Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Power of Restart

S**t happens. Projects get screwed up. Schedules go haywire. Your most trusted team member may vanish when you needed the most. Computers crash. The PO you wanted the most may not come despite all verbal assurances. Shipments get delayed.

What does it do to you? Well you feel overwhelmed or cheated or fooled or let down or infuriated or frustrated or all of these. The worst part is, it does not matter who screwed up, it is your job to set it right. You feel as if you are asked to move a mountain-sized debris with a mini-sized shovel. All problems appear larger than life, everything is equally urgent, no re-scheduling ever looks feasible.

What do you do in such a case? Well, Learn from Microsoft Windows. Most of Windows problems disappear on restart. Perhaps, our mind works the same way. Switch off, wait for sometime, ensure you have forgotten about the problem. Then approach the problem all over again.

You would have got your bearings back, your natural instincts would be much sharper. The the most powerful muscle in your body, the brain, would have got adjusted to the crisis and subconsciously would have worked a few things out. If the news about the crisis has spread and if there are any allies around you, they would be on their way with help.

It hasn't just worked for me but this a successful recipe of millions of Windows users worldwide. Restarting has miraculous effects. Try it!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Are you a dinosaur? How I wish...


Dinosaurs as a metaphor is quite popular in boardrooms and corporate corridors. It stands for something that is outdated, not able to keep up with the time or simply not advanced enough. Till recently I also used this metaphor at will without giving it a second thought.
Last night I was reading kids encyclopedia to my son. It had an interesting concept called world clock. The concept is quite simple, entire earth's history were to be converted to 24 hours. First signs of life arrived by midnight and it took 9 PM for the animal to appear on land. Dinosaurs ruled the earth from half past 9 PM to 11 PM. I was eager to read about human history. The entire human history is squeezed into last quarter of a second. Just compare quarter of a second to two long hours?
Isn't it amazing we humans who are walking on earth for just about 300,000 years call dinosaurs who ruled the earth for 135 million years a failure? They discovered flying long before we did, they stood on two legs long before we did, they went around the earth long before we did, still we call them failures just because they are not here.
There are many theories about why they were extinct. These theories vary from asteroids to volcanos to mammals eating their eggs. None of the theories mention that dinosaurs failed to adapt in any way. They were extinct because spike in external conditions, not because they failed to adapt.
Now look at humans. We appeared on earth clock half a second ago. In another infinitesimally small amount of time we have destroyed 50% of forest cover on the mother planet. We are plundering her resources like there is no tomorrow. It is our activities that is causing depletion of Ozone layer and global warming. Do we have what it takes to last 230 million years? If we are extinct before that it is not because of
Dinosaurs stayed on earth without destroying it. Human race would be better off learning from them how they could do it...rather than calling them a failure.
There are many set beliefs around us going around unquestioned, unchallenged. Look around, think, challenge them once in awhile. There may be big learnings from what we conventionally considered as failures.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Right Story - Wrong Conclusions!

It was bedtime for my son and following usual routine I was reading him some stories. Today we picked Aesop fables - The hare and the tortoise.
The hare was very proud that he was the fastest. The tortoise challenged him. The race started and the the hare sprinted on the race track as the tortoise slowly prodded along. The hare had almost reached when he thought of taking some rest and he slept. The tortoise slowly continued and reached the finishing line as the hare kept sleeping. The hare woke up and realized he had lost the race.
Moral : slow and steady wins the race!

My son was asleep but I was wide awake! I am sure most of us have grown up reading this story and believing the moral without questioning it. However, today I was thinking about it afresh. I looked around me in the office. None of the winners were slow and steady. And those who were slow and steady did not win every time.

I started analyzing the story dispassionately. Well, the tortoise did not really have any strategy at all. He was relying on his competition to make some mistake. He was plain and simple lucky to pull off an upset win. His success was flash in the pan, not really a sustained strategy. What would happen if the hare challenged the tortoise again? What are the chances the hare would make the same mistake again? What are the chances he would ever sleep during the race?

In the corporate world, when we are competing against other value chains, organizations, departments, teams or even individual we need strategies that would give us sustained advantage. Knowledge and wisdom is freely available in todays world. We must try to become the hare who does not sleep. He has far higher chances of winning over the tortoise. But what if you are the tortoise competing with the hare in today's world?

What should the tortoise do then? How does he compete? Does he have any chance at all? Well, yes. The tortoise has to plan his strategy based on the assumption that the hare will not sleep. The tortoises's success will depend on how well he can play to his strength. He can't run faster but can certainly swim faster. His success depends on whether he can find a short cut through water that takes him to finishing before the sprinting hare.

A strategically thinking tortoise who plays to his strength has a far higher chances of winning than a slow and steady tortoise in today's world.