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.

How Venture Capitalists Think?

Every entrepreneur wants to understand this. Here is one more chance to glimpse into one such mind. This interview (Link: http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/high-tech/our-insights/inside-the-mind-of-a-venture-capitalist?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck-oth) with Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson is very interesting.

What got me excited is his thoughts on how large companies can deal with disruption. This is important to me for two reasons: (i) this relates to my research on corporate engagement with startups and corporate acceleration; and (ii) it helps in bringing one more perspective in my workshops on corporate innovation and strategic leadership.

Happy Listening!

Google – still entrepreneurial?

It is difficult to understand organisations. Why 3M attract so much interest from everyone around the world? They have some how managed to keep the entrepreneurial quotient alive. While many companies learn about the 3M Case Study in Corporate Innovation Workshops, very few have been able to create their own model to keep innovation alive.

Google is proving to be another exception. Recently Google spoke about an internal project to develop a new operating system (from scratch). When I read through the article (Link: http://www.fastcompany.com/3063006/why-on-earth-is-google-building-a-new-operating-system-from-scratch), I also kind of think we need to envision a new operating system. But that is so much against an organisation’s short term goals. Android is gaining popularity. Why do something that can (probably) kill it? But isn’t that what entrepreneurial companies have always done in the past?

While doing everything they should to keep Android the best operating system, they are also building an alternative. If they continue to keep this spirit alive, they will continue to be an entrepreneurial organisation.

I now use Google along with 3M in my workshops on Corporate Innovation and Corporate Entrepreneurship. There is a lot to learn and imbibe. There is so much opportunity for large organisations to turn entrepreneurial, but will they? They need aspirational leaders to make this happen. I hope I can enable the creation of a few!

Building Great Teams

No amount of inputs on this topic seems sufficient. Building winning teams is difficult. Especially when it comes to entrepreneurs / startups. Here are some thoughts on how you can build them. Link: http://www.strategy-business.com/blog/The-Acceleration-Factor

While the five factors may be everything, they do provide enough thoughts to get started in building and sustaining great teams within your startups and organisations.

Read. Think. Apply. Build.