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Showing posts from 2010

new year resolutions

Today morning saw an HR email about new year resolution. Here goes..
Use my computer for something other than Microsoft technologies (Outlook, Word, Excel, Powerpoint). It could help avoid embarrassment when some relative tells his daughter in 8th standard that “this uncle” who is working in IT can help with her homework in C++
Try to use more than 0.005% of my brain
Try not to assume every fad theories coming from everywhere has some meaning
Try not to feel guilty in saying no to something that is not worth it
Try to find/do more satisfying “original” work, than “adding value” to something
Take longer vacations and without “calls” in between
Try to do more exercise than climbing stairs once every day
Try to build honest, lasting relationships- Because “the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”I know these may not work since today morning’s newspaper was saying only SMART resolutions survive beyond January. 

Anyway only reason we survive is by tr…

mobile

For the first time in 6-7 years, I bought a phone last weekend – Samsung Galaxy 3. All this time I was using Nokia phones because of it is ultimate reliability. I initially was looking for a dual SIM phone, but wanted that to be Android – there were not many options like that. Finally narrowed down the criteria to Android alone – to tinker with it if possible. I have been admiring iPhone ever since it came out, but did not want to go that expensive.


Just saw the article ”2011 will be the year Android explodes”. People are making the arguments for and against in Google Vs Apple, some predicting the demise of Apple yet again in another defining war – but remains to be seen if Apple still continues to surprise.

For one thing, I can see mobiles taking over PCs/laptops in terms of internet usage. Just take case of our own parents:- it is a struggle for them to get connected just to see some photos or email or chat – but not having to boot up a computer, the modem etc, if they could access …

What the dog saw – Malcolm Gladwell

Finished all of Malcolm Gladwell’s books with “What the dog saw and other adventures”. This one is collection of articles on various topics that came out in New Yorker magazine. Like most articles in the magazine, each story goes into painstaking details which can be a drag at times, but the details are sometimes fascinating. I still have the suspicion though – whether all of this is authentic science, what is truth and what is fiction. But he definitely knows how to write non-fiction in the most engaging way.

I have terrible memory when it comes to books I read – so started keeping some notes on things I found interesting.
the trick to finding ideas is to convince yourself that everyone and everything has a story to tell. the other trick to finding ideas is figuring out the difference between power and knowledge. you don’t start at the top if you want to find the story. you start in the middle, because it’s the people in the middle who do the actual work in the world. people at the to…

entrepreneurs and managers

I was reading this about Twitter CEO stepping down and assuming a different responsibility and how that is a sign of self-awareness. It is always possible to put an incredible morality spin on things which might be more banal and elevate the situation to some moral plateau which it may not deserve. But taking the whole article at face value, couple of observations –


– Organizations grow and lose its childish innocence and mature. Being mature means adapting to a whole lot of situations which did not really matter when you were a child and building stories to support the public face. Something that began with simple idea as “like ice cream, not essential, but fun” in Twitter’s case could be now portrayed as the new information super highway with endless possibilities. Organizations keeps growing and morphing, but still staying true to original values could be admirable.

– As with this story and the one about Facebook founder recently, there is hint of playing hardball at some point in …

random

Sometimes I think I read too much – how much of it can I remember, how much of it can be turned to something useful or practical, is all of it a waste of time? Ironically I read something in NYT that we are sum of all we read/hear/experience so a book that you read and totally forgot about must have done some change in the “wiring”, but is that wishful thinking? How do you decide that okay, this is interesting and something I need to do going forward and it becomes part of you as a person?
What one could learn from Steve Jobs – passion for creation, attention to detail, making design “insanely great”, delighting the customer (while there is still criticism of not listening to the customer, rather “proposing to them” – but often it is true also that customer’s don’t know what they want), attention to detail, having the long view (vision), inspiring others (or selling the idea to employees, customers, investors), presenting (simplifying, perfecting the message, practice) and maintaining control (while being called control freak, being able to control is not easy).


One specific aspect though. Many people say due to his perfectionist and controlling nature, he was a tough boss to work for. I have worked with a manager like that once. Regardless of the pressure, it could be the best learning experience also. Always looking to improve, pursuing excellence in every step, thinking of customer and uncompromising on execution – that could be tough order, but it is better than wor…

talent is overrated?

Of late I have seen a lot of articles on the talent myth recently – Peter Orzag in NYT and Malcolm Gladwell is convinced about it. Common premise of these is that hard work and practice is behind many successes and an overnight success is in fact someone who worked years perfecting the craft to reach that point.


Then saw this about Zuckerberg and I had read his profile in New Yorker. Here the argument is successful people were at right place at right time and they capitalized on it, sometimes by playing hardball. Commenter in NYT argues that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and even Einstein is successful not by originality, but by building on what others have done. 

My take –

Innovations all need not be original ideas and in fact tracing originality of many ideas might be difficult anyway. Connecting things in a way that others did not imagine can be a great innovation. Also things which are very successful often are simple as well which makes it seem so obvious to people. But being so obviou…

predictions

This weekend, I was reading interview with editor of The Guardian in Hindu, came across this:-
If you believe there is a revolution going everywhere else in information and you take a decision early on to cut yourself off from that, then it’s difficult to see how you can experiment in future. My suspicion is that in the next 10 years, the most extraordinary things will happen in terms of information, how we find it, how we search for it, how we present it. And I want to be as open as possible to all that.There has been this drumbeat of change in news and in general publishing – with web first and now mobile and other devices such as iPad and Kindle gaining more prominence. But what struck me there was the intention to keep the organization open to that change, getting positioned to take advantage of it than work to minimize the impact of the change.

Other thing was about predictions. Same article in Hindu mentions about mobiles and saw this Gartner research which is related to it – by…

tests vs fun?

I was reading this on Chinese way of tests in schools vs US.

Article was talking about a kid “who was clearly not “ready” to read” and “(US) law doesn’t start testing students’ reading abilities until after third grade” so that kids don’t start anxious about tests. Again not a consideration for us. My daughter, 3 and 1/2, is starting to read words in Malayalam and English. And it will be the case with most of our children – we don’t really consider the readiness factor all that much. Our parents don’t have too much against scolding the kid, forcing them to sit and study and make them ready rather than let them develop at their own pace.

For “Western parents, who were more concerned with whether their kids were having fun — and wanted less (tests).” – at the same time, we usually don’t have that consideration of kids having fun while choosing school or education. It might be a good thing in early ages, but that attitude towards education – that pretty much it is about passing tests – c…

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

I have read Tipping Point and Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, so wanted to finish off his books – completed Blink and reading What the Dog Saw and Other Stories now. The subjects that he takes up may not be very sophisticated and I doubt if many authors can write an entire book or even a chapter on them – but he somehow manages to write a book and make it entertaining. Usually making something “pop” (fiction, movies, and science) is looked at as making it somewhat less in quality – but I feel in many cases that the information might remain available only to experts otherwise. I had read “Made to Stick” sometime back – about making your ideas sticky by simplifying the concept, telling stories that are used to remember the concept etc. It will be hard to enjoy a serious psychology article, but I think that is where Malcolm Gladwell is succeeding – telling stories to make things sticky.


Basic concept of this book is also very simple – our unconscious mind is deciding many things making it …

life and lies

Read today about lies we tell ourselves and the plan for life. Reminded me of two things I read couple of weeks back.


First is an HBR article How will you measure your life?. Gist of it is – author advises to create strategy for life (find out the purpose of your life), allocate resources (time/energy) towards that strategy, create a culture which enforces that and avoid to deviate from that path 100% of the time. The author is someone who pledged never to play ball on Sunday and hence didn’t go to a college basketball final on Sunday. This is treating life as business or managing an enterprise. Food for thought at the very least.

I had reached to this article through NY Times column which is comparing Well-Planned Life described in above article to something the column author called Summoned Life – which flows according to the circumstances of a person. His conclusion is that both works – has to work anyway.

My take is – I admire someone who knows exactly what they want and what their …

feedback

It is not possible to give feedback to a person about his biggest problem – something apparent to everyone, but no one talks about it. Like you know someone lacks depth in knowledge, but can act extremely confident and boast about things – you can recognize the faking part of it, but will you be able to tell him? Or someone who takes life too easy, but cribs all the time about lack of growth. Or someone who talks so much that you are afraid to run into him on a Friday evening. It might be the single biggest feedback which might make a difference in their lives, but how much of a friend you should be to give such a feedback? Will you give such a feedback if it was your manager? I wonder if some of the folks never got the news or they never took it seriously.

move my cheese

When things are not going your way, try
Find someone with whom you can be yourself
Find someone to share with, your dreams, fears, disappointments
Try exercising
Travel somewhere, take a break
Smile more, try some humor
Try to read books, to give you a new perspective
Think about your priorities, constraints
re-evaluate the goals and the method
Make a change, take a leap
Learn something new
Talk to more people, make more friends
Help someone
Say Yes more often
Find a new passion, revive an old hobby
Look at your strengths and what you need to do
Do something


But just don’t wallow in despair

american politics

I have been following American politics much closely for last 2-3 years – mainly got hooked during the last presidential primaries. Today morning saw the majority leader taking a different stance compared to the president regarding an issue, so was thinking about good and bad compared to our politics.

The good –
Two party politics – that is the best thing. Compare that to Kerala where we have Kerala Congress A, B, C, D, E… and then coalitions that can shift not based on ideology, but based on slots in the cabinet.
Primaries – there is a chance for people to choose candidates. For us, I think people often decide not to even vote saying no candidates is worthy – it is often true as well. The candidates chosen by party hierarchy gives in to vested interests such as shares for castes, groups within the party etc. Deserving candidates might lose out just due to lack of political capital. Having the power to choose candidates by the party registered members relieves the would-be candidates an…

queue rage

In my morning drive to office, there is a 4-5 km stretch of single lane road that has three major junctions that makes the entire stretch go at a slow crawl. I come to the first junction. Folks who want to go right are aligned to the right with indicators on, we crawl at slow pace and bikes are somehow making their way forward utilizing every inch of road. We make some space on the left for folks who want to turn left. Now there comes a guy on the left with right indicator on and goes straight to end of line, another guy behind gets emboldened since there is a leader and scrambles behind him, a mad rush follows, guys who waited patiently tries to assert their priority, cars go head to head or rather rear view mirror to rear view mirror to see who has guts – in the ensuing mess, somehow we make it to other side in parallel with the guys who cut in from left. It is single lane road, so someone has to adjust to avoid hitting the folks waiting for bus on the sidelines or the oncoming bus …

it was a good morning

Feeling good – it is distinct/distinguishable, happens not so frequently. Each time this happens, I usually try to identify the reason why.
Feels very comfortable in clothes I wear, but it is not the clothes itself since I have worn these before.
Had slept for seven hrs, but I have slept even more before. Had a decent breakfast – but had the same many times before.
Exercised a bit – not normal.
Have a slight cold and sore throat – but the feeling is in spite of that.
Got a reasonably good treatment at car service station in spite of it taking more than an hour – they are well trained.
Work is not creating much stress – even though I need to figure out how to move something forward.
Appreciated someone whole-heartedly for a help – that felt good.
Have read some things reasonably good since morning – in spite of the stories of corruption, accidents, unrest and inefficiency in the newspaper. 
Hope the day will not grind it down.

early education

Came across this NY Times article – Study Rethinks Importance of Kindergarten Teachers. Quotes from it:-

Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds. Students who learned more were also less likely to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely to be saving for retirement. Perhaps most striking, they were earning more.
Good early education can impart skills that last a lifetime — patience, discipline, manners, perseverance.Some teachers are highly effective. Some are not. And the differences can affect students for years to come.My daughter is in preschool now. My thought was – there are a lot of under advantaged children who never go to kindergarten, so are they losing out even before they start school?

I see our community reach effort which is to go to a school and distribute notebooks – while doing anything is better than doing nothing, what could make more real impact on improving t…

what motivates us

Once upon a time when there was a drumbeat about motivating employees, I used to be sick of the term motivation. But of late, I was getting interested in motivation. Maybe it is a sign of me getting absorbed into The Matrix, but I think I am interested in it to satisfy my curiosity about what motivates certain people and keeps them going. I started reading Dan Pink’s Drive: Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us just before returning from onsite – I had to return it at library, will try to finish it some time. Couple of days back I saw two related Motivational Theories in a comment in a HR blog.


Theory X and Theory Y – X says that employees are inherently lazy and managers should monitor/control work. Y states that employees maybe self motivated, ambitious and can exercise self-control. It is interesting to see how many managers think theory X is correct vs. theory Y. As usual, most might fall between both.

Two Factor Theory – states that there are two sets of factors – one of whic…

advices

‘Clutch is your friend’ – for an amateur stick shift driver (first week of driving to office), that is a good advice. Whenever in doubt, press the clutch – comes to use for me often, gives me a moment to think which gear to use and what to do.

Another good advice was to ‘just take the car and drive, don’t think it will take a month of observation before you start’ – if you are by someone’s side, you will always be wondering how they manage to drive without getting hit or hitting someone, but if you are in that seat, you will figure it out. Of course it is only after some driving classes and 5+ years of driving automatic gear, but I wouldn’t have ventured out so soon if it weren’t for that advice.

Third advice was a story that someone thought everybody was driving like they were mad and drunk, so he also drove like mad and drunk and it all worked out at the end. I don’t intend to drive like mad or drunk, but it helped to figure out that expect no courtesy and if you are too courteous, …

winning

For me, world cup is dead – my two teams (England because of Rooney/Gerrard and Argentina because of Tevez) are out of it. I have been thinking about management lessons in football – for some time now, especially with coaches like Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson – on why they are able to maintain quality and control for so long (apart from the fact that they are managing rich clubs). Anyway here is some pseudo psychological pseudo management theory in no particular sequence – in the lines of Tom Peters et al (just finished The Little Big Things by Tom Peters) –


1.Team that wants the ball more, goes after it, chases it, intercepts rather than waiting for it – wins. From my frustration of England giving away ball and then passively running after it.
2.There is some sense of purpose, larger goal (defending honor as best team, underdogs on a run, pride / national glory, utter loyalty to boss, reputation as a fighter, history etc) behind winning teams. Irony is that you need to create a la…

lessons from worldcup

For me, world cup is dead – my two teams (England because of Rooney/Gerrard and Argentina because of Tevez) are out of it. I have been thinking about management lessons in football – for some time now, especially with coaches like Arsene Wenger and Alex Ferguson – on why they are able to maintain quality and control for so long (apart from the fact that they are managing rich clubs). Anyway here is some pseudo psychological pseudo management theory in no particular sequence – in the lines of Tom Peters et al (just finished The Little Big Things by Tom Peters) –


1.Team that wants the ball more, goes after it, chases it, intercepts rather than waiting for it – wins. From my frustration of England giving away ball and then passively running after it.
2.There is some sense of purpose, larger goal (defending honor as best team, underdogs on a run, pride / national glory, utter loyalty to boss, reputation as a fighter, history etc) behind winning teams. Irony is that you need to create a la…

design an app like Turbo Tax

TurboTax Design FAIL « Scott Berkun

I was thinking about exactly Turbo Tax example today evening and saw this post. Déjà Vu. We get software requirement for complex order processing applications saying "build me an app which is as easy as Turbo Tax". That application, built as easy as Turbo Tax, to do the processing in sequential steps with hints/questions and directions might work for simplest cases, but when it starts deviating from the normal happy path is when things will start getting complex. Slowly such an easy application will start getting complicated with multiple enhancements to handle more and more complex functions to the point it will start deteriorating. After a while it will go downhill when the original users who used it for the happy path will find it unbearably complex.

The trick is to remember why it was built in the first place and keep that balance through the numerous enhancement cycles. The face should still be recognizable through numerous nose jobs.