Independence Day

No bigger joy than clear blue sky

No bigger joy than free speech

No bigger joy than positive forward thinking

No bigger joy than being on your own

No bigger joy than having no fear

No bigger joy than living with no command

No bigger joy than progress in a free world

No bigger joy than Growing Daily in a free atmosphere

No bigger joy than Independence…. Jai Hind!

Independence Day - Amitesh Tyagi

6 ways to improve listening

In a world filled with cacophony and sounds of multiple types, listening is becoming more and more sparse. The advent of technology and increasing domination of technology gadgets in our daily lives, conversations have fast approached their untimely death. Within homes, people are interacting less with each other and spending more time watching TV or reading social media posts on their personal mobile phones or tablets. This is truly a connected world with disconnected people.

listen

An obvious casualty of this limited one to one interactions is the ability to listen or in other words, listening skills. Lack of listening skills is leading to more and more gaps and distances. These distances are filled with confusion and chaos. We are building a sparsely connected world where opinions and judgments are made with partial listening – so partial information. Compound with the inherent nature of human beings to do stereotyping, we are leading to more angst and more hatred in the society.

The growing number of road rage cases are just one indication of growing angst in the society and how the sense of community if getting lost.

Three separate research articles spanning over 60 years suggest listening has not evolved as much as it should. In the first article dated 1957, the research points to the need for active listening and how it is causing loss of the high amount of business dollars.

Read more about it here.

The second article demonstrates the same problem still persists. There is still significant productivity loss due to lack of active listening.

Read more about it here.

The third article talks about the things that great listeners do and emphasizes the lacks of active listeners.

Read more about it here.

60 years have gone by emphasizing the importance of this significant skill and lack of its adoption in the world, in general. The significant loss underscores the need – especially in the context of being better business owners, managers, and better human beings.

So what can one do to improve their listening skills?

Julian Treasure has spent a significant amount of his life researching on the skill of listening. He has spent years researching the subject and has identified 5 ways on how we can improve our listening. Here are his 5 popular ways –

  1. 3 MINUTES OF SILENCE – Julian advocates practicing 3 minutes of silence every day.  With this, he says that people can be better at understanding the sounds in the environment they are operating. This helps to become an active practitioner of the art of listening and improves cognitive skills significantly.
  2. Next, he suggests understanding the MIXER. This is basically a habit of trying to identifying the different sounds in a noisy place.
  3. He further encourages people to SAVOUR the sounds in their surroundings and enjoying those sounds while relating to something familiar.
  4. Then one needs to determine the different types of LISTENING POSITIONS that are possible for them to actively participate in a conversation through listening. Following are the filters that he suggests to apply in the sounds –
    • Active Vs. Passive
    • Reductive Vs. Expansive
    • Empathetic Vs. Critical
  5. Finally, he relies on the RASA, meaning juice or essence in Sanskrit. This is expanded as below –
    • RECEIVE – Pay attention others
    • APPRECIATE – via little sounds like mm, hmmm
    • SUMMARIZE
    • ASK

With these Julian concludes that one can become a much more active listener and be effective in their realm of activity.

You can watch his Ted Video on ‘Listening of Sounds’ here.
https://embed.ted.com/talks/julian_treasure_5_ways_to_listen_better

The 6th way is to breathe in a rhythm, in tandem with the sound to focus on what is being said. 

It is important for us with the cacophony around us to become active listeners. Let’s start practicing these today itself.

You can listen to the related podcast at Soundcloud.

The Millennial Swimmer’s Body

Yami Gautam is a beautiful actress. She is fair, has sharp features and a lovely face. She has done some good cinema too with movies like Vicky Donor, Badlapur, Kaabil etc. She is also the face of Fair & Lovely Beauty Cream campaign.

Many girls see her advertisement for Fair & Lovely and buy the cream to be like Yami.

Similarly, IITs are holy grail for Engineering in India. Every year hundreds and thousands of aspirants appear in the examination to become successful. A select few hundreds make to the top institutes.

Both the above are examples of Swimmer’ Body Illusion as discovered by Nasser Taleb. Advertising of beauty products is done with people who are already good looking. Take example of Yami. She is made to look lesser pretty for the advertisement and with application of beauty product she looks to her normal self again. People, esp young girls, watching the advertisement believe that they can look like her and buy the product.

IITs, on the other hand, suffer acute shortage of good faculty at the institutes. This means that there will be plenty of courses that would be taught by mediocre or not that great professors. But still, students graduating from IITs are assumed to be the best Engineers in the country. This is because the selection through the tough and rigorous entrance examination ensures that only the best engineering minds make it to the institute. Consequently, the general engineer graduating from IIT is better engineer than others.

DD-SC-85-03041
Susan Rapp, the daughter of Army Colonel Edward G. Rapp, competes in a swimming event at the 1984 Summer Olympics.

Many a times people look at others and start believing that they are better or equal to the ‘other’ and can beat them in what they are good that. In high octane, high competition societies like India, this is very visible. Reason- because there is so much to compare.

When children – marks are compared, when teenage – latest gadgetry in hand is compared, when adults – accumulation of wealth and assets is compared.

Consequently, there is a lot of herd movement to things. The mass makes things competitive and things go into scarcity very soon.

During the 1970s, people wanted to become an Engineer and take a government job. Why? Because there were a lot of Government enterprises that were being opened and everyone wanted a safe future.

During the late 90s and early 2000s, people wanted to get into Information Technology as invariably it was the path to the US.

Since 2015, we see a lot of startups coming up. Mushrooming and growing. Trying to change the world.

What happened in 1970s? We have engineering companies with not so great engineering talent as people soon realized that they had different skills.

What happened in 1990s? We had many engineers who may have done something else (and may be more meaningful) got into IT and are straddled in their paths not knowing where to go?

What is happening today? We have a lot of people building startups because others are doing it not knowing whether they have appetite for startups or not. Soon, we would have more debris at the bottom of the ocean.

Startups

The larger startups that are going to win and thrive are the ones that are attracting talent with strong reach out.Consequently, they are building an atmosphere of competitiveness internally. People push each other to grow and grow the company along – good strategy for any company on a high velocity path. Retaining that talent is the key challenge now!

It is crucial that one realizes their own limitations and then work towards the appropriate Swimmer’s Body Dilemma. Millennials need to understand this more to know as their lives are already on the swim lane to make the fastest lap.

8 thought provokers – Part (2/3): Arena & Operations

As we continue our surge to identify the right mix of success factors, there is always a common thread that stitches them all. It is not to do with just the ability to dream but also the willingness to do and determination to complete what has been started.

This all started with the blog I wrote in response to a question – What is the a Brilliantly New Idea that no one has thought?

A deeper research into this question led to identifying the 8 thought provokers that eventually lead to first blog in this three part series. To learn about the first blog (and for continuity sake), please go to my earlier blog named – Study and Plan forward: 8 Thought provokers.

Abstract Background Triangle Squares Polygon

With this 2nd blog, I am going to explore the next three Thought Provokers:

  1. Whats my arena?
  2. What kind of operations are required? What can I NOT do?

Whats my arena?

The arena defines what kind of market competition you are entering. This is one of the most important and complex activity but is most overlooked. Reason being impatience and urgency to jump. This impatience is very much visible in mushrooming online businesses – as its easy to start a website. Any business that is easy to start by you, CAN BE EASILY STARTED BY SOMEBODY ELSE.

And this should be a significant red flag for you.

Arena definition can be done very easily –

  • What does it take to start this business? In our MBA employment skills example, one would require first to be an MBA or a significantly accomplished professional who can guide the MBAs. An MBA for all the investment s/he has done in their career will not pay attention to what somebody who they think is inferior in education tells them. This is harsh but real.
  • What are other players in the market already? In the world of internet, this should be fairly easier to find out. With good keyword searches, you should be able to nail down this. For our example of services to MBAs for employment skills, we see that there are numerous examples but hardly any proper services that come in the results.

Employment skills

So Research on competition is very important. I find the various Landscape diagrams published by leading VCs and consulting firms as very useful for any research.

What kind of operations are required? What can I NOT do?

It is always fascinating to look at success of others and mimic it. This is typical human behaviour and there is no surprise. After all, the iconic iPod was a ultra improved version of all the music players out there in the market.

Years 2013 to 2016 saw a significant spike in number of e-commerce and internet based startups in India.

Check out the list of E-commerce sites in March 2012 compiled by Amrita Kriplani.

From this list more grew and many or most are closed now. One of the key reasons why many/most of these startups failed is because they underestimated the operations involved in shipping goods from one place to another and then return in case it was not accepted by the customer. Here is a quote from A. T. Kearney report on E-Commerce in India:

“India currently doesn’t make it into  the top ten of A.T. Kearney’s eCommerce Index because its infrastructure  is underdeveloped, and there are still cultural reservations that keep  it from leaping ahead.  India is a big market (1.2 Bn people) but  infrastructure—technology, finance, logistics—still needs a lot of work,  and only 8% of the population uses the Internet.

The proliferation of Indian IT industry was primarily attributed to simplicity of the local operations. On the other side manufacturing and e-commerce are complex in operations.

I use a simple formula to understand the complexity of a particular operation. Based on number of touch points, the complexity of processes can be determined.

COMPLEXITY OF OPERATION = 2^n

where n is the number of touch points

Any operation with Complexity > 64 is a highly complex one and one must think on how to simplify it or outsource it to the right people.

In case of IT industry, any project has following touch points:

  1.  Getting requirements
  2. Development of software
  3. Testing of Software
  4. Deployment

Complexity of this is 2^4 = 16. So this is simple and is easy to start business.

The complexity for E-Commerce operation is below:

  1. Getting customer to the website
  2. Give them the right product that they need
  3. Make them to do the payment
  4. Identify the right logistics partner to dispatch the product
  5. Dispatch the product
  6. Get the product delivered to the right customer and confirm delivery
  7. Reconcile payments with the payment partner and with the logistics partner

Complexity of this is 2 ^ 7 = 128. So this is highly complex operation.

I have found this as a good rule of thumb to help and identify the nature of operations. Complexity when combined with arena helps to be a good combination to determine competitive advantage.

I shall conclude this blog here. In next blog we shall explore all the open questions remaining for this series.

Thanks for reading!