Handling knowledge workers

It is rather frustrating to see how people who call themselves knowledge workers attempt to get work done out of other knowledge workers. Only one thing stands clear – THEY DO NOT KNOW WHO KNOWLEDGE WORKERS ARE! If they knew even a little bit, they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing. Let me explain.

I was privy to a senior academic (at least one who claims to be), trying to get something written out of a junior colleague. I had just heard her say (a few weeks back) about ethics and values. So it kind of gave me a glimpse to people who are normally called ‘hypocrites’. But it also told me that even after years of experience in the education system, this senior academic did not know how to get work done out of a knowledge worker. She attempted to use her power to get the work done. She believes or at least thats the expression she gave in her communication – that, I will force work down you and make you write what I need. Is it her ignorance or arrogance? I am sure she is pretty unread about knowledge workers, managing knowledge work, and ethics.

When I shared this with a few of my other academic friends, they did not seem surprised! They said academics like the one I had seen were not exceptions, but the norm. They even laughed at my innocence and told me that this was one of the biggest reasons why there is little respectable research output from this country. They remarked – People have no idea about knowledge work, knowledge creation and ethics. They simply churn the churned content and keep passing days. Sad, but true.

I am a knowledge worker. I know it really well. I normally spend most of my time in environments where knowledge based work is expected to happen. I am learning to produce research of the highest quality. I search for those few people who still move around our ‘temples of knowledge’ carrying within themselves values and ethics of a true knowledge worker. Rare, but they exist. If you meet people like these, you are lucky. But don’t give up. Search. You will find them.

As one with years of experience in knowledge driven enterprises, one thing that I can say for certain is that – you cannot manage knowledge workers, you can only lead them. I had written about this about a decade ago. (Knowledge worker community – over managed or under led?)

I wish to remind people that living in a knowledge driven society, trying to survive in a knowledge driven economy, it is not possible to force and threaten, to produce work. It is like locking up a designer and telling him that you will not give him his salary until he produces the work you want. Do you think this will work? Can you make an artist paint by holding him to ransom? At least a true knowledge worker will walk away. A true artist will not even wait to think. So, if you are one involved in knowledge based work, learn well today that ‘knowledge work’ can only be created voluntarily. ‘Knowledge workers’ can only be led, not managed. If you don’t do this, you will surround yourself with machines not minds.

Think about it.

Books and Me: The Launch Pad – Inside Y Combinator

Book Title: The Launch Pad – Inside Y Combinator

Author: Randall StrossThe launch pad Book cover

Its an unusual book. Its a page turner. Its an experience.

It is not a dramatised version of a science fiction novel, but a matter-of-fact story of a real happening. ‘Y Combinator’ was the world’s first accelerator. Though Paul Graham does not refer to it as an accelerator, the phenomenon has really caught on.

This book is more like an ethnographic account of what makes ‘Y Combinator’ a celebrated place in the valley. The author gained access to spend time through one cohort and write a detailed account. The story gives us an idea of how a startup is selected, what they go through and how they prepare themselves for growth. While acceleration seems to only speed up the process of testing and going to market, there is no assurance of success or a sure-success pill.

I enjoyed reading the book. It seemed more fiction than non-fiction. There are interesting anecdotes and experiences that startups, ecosystem stakeholders and policy makers can learn from. Though Silicon Valley itself has enormous lessons for building entrepreneurship ecosystems, places like ‘Y Combinator’ provide equally compelling models of creating ecosystems for catalysing entrepreneurship.

I read the book because of my interest in the phenomenon of accelerators. But startup founders, policy makers, entrepreneurship ecosystem support stakeholders – all equally have interesting take aways from the book. If not anything else, it is a well written story of what happens in the world of startups.

Enjoy – happy reading!

Teaching machines to learn

“Machine Learning” is no more new. Literally every new kid with even a wee bit of curiosity with technology knows about it. But while programming machines to act intelligent was the earlier approach, teaching machines to learn for themselves is where the world is headed.

With Google and Facebook making substantial investments into the tools needed to make machine learning happen, the trend has only been speeded up. The next fight for these biggies in technology is on whose artificial intelligence tools are going to be used more widely to enable machine learning. At least in the case of Google and Facebook the tools seem open source and available to the world at large.

On its part, Google is providing a free online course through Udacity. The course is going to be led by Vincent Vanhoucke, a principal scientist at Google. I am sure by sharing their knowledge on this toolkit, they will open up the minds of many more engineers beyond Google to experiment and take machine learning forward.

For more information look up these links:

TensorFlow (Google’s latest machine learning system) – http://googleresearch.blogspot.in/2015/11/tensorflow-googles-latest-machine_9.html


Putting Deep Learning to Work – http://blog.udacity.com/2016/01/putting-deep-learning-to-work.html

Course Link – https://www.udacity.com/course/deep-learning–ud730

I am posting this so that many of my young engineering minds (especially the entrepreneurial ones looking for new opportunities) may pick up such emerging skills. There is so much engineering talent across India, which if can be educated on skills like the above, will startup scalable unicorns.

Startup India by learning how to teach machines how to learn!

Books and Me: Don’t Buy this Book Now! The Art of Procrastination

Book Title: Don’t Buy this Book Now! The Art of Procrastination

Author: John PerryDont buy this book now_Book Cover

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, with an entire case to be edited before night, I was reading this book. The very fact that I was not at my table editing the case, but browsing the racks (with guilt) of my library is reason enough to have stumbled onto this little gem.

The well-made, hardbound, nicely created book is a quick read. One can finish the book in an hour or two. Once you finish the book, you will first and foremost be guilt-free from ‘procrastination’. You will also come away learning a few tools to fool yourself into a more productive day. Every time I read a book by a philosopher, I wonder about the equipment called ‘the mind’ sitting inside each of us. Whoever said – ‘the enemy is within’, was totally right.

It is no surprise that the author of this little book won the Ig Nobel Prize. Thanks to this book, I learned about these awards and their quirkiness too. I don’t want to share anything about the content of this book for two reasons: (i) book is too short and (ii) the crux of it is so simple, yet so profound.

If you are reading this post instead of making your days count you should read this book.

Why would I want my entrepreneur folk (students/colleagues/clients) to read this book? Answer: Because without their own knowledge they keep procrastinating their most important tasks. While they remain busy, they get frustrated that their key tasks remain pending. This book will provide some unconventional tips to get focus back on what matters. This suits entrepreneurs best.

Happy Reading! Happy Procrastination! Happy Productivity! Happy Living!

Secret: Tips in the book.



Dr. Udai Pareek Memorial Day 2016

Last Saturday, 23rd January 2016, I attended a panel discussion held at The Academy of Human Resources Development (AHRD), Ahmedabad. (http://www.academyofhrd.org/index.php) The celebration of the evening was in memory of the late Dr Udai Pareek who is widely known as the ‘Father of HRD in India’. Prof Pestonjee (co-founder of AHRD) and Major General Sanjiv Shukla were amongst the many esteemed guests present in the audience. Prof Pestonjee’s shared his memories of having worked with Dr Udai Pareek. Though Dr Pareek was not new to most of the audience, many aspects of his life and work was seen in fresh light. This is the true reflection of an intellectual’s life. True to his wish ‘Don’t mourn my death, celebrate it’, every speaker spoke of how one can live this philosophy. It was touching to hear the humility with which such a luminary Dr Pareek actually lived his life.

The panelists included a good mix of academia (Prof Khokle and Prof Singh) and industry (Shri Goswami, Shri Sharma, Shri Nair). Dr Rajeshwari Narendran (Director, AHRD) moderated the session in her trademark style which ensured the audience were treated to some of the best emerging ideas on human resource development. She involved the audience actively to bring out variety and depth to the conversation. At times I felt that I was part of a very large group discussion with an amazing moderator. The program ended with lighter chat over a tasty dinner. I (along with my friends) enjoyed the evening and had much to talk on our way back.

The discussions revolved around the challenges faced by HR today and the potential future that it is creating for itself. It was interesting to watch how candid conversations were had over tough questions. The discussions touched almost every aspect of HR and brought out how HR had to change in today’s knowledge driven society. Some of the key questions which I carried away that may be of interest to either a forward looking HR practitioner or an inquisitive HR researcher:

  • Is HR a department or a service?
  • Should HR get a seat on the board and be involved in business decisions?
  • How can we make India the HR Hub of the world?
  • Establishing why HR is needed in an organisation?
  • HR should go beyond employees – how?
  • Should companies do away with the Bell Curve?
  • How should performance management systems of the future look?
  • How should HR engage with employees?
  • How should analytics be used in HR and by HR professionals?
  • How should employees be inspired beyond rewards and recognition?
  • Is there a functional arrogance amongst HR professionals? How is it affecting practice?
  • How should the concept of co-creation be implemented in HR practice?
  • How should HR be structured and made available amongst Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises?
  • Should HR be transferred back to the line manager?
  • How should HR handle exceptions?

I am sure everyone in audience left with a unique set of questions. These (stated above) are few of mine.

During the deliberations various academic publications were referred to and number of organisational examples cited. Major General Shukla ended the formal discussions by raising some interesting questions and providing potential projects for HR enthusiasts.

In a technology driven society wherein knowledge workers are on the rise, the HR function has both a plethora of challenges and opportunities. With the growing thrust on startups in India, the role of HR in its truest sense and spirit has only got to get more essential and important. As an entrepreneurship researcher, educator and advisor, I came away feeling high from the intellectually stimulating evening.

Interview with the authors of ‘FOUND: Transforming Your Unlimited Ideas into One Sustainable Business’

Book Title: ‘FOUND: Transforming Your Unlimited Ideas into One Sustainable Business’

Authors (Photo): Naveen Lakkur (Corporate Innovation Coach) and Dr Liz Alexander (Consulting Co-author and global thought leadership strategist)

To know more about the authors: Naveen (http://www.naveenlakkur.com/about/) and Dr Liz (http://drlizalexander.com/about/).

The book was launched yesterday at Bangalore, India. Since it a book that is aimed at entrepreneurs, a group that I work with closely, I wanted to know more. Though I could not be there in person for the event, I caught up with Naveen for a quick e-chat. An edited version is presented below. I hope this will give you an overview of the book and incite interest to read it. My best wishes to the authors for all success of their book.

Here is the interview:

What gave you the idea to write FOUND: Transforming Your Unlimited Ideas into One Sustainable Business?

The enthusiasm for entrepreneurship is on a rise and, of course, such excitement is an important part of this journey since it takes a huge commitment in time, money and effort to bring an idea to its full reality. We also need more entrepreneurs to build meaningful companies which, in turn, helps to support and sustain the economy. But if you look at the number of startups that survive, the figure is very low. What is needed to successfully build a sustainable business is a sound process and methodology for deciding which of your many ideas you will pick and act on. Our book, FOUND, is all about helping aspiring and seasoned entrepreneurs – as well as those charged with intrapreneurial initiatives within the corporate world – find that one winning idea.

What is your view on entrepreneurship in India currently?

Traditionally in India, entrepreneurship at the grass roots level has been more about family-owned businesses that operate locally. Thanks to technology, the term has been redefined and taken to a new level. One in which entrepreneurs are able to build more scalable, even global solutions. As such, technology has been a catalyst, increasing the number of people interested in entrepreneurship and who wish to create a bigger impact for a larger base of people. That’s especially true in India where there is considerable interest, not just in creating products and apps, but in providing fresh solutions to some of our most pressing social problems. With the opportunity to help change our country and the world, we’ve seen many more first time entrepreneurs stepping forward. The startup dynamic now looks very different to the way it did just a few years ago.

How might the five-part framework in FOUND contribute to the recently-launched Startup India movement?Foundcover copy

Now that Startup India has become a movement, tapping into the aspirations and personal goals of people who want to make a difference in the world, there is the potential for very large number of new entrepreneurs. While something like 4,500 startups were registered last year, we can see that in the coming 5-10 years, that number could be boosted to 100,000 startups—a huge increase compared to what is happening currently. But as we said earlier, the success rates of startups is currently very low. If the number of people attempting to become entrepreneurs grows exponentially, there has to be some support system in order for all those ideas to become sustainable businesses. FOUND is our humble offering that contributes to Startup India by ensuring future entrepreneurs are able to stand up and stand out.

Naveen, you bring considerable experience from corporate life, as well as being a startup founder, startup investor and now a corporate innovation coach. What have you learned most from that blend of experience?

As you say, my experience has come through a variety of different approaches to ideation and startup success and I’ve had a lot of learning along the way. As a result of joining all these dots I was able to develop this proven FOUND methodology and offer it to people who want to come up with a lot of ideas yet find one that can become scalable, even globally impactful. Because I’ve had experience both in the startup space and the corporate world, the intellectual property that came out of that learning has been transformed into the FOUND framework. And the beauty is, it works as an enabler for people aspiring to become entrepreneurs, and for corporates looking to support intrapreneurship in their organisations.

What were some of the challenges you faced in your own entrepreneurial journey?

I’ve always been someone who has found it easy to generate a lot of ideas and can see opportunities in them all. I found that picking one idea and making that a priority was one of my biggest challenges, because it’s very tempting to want to try to take them all to the next level! Which is why I find it easy to empathize with entrepreneurs who face the same hard decisions and why I wanted to write this book!

Also, when I went through my own entrepreneurial journey there was very little in the way of support. There wasn’t the same ecosystem that there is these days. So I had no option other than bootstrapping, which can be a double-edged sword when you are trying to test and validate a lot of ideas to begin with. I certainly made a lot of mistakes and learned the hard way. It’s this learning that we’re sharing with the readers of FOUND so they can build a sustainable, successful business without having to experience too many missteps.

What are your hopes for your book, FOUND?

Both Dr. Liz and I hope that the framework for ideation presented in our book will help launch many sustainable businesses and prove especially helpful for those entrepreneurs who plan to bootstrap and use their resources wisely. What would delight us most is to discover that one day the founders of several unicorn companies – those with billion dollar valuations or more – say that they read this book called FOUND and that its principles and framework helped them create global value-creating brands.

I hope you found the short e-interview interesting. For those who want to find ‘Found’ I am sharing a quick clue: http://www.amazon.in/FOUND-Transforming-Unlimited-Sustainable-Business-ebook/dp/B01AT6XXMQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453566290&sr=1-1&keywords=FOUND%3A+Transforming+Your+Unlimited+Ideas+into+One+Sustainable+Business

Vedantic Wednesday: Ego

When ‘ego’ lifts its’ ugly head, human beings (man/woman) display certain strange signs:

  • Develop anger at the drop of a hat
  • Not able to accept ‘no’ for an answer
  • Cannot accept an alternate view on anything
  • Become unreasonable
  • Become vengeful
  • Become happy at another’s unhappiness
  • No concept of forgiveness

While noticing these are signs of ego at work, it also has implications on oneself:

  • Become irritable
  • Reduced focus / concentration
  • Internally restless / disturbed
  • Increased stress levels
  • Lack of sleep
  • Erratic moods

And all of these (and more) lead to more of the former list. The cycle repeats itself and eventually becomes a downward spiral leading to a loss of one’s ‘self’. The fall to a state of unhappiness and disturbed living is inevitable. These are beautifully described in Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita as the ‘Ladder of Fall’.

The worst thing is – most of the people who fall into this spiral are people who have read the Bhagavad Gita. Life is full of irony. It is no surprise that sages and saints constantly repeat that the goal of spiritual evolution is to drop the ‘ego’.

I don’t know the ‘ego’ but I know it shows itself all the time. I saw one manifest even today. The problem is not in seeing it in the other – all of us can. The real chance to evolve and become eternally peaceful is in becoming aware of it within oneself. It is the only way to everlasting peace and happiness.

Happy Thinking and Happy Becoming!