Sunday, February 28, 2010

When life gives you lemon

"Ten days of physio-therapy," said one doctor.
"Physio-therapy wont work. I want you to take this very seriously. 3 weeks of complete bed rest," said the next.
"Bed rest does not help. We need to first remove the pain. Take these medicines for a week and then we wil ltake a decision whether to operate or not," said the third doctor.
Two MRI scans and almost a month later I am still confined to bed.
It is supposed to be a small "herniation of L5-S1" (aka slip disc) that is impinging slightly on a nerve that gives me excruciating pain down my leg every time I get up and sit down.
What can you do ... except wait for the doctors to take a decision.

Well, not exactly true. You can do a lot.
With all the time in the world here's a list of things I have done

(i) Aggressively pursue completion of the Spanish Course I have purchased from the US Institute of Languages (Learn Spanish Today)
(ii) I never managed to start of French. Dedicating one hour a day to a French Course (Rapid French). This is my last attempt to learn rudimentary French. If this does not succeed, nothing else will. This one claims that they implant to words in the auditory cortex. Well let's see.
(iii)Re-re-reading The Black Swan.
(iv) Watched Sachin Tendulkar play that gem of an innings at Gwalior (it had to be Gwalior :D). Always knew he would be the one to do it. (Yes I am a die hard fan - I am happy when he makes a century irrespective of the match results)
(v) Started a new twitter dedicated entirely to management, called mgmnt_secrets. Already have some 140+ followers. Active twittering is fun.

So as they say, when life gives you lemon ... yeah right ... throw it right back at her. So says, Calvin of Calvin and Hobbes.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Skewed Research

In the name of testing creativity researchers can go to any extent. Consider this example I picked it from the book :59 Seconds by Professor Richard Wiseman.

Can you add a single line to the following equation to make it correct? ('not equal to' is not a solution):

l0 l0 ll = l0.50

Spend some time here. Then uncover the answer hidden in the gray box below (click and drag):

Place a horizontal line over the second 'l' to get
l0 TO ll = l0.50
(It is time: Ten to Eleven = Ten-Fifty)

Now if you are a normal person, then chances are that you could not solve it. Unless someone has a funny sort of creative mind, this cannot be solve. Why? No one writes Ten-Fifty as 10.50. The convention is to write it as 10:50, right?

What is the purpose of such exercises? Does it really test your creativity? Or perhaps, researchers derive some sadistic pleasure by deliberately misleading.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

The Secret of Successful Marriages Revealed

It's amazing how the best advise on marriages are in management books. It is claimed that many wives read The Goal to understand the goal of marriage. Here's another sweet but crisp pointer to a happy married life in the gem of a book, The Go-Giver.

"I think there is one reason, and only one reason, that we have stayed together so long and are as happy together today as we were forty-eight years ago - more so, in fact. That reason is this: I care more about my wife's happiness than I do about my own. Al I've ever wanted to do since the day I met her is make her happy. And here's the truly remarkable thing - she seems to want the same thing for me."

"Wouldn't some people call that codependent?" ventured Joe.

"Yes, some probably would. Know what I call it?"


Pindar laughed, " Yes certainly that. I was going to say, I'd call that success."

Ok, The Go-Giver is a work of fiction.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Having Fun With Maths

Here's a web site you will fall in love with, even if you did not enjoy maths when you were a kid. Especially if you did not enjoy maths as a kid.
And if you have a child who is studying right now, then please, please, please do that child a favour. Go to this wonderful site and let his/her just spend lots and lots of time here.
Maths can be fun too, you know.
Take a look at murderous maths.
And if your child falls in love with maths and school grades improve drastically, do not forget to thank me.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Secret of Success? Lists!

You know you have it in you.
And you know if you want you can get it.
Somewhere deep inside you, you also know how to get it.
You just have to methodically get to work.
But ...

That "but" is the main problem.
Now here is a simple workbook to help you out.
This workbook does not make any tall claims.
It will help you focus and make you act.
All you have to do is prepare some lists.
Yeah! You read it right: lists.
What's more, it is free.
It has nothing that you do not know yourself already.
It just nudges you towards your dreams.

Do this exercise, and I bet you will not regret it.

Here's link =>
Download both, the Goals Book and the Worksheet Booklet.

Actually there is more to discover with Paul Myers. Here's another fun thing from Paul to learn and grow =>

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Great Indian Tamasha - Annual Budget

Everything in India has to be a big tamasha.
Which is not such a bad thing.
Provides lots of entertainment before, during and for a few days after the event.

Take the annual budget for instance.
It is not that the course of India's economy is going to turn on its head on this one single day.
What India needs huge dollops of investment in infrastructure.
And good governance.
Instead there will be some budgetary allocation (redistribution) to various economy sectors.
Lots of talk about inclusive growth.
Some more tax loads on the most easily targeted income group, the salaried class.
So what is new?

There is a lot of talk about giving impetus to the continued growth of the economy. So does it have to wait for this one day?

But if you see the hype surrounding every budget on TV, one would feel that the whole Indian Economy comes to standstill waiting for some earth-shattering announcement by the Finance Minister.
What rubbish!

It is in the execution, people; not budgeting.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010


What do you feel when you see this picture I received on an email from a reader of this blog ...


Well wait for a few more years and then we can all hold our heads to shame.
Merely replace that dead leopard with the last surviving tiger. And you will know the feeling.
There are only 1411 tigers left out there.
Our stupidity has taken care of all Cheetahs. There are no Cheetahs in India any more.
Now it is the Tiger's turn.
Unless we do something about it.

Aircel has launched an initiative to save our tigers. Please visit the Save Our Tigers site and do whatever you think you can do best.

One question: Why isn't the Government of India leading this campaign?

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Trees Grow Faster

At least one has.
On a lark, I made some predictions on 30 Dec 2008 for 31 Dec 2009. Here is one of those:

Besides, scientists have discovered that the trees - with all the excess carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere - have actually grown taller and bigger. As a result, the excess CO2 has been neutralised by the oxygen produced by these trees. Man must therefore take care not to destroy trees. Governments all over the world have hailed this discovery and have promised to dedicate at least 30% of their country's land to maintain forests.

And guess what? Forests Are Growing Faster, Ecologists Discover; Climate Change Appears to Be Driving Accelerated Growth

Am I thrilled or am I thrilled!!!

Ok so I got lucky.
Read the rest of my predictions here and tell me what you think of these. No they did not come true, but it is fun reading anyway.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Suffering From Back Ache?

This may not come as relief to those who suffer from chronic back pain, slip disc, herniated disc, etc., but at least you know who to blame. (When you are in pain, it is good to curse someone).
So here goes ...
The human spine, for example, is a lousy solution to the problem of supporting the load in an upright, two-legged creature. It would have made a lot more sense to distribute our weight across four equal cross-braced columns. Instead, all our weight is borne by a single column, putting enormous stress on the spine. We managed to survive upright (freeing out hands), but the cost for many people is agonizing back pain. We are struck with this barely adequate solution not because it is the best possible way to support the weight of a biped, but because the spine's structure evolved from that of four-legged creatures, and standing up poorly is (for creatures like us, who use tools) better than not standing up at all.

So you know who to blame.

And no. I have no idea if Gary Marcus, the author of this delightful little book called Kluge, suffers from back pain.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Increasing Number of Organ Donors in India

This is done by market research people all the time, but I wonder if something good can come out of it. This can actually help increase the number of organ donors in India.
Read this ...

Are you in favour of organ donation? Have you consented to be an organ donor? If you are like most people, you answered yes to the first question. But the response to the second question depends a great deal on which country you live in. For instance, take neighboring
countries Germany and Austria. Only 12 percent of Germans have explicitly consented to donate their organs, while virtually 100 percent of Austrians have offered presumed consent. The difference? In Germany, you must opt in to become a donor. In Austria, you must opt out to avoid being a donor. The consent gap has less to do with attitudes about donation than it does with default options. The difference translates into saved lives.

I am an eye donor, but I had to opt in. We need the "opt-out"policy in India. Believe me, India needs a quantum jump in the number of organ donors.

If some day some government official or some Government of India minister happens to see this post and decides to implement this policy, the person to thank would be Michael E. Mauboussin, the author of Think Twice, from where I picked up the above extract.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Priming Experiments

In one of my tweets (see here), I referred to 'priming' and used the simpler Wikipedia definition. I had blogged about priming previously too: here.
Here's is another striking experiment I picked from Think Twice by Mauboussin ...

In this test, the researchers placed the French and German wine next to each other, along with small national flags. Over two weeks, the scientists alternated playing French accordion and German Bierkeller pieces and watched the results. When French music played, French wines represented 77 percent of the sales. When German music played, consumers selected German wines 73 percent of the time.

Amazing, isn't it?
I am assuming, the shoppers were able to make out French music from the German music.

If I were to carry out the experiment, I would do this experiment by alternating French, German and some distinctly non-German, non-French music, say Indian music. Just to see the impact on the sales when Indian music played out.

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Reading Fiction

Yes. I read fiction too.
Here's a list => Just Books Just For You.
The books listed are those that I recommend without hesitation.
You need to scroll right down the list to get to the fiction part.
And No. The Harry Potter series is not in the list.
Ditto Tintin, Asterix, Calvin & Hobbes.

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Using Technology

This extract is from Think Twice by Michael J. Mauboussin.

Flooded with candidates and aware of the futility of most interviews, Google decided to create algorithms to identify attractive potential employees. First, the company asked seasoned employees to fill out a three-hundred-question survey, capturing details about their tenure, their behavior, and their personality. The company then compared the survey results to measures of employee performance, seeking connections. Among the findings, Google executives recognized that academic accomplishments did not always correlate with on-the-job performance.

A few observations:

a) Companies tend to fall back upon trusted means to derive solutions: so you know that if it is Google, then it has to be an algorithm.

b) 300-question survey? 300? I will be surprised if any answers after the first 10 questions made any sense.

c) "Academic accomplishments did not always correlate with on-the-job performance". I hope the survey resulted in some other meaningful conclusions also. 'Did not always correlate' is neither here nor there.

d) In his book, Think Twice, Mauboussin seeks to establish "Use Technology When Possible" by referring to this Google exercise. Is this the best example he could get of use of technology to solve organisational problems?

PS: Ok! I could get the original article that Think Twice refers to. It is called Google Answer to Filling Jobs Is an Algorithm.

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Change This Manifestos - Worth A Read

Here's an interesting collection of manifestos. They all feature under a common clarion call, Change This. You may or may not agree with their views. But that's exactly the point. Read, let the winds of change flow through you and get ready to chase your own dreams. Click here.

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Pithy Management Wisdom

Want to learn management secrets in 140 characters or less? Start following

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Irresponsible Indian Media

There are upwards of 60,000 newspapers in India.
Do you get to hear / read anything published in these newspapers?
But if it is Saamana - the Shiv Sena mouth piece - the mainstream Indian media, both print and electronic, fall over each other to reproduce the vitriol published in it.
So, it is they who are keen to keep parochial forces alive to gain circulation and TRP ratings.

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Recommended Shiv Sena Agenda

I hope Shiv Sena and MNS put these on their agenda:

a) Ban Times of India group in Maharashtra because of their wonderful Aman Ki Asha initiative.
b) Declare that Bollywood can only make movies in Marathi.
c) Prevent Mukesh Ambani from entering Mumbai since he wants Mumbai for all Indians. Ditto Sachin Tendulkar.
d) Threaten all news channels with dire consequence if they say anything against them.
e) Insult all who have difference of opinion with them.

This will ensure that they are completely marginalized and disappear from the Indian political scene. We do not need political parties like Shiv Sena and MNS.

PS @11-Feb-2010: So far it is playing out like clockwork: see this

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Harry's Zen Moment

J.K. Rowling's The Deathly Hallows
Chapter: King's Cross
The last Line ...

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?

A perfect excuse for day dreamers?

Or is it a Zen Koan?

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Free Sample Chapters That You Will Love

You once enjoyed reading.
History Classics.
Now you are busy.
You find it difficult to go beyond the introduction.
But who buys books just to read the introduction?

Or perhaps you wish to keep up with the latest
You devour books, but you do not have the time to read.
You wish you could get to read sample chapters before making a decision.
You wish you could do all this from your email box.

So why not subscribe to The Princeton University Press?
You will get an e-mail everytime they publish a book on your (once) favourite subject.
And best of all, you get to read the first chapter free.
Go on try it.
Some sample chapters have immediate applicability.
Try this, for instance: Guesstimation

Who knows?
You may fall in love with books all over again.

By the way, I am not on the Princeton University Press pay rolls. Just so that you know.

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My Library