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 trying..

Have a great 2011!

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 all they need in a much more user friendly device, they would switch.

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 top are self conscious about what they say (and rightfully so) because they have position and privilege to protect – and self-consciousness is the enemy of "interestingness".
I was earlier wondering if senior leaders had blogged or explained the thought processes in a more direct manner, establish the rapport with employees, whether that can lead to people understanding it better. This kind of explains why that cannot happen. On the other hand, listening to that middle who does actual work might work well as well to know what is working and what is not.
like most great innovations, it was disruptive. and how do you persuade people to disrupt their lives? not merely by ingratiation or sincerity, and not by being famous or beautiful. you have to explain the invention to the customers – not once or twice but three or four times, with a different twist each time. you have to show them exactly how it works and why it works, and make them follow your hands as you chop liver with it, and then tell them precisely how it fits into their routine, and finally sell them on the paradoxical fact that, revolutionary as the gadget is, it’s not at all hard to use.
Kind of relevant to what I do these days. We explain our work horribly, bury it in mountain of buzz words, colorful pictures – it never works. It has to be broken down to basic detail, tell them exactly how something works – it sounds very easy, but we make it very complicated.
relationship we have to the products we buy. about the slow realization among advertisers that unless they understood the psychological particulars of that relationship – unless they could dignify the transactions of everyday life by granting them meaning – they could not hope to reach the modern customer.
I am somehow interested in marketing, I don’t have any talent in that area, but mainly from the psychological aspect of it. Most effective of them are trying to understand people better and exploit that (somewhat like mind hack) to sell products. So it is interesting to see that they connect hair color to certain message that a person is conveying to society, nutritional drink to mother’s desire to see their child compete better in sports etc.
when you are first taught something, you think it through in a very deliberate, mechanical manner. but as you get better, the implicit system takes over: you start to hit a backhand fluidly, without thinking. the basal ganglia, where implicit learning partially resides, are concerned with force and timing, and when that system kicks in, you begin to develop touch and accuracy, the ability to hit a drop shot or place a serve at hundred miles per hour. this is something that is going to happen gradually, you hit several thousand forehands, after a while you may still be attending to it, but not very much. in the end, you don’t really notice what your hand is doing at all. under conditions of stress however th explicit system sometimes takes over. that’s what it means to choke. it is when you start to think about your shots again. you lose your fluidity and touch.
It is one of those paradoxes in life – you need to think to improve and once you have, thought could actually be a hindrance.

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 time to get upper hand – the underlying theme seems to be that to be successful in business, you have to cut corners somewhere, maybe all friends will not remain so etc. But that’s what is disappointing – there may not be entrepreneurs with clean hands. Like the other day some friends were discussing about managers being good at lying, that it is one of the basic qualities – thing is it is managers themselves describing their ilk.

– Lastly – like the peter principle, people rise to the level of their incompetence. Realizing and changing paths before that needs a strong self awareness. Or a term I learned recently – becoming a “hamster” – reaching the comfortable niche, being happy where they are and not contributing significantly. I guess realizing your strengths and weaknesses and your passion earlier in career might help to avoid getting to a position of your incompetence or to get washed up into some groove where you get satisfied.

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 working for someone who will accept the middle path, who doesn’t have anything to tell you during appraisals other than the comment you have put in self-appraisal and who cannot think about what could make something even better. They have to get into details to tell you what is wrong, they have to tell you bluntly what needs to be improved, they will be controlling, the arguments can be painful – it comes with the package. But if you realize that all of those arguments and interaction is only aimed at making something better for customer, then it will make it a worthwhile experience.

I hope he has created “clones” of himself within Apple who will carry on and continue to create great stuff.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 working for someone who will accept the middle path, who doesn’t have anything to tell you during appraisals other than the comment you have put in self-appraisal and who cannot think about what could make something even better. They have to get into details to tell you what is wrong, they have to tell you bluntly what needs to be improved, they will be controlling, the arguments can be painful – it comes with the package. But if you realize that all of those arguments and interaction is only aimed at making something better for customer, then it will make it a worthwhile experience.

I hope he has created “clones” of himself within Apple who will carry on and continue to create great stuff.

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 obvious and simple is the reason why it was successful in the first place.

Many successful people often cite luck as a big factor, but they did enough to create their own luck, to reach the right place at the right time. Hard work and practice is definitely the way, Talent helps a lot. I used to like the Accenture ad which showed Tiger Woods (so anything we believe could be proven wrong) swinging and the measurement says 50% attitude and 50% aptitude.

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 2013, mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide. On Monday, I heard someone quoting a Gartner research that 30% of legacy systems were going to be modernized to ERP packages in next few years (didn’t get a reference to this). This has implications to folks with mainframe background in terms of acquiring new skills. So I was thinking what else is going to change that has impact? What is going to change in IT outsourcing in next 10 years?

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 – carries forward when they need to branch out after school. I think that is where the advantage stops – in creativity, pursuing their dreams, following different paths than a socially accepted standard for success and having fun doing the job.

This week Obama was warning US children about competition from India and China. At the same time, if we don’t teach our children to be creative, we might not effectively compete also.

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 easy for us to live this life. Then he dissects this into many parts – trying to convince us using many stories of experiments, studies, real life events that we do make unconscious decisions all the time which are significant. Like deciding in few seconds whether we like or dislike someone, whether something or someone poses any danger, whether someone is honest or a cheat, whether we like a web site, a product, or a store. He calls it many names – “thin slicing”, recognizing the “fist” or signature or character of something/someone.
Further slicing of unconscious is again basic science – that our brain is good at pattern recognition. And we create an extensive library using our experiences and environment, validating the assumptions, correcting patterns. We keep perfecting these patterns to reduce the overhead in daily life. What happens when we judge something is applying the available patterns against the situation to come up with the best fit. Doing this exercise in conscious memory will be taxing and we will not be able to complete the calculation in reasonable time. Key thing there is – experts are people who generated a lot of these patterns in their brain by careful study and practice – hence they can recognize patterns quickly. Basically he says we can improve our first impressions with exposing ourselves to different environments or experiences. Like a white police officer who judges a black person as hostile or not can make better judgments by associating in a multi-racial environment than in an isolated environment.

Another interesting thing was that trying to explain something we have a feeling for – he says it is hard for us to explain feelings about unfamiliar things. He calls it “verbal overshadowing” – that the visual memory (pictures) getting replaced with words. It is like trying to explain what a person looks like vs your picture of that person in memory. Related to this, one of the most interesting podcasts series that I heard recently was radiolab. Again it is similar to the concept earlier – with sound and narration, make science interesting and accessible. One of the things I heard there is that the most truthful memory is that of a person with amnesia – reason being, every time we retrieve a memory we add something to it or modify it. So memory of a worst vacation seems not so bad (or much worse) after years – after recounting it many times over the years. How do you trust an explanation of a good or bad feeling – how close will it be to your actual feeling and does your feeling become more aggravated or reduced when you talk about it? He proposes that we come up with a reason for why we like or dislike something and then adjust our true preference with that reason.

One of the things that I felt somewhat dangerous is – he makes an assertion that “thin slicing often delivers a better answer than more deliberate and exhaustive ways of thinking.” He goes at length to prove this by taking examples where gut feel decision making (of course by professionals who have seen similar situations before) trumps decisions made from extensive analysis involving too many variables. The balancing is to know when to use what kind of decision-making – which is not something he has explored much in the book.

Overall the book will not bore you and gives some food for thought. 

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 priorities are. Of all the people I knew so far, very few knew what they wanted to do in life and proceeded to do it happily. Remaining takes life as it happens. My analogy for that is a pool game with unskilled players – opportunities come up randomly, some taken, some missed and all while keep moving it as best as they can.

Other one is also related to above – What makes us happy?. It explores "Is there a formula—some mix of love, work, and psychological adaptation—for a good life?" through a study of set of Harvard students through a life over 72 years. Why I mentioned this is connected to the lies we tell ourselves. The article says we put up defenses (or (“adaptations”) to get through life’s pains. There are immature adaptations (paranoia, hallucination, megalomania), neurotic ones (intellectualization, disassociation and repression) and lastly mature ones (altruism, humor, anticipation/hope, suppression and sublimation). Having a mature adaptation as defense is key to good life as per this – along with education, stable marriage, not smoking, not abusing alcohol, some exercise, and healthy weight. At one point in the article it says – “maturation makes liars of us all” – it may not exactly be a lie, but the version of reality we want to believe, a story we tell ourselves to get by every day – of good career, happy children, being an optimist, being a pessimist and so on.

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 and senators/representatives from sucking up to leadership, forming cliques etc to save their seat. For us, if running those many primaries fairly also becomes election commission’s responsibility, it might become too much.

  • Members of a party are not bound to follow same voting pattern dictated by the party leadership (Whip situation). Senators / Reps are free to choose to vote with or against the party interest. This can let the elected folks govern rather than unelected party leadership.

  • I like the fact that people are entitled to their opinion – if you differ from party’s (or party leader’s) opinion, they cannot reprimand or throw you out. This can bring in good discussion and more ideas to be considered for a legislation.

  • Polls – even though it is said not to govern to score high in polls and instead do the right thing, knowing the barometer of the country is good. It wouldn’t hurt to know that a government, CM, PM are running 20% favorability and the country thinks that it is going in wrong direction – at least if someone does something to improve the metrics, it can give some results.

  • Good political reporting – profiles of politicians, tracking political stories. NY Times, Washington Post etc must be keeping score on how many politicians they throw out of office by exposing scandals.
The bad –
  • Campaign financing and lobbying – even though there is some amount of transparency, the basic thing is – if you give large amount of money, you are obviously expecting something back. I feel the system has to be corrupt, even though stories that come out are less – it got much more sophisticated.

  • Rules like filibuster – few lawmakers having differing opinion due to whatever pressure or ideology can deny a majority to pass a legislation – so party rule which is more like minor dictatorship when it comes to passing legislation doesn’t work.

  • Extreme fringes and conscious manipulators can change the public opinion with constant harping about something and make a non-issue a big issue.

  • I used to think presidential politics is better with someone having control, but learned that president can only set the direction and have little control on the actual legislation.
The ugly –
  • thing president can initiate is wars and when that is initiated on flimsy evidence and to propagate their world view, it becomes a massive problem.

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 in the other lane – one gives in finally and the show continues.


Come the next junction, same tug of war continues with another set of folks who cut in. In between, a Wagon R gets almost pushed to the side by a Ford Endeavor – usually it is Wagon Rs that lack the courage to push through and hold on.

So we come to the third junction, the Wagon R is behind me now and we are crawling slowly waiting in the line, I see another guy going in the left as far as he can go. There is a bus stop to the right, so traffic is blocked with another set of folks waiting behind stopped buses, peaking to see if they can somehow get ahead. Now here comes a Maruti cruising through the empty right lane ignoring the long queue and tries to squeeze into the little space I had left between me and the guy in front. That snaps me, I close the gap, Maruti is stranded in front of the stopped bus and yet another one that is desperately trying to overtake. Instead of feeling victorious I feel bad.

Later, I was doing some company research in Wikipedia, at the end of it, references had this – Avenue Queue: One long wait inspired career shift. A MIT professor who did Queue research due to a bad experience – the results helped form innovations in supermarket checkout, highway tolls etc. Now I may not be able to switch careers to fix anything, but interesting to see that sophisticated research and implementations happened decades ago in developed countries to put in queue control systems, but we are still following the Most Aggressive First (MAF) method than the First Come First Served (FCFS). Anyway got to know that what I experienced is called “queue rage”.

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 the level of education? I am interested to learn what is going on in education – like Teach for India.

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 which gives job satisfaction (challenge, recognition, responsibility) and other is hygiene (job, security, salary) lack of which can lead to job dissatisfaction. One interesting thing there for me is, it says improvement in hygiene doesn’t lead to increasing job satisfaction, but only reduces job dissatisfaction – that the factors act independently. Basically that means we should address hygiene and then move on to address other set of factors.

The book, Drive, so far said two things that were interesting:- one is that you need not work up through the Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (pyramid with basic human need at bottom to self realization/actualization at top), but you can satisfy multiple needs simultaneously (like a struggling actor giving quality performance). Second is that carrot/stick works to an extent beyond which only autonomy, mastery of work and purpose drives people.

Lastly – another interesting thing was Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) – let people have their way with where/when/how they work, but it only matters whether the intended result was achieved.

Creating a culture in a large organization would be tough (especially with things like ROWE), but it will be interesting to understand what motivates different people and work on creating the best environment possible for them.

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, you will be late to office.

I remember some people solely because of some of these nuggets. Like a friend who said only one thing after our daughter was born – he said ‘remember always that you are not the first parents in this world and your case is probably not going to be unique’. Came to use in numerous situations when we panic for silliest of reasons or get stressed out due to lack of sleep..

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 larger goal/story, but if you manufacture one you automatically fail. You need to believe in the story, live it and don’t even realize that you are creating the story. England did not have one and Argentina had one, but now it seems hollow.

3.   There is extra confidence, extra ability, and creativity in a team that is winning. Winning follows more winning.

4.   Winning manager is defending his team every step of the way – not barking at them. I don’t understand why Capello should continue.

5.   Respect should be there – whether that is because of ability or an iron hand will make the difference. If there is no respect, they are doomed anyway.

6.   When any one player starts to think it is okay to break rules, chaos starts. Recovery from that is difficult, often leads to the player leaving the team, which is best. Covering up problems never works (like when a player openly criticizes tactics and later says he shouldn’t have – he is clearly feeling it to the extent of opening up in public, that means something is badly broken already). Ferguson is master in this – he could let go of Beckham, Nistelrooy, Ronaldo and Tevez and still win Premier League – it takes tremendous belief in his own principles to make such a decision to let go of your star player to save the team.

7.   A player who looks frustrated game after game shows a failing manager – he couldn’t address the problem or doesn’t know/didn’t see/ignoring/trivializing. Again with Capello and Rooney in mind.

8.   Be insanely and openly passionate and principled. Your sense of purpose, ownership, commitment, desire rubs off on team.

9.   Can you win with workman-like team with a practical mentality towards winning or with one that has quality and is driven/motivated due to some higher goal? Remains to be seen with Holland. 

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 larger goal/story, but if you manufacture one you automatically fail. You need to believe in the story, live it and don’t even realize that you are creating the story. England did not have one and Argentina had one, but now it seems hollow.

3.   There is extra confidence, extra ability, and creativity in a team that is winning. Winning follows more winning.

4.   Winning manager is defending his team every step of the way – not barking at them. I don’t understand why Capello should continue.

5.   Respect should be there – whether that is because of ability or an iron hand will make the difference. If there is no respect, they are doomed anyway.

6.   When any one player starts to think it is okay to break rules, chaos starts. Recovery from that is difficult, often leads to the player leaving the team, which is best. Covering up problems never works (like when a player openly criticizes tactics and later says he shouldn’t have – he is clearly feeling it to the extent of opening up in public, that means something is badly broken already). Ferguson is master in this – he could let go of Beckham, Nistelrooy, Ronaldo and Tevez and still win Premier League – it takes tremendous belief in his own principles to make such a decision to let go of your star player to save the team.

7.   A player who looks frustrated game after game shows a failing manager – he couldn’t address the problem or doesn’t know/didn’t see/ignoring/trivializing. Again with Capello and Rooney in mind.

8.   Be insanely and openly passionate and principled. Your sense of purpose, ownership, commitment, desire rubs off on team.

9.   Can you win with workman-like team with a practical mentality towards winning or with one that has quality and is driven/motivated due to some higher goal? Remains to be seen with Holland. 

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.

We used Turbo Tax this time around, had a tough time transferring tax credits from a previous year into this year, and had to spend hours on a simple tax return. In Turbo Tax's defense, other sites could not even handle that scenario.

poems

Poems read / liked recently..  Khalil Gibran – My Friend  masking the madness..   My friend, thou art good and cautious and wise; na...