, perhaps, theoretically obvious but difficult in practice because people (read KMers) may not spend the energy or have the talent to understand and fit themselves into the organizational atmosphere and business surroundings.
- Understand your organization and fit KM to its unique character
- Knowledge circulation is more important than knowledge capture
- The three Cs of KM are consistency, creativity and compliance
- Identify structural limitations (and work around them)
Given that NASA’s focus is on creating a learning organization via KM, it was easy to relate to Ed’s approach – Find out how people learn and facilitate that! Ed stated that we learn through Experience (personal reflection, job rotations) and from others (by reading about what they know in the form of case studies/lessons learned and through interaction in the form of workshops and case-based training). He did talk about creating an overall environment that facilitates conversations and training activities that were more interactive but had no specific slides on how to facilitate general conversations (Think of the Web 2.0 world).
He mentioned how the dictionary has a lot of (interesting) information but we don’t “read” it like a book. We only pick it up when we need to look up a particular word. That, to my mind, is a nice example of the importance of contextual learning. He had some slides on the importance of language, communication and the overall context/environment. There was a small video that went like this.
Setting: German novice managing a naval help-desk. A call comes in and somebody frantically screams “We’re sinking! We’re sinking!!…..” and our poor friend responds “Yes….but what are you zinking about?” Laugh out loud funny when seen from one angle, what?
Another picture that Ed mentioned to be his favourite showed a Conductor with all the notes on his music stand and a nicely arranged stage with all the musical instruments and sound systems but no musicians. Message: The Conductor has all the notes, the platform and the instruments/technology but there can be no music unless the people with the various pieces join hands and perform!
Finally, Ed summarized by reiterating that he (KM at NASA) focused on lessons learned, pause and learn, project management training, case studies (packaging knowledge), knowledge sharing workshops and training and development based on conversations and interaction. He also said he wanted the key takeaways for the audience to be the 1) Need for organizational depth perception 2) Open communication and 3) Rewards/Punishment based on behavior
Note: Found this useful collection of resources from Ed on the NASA website. I ran through this one and liked it a lot - Top 10 KM myths
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Wish I had the style and the substance to add to this video. But, no. It would be like an ant rattling off a poem in praise of the Sky. I'd rather just watch and admire it every now and then and go back to whatever it is that I might have been doing before watching the video. Thank you, Mr. Watterson!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
This is a rare post because it is on a subject, regarding which I have negligible exposure, experience and expertise. But there, nevertheless, are other strong forces that make me want to write. Interest, intrigue, inclination and introspection. I’m embarking on this post with the intention of being a part of Ashoka-Lemelson Technology for Society Event. But it is also true that I may have anyway written on this topic sooner or later. In fact, I hope this happens to be the first step towards a series of enlightened posts on this topic. So, what is the topic?
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The intersection of Social Change, Invention and Technology! Doesn’t that show signs of an interesting merry-go-round? If Social Change + Invention + Technology is not equal to a Revolution, I don’t know what a revolution is all about. When I started pondering about this, I picked up a sheet of paper and wrote these terms down in three overlapping circles and stared at them for a while and felt overwhelmed; the intersecting area in the middle of the three circles, I realized, is extremely wide, deep and expansive in reality. I am not sure how effective this effort will be given my unfamiliarity with, and the sheer density of, the topic, but here I go, equipped with nothing more than a few reliable facts and some random introspective thoughts. I hope to make the right connections and hear a few resounding clicks.
One of the more important questions in the context of this topic would perhaps be “Why and how does such a revolution start?” I think the heart of the idea lies in the desperate need for a social change. And, I dare say, it starts with an emotional response to a social challenge rather than a commercial ambition. Another dimension would be the technical wherewithal at the disposal of the source of this emotion. The third important aspect would be the energy put into, and the methods leveraged on for, building awareness (a word that scores over marketing in this context) and increasing the reach (of services). Someone with a passion for making a positive difference to the society and a flair for technology or even just technological possibilities is undoubtedly the hero/heroine we are looking for. One look at the NGOs around the world, entities like Ashoka and socially conscious individuals would give us a lot of reasons to be happy about. The focus on Social Entrepreneurship in top-notch B-Schools is also an important turning point. More often than not, the idea flashes at the intersection of technology and a need of the society. Someone who spots and empathizes with (or experiences) a social challenge and draws a connection between it and a technological concept might discover where the two meet. It could be a flash or a consequence of repeated introspection or discussions (with relevant people).
In Business Week’s recent list of most intriguing start-ups (wherein technology plays a critical role), I noticed that most of the ideas could be roughly classified based on what inspires them – Entertainment (games, music etc) Environment (alternative energy sources etc), and, arguably, Empathy (health, education). In my view, social entrepreneurship is associated with the last. It would be wonderful to see such start-ups cover more areas related to education, agriculture, health, infrastructure, governance, and poverty alleviation in the case of developing countries.
Most revolutionary ideas for social change piggyback on mobile technology, techno-scientific instruments and the Internet. I think the impact lies in the radical changes that technology brings to the way we communicate, create and run communities and provide - virtual - services. Technology is just the enabler, but it drastically changes the scale, speed and cost at which we do things. It signifies doing more with less. Arguably, the quality of governance goes up as well. In order to fully leverage on these aspects for social change, the IT ministry and the government need to play a role. We need to have the ideas converted into project plans, advised by knowledgeable and passionate communities. Teams should be given the freedom for implementation but held accountable. Projects should be piloted and then scaled up after observing the initial impact and benefits.
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As I wrote this post, I recalled that I’d voted for “Help social entrepreneurs drive change” in the Google 10^100 Project many weeks ago. This, I might claim, is my only, however absurd, claim to fame in this context. But I seriously hope to walk the talk and contribute in other ways.
I’d like to dedicate this post to Zephyr who is a brilliant embodiment of the above said topic. Zephyr is the author of Freedom’s Way (a highly inspiring book) and is currently leveraging on technology to help individuals and organizations find their true potential via tools such as Meta-Analysis and Vision Driver. As he so beautifully puts it on his blog, he focuses on "Marrying World Wisdoms, Profound Thinking, and the Latest Insights in Science to the Unique Opportunities of Modern Living". Also, it is a great time to dedicate such a post to Zephyr as it was, coincidentally, his birthday yesterday! :-)
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
This is the latest paradoxical idea that I've bumped into and am craving for an appropriate opportunity to try it out! David Gurteeen's "Reverse Brainstorming". Extracts:
The concept is simple: rather than brainstorm what you want - brain storm the opposite of what you want. For example, if you would like your KM project to be a success don't ask "How do we ensure our KM project is a success?" but ask "How do we ensure that our KM project is a total miserable failure?"
They are then taken through a process of prioritizing those items and coming up with antidotes i.e. things that if done would ensure the failures would not happen. Next they share these possible responses and insights between the groups.
This works best with about 30 people i.e six groups of five people.
Friday, November 20, 2009
So, why am I putting up a post on this delightful incident? What purpose does it serve? Nothing really...except that....
1. I like Google
2. I like Asterix and Obelix
3. I like the sketch (logo) above
4. I think it will make my blog look a bit colourful and jolly for the next few weeks
5. Today is Friday and the unwritten rule is that one can blog about anything on a Friday...irrespective of what the title of the blog claims to focus on
6. I just crossed the Ts and dotted the Is in a so-called creative piece of work and would like to believe that the immediate future, now that I have intervened, looks cool and promising. So, I am taking a break to post something that gives me a kick (Pun unintended. I am not referring to Asterix's gesture above)
PS: The only complaint I have about the sketch above is that Dogmatix is conspicuous by his absence. Growl.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Right now, I feel like a woman who is going on a one-year trip around the world and needs to pack her bags in no more than one or two hours. Where does one start? How big a bag does one need? What can I afford to leave out? Actually, another way to make you understand how I feel is to ask you to imagine a person with a huge gunny bag full of random and mostly unconnected tidbits. The easiest way to share them with you is to probably just turn the bag upside down on the table and let the tidbits roll out on the table – and, er, lie scattered. Which means you’ll have to pick up the bits that matter to you. Don’t look at me like that.
I think, in a way, it’s good I had to wait for a while to complete this post, as I had to wade through the work backlog and get it out of my mind to start with. The delay has at least forced me to rummage around in the gunny bag for some key tidbits and present them to you rather than just throw every single thing at you in a random order. But despite the 3-week delay in posting this, I feel like Calvin in the strip below.
There was many a time I started writing this or filling in the gaps only to end up stumbling and falling because of continuous twitter/email/IM distractions. I finally decided I had had enough and turned off all notifications and made myself invisible on IM so I could peacefully finish this post. Thanks for sympathizing with me. Let’s move on, now. If the purpose of this post is not clear from the title, let me make it clear now - I’ll be making a list of some key things I picked up at the KM India conference - between Oct 28th and Nov 1st 09 - and it’s here for you to filter and take what you want. :-)
To start with, I shared some of the one-liners and other thought-provoking stuff I came across at the conference in the form of one-liners via Twitter a couple of weeks back. Let me try and filter them for you here. But please note that these are in reverse order.
#kmindia I am going to wrap up now. A lot of other people have already shared great tidbits. I may have repeated many. Search for #kmindia [to find all the relevant tweets]
#kmindia HCL conducts empathy workshops wherein project teams and customers understand each other (wow!)
#kmindia Vittal - One can be an apple falling on Newton and trigger off ideas even if one is not Newton himself :-)
#kmindia Vittal - Stone age did not come to an end because we ran out of stones! (LoL)
#kmindia - Use processes for exploitation but not for exploration - Snowden
#kmindia Jagdish - Hospitals have to depend on processes during an operation, not on innovation
#kmindia Jagdish - Music cannot be mastered without a process
#kmindia Jagdish - Average people become better with good systems [better processes]
#kmindia Snowden - Innovation thrives under starvation of resources, pressure of time & perspective shift
#kmindia Snowden - Process should not be confused with adaptation
#kmindia Snowden (What a speaker!) - When you control things, variation and deviation decreases. [Not good for innovation]
#kmindia Cognizant CEO believes that blogging leads to openness, progress and transparency/honesty. [More CEOs should talk like that]
#kmindia - Sukumar- Cognizant has 5 key design principles for KM. Drive Consumption. Freedom. Fun. Workflow Integration. Perpetual Beta [I like this. Good to distill approaches and attitudes into key guiding principles]
Dinesh (Thoughtworks) - Culture is what differentiates organizations, not its business model #kmindia
Thoughtworks's Dinesh - His presentation proves that there is a lot of alignment between the agile culture and KM. #kmindia
Tata Steel looks at 2 types of focus areas for KM [communities] - thrust areas or pain areas and aspirational areas or new ideas #kmindia
Atul Rai of Wipro - Participation and Value forms a vicious circle. #kmindia [The single biggest cribbing point when KMers meet, perhaps? :-)]
Gopi of GE - The future may be about Search + Integration + Unified Communication + Tech. Intelligence #kmindia
Gopi of GE - Indians knew a novel way of remembering the complicated Sin Table through a Shloka - default IP protection! #kmindia
Gopi of GE compared KM processes with the human body's Neurons. Collect, Process, Distribute #kmindia
TCS - Their process library is managed via Wikis and is therefore a collectively managed knowledge asset #kmindia
Eureka Forbes- Knowledge Pearls are diff from Knowledge Gems in the sense that the former are 'born' out of irritation (stories of failure) #kmindia
Prof Sadagopan - Knowledge is a special resource, a liberator and supreme. #kmindia [It’s exciting to think of knowledge as a liberator!]
#kmindia Ashok Soota mentioned that Tiger Woods's mentor won tournaments for the first time after he began mentoring! [That goes a long way to show that one learns more when one teaches!]
Loved this at #kmindia - Create like a child. Nurture like a maniac. Detach yourself like a warrior. Came from GE's Gopi [Philosophical and reminiscent of the teachings of the Gita….]
The KCafe by @DavidGurteen at #kmindia was an example of how simple ideas are as meaningful and important as sophisticated practices/tools
Infosys mentions 3 types of metrics for KM #kmindia. Business Benefits, Performance/Health & Basic Usage/Contribution (can someone who knows verify this please?)
OK. All these were self-explanatory messages that did not need any additional comments from yours truly. Now, here are some thoughts I sort of derived out of what was said and discussed at the conference (or maybe these are thoughts that occurred to me due to some subconscious influence I might not be able to articulate here)
Food for thought - derived from #kmindia - Is starting with dissent a great way to ultimately build consensus? #paradox I think this is a very interesting concept. When you want people to come to a common conclusion, don’t start off by asking them to do so. Instead ask them to come up with their own views, promote rigorous discussions, opposing views and debates and finally arrive at a conclusion/decision. This way, all potential obstacles might be considered beforehand and, secondly, people are going to be better convinced due to the intellectual rigor that they’ve been subjected to.
#kmindia Methinks "Social KM" is the opposite of an oxymoron...what? How can KM not be social by default? Expanding on this, knowledge management by nature is a concept involving sharing, learning, collaboration etc. So, is ‘Social KM’ a term that might indicate KM (conventionally speaking) is otherwise not ‘social’?
#kmindia Maybe we should move from holistic KM case studies and get into the details based on proactive audience surveys. I am, personally, glad to be made aware of KM case studies…but, honestly, as far as I’ve observed most case studies are now becoming predictable. They need to be expanded and dug into for the intricacies – for the real learning. Or, even better, they need to be challenged!
I was wondering about @snowded 's talk at #kmindia. How does one become a chef & not a consultant with a recipe book? Passion? Experience? Natural Talent? Sukumar responded to that and said one needs to be observant and analytical to become a chef. Snowden, later, blogged about it and said a chef understands the principles behind cooking and is therefore much better than a consultant. A chef can adapt to any situation because he knows how to apply these principles. You can read Snowden’s full post here.
Extending that further, imagine this particular scenario - a chef will know what is likely to be a good substitute for an ingredient that is missing while a consultant will probably freeze on the spot and wonder what to do next or perhaps waste time and energy by going out to buy the missing ingredient.
Another thing that flashed on me during #kmindia was “By making everything democratic and ‘collective’, are we going to lose out on esoteric and eccentric ideas from e. and e. individuals?” Are we creating a culture and environment that will neglect or not tolerate something that is undemocratic? Maybe, that’s why, starting with dissent is a great way to consider all perspectives and give them the merit they deserve.
Now, consider this interesting observation I chanced to make while at the conference: TCS has its tag-line as “Promising certainty” – addressed primarily to customers - while Thoughtworks likes to ‘see’ the inherent ambiguity in the world and as a consequence wants its employees to have a passion for and accept ambiguity.
Two other intriguing things that I made a note of were from Snowden.
You can never tell a lie backwards unless trained for it. :-P
Children learn a lot of fundamental things between ages 1 and 6 and then start considering opposing views but are unable to make up their minds on most things until they are 19 or 20. Then, they start concluding on what the world should be like and want to change it to meet their conclusions and perspectives till they are 45 or so. Finally, they become soft and yielding – when over 45 - and are ready to accept different perspectives once more.
OK. Here is some intermediate respite from my random chattering. Here are links to resources from KM India.
- Dave Snowden’s post and presentation
- Madan Rao’s excellent and immediate posts on his learnings from KM India - Snowden’s keynote, Top 12 KM learnings, and the process vs innovation debate
- Sukumar’s presentation on KM at Cognizant
- Dinesh’s presentation on KM at Thoughtworks
Sorry. Will have to bring you back – rudely - to my ramblings now. There was a potentially interesting session arranged for at the conference that however turned out to be a disappointment in some ways. The idea involved groups of people clustering around 2-3 presenters from a certain organization and getting to know about their KM initiative for around 15 minutes and then moving on to the next organization’s presenters planted at various nodes in the room. I loved the idea and was looking forward to having useful conversations with all of the organizations presenting their KM strategies but ended up familiarizing myself with just two organizations’ strategies and not even getting a proper whiff of what the remaining 4-5 companies were doing! All because some people got carried away and continued waiting at the same organization’s desk and asking plenty of queries and refusing to move on to the next node thus depriving the next group of people from getting a low down on things from the beginning. I could only catch bits and pieces of information from the third node onwards as only questions from intractable members of the previous group were being answered. I was left shrugging and wringing my hands for the rest of the session. Think there should have been a neutral observer at each node shooing away the previous group and making way for a fresh session. Or the presenters themselves should have taken up the responsibility of addressing a fresh group rather than encourage the previous group’s questions beyond the allocated time.
From the little I gathered in this session, I was impressed with Mindtree’s focus on personal KM, it’s emphasis on workspace design, connection with nature, brainstorming practices and usage of tools like six thinking hats. I was also impressed with Eureka Forbes’s mature and customized KM practices. It was also interesting to see how L&T was leveraging on KM practices to meet their business needs and operations in a methodical manner.
Going back to the talks (I warned you about the randomness of this post, did I not?) Dinesh’s talk for me was a clear indication of how important it is to have organizational values and culture that is ‘already’ or rather naturally aligned with KM. It can make a world of difference! Thoughtworks believes in the Agile methodology for project management and this methodology, in my view, overlaps with some of the KM concepts. In such an environment, it may be advisable to leverage on the culture and silently blend other dimensions of KM with the existing business approaches and not even label it as KM.
Now, swinging back to the schedule - Snowden’s Cognitive Edge course - on Complexity Theory - was thought provoking and entertaining. I kept shifting between giggles and deep-thinking at regular intervals. Snowden has a nonchalant way of delivering his speech and peppering it with plenty of stories and both subtle as well as no-holds-barred humor. :-) The course lasted two whole days and dealt with a lot of new concepts, theories, ideas and stories. I obviously am not equipped or even allowed to share the entire proceedings of the course, but I will try to share enough to perhaps arouse your curiosity after which you would be able to decide whether you want to explore the topic or not. Like I was mentioning to a friend, you can’t possibly list down something a wise person with a diverse background and decades of experience has come up with in as many years, in a few minutes or hours. First of all, it takes a while to even grasp some of the basics of Complexity Theory and its implications. We’re all used to decades of simplification, organization and control. Complexity theory is radically opposite to what many of us want to experience in life – order, control and predictability. It advises us to allow and facilitate things to emerge. It states that excessive control, standardization and insisting on compliance do not help. Some of the concepts therein are related to social network simulation and formation of crews (On a related note, I once remember reading my blog-mentor Gautam Ghosh’s blog post – many years ago - dwelling upon how Movie crews are formed and dismantled and whether organizations can learn from these methods.)
Actually, if you want a good overview of the basics of Complexity Theory or the Cynefin Framework, here’s a good resource you can look up - Keith’s presentation – It has a neat explanation and illustration of how to read the framework and is well worth your time.
Something I derived out of both Gurteen’s Knowledge Café as well as Snowden’s course is the powerful idea of creating small groups, getting them to discuss something, mixing or juggling up the groups, facilitating the cross-pollination of ideas and obtaining a, if you will, knowledge cocktail that can throw you off your balance, figuratively! ;-)
On a related note, I think organizations should really experiment and explore the concept of Unconferences and design it on the lines of a Knowledge Café.
BTW, the two amusing stories I wanted to share happened off the conference circuit. In the hotel where I was staying, on one of the evenings, I tiredly tottered into the in-house restaurant for dinner. While waiting for my food (which I took a pretty long time to choose) to arrive, I sleepily flipped through the menu card and registered shock (internally) on seeing some of the prices. With no strength to think about anything intellectually demanding, I began forcing my tired brain to list down the various kinds of people who were likely to visit the restaurant. I thought of politicians (imagined some of their faces in the process) and then thought of businessmen, sports personalities, the obscenely rich and people from the film industry. As I thought of the last in the list, the face that I saw in my mind’s eye – for no reason in particular – was that of a local south Indian actor called Prasanna. (I think I even vaguely imagined him flipping through the menu card, laughing and discussing what to order along with his non-descript friends). The imaginary scene lasted half a minute or so and was interrupted by the arrival of the food on seeing whose quantity, I almost fainted – and that was supposed to be half a plate only! Makes me wonder why some of these restaurants imagine their customers to be gluttons of the highest order. So, I trekked through the food with my spoon and fork and managed to chew 1/4th of the provided quantity without any grave danger of the stomach giving in to the onslaught. I then slowly made my way out of the restaurant and back to my room silently chiding the restaurant managers for not providing lighter options for a lone and not-so-hungry diner.
As I stepped out and walked towards the lifts I saw the side profile of a person jabbing the ‘Up Arrow’ button on the lift. (There was no one else around) Guess who this lift-button jabber turned out to be? No prizes for guessing. Imagine my surprise when I noticed that it was none other than the very same Prasanna who had made a sudden and inexplicable appearance in my half-dream! What happened next was very quick and was a surprise to me myself. It was like as if someone else was speaking from inside my head. I screamed like I had just spotted my long-lost brother after ages. I said “Prasanna!!! You won’t believe this! You simply won’t believe this!” And he turned around and looked at me in a confused manner. In retrospect, I think he was expecting someone familiar to him and must have been confused to see an unknown person talk to him like she was his movie’s producer! I switched to Tamil and said “You won’t believe it” once again. Meanwhile the lift’s doors opened and I walked in like a programmed human. Meanwhile, our poor actor was probably bewildered and racking his brains to recall whether he knew me or not. In the process, he almost stumbled at the entrance of the lift probably cursing his memory for deserting him. But there was no stopping me. I continued like I had known him for ages and said “I just thought of you while in the restaurant. I don’t know why I had to think of you because there are so many other actors I could have potentially thought about. You know….what they call sixth sense!”. I stopped for breath and he cleverly used the opportunity to get a word in sideways and ask me “Have we met before? You seem familiar”. I said “No….of course, you seem familiar to me…but…”. He laughed and I smiled and then I noticed that the lift had already arrived at my floor. I continued my funny behaviour and walked out without much ado and said “Have a nice evening” as the doors closed. I think the way I uttered the last word was incoherent but he must have been busy recovering from the incident to even notice what I was babbling. So, that was that. It was only after I made my way to my room did I realize how strange the whole thing would have seemed to him…the way I told him that he “wouldn’t believe it” without even introducing myself or giving him the awed look that an actor normally expects from the general public! Far from it, I probably behaved like he was a student of the school in which I was once the principal. Hee Haw. I do surprise myself!
The second amusing incident was again to do with the hotel I was in. On day 2, I noticed a cockroach of gigantic proportions vibrating at an enormous frequency in the washroom – the good news was that the insect was lying on its backside and seemed to be extremely unhappy with something on the ceiling and not, fortunately, flying around. Having witnessed the above-mentioned scene, I screamed my way to the phone to call up housekeeping and put the aforementioned insect in what I hoped would be its rightful place. After I had told the housekeeping lady that I had a funny request and explained the situation, she responded with a nervous laugh and sent her army along to wage the war. I am not sure what kind of treatment was meted out to the cockroach but there was a strong smell of insecticide wafting into the room for a while. Later in the evening, when I went back to my room, I found an apology letter and three milk chocolates waiting for me on the table. The apology letter, by the way, did not specify exactly why it happened to be there. It just referred to the above-mentioned incident in a very mysterious and anonymous manner and said, “We are sorry for the incident…”. After wondering if the cockroach was a celebrity cockroach that had instructed the housekeeping to not reveal its particulars, I popped in one of the milk chocolates and wished they’d left pure cocoa chocolates instead.
Finally, here’s Snowden’s video on how NOT to organize a children’s party – a satirical story to help us understand how we normally deal with something that’s complex – as if it were something that ought to be well-controlled and directed – and are then surprised about the repercussions!
Let me go now. Enough of rambling for many weeks to come, what?
PS: I realize that I'm quite obsessed with Calvin and Hobbes and will find every possible opportunity to link it with whatever topic I happen to be rambling about.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
For that matter, even schools and families exploit the fact that competition can get people desperate enough to prove themselves as better than others. To be labeled as the best is - unfortunately so in some ways - a universally motivating factor. The biggest assumption when it comes to competition is that everyone has to move or is moving toward the same goal. It demands the best out of you, especially if you're the kind with a big ego. Competition is nothing but a challenge in the disguise of your competitor. It may be a challenge to prove your ability, endurance, responsiveness, innovativeness, potential, peak performance levels etc. Methinks, if a collaborative environment can propose a similar challenge will it deliver the goods of competition (peak performances) as well as collaboration (innovation, noble objectives, long term well-being)?
Monday, November 09, 2009
If you happen to be looking for a good example of serendipity, go no further. A week or so back I tweeted this “Some questions will remain unanswered. Take them or take leave of them”. Terry responded to the tweet and led me to a wonderful post – on his blog - that digs deeper into this thought.
My tweet, ironically, did not arise from deep thought and was more of a superficial response to mundane happenings in life. So, it was exciting to be led to a deeper level of thinking from where I was. Terry’s post says: Stop looking for answers….look for movement. Ask better questions and be comfortable with ambiguity! Attractive propositions for those who are exhausted in their search for certainty and predictability in this complex world and want someone to actually tell them – knock it into their heads - that it’s time they stopped being so naïve!
Interestingly, I have a huge fancy for idealism and perfection. It is paradoxical but sometimes this attitude, arguably, limits one’s thinking. Because such a person might continue to pursue the same thought for too long a time! She might not want to give up or adopt an alternative approach because of her need to “persevere”. And she wants to do a good job of everything she takes up. She needs to look good in her own eyes and there is nothing she doesn’t want to know. Bah. Sounds difficult? I guess it really is important to stop and reassess one’s attitude and expectations. Or just step back and take a look. This is the time when one needs to ask a different question like Terry’s post advocates. Or, perhaps, just let things be. Specializing in the impossible as Terry puts it, is such an intriguing thought.
The truth however is that for those in the typical corporate world, such a philosophy is rarely accepted by the community at large. Quarterly growth must be predictable and certain and....is nonnegotiable. ;-)
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Now that twitter has sort of taken over when it comes to impulsive sharing, I have been busy sharing most of my learnings at the conference via Tweets for the past 3 days. I plan to convert most of it into a single lengthy blog post and also link to speaker presentations that are available online. Additionally, I have a couple of amusing stories to share as well. But for all that, you need to wait for a bit! :-)
Friday, October 23, 2009
I had to cook up a topic in a few days' time for the welcome address in this month's Bangalore K-Community meeting. Had a miserable brainwave, the outcome of which you can see above. For now, I am just putting up the PPT. If you want me to, I'll probably find the time to add some notes to it as well. What?
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
The more I think of it, the more I am - particularly the KMer in me - worried. Read twitter messages bottom up. I know. It's an irony that I have, amusingly enough, used the 140-character medium to express this concern! On second thoughts, maybe it is the only way to get people to think about it! ;-)
As it is, even people who spend enough time communicating their thoughts do so incoherently and people who listen misunderstand half of the stuff that is targeted at them. Sigh! I think schools need to start contemplating a subject called SMS (short message studies).
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Monday, October 12, 2009
For the past I-don't-know-how-many weeks, I've been craving to write a sensible (for lack of a better word) poem. The craving was severe particularly and more so because I think it's been a long while since I even wrote an original and satisfying blog post. Sometimes I feel alive only when I manage to write something that makes me think, learn and, of course, flows deep from the heart - from an unknown and magical source. So, not being able to write something satisfying means going around like a non-living entity, more often than not. But the catch is that it has to just flow - one can never force it out. Reading something thought-provoking, at times, does the job - it opens up the unknown and magical source - but what I love even more is when the thought just floats in or jumps out from nowhere in particular. Such an experience leaves you utterly butterly happy and vaguely conscious of a positive Force that leads you to joy, wisdom and soul-power.
No more of the chit-chat. Here's the poem:
I listened to the music of the waves rushing back and forth and stood still on the shore
I beamed at the magnificent tree standing tall, wise and green
I gaped at the vast and generous sky with its fluffy white clouds
I watched the lively stream gush with joy
I stood mesmerized in front of the powerful and strong waterfall
I wondered in awe at the flock of birds that flew in total harmony
I blinked at the beauty of the tiny blade of grass and the dew drops on it
I stopped to admire the colorful flowers smile with warmth and purity
I froze in shocked silence as my thoughts wandered toward human greed and stupidity
Suddenly a voice within said softly - "Be the change you want to see"
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Setting the Tone
Starting Your Day Well
The choices you make upon waking can have a profound impact on your day. If, still drowsy, you hit the ground running, rushing to prepare yourself to face your worldly obligations, you will likely feel fatigued and overwhelmed for most of your day. A leisurely and relaxing morning, on the other hand, can energize and excite you, as well as give you the courage to meet the challenges waiting for you. By beginning your day in a focused and centered fashion, you make it your own. You set the tone of your expectations and choose the mood you will use to respond to your circumstances. A gentle, reflective, and thoughtful morning will prepare you to create a gentle, conscious, and thoughtful day.
The simplest way to eliminate the rush from your morning routine is to rise earlier. Getting children into routines and getting themselves ready as much as possible will also give you more time. Though this may seem like a hardship at first, you will soon grow to love the extra minutes or hours that afford you an opportunity to really enjoy watching the sun come up or connect with your loved ones before you go in your separate directions. There are many more ways you can constructively use the time you gain. A mere half-hour of introspection in which you examine your goals, thank the universe for the richness in your life, and contemplate the blessings you will receive this day can lift your spirit and help you formulate lasting positive expectations. Likewise, you can solidify your day’s intention through spoken affirmations or the words you record in a journal. Or, if you want little more than to enjoy your day, devote a portion of your personal time to activities that both ground and delight you, such as meditation, yoga, chanting, singing, reading, or listening to music. If you feel, however, that there is little room for change in your start-of-the-day routine, try to make each activity you engage in upon waking a ritual in its own right. The time you spend everyday savoring a soothing cup of tea or washing away tension in a hot shower can serve as a potent reminder of the need to care for yourself no matter what the hour.
Your morning is yours and should reflect not only your practical needs but also the needs of your soul. When you center yourself at the start of your day, you will likely find it easier to remain centered during subsequent work, play, and downtime because the overall sense of serenity you create through your choices will stay with you throughout the day.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I seriously couldn't control my laughter while reading this. Was tempted to look around to ensure that no one was busy dialing an emergency number. This one is actually just one of the strips in a series - that constitutes a bigger story - but it can still be shared as a stand-alone strip without looking incomplete (isn't that another wonderful C&H specialty?). BTW, I am beginning to wonder if I'm the only one (to be more specific - the only adult, who has probably lived half her life already) who cracks up on reading such kid-stories? Keep the humor aside for a minute and focus on Calvin's creativity! Did that shake you to your roots? Or check out the expressions and the nuances of the drawings! Brilliant stuff as always! OK....gotta go now. Got to meet some aliens from Pluto (the same ones that spoke to Calvin) and discuss equally important things like improving the world's GDP, reducing inflation and mortality rates and all that sort of thing.
Friday, September 25, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
I'm now motivated to understand their business and read about their management team. But it's quite sad, in a way, that such logical and ethical approaches toward business and culture are now seen as radical and revolutionary! We've, it might seem, come a long way down the wrong path! A clear reflection of the deterioration of the overall corporate culture!
PS: One thing that did make me pause and question is the value of "selflessness". Some of the points therein are understandable and to be appreciated but I think the value can be easily misconstrued. This value, for example, need not mean that you put the organization above everything else like the world/environment etc. And sometimes you may have to necessarily do what's more important to you rather than the organization - what if you're quite ill and not in a position to close an important business deal that cannot be further delayed? You may be forced to find someone else - though it may not be good for the organization - who can take your place and close the deal on your behalf, rather than risk your health.
And, thank you, Mr.Reed. For bringing back this quote that I drooled over a couple of years ago, when I first came across it.
'If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea' - -Antoine De Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Inspiration > Purpose > Passion > Insight > Vision > Pursuit > Solitude+Community > Hard Work > Creativity > Focus > Change > Inspiration. Full circle.
All we need to do is look for that one special inspiration that lasts a lifetime and gets converted into a strong and invincible purpose, making us passionate and insightful, leading us to a meaningful vision that we want to pursue no matter what while swinging between phases of solitude and amidst an equally passionate community of people and putting in a lot of hard work, being creative and focusing on the journey as if our life depended on it and ultimately ending up with a positive change from which another - new - inspiration is derived.