Lose Your Illusion

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Lose Your Illusion

Sometime last year, I had an interesting conversation with a friend’s girlfriend who is a psychologist. Between drawing inferences from my handwriting to discussing human behaviour in general. She also mentioned the acute dearth of mental health personnel in the country (India) at the moment.

I did some reading around that. The most recent global statistic on number of psychiatrists and nurses in the mental health sector was by WHO. The study dates back to 2014. According to it, 30.4% of the world’s countries had less than 1 professional per 100,000 population. There’s also no data available on another 35.5% of the countries.

And while Monaco had a commendable 40.98 psychiatrists per 100,000 people, in India, that number was a shameful 0.30. That means, there’s one psychiatrist for every 300,000 of the population. Or a total of between 3500 and 5000 psychiatrists in the country.

Then there are psychologists (they council, and focus on treating mental and emotional suffering but cannot prescribe medications; unlike psychiatrists, who mainly focus on treatment with medication) As per Sindhu BS, a Mental Health Therapist on Quora, the Indian Psychology Association, of which she is a member, has less than 10,000 members in 2018. Another source mentioned some 14000-15000 psychologists in India. India is already on the higher end of the spectrum as of 2016 when it came to suicides. At 18.5 per 100,000 population.

And here’s why this will be even more concerning going forward. The world is seeing a steadily growing impact of automation on jobs across sectors. India has been shielding employment in every way possible. Resisting industrial automation to maintaining average quality of work worked well for a section of average skilled, low-cost labour.  But how long can it continue to do so before it starts feeling the negative global impact of it? Additionally, India is on its path to soon being the largest population in the world. It is also on the verge of being the youngest population in the world.

Young Indians are pouring into different sectors which will have a steadily shrinking job base. This could lead to a spike in the depression and suicide numbers. But is the country and its government anticipating and doing anything to build a safety net for that?

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A Session on Innovation, Design Thinking & The Future of Work

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A Session on Innovation, Design Thinking & The Future of Work

Earlier this week, I was invited to conduct a session around ‘Innovation, Design Thinking and the Future of Work’ at the Indian School of Management & Entrepreneurship, for a batch of about 170 grad students from Vaze College. The most enjoyable session I’ve had so far.

 

An ideation exercise I conducted, had the students thinking of ideas to replace the irreplaceable smartphone. And what innovative ideas they were!! Absolutely impressive! I barely heard 6-7 ideas for fear of running out of time. If only there was enough time to hear all the ideas.

 

 

The session started with about 4-5 students believing themselves to be creative and innovative. By the end of the session, over 80% of them believed they were innovative and creative. It was a truly humbling experience. With these brilliant folk entering professional life soon, the future looks promising!

 

 

While I’d really like to list out some of the ideas that the students came up with during the session, I’ll resist the temptation. In the hope that at least some of them would pursue their idea and make a world-transforming business out of it in the near future.

 

 

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Work to be Hired

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One of the early screening processes to make it to the defense forces, is that of physical fitness. It is one of the more fundamental requirements of the job. Of course, subsequently, those who make the cut are broken down and rebuilt to be stronger, both mentally and physically.

In the corporate battlefield, potential candidates are put through interview boot camps which are at best, spread over a few days. But are these processes measuring the fundamental requirements you need from the candidate? Skill, while ever-changing, can still be taught. But what are more long-term character traits you’d want your next hire to have?

Once you’ve identified those traits, what if you took the hiring process and turned it on its head?

What if you then shortlisted applications based on simple initial screening criteria, and on gut feel? And then, have them come and work with your team for a week or two, or more. At the end of the period, both parties can decide where to take things from there.

One of the bigger concerns might be the transition and uncertainty, especially for people already in jobs.

Compensation is the easy bit. Even an approximate pro-rata salary-type compensation given to the candidate if rejected, would be far cheaper than the cost of hiring a wrong candidate.

From the point of view of ‘interaction time’, interviews, case-studies and other hiring processes can only be so effective. In comparison, working on a live project, albeit factoring in necessary confidentiality, might be a better way to assess a candidate. To assess traits like integrity and mettle, among other important qualities, which go far beyond a quick and temporary display of skills at an interview. The little I’ve watched of the mentally disturbing Big Brother and Big Boss, it is evident what a short amount of time spent in the same reference (a common project, not an interview) can reveal.

These are times when many MBA students and even experienced professionals focus more on being interview-ready, rather than on cultivating a curious mind. And it is partly because of the illusion of limited time.

Instead of hiring people to work, having people work to be hired might be a better way to build a team that is more suited for one’s company in the medium-to-long term.

Your views are welcome. I will revert at the earliest. 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.

Let Our Work Drive Our Energy

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Let Our Work Drive Our Energy

There is so much we can learn from the views, experiences and beliefs of others; especially if our own values have strong roots in light of the learning of others.

Our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, gave an inspiring speech at the town hall meeting at Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi. The event was the second anniversary of the government’s citizen engagement platform, MyGov.

I have been a huge fan of Mr. Modi’s speeches, perhaps for his clarity of thought, national pride, and his collective and all-inclusive vision for growth.

However, events, trends and incidents across the country, over the decades, have consistently sent us conflicting signals. Be it the differences between powerful and hopeful speeches and increasing communal tensions, or the interference in our education system. Don’t forget the continued indifference in Kashmir, or the apathetic attitude towards our armed forces. Then there is our weak indecisiveness in retaliation to shameless Chinese and Pakistani infiltration at our country’s borders.

Not to blame it all on Mr. Modi, or even blame him at all. But when the pulse of the country feels different from the words we hear from our leaders, it does leave you with questions about the intentions of the entire political framework in our country.

A recent Bollywood movie, Madaari, brilliantly portrayed what many already believed to be true. That all political parties are essentially one, taking turns to collaborate and plunder.

On a related topic, till last year, Nestle’s Maggi could as well have been given the honour of being India’s national food. It commanded strong brand connect across generations, with faithful consumers across decades and the length and breadth of India.

Yet, not enough people found it surprising that it was caught in an ugly controversy almost overnight. Between highly suspect test labs and questionable findings, to the company’s willingly destroying of crores worth of product, smelt conspiracy. The parallel, meteoric rise of Patanjali noodles, part of a business empire founded by a yoga teacher who also happens to be a faithful supporter of the ruling political party, all seemed too coincidental.

And the fact that the global giant that ranks #72 on the Fortune 500 list didn’t consider a big defamation suit in the light of contradicting lab findings makes things even more suspect. I don’t have a problem with a young, home-grown company rising to compete with global veteran giants. In fact, nothing would make me more proud. But the fact that it all happened so suddenly and ‘coincidentally’, it begs a re-look.

Have you watched the 1991 Hollywood movie, JFK? It might give you a horrific glimpse into what people in power, and with an ulterior motive are capable of, even in the most developed of nations.

Time will tell how this great nation and its citizens shape out to be in the decades to come. One thing however, that Mr. Modi said during the town hall speech really stood out, and which could help India achieve her true potential.

An NRI asked Mr. Modi how he managed hectic, trans-continental travel and then show up for work the next day. After all, many know well enough how sapping jet lag can be. Mr. Modi plainly stated that contrary to popular belief, doesn’t have more strength than the average human.

Modi retorted that it isn’t extra strength that allows one to do more work. On the contrary, he said, it is the realization of the quantum of work there is before us to be done, that gives us the strength to do more.

If we Indians can acknowledge and understand that simple belief, and set and pursue worthy goals, we can truly lead the world into a new and far better tomorrow.

B4RF0VU

Source: link

Originally posted here: https://www.buzzfeed.com/shrutinshetty/let-our-work-drive-our-energy-2ivq1

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Work Smarter, or Work Longer?

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I guess the longer working hours became more and more common only in the last decade or slightly more, but it’s quite surprising that it seems to be going strong even to this day in many companies.
And not only do companies demand more of the employee’s time, employees surprisingly take pride in claiming they work anywhere for those 15 or 18 hours a day, day after day.

Now, I don’t know about other educational courses, but anyone who’s done their engineering, or even sat through a 3-4 hour management ‘discourse’ would know how the brain just shuts off after a bit.
Or for that matter, even if you were busy working on a school or college project on a tight deadline, after hours of continuous work, am sure you would have realized that while it was perhaps possible to continue doing some monotonous mindless repetitions (say copying full paragraphs from one document to another), it was near impossible to do something creative or something that required you to reason.

I know for sure from personal experience. During engineering, I was up for 2.5 days straight during a week-long cultural event at college. And somewhere towards the end of that 2.5 days, some genius put me in charge of handling music for a group dance. And at any other time, I could operate the Winamp shortcuts blindfolded, but right there and then, I goofed, and stopped instead of pausing a track. Thankfully the highly skilled bunch of girls picked up from some random music position I started again, and they were big-hearted enough to spare me later too.
Anyway, so how is it humanly possible to go through those extra long work hour days without losing out on productivity and creativity?
Sure you’d probably manage to impress a superior who thinks ‘long work hours=value for money on employee salary’, but am sure others would realize what they are losing in the bargain, the purpose for which they had hired you in the first place.

Compromise? Don’t!

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Compromise? Don’t!

Several foreign countries have been following the professional hire-n-fire policy for several years if not decades, now. We Indians on the other hand, still go strong on references and the ‘chalta hain’ (a Hindi phrase meaning ‘it’s alright, no big deal’), ‘adjust maadi’ (maadi is a Kannada word meaning ‘to do’, in this case, asking someone to adjust) and ‘ki farak paenda’ (a popular Hindi phrase meaning ‘what difference will it make’) attitude.

Do you think Infosys would have been what it is if they fed their ever-increasing hunger for talented workforce with just about any relative, friend or a friend of a friend? Sure they would’ve filled seats in a jiffy, but I strongly doubt Infy would’ve made it even half as far.

I remember some elders telling me years ago, that it’s all about networking, all about the contacts you have, etc. And sure it worked brilliantly when I was watching the Godfather movie. All the ‘offer you can’t refuse’ and ‘I will call upon you to do me a service in return’; but it doesn’t seem to have a very good effect in the corporate world. If favours are done or asked for in any manner that’s less than at what they call ‘arms’ length’, it is, without doubt, going to compromise on something.

Close friends don’t feel uncomfortable in declining requests if they have reasons to. And they feel comfortable in expressing the inability to do so, and it doesn’t in any way, affect the friendship either.

But in our rat race, we have really gotten programmed with the whole ‘doing a favor, asking a favor’ routine. So much so, it is second nature. Often at the cost of compromising on something else. Ki farak paenda after all, aye..?

And don’t you feel its way beyond time that we Indians graduated from call centre jobs? Even if we were considered good at being the ‘back end’ to the world (no pun intended). I ask you now – can you think of any one company, where you’d feel genuinely satisfied with the level of service, were you to call their helpline? Hell, even I’ve worked with a call centre, years ago, so I know what I’m talking about. And believe me, in the past few years, interacting with call centres of the likes of biggies like Vodafone, I can genuinely relate to the frustration and helplessness that foreigners may have felt over the years, when we’ve struggled to ‘resolve an issue’ for them.

And while I still have some hilarious memories from work at the time. For instance, the general process was flawed then, and it is flawed now. So after almost a decade of BPOs, the least we could have done is worked on and simplified the process? Made more sensible options on the IVR? Or made agents more efficient at what they do? Perhaps taught them to ’empathize’ with customers rather than doing a mindless line-by-line delivery of a script? And finally, if it isn’t too much trouble, ensure that the ‘issue’ was resolved? But I guess ‘woh bhi chalta hain yaar’.

So put a bunch of ‘chalta hain’ attitude people in a company, and what do you get? Then put a bunch of companies with a large number of ‘chalta hain’ attitude employees in them together, and what do you get? And while we’re at that, what if we have a nation with several such companies, then what do we get?

What I’m guessing is, a strong probable cause for the next slowdown, where there is a strong possibility that India would play host, because employees and organizations compromised on several little things, and just drifted along, till a point where, just like the gig at the CWG, products, services and efforts start collapsing in front of bigger audiences.

Compromise then, just became a real dangerous word for me right now, something representing slow degradation. How about for you?

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