Monday, 16 March 2015

The career advice we never received

Careers throw grey questions at all of us. Conventional wisdom sometimes falls short of answers that satisfy. Maybe, our thoughts will.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Getting the needle on gender diversity and inclusion moving again

It appears that the needle on gender diversity and inclusion is stuck. No matter where you are in this journey, this home video of ours will help with ideas and solutions to get the needle moving again.

Do buffer for a bit and turn up the volume for a good viewing experience.


Thursday, 13 March 2014

De-bugging the bell-curve of performance ratings

It's not about whether the bell-curve of performance rating distribution is dead or not. It's also not about the loudest criticisms of the bell curve. It's rather about what rating distribution serves the organisation's interests best. And rating distributions, in turn, are about differentiation and standardisation.

Here's our home video on how you can play around with the differentiation and standardisation to make a rating distribution that works for you. Do buffer for a bit and turn up the volume for a good viewing experience.


Saturday, 1 March 2014

A case for the greying workforce in India

India will reap the full benefit of the demographic dividend, if it widens the discourse, to also include the continued employment and employability of the greying workforce.

Please view the demo video of our quiz and decide for yourself if that is the case. Do buffer for a bit and turn up the volume for a good viewing experience.

Choreographing an intentional career

The grey question is whether a career is accidental or intentional. Should one go with the flow or take charge ? We think that choreographing an intentional career could do with some lessons from the dance floor.

Please watch our home video to know more. Do buffer for a while and turn up the volume for a good viewing experience.


Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The make of a break

A few days ago, my mother said to me, “please go back to work … you wanted to be off work for some time … that’s more than done now”. “Why, now even your wife is talking like you do !”, she exclaimed. I asked her to elaborate on the matter about my wife, since we’d spoken about my return to work a few times before. “She’s also saying things like everyone should take a break, do what they would really like to, and things like that”, my mother grumbled. She added, “only the other day she was trying to tell me something like one can take a break … work after retirement … God knows what … I didn’t really understand”.

I laughed. Mothers can be bitter-sweet like only mothers can. “I haven’t messed up her mind, if it makes you feel any better … she was trying to tell you about a fascinating video we both saw recently … it was a speech by a successful designer from New York”, I said, choosing my words well to get her attention, and also that of my father, who was pretending to do something else while his wife was indulgently berating her son, but was in fact predictably eavesdropping.
It was the TED Talk by Stefan Sagmeister I referred to. Making periodic eye contact with both members of my audience, I explained in brief, “this man takes a break of a year after every seven years of working … to continue to create fresher designs and be happy about what he does”. “And he postpones his year of expected retirement by one year every time he completes his year of break … so if he manages to take five breaks during his career, he will work till he’s sixty-five and not hang his boots even if he can when he’s sixty”. By now my folks were quite interested and wanted to know more. I don’t know whether, at the time, they recollected the reason I quit work to take a break. It was to find a path that would engage me for longer … well past the age that I could see myself plateauing at in my career of the time.  
“The fresher designs get him some of his old clients back, and also some new ones, and they mostly agree to pay him better fees … that way he makes up for fees and clients lost during his break time … plus he adds a few more productive years to his total work-life”, I continued. Both my parents were smiling by now, and I knew that I stood vindicated, at least for the time being. “Oh, by the way, I almost forgot to tell you, this man says that when he took a year off for the first time, he did lots of random, even if desirable and fun stuff, but the year passed by rather quickly and he didn’t make much progress with his goal of creating fresher designs”, I said, with the express purpose of soothing my parents’ nerves some more. They and I knew that my own past months of break had gone by similarly.
“Why’s that ?”, mum asked. “Because, as he admits, he didn’t dwell sufficiently and regularly on his objective of taking the break … he let the design inspirations from his new surroundings and experiences pass him by … but he did manage to make his subsequent breaks work for him with some more discipline, planning and scheduling”, I concluded. Not one to be left out, my father chipped in, “so you should dwell sufficiently and regularly on your reason for taking the break too”. I nodded in agreement and so did my mother.

I don’t regret it but I do wish that I’d heard Stefan’s talk earlier.

There’s another thing that I wish I’d come across earlier. It’s a line from the movie, ‘Iron Lady’, wherein a frail and reminiscent Margaret Thatcher is depicted as saying to her doctor, “back in our time it was all about doing something, nowadays it’s all about being someone”. If you look within and look about, you might agree with me that the observation is quite true. I can tell you that it’s never been truer for me than it has been during this break time when I have tried to dwell on finding a path into the future. Several things have struck me as those that I could do reasonably well, feel happy doing, and hence engage with for a long time. But what really comes in my way of dwelling sufficiently and regularly on any of these, and in the way of doing something about any of them, is the question, “will I be someone ?”.

Honestly, I always thought of myself as a ‘do something’ person. Or at least a ‘do something and thereby be someone’ person. Never has this belief been tested more. Because introspection and analysis readily give way to fantasy. And my fantasies these days quite often take the shape of ‘be someone and thereafter do something’. Rarely are they about ‘do something and thereby be someone’. And when they are, the ‘do something’ goes by in a rush, my ‘being someone’ happens in a jiffy, and then again it’s back to my inviting and gratifying ‘thereafter do something’ business in loving detail.

Surely, not everyone may require to take a break to get better at what they do or to change tracks or to begin a new chapter. But those that do, would, I think, do well to sufficiently and regularly dwell on the reason for the break and also to avoid frequent distractions of being someone. And do something.

What I really want to say is simply this.

One can always argue for and against a break. Like sometimes we run better if we have taken a break from the daily jog. And sometimes we run better because we have continued the rhythm of the daily jog.

Similarly, one can always argue for and against whatever reason for the break. Like someone may say introspection or rejuvenation is for losers and someone else may say there's purity of purpose in introspection or rejuvenation.

The thing is, one can miss a good reason for a break by frequently arguing against the idea of a break itself. And one can make the break purposeless by arguing forever against its reason.

If one is against a break, or doesn't need one, that's ok. Equally, if one is against the reasons for a break, or doesn't feel any, that's also quite ok. But if one needs a break and has a good reason, then one should take the break and should remember to stay put with its reason. That's to say, the break and its reason must connect in day to day action.

That should be the make of a break.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Understanding and managing Gen Y, relatively speaking that is

In many years, I haven’t been as taken in by a book, as I have been by Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. It is an amazingly honest account, unedited by Steve Jobs or any other affected or interested party. Its content is immensely educating, with the story of the man and the story of the computer industry woven together. Predictably, even before I had finished reading the book, I had decided to read Isaacson’s biography of Albert Einstein. At the moment I’m halfway through it. Again, it’s the story of the man woven with the story of the Physics of the times.
There are several common threads in the lives of these two men. Both had biological origins in communities that were not mainstream. Both had fathers with technician-craftsmen abilities. Both had their first un-fleeting alliances with women who were intellectual-spiritual, and later married other pragmatic women. Both were callous with people closest to them. Both were comfortable appearing shabby. Both had disregard for authority and were ironically propelled into becoming authorities themselves. Both got immensely successful by their thirties. Both were agnostics not atheists. Both lived more austere lives than they need have. Etc.
If we set aside these trivia, there were other common threads. Einstein wasn’t convinced that fundamental scientific truths emerged from experimental data; Jobs wasn’t convinced that ideas for truly great products emerged from customer and market research data. Einstein was influenced by the intersection of science and philosophy; Jobs was, by that between science and humanities. Einstein believed that nature loves simplicity, balance and unity; Jobs did the same.  
What I also gather, is that both Einstein and Jobs, and Einstein more than Jobs, imagined of a fundamental immutable law, or laws, which govern all that goes on in the physical and in the not-physical universe. Many other people, in different eras, have imagined of the same or similar stuff. That’s how there’s a line of thinking that links the body with the soul, there’s another line of thinking that uses biological evolution to explain social evolution, etc.
Alternating between reading Einstein’s biography and educating myself with material pertaining to Gen Y, as I have been doing over the past few weeks, I have felt that some references or idioms from the theory of the expansion of the physical universe could be used to talk about the progression of our social world and its generations of people. A bit about the theory first.
The physical universe is increasingly expanding. Each of its dots is increasingly moving away from every other. This expansion happens, in order to, and only in so far as, to counter the pulls that the dots naturally exert on one another. The further they get from one another, the stronger they pull at each other, and the even further apart they move. And so on. To prevent the dots from collapsing into one another till one last dot remains which keeps collapsing into itself.
Increasingly, space expands, and simultaneously, for balance and unity, so does time. If one expands, and simultaneously so does the other, then it must follow that if one contracts, simultaneously so would the other.
Perhaps that’s what happens in the social world. That it contracts, as the physical universe expands. The increasing mobility, the increasing access to information, and the increasing avenues of communication (one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many), serve to increasingly contract the space and time that is experienced. The dots across space and across time come closer. So, Gen Y, and the people of other generations, like Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, who share the world with them, can see and hear more of what is seen, heard, said, thought and done anywhere around. They can also see and hear more of what has been seen, heard, said, thought and done anywhere around in the past. Since they see and hear more, all of them can say, think and do more today than anyone could have in the past.
So Gen Y can today see, hear, say, think and do as much as Gen X and the Baby Boomers can today. And all of them can today see, hear, say, think and do more than Gen X and the Baby Boomers could in the past.
With whatever they choose to.
This view is consistent with our picture of the contracting world and also avoids driving a wedge between generations. With this view we can avoid feeling half convinced and half unconvinced when people say things like, ‘Gen Y is smarter than Gen X’, ‘Gen Y is more distracted and superficial than Gen X’, etc. Rather, Gen Y is as smart, distracted, or superficial as Gen X is today. And both are more of them today than Gen X was back in time.

This view also embraces several things, even contradictory ones, that Gen Y, or any other generation, is described to be. And explains similarities and differences between individuals and between groups within and across generations. People see and hear what they see and hear; by similarities and differences in choice, chance, influence, capacity, and focus. Hence, I'm aware that we could typify Gen Y or Gen X or Baby Boomers. But I want to go one level down and dwell on the underlying continuum in the progression of the social world. To better understand and manage Gen Y, among other things.
That resolved, let’s examine what the dots moving closer do. Closer dots mean more information, experience and learning. More choices of what to see, hear, say, think and do. More security. More chances of finding and connecting with your tribe. More support and confidence. More tolerance and diversity. More adaptability and flexibility.
Closer dots also mean more distractions, more lack of conviction in beliefs and paths, and more inconsistencies in actions. More insecurity of having made the wrong choice or missed the best opportunity. More conflict between different tribes. More lack of moorings and anchors because of living different ideologies and identities. More and more, things that seem right also seem wrong. More and more the supremacy of one right is challenged by the supremacy of another right.

Moving on. A large part of the current world comprises of Gen Y. So this is all true for them. When we Gen Xers and Baby Boomers try, for example, to figure out how to manage the Gen Y workforce or to attract the Gen Y customers, we have the same advantages and handicaps that we seek to address. First, we must accept that, if we are to make an honest effort. Second, we must be happy, that if we do a better job of how to manage and attract today’s Gen X and Baby Boomer employee and customer, we would, in effect, have done a better job of it for Gen Y.
And third, the dots will keep moving closer; so we can’t just wish away the intensifying threats. Maybe, an age old suggestion might help. Capitalise on the opportunities and blunt the threats.

To say, think and do things that capitalise on the opportunities is good. Like doing away with policies that prevent multiple employment. To say, think and do things that blunt the threats is also good. Like establishing processes that encourage work-life integration around a few chosen or focussed areas of endeavour. But to say, think and do things that simultaneously do both is better. Suggestions, anyone ?