Posts Tagged With: Business

“Mind” your business

An old man was selling watermelons. His price list read: 1 for £2 and 3 for £8.

A young man stopped by and bought 3 watermelons one by one, paying £2 for each.

As the young man was walking away, he turned around and told the old man, “Hey, do you realize I just bought three watermelons for £6 instead of £8? May be business is not your thing.”

The old man smiled and mumbled to himself, “People are funny. Every time they buy three watermelons instead of one, yet they keep trying to teach me how to do business.”

Source: Random

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I read: The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google

‘The Four’ considers the enormous power accrued by the big four technology giants Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google. Whilst it isn’t a fiction, it really gives you an insight into how these huge corporation came up from a ‘germ’ of an idea to becoming what they are today; the exception being Apple, however, that organisation really did undertake a metamorphosis to come back from the brink of collapse and introduced levels of innovation never before seen in the consumer world.

Remember when Tom Hanks puts the smaller competitor out of business in the movie ‘You’ve Got Mail’, he puts it simply – “It’s not personal, it’s business”. Well, Scott Galloway has been, a number of times that smaller competitor which has been swallowed, strangled and snuffed out. But even saying that his appraisal of the business acumen within The Four is straight and follows the same line throughout; which could lead you to wholly believe the slight bent towards how “smart” the four are. I then have to lead myself back to “it’s not personal, it’s business”. 😉

The book points the trail of how socially involved the big four and their operations are in our everyday lives. It does an excellent job in putting a context to how dependent yet oblivious we are to the encroachment of the big four into our lives. The featured companies have managed to get ‘inside our minds’ to create an emotional, perhaps addictive, relationship with us, even if we do not necessarily know it or accept it. Don’t agree with me? Try to delete various social media apps to recover from so called “Facebook depression” only to discover it is virtually impossible to share photographs you have taken with your smartphones on the same social media. Difficult, isn’t it?

This observation takes place at a very interesting time for the only competition the Four face are from each other, and the race is between them to become the premier operating system. The author most definitely knows what he’s talking about. He has written not only with great insight but also with considerable humour, not least about the origins of our consumerist cravings.

The first half of the book looks at the history of retail and the business strategies of each of the Four, whilst the second half chiefly considers the Four’s relations with governments and competitors and suggests future trends.

It is an insightful read, even though there is no shortage of information on these companies available online and in-print. It is an engaging and accessible read. Myths are abound about these companies of course, possibly with a degree of truth at heart, yet how did these companies manage to establish such a firm position? The journey was not necessarily smooth and without pain and neither can the future be guaranteed, but for the time being these giants show no sign of being dislodged from their pedestals.

The author also shows how some of these corporate secrets can be deployed within our own business and private lives – yet naturally can no guarantee be given. As a reader, I learnt some of the strategies deployed by these companies, how they play with industry rivals, customers, regulators and even the governments. While they bring tremendous benefits, they also pose risks, especially to jobs in which the biggest changes are to be anticipated.

I liked the contents, index, references and style and pace of writing, however the author has never worked for any of the four companies he’s discussing, thus it misses out what could have been an industry insider classic; and so you are left wanting more from the text, more explanation, more exposition.

Given the head-start of the Four, Galloway goes on to ask whether there is room for a fifth Horseman? He considers Alibaba, Uber, Tesla, Microsoft, and Verizon. Will any of these make it?

Whatever your own views about these companies – and views can vary on different elements of corporate behaviour and more besides – you surely cannot fail to enjoy this book, even if it does seem to end so quickly as you just churn through its pages, devouring its content along the way. The future can be very interesting, since these giants fight against each other for even-more domination. One or more giant may fall, possibly to be replaced by a yet-unknown. Interesting times are ahead, that is for sure.

I particularly enjoyed the great mix of information, commentary, humour and cynicism presented throughout this book. It is a recommended read even if you don’t think you are interested in just these four companies. BUT if reading a book seems like a tedious task to you, watch Scott Halloway’s TED talk and you will get the jist.

Have you read this book? Do share your thoughts in the comments…

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The Modern Life

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Spark to success!!

Most of the times we treat failure as if it’s a disease. They are want to quickly recover from it, hide it away in the closet and are embarrassed to discuss it. Too often we try to follow the plan for success without considering the full context of the success, i.e. the failures that also occurred.  We should learn from it instead of just recovering from it – after all failures let us test our strengths and weaknesses. We should study failure to avoid mistakes. Instead of focusing on “how to win”, we should understand “how not to lose”.

I believe everyone learns and always remember their failures. These failures improve your ability in judgment and decision-making. Smart companies balance accountability while giving folks the opportunity to fail in order for improvements to manifest. Innovative companies would be less innovative if people weren’t comfortable with taking risks for fear of severe penalties.

But before anything else, we should accept this and support this culture of not running from our mistakes but embrace them with a root cause and corrective action philosophy. We can easily co-relate to the current working environments where everyone focuses on just resolving the cause rather than finding the root cause. If the underlying root cause is not found and fixed, impending failure is bound to happen. Failure is an extreme opportunity to learn don’t let it pass by without garnering as much information out of it that you can.

However, very important thing here is an ability to analyze of own failures and get very simple answers on very simple questions “why did this happen?” and “what can I do this failure to not repeat it?”.  In my opinion, self-control and self-analyze are the important parts of success. Every time we fail, we should look at an issue from different perspectives in order to solve it. It is definitely a little counter-intuitive and therefore not always easy to step back and see the forest for the trees, but definitely a reminder to pause, and think outside the box.

Management chant things like “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions” while science chant “don’t bring me your rotten old second-hand solutions, bring me problems we can get our teeth into”. In pharmaceutical industry, 95% of drug candidates fail in clinical development, and most of those that do make it to market fail to generate a positive return on investment. In other words, at least 98% of what the scientists need to know about developing a new drug is buried in their past failures. On that basis, it would be better to invest just a fraction of the cost of one failed drug to dissect and understand why other drugs (or even just that one drug) have failed, rather than spending it on yet another new drug candidate that has a 98% chance of failure. But that’s just an opinion. They would have their own scientific reasons for drug discovery.

Books can’t teach us the lessons failure teaches. We need to fall (some times more than others) before we can walk. Even failures can be used as bad examples instead of hidden in closets and stop someone from not repeating it. Both are equal in value. Perspective is the only variable that allows a differential comparison to be made between the two. We can’t have one without the other.

All that positive thinking, click-your-heels-and-wish approach to success is just Wizard of Oz stuff. We might get lucky, and we might win the lottery, but we didn’t have a recipe for success. Whatever approach – we sure don’t accept what anyone else tells that it can’t be done – ever. Someone told me once: “When someone tells you it can’t be done, they’re actually saying “here’s a failure, examine it, pull it apart, see if you can do better”

Failure is a step in the right direction of success. Most people hit failure and turn around thinking success must be in the other direction…Noooooooo! As the saying goes ‘if you have never experienced failure or any difficulty in your life you are not yet born’.

May we be among the lucky ones and turn our failures into something special and great!!

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THE Bell Curve

What is bell curve? It is the ultimate tool of comparing employees, used by the companies itself. So comparison is here to stay. Now the question is, how to make this inevitable game, beneficial for us ? Always compare yourself with best of the best, try to improve yourself continuously, once you have surpassed them, move your bar little higher and so on. Meanwhile, be aware of your innate strengths and weaknesses, and work accordingly. Never try to play with your innate nature. Fish should never try to fly.

I wish to only compete against my self. Comparing myself to others can be toxic. Heck, I still did it and it was a miserable situation to be in. While the management was comparing me to other employees, which made me feel increasing amounts of pressure to try to beat the other employee in performance. The reality was, that the other employees had significant advantages over me (due to their skillset), and I came into the game with significant disadvantages (expertise in a different space) thus a misfit. Although I didn’t see anything beneficial from it and worth the frustration and aggravation, but I still blamed myself.

However, I try to learn from both “upward” and “downward” comparisons, but it is important to be smart while comparing oneself, either “upward” or “downward” and try not to judge myself or others. Past achievements are my benchmarks. My progression towards my goals should gauge my results. I should not compare myself with my colleagues because as their motivation fluctuates, so would my standard of comparison. My own objectives and drive should determine my work success.

But, I am very guilty of this myself.  The anxiety that is caused by constantly comparing yourself to others and their successes, ironically never seems to be lessened when you see them fail. I have been on both ends and it actually got to the point where people’s integrity was taken into consideration. No one’s path is your own and it is hard to judge this totally by numbers.

We tend to always assume that “the grass is always greener on the other side”….or the glass is “half empty.” It’s how we see ourselves and others, our perception that creates the “reality” we live in. We are the benchmarks for ourselves and our future. But low adjustment ability to change, social convergeance behaviors  and need for recognition and prizes taught for years in the schools and traditional families, create obvious mind traps and compromise our resilience.

When in a position of evaluating your team members, it must be done very discreetly and should I mention objectivity?

And so often, it’s an inaccurate picture. It’s so helpful to open up to feedback from the others in order to get a broader view. Personally, I strive for excellence…trying to avoid the often unachievable “perfection,” and that’s my personal  benchmark.

Comparison is a tool which must be used with caution. Not too much not too little!!

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To-Do List

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Doesn’t this cartoon strip remind us of our everyday? Hell no!! I am not going to bore you to death with my story of the day. But, this cartoon surely urges me to help Mr. Rat create a To-Do list to prioritize his work. ‘Cos I am a to-do list kinda-girl.

I usually have a to do list which is never in any priority order of importance as I often receive so many directives from middle management, I feel more like a gopher than a manager, and it can get the best of you when your list defines you! Because having a To-Do list is something that allows you to clear the clutter and focus on what the true value at stake is.

But, I think we all know that daily to-do lists are self-defeating, AND it’s hard to give up the practice, ain’t it? 🙂 I trust that we keep a kind of mental compass which always points towards our goals and not just the tasks. However, this is easier said than done and separates the leaders from the managers.

And then I started to observe my senior manager – how he was able to cope in similar or rather more complex situations like mine. He remembers who his constituents are, eliminates the unnecessary, prioritize, delegates, and communicates a clear purpose. All things even experienced leaders need to revisit periodically (I know I do).

And then it dawned upon me – I find it difficult to delegate anything off my own list as I consider them as MY TASKS. It’s always good to get some thought provoking ideas. Breaking it up in this fashion would really help prioritize things and help you delegate as a leader.

To-do-listIt’s easy to quickly get lost in the trees if you don’t have the vision and discipline to look beyond the forest. This applies to everyone in a leadership. Without clear and concise direction, everyone is left running around with their heads cutoff. The task of leadership must by necessity include a lot of delegation. Letting go and letting others do the jobs they can do takes a lot of the stress off, and enables clearer thinking for the leaders, which in turn benefits all.

Separating our goals from our to-do list is a great concept, not always easy to do given time restraints which we all face but we cannot afford not to do it!  Sometimes our goals can get lost amongst the never ending to-do list. Achieving our goals and being recognized for our focus and “delivery” is great motivation for us. I love the idea of a “line of sight” as when we can see where we fit in the chain and how our contribution makes a different it encourages commitment and a winning attitude.

Leading–defining priorities, setting goals, and empowering our team to get it done–is why we have leaders. We need to group To Do into Employees, Shareholders, or Customers. I constantly ask how am I able to do other initiatives apart from regular work. My view is pretty similar…List, Prioritize, Delegate What can be done by others, Focus on Must Have in the list which needs to be done by me and last but not least, I ensure we all agreed to closure… 🙂

And often the most effective approach is the simplest like focusing on just 3 things…for escaping the tyranny of the “to-do” list!

Keep the right perspective…dump the peripheral clutter, energize yourself and others around you to maintain momentum and above all…keep it simple, one task at a time, if possible.  To-Do Lists are merely guidelines, not rules….reminders, not LAW.

Now go enjoy that gorgeous (chilly) day outside!

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Bored to death…

I was told of a classic conversation between the “Borer” & the “sufferer” the latter ultimately telling the former thus: I understand that between us you know almost everything and that I know only the one thing that you don’t know- that you are a “Big Bore”.

bored1Although it sounds rude, interruption is actually a good sign, I think. It means a person is bursting to say something, and that shows interest. It’s not just me :-), there are quite a few facing this situation, right? I have a natural tendency to ask for clarifications and raise questions during conversations. In fact I might forget or may feel “let it be” and some very useful point may be left out.

I am keenly interested in body language and micro expressions such as good eye contact and a smile that flits across the features. Staring as well as very poor eye contact signals that the person is disengaged and a smile that feels (looks) stuck, signals irritation.

Furthermore I have observed that if a person starts yawning- is a sign that he/she is forcing self to listen to you and is bored to limits. Similarly a person who listens (or pretend to listens) with arms crossed could be a sign that he/she is bored and more often even offended by the nonsense being uttered. I see these behaviors often among people in a position of power, who mistake ‘obligatory’ listening for vivid interest! One’s background certainly does influence communication style and acceptability within given conversation(s).

The art of communication is scribble – abstract. It takes keen observation and skill for one to catch the conversation nuances and then blend.

On the lighter side: If I had a choice between being a bore to some one or being bored by some one, I would choose the former. That keeps me from yawning in the other person’s face. Not everyone or everything can get melodramatically interesting as Shakespeare’s stage of words and sonnets.

Unfortunately, I think I fall in to both categories (the boring and the bored). I have a bad habit of reading emails even when I am holding a phone conversation. I could genuinely be interested in what someone at the other end of the line is saying and still display these signs. Bad habit – Must be broken!! Blame it on my work but now I consciously close my eyes during a phone conversation to not let myself be distracted.

As to being boring, well…just the other day when I was loss of words, what can I say, I bet you stopped reading this post a while ago!!! 😉

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So, What do you do?

WDUD1

Raise your hand if you wonder the best way to respond when asked “What do you do?” as a conversation ice-breaker in a social gathering. However, it is interesting that people define themselves in so many ways, by so much different criteria. I believe that ultimately self-defining in many instances is derived by what is most socially accepted. When it comes to a job if it is not considered a good or upstanding job role then one might defer from using it to define him or herself. But if it is a job with a bit of prestige associated with it the job holder would be more inclined to define him or herself by that role. Acceptance is a huge factor in our current society. People believe that image is everything without even saying it. We want to be a part of something, a need to belong and when we don’t fit in with the “group”, we are often viewed as odd. This is felt acutely by women who were previously high flyers but have opted out to look after children. No one pays such ladies any attention the minute they hear “taking time out”.

Anyways, so what do we actually do?? As humans, we are always looking for something BETTER to do. We want to reach heights in whatever we are doing to maximize our labor value. Job no longer means only to feed ourself and our family. I represents this identity as a human being. I believe that job shows how much dedicated and hard-working person we are. However, a job can’t describe us as a human being for sure. For some people, job is a mean to pay off their bills which can be understood as these people have family and kids to look after which is a great job in itself.

It is true that simply striving for ‘better’ can be an unachievable goal, purely because the mountain to climb is never-ending! Hence, it is not only important to set realistic targets, but also to be happy with the small things in life, which can often be overlooked in today’s fast-paced world. We are all in the pursuit of our own happiness, in some cases people express this in a material manner, often only too late realizing that life is about you “have” and not about what you “own”.

It’s the Puritan ethic: success shows salvation. Unfortunately, in becoming “better” human beings, we tend to deteriorate into human “doings.” I like being busy. I also cherish my time to myself: reading, blogging, etc. I don’t talk about challenges because that sounds like guidance counselors and other inspirational types I don’t trust. I just -do-. Maybe I mention it, maybe I don’t, thereafter. Somehow, it’s hard to adapt our psyches to reversion to the mean. But you know? When we are unhappy about work or lack thereof, at least it’s a known thing and an acceptable reason.

Everything in life is a compromise, we have got to find balance, equilibrium and motivation that works for us! I agree with the philosophy of doing whatever works to create the ideal work and life balance I desire. I describe my balanced life philosophy as “always happy, never satisfied”. Being satisfied and being complacent are two very different things that shouldn’t be confused… 😉

It’s nice to see that people in positions of power are beginning to realize that a company’s bottom line is not only dependent upon productivity but also state of mind. Enlightened employers are trying to make it their business to understand their employees aspirations and can harness this positive energy in a good way for the benefit of all. A job or job title will only define you if you allow it too. As long as the work is interesting, challenging and supports our chosen lifestyle who cares which seat we occupy. A widely cited bon mot attributed to Aristotle reads “We are what we repeatedly do; Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” For me, it is very easy to have my job becoming part of identity and Oh! striking this balance between pursuit of happiness and satiable ambitions is so difficult.

Our job is simply one facet of us. It’s important also to develop a “personal hinterland” beyond our job/career – friends, family, hobbies, etc. that also help define us as a untitledperson. Whilst jobs can certainly lift us and improve our feelings of self-worth, allowing them to define us completely and leaves us potentially vulnerable in a psychological sense. In times of difficulty at work, we can often draw strength from our hinterland. There is often a big gap between realistic expectations and dreams and this is where we can fall in the abyss of depression.

While it is true that a slight amount of dissatisfaction with the status quo is necessary to get ahead, we often mistake change for getting ahead. Is an increase in wages, a change in title or change in your role getting ahead or is getting ahead about staying relevant, heading towards mastery in what you do and having a sense of purpose? In the social space, is it about eating at better restaurants and having “better” friends or is it about having a sense of well-being with a home cooked meal and close friends?

There are perks and drawbacks of being ambitious. Just one question; unsatisfied = ambitious? unsatisfied = unhappy? I´m not sure. Ambitious workers but happy persons; difficult formula but probably the good one to make the world turn. Perhaps the emphasis on achieving the goal is the issue, rather than the quest?

In the words of the immortal Sachmo, when asked “What is jazz?”: If you have to ask, you’ll never know.

Categories: Muddled Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Face Time

I see many things that go on in the corporate world that just don’t make sense any more. A good deal of us work in jobs where we put in “face time”. We all know people who got promoted because of face time and not because of results. We are entering a period where the global economy and the fast pace of change in the world are not going to let companies get by with this. Why? Because the new generation of workers (Gen X and Gen Y) aren’t going to put up with it. They will simply leave for greener grounds…and they already are.

I frequently find myself considering my career and how differently things would have turned out if only the work had been managed in a more intelligent manner. The desire to judge co-workers by how long or how much they are in the office working…argh!

As a company, you can either be scared of what is happening and do nothing and go out of business, or you can adapt to the change and not only survive but thrive. It won’t be easy, and some of the good old boys will no doubt be the first ones out of the door but in the end it will make the company better, and employees dedicated and productive like you wouldn’t believe.

As an employee, you can see how good things can be. You can see why you don’t need to beg for an hour off to see your dentist. You don’t have to feel guilty for staying home with your spouse and having a relaxing day off. You don’t have to make up excuses for being few minutes late and getting talked-to by the boss, despite the fact you added more to the bottom line than anyone else.

As “worker bees” we think that change has to come down the ladder. No – the change has to come from the employees, like us, demanding the change. It’s a bit cheerleader-ish, sure, but excitement generated among large groups of employees will get this done, not convincing a couple of ossified managers.

Employees should be trusted with their time and held accountable for their performance. However, most corporations actually approach work in exactly the other way, since it’s easier to judge attendance than performance (while often confusing the two completely). Work wherever, whenever and however you want as long as you produce the desired results.

The 40-hour work week is a vestige of factory work (when you really did need everyone there at the same time). Until the advent of information technology, proximity to work and shopping centers was mandatory. In a knowledge-based economy with ubiquitous internet access, location is irrelevant. Imagine what traffic and cities would look like, if you designed them under the premise that people work out of their homes, or away from a centralized office 80% of the time. Think about the ramifications of location independence from the standpoint of “going green”, for a minute. When location doesn’t matter, why drive in to the office unless you have to? Why do commutes take so long to begin with?

Face time is often wasted time. We work in the information age but the workplace has not changed since the industrial age. With today’s technology, there is no need for people to be working at the same time and place but an advantage of being self-employed with the steadiness of a paycheck.

As Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Where do you work? Doesn’t matter. What time of day you work? Don’t care. Did you get your stuff done on time, or early? That’s what I’m talking about! The idea is intriguing – eliminate the concept of “face time” and treat everyone like grownups.

And I hope that when we hear the phrase “9 to 5”, all we think of is a lovely song by Dolly Parton.

Categories: Muddled Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Made in China

Do you know where the vast majority of the stuff in your house and life is made? Start looking a bit more carefully at that “Made In” tag.

Toys? Nearly all made in China. Lamps? Made in China. Shoes for the kids? China. Electronics? Yop, assembled in China. Birthday candles for cakes? China. Holiday decorations? Count on it being made in China.

China, China, China… You will be amazed at just how much we have come to depend on China for everyday life. Even if you experiment to see if it was possible to live without feeding the growing economic tiger across the Pacific, nah! it is not easy. You will quickly find that there are vast consumer areas that are nearly all Chinese-dominated.

A comedic feature film Made in China was released in 2010. The title of the film is a reference to the Made in China label on many manufactured goods. The film was nominated for and won many independent film festival awards: winner of the SXSW Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature 2009, Winner of SXSW Chicken & Egg Emergent Woman Director 2009, Winner of Oldenburg International Film Festival Audience Award 2009, Winner of the Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival 2009, and Winner of the Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking award at the 2009 Newport Beach Film Festival 2009. (Source: Wikipedia)

Woohoo!!!

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