Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cannot Rely On Leaders

The fact that the concept of leadership is hyped is gaining currency by the day.

Check out what Andrew Campbell, Jo Whitehead and Syndey Finkelstein has to say in their article titled 'Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions' in the February 2009 issue of the Harward Business Review:

[W]e cannot rely on leaders to spot and safeguard against their own errors in judgment.

They point out that decisions are made based on (previous) pattern recognition and emotional tagging. So one makes decision by looking up the emerging pattern from their previous experience and the emotional bonding with the pattern. Of course, each pattern has slightly different context and humans by nature are prone to emotional distortion. The authors therefore suggest a systematic way of identifying the distortions and eliminating biases.

These authors have published a book titled Think Again: Why Good Leaders Make Bad Decisions and How to Keep It from Happening to You. I haven't read the book yet, but if the article is anything to go by, the book should be interesting.

Yes one needs leaders. No one doesn't need the hype. For my views on the hype see The Leadership Hype and How It Affects You

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Are you wasting your time in the city?

Livinh in a City

Do you go to see theaters?
Do you go for book reading sessions by popular authors?
Have you been inspired by a new artist when you visited that art gallery?
In the past 3 months, have you met some one interesting?
In the past 6 months, has someone visited your house for the first time?
Or have you visited someone for the first time?
Did you exchange your cell number with someone you met at a gettogether?
Did you go to a gettogether where there were more unknowns than knowns?


Then what are you doing in a city? Go live in a suburb.

Picture courtesy: Raphael Castello

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They do not want your vote

The politicians don't want your vote.

Does that surprise you? I am not at all surprised. They follow the simple ROI funda. Door to door canvassing in an area teeming with educated people capable of making their own mind is not worth their effort.

They would rather hit the trail that leads to vote banks. And if you think they are trying to reach you via the mass media, then think once more. All speeches and media bytes are aimed to entice the vote banks.

Proof? Take my case. It was not until I saw the Electronic Voting Machines that I realized that my constituency is Bangalore Central. No candidate or their followers visited my house. Since there is a ban on plastering the city with posters, I had no idea who the candidates were.

So if they are not interested in your vote, why should you vote? Precisely because of that reason. They do not want your vote because your vote will upset their calculations. Vote banks are more dependable. They don't know what you are thinking. So if you stay away you are actually paying into their hands.

So please go and vote. Exercise your right. At least try to get the government you want. You may not get the kind you want this time round. But a huge turn out at the polling station will make the candidates vary. Next time they are sure to beat a path to your door steps. That, in itself, is your first success.

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Husbands beware! Buddyping is here

I discover more Internet via books. I had blogged about this here => Discovering Internet Through Books

The books I referred to in the above-mentioned post were books on Internet. But to find something new and potentially as powerful as twitter in an economics book, now that is serendipity.

The Logic of Life has a delightful chapter that is a play on 'The World is Flat', called 'The World is Spiky'. In this Tim Harford goes on and on about Buddyping.

Now what is Buddyping?

The idea behind BuddyPing is simple and the execution deceptively simple, making something quite complex appear effortless. Text your location to BuddyPing and it will text you back with the location of your friends (if they’re BuddyPing members) and what they’re doing. When your friends login to the system via text, you get a text if they’re nearby, and they get a text back saying you are nearby. The number of friends is limited to the 5 closest friends and “nearby” in Buddyping terms is 10 miles.

For more information go to BuddyPing: The new wave of MoSoSo

Uh oh! I see a danger already: wives can now keep a tab on their husbands 24 x 7.

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Monday, April 27, 2009

How CEOs Earn

The Logic of Life by Tim Harford has some interesting information on how CEO's get paid, besides the normal salary, that is. Some of it is common knowledge, but not all.

Here goes ...

[S]ome of the design features of these stock-option-based compensation plans are a little suspicious. Options are often reset when share prices fall: what was once an option to buy shares at a hundred dollars apiece becomes an option to buy shares at fifty dollars apiece, as long as the company is doing badly enough. ... [T]he offer to CEOs seems to be: 'If the company share does well, your options will make you a killing. If the company share price falls, don't worry: we'll make sure you make a killing anyway.'

There are other suspicious aspects of CEO pay. ... [O]ne favourite is the 'reloadable' option, which rewards CEOs if the share prices bounce around a lot, because they can lock in the most fleeting gains. Another is the 'backdating' option, where the companies hand out particularly generous options but disguise their generosity by fibbing about when the option was actually awarded. Economists spotted the backdating by noticing how often options were being handed out just before the share prices rose, making the option very valuable. Either the timing was impossibly lucky, or the official dates were phoney, and the options had been backdated to maximum advantage. ... (One of the most remarkable examples of backdating was at Apple, the makers of iPods and Macs. They granted backdated stock options to their CEO, Steve Jobs, some of which were supposed to have been approved at a 'board meeting' that Apple later admitted didn't actually take place.)

In my previous life, when I was naive, I actually believed that CEOs get paid because of the value they generate. I used to think, "How much value they must be generating to get paid so handsomely???" Now I know differently. The CEOs get paid handsomely for the value they have generated before they became CEOs. That must have propelled them to the post of CEO in the first place. So, CEOs reap what they have sowed before they became CEO. Now that cannot be such a bad thing. Or is it?

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Where exactly is the recession? Infosys shows the way.

Just a few days ago, while declaring its Q4 results, Infosys announced a freeze on salaries and reduction in variable pay (see here). This effective means reduced take home salary for the employees. All this when the profit dipped by a mere 1.7% over its Q3 profit. Note, however, that Infosys actually made an yearly profit of 29%.

"Ok!", I thought, "here's a company which is sitting on a pile of cash; it has zero debts. So, if they are reacting to cut operational costs, they must know something that I do not. The world economy must be heading for a major downturn in the days ahead."

Now comes the news that Infosys Top Brass will get over Rs. 10-Crore Hike.

Doesn't the hike freeze apply to all? Oh I understand: the employees have to tighten their belt because Q4 results are bad and Infosys expect a dip of 3-6% profit in the future, but the top brass is being rewarded for the Year-on-year jump in profit.

Wait. This can't be right. What am I saying? I don't quite understand this. What am I missing here?

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Of modeling and predictions

rational and irrational man

Model of a system is not the system. It is an approximation, by definition.

When one models a system, certain assumptions are made, some aspects of the system is taken as invariable or at times independent of each other.

How then is one to determine if the approximation, the model makes sense?

The success of a model depends on its ability to predict. Models can be twisted and turned to fit the existing data and therefore can explain the known or the past in the most brilliant way possible. But if the model cannot predict the unknown or the future, then it is of no use. Einstein's model of the universe is an approximation but makes sense because it could predict certain phenomena that was till then unknown or unexplained. The success of environmental models will lie in its predictability. Unfortunately, we will get to know of the models' success only when it is too late.

I recently read (see here) that reduction in pollution will actually result in increased global warming. How? Pollution causes scattering of light which enables more leaves even those that are not at the top to carry out the process of photosynthesis at increased efficiency. Reduction in pollution will reduce the scattering and hence low photosynthesis resulting in low carbon absorption. So either you die of pollution or due to global warming! Nice!

The book I am reading now, The Logic of Life, by Tim Harford, is also about modeling. The premises are simple but effective. Human beings are capable of reacting to any situation rationally as well as irrationally. The book models the human society as rational and explores various non-economic issues. From what I have read so far, the rational model seems to be explaining the past well. There is no prediction of the future. I am hoping desperately that the book will make predictions somewhere down the line. But I won't be disappointed if there are none. Why? Well, if economic (and financial) models were that good at predicting, we wouldn't be facing the worst global financial crisis of all times, now would we?

Picture courtesy: Tory Byrne

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The Institution of Marriage

This happened in the winter of '83.

We were a few months away from graduation. Before the young engineers step out in the real world, colleges usually send them on what is called the 'Industrial Tour'. Since industrial tours involve visiting industries to see how work is actually executed, it should be possible to conduct this tour in and around the city. But no. It had to be a tour of a distant region and in all cases had to involve the dream world, Goa. So here we were a class of some 30-40 students in a train towards Goa to see the industries in Goa on the beaches.

In the train, were two young (older than us, of course) guys. I remember, one was from Holland and the other was from the US. This chap from Holland became very friendly with us. He sand along with us when we were singing at top of our voice, "we shall overcome ...", one line in English and the next in Hindi. After we were all hoarse, this chap from Holland and I got up and stood near the door of the train, talking. This was the first time I was talking to a person not from India, so I was very curious and was extracting information from him about Holland and Europe, and at the same time trying to match the information with my knowledge gleaned from books. I do not remember the details, but I remember just this excerpt...

"Are you married?"
"No. The institution of marriage is dead."

And then he launched into a big explanation why marriage is a dead institution and how he and his girl-friend were perfectly happy living together.

I do not remember the rest. Though I do remember that my friends and I had a whale of a time at Goa. And that all of it was not spent visiting factories.

All this came back to me as I am reading the Logic of Life by Tim Harford. To give you the complete title of the book, it is called The Logic Of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World. (One of my senior colleagues picked up the book when I was not at desk and read a few pages and commented, "This is like a 'Sex Manual'. But that is another story).

The book, among other aspects of life, discusses marriages and divorces, and the rational, economic reasons behind these. The funny thing about the book is that it is not categorized under economics. Rather the back cover indicates that this book belongs to Current Affairs genre of books.

In any case, in 2009, marriages and divorces are still current affairs. People do marry (and divorce.) My friend from Holland was wrong after all. The institution of marriage is not yet dead.

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Shane Warne, The Poet

When we talk of cricket, we always visualize the graceful strides of a bowler, the exquisite stroke play of the batsman, quick as a flash stumping by the wicketkeeper and the horizontal-in-the-air dives of the fielders. To the cricket fan, these are instances of poetry in motion.

But there are some that go unnoticed. The captain's role in the game. Oh yes, we praise it, but it is not quite in the same league as the poetry-in-motion stuff that I described above. The current edition of IPL T20 has taught me otherwise.

I refer, of course, to Shane Warne's captaincy. In last night's match between Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders, the man of the match was shared by two batsmen but the true man of the match was Shane Warne. The way he marshalled his men, the bowling changes, the encouragements, the pat on a bowler's back, his own bowling, his choice of men ... I could go on ... were a sight to behold. He is perhaps the only captain who I have seen to be visibly involved in the game. He binds the team. And if someone wishes to learn leadership qualities (more on my views on leadership, here) s/he just needs to sit watching Warne in action.

Shane Warne is the greatest captain Australia never had.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

I voted

My wife and I voted.
And I am proud of it.

I wish everyone goes to vote. I could see many people walking around on the streets today - most of the offices in Bangalore have declared holiday to enable their employees to vote. I kept looking at their left index finger. But no, not a mark. That means they haven't voted. If asked, I am sure, they will claim they are educated! Sad!

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Pages of Stories

Every person has a poet or an author hidden within.

Now it is not necessary that the hidden poet or author is of the kind that is palatable. It could turn out that the hidden poet is actually just a versifier. Or that the hidden author churns out drivel. But you would not know till you try, right?

So, it was in that spirit that I started writing some 12 years ago. I wrote feverishly in a biggish diary and hoped to publish my outpourings some time. Move over Salman Rushdie!

The effort stopped within a few months. But the diary remained. A few months ago I decided to transfer the inked work to a blog. Just for posterity.

If you are interested, you may visit Pages of Stories.

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Books - Paper or Audio?

A few posts ago, in The Return of the Story Teller, I had wondered why audio books have not blown away paper books.

Having almost finished the 29 hour audio book, Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, I know why.

Audio book does not let you think. When I read a book, I stop, think, reread and then proceed. Audio books do not give you the time to think. It is a constant supply of data that goes directly to the brain through the ears for post processing.

I think I will stick to books, of the paper kind, for some more time.

What do you prefer? Paper Books or Audio Books?

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tiny Innovations

apple ipod

Pause what you are hearing on iTunes. Then click start. You will notice that the song or whatever you are listening to will rewind itself so that it starts a few seconds before you paused. This is particularly useful when you are listening to speech (audio book or a language lesson, for example).

People call this value addition; I call this brilliance.

It's because of such tiny innovations I admire companies like Apple Inc.

Picture courtesy: Abby M

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Integrity and perfection

I was all of 19 when I first read Ayn Rand's Fountainhead.

And I had thought I had understood it all -- the philosophy of selfishness as the greatest virtue, the fight of the individual striving for perfection against the whole world steeped in mediocrity, the genius versus the average.

Those were the heady, youthful days of idealism. That was the way to go -- perfection for the sake of perfection.
Now as I look back at my two decades, I cannot help but wonder when pragmatism replaced my quest for perfection. I do not think I understood Fountainhead completely.

At one point, a character who gives Howard Roark a break says, "And what, incidentally, do you think integrity is? The ability not to pick a watch out of your neighbor's pocket? No, it's not as easy as that If that were all, I'd say ninety-five percent of humanity were honest, upright men. Only as you can see, they aren't. Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea."

I think I missed out on that small bit in my first reading all those years ago.

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mahabalipuram Photographs Squidoo'ed

I promised to put up some photographs of my Mahabalipuram trip some posts ago. Here I am fulfilling my promise.

Please visit Things To Do At Mahabalipuram for a virtual tour.

Let me know what you think of it. If this inspires you to visit Mahabalipuram, please drop me a note.

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lost Time

It was getting dark. An old man bent low with age was making his way back to his his house. A group of young boys were hanging around the corner. As the old man passed them one of them called out, "Grand uncle, what are you searching? Lost something?" The group hooted in merriment. The hunchback stopped. Turned towards the boys, smiled and said in his gruff voice, "I am looking for the time I wasted in my youth. I must have lost it somewhere around here."

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Return of the storyteller

The tradition is storytelling has always been oral. The best stories are told and heard on grand pa's or grand ma's laps or around a bonfire on cold nights.

Then came books. Books are essentially containers that preserve stories. Books let the storyteller conquer space (people across the globe can read the story) and time (they can read it whenever they want - even after the story-teller is dead). So books are good.

But books are not a patch on the oral tradition. Books take away the emotion that storyteller brings to storytelling. So one has to imagine emotions as one reads. But then we can't have J K Rowling visiting every house to tell her story. That would be fun but not practical.

I am listening to Ayn Rand's Fountainhead. Yes, that is not a typo. I am indeed listening. It is an audio-book. And I am thrilled. This is a first for me (I am old and I have inertia. It takes me a while to try out something new). And I am wondering, why hasn't the audio-books blown away the book industry? Audio-books are the nearest thing to a traditional storytelling! Audio-books are the best of both worlds. It is oral, and the digitally preserved sound conquers space and time. Audio-books cannot replace text books (I cannot imagine a audio-book on a medical tome) but they can replace fiction books completely.

Audio-books can be far more profitable than paper books. With Internet and iPods production and delivery costs come down drastically. Why then have the audio-books not caught on as it should? By now, we should have seen a shrinking paper book industry.

Here's a free valuable innovation for the Apple Inc. (or Amazon, Kindle can be used typo read and listen). How about a digital bookmarking feature? As I listen to an audio-book, I should be able to go click-click-click, placing a digital bookmark on passages that I enjoy. I can then easily locate and revisit these passages after I finish listening once.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Against The Gods reviewed

Ok book lovers, book worms, and all other species of my kind, for a read of my review of the book Against The Gods click on the icon below:

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Now you see it .....

green bird

Now you don't .....

green bird

It is obviously not a parrot. Need to find out the bird's name.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Who are you, little birdie?

Will someone please, please, please identify this lovely bird for me?

There are two of them and in all probability have made a nest on the tree in our house.


PS: 15-Apr-2009. It is a Female Asian Koel. It is a type of cuckoo. I was right in thinking this way. I could not see any nest and there is a crow nest on the tree. So I searched the Internet for cuckoo and initially I was disappointed as there are so many varieties of cuckoo and this one didn't feature in them. It took some digging to arrive at this one. I wish it were possible to search by picture.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Bangalore to Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram) by Road

Shore Temple, Mahabalipuram

I think I am going bonkers. Why else would I plan for a trip down to Mahabalipuram - now known as Mamallapuram - in the summer heat?
But there it was and now it is done and I do not regret it one bit.
For the time being this post is for all those who want to drive down to Mamallapuram - now or in the winters.
So sit back, relax and enjoy the drive!

The route

Bangalore -- NH7 -- Krishnagiri -- NH46 -- NH46 joins NH4 shortly after Vellore -- get off NH4 at Kanchipuram to take SH56 -- via Chengalpattu -- briefly touch the East Coast Road (ECR) towards Chennai -- quick right turn and reach Mahabalipuram

Advise: You will find 4 toll gates on National Highways and one on the ECR. The toll varies from Rs 24 to Rs 45. Keep small change. There is an entry fee at Mahabalipuram also.

The road is GOOD. Even the State Highway is pretty good.

This also happens to be the shortest route from Bangalore to Mamallapuram.

The total distance I traveled? 730km.
This includes our tiny excursion inside the Mahabalipuram town. So, if you take off 30 odd kilometers, the distance one way is around 350km from Bangalore.

It should take you around 5.5 to 6 hours. However, as you will read below it may take upto 8 hours. But that is cool. This road is better than NH4 (also called the Old Madras Road). I heard they are widening NH4 near Kolar and it is all dug up, so perhaps it is not advisable to travel on NH4 now.

CAUTION: Towards evening people in and around Vellore tend to walk casual across the NH. Drive a little carefully.

Our Journey

We planned to start at 5:00 a.m.; managed to start at 6:00 a.m. We touched NH4 from a small road that joins Sarjapur to NH4. This was we avoid most of the Bangalore traffic.

Just after Hosur, there is a HP outlet, at Sulagiri. They also have a fantastic restaurant, Silver Spoon. I think they have the world's best Vada. The Ghee Roast Dosa (see picture) has a tiny cap and tastes as good as it looks. Tuck in so that you do not have to stop anywhere else for food.

Ghee Roast Dosa

Next stop Kanchipuram - the town of temples and world famous silk sarees. We had to stop there. My mother-in-law would not let me go out of Kanchipuram without buying a saree. We also saw the 1000 year old temple, Ekambareswarar Temple.


The people of Kanchipuram must be the most help people in the world. You ask one person for a route and some 5-6 chaps will be ready to help. And emaculate directions. We needed to get out of Kanchipuram to hit the SH56. One person gave us this: "At one kilometer turn right and then after two kilometers turn left." He repeated it twice to ensure we understood. He was wrong! You need to turn right exactly at 1km and turn left at 1.8 km not 2km!!!! We almost wanted to go back and kiss his hands.

We reached our destination - GRT Temple Bay in Mahabalipuram at 2 p.m. And had a fantastic buffet lunch at the resort.

We followed the same route on return. Had late breakfast at GRT Temple Bay and then stopped only at Silverspoon, Sulagiri for evening tea. On the way we snacked while driving.

Our Stay

GRT Temple Bay resort is f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c. It also offers fabulous discounts in summer (now you know I am not that crazy!) At the resort you can do lots of stuff, but my advise would be to restrict yourself to only three activities:

(i) Early morning and late evening walks at the beach. From GRT Temple Bay I could walk to the shore temple. It is that near! There is a tiny fishermen's colony on the way. This tiny stretch is a little unhygienic. The fishermen answer nature's call on the sea shore and allow sea to flush away the remains. Not very pleasant.
The walk along the shore away from the shore temple is better. Tiny crabs scurry around. I could see some kingfishers.
(ii) An Ayurvedic massage - once a day. A 45 minutes massage followed by 15 minutes of steam bath. Aahhh! Heavenly.

(iii) Inside the swimming pool for the rest of the day. The swimming pool snakes through the resort and must be around 300-400m in length. Almost all rooms and chalets (except the ones that are facing the sea) face the pool. So one step from your and you are in.


(iv) Read. The private beach enclosed by the resort has chairs and Hammocks. Just relax and do your favourite thing. I read.

This is a shot as I lay in my hammock.


Yes! GRT Bay Resort is expensive. But it is more than worth the money. It also has a fantastic kitchen. The buffet laid down for breakfast is mouthwatering. We took dinner in another hotel in the centre of the town - the hotel is called Mamallapuram Heritage. Nothing elaborate, but good food.

Places to visit in and around Mamallapuram

The Shore temple, The Five Rathas, Mahishasuramardini Cave temple and the lighthouse, and Arjuna's Penance and the Butter Ball are within a few kilometers of each other and on a cool day manageable of foot - but then there is never a cool day in Mahabalipuram; not even at peak winter. These are world heritage sites and are compulsory to do places.

It was too hot - so we just spent the minimum time required to see these monuments. We returned straight into the pool.

I will put up the photographs on my Squidoo pages soon.

Then there is the crocodile farm. We did not visit this place in this trip; but in one of my previous trips I had gone there. My favourite? A demo by tribals how snake poison is extracted.

In my previous trip I also went to Pondicherry. The drive on the East Coast Road along the Bay of Bengal is enjoyable. I think I will stay at Pondicherry for a few days to really enjoy that place.

I hope this gives enough information for those who wish to plan a trip. If there is any other information you require, please feel free to leave a comment (or send me an e-mail) and I would be only too glad to help.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Devil's Workshop

It's amazing the way our mind works ...

There are days when I am bubbling over with a brilliant idea and I think I will set the Internet on fire with this post. But when I sit to frame a post, the whole 'brilliant' idea does not go more than a couple of lines. many a times it does not even make it to the final post.

And there are other days when I think I have nothing to post. I end those days with 3-4 posts to my credit.

And then there are days when I make up multiple posts in my mind the previous night and the next morning ideas flow straight from the mind to the blog.

Seems to me that when the mind gets over excited, it stops thinking. Infatuation sets in and all it does is repeat the same idea over and over again without actually elaborating on it.

When the mind is calmer, it gets the time and space to meditate upon and develop an idea to something that has more form to it.

So it is not the empty mind that is devil's workshop; it the (over)excited mind that is the devil's workshop. You see, a devil's workshop is not that creates evil. A devil's workshop is that which is littered around with undeveloped ideas - ideas that could set Internet on fire.

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Outliers Reviewed

I jumped the gun!
Remember the three questions I asked about Malcolm Gladwell in my previous post?

Now that I completed the book, Outliers, I feel a little foolish. Of course, Gladwell has addressed the three questions. The last chapter, A Jamaican Story, is all about legacies and opportunities. It is also amazing.

In any case, now that I am done, you can read the review of Outliers here:
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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

To become an author

I really envy authors like Malcolm Gladwell, Nicholas Taleb, James Michener, actually all of them.

As I read their books, I am overwhelmed by the amount of 'research' that goes into writing. No wonder this is a full time job.

I am reading Outliers now. Unfortunately just before I started on that I read a scathing criticism of Outliers in, guess? Scientific American (April 2004, Vol 4 Number 4). This is by Michael Sermer, who says:

"Journalists unconstrained by research protocols churn out self-help books that focus on select variables that interest them. Few do better than Malcolm Gladwell.

Obviously, I started off Outliers with a biased mindset. But I am half-way through the book. The amount of research done is huge. The supporting evidence dug out to support the thesis of the Outliers is compelling. It is easy to deride such an effort as unscientific. Perhaps, it may be true to a large extent.
But it is also unfair.

I am glad I read Outliers despite my misgivings after reading the Scientific American article. It might be unscientific, but it is pretty damn convincing.

Anyways, coming back to the point. There are 9 chapters in Outliers. Each chapter is supported by on an average 10 reference sources. That makes it about 90 books, journals and internet sources. I am assuming to shortlist these 90 sources, Gladwell must have sifted through 400-500 sources. And this is just a 285 page thick book. Phew!

The interesting questions for Gladwell are:

a) Has Malcolm Gladwell put in his 10,000 hours of hard labour?
b) Did he have the correct opportunity?
c) Is he a product of correct legacy?

The interesting questions for me are:

a) Will I ever write a book?
b) Will I ever write a successful book?

I wouldn't even know where to begin.
And knowing fully well that successful books are Black Swans, I am definitely not going to quit my job to take a plunge.
Perhaps, after I retire.

I therefore need to start now.

The formula to write a non-fiction seems to be

(i) Arrive at a conclusion through random observations.
(ii) Support your observations by reading books in related field. (Don't forget to keep taking notes!)
(iii) Support your observations by reading books in totally unrelated field.
(iv) Try and establish a connection.
(v) Find a publisher.
(vi)I think I am drunk!

And by the way, constrain by research protocols may actually constrain your imagination. Let your imagination fly!

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Is your job meaningful?

It is obvious that any sensible person would do meaningful tasks as opposed to what could be called a drudgery. So what makes a task - your job, blogging, serving others - meaningful?

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, Outliers, lists out three characteristics that make any task meaningful:

These are:

1. There should be a clear relationship between effort and reward.
2. The task should be complex. It should engage your mind and imagination.
3. One should have autonomy. You should be your own boss.

Now, evaluate your job satisfaction around these factors.

Hmmm... come to think of it, I now know why blogging is so hugely popular. It requires imagination and the mind is engaged. You are your own boss and most of the time there is a relationship between effort and rewards (readership, money, whatever). The more you blog, the more are the chances that you will be discovered. Or you can hop on to the Alphainventions gravy train.

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Good News

Are you a graduate?
Or at least do you think you can be one?

Then your IQ is at least 115.

That's the good news.

The question is: what are you doing with all the IQ?

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Friday, April 3, 2009

The Magic Number to Genius

Remember the Working Hard Working Smart post of a few days ago? I had maintained that Working Smart does not replace Working Hard. Rather these are complementary.

Now here's a confirmation of my thinking. This is an extract from Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

       The idea that excellence at performing a complex task requires a critical minimum level of practice surfaces again and again in studies of expertise. In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.

       "The emerging picture from such studies is that ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert - in anything,' writes the neurologist Daniel Levintin. "In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again. Of course, this doesn't address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do. But no one has found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time. It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that is needs to know to achieve true mastery."

This also confirms my assertion that hopping from job to job is actually bad for long term career growth. Engineers in my company are quite sick and tired of hearing this from me, but this is what I believe in: Do not leave a job unless you feel you have nothing more to learn from there. The smart thing to do is quickly determine what you enjoy doing most and then apply yourself to the job for at least 10,000 actual hours.

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F100! Not G20

Headlines scream: World Leaders agree to "fight back" against global recession at G20 summit.

An alien reading this would rightly conclude that recession is some external agency threatening mankind. And that the world has united to fight it. Funny that!

Ok here is a better idea than G20. I would call it F100. Get the top 100 companies of the (World) Fortune 500 together and ask them to come up with a plan. They will not 'fight back' the recession. They will solve the economic crisis. They are the insiders. And they created the chaos in the first place. They should be able to do a better job that politicians.

Anyone out there reading this blog?
Ready to take up the challenge?

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75 Richest Men in History

Outliers has a very interesting list. Malcolm Gladwell has compiled the list of 75 richest people in the history of mankind.

Some interesting names in the list are:

3. Czar of Russia, Nicholas II
7. Henry Ford
12. Pharaoh of Egypt, Amenophis III
21. Cleopatra
37. Bill Gates

There are a few Indians in the list too:

40. Mukesh Ambani
42. Lakshmi Mittal
48. Anil Ambani
68. K. P. Singh (of DLF)

Imagine these 4 Indians are among the richest in the history of mankind.

Wait! There is another Indian:

5. (yes 5, that is not a typo) Nizam of Hyderabad Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII.

Hmmm.. Something wrong with the list. Where is Akbar the Great?

By the way, at number 1 and 2 are John D. Rockfeller and Andrew Carnegie

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Knee-jerk reaction to recession is not an accomplishment

India's biggest software house, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), is believed to be avoiding travel to reduce costs. Instead video conferences, telephonic conversations and web casting will be used to discuss matters. This should minimize travel requirements.


1. Does it require a recession to cut costs?
2. Isn't a company obliged to cut costs and pass it on the benefits to the customers or employees?
3. Who were the people who authorized travel when a telephone call was sufficient?

Ahh! The answer to the last is all too obvious. I do not know how this process works at TCS. But I know for certain that most of these travels are undertaken by the executives themselves. The top management sitting at Headquarters are not bothered as long as targets are met.

You see, when things are hunky-dory, it takes top management of exception foresight to insist on stretch targets. Cost cutting is seen as retro-step. I can bet on my fledgling blogging career (!) that internal auditors at TCS must have raised objections but the executives must have shot these down insisting that such business travels are essential.

And why am I upset about this? Because by making a big hoo-haa about the measures TCS is taking to fight slow down, it is actually admitting that there is a lot of scope for cost cutting thereby confining Indian software industry to compete on costs for ever.

To all those managers / executives I have this humble request. Please do not announce knee-jerk reactions as accomplishments. Please do these within the four walls of your company. These are not achievements. You should have done this long ago.

Yes, if someday you do a 'Nano' shout from the roof top.

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