Holiday Season Giving – Association of People with Disability

Folks, This holiday season, please consider making a 12 dollar donation to the Association of People with Disability in Bangalore that is doing great service for the last 53 years.

I have personally visited this organisation and can vouch

 for the fantastic work they do. 

For about a day’s lunch money you will be sponsoring a months transport for a disabled child to go to school and back.

Tribal Vs. Expert Knowledge

Black Friday has come and gone.  If you ask me, the most useful tool I found while searching for new stuff to buy were an old favorite – reviews.

100’s of people writing in about what the best Chef’s knife is or what the best external hard disk could be has become an invaluable asset for consumers and also smart product managers. 

It is amazing how Amazons reviews have become more important than what an expert like NYT’s David Pogue says for example.  

Taking the same Expert Vs. Tribal knowledge analogy further, my employer offers a social tool based support for Mac users vs. an expert helpdesk for windows users. Based on my experience I can confidently say that the tribal knowledge on the Mac forum handily beats the call center based tech support in usefulness.

As more and more companies adopt social platforms internally, it has become easy to unlock the tribal knowledge held within the employees and other constituents.  

Tribal knowledge therefore has the potential to become the next big productivity tool.  

This is a topic that has excited me to a great extent and I will be blogging about examples as I find them.  If you have seen such examples, do let me know!

Holiday Special – The Myth of the Zero Sum Game

Competition has been a major force in the  “Animal Spirits” that have shaped the modern world.  The business world is full of sporting analogies and metaphors.  While a healthy competitive spirit is extremely important; this has given birth to what I call as the myth of the Zero Sum game.

When we play football, for us to win the other team necessarily loses.  This need not be the case in every day life.  The technology world is full of examples where focus on creating value for the customer has enabled multiple companies and ideas to succeed.  The very word Eco-system that is so popular in our industry alludes to this trend.

One other place where this myth has been strongly propagated is between countries.  As one followed the debates happening during the presidential elections; there was many a moment when I said; “Wait a minute, why should it be that a rising China mean a diminished role and opportunity for the United States?”  Just think about it – in the last 10 years or so China has lifted close to 250 Million people from absolute poverty to a global definition of a middle class (or close).  These folks would love to drive Cadillacs, keep their Coca – Cola’s cool in a whirlpool refrigerator and even stand in long lines for a cup of Starbucks coffee – a huge opportunity for US companies – 250 Million more middle class folks means literally doubling the North America market!!

With a similar perspective, this excellent article on the debacle of the Monitor group throws a critical eye on the limitations of Porter’s 5 forces theory – a favorite of B School attendees and professors alike – and many a strategy meeting.

While I do believe that Porters’ thinking is very relevant and useful for managers world wide; it is a refreshing perspective.

The bottom line is that, there is a much bigger world to discover out there if we do not limit over selves with competitive perspectives alone.

The world is not, thankfully a Zero Sum Game.  

Wish all my readers a very happy Thanksgiving Day!

Top Ten

There has been a lot of attention given to the problem of information overload.  With twitter, facebook, blogs. web subscriptions, magazines etc all competing for your attention; how do you keep track of what is important without spending too much time.

I have been using a simple tool with great results.  I have a account.  I have set up a folder in the reader to reflect the top 10 most emailed articles from NY times; WSJ and The Hindu (an India based newspaper) to keep me in touch with the most important news of the day.  That way I spend less than 15 minutes catching up with the world every evening!  Simple, easy and free!  Time to make an app out of that?

Have a great Sunday!!

Simple, Short & Very Useful

This article by Larry Tieman has a very useful piece of advice for all the folks who make use presentations as their principle medium of communication:

state your conclusion first, then support it. If necessary, start by giving the audience the brief background on why you’re giving this presentation, then state your conclusion, recommendation, finding, etc. For example you might say, “We have been studying what do about… Our recommendations are…

95% of all presentations that we see follow the opposite pattern:  Set the context, build up to the conclusion then reach the conclusion.

The article (an excellent and short read) makes the point very convincingly.  Of all that I have read about effective communication; this article must be one of the best.

You have (no) mail

The Meg Ryan – Tom Hanks starrer You’ve got mail was a endearing movie that I loved a lot.  If you are among the 10 people in the world who have not seen it, it is about a romance that blossoms between two real world adversaries on email.

That was 1998.  A full 13 years ago.

Email has come a long way – from Nigerian princes who want to bequeath you millions to being copied on every piece of conversation in the office, email has morphed from being a communication tool to being a vent for verbal diarrhea.  What was once a productivity multiplier today has become a black hole that sucks any available time (the other big productivity killer is conference calls – but I digress).

Many enlightened organisations have already begun moving to group emails, ticket based systems and real time chat to reduce their dependence on email.

Atos shook up the world recently by banning all internal email from 2014. Yes!

In a nutshell Atos want’s its employees to use internal communication tools such as chat and team rooms.  They found that on an average it’s employees used 15-20 hours of work time on email – that’s almost 50% of their work week.  Given that an internal survey pointed out that only 15% of the email traffic was “useful” email, the decision was simple.

So is Thiery Breton – the CEO of Atos being bold or plain stupid?

In My view is 10 years or so, an organisation has to do a re-look on what communication tools it uses.  I have been using social platforms at work, and it has helped me reduce my email traffic by atleast 20-30%.  It has also had some other benefits in terms of automatically creating a knowledge archive that is more available and relevant.

There is a very interesting debate on this issue that I found on the NYT website.

I agree with what Nicholas Carr says – we need to put the cost back into communication.  My view is that the IT organisation needs to charge it’s users a not-insignificant fee for every email sent. That change will automatically bring in the – is this email necessary? question to mind.

After all, what is free is always taken for granted!



The Race to the bottom – and why we have a choice

It’s the end of the year and time for some reflection.

Engineering and design have helped the human race increase quality of life to an extent that today most of us in the “first world” can expect to live for a 100 years.  Our lives are filled with new ideas and possibilities.

Africa, once called the “Dark Continent” is finally turning a corner and as the Economist points out in this article promises to host many of the fastest growing economies in the world – thats a Billion People

Golbalisation has enabled companies to beef up their margins and provide access to products and services to many more people.

Globalisation has brought many such gifts but some times I cannot help but feel that the growth in globalisation has been relentlessly uni-dimensional – a race to build the most amount of stuff for the least amount of money.

The romantic in me therefore asks, what of engineering, beauty and building things that last for ever?  Where have the Namiki pens gone?  Sure Bic makes pens so cheap we can throw them away after one use, but the romance of engineering is gone.  How I wish we can have Laquer covered iPhone cases – marrying beauty of two different kinds to produce a breathtaking piece of art/science!! – we don’t really have to race to the bottom.

Perhaps one of the great artisan-engineers of our time was Steve Jobs.  He created the worlds most valuable company by elevating a “commodity” – the PC to a work of art.

I guess there is hope!!!

It’s déjà vu all over again

Heard at a meeting – When IBM invented the tape drive for storing data; Customers resisted the change because they liked to “feel” their data on punch cards!!!

Is this similar to today’s clients wanting to “own” their data as opposed to putting it on a cloud?

As Yogi Berra Said, “It’s déjà vu all over again”

An idea from the bottom of the pyramid that is changing lives in the US

Grameen Bank from Bangladesh brought the concept of Micro Lending to an impoverished nation.  The idea was so successful that its founder Mohammed Yunus  bagged  the Nobel Peace Prize.

Grameen America is its US version.  It started operations in New York in January 2008.  In a country where the word sub-prime brought the nation to it’s knees, Grameen’s Sub-Sub Prime borrowers turn in a 98%  repayment rate.  Since 2008, Grameen has lent about 25 Mn$ between 7300 borrowers.

Grameen has stumbled upon a big market segment in the US – the unbanked.  The economist has a detailed article on the unbanked class in the United States and the opportunity to serve this group.  The size of this segment – 1/4 of all households in the United States.

Here is a link to several examples that highlight the big difference Grameen is making in America.

So, is time for us in the United States to do a re-read of CK Prahlad’s classic – Fortune at the bottom of the pyramid?

His idea was that there are several untapped markets at the bottom of the economic pyramids who would represent a large enough market if companies could innovate and create offerings at low prices.  With growing unemployment and poverty in the west, this seems like a good time for companies to start thinking of this market segment.

Another view point could be that it would be easier for several emerging market companies to do this and this could be a big opportunity for them to break into the western markets.

Here are two other potential bottom of the pyramid markets in the US that I could think of:

1. A 3 year college course in Engineering for 25,000$ – potential market – 1 Million high school grads who do not go onto college

2. A private sector low cost healthcare solution – Let’s say a premium of 50$ per person – potential market – 40 Million uninsured Americans


Business Analytics for free! is a website that creates a simple website where you type in a word and it will scour twitter feeds to create a simple word-cloud based on what is being said about what you searched.

So all you need to do if you want to know what people are saying about your brand/company/country/you etc. is to just plug in the word!!

This is so addictive!