Books and Me: In Other Words

Book Title: In Other Wordsin-other-words-book-cover

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

I love reading biographies and autobiographies. It is one of those genres of non-fiction that I enjoy. When I came across this non-fiction book by the author of several award winning works of fiction, I was tempted to try. I even thought it might be bordering on her life – but I was in for some surprise!

The book is brilliant. It exposes our limitations as human beings and how we don’t even recognise them. The book was actually written by Jhumpa Lahiri in Italian and translated into English by Ann Goldstein. Hence it is actually not a book that showcases her English which is her strength.

The book is a brilliant example of how people should live their lives. Instead of continuing to write more books in English for which she is celebrated, Jhumpa Lahiri takes the entrepreneurial route to experimenting with something that struck a cord with her – Learning and Writing in Italian, a language that touched her on the inside.

Using the experience of learning and writing a new language Jhumpa Lahiri exposes how we are all limited to our little worlds. There are so many places in the book where I paused and was sent into a reflective mood – something that happens usually when you read philosophy. Some of those sentences in the book caught on to me so much that I have marked them for re-reflection. If you are one who loves philosophy, even tangentially, you will not miss these reflections in the book. The book clearly highlights the limitations of the human mind, how we stay stuck to comfort zones, the fear of getting out of comfort zones, and what one goes through to get over the fear of moving out of the comfort zone.

I enjoyed reading the book and look forward to re-reading it again.

Attending the 4th PAN IIM Conference at IIM Ahmedabad

It was good being there at the Fourth PAN IIM World Management Conference held between 13-15 December 2016 at IIM Ahmedabad. Out of about 850 submissions, less than 200 were chosen for presentation (paper presentation and poster presentation sessions). I was one of those 150-odd individuals to have their paper selected for presentation!!

Over the three days we met a number of senior professors from various disciplines within management. It was good catching up with number of doctoral students and candidates from institutes across India. It did help presenting my ideas at the conference and have some informal discussions around them.

I had people who simply thought what I was doing was ridiculous, some rubbished me and my work, some gave me encouragement, some showed interest and a few definitely did discuss future possibilities around my topic. It showed how and why academics (industry) is just like other sectors – filled with human beings of all kinds!! Nothing is different in education, though one would expect it to be (remember, holy profession!).

As one who loves teaching and research, I believe that there is tremendous opportunity for young scholars to make a mark in the Indian Higher Education industry – big changes taking place in disciplines, new disciplines emerging, people caught up in old ways of thinking, expanding universities/institutes (IIT, IIM, etc) creating fresh demands, and pockets across disciplines where the average scholarly output is really low. Any young and emerging scholar should see this as a great opportunity, act with entrepreneurial zeal and establish themselves firmly in their domains of interest. Considering the fact that India is being seen as the future land of opportunities and accepting the fact that the world wants to know more about India and Indian management, time is ripe for us to research, write and teach from here.

Let us (scholars) make use of this golden opportunity.

Think about it.

One among ASQ Blog’s Top Ten Posts in 2016

Seasons Greetings and New Year Wishes 2017!!

I am a big fan of the ‘Administrative Science Quarterly’ Journal (ASQ). I was excited when the possibility of interviewing the authors of one of its papers. I enjoyed reading the article as it was close to how I intended (research method) to do my doctoral work. The interview was even more enjoyable. The interview was posted during the second half of November 2016. Link: https://asqblog.com/2016/11/16/delmestri-greenwood-2016-how-cinderella-became-a-queen-theorizing-radical-status-change/

We are more than happy to share that the interview we (Shaya & I) conducted for the ASQ Blog turned up to be No. 4 of their ‘Top Ten Blog Posts’ in 2016. This is really cool considering that fact that we had only about 45 days of presence on the web that year.

We learned a lot by reading that article in the ASQ and especially from the interview that we conducted with the authors. We are happy that our interview was well received by scholars. Hope a lot more scholars (doctoral students in particular) benefit from the interview and the article.

The ASQ blog team wish you a productive and fruitful 2017! Here we present the list of top posts in 2016 on the ASQ blog: take a look and get drunk on some scholarly wisdom before you open the Happy New Year champagne!

1. A Conversation with Jerry Davis, ASQ Editor (2011 – 2016)

2. A Conversation with Charlene Zietsma, winner of the 2016 ASQ Award for Scholarly Contribution

3. Berg (2016). Balancing on the Creative Highwire: Forecasting the Success of Novel Ideas in Organizations

4. Delmestri & Greenwood (2016). How Cinderella Became a Queen: Theorizing Radical Status Change

5. Davis & Eisenhardt (2011). Rotating Leadership and Collaborative Innovation: Recombination Processes in Symbiotic Relationships

6. Michel (2011). Transcending Socialization: A Nine-Year Ethnography of the Body’s Role in Organizational Control and Knowledge Workers’ Transformation

7. Huang and Pearce (2015). Managing the Unknowable: The Effectiveness of Early-stage Investor Gut Feel in Entrepreneurial Investment Decisions

8. Rider (2012). How Employees’ Prior Affiliations Constrain Organizational Network Change: A Study of U.S. Venture Capital and Private Equity

9. Navis and Glynn (2010). How new market categories emerge: temporal dynamics of legitimacy, identity, and entrepreneurship in satellite radio, 1990-2005

10. Merluzzi & Phillips (2016). The Specialist Discount: Negative Returns for MBAs with Focused Profiles in Investment Banking.

via Top Posts of 2016 — The ASQ Blog

Books and Me: The Blue Umbrella

Book Title: The Blue Umbrellablue-umbrella-book-cover

Author: Ruskin Bond

I am carrying a ‘blue umbrella’ with me this monsoon. Someone passed a comment on it. It made me remember this book. So, I picked it up again. This little gem got delivered by Amazon earlier this week and I ended up reading it that very night. I felt I was reading it for the first time. This little girl, her brother, the cows, the hillside, and everything almost visually coming to life in front of my eyes. I was literally seeing the story unfold in front of my eyes. It shows the power of simple writing. It shows the emotions of village folk. It displays village life and values.

As I was telling a professor of mine during lunch the next day, ‘The most difficult word I saw in that book was – petulant’. Isn’t that amazing?

I love Ruskin Bond’s writing. His books are for children. But I have come to believe that his books are for the child within every one of us. Hence I will continue to regularly pick up his titles, especially these little stories for children and read them over and over again. I am extremely hopeful that this will impact my writing too.

At times during the reading, I was consciously slowing myself down, keeping the book on my chest and looking into my white ceiling visualising what some character would be doing or feeling then. I enjoyed every bit of it, as I have always in the past with Bond’s books.

So, if you are looking for some really high quality writing, pick this book up. If you have young children, expose them to Ruskin’s writing as early as you can. While I go finding the next title to read, pick up ‘The Blue Umbrella’ and,

Happy Reading!

Resource Allocation & Strategy – Some Ideas

I teach ‘strategic management’ apart from ‘entrepreneurship’. Invariably the topic of ‘what is the most important activity of a strategist’ within the company, comes up. Without doubt, it seems to me, it is ‘resource allocation’. It involves making choices and decisions, both of which require considerable thought. Both of these look easy to people from outside, and they are the most difficult when seen through the eyes of the strategist.

So, when I saw this article from McKinsey & Co, I could not but share it with my students and colleagues. I am now sharing it here too:

Link: http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/how-nimble-resource-allocation-can-double-your-companys-value

It speaks of how dynamism in resource allocation can improve performance. It also suggest four principles to follow in this activity:

  1. Go Granular
  2. Focus on value creation
  3. Overcome biases
  4. Be agile

Though most of the article speaks directly to the managers / strategists of large companies, there are numerous insights for small and medium businesses too.

Happy Reading and Happy Thinking!

Onam Sadya and Lessons for Teachers

Yesterday I was invited by my students to take part in their ‘Onam Sadya’ Lunch Celebration. When I landed up there, I found a large number of the students were in ‘mundu’ and ‘kasavu set saree’ (traditional Kerala wear). Most of them stopped to say ‘hi’. welcomes me (and so many others) with a warm smile, and ensured we enjoyed every aspect of the meal.

What makes this special is that this happened over 3000 Kilometres away from Kerala.

Making this event a success needed identifying caterers who can cook and deliver specific cuisine, ensuring that it is delivered on time, gaining permission from local authorities to make this happen, and ensuring that there is no glitch. It also meant getting a group of people together and participate. It required all the ‘kids’ (as I lovingly address them) to serve the food to their friends, faculty, and staff. It required them to manage the logistics as well as handle the ‘on the floor’ challenges of ensuring every one had a good meal.

I was astonished at their energy levels, their commitment levels, their interest levels, their enthusiasm levels, and much more.

It did not seem that this required creation of a team or committee.

It did not seem to require any role identification and delegation.

It did not seem to require any oversight.

How did all this happen meticulously in a seemingly leaderless group? I came away feeling thrilled and proud that – here are a group of enterprising students who gave me the opportunity to be their teacher. I learn so much from them. I always tell them this. Here is one more opportunity to learn and thank them.

Teachers must really think over this. When students ‘love’ what they do, they don’t need to be given instructions, they don’t need to be grouped, they don’t need supervision. All they need is direction. If students are not enthused over your classes and assignments, don’t blame the ‘kids’, ask yourself how you can create a more inspiring opportunity for them to display their levels of passion, interest, energy and potential. How can we make students ‘love’ the subject and the learning? The rest will be taken care of, by them!

I reiterate my stand that students have a lot to teach their teachers. I hope the teachers have the openness to learn from them. If teachers open their eyes, there is so much to gain from the interaction with our younger generation.

Thanks Guys and Gals, for a lovely ‘Onam Sadya’ and even more wonderful lessons to become a better teacher. I promise to learn and try!

2 Things Startups NEED TO DO

  1. Build something that ‘someone’ wants / needs
  2. Talk to a lot of people who look like that ‘someone’

Startups ought to do this, but most don’t! I am not the first person to say this. Every worthwhile investor says this. Every successful startup seems to have done it. Every unsuccessful startup says they should have done more of it. At times failed startups thank ‘step 2’ to have failed quickly and learned a lot from it.

But even these days when I talk to founders, I find that they simply get distracted by the variety of inputs they get and lose focus on the above two actions. They make assumptions and build on imaginations. These kill startups.

So, if you are an entrepreneur – ensure you and your co-founders do the above two things religiously. It will help you and your startup in more ways than what a mentor or investor can do for you.

Don’t Think! Just Act now on the above two things.