Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Looking for Insider Information - Try LinkedIn

LinkedIn can be a great source for Corporate Insider Information (ofcourse a challenge for Company Management - policing past and present employee profiles).

Look for the Experience page of related profiles in LinkedIn and you may get to know the details around IT Systems(Products and even their versions in use), their functions(including partner and interface information), Marketing Strategy for various Products/Promotions and many other Operational Stuff(even some Trade secrets).

The information may not be the latest or greatest - but still not a bad deal.

I am leaving aside the Headhunters advantage of using LinkedIn - every recruitment guy knows there is no better place to search for a Talent with specialized skills. Better -  once you find one - you find many others from the connections. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My Experience in HBS

This April I visited Boston and was lucky to experience a Harvard Business School Class. They have a program where visitors can come and seat within the class to experience the famous 'Case Study method' live in action. I visited a Macroeconomics class and the case study was on India - Indian history, how Indian policy making and demographic profile have worked so far, how Indian growth is different/similar to that of China and finally should someone invest in India. Prof Dante Roscini drove the discussion and made sure all students shared their insights. He is a great teacher and facilitated the discussion very effectively. 

There were many interesting observations from diverse background of students - how Gini changed over time and whether Interest Rate spreads inherently mean Indian investors getting comfortable with Government Debt; whether China's growth in Manufacturing is mainly due to currency manipulation or competitiveness; whether number of engineers produced in India truly indicates the quality of Indian education system etc. The most influencing thought for me was whether democracy is good for India even if that compromises growth. There was no final answer - Indian students supported Indian democracy(even though they accepted it is not True democracy, illiterate voters have no idea on main issues and they vote based on caste or specific preference to a political dynasty) whereas Chinese students supported Growth(everybody loves their country!).

I came back with that burning question in mind - Democracy or autocracy, Chinese speed of execution or slowness of argumentative Indians? Over time I realized that there is no correct answer. Let me provide some business perspectives before I go back to the actual example of governance. Autocracy is a high-risk high-return game. If we have great leadership autocracy is fantastic - we could not have so artistically brilliant Apple Products if there were multiple decision makers deciding on Product features instead of Steve Jobs leading the end-to-end process of keeping the minimalist user-friendliness. At the same time it will be too risky - if there is no one to challenge the leader and the leader makes a bad decision(or become evil). Do you want to build a great product and then launch it in market(keep it neat - don't listen to users - they have no idea what they want) or you want to prototype and test the product incrementally by incorporating the customer feedback(some may be good, some may be very bad - overall a messy process). The Great Apple iPod would not be possible if Jobs listened to his customers for product features. But think about it -  thousands of start-ups fail because they don't listen to the market needs.

In politics and governance same rule applies and history says we can have success/failure in both. We can have great autocratic governance if we have truly visionary leaders(with good intention- rare combination although!). But generally speaking we have seen democracy ruling the game most of the time. Collaboration is messy & slow but it helps to avoid the big mistakes.

Culture Change?

Americans are great communicators. It is always an advantage when the universal language of communication is your First Language and comes naturally to you. But I think there is something more to this skill. Even if we allow people to speak in their First Language(for me Bengali), per my experience, many Indians won't be able to communicate as effectively as Americans. I think it is more around training and social culture. You may not effectively learn to count or make logical decisions in an US school but you must learn how to speak dramatically or 'sell' something. US culture rewards 'extrovert salespersons' rather than 'introvert builders'.

Don't take me wrong - effective communication is a great skill. It is so much easy when your co-worker can articulate exactly what he is looking for. But sometimes this culture of speaking more and doing more hurts us. US workers possibly send more emails and attend more meetings than any country in the world. We always prefer to keep everything 'in writing' and inform as many people as possible as 'FYI' even if the receiver has nothing to do with the development. Possibly because we don't trust each other - we always hope that in case of a crisis I will be saved if I can show my boss that I wrote an email(remember your Boss may get terminated during the crisis and you too). Or for that matter I won't be sued if I keep a 200 page disclaimer which nobody(except the one who will find a flaw and sue you) will read.

US work ethic is legendary-US has one of the most hard-working, innovative and entrepreneurial  labor class in the world. US workers have best skill sets with the capability of generating highest level of productivity(my mistake - they have one of the best level of productivity in the world!). But I have a feel that something is wrong and we can do better. It needs culture change, it needs right focus, it needs right reward system. We need to do less and focus more on most important problems, we need to reward the introvert imagineers - the builders and architects of the society. We need to create a work environment of trust and empathy and kill the easy path of flattery and PowerPoint to progress in corporate ladder.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Crowd funding - SEC change the rules for good

Please make sure everyone can invest small funds to new ventures and have stock ownership.

This is less risky for everyone and good for overall economy.

Please make it easy.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Random thought

Rich & powerful will continue to dominate & exploit the world as it did from the very beginning. Ethics & equality are always the looser.

No revolution can change this  - because even the so-called 'successful' revolutions only changes the profiles of rich & powerful and not this rule.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Unknown Knowns & Unknown Unknowns to solve Known Unknowns

There is a 4X4 matrix -

1. Known Knowns - Solutions exist as of today and we know the solution. Example - we know the Television or Internet works

2. Unknown Knowns - Solutions exist as of today but many people do not know due to lack of interdisciplinary application oriented collaboration - example we may know how to treat cancer using super-foods but many cancer patient do not know it due to lack of knowledge sharing(may be intentional push by pharma lobby)

3. Known Unknowns - We know the problem & we know we do not have a solution yet. Example - Game theory Problems

4. Unknown Unknowns - We even don't know what we don't know. Example - Nick Bostrom on new dimensions of human experience

I think we need to concentrate on Unknown Knowns & Unknown Unknowns to solve Known Unknowns. Let's explore.

Importance of Unknown Knowns - 

We are under-utilizing human potential and not attacking big problems in a systematic way. We are wasting many human minds in pushing them to do things which can be avoided. Lack of collaboration & information exchange is a huge problem. Multiple people working on same issues - synergy, information sharing & collaboration between all these people can create magic. 

Huge amount of human knowledge has been created over time - we till now we have not managed that knowledge properly. There are so many Journals, IPs, Patents created - but we still don't have an effective way to explore these. I am aware of Patent Search and other Internet Searches - but many of the times the access is limited available to Subject SMEs or they are so technical people from other backgrounds can not appreciate the wisdom. We need a platform for easy to understand knowledge sharing so that people from cross-functional background can appreciate and apply those thoughts. I am not suggesting we will not allow monetization of patents but rather we need to push for better utilization of those IPs(Knowledge available in Patents & Research Journals).

I have gut feel if we can just improve on the area of Knowledge exchange and application of that knowledge across different domains we will be able to solve many Known Unkowns - probably there are many solutions already existing but we don't know that they exist.

I am yet to find such a platform at a large global scale but there are some model platforms(such as TED and Edge) which can be scaled up to provide the needed support.

Importance of Unknown Unknowns - 

Probably there are many things we don't even know exists and finding those can help in solving problems we don't have a solution yet. I am suggesting the application of disruptive new findings in a completely different(cross functional) domain.

As this article suggests many of our problems can not be solved by just improving the existing technologies - we need a generation of disruptive scientists. We need to fund those big, promising but not necessarily money making research activities. This is challenging when funding is scarce, judging a new scientist's capability is tough and there is no guarantee that the research project will really have any meaningful benefit. One solution to that problem can be allocating resources(funding and best quality people) to experimental projects in an International collaboration model to solve the big problems challenging our society. This is high-risk-high-reward effort and hence it needs appropriate scale and risk-reward sharing. I strongly feel start-ups & market based innovation is not appropriate for this kind of projects and need backup and collaboration from governments. Many people can consider this crazy(considering the poor knowledge, decision-making & goodwill of our national leaders and government bureaucratic processes) but remember Manhattan Project would not be possible by a single company. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Help Me from Reply All

We spend considerable time drafting and reading emails. While sending the email we are not always sure who all should be the recipient and hence sometimes we add more people than required(organizations have created tools like Distribution lists etc. to facilitate the collaboration process). This way we waste many people's valuable time who need to at least take a glance at the email and delete/file it. Similar way others waste our valuable time sending emails which are not related to our interest. Worse - people use Reply All button and thus a series of conversation starts. This is a huge waste of human energy. 

That's why I suggested Pmail - a vision to change the way we make email communication. Today I am suggesting something more easy to implement but still having huge impact - 'Block Reply All' button and 'View the Conversation' button. Here is how it should work.

You receive an email which was sent to multiple people. You find that the subject does not interest you. You click 'Block Reply All' button for that email and no further Reply All will be sent to you - but the same time sender will not receive any failure message(to to keep things straight from legal perspective in the sent emails the recipient list will be updated only to the people to whom it was sent). 

There may be a need in the future that you want to reference that email or you want to see what was the latest decision made on that conversation. You can then click on the 'View the Conversation' button in the original email and voila - you see all the history!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tough Job...really tough Job!

I was watching a hindi movie 'Fashion' - it is a story of two Supermodels..their reaching to the top of the stardom, their various compromises and then sudden fall to nowhere. One of them was able to ultimately manage it, but other couldn't.

It is difficult to reach the top...but it is more difficult to stay there for long. It is so painful and lonely! Most of the world will envy you; try to bring down you. You will be encouraged to show-off. The noise of popularity will be enough to derail your focus. You will live in world of fear - a single mistake and you are out!

So hat's off to legends like Sachin Tendulkar and Bill Gates...they not only reached to the top but kept their cool & focus. The excelled in their profession but more importantly they were able to manage their focus, their own personality, their own life. It is tough...really really tough!