Week 25 – Six Rules to Simplify Work

15 Tech Companies that will define 2014
There are companies with Zero Revenue
Yves Morieux: As work gets more complex, 6 rules to simplify
Reinforce Integrators
Beware The iSmell: 10 Rules For Successful Product Development
Don’t attempt to improve a product simply by adding more features to it, or making it more complex.
John Updike on Making Money, How to Have a Productive Daily Routine, and the Most Important Things for Aspiring Writers to Know
Develop actual work habits
5 Powerful Tactics I Use to Achieve Great Teamwork
Roadmap week

Week 24 – Make others Successful

The 7 Values That Drive IDEO
Make others Successful
The Incredible Power of Not Taking Credit
The best talent is bringing out talent in others
From Galileo to Google: How Big Data Illuminates Human Culture
Uncharted worlds
Writing novice? 6 best pieces of advice from successful authors
Just Start
What It Takes to Grow Your Startup 500% in Months
Keep your metrics actionable

Week 23 – The Aggregation of Marginal Gains

This Coach Improved Every Tiny Thing by 1 Percent and Here’s What Happened

by James Clear
In 2010, Dave Brailsford faced a tough job.
No British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France, but as the new General Manager and Performance Director for Team Sky (Great Britain’s professional cycling team), that’s what Brailsford was asked to do.
His approach was simple.
Brailsford believed in a concept that he referred to as the “aggregation of marginal gains.” He explained it as the “1 percent margin for improvement in everything you do.” His belief was that if you improved every area related to cycling by just 1 percent, then those small gains would add up to remarkable improvement.
They started by optimizing the things you might expect: the nutrition of riders, their weekly training program, the ergonomics of the bike seat, and the weight of the tires.
But Brailsford and his team didn’t stop there. They searched for 1 percent improvements in tiny areas that were overlooked by almost everyone else: discovering the pillow that offered the best sleep and taking it with them to hotels, testing for the most effective type of massage gel, and teaching riders the best way to wash their hands to avoid infection. They searched for 1 percent improvements everywhere.
Brailsford believed that if they could successfully execute this strategy, then Team Sky would be in a position to win the Tour de France in five years time.
He was wrong. They won it in three years.
In 2012, Team Sky rider Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France. That same year, Brailsford coached the British cycling team at the 2012 Olympic Games and dominated the competition by winning 70 percent of the gold medals available.
In 2013, Team Sky repeated their feat by winning the Tour de France again, this time with rider Chris Froome. Many have referred to the British cycling feats in the Olympics and the Tour de France over the past 10 years as the most successful run in modern cycling history.
And now for the important question: what can we learn from Brailsford’s approach?
The Aggregation of Marginal Gains
It’s so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making better decisions on a daily basis.
Almost every habit that you have — good or bad — is the result of many small decisions over time.
And yet, how easily we forget this when we want to make a change.
So often we convince ourselves that change is only meaningful if there is some large, visible outcome associated with it. Whether it is losing weight, building a business, traveling the world or any other goal, we often put pressure on ourselves to make some earth-shattering improvement that everyone will talk about.
Meanwhile, improving by just 1 percent isn’t notable (and sometimes it isn’t even noticeable). But it can be just as meaningful, especially in the long run.
And from what I can tell, this pattern works the same way in reverse. (An aggregation of marginal losses, in other words.) If you find yourself stuck with bad habits or poor results, it’s usually not because something happened overnight. It’s the sum of many small choices — a 1 percent decline here and there — that eventually leads to a problem.

Inspiration for this image came from a graphic in The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.
In the beginning, there is basically no difference between making a choice that is 1% better or 1% worse. (In other words, it won’t impact you very much today.) But as time goes on, these small improvements or declines compound and you suddenly find a very big gap between people who make slightly better decisions on a daily basis and those who don’t. This is why small choices (“I’ll take a burger and fries”) don’t make much of a difference at the time, but add up over the long-term.
On a related note, this is why I love setting a schedule for important things, planning for failure, and using the “never miss twice” rule. I know that it’s not a big deal if I make a mistake or slip up on a habit every now and then. It’s the compound effect of never getting back on track that causes problems. By setting a schedule to never miss twice, you can prevent simple errors from snowballing out of control.
The Bottom Line
Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
—Jim Rohn
You probably won’t find yourself in the Tour de France anytime soon, but the concept of aggregating marginal gains can be useful all the same.
Most people love to talk about success (and life in general) as an event. We talk about losing 50 pounds or building a successful business or winning the Tour de France as if they are events. But the truth is that most of the significant things in life aren’t stand-alone events, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1 percent better or 1 percent worse. Aggregating these marginal gains makes a difference.
There is power in small wins and slow gains. This is why average speed yields above average results. This is why the system is greater than the goal. This is why mastering your habits is more important than achieving a certain outcome.
Where are the 1 percent improvements in your life?
On The Edge – A Unique Look At Leadership
Start Rewarding the Risk takers
Ideas for Bengaluru
Put aside personal disagreements and differences
10 Creative Rituals You Should Steal
What good have I done today?
The Secret to Personal Power
Being Rather than doing?

Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy

Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy
by Robert Scoble (Author) , Shel Israel (Author)
Content is King, Commerce is Queen; Context is GOD is what the authors seem to indicate in this interesting read.
A background on context
I live in Bangalore currently. Whenever I visit Chennai my typical pattern is as follows
Have breakfast at my Aunt’s place, have lunch at my friends’ place and have dinner at my cousin’s place. At each of these places, my favorite dishes are ready before the time I enter their place and utmost care is taken to ensure that my voracious appetite is taken care to the brim. Over the days and years they have understood my consumption pattern and ensure that the one thing that matters to me the most is taken care.
At office parties where I get invited, which seems to be fewer as I get older, the background whisper is “If this bugger is coming, have the damned curd rice as part of the menu”
Recently I visited my cousin l and sister-in-law in the US and I could see the same enthusiasm to serve my interests. I have not been in regular touch with them owing to the usual excuses that I can command at will, but ‘out of sight’ did not translate to ‘out of mind’. They were bang on in serving my interests.
In all the above cases, it is not that my consumption pattern and preferences has been understood by everyone who took the pain to serve me, but the knowledge got transferred to them in some way and also someone took the pain to get that knowledge
I am sure you would have had similar experiences. It is not only with relations or friends or not necessarily with appetite, you would have had this kind of personalized contextual experience but possibly in all spheres of life. You would have experienced this with your hair stylist, your doctor, your next door kirana store, your panwala and many other places.
In all these experiences, I have experienced that AHA or WOW moments that has brought me a smile and I am sure it would have happened to you as well in various context.
Simply put, Age of Context is about machines creating these AHA or WOW moments and much more than that.
In others words, Age of context is about how the five forces of mobile, social media, data, sensors and location are going to affect your online experiences.
Next time I am sent on a sponsored trip to Las Vegas, I would possibly get an alert from Google on, “Go, get your curd rice from…!”
Will it? Well. The jury is out. Do share your thoughts. What follows is an extract of the interesting viewpoints that the authors elucidate and the next section is a verbatim of what the author’s state.
The Five Forces
Mobile is the convergent force that ties together the other four forces. The numbers of mobile phones have overtaken the number of people on the planet and according to Gartner 45 billion apps were downloaded by end of 2012 and that numbers are increasing. That amounts to more than six apps for every man, woman and child on earth. Your device will be the key to all the power of internet. It is where the super storm of context thunders into your life.
Today 1.5 billion people are on social media. A billion tweets were posted every 48 to 72 hours. No successful modern business deploys a go-forward strategy that does not include social media.  When organizations use social media wisely, companies and customer come closer together. Employees and users often collaborate on making products and services better
Big Data is the new buzz word and everywhere you see the 3V’s (Volume , Variety and Velocity) being talked about. In the first data of a baby’s life today, the world creates 70 times the data contained in the entire library of Congress (“The Human face of Big Data” http://www.amazon.com/The-Human-Face-Big-Data/dp/1454908270/) . But Big data is not really about Big Data. It is about those cute little insights that appeal to us. The hugeness can intimidate but the little pieces can make us smarter and enable us to keep up with and make sense of, an accelerating world
Today, smartphones contain an average of seven sensors. A rapidly growing number of mobile apps use them to know where you are and what you are doing. Sensors know when you are heading or leaving home and can adjust your contextual thermostat accordingly.
Without Location there is no context and without context there is no Leadership is what Caterina Fake, CEO and founder of Findery (https://www.findery.com) has to say.
What is in store with the five forces?
 I think the book offers very interesting possibilities, applications and I would recommend you to get hold of the book so that you can appreciate how the five forces can impact you. I have just listed a few of them to kindle your curiosity.
The ones you possibly are already familiar with
·         Fitbit (http://www.fitbit.com)
·         Google Glass (http://www.google.com/glass/start/)
The ones you possibly are not familiar with
·         Proteus Digital Health (http://www.proteus.com/)
·         Driptech (http://www.driptech.com)
·         Atooma (http://www.atooma.com/welcome)
·         Highlight (http://highlig.ht/about.html)
·         Smart Textiles (http://www.smartfabricsconference.com/home.aspx)
And many more!!
The risks
If you have seen the wonderful ted talk titled Filter Bubble (http://www.thefilterbubble.com/ted-talk) by Eli Pariser, you would have realized that your privacy has been up for grabs sometime now. The authors do attempt to bring in a sense of balance to the risks that the five forces can bring in and are optimistic about the overall values that the five forces shall realize eventually.
What do I think? (Not that it matters to anyoneJ)
I have believed in the experience economy (http://www.amazon.com/The-Experience-Economy-Theater-Business/dp/B00DF86ZH6) and I believe the Age of Context sets up the case and platform for Staging Highly personalized and contextual experience for every consumer of the enterprise. May be Google shall send the “Curd Rice” alert next time when I land in LA.
However I also relate any technology advances or discussions that I come across to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs) and, I would have to say, though the Age of Context is applicable to all rungs in that ladder, it is currently applicable for people who have crossed rung two or more!
Age of Context talks about “Connected Human” but as http://internet.org/ states only 1 out of 3 people can go online and that in my view is where a sense of urgency needs to be exhibited.
Tail piece
I rewind in time over fourteen years and think about WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) which possibly started this revolution of mobile connecting to internet and one of my long time mentor and friend used to say “The day is not far off. When you cross the plaza theatre in MG Road Bangalore, if your favorite movie is playing, you will get a WAP Push notification to buy the ticket. The system shall understand everything about your pattern and that system is called Personality Server.”
I ask him now. “Boss – Plaza theatre has been converted into a mall. When is my WAP Push Coming”?
I am waiting. I am an eternal optimist.
Stay Tuned
Have Fun

Week 22 – Tell Better Stories in 2014

Seven Things I Learned About Leading Change
Innovation is not only about new ideas
How to succeed at building your own product in 2014
What are you building and why does it matter?
How to Never be Scared of Doing the Wrong Thing.
Sorry is more valuable than status quo
Little Changes Matter A Lot–And Other Innovation Lessons From LEGOs
Constraints enhance your creativity
Tell Better Stories In 2014: Storytelling Insight From Margaret Atwood, Ricky Gervais, And Many More
Being honest is what counts

Leadership – It is never given. It is taken!


 I have had the good fortune to work with leaders who have had significant influence on me.  In his address to the HBR graduates on ‘How will you measure your life’ by Clayton M. Christensen, he poses the following three questions
·         How can I be happy in my career?
·         How can I be sure that the relationship with my family is an enduring source of happiness?
·         How can I live my life with Integrity?
He kind of summarizes by saying the following
Don’t worry about the level of individual prominence you have achieved; worry about the individuals you have helped become better people. This is my final recommendation: Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.
The leaders that I have worked always helped me with the above questions and also made me better every day. I noticed a common set of behavioral patterns amongst these leaders in my years of following them. While the application of these patterns may vary with respect to the individual leaders, I find the pattern itself recurring in these leaders almost unconsciously. I have attempted to capture these patterns in a way that I have understood them. I will have to warn though, that knowing these patterns have not made me a leader, but being aware of these patterns have helped me a better follower.

Seeding Influence

Leaders make a difference to their people.  The impact they create amongst the individuals they come across is lasting. In the movie ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ the protagonist British General (Alec Guinness in one of his finest performances) who builds a bridge for the enemy under inhuman conditions without losing his self-respect,  finally wonders ‘What is the sum total of his life represent’, ‘Does his existence make a difference at all ?’ and leaves the answers to the viewers. In another movie ‘Mr. Holland’s Opus’ this kind of gets answered in a way. Mr. Holland (Richard Dreyfus in what I would call as the best understated performance) the protagonist is a music teacher. Due to budget constraints there is a debate on if fine Arts have to be retained as a subject.  After an unsuccessful bid to retain fine Arts as a subject in the school, he has to leave the school. In his farewell all his ex-students surprise him by asking him to conduct a symphony. In the farewell speech , one of his ex-students , who has become the governor of the state summarizes Mr. Holland’s achievement in a packed auditorium as follows “Mr. Holland is neither rich nor famous, but look amongst us, there is not a single life here, which he has not touched and that has made the difference”. There is no doubt in my mind that leaders irrespective of famous or silent, known or unknown, rich or ordinary, plant their seed of lasting influence into their people. They seem to know that the sum total of their life is about leaving lasting impressions.


I think we all know the story of King Robert. King Robert the Bruce of Scotland was defeated in battle. As he was in danger, he found safety by hiding in a cave, where he stayed as he recovered from all he had been through. He was extremely depressed and thought about giving up the Scottish throne and running away. Legend has it that as Robert the Bruce sat thinking, he noticed a spider building a web at the mouth of the cave. The spider kept falling but each time it got up again and continued with building its web until it was finished. Robert watched how the spider persevered. He realized that the spider did not give up; each time there was a problem he picked himself up until he succeeded. Robert the Bruce went back to his troops and tried again. And he successfully won back his throne.
Leaders persevere like the spiders. The harder they fall the faster they get up. I do not know enough physics to explain that. It is just impossible to make them ‘give up’ on something they believe in.  When I was reading about designing high availability systems, I read somewhere, systems at Google or Amazon, the most dreaded moment is the test where they make their systems intentionally fail and see how fast it can come up. In that sense what matters more to them is how fast they can come up when there is a failure. Similarly leaders are not averse to failure, but makes them different is their ability to bounce back. You just cannot knock them down and this somehow trickles down to their people sub-consciously.


Ever heard the story of the one lakh car or the four minute mile? Everyone believed that a one lakh rupee car cannot be built. Now that it is built everyone is busy replicating the model in all industries bringing up terms like Reverse Innovation and Frugal Innovation. For years people believed that it is impossible for a human being to run a mile in less than four minutes until Roger Banister proved it wrong in 1954. Within one year, 37 runners broke the belief barrier. And the year after that, 300 other runners did the same thing.
In the movie Kungfu Panda, there comes a psychological moment, when Panda’s father reveals the secret ingredient of the secret sauce. He says ‘The secret ingredient of the secret sauce is nothing’. For something to be special, you just need to believe that it is special.
 Leaders are deaf to their surroundings when it comes to questioning their belief systems. They have their clear internal moral compass guiding them when their belief systems are questioned.  They create the necessary energy and sustain that during the peaks and troughs. They are aware that belief is the most potent pattern of human behavior and use it to transform their eco-systems. This is a pattern which is non-negotiable.


Humor is the great thing, the saving thing. The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place. – Mark Twain
All leaders have this uncanny sense of humor that serves as an anti-dote to them and also to their people. Messages driven through humor, particularly self-deprecating humor reveals the personality behind those leaders.  They use it to defuse tense situations and help everyone get back on track. Decades back, when going global was the mantra I checked out on ‘What going global meant for us’ as an organization, my boss quipped back, saying ‘Well, we are tired of creating domestic mess, let us mess up internationally’ and oh-boy we did mess up internationally. Humor reveals the human side of these leaders, keeps them and their people grounded. Especially in tough times Humor keeps people motivated.

Make decisions.

Jim Collins in his work ‘Good to Great’ tells this.
Picture two animals: a fox and a hedgehog. Which are you? An ancient Greek parable distinguishes between foxes, which know many small things, and hedgehogs, which know one big thing. All good-to-great leaders, it turns out, are hedgehogs. They know how to simplify a complex world into a single, organizing idea—the kind of basic principle that unifies, organizes, and guides all decisions. That’s not to say hedgehogs are simplistic. Like great thinkers, who take complexities and boil them down into simple, yet profound, ideas (Adam Smith and the invisible hand, Darwin and evolution), leaders Hedgehog Concept that is simple but that reflects penetrating insight and deep understanding. ‘Building World Class Products or Touching One Billion Lives’ are simple but profound ideas.
Leaders always have a sense of demonstrating that they are responsible for making decisions especially the tougher ones. They always move to the fire stage from the static   ‘Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim’ state and are prepared to accept the consequences of those decisions. They neither look up nor look down while making those decisions. They most probably look within to find the answers and are ready to set the momentum. The important thing is that they have not figured everything out when they make those decisions, but they are willing to march ahead and are willing to deal with ambiguity progressively.


Personally the best definition of equanimity can be found in the Chapter 2 Sloka 38 of ‘The Bhagavad Gita’.
“sukha dukhe same’ kritva labha labhou jaya jayou
tatho yuddhaya yujyasva naivam papam avapsyasi “
This roughly translates to,
“Having an equal mind in happiness-sorrow; gain-loss; victory-defeat; engage in battle and thereby you will not incur sin”.
Similar Idea is also reflected in Rudyard Kipling poem If
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
Leaders seem to have internalized this in their DNA. They do not allow success to get to their head nor defeat to bring them down. They seem to know that ‘This too shall pass’.

Self Actualization

Leaders work themselves towards achieving the highest rung in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
(Picture Courtesy : Wikimedia)
I have always wondered most time
·         Why is that they do, what they do?
·         What keeps them awake?
·         What makes them to preach work /life balance and yet practice making their work the statement of their life?
·         When million others would have given up, why is that they keep running?
 I believe the answers could be money, fame, power. They are all possibly legitimate reasons but I beg to differ. The answer that I am comfortable with is ‘They have a point to prove to themselves. Their only competition is their own selves’ and they want to be sure that they have extracted every ounce of their own selves in giving themselves to the causes that they have signed up for.
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – R W Emerson
Leaders sure are trail blazers.


I have examined these patterns in some form and I have wondered to myself if I would qualify as a leader. Apart from the above founding patterns leaders have so many other things that they do unconsciously like
·         Talk the talk, walk the talk
·         Endure character assassination
·         Bear with unfulfilled commitments
·         And possibly a zillion other parameters
I do feel it does get extremely lonely at the top and it is not for the faint hearted. Also I have come to understand that ‘Leadership is never given. It is taken’.
If I have to be honest enough to the person in the mirror, I can comfort myself with the words of Robert Frost
The woods are lovely, dark and deep. And I have miles to go before I sleep.
After all where would be leaders, if not for contended and committed followers like me?
Stay Tuned. Have Fun.