Tuesday, May 15, 2018

One Minute Blog: How To Learn Anything In Half The Time

I read these 2 things recently that resonated quite well with me in the midst of the world being redefined rapidly by technological forces:
1. Technology usually takes away professions, not jobs.
2. We won't run out of jobs, We will run out of trained people.[Credits: Abhijit Bhaduri]

I found the second statement profound majorly for the reason that it is progressive. It does gives confidence that with right kind of (and timely) training and learning strategy, it is possible to approach the future with great vigor.

Learning is no longer a tactical function or should i say organizations that take learning as tactical stands to reach obsolescence sooner than later. The organizations that treat learning as a strategic function stands a great chance to beat the multiple forces (technological and beyond) organizations are dealt with.

In my quest to figure out learning strategies for the future, i ran into some wonderful content by Jim Kwik,  founder of Kwik Learning, is a world expert in speed-reading, memory improvement, brain performance, and accelerated learning. 

This blog is a sketchnote presentation of one of his popular YouTube video on the topic: How to Learn Anything in Half The Time.

Enjoy the learning and please do share your feedback.

Monday, May 7, 2018

What Type of Goals are the Most Effective: Performance Goals or Results Goals?

India’s athlete Neeraj Chopra recently came 4th at Javelin event at Diamond League. Diamond League is a world cup of sorts for athletics. He is a small-town athlete from India. India has never been known for its athletics prowess at the world stage. And this very fact makes Neeraj’s performance beyond commendable.

An ESPN author, Jonathan Selvaraj,  recently wrote an article on Neeraj which included some conversations both of them had. While most of the article rightly reflected the pride Neeraj felt at this moment of triumph but there was another part of their chat that caught my attention. And before I tell that part, let me explain something about the sport of Javelin.

As Wikipedia explains, Competition rules in Javelin throw are similar to other throwing events: a round consists of one attempt by each competitor in turn, and competitions typically consist of three to six rounds. The competitor with the longest single legal throw (over all rounds) is the winner.

At the Diamond League event, Neeraj threw 87.43m in the second round and his throws in all other rounds were either fouls or the distance less than this. A Javelin throw of 87.43m also happens to be a new national record for India, with Neeraj beating his own record by more than 1 cm.

Below excerpt from the article explains the gist of the conversation:
"I was hoping to do a personal best and so when I got it in just my second throw, a little part of me felt satisfied. That should not have happened," he says.However, with his focus suddenly shot, Neeraj fouled his next three attempts. "I was trying too hard. I was running in too hard and when that happened I lost my technique. I tried to control myself for my last attempt but when you start thinking about your throw it never comes the way you want."
The mention of “trying too hard”, “lost my technique”, “when you start thinking about your throw” made me tweet to Jonathan the following:
[Anuj] Interesting how mastering softer aspects is so important in a physical sport like Javelin. Neeraj's mention of his trying too hard and overthinking about the throw really tells how keeping things simple is one of the most complex things to master in sport, and in life.

[Jonathan’s response] It was interesting to me that once he achieved his personal best in his second throw,he wasn’t sure how to motivate himself in a competition. Very honest to admit that.

[Anuj] Got reminded of what @bhogleharsha 's book talks about goals. The difference between performance goals and results goals. More focus on result goals, adds pressure. Wonderful to hear about him being honest to admit. Future looks compelling.

In their book, The Winning Way: Learnings from Sport for
Managers, Anita and Harsha Bhogle emphasize the difference between performance goals and result goals. As they say, winning a gold in Olympics is a dream, but you cannot really control how others are going to perform. A swimmer, for example, rather than swimming for gold (results goal) swims for timing (performance goal), which is in his control.
Small, precise, performance-related goals can produce extraordinary results.

Both performance goals and result goals are important. Without result goals, end objective is not clear. Without performance goals, the end may become more important than the means and it may become more difficult to replicate success.
In Neeraj’s case, apparently, more focus on results goal seem to have add that extra bit of pressure  that didn’t let him reach the peak performance after he had achieved world record in the earlier rounds.
At work, what works more for you- performance goals or results goals ?
Do leave your insights in the comments.
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Sunday, May 6, 2018

One Minute Blog: 8 Standout Learnings from the Book: “The Innovator’s Dilemma”

Recently got to read the “Summary of The Innovator’s Dilemma”, a book that has acquired cult status in Innovation circles and I have seen this being quoted in many Innovation discussions I have been a part of in my professional life.
Have shared 8 learnings, that I reproduce from this book, read on:
  • New Technology Improvements: Improvements to a new technology are easy at first but become more difficult to achieve over time.
  • Categories of Tech Innovations: Technological innovations can be divided into two types: sustaining innovations and disruptive innovations.
  • Price Point Plays a Role: Disruptive innovations are often able to earn a place in the market by focusing on price point.
  • Listening to Customers not Always Helpful: Listening to customers and responding to their wishes can actually be counterproductive. Disruptive innovations create their own markets.
  • Conducting Market Research not Always Helpful: While market research is a key point of product development in large firms, it is impossible to do market research with customers and clients of new technologies.
  • New Entrants Often Have More Advantage: Market dynamics can favour new entrants into a business’s sector at the expense of well-established firms.
  • Bureaucracy is an Innovation Killer: Large companies are bureaucratic. Innovation within them is often difficult as a result.
  • Make Special Effort to Retain Top Talent: Defectors who leave successful companies to start rival firms can be a serious challenge to the position of established firms in the market.

If you have read The Innovator's Dilemma, please share your thoughts in the comments. If you haven’t read it, would highly recommend reading it.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Would You Prefer an Anish Bhanwala or Tejaswani Sawant in Your Team ?

With Commonwealth Games concluding today, it left behind
many incredible moments.

One memorable moment for me happened on Day 9.

On Day 9, Anish Bhanwala won the Gold in 25m Rapid fire Pistol event. Anish is a 15-year-old athlete (yes you read it right, 15 years).

On the same day, Tejaswani Sawant won the Gold medal in 50m Rifle shooting event. Tejaswani is an 37-year-old experienced shooter.

Shooting is predominantly a precision, skill based sport. A 15-year-old winning a Gold is stunning given the maturity, calmness, nervelessness needed at the very moment you are competing. A teenager exhibiting such poise is phenomenal to say the least.

The sport also requires a sharp mind and vision and that makes a 37-year-old winning Gold very special. During interaction with another exceptional medal winning teenager, Mehuli Ghosh, Tejaswani seemed to have said “You are 17 years of age and my shooting experience is 18 years”.

I feel these stories are important to be told and reflected upon because they are the reflection of the world that we belong to. Two different personalities, from two different generations but both brought glory to the country.

Delving deeper, these instances also gives a fine glimpse in the current and the future workplace. I share a few of my inferences below:

1. Among the employees at workplace, It is now a new normal for team members with generational differences.

2. With right kind of mentoring, guidance and support systems, millennials can deliver punch much above their weight.

3. The rules of game are fast changing but the right kind of experience will have a valuable place at workplace. The tacit knowledge and situational awareness that experienced people brings in, will remain treasured.

4. The way we measure experience will evolve from mere age or years of doing something to more meaningful ways. In my humble opinion, years as an unit of measuring experience is more an indicator of time elapsed, not necessarily an indicator of superiority of skills or presence of extraordinary wisdom.

5. In today’s world, the time taken to master skills is shortening considerably. It is a new imperative for both the experienced people and millennials to discover newer ways to shorten skill learning cycles.

What are your takeaways?

Agree or disagree- do leave your thoughts in comments?

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Friday, April 13, 2018

One Minute Blog: My Speech at Illinois Institute of Technology Graduation Day

I recently blogged about this in detail, but for those of the readers who prefer brevity, here is a concise version of the blog. This speech got a sizable traction in social media with 15000+ views on LinkedIn and 500+ on YouTube.

The key points that I shared during my speech are summarized below, followed by a Sketchnote.

1. Stay in the present
  • "Just block all the future thoughts and bask in the glory of current moment."
  • "Embrace this time with all your senses."
  • "Seize the moment."
2. Think Big:
  • "Let this not be the defining moment of your life."
  • “Educational Qualifications are not the ends in itself, they are the means to achieve something greater.”
3. Embrace Non-linearity
"Skills do have an expiry date and this expiry date is shortening by the day."
"Continuous learning is not a differentiator anymore, it is a mandatory."
“If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years from now we will be in trouble."- Jack Ma
"Learn Empathy"

Friday, March 30, 2018

One Minute Blog: Learnings from a Recent Graduation Day Speech

I recently got a chance to speak at Illinois Institute of Technology's Graduation day. 

Sharing thoughts at an event like a graduation ceremony is usually the reflection of one's own lifelong learnings and experiences.

But this post is not about my speech. This is about the speech of my friend and mentor Tathagat Varma (TV), which I found quite inspirational. The detailed speech can be found here, but sharing quick summary and a sketch note as below.

His top three advise for graduating class were:

1. Be a Learner
   It is important to be a lifelong learner. If we sit on the laurels of the past, we are eventually destined to become irrelevant.

   The real "learning" will only happen when you start putting all that to practice and realize that there are things that you don't quite know, or you begin to question what was taught in the classroom.

2. Be a Maker
   If you want to continue being relevant in your careers, make sure you discard the charms of being a manager and simply adopt the seemingly-less sexy but more gratifying life of being a tinkerer, a builder, a maker.

3. Be a Giver
Education is an obligation, education is a responsibility...to give it back to the community, to enrich the society, to help those lesser fortunate than us to get an education.

I found this profound as this is applicable not only for the graduating class but also for everyone else. Thank you TV for this inspirational speech.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

My Address at Illinois Institute of Technology's 19th Graduation Ceremony

I was recently invited at the Illinois Institute of Technology, India's 19th graduation ceremony as a dignitary and had to address the graduating masters students.

[Update on 26th-Mar, the video of speech available on YouTube]

Sharing the part of the speech that i could reproduce as below:

I always see myself as a sportsperson disguised as a corporate professional. I have never been a natural advise-giver but in the spirit of trying, i will share some things today.

Stay in the present, enjoy the moment:
In Jan 2018, I ran Mumbai marathon. A full marathon is a distance of 42.195 Km. Depending upon your speed, it may take up to 3, 4, 5 or 6 hours. Marathons are also considered as metaphors for life because a runner has to typically deal with so many ups and downs while on track.

I was running in my zone and completed till about 30 km when I bumped into a runner who looked very exhausted, his shoulders dropping and barely able to move. I decided to break my momentum, slow-down and talk to him (with intention of helping him). He told me that he was a first time full marathon runner and finding it quite hard at the moment. (Around 30 Km mark is incidentally also known as “hitting the wall” in marathon parlance. It’s when your body is out of every ounce of energy, your legs are heavy and feet blistered and you are mentally battered with the constant pounding your body has undergone in the last many hours.). Eager to learn and finish the run, this runner asked for my advice. I clearly remember the advice I gave him-

"don't think about the finish-line, don’t think about how you will feel at 35 or 38 km, don’t think about the up-slope that’s coming, just think about the next step, then the next one and then the next. And block your mind of anything else. If you are able to compartmentalize your life to just thinking about the next steps for 2 hours or so, you will see the distance.”

I was very glad to see him at finish line close to 2 hours later.
In short, what I was telling him was to stay in the moment and not to get overwhelmed by enormity of what lays ahead.

This is the first thing i would like to mention to all of you. It's your big day, and I know unknowingly your mind would be playing tricks today and lure you to think about the future- how this degree will help you, how will it shape your career, how will  you make a giant leap.
I would ask all of you to take a step back, and with all your senses embrace this moment. Just block all the future thoughts and bask in the glory of current moment. You deserve it with all the hardships that you have undergone to reach this stage and it will be a shame if you are not able to enjoy the today. Today is the great moment in your lives and the careers so stay in present and seize the moment as well as you can.

Let this not be the defining moment of your life:
Secondly, I want to tell you a short story related to India winning the Under 19 Cricket World cup recently. After winning the world cup, the legendary coach of India team- Rahul Dravid was asked about his comment on the victory.
After praising the team that achieved a spectacularly one-sided victory, he said something like "It's great to see the team win so comprehensively but i don't want this win to be a defining moment of the young team's life. They should be thinking bigger than this."

He then went on to say- "the 2012 final featured India and Australia; the result of the final will tell you that India beat Australia. Six years down the line, while only one of those boys played a couple of one-day games for India, four-five Australians have gone on to play for Australia. So, more of their guys have gone on to play first-class cricket. The debatable point is actually who won that final, if you look back six years later."

I found this so simple yet so profound. Profound because the core purpose of U-19 tournaments is to build the talent pipeline for the future, which Australia had clearly achieved despite losing the world cup.

With due respect to all the efforts you have put in to attain the degree and with due respect to Illinois Institute of Technology for providing a wonderful platform, I firmly believe that 

“Educational Qualifications are not the ends in itself, they are the means to achieve something greater.”

Please don’t let this moment become the defining moments of your life. In all fairness, this is a great milestone (as I had said) but you should promise yourself that 5-6 years down the line when you look back at today, you would have defined and achieved your own world cups, scaled your own mountains and you would achieved something bigger and made your company, surroundings and the society better.

Embrace Non-linearity:
One last thing I would like to share today. It would be clich├ęd to talk about the impact automation powered by technologies such as AI/ML. There’s a lot being said about it by the industry leaders and a lot of contrasting opinion emerging.

However, I do want to mention that the workplaces are
undergoing a tremendous change. The skills have much shorter shelf life. I mean skills do have an expiry date and this expiry date is shortening by the day. During the dot com time of 2000, it was said that if you know Java, you are set for life. There is no such phrase as “set for life” in today’s world. Continuous learning is not a differentiator anymore, it is a mandatory.

I would request you to consider the phrase- “non-linearity” when planning for careers. All the respected dignitaries who spoke before me and the ones who will speak after me- none of them had a career that followed the linear path. I am sure their motivations weren’t to just reach the next level. Their motivations would likely be to enable and create as much impact as possible. Their missions were neither tied, defined nor limited by job descriptions. They thought beyond the traditional organizational career paths and defined their own path.

The concept of “non-linearity” also would be instrumental in dealing with the fast changing world that we are approaching. In our career-times itself, we would be competing with one important variable- machines for the jobs.

Jack Ma, the legendary CEO of Alibaba, recently said in an World Economic Forum event-
“If we do not change the way we teach, 30 years from now we will be in trouble. -These are the soft skills we need to be teaching our children Values, Believing, Independent Thinking, Team Work ,Care for Others -We should teach our kids- Sports, Music, Painting, Art”

More we focus on perfecting the human skills, the more we will differentiate ourselves in the future. Empathy as a skill will find a large space in careers of the future. I don’t see as many courses on empathy today, as I find on AL/ML/Blockchain. I feel that will change in next 5-7 years’ time.
Satya Nadella in his book "Hit Refresh" mentions-
"It is impossible to be an empathetic leader sitting in an office behind a computer screen all day. An empathetic leader needs to be out in the world, meeting people where they live and seeing how the technology we create affects their daily activities."
I would like to sum-up my talk by reiterating these 3 nuggets:
  1. Stay in the present.
  2. Let this degree not be the defining moments of your lives.
  3. Embrace non-linearity.

I too have done majority of my higher education alongside with the job. I bet you would unanimously agree with me the role your family members have played to let you reach where you have. As i end my address, i would want all of you to give a big hand to your family.

Congratulations once again, Thank you and all the best!

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