Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Adventure that is me..

The decision to join Ripley for his jaunt in the world’s biggest sandpit was made in a moment. I read the plan thoroughly; let the idea cook in my head for a while without leading it down the path of conclusion. When I did conclude though, there was no dilemma, no ifs, or buts – just decision made, I was going.

The next few days passed in a breeze as I waited for documentation, confirmation of payment and for the announcement that I was now a part of the team. I was ecstatic when it came in. Now began the tough part – getting in shape physically and mentally.

What compels individuals to do crazy things? Need for popularity, admiration, fulfillment, in support of a noble cause, just for kicks? What was mine? It came to me much later and was disarmingly simple – this adventure was me. Then there was the cause, of course, —edurelief, besides the opportunity to travel and, to meet great people.

Me? Yeah, me in the stories I tell myself about, well, myself. It is the stories that we tell ourselves that I want to constantly challenge. It’s you, always you that make you what you want to be or not make you what you want to be. No one can make you feel small or great if you don’t want to and similarly, no one can prepare you for what lies ahead, but yourself.

This adventure then is me. It is what I have told myself so far. It is what I shall tell myself when I fall, then get up and walk again in the run up to the great walk. It will be what’ll speak out loud to myself as I train in fair weather and foul. It’ll be the words I chant as I cover kilometer after kilometer, end one day after another, move between myriad shades of the mind throughout the Gobi walk. It’ll define my existence for the next 8 months and touch my life in way I don’t know yet. I will then contradict it and speak again. It is what will carry me forward as I want to.

Inspire. Interact. Illustrate. Gobi Adventure. I. Me. Myself.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 1: Copenhagen

The airport bus dropped us off at the Marriott by the banks of the Copenhagen river. The flight was uneventful. The premiere economy class they have introduced onboard has made things much easier with personal telly, extending leg rest, roomier seats. I could decide where i wanted to sit at the time of booking, and obviously I choose the best.

The normal check in time at Scandinavian hotels is 2.00 pm and if you are lucky you’ll get your room at that time. The hotels do try their best but then they cannot just chase guests away. That turned out be a boon for us since we came into the hotel at about 11 am.

Right outside the hotel on its side facing the river was a stop for the river ferry. I had made a beeline for the tourist assistance desk in the hotel as soon as we had checked in and my discussions had resulted in this information. So we went out on the lovely banks and looked up the timetable, plotted our route in the city and decided on our ferry back.

My camera was still in my suitcase, safely locked away in the hold of the hotel. So i relied on my hand Nokia to help with the pictures. 

The ferry was a longish open top boat with seating all around and it made its way through the river, upstream, under the low hanging bridges. They were so low sometimes that i could reach up while I sat and touch their arches. The views on both sides of the river were amazing, a mix of the old and the new.

We meandered through the water to the city centre and go off a little way off the main shopping street. Our first stop was for sandwiches and a drink. I could not keep Aai away from those blueberry muffins for long and she was soon munching away on one.
Hunger satiated, we walked along the shopping district there, taking in the big names. On one store that was undergoing renovation I saw this poster and felt like signing up!
We made our way slowly to the quai once more to catch the boat back to the Marriott by the river. It was getting a bit dark. We waited for the boat on the sides of a big courtyard with a huge anchor displayed in the middle. Peoples of all ages were milling around waiting for the boat, drinking, eating and running after toddlers who seems to have sprung up in abundance from nowhere. 

The boat came in and with no hurry what so ever to acquire a place on it, we were sailing away towards the hotel and the end of our first day in Denmark.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Tim Krabbé

"The greater the suffering, the greater the pleasure. That is nature’s payback to riders for the homage they pay her by suffering. Velvet pillows, safari parks, sunglasses; people have become woolly mice. They still have bodies that can walk for five days and four nights through a desert of snow, without food, but they accept praise for having taken a one-hour bicycle ride. ‘Good for you’. Instead of expressing their gratitude for the rain by getting wet, people walk around with umbrellas. Nature is an old lady with few friends these days, and those who wish to make use of her charms, she rewards passionately."
- Tim Krabbé, 1978

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The intricate economics of terrorism

A superb talk, if there was one, about how terrorism is “just another business model” for those who run the cartels peddling terror across the globe. Insightful!

Sunday, July 25, 2010


.......much needed rain,
from dark grey clouds
green springs from the gloom....

Friday, July 23, 2010

A culture of safety..

In other news today, the corporate introduced a rule making helmets compulsory for 2 wheeler riders. The rule came in force right after a colleague was tragically killed by a dumper when she was commuting to office on her 2 wheeler.
A knee jerk reaction, which is typical of governments all over the world, is relatively unexpected in the corporate. (Or I am unexpecting too much?). When GPM and EBIDTA rule most decisions, you would expect a plan for the future in place and the right minds leading the team on it.
There’s an important model called the Tools of Cooperation, which basically says people who might not see the foggy future as well as the managers can see it, can be asked to work cooperatively to go in the right direction. Knowing what tools to wield to elicit the needed cooperation is a critical managerial skill.
These tools run along two dimensions—the extent to which members of the organization agree on what they want from their participation in the enterprise, and the extent to which they agree on what actions will produce the desired results. When the situation is not win-win, real or perceived, the use of “power tools”—coercion, threats, punishment, and so on come into play to secure that cooperation.
In this scenario, which was completely unexpected but not entirely unanticipated, we started with an assertion – defining what must be done and how – all 2 wheeler riders wear a helmet. Would it not have been better to build a culture of safety and security instead? How do you tell an average population of 27 years what is good for them in a coercive way? Would it not serve them and theirs better if they practiced it as a part of daily life and routine?
You have to design culture into your environment just we fold it into our family lives — and you have to think about this very very early on. When people work at something and it looks like they are succeeding at it by approaching the task in a certain way, it tends to get repeated. And you begin to form a culture. MIT’s Edgar Schein has described this process as the mechanism by which a culture is built. Culture bring consensus—the high success rate of doing a certain task in a certain way is establishes it. Clayton M. Christensen says that ultimately, people don’t even think about whether their way of doing things yields success. They embrace priorities and follow procedures by instinct and assumption rather than by explicit decision—which means that they’ve created a culture. Culture, in compelling but unspoken ways, dictates the proven, acceptable methods by which members of the group address recurrent problems. And culture defines the priority given to different types of problems.
Minds that lead are the minds from which the customs filter down. The higher up the ladder you go, the more responsibility you have to define a cultural map that will sustain the challenges that can be see and cannot be seen. Knee jerk reactions are best left behind in the labyrinths of officialdom.
Are we heading the same way, into the same maze?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Technology improves workforce collaboration and productivity

A simple internal chat client revolutionized the way people operated in my company, a part of the knowledge industry. The desk to desk traffic dropped, people were more at their desks, working, and discussing online, sharing files & screens. Quick solutions were hammered out for tasks which hitherto required a short meeting or required you to walk across the floor to ‘visit’ your colleague. The overall time saved due to the use this tool was put to was impressive.
What knowledge workers do day-in day-out requires a lot of collaboration, interaction, and brainstorming—basically, working very closely together. Their work starts as abstraction during the initiation phase and the ideas start to flesh out as the plans evolve. During execution and monitoring, their engagement with each other and the clients is more streamlined that before, although more frequent. This interaction is towards resolving problems & developing solutions for clients, innovating, and discussing work with colleagues. A meeting of appropriate technology with the processes and workflows proves beneficial for boosting productivity. In this less understood domain, technology can improve the quality and output of knowledge workers.
In such a collaborative environment, technology is used differently. It multiplies interactions and extends the reach of each knowledge worker. There is potential for sizeable gains from even tiny improvements. Who actually is doing the collaborating, how it is currently done, and what they want to now do differently, is the key to decide what technological support these interactions need. At times, interactions are sources of waste—poorly planned meetings, misuse/disuse of existing technology, redundant e-mail communications and unproductive travel.
And what about those intangible interactions though, which no industry outsider would comprehend, but which forms the source of some great quality ideas? These cannot be measured like per minute transactions or like operational efficiency cannot be put into numbers.
Improving employee collaboration also depends on selecting the technologies that best support the type of interactions they typically have, those that set them apart from other industries. What is working, what is not, what can be improved, what should be thrown out of the window….answers to these questions influence the choice of technology. A study of workflows across the company can help benchmarks the most effective way of performing a task. With that knowledge we can identify inefficient practices and select technologies with which to improve them. Finding and making this match is very important, else new initiative rise like a wave and then sink without a trace. People are quick to distance themselves from a bad marriage of the two.
The most basic manifestation of technology helping better collaboration is the MS Outlook Calendar’s Meeting Scheduler feature. It plans for everyone’s time and gives focus to how it is spent. You come, meet, discuss, conclude and disperse. It is all arranged in real time, response options available so that everyone knows what is happening. The avenues open up far and wide beyond this. There are scores of such free and paid tool available, particularly Web 2.0 tools such as social/professional networks, wikis, and video sharing, micro/blog, surveys, video conferencing, chats, fax— a lot of them great sources of Just-in-time information.
Imagine the need to search for appropriate talent within the company to allocate to your project. Wouldn’t an online, updated skill matrix be on the top of your wish list? Look at how EPM tools map the web of relationships between people weaving in their skills with assigned tasks. Corporate wikis are treasure troves of information—internal and external, official and well, official. I have personally done a lot of trouble shooting based on information I searched for and read at topical forums.
Think of all those times when you searched high and low for a work document template and not finding one proceeded to create it on your own. What could have rescued you from reinventing the wheel at such a time are online repositories of documents and data. In addition, collaboration technologies such as Google Docs or Microsoft’s OfficeLive allow for coauthoring and co-editing content documents. Since many individuals are working on the same project at the same time, rework, time for confirmation and interpretation is drastically reduced.
Many companies we know are just getting there or showing signs of waking up to these possibilities. Furthering collaboration through technology demands mind-sets and capabilities that are prepared tread on unfamiliar terrain. It requires trusting your collaboration teams to arrive at solutions that work rather than enforcing top-down policies. Managers should also allow time and provide forums for collaborators to brainstorm solutions to productivity problems. The technology providers will need to supply tools that are flexible enough to enable experimentation, so that the choice-making decision is well informed, tool usage and its adoption is widespread. Blocking access to such technologies means blocking pathways to the cutting edge of excellence.
Individual collaborative tools and the people who drive those have been around for long now, it is time companies caught up to partake of the benefits.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Packing your day in 140 sec.....

Nikon hosted its annual film fest last year…I laid my eyes on it late. What a treat!
The challenge was in the time and the subject—Your Day in 140 secs or less—seemingly simple but extremely hard to depict. I am sure the entries must run in thousands. I am not aware of any from India.
Posted below are 5 of my favs, in no particular order. The chicken Vs penguin won the grand prize.
More than the imagery, I was hooked with the subjects on whom the short films focused. They are all impressive and some particularly more so. The vignettes, the sharp editing and screen play was beautiful. Getting a message across to so many on so few words/images and a short time brought out the best in a lot of people.
The fact that most of these folks are not professionals, but everyday people like me, makes this more poignant. I can identify of the characters, the scenes, the situations of many while cutting through cultures and languages.
This contest, the entries, the crowd judges to me, represents one of the most important displays of globalization and strength of the crowd. More power to us.
In the cards…

A day in my shoes
Chicken Vs Penguin


Thursday, January 28, 2010

The traveler's tales...

We are all travelers. In more ways than one. Travelers in life, travelers with loved ones, to distant lands or distant goals.

The whole idea of travel is interesting. That is how new towns came up, new paths were formed, new routes, new territories we discovered. People dared to leave the comfort of their homes and travel. Sometimes adversities of different types forced travel—people traveled to escape disease, wars, poverty, scarcity and oppression. For others it was the excitement of starting on a new adventure, to experience something new.

These days travel is so much easier. This is so not only due to the newly found ability to go where you will, but due to help in the form of information that pours in from all over the world. But that does not make us all travelers in the true sense.

I have thought long of a parallel to these journeys. It has been the same way since generations, from the BC era. Think.

Our ancestors traveled all the way from hostile central and Western Europe to the fertile plains of India. They were the forebears of an experience that has come down to us genetically. Many choose to settle down and others (whose genes I’m sure I’ve inherited) moved on. Discovering, experiencing and taking in all they could as they passed.

A reversal of this epic journey is playing out today in the form of India diasporas seeking opportunity in all continents.

If given a choice, from all the things that I could genetically inherit from my ancestors, let me choose this—the insatiable appetite to see different places, meet different people and make mine the experience that is not a part of my environment.

I am glad that right choice was already made for me.