Where Do We Go Now?

Where Do We Go Now?

Google’s AdSense program let’s publishers or website owners have relevant ads show up when users visit those sites. Google earns revenues (via their Google Ads – previously AdWords platform) from businesses wanting those ads showing up to relevant customer groups. In turn, they pass on some of that revenue (based on ever-changing conditions!) to the site owners for using their space for displaying ads.

Google’s all-encompassing know-how of users and their searches and interests makes all this possible and seemingly co-exist well.

A few years back, I had applied for Google AdSense for my blog. Thankfully for me, they had replied with the inability to take me into the program. According to them, my blog covered a diverse range of topics – something not suited to their business model that prefers everything in buckets. Highly specific, highly siloed topics or themes. If only humans were that basic and simple.

While probably a lot of people are aware of the underlying problem with this, it seemed to get highlighted after a recent meeting with an old friend.

This friend was telling me about how he and a friend were keen on creating a blog that shared information around good health. And so, they collaborated and got working on it. One had a tech background, and handled site development and Google services they hoped to integrate and earn from. My friend, good with content, had already researched and created several articles around the theme of their still-being-developed site.

Then, apparently this June, Google altered their AdSense program, leading popular healthcare related sites and services to see a near 50% drop in web traffic to their sites. The result. These two friends have at least temporarily shelved the project.

Imagine people with keen interest or even a passion for certain fields or topics. And their humble hope to share their knowledge with the world, and to learn from it. To connect with like-minded people in other parts of the world. To interact and grow. And perhaps be remunerated for their effort, even if moderately. These people have now often been basing their decision to continue in that field or not, based on Google’s whims.

As a kid, I once heard of how in China, the government has a say in the profession you pursued. And it was independent of your educational background. I thought it was highly illogical.

Yet here we are. Unconsciously doing the same thing in accordance with the wishes of ever-changing algorithms of a for-profit company.

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If you own, manage or work at a company, and are grappling with a complex challenge or are in need of innovation for growth, get in touch. More here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon & Flipkart.

Navigating Airport Security

Navigating airport security… A cartoon strip..

If you own, manage or work at a company, and are grappling with a complex challenge or are in need of innovation for growth, get in touch. More here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon & Flipkart.

Shared Tables

Shared Tables

This amusing but perhaps effective picture I saw in this tweet last month got some thoughts rolling.

We could all use some personal space in public. Especially in countries like India. Where the population, combined with the general lack of regard for other’s personal space can be quite a challenge. Growing up, I have been in several queues, where, people behind you are far too much in a hurry. So they stand next to you. In rare cases, they might even try to get ahead of you when you finally reach the counter. Or they’re peering over your shoulder, as you ask the bank teller something, or pay for your train ticket, or are about to place your food order.

But that said, have you ever been to a restaurant where you had to share a table with strangers? Where, if you walked in alone, or with two other people, you could only occupy that many seats at a table. Because other customers would sit in the remaining available seats. Or they would ask you to scootch over.

And did you feel an invasion of your privacy? Did it make you uncomfortable? Or did it make you think, ‘what the hell, it’s just for a snack, so why not go with it?’

There are a few such places in Bombay, that I visit from time to time.

I am still confused if these are times of personal space, or the conceding of personal space to technology…But while we’re in that confusion, I have found such restaurants to be something that keeps us social. Even if for the brief time we are there to gulp down a milkshake or eat a quick bite between legs of shopping.

At such tables, we finally notice other people, even if for a brief moment. Out of curiosity, we might even peep at what they’ve ordered, how they’ve dressed, or how they eat. Some of us might feel a mental nudge to eat faster, so as not to hold up others queuing up outside. We might be polite to pass on the menu to someone seated at the same table. Or pass the salt or a paper napkin. We might even start a conversation, or join in for a shared laugh about something funny that occurred.

Most importantly, we notice other human beings almost uninterrupted, for a brief moment in time. And it is without the invisible glass walls around us.Something that otherwise takes an accident or mishap or an argument for us to perhaps notice.

Some of us might also be inclined to be a little more civil, and less noisy than we ordinarily are.

But in all, I think such places do the opposite of what technology is doing for us humans. These places bring us closer.

Shared tables at one of the Sukh Sagar’s.

I’ve created a list of the few restaurants I have visited, that have the shared table format. Here’s the list.

If you have come across this kind of a format in your own city or country, or during your travels, you could enter details about it below, and I’ll update the list above. That way, perhaps with time, the list could provide us with details about shared table establishments in different parts of the world.

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If you run or manage a business, and innovation, strategy, problem-solving, customer experience or ideation are areas of interest, there are a few ways I can help. More about it here.

My book, ‘Design the Future’ is available as an Ebook on Amazon, and as paperbacks across leading online bookstores including Amazon &Flipkart. Do leave a review on Amazon once you’ve read it. Thanks!

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Look forward to your views. For similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion, follow or subscribe (top right of the page). You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Choosing Business Opportunity to Avoid Change

Choosing Business Opportunity to Avoid Change

As an individual, if you have a habit your core doesn’t fully approve of, you’d find a disconnect that you might, either align with, or from time to time try to fix.

It could be diet, fitness or even ethic related.

And often, between control or restricting something for your own benefit (like a diet restricts the irresistible food), and something you could buy to compensate ( like a pill), most people would be inclined to buy (and take) the pill as opposed to the challenge of resisting tempting, unhealthy food.

It’s amusingly similar with governments and businesses.
Choosing business opportunity to avoid change.

Consider school shootings for instance.
The obvious solution is the curb the sale of guns to the masses. But that’s bad for business and apparently against civilian rights (of all the ancient rights to desperately hold on to). So instead, while gun sales continue, you get interestingly innovative products being created to combat the inability to restrict gun sales.

Like unbreachable door barriers for schools. Now they’re toying with installing microphones in school. To monitor conversations, and use machine learning algorithms to preempt a shooting based on tone and words used. Imagine the pointlessness of that.

From what I’ve read about school shootings and behaviour, it is more like an excuse to become more intrusive. Not so much to actually solve the problem.

We reflect human weakness in our inability to directly tackle a problem. And also when we allow it to thrive while we build business models around the growing problem.

And this business opportunity to avoid change comes in different sizes:

Leave you with Pearl Jam’s Jeremy (about Jeremy Delle), which, albeit a suicide, involved a gun in a school.

If you own, manage or work at a company, and are grappling with a complex challenge or are in need of innovation for growth, get in touch. More here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon & Flipkart.

Theranos – Drew First Blood

Theranos – Drew First Blood

A friend recently posted a question on a NODD community group about Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes. He wondered if the investor community would be more cautious about the healthtech, and if there would be stringent methods of due diligence on healthtech and a cloud of suspicion.

While I didn’t answer the whole question, here’s what I replied, and the rest of the answer. Hers was close to an ideal crime.

An audacious goal,
an unusual personality,
early big name believers, which created a ripple effect and big clout, combined with
suspended investor/supporter alertness.

It probably follows a triangular curve on a graph… Those before a tipping point (without big name college/mentor/ board, etc.) receive disproportionately high scrutiny by investors; those with, receive disproportionately less.

It was less her fault, more of those who gave in to their biases or kept silent.
Of course, it did prove bloody expensive to that one employee whistle-blower who said it cost his family some USD 400-500k in legal expenses to defend him from Theranos.

But we do this all the time. Thinking is a high-resistance exercise for us humans. And so wherever we get a chance to reduce that effort, we often take it. Be it using a student’s big brand university name-tag to transfer a lot of the goodwill and traits the university enjoys, to the student. Whether or not he or she has them.

If this is an area of interest, I urge you to read the book ‘Thinking: Fast and Slow by Nobel Memorial Prize laureate, Daniel Kahneman. It is a heavy read, and you probably won’t get it all in one read. I sure haven’t.

But he explains how we think. And why we tend to be susceptible to biases. Why we take the shortcut and assume, instead of taking the effort to verify or reason.

So coming to the question of whether the investor community will be more cautious… A few almost always are. Many will always be off/on, and a few will learn the hard way.
While they might be more cautious in health tech, they might be lax in other upcoming sectors. Besides, there’s no way of being a 100% sure because these are uncharted waters. But there always are signs that we need to keep looking for.

Amusingly, another recent headline in an old sector that is seeing new tech, didn’t seem surprising in this context. Tesla Motors is far from a stable company. And yet in 2018, its board decided to pay Elon Musk more than the combined packages of the next the next 65 highest-paid CEOs! An astronomical USD 2.3 billion!! While a lot of it was in stock, it still leaves many of us questioning the rationale of the board.

Unrelated, Theranos is a really fawesome name.

Guess Holmes took the “emergency response” (‘er’) with her, leaving ‘Thanos’ to deal with investors.

Image source: https://techcrunch.com/2019/01/24/theranos-the-inventor-review/

Guess we can’t say she didn’t warn the world about her intentions with Theranos. But all of us were probably distracted by the nanotainer.

If you own, manage or work at a company, and are grappling with a complex challenge or are in need of innovation for growth, get in touch. More here.

And you might find my book, ‘Design the Future’ interesting. It demystifies the mindset of Design Thinking. Ebook’s on Amazon, and paperbacks at leading online bookstores including Amazon & Flipkart.

Staying Power

CrystalPlanet: Staying Power

In the years after starting my strategy consulting practice, during one meeting with one of my mentors, he asked me how work was.

I said it was good, but had a lot of ups and downs. He said he was really glad that I was sticking with it.

He told me that decades ago, as one of the fastest growing leaders in one of India’s biggest conglomerates, he had once written in an article where he had mentioned a human trait. A trait that he wished more people had.

It was, what he called ‘staying power’. According to him, it is the ability for someone to know that there will always be ups and downs, and that when striving for something huge, one must have the ability to hold on through the storms. He said the few people who have it, always reach their goals.

I was recently invited to attend the Maharashtra Startup Week, where I was fortunate to attend two sessions by Bala Girisaballa. In one, he perfectly articulated an entrepreneurs journey. He said, ‘the journey for most entrepreneurs often comprises of spending 90% of their time in the dark (business uncertainty), and then there being a flash and the 10% of good times (or less tormenting times), which then takes the entrepreneur to the next 90% dark phase.’

If you think about it, a good life (one committed to striving for tough goals) should be the same too. Between seemingly impossible 90% challenges. For which we need our staying power.

Goby the Fish

I recently came across an article about an initiative to create awareness about marine pollution.

Some folks living close to a beach (can’t seem to find the beach’s location), created a giant, transparent fish. Made of mesh and barbed wire, it had a signboard which read, ‘Goby loves plastic, please feed him.’

It made for a fun game for visitors, who helped fill it with trash lying around. But it probably also created a hard-hitting visual for everyone who saw it. A giant, transparent fish filled with plastic would leave a lasting impression in anyone compared to reading articles about marine pollution.

What’s concerning however, is that we humans are getting smarter by the generation. And yet it takes increasingly creative ways for us to register the consequences of the mistakes we keep repeating.

Source of the article: link

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If you run or manage a business, and innovation, strategy, problem-solving, customer experience or ideation are areas of interest, there are a few ways I can help. More about it here.

My book, ‘Design the Future’ is available as an Ebook on Amazon & Kobo, and as paperbacks across leading online bookstores including Amazon &Flipkart. I’ll look forward to your review on Amazon once you’ve read it.

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Look forward to your views. For similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion, follow or subscribe (top right of the page). You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Built In Your Image

CrystalPlanet : Built In Your Image

When we barely understand fellow humans, do you think AI will?

We encourage people to be objective, and not to be emotionally imbalanced. We even look down on the rare outburst by family or friends. Right?

And there’s a reason for it. Nobody likes someone who is always cranky. However, I wonder if even the rare outbursts or breakdowns by people we know, are really that bad.

For instance, people from smaller towns sometimes tend to be more attuned to their emotional side (by emotional, I don’t mean emotionally imbalanced, but rather, let’s say, ‘more human’ or warm, and also perhaps more easily offended) compared to those living in metros who, given the fast-paced life, often tend to be more disconnected and aloof to most things. Only, I don’t know if the metro way is the absolute right way, or the small town way, wrong.

Attending a lecture by Prof. Yuval Noah Harari seemed to at least slightly reinforce the thought, unless I missed some point.

Prof. Harari spoke of how organisations are and will continue to enhance human capability. And that while that would grow existing or new abilities in us, how it might shrink our emotional side, which in turn could be more detrimental than good. That seemed to explain the fast-paced pursuit in larger cities and our resulting disposition.

So have we, over the decades, even without biotechnology to enhance us, been gradually pushing ourselves to be more analytical at the risk of being cold and indifferent, while simultaneously punishing by isolating those who tend to be more emotional and arguably in turn, ‘more human’?

So while outbursts like road rage are never good, I am sure there are sufficient and more people out there, students, employees and others who are silently fighting their own battles, and each time they resist an outburst or an expression of their thoughts, and instead bottle it up, they perhaps end up doing more damage to themselves than good.

That is one part of the problem.

The other, more concerning part, given the above dilemma of whether we should allow people the occasional outburst without making it look like a forbidden crime, or not; is the fact that we know so little about human behaviour!

Yet we somehow seem to be alright with artificial intelligence being allowed to learn from us. With the possibility that someday there might be AI systems guiding nations about defensive or offensive actions. About how people are or might be, about how situations might pan out, and allowing man to indulge in his affinity for preemptive action.

It might also cause unstoppable actions on the part of AI. Unless we somehow feel optimistic that AI might in fact, help humans understand ourselves and each other better someday.

Because otherwise, it’ll just be like that phrase that went around during the early days of the computer… Garbage in..garbage out.

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If innovation, strategy, problem-solving, customer experience or ideation are areas of interest, you might enjoy reading my book, ‘Design the Future‘.
Ebook available on Amazon and Kobo, and paperbacks across leading online bookstores including Amazon, Flipkart & Infibeam.
If you do buy the book, would appreciate a review on Amazon once you’ve read it.

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Look forward to your views. And if you liked this post, do follow or subscribe to my blog (top right of the page) for similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

Skill or Skin

A racist, I assume, has a more chronic condition of xenophobia, which is dislike of, or prejudice against people from other countries.Because a racist will dislike or prejudice against even fellow citizens of another race.
Despite knowing this, the laws in some developed countries still use terms such as Black and White. Makes one wonder if they’re attempting to fix the problem, or merely formalize it.

And one might even justify the presence of words like Black and White saying a lot of people might be more aware of them, as opposed to things like African American or, all of whatever ‘white’ represents. But that’s where change needs to come. When a government decides not to use words that might continue a trend that too many people over centuries have fought to get rid of.

Even the darkest of Africans won’t be ‘black’, and even the fairest of white earthlings won’t be ‘white’, so if we can’t get rid of such tags just yet, maybe just make them more accurate…Black could be replaced by brown, ….and white by eggshell colour, or if you appreciate irony, ‘Navajo white’?
Equal or fair representation, I’ll admit, might need to be part of practice, so as not to have companies completely avoid potential candidates of a particular race from being a part of them.

But if we humans are developed enough to attempt to psychologically brainwash people of a certain race to force them into mainstream religion in Chinese camps in Xinjiang, are we also the people who in developed countries are incapable of devising ways to change the mindsets of hiring managers towards screening candidates based on skill rather than skin?

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If innovation, strategy, problem-solving, customer experience or ideation are areas of interest, you might enjoy reading my book, ‘Design the Future‘.
Ebook available on Amazon and Kobo, and paperbacks across leading online bookstores including Amazon, Flipkart & Infibeam.
If you do buy the book, would appreciate a review on Amazon once you’ve read it.

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Look forward to your views. And if you liked this post, do follow or subscribe to my blog (top right of the page) for similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

The Point of disapPOINTment

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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Look forward to your views. And if you liked this post, do follow or subscribe to my blog (top right of the page) for similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.