The Point of disapPOINTment

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The Point of disapPOINTment

With our high hopes, we do face the occasional disappointment. Not getting that promotion you worked so hard for. Having to postpone a holiday because of some reason, or difficulty in scheduling a meeting because someone’s too busy. How do you deal with such disappointments?

Here’s something I have learnt that seems like a great idea.

If you don’t get that promotion you really put everything to get, try to recognize the people working for you who have been doing the same thing for you. And whose progress might have been unrecognized or not rewarded by you.

Had to delay a long overdue vacation? Find someone on your team who is long overdue for a break. And let them have it.

Finding it difficult to meet someone you really want to? Give in to meeting requests from others that you would otherwise perhaps have ignored.

And so on. Get the drift? You’d be more at peace. And that seems to be the point of disappointment. It is perhaps an external factor that brings your attention to something you might have otherwise left unnoticed.

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My book on design thinking titled ‘Design the Future‘ is out. If innovation, design thinking, problem-solving, human behaviour or ideation are areas of interest, am sure you will enjoy this book.
You can get your paperback copy via Amazon, Flipkart & Infibeam and some other popular online bookstores.
Would be great if you could leave a review on Amazon once you’ve read the book.

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The Stand-off called Life

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The Stand-off called Life

Random musings.

Life, in some ways, is like a standoff with a wild animal.

You are puzzled, scared and unsure of its next move. So is the animal.

If you panic or succumb to your fears, it will pounce, attack, and possibly consume you. And fast.

On the other hand, if you can keep your sh!t together and stay calm, you might either cause it to run away, or kill it. Or better still, you might tame it.

Video contains violence. Viewer discretion advised.

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A Pad Idea!

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A Pad Idea!
Once upon a time, there was is a man named Arunachalam Muruganantham from Coimbatore in India, who could not bear to see the discomfort and embarrassment that his wife had to go through, just to buy/ wear a sanitary pad / napkin. Risking even his very marriage, Arunachalam’s empathy and resolve lead him to research everything from material to pricing of sanitary pads. And after a long, unrelenting journey, he makes sanitary napkins that become the preferred and highly affordable alternative to what many rural and even urban women were used to for the longest time; cloth. This inspiring story of an Indian hero was recently depicted by way of a Bollywood movie, Padman.
Now consider some Hollywood movies inspired by real-life heroes. Erin Brockovich (played by Julia Roberts), Joy (Jennifer Lawrence starrer), Sully (featuring Tom Hanks), Argo (Ben Affleck playing the cool, brave Antonio J. Mendez of the CIA), etc., etc. Noticed anything in common?
The protagonist always bears the real name of the character it was inspired by. The way I see it, that helps real heroes get the recognition they deserve in their home countries, if not the world. And it helps the masses connect better with the name and great actions of that hero or changemaker. Of course, there are other movies loosely based on some real-world people. In which case, I agree that moviemakers would be wary of incurring the wrath of linked families. And therefore use fictional names. But why the same even with movies completely inspired by one, known person.
Bollywood has been notorious for decades, for being “inspired” by original content from the world over, and repackaging it for our audiences. To add to the plagiarism, is the unimaginative rehashed Bollywood classic songs that regularly make their way back to newer Bollywood movies. The least this multi-billion dollar industry that avoids imagination and innovation like the plague could do, is let real heroes have a share in the limelight. By using the person’s real name in the movie it is inspired by.
They did with Padman. And with Airlift. With Guru, among other movies.

Why do they do it? Are box office proceeds all they care about? Or is it some lawsuit they’re trying to avoid? Or do they want credit for the empathy, innovation and perseverance of another?

‘Arunachalam Muruganantham’ is a tough enough name even for Indians to remember, without it being portrayed by Akshay Kumar but bearing a completely different name. Giving a fictional name takes away the powerful connect it could create among the masses. And this movie could have been the perfect effort to make the real man a household name. To inspire many more such changemakers because of the direct connect to the real person it creates.

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Number Fifty-Four…The Bike with a Bamboo Core

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Number Fifty-Four…

…The bike with a bamboo core!

What does it take for innovation to be possible? Simply, just the intention. You need to want it badly enough to make it possible.

I happened to see this online a long time ago. I am still in awe of it though. People in Ghana find themselves in unfavourable temperatures, with long distances to go, but with limited connectivity. But rather than endure, with some external help, they designed bicycles built with a bamboo frame. They could easily source the other parts, which were standard to regular bikes. This innovation however, helped build a bike at a fraction of the cost of the ones normally available.

And I’ve found that regular bikes these days, corrode easily, and require considerable maintenance. These bamboo bikes however, seem to be easier to maintain. They can also be built for different sizes and for different applications (carrier, etc.). A green, economical idea that addresses so many needs. In times of compulsive and impulsive purchases all over the world, this is just the kind of impressive and refreshing innovation the world needs.

Don’t miss the video at the end.

A standard bike: source

A bike with a carrier and a carrier support frame: source

Image: source

 

You can read more about it here: link

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What Inspires Your Startup?

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Along their entrepreneurial journey, some entrepreneurs constantly think of better and simpler ways to describe their business. This is an evolutionary process, as their business model undergoes refinement. So, when they meet new people or investors, they can often quickly describe what their startup exactly does.

Then of course, there are others, who build their business identical to another already-successful startup. Or, their business model is similar to a successful startup in another domain.

While taking inspiration from innovative businesses is one thing, it is dangerous if you only look that far. It is amusing and unimaginative to hear things like, ‘my startup is an Uber in the ABC industry’. Or, ‘ours is an Airbnb’d Samsung.’ Wait what!

Or the fact that Ola has invested/committed a little fortune towards the acquisition of food delivery service Foodpanda’s India business from DeliveryHero to be able to compete with UberEats. While Uber would have understood (hopefully) a customer need, and worked to build it into their business model and possibly the very soul of what they do, seems like Ola simply reacted and followed suit. Something that could prove disastrous in the long term, considering all the financial burden Ola already bears.

But there is a deeper concern. While your business or the revenue model takes inspiration off of another business, it can lead to a short-sighted strategy approach. Because your focus remains that startup or company you take inspiration from. You might not have much of an idea about where that company is getting is inspiration from, and therefore innovating toward.

For instance, am sure a lot of startups must have taken inspiration of some sort or the other, from Netflix, a visionary entertainment company. But who would have guessed, till when its co-founder and CEO, Reed Hastings announced that Netflix doesn’t exactly compete with the likes of Amazon, but rather with with their customers in general, and specifically with their customer’s sleep. How cool was that!

Which means Netflix has far greater clarity on present and future strategy, compared to companies who are simply modeling their growth strategy based on what they see or read about Netflix.

It completely transforms how you see the customer and therefore, how you evolve and grow. Better than being reactive with something like, “Prime’s launching a show around XYZ, what can we do ASAP!”

What inspires your startup?

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Our Right to Privacy

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Our Right to Privacy

Image source

Towards the last week of August this year, here in India there was a landmark Supreme Court verdict that a lot of you must have heard/read about. It had something to do with the citizens of India, and our right to privacy. After the initial petitions that were filed long ago, a panel of eminent judges finally ruled that privacy is in fact, a fundamental right.

In an age where information sharing is growing at an astronomical pace, an attempt to safeguard privacy almost sounds ironical. And though our smartphones and apps make it difficult for a lot of us to even fathom if and how much we need privacy, we must be grateful to this bench of judges for thinking on our behalf and ruling in favour of the citizens.

Of course, the ruling wasn’t a no-questions-asked-right, but it does safeguard the core.

Chances are most of us would never get to reading the 547-page report ever. However, I do urge you to read just the verdict given by each of the judges. The choice of words and sentences are almost melodious. The depth of the analysis, and the absolute fairness and clarity of thought, is simply admirable. And it is something we should appreciate; it is your privacy and mine that they were safeguarding after all.

Here’s the link to the article: SC Verdict on Right to Privacy – What Each Judge Had to Say

And in case you’d want to go through the report too, here’s the link: Right To Privacy

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The Earning of Trust

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The Earning of Trust.

I recently subscribed to NewsLaundry. It is a very young but self-proclaimed “media critique, news and current affairs portal”. It claims to operate on the obvious but often forgotten premise that news should be for the masses. And not for advertisers, or to distort reality for the masses.

Current times are seeing increasingly low times for the media and the news. Between fake and distorted news, influencing an action in the masses has been reduced to an equation. And those who can just manage to see beyond the superficial intentions, can see a much greater rot.

Having worked extensively in the small & medium business and startup space for over a decade, it got me thinking of the growth of a startup, which in many ways, is directly comparable to the growth of an individual. Words and deeds, and the way people treat others, etc., all add or subtract from their reputation.

In the business world, I have seen some truly promising startups struggle. And in some cases, the only holding them back, the limited reputation due to their recency in the game. On the other end of the spectrum are large companies. Already having established reputation, benefits they enjoy are often disproportionately higher than their incremental capabilities and passion. All thanks to reputation. To summarize that, the life of a business starts with abilities and energy that often far exceeds the reputation it commands; till, over time, it gets to a stage where it has the reputation it needs, but then must ideally invest into ability and energy to maintain it. Something often forgotten.

In an ideal scenario, it should have been the veterans of media setting examples for every starry eyed journalist passing out of college, on what media truly stands for in a domestic and a global setting. In reality, however, many of them have reduced themselves to being corporate or political (or both) mouthpieces. Essentially having sold their souls to ‘influence the masses for power and profits’ kind of devils.

Which paves the way for the startups to step in and do what the stalwarts should have. Clean up the mess. Many years ago, when I started my design strategy consulting practice, I had written a few lines about the importance of these startups and young companies. Sharing the same here:

“Time and change are formidable resistances for even large, global companies. Imagine then, their effect on Start-ups and Small & Medium Businesses.

The world however, needs more enterprising young companies, to lead global innovation, to keep larger businesses on their toes, and to maintain a good pace in innovation and technological advances for the benefit of mankind. In fact, most often, it is these young, innovative companies that are also closest in touch with present and future needs of consumers, understanding and responding rapidly to global and local problems with innovative and logical solutions.”

By the looks of it, seems like the young will also have to be the ethical torchbearers of the industry. The journey will be challenging and mostly uphill. And the possible reward? Future generations of truly free and ethical minds seems like a worthy enough goal to make this seemingly impossible pursuit meaningful. Wishing NewsLaundry the best on its journey to keep news unadulterated!

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Choose Your Mistakes

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Choose your mistakes.

Life has made a lot of things extremely easy to start. Even the seemingly most impossible of tasks. The knowledge and resources available to us increase our confidence multi-fold, and daunting initiatives don’t look so big anymore. So yes, starting anything is damn easy. What’s the tough part? The toughest bit of it all, is to continue. But sure you already knew that, right?

There will come many an instance in your life, where a group of suddenly charged and enthusiastic people including you, will come together and set upon a journey, a bold initiative to do something life-changing, to create something unique and far-reaching. And shortly after starting, you will realize the uphill climb seems inversely proportional to the enthusiasm you all started out with.

Whenever such an idea or plan is in the offing, before you start, sit back, and make sure to factor in the decrease in enthusiasm going forth, and the increase in the slope; then build that into your plan. If things still look doable, jump right in. Else, shelving it right then will save you a ton of time, effort and money too.

Of course, this isn’t to discourage any budding initiatives before they have begun. Sure learning from others mistakes comes highly recommended by the oldies. And nothing like forgetting all warnings and making a bunch of them yourself. After all, the best of things around us, initially started out with completely different ideas, intentions and purposes in mind. And there is a lot of learning that also comes from starting, even if they end in failure. But given the limited time we are all given, while failing often and fast is recommended, it is also never too foolish to choose possible future mistakes wisely, and well before you’ve made them.

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Dr. David Lagrew – Saving Mothers with Empathy & Innovation

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More women in labour and new mothers die in the US than in any other high-income country. And the CDC Foundation estimates that 60% of these deaths are preventable! 60%!! In one of the most developed countries in the world.

And since 1990, only 13 countries in the world have seen a rise in maternal death rates. The US is one of them. Along with North Korea and Zimbabwe. And shockingly, since 2007, the US National Center for Health Statistics has even been publishing an official maternal mortality rate. Personally, I’m at a loss for words for this kind of indifference.

However, like in most other grim sounding situations, there is a small group of changemakers, who do what it takes to make things better in their area of work.

Recently, I read an article (link below) about Dr. David Lagrew and Stanford’s California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative. (CMQCC). This is an organization committed to ending preventable morbidity, mortality and racial disparities. The doctor and CMQCC have a single, worthy cause. A case of Empathy and innovation working at their best, to dramatically increase the number of lives saved.

Dr. David Lagrew    image: source

Below is the highly recommended article on how, a noble pursuit, is achieving the seemingly impossible. We all have matters that concern or consume our thoughts. What we must realize, is that it doesn’t matter how many other people are indifferent or don’t care enough to do something about it. The real question is, do we?

Article Link: California decided it was tired of women bleeding to death in childbirth

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We’re Ready. So Why Not Be Bold and Aim High?

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Two decades ago, it used to take quite a while before global technology and content was even commonly talked about in India. Much longer before it was accessible or affordable to us.

Today, India is home to numerous foreign manufacturing plants that cater to global demand. It is also home to several global R&D facilities. And we as consumers, are at par with the world, quickly becoming aware of, and easily adopting global technology and content. Especially when it comes to smartphones and mobile apps launched universally in multiple languages.

And yet, we Indians don’t seem to aim too high when it comes to our own entrepreneurial dreams. A bulk of us follow tried-and-tested business ideas. We seem glaringly averse to radical innovation; only a few daring to think beyond what everyone else is. From ‘another’ eCommerce site to ‘another’ aggregator, most business ideas are mediocre at best. What’s worse, there is little focus on the actual and incremental value-add, or the differentiation that these businesses are aimed at creating.

Delightful customer experiences too, remain more a mechanical compulsion and less a natural and genuine concern. It is also probably why Amazon has edged past Flipkart. Because Amazon understood customer needs and experiences in a foreign country better than our own folks could. I believe one of the fatal flaws at Flipkart, was that the founders should have been busy understanding how their customers consumed the service. To figure out areas to improve and delight. Instead, they were taking in too much money and too busy investing in other startups before their startup itself had arrived. It’s easy to see through Binny Bansal’s justification philosophy of “because I look at it as giving back.” To draw a parallel from flight safety instructions, ‘you should always fix your own oxygen mask on before helping children, elders, or others needing assistance.’ Let’s just hope it is still not too late for Flipkart to turn around, as Sandeep Singhal of Nexus Venture Partners stated, a few months ago.

Information and technology in themselves keep us at par with the world. So what stops us from dreaming beyond them at what’s next? And what stops us from setting global benchmarks in genuine and consistent customer delight?

We need to start imagining beyond what is obvious. We need to start understanding more than what data and analytics tells us. We need to be more in touch with customer behaviour and needs. We need to innovate.

That is the only way we can ever come a step closer to being the best in the world.

(updated on 17 Jan. 2017)