Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dhoni and his Cycle of Success

Indian cricket team was flying high. Test team ranking was no. 1. They were reigning T20 champions and to top it up they also won the world cup. They could do nothing wrong.  All credit went to their leader Mahendra Singh Dhoni, MSD as they affectionately call him. He won 2 IPLs in a row for CSK and nudged Sachin Tendulkar from the charts of top grossing brand ambassador. They said he had a midas touch. Within 2 months of English tour, everything came crashing down. They got whitewashed in test series. Even unpredictable weather in England could not save them. They were hoping for a turnaround in one-day series, which never happened. Except for the fourth match which was a tie they never came close to winning anything. Fingers are being pointed at everyone and MSD takes the major share.


"I have never seen so many injuries in the last five years. To lose nine to eleven players in one series is something I can never forget, We lost five tosses and we bowled second in nearly the same conditions, which were wet and that made it tough for our spinners," Dhoni said at the post-match conference.


Was that really it? Or is there something more to it? It’s more of later than first.


MSD has a unique style of captaincy.  He builds up the team from his predecessors. He has opted for young budding players against more established players. He respected senior players and got their support and buy-in to his captaincy and then cracked down on the fence sitters. He brought in truck loads of young talent, build bench strength. Backed his players in difficult situations and motivated them to perform.

  1. Appears very calm in any adverse situations.

  2. Leads from front.

  3. Backs young players

  4. Regularly surprises opponent team with unusual moves and make them work.

  5. Has luck on his side at crucial junctures

MSD has performed well during this tour on all these points except point 4. This surprise element was always a great differentiator for Dhoni. Be it changing the batting order during world cup finals or handing over the ball to Joginder Sharma to bowl the final over of T20 to numerous changes in batting order, bowling changes, numerous field placements. He has dared the unknown, the unconventional and made it work. Guess the competition has measured it up. All his surprise moves, unusual changes are measured up by the opposition.


From the leadership style point of view, Dhoni needs to reinvent himself. He has no choice. He needs to relive his own cycle of success all over again. He should crack down on fence sitters again. Look at the performance of key players again and see if they deserve a place or should they be replaced by young talent. He may find players like Bhajji, Raina who are promising but the promise is not reflected in their performance. He should bring in some more new talent and build some more surprises up his sleeves.


Surprising the opponent is the strength. It is difficult to do it every time. There are bound to be some lean phases in between. He should take them in his stride and relive his own cycle of success.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Learnings from Angry Birds

Angry birds, casual smartphone game developed by Rovio Mobile has created a history.

Conceptualized in December 2009 and developed with mere Euro 100,000, it has achieved the impossible. The total downloads have exceeded 300 million and still counting. Angry Birds does not just have fans, it has addicts.

The addiction has spilled over in merchandising, which is even more lucrative. There are T-shirts, bags, caps, cell phone covers, pencils, erasers, compass boxes and innumerable other types of items with Angry Birds branding on it. One gets a feeling that this is just the beginning. Just imagine, for total human population of 6 billion, angry birds has achieved roughly 5% penetration of human race. Incredible, isn’t it? I am not aware of any other product or service which has achieved such a feat in 18 months flat.

There are many entertainment options available, no single option can dominate so much unless they have a strong value proposition. Unless the product or service creates deep emotional connection with the target segment achieving this feat is impossible.

What have they done right?

  1. Simple and Easy: The first thing that hits you while playing this game is it is incredibly simple and easy. This is not a usual combination.  My 3 year old son cleared first level in this game in 10 minutes flat.  Our personal and work life is getting more and more complicated by the day. A working executive or a tired housewife needs an active entertainment which is simple to use, which has very few rules that are easy to follow. Angry bird offers just that in an easy to use interface.

  2. Legitimate way to vent out frustration: Frustrations with work, colleagues, bosses, clients, spouses, kids, girlfriends/ boyfriends, traffic, delayed flights/ trains, weather drives us crazy. We feel like breaking the glass on boss’s table or feel like throwing the glass after an argument or honk loudly or hit that car who got in front by breaking lane discipline. But we don’t do any of this. We present a pleasant face, smile and store all our frustration inside. Angry Birds provides a legitimate way of venting out the frustration by destroying large structure, killing pigs and monkeys and feel happy about it secretly.

  3. Challenge in installments that keeps you interested: We don’t like challenges or problems that are too big to solve. If I was told that there are 1,000+ levels in Angry Birds I would never start playing it in first place. The game breaks the total challenge in smaller, digestible steps and approaches them one by one. I get an opportunity to savor my victory and feel happy about it. The same is true with real life, we like to break a large project in smaller milestone and feel happy that we have achieved them on time.  Lack of challenge also makes you bored and disinterested. Angry Birds takes care of that too once you complete a level, you get special birds, better abilities and bigger challenges that keep you interested in the game.

  4. Instant Gratification: All of us lack patience to wait for a big pot of gold after a long painful journey. We want everything here and now. We are much more likely to take pay increase in our monthly salary rather than big far bonus at the end of the year, if we had a choice. Each game of Angry Birds gives me star ratings and also tells me my global rank after every game. I remember the surge of motivation I got when my rank went up from 3 million to 1 million in a span of 2 games. This is no achievement to feel happy about, if you really ask me but it keeps me interested in the game and makes gives me a gratification I need.

  5. Comical entertainment: Angry Birds is not just a game, it’s an entertainment. The appearance of birds, their sounds, and the music are all the elements that are quite entertaining. That adds to the whole experience. My 3 year old son, another fan of Angry Birds, simply switches on the Angry Birds music for a dance.

The popularity of Angry Birds may fade away, new games may become more popular but fans of Angry Birds would always cherish the emotional connection the game has made with them and played a part in their daily lives.