Get noticed first, solve problems later

photo credit: synappz.wordpress.com

It may not seem so, but it is more important to get noticed, than to it is have ideas to solve problems Unless you are a world-shifting writer/artist/ scientist... there is very little you can accomplish just by yourself. Almost everything else needs groups of people working together and supporting each other. 

There is a need to excite people around you. Friends, employees, volunteers, customers, sponsors, investors, critics, voters, administrators... you have to get them to listen to you and you can do that only if you are visible. That opens up the possibility of you communicating with people and getting a reaction. Whether they give a positive or negative reaction is a different matter. Whether you are being intrusive or not, also is a different matter. All that comes into play only after you show up on that notification window or email or word of mouth or phone call or poster or announcement or infomercial or radio ...
What are you going to solve if no one knows you?  Who cares what you have to offer if you "don't exist"? What great things can you accomplish if you can't win  other people's trust?

Things that could have gone wrong ...but didn't

My parents have always told me to take time to be grateful about the good things in life. While I don't see value in counting good things on a daily basis (remember the widely successful 3 good things exercise? Doesn't work for me). With time I have realized that it is good to take time out to be grateful once in a while (even though we don't admit it, parents are right. Aren't they? :)). If nothing it puts things into a macro perspective and is a welcome change from daily fire-fighting. 

I had listed down "how I fail" in an earlier post (connected reading).  In this post I will try to be candid about things in the last year that could have gone wrong (in the businesses I invest in or help run)... but didn't:

1. Last year we launched a brand of snacks. This year we doubled the portfolio and expanded sales. This is what could have gone wrong but didn't: 
- The distributor could have not liked the new products we offered and consequently could have decided to not launch anything. 
- The products went through the usual development process to establish the ideal product-market fit. Although the manufacturing staff were experienced, the process and raw materials needed specifically for Canadian market was new. We could have made numerous mistakes in getting from samples to manufacturing in large quantities. 
- The products were manufactured in the middle of incessant rains and flooding (in India). The products could have turned up soggy. 
- Packets were designed and the  electronic cylinders were manufactured. Cylinders were then shipped to the pouch manufacturer for making the pouches. The final products (tens of thousands of pouches/packets) were then shipped to the snack manufacturing facility. All that was done again in the middle of rains and flooding. 
- The shipping company took a while to get the products cleared from customs. I am guessing border control did a whole bunch of testing on them but found nothing. 

2. As part of a capital investment in a company, a friend and I funded the construction of a small factory India. Although we had delays and went over the budget, we didn't screw up in any major fashion. We were also able to control the pace of cash flows until the factory got ready (that changed soon after but the factory construction was finished by then). 

3. I had made an angel investment in a startup run by a friend, couple of years back. This year my relationship with the CEO came to an almost breaking point. In the end good sense prevailed and we were able to de-escalate the situation (even though I was not happy about it). 

4. One of my other investments came close to a exit but the investment firm backed out at the last moment. The company management was rose up to the challenge to find another investor. As of today a fresh exit is on the cards and things look good so far. 

I guess irrespective of reasons, some things work and some things don't. The reasons can help improve the chances of success in future, but the real point is to move forward and do the best you can. 

How to understand a great cricketer (and why Kallis is weird)?

Disclaimer: Believe it or not, this was written as a tribute to Jacques Kallis

photo credit: radiosport.co.nz
The world has produced lots of men and women (and animals and trees). Out of all those life forms, some of them are what we call - great. For example, the sight of a disinterested, carefree, self possessed polar bear on a bright sunny day - is great. In the same fashion, it is awesome to see great cricketers weave their magic. On the occasion of Kallis's retirement, I think it is important to spend a little bit of time first trying to find a good way to understand the greatness (especially with respect to cricketers). And then figure out where Kallis fits into all that. There are of course reasonable, normal and plausible statistical ways to express their greatness. But who cares about that? Right? Lets try to do this a bit differently.

While these Sons of Gods do their craft or toy with laws of physics or decimate poor mortals - it has a unique effect on us, the fans. That, I think, is a good place to start. Lets consider a Tendulkar cover drive on a delivery turning away from him. Doesn't it feel like the perfect lemon meringue pie? The less anyone on the field moves (trying/bothering to stop the ball), the better the pie tastes. What about Warne spinning satan-ish hell around an otherwise respectable batsman? That has to invoke very specific emotions. No true fan can stay calm after a thumping Lara square cut (or a Ganguly drive for belligerent Bengalis) on a perfectly good ball. It might feel like the perfect smell of coffee on a cold morning or a spectacular white horse riding on a particularly fluffy cloud. My wife, I am sure, has stopped reading by now. She thinks I have a habit of giving unnecessary examples that no one understands. Duh!

Why AAP could be more than an adamant teenager

It is an exciting time for Indian politics. AAP has pretty much put traditional politics through a hi-speed juicer (and it is still spinning). I supported them but deep down inside I expected them to fail. I expected them to fall flat on their face and break their nose. My support to them was because their teenage mind appealed to my teenage mind. I decided to dance with AAP on their idealistic songs of changing the world. And why not? We don't have to be adults about everything. Its bloody boring. 

I was reminded of my college days where we would just make up causes and fight for them. I remember how we protested in front of the Vice Chancellor's office for weeks and got the Nagpur University Engineering exam schedule changed. We thought the exam schedule was not fair and it didn't give us enough time to study. Did that help? Of course not. We still didn't study and all it did was give us more time to party. To hell with right or wrong. We were teenagers and were naive enough to believe we would study if we got more time. Its good to have and live with teenage emotions once in a while. 

I loved their cockiness and adamant teenage method of dealing with things. If nothing it would be a source of constant annoyance for the adult political system. That itself should pay for my involvement and support. Now that the clothes are off, we get to see who is hiding what. While a lot of us have been whining about them taking support from Congress - I am pleasantly impressed. I didn't think they were wise enough to make political moves. They fooled a lot of people. And that is awesome. It gives me a lot of comfort to know that they might be hiding some political shrewdness under the garb of teenage ambition. I don't know about you, but I don't want jholawala activists running the country. We need political leaders who can negotiate, understand the relationship between cause & effect, needs & wants, make backroom deals happen and arrive at a middle ground when there is a need. We don't need a tool running the country who won't back down just because it would look bad. We also don't need people Anna Hazare running the country (there is a difference between a T20 and test match series). He is good at what he does and thank God he understands it as well. 

We are because we belong (a key to motivated workplaces?)

All leaders have a common objective in their job description: to keep their teams motivated (and thereby productive). While the methods of achieving that can be varied, management science can trace and empirically identify some successful methods. A well known but difficult philosophy to implement is to make the workplace more meaningful. If people find their work meaningful, they are likely to be more passionate and productive.

photo credit: ongoingsupport.org.uk

I will try to argue in favor of an often forgotten theory. Whether it is meaning from outcome of the work (e.g. money) or meaning from realization of doing something good (e.g. doctors) or meaning from the ritual of doing something (which can apply to any work) - a common factor to meaningful workplaces is a sense of belonging. A sense of belonging can invoke emotions similar to a sense of community, friendship and even family. While it may seem indirect, it does make Monday mornings less of a drag and it helps teams go through tough phases with minimal friction.