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Manjunatha Hebbar

Nuggets collected in this journey of life!

Every suggestion is not a solution!

There’s this very nice startup ad on the radio – “Every Suggestion is not a Solution – come, find the solution here…..”

It is truly overwhelming to any first time entrepreneur to receive candid feedback on his maiden business pitch made to a bunch of unanimous collaborators. We see it in every session of House of Genius (HoG). Irrespective of their background, experience or business maturity, founders find it hard to convince, defend and win over the house, in the first go. After all, that’s what they come for. Free, unbiased sound boarding to help them validate, strengthen and build a great venture. But they all benefit more than one can imagine as they settle in. Continue reading “Every suggestion is not a solution!”

What job is there tomorrow?

We used to eagerly wait for a guest lecture during college days. It was a great opportunity to connect to the external world, away from books. If the guy happened to be an old-student of the college, it was more interesting. There was a possibility to find a role model, a future employer or at least a mentor!

One of the best I liked was when folks who came, painted the picture of tomorrow and described how we may be playing our part in that picture. When I started taking the stage as a guest/ industry speaker I continued the same. Made sure to study, prepare and then together paint a picture of tomorrow – a projection of what we see through the lens of technology advancement and societal impact.

Today’s session was very intriguing. It was comparing all the pictures I had used in last 30 years of working with technology, projected on a picture depicting next 10-15 years.

Interesting facts I noticed, include:

  1. Across generations, technology advancements have changed the society at large, workforce in particular. Level of intelligence / smartness of people, Wealth of Nations & Individuals, Economic Inclusion & Risk aversion are some indicators of the same.
  2. Interestingly, every step change in technology has created a lot of new jobs and displaced several of them at the same time.
  3. Similarly, it has increased labor productivity while widening skill gap at the same rate! Re-skilling, De-skilling, Portability – all are mainstream HR actions today. Average relevant experience within teams in any stream of work is continuously decreasing. Performance appraisals disappearing, attrition getting new definition, employee engagement is short-term focused.
  4. In almost every country, several highly-in-demand jobs never existed 5-10 years ago. Extending this further, may be over 65% of kids joining school now, may be working in jobs that are not yet defined!

In the current context, projecting and showing future job picture is daunting. But this is a routine challenge for Governments, Industries and Academia. Tracking trends and relating them back to how they impact in short, medium and long-term is critical. Over years, technology is helping here too. The paradoxical nature of technology advancement and societal good is best pivoted around the basic need of employment. Having a tool / dashboard, is very neat. Here is one such wonderful attempt: MyNextMove

Irrespective of a tool, mentor or own guess-work, it is important to stay current and close to changes relevant to our jobs. Investing in “personal” technology upgrades as routinely as that of your next OS upgrade for the mobile phone or computer, is very critical. After sometime, no one will support that, at any cost!

One simple strategy that works for your business, works for you too…

Be close, relevant and significant contributor in your field of work!

 

What to do when you feel stuck?

Mentoring is based on the premise that there’s at least one useful, bridgeable gap of experience or expertise between the two people in the relationship. With this comes the responsibility of making sure that the progress is multiple than normal course of journey. But, when there’s progress, it becomes that much difficult to show whether it was truly due to mentoring or was it natural if you are on the path of success.

True test of mentoring comes, when we are stuck.

It happens all the time with open roundtables. We neither have a background of the founder, nor fully aware of their current business situation. Last week, we had an interesting case – a seasoned engineer in his early fifties, ventured into a new business with a set of three friends from his earlier team. All are familiar to each other – their capabilities, behaviour and work culture. They came with their issue – unable to take their product to field trial. With signed up customers, lined up distributors and great review of the product by experts, there was nothing that seemed stopped them. But they were feeling stuck.

Careful examination of their status and diligent observation of their readiness threw open the most important issue – it was just that fear of failure wading in their minds. They had managed large businesses for bigger corporates and never launched anything of their own craft any time before. They wanted just an assurance from someone who had successfully failed in new ventures and still managed to sail through to upstream. A small push from inside.

Reminded of the saying “Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way” that drove many managers to think same, but act differently to get better results.

Here, getting out of their own way was very important.

When we feel stuck, it is mostly the case – We should watch and just get out of our own way. Progress follows…

 

Contradictions that count!

Summer of 2001, on a beautiful hillside in southern California, I went bungee jumping. It’s something I had always wanted to do. But this one was pushed on to me by my i-dont-like-to-close-the-deal customer.

Over previous ten months, we were discussing a product line take over deal with this telecom major in trying to help them with better manageable product portfolio and profitability. We had crossed several barriers internally, between companies and with stakeholders. We had also built several bridges to make it a smooth ride. More or less, all items on the checklists, to-do lists and contract terms were ticked off. But CEO was not yet ready to sign. Both teams had no clue on what was the issue. He finally agreed for a breakfast meeting with me to discuss the matter. That day, I saw a different person all-together. We talked about several things – technology, politics, personal hobbies, sports so on… surprisingly we found we had several common interests. I guess this would be true with any stranger we meet as well. Then, we came to the point. I asked him how do we move ahead with the deal. He said, he was very happy with every bit of preparation, but was afraid of contradictions in reality, that might lead to disintegration of trust and finally demise of the product line. This was really serious. I asked him how do we get over this. He said. He was not sure how. But asked me – have you ever done bungee jumping? I said, “No. But it’s in my list of to-do within next 3 yrs”. He said “Then, you will not understand my state. Let’s keep this deal in suspension for some more time. See you around.”

So there I was. My bungee-master and I, standing on a platform that was raised on a bridge at an elevation of over 140 feet above beautiful stream of water through the mountain cliff. Apt site. Master explained that he’d check everything to make sure I was safe. Then he’d count down from five. He explained that when he reached three, I should take a very deep breath. When he said tow, I should clear my mind completely. And on the count of one, I should dive. Not jump. Dive. “Go head on first”, he instructed.

My bungee master checked everything and declared that I was safe. Then he asked me if I was nervous. As I recall, I said something to myself – same thing I had told myself when I first climbed to base camp of Mount Everest, same thing as when I first jumped off the cliff in Nepal for Paragliding and every other time when took up something crazy…. : “what will happen, more than losing life? Let’s enjoy every minute”. But this was different. Master shouted – “are you ready?” He started, “Five”…. “Four”…”Three”… I took very deep breath. “TWO”… and I knew I was supposed to clear my mind completely, but I couldn’t because what popped into my mind was the “contradiction” that seemed a lot less menacing 140 feet earlier.

The bungee jumping brochure said, “It is absolutely, safe! We have performed over 75,000 bungee jumps and continue to proclaim our impeccable safety record without a single accident or injury of any kind.” Which sounded pretty good. So I signed up and paid. It was just before setting foot on mountain drive  at the camp office, that they gave me a release form to sign, which said, “I understand that bungee jumping is a potentially hazardous sport, which may result in….I freely accept and fully assume all such risks, dangers and hazards and the possibility of injury, death, property damage or loss resulting therefrom.”…What????

I was able to relate to the plight of my CEO friend. Preparations matter. But taking the step requires a lot more assurance than just – don’t worry, it’s safe. we have done it before, others have done it before! It is not a promise. It is just a hope. A few will jump, based on the hope. Especially when their desires for the adventure over powers the fear of unknown.

How many contradictions can you find in your own setup, conversations? How many times you see the guy preaching “open door” policy will always be unavailable, though at desk? and how often are yourself a perpetrator or willing accomplice?

One thing is certain. When people meet contradictions, they tend to latch on to the side of the contradiction that favors their pre-existing preferences. Which is why I decided bungee jumping was safe!

My bungee master said “one” and yes, I dove! Head first. And screamed, laughed, laughed, laughed. It was insane. I was, without contradictions myself!

And so I met my friend. Shared my experience. We closed the deal and went back to one more jump over the weekend. But the first one was the best!

its fun, to be a #dreamerdoer

Cracking the learning code!

Learning to play an instrument had been my childhood dream. I have tried several and failed in every one of them. Learning a subject is not that hard for me. Not even sports, adventure and business! But somehow, I’m not able to get through these musical instruments. Not anymore!

Somethings come natural to us. That’s where our heart and head synch-up seamlessly, and take us places. A slight skew in the match-up, will make it hard. As the skew gets more, difficulty is that much more! So, doing what comes naturally to us is the best way to enjoy this journey of life. But, it is not that easy as we want some more things to survive, in this journey! That’s when the story of “handwork” starts.

It’s one sunny February morning. I’m in the mood of writing our new corporate growth plan. Here comes our CMD. “We need to talk. It’s about the international symposium on next generation technology adaptation in the areas of healthcare, education and social well-being. I have accepted the keynote speech invite. Since, you work in Social Enterprises, can you please help me with the story?.” I respond, “Is that the Frankfurt one, in September?.” “Yes.”, comes the reply. I tell him that I’m on the same event and covering the social innovation as a subject of my talk. “Yes. I’m aware. But need your help with my talk”. What followed was an interesting experience of working with him for next 6 months for a 15 minute keynote! In the process, I had given him several notes, case studies, research papers and accompanied him to several primary healthcare centres, educational institutions and women self-help groups. I’m sure, he would have reached out to several others working in this area. We had a weekly synch-up meeting scheduled on Saturday mornings 10:30 am IST, irrespective of where we were! I had not worked on a project of this kind, with this intensity before! At times, I wondered what is this guy up to? Six month’s preparation for a 15 minute talk? I asked him… Why is he so paranoid about this? His reply made me change my perspective about learning things that does not come naturally to me. He said “I’m not as smart or as intelligent as many of you are. I have built this company and reputation in the industry through sheer handwork. I don’t like to leave things to chance or time, without doing my bit. Especially now that I’m an old man of 70 and respected in the industry, every word I speak should be valuable. I can’t just speak words without feeling them fully at heart and verified by my head. So, I prepare. Relentlessly, prepare to do justice to whatever I accept to do. It’s my way of learning, cultivated through several decades. Works for me.”

I think, it just works for me too! I never felt ashamed later, to sit in a class with toddlers to learn violin. Mess up with beats and rhythm, collect myself up and go for it again… Kept up with a goal to perform in front of my family of musicians in our annual get-together… Well, to my satisfaction!

What he weaved on that cold morning at Frankfurt, in front of several global leaders was magical. I could feel the weight of every word he spoke. Depth of every data he shared and actions he recommended and following through. It just worked very well. As a result, there was this new CMD with a freshly found mission for rest of his life. If, working for that 15 minutes can change him so dramatically and leave the audience inspired to take real action, imagine what it can do for anyone?

That evening, when I sat through the day and reflected on what I know of him, I think I got what made him effective in his craft – learning the tricks of the trade in a hard, but gentle way! The note that day, I wrote to myself as a reminder –

Be patient : Most often we notice progress only by looking back at how we were in the past – may be two/three years ago. Progress comes slowly and steadily. It is a phenomenon.

Be persistent: Don’t ever give up! Don’t get restless and look for a new trick or hack now and then. Learning is a process. Give it its time. Practice continuously, till you are happy with the effort and then do more of it till you get it!

Be humble : The arrogant will find it difficult to learn anything. Acknowledge inadequacies. Face it with courage. Find ways to overcome them than avoid. Good teachers help. Keep looking out for them.

Be inelegant : Give yourself permission to be inept. Ask dumb questions. Don’t fake it. Seek to learn.

Learning is a continuous process. Like breathing, learning is part of our life. But exactly like we do with breathing, we stop conscious learning when we get busy with life. But perfecting the art of learning will be handy, as ever.

be a #dreamerdoer

Quick tip about giving advice!

How many times do you get frantic calls seeking help in your area of expertise? Professionals measure this as a sign of their popularity. They also might have devised a method to manage the same, effectively. But if you are approached for help suddenly, do you feel elevated or obliged?

Wake up! It is most likely that the man seeking out for your help is in crisis. We reach out to people for help when we feel distressed. Taking advice during peace time is a rare commodity in the current, know-it-all generation. Chances are high that we the grown-ups, use the occasion right royally! What should we do, instead?

A Boy was bathing in a river and got out of his depth, and was in great danger of being drowned. A man was passing along a road heard his cries for help, and went to the riverside and began to scold him for being so careless as to get into deep water, but made no attempt to help him. “Oh Sir,” cried the Boy, “please help me first, and scold me afterwards.”

~ Aesop’s fable.

Give assistance, not advice, in a crisis!


 

Quick tip about communication

Got a mail from a customer friend…

“It’s been a challenge to speak with this guy in a convincing way. I have tried all tactics in every communication book I could read. We went to the same communication workshop together as well. But no use. I wonder what the issue is.

We just are not communicating. May be we don’t like each other. But, we have been business partners for over last 20 yrs and have literally built and run this multi-million dollar venture, successfully.

We studied together through 5th grade till engineering. Our scholarship savings fuelled the startup cost. Now, we are in the midst of another growth cycle, where we are not cooperating.

We are not listening to each other. What should we do? Since we both know you and you know our business,

Can you help with some intervention to make us listen and communicate?”

He had copied his partner on the mail.

It is unbelievable at first sight that successful business partners feel they need external help for communication between themselves. But in reality, isn’t this true with most of us? Be it with our life partners of decades, parents, kids and friends. Difference may be that we hardly take external help. We take many things for granted. We all have and constantly build our own communication biases in every aspect of acquaintance. At times, we may be more than willing to accommodate others point of view, while in other cases shut listening function unilaterally!

What followed was a quick phone call with both and a patient hearing with some moderation. It turned out that both wanted to go ahead with the plan and had even committed their personal times. But the power of short text messages, shorter emails and infrequent formality, failed to translate their intention to words in the way they both expected it to happen. Instant message stickers had helped them keep the cool for a while and aggravate the situation, most of the time…..

Though they had adopted the current gen technology and vocabulary, they carried their old selves in their minds! They were exchanging a lot and communicating little…

It’s such a simple thing for a pro to believe in the congruence of thought, words and actions… but it’s too complicated for simple folks to get them right without a bit of training. At the same time, in the context of current technology invasion, it might be worthwhile to ask ourselves “What did I Say?” a few more times than usual?

  • language is translation, an unconscious choice of words meant to enable others understand what is going on inside and we are trying to convey;
  • listening is an unconscious choice of filters dependent on habits, triggers, biases, assumptions and beliefs that surreptitiously and subjectively interpret meaning to maintain the listener’s map of the world.

Build Your Own (Social) Enterprise!

Sowing seeds is a very important activity in building an ecosystem. In this regard, under the banner of EntirelySo!, a workshop has been organized for all social enterprise enthusiasts to learn and build own (social) enterprises. Details are as below:

i2i: idea to implementation – Build Your Own (Social) Enterprise:

A fully hands-on workshop to help social enterprise enthusiasts and budding social enterprises to ideate, design, develop, test and put together a business plan to realise the dream.

All participants get a chance to participate in EntirelySo! mySE2015 : Social Enterprise Business Plan contest – resulting in cash prizes and incubation opportunities.

Coverage includes:
– What is a social enterprise?
– How to identify and develop the idea for my Social Enterprise?
– How to design a social enterprise to make it remarkable?
– How to test the social enterprise business idea – from viability, fundability and sustainability points of view?
– How to find and build a team to develop the social enterprise?
– how to develop business case and business plan for the tested social enterprise business idea?
– how to develop value proposition and make the enterprise fundable?
– how to bootstrap a social enterprise? how to pitch?
– how to plan establishment, operations and growth of social enterprise?

Format:
– Fully hands on, individual & group activities; role-plays.
– Expert guidance and active learning methods.
– Intensive, result-oriented, 360deg approach

Successful participation also results in certification valid for internship in select social enterprises, career opportunities in social enterprises and mentorship opportunities.

Hosted in partnership with PES University

Limited Seats: Register only on DoAttend: http://entirelyso-i2i.doattend.com/

For any query, write to myse2015@entirelyso.biz with your details.

Uncommon Quotes

Uncommon, but golden Nuggets from the wise men….

I could not be leading a religious life unless I identified myself with the whole of mankind, and that I could not do unless I took part in politics. The whole gamut of man’s activities today constitutes an indivisible whole. You cannot divide social, economic, political, and purely religious work into watertight compartments.

Mohandas Gandhi, 1935

When I was in Vietnam, so many of our villages were being bombed. Along with my monastic brothers and sisters, I had to decide what to do. Should we continue to practice in our monasteries, or should we leave the meditation halls in order to help the people who were suffering under the bombs? After careful reflection, we decided to do both—to go out and help people and to do so in mindfulness. We called it engaged Buddhism. Mindfulness must be engaged. Once there is seeing, there must be acting….We must be aware of the real problems of the world. Then, with mindfulness, we will know what to do and what not to do to be of help.

Thich Nhat Hanh

—-

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.

Gautama Buddha

 

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