Saturday, December 28, 2013

3 key impressions of 2013 - Not new, but key

This is my year-end reflection in blogosphere. It rides on a myriad assumption. It is also much an exercise in brevity as it is in condensation.
Let us look at each one of three points I have from 2013 here. I have also peppered them with insights that I have gleaned again from the net. 

1.       One’s Perceptual Position rules : What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.” 
C.S. Lewis, The Magician's Nephew. I recall many a public stances made in 2013, and cannot but help registering this sociological canon that I first encountered in 1987 during my graduation years.  E.g. In India Hazare thought he stood firm, and perhaps did not imagine there was a firmer position in Kejriwal’s stance. The media in India massively rallied emotions around male violence against women, and yet, the personal embodiment of Justice belies the spirit of that struggle. Violence against thought can yet be brought on by categorical judgments, that neither secures the judge, society or the petitioner. Justice too is subject to one’s perceptual position, no matter how positively argued or objectively independent the process of law is. Whether diplomat, attorney, riled politician, or retiring sportsman, perceptual positions have a way of deciphering whether one is standing, in slumber or just physically present in the narrator’s situation.

Insight 1 : RT @JackRicchiuto: Recipe for simplicity: Graciously refuse roles in the dramas of others.
2.       It’s not the medium, it is the message:It is impossible to have a static message in the electric age”. Marshall Mcluhan said that years, nay decades, ago. What a year in which to see two different worlds collapse in unison. The march of social media was rivalled in my estimate by only one other phenomenon – that of the Papacy in 2013. Wrote Steve Hamm recently of the Pope “If he keeps this up, I may have to become Catholic.The message from the Pope has been never as close to Christ’s life since a living memory of a Pope has served me. It is not the Catholicism, per se, but the message getting delivered that makes me review an old NTL adage. “The Use of Self” is about bringing who you are to your work. There's no better place than in facilitating Organisation Development to experience this. Endearing others of alternate faith so openly, is not an ordinary act of inter-faith dialogue. It is amazing how people 'get it' when you are authentic in your expression, and are not bogged down by the medium through which you express yourself. I would love to hear views to this one for sure. Of course, modern day atheists may argue that they have yet to cause a war! With the convergence experienced via the communicative brilliance of the internet, all the world’s a sage!

Insight 2 . “The meaning of communication is the message you get” says Richard McHugh, SJ, my NLP and Gestalt teacher.

3.       Leadership is not about span of control, but sphere of influence. One of the most deeply impactful pieces I came across in 2013, albeit late by the date of publication, was on the rise and fall of Ken Wilber. It spurred me to rethink a lot about leadership, beyond the metaphysical phases of truth that his Integral theory espouses. In fact, evenas I write this, I realise, how the construct of leadership may be perennially sweating to keep itself in the reckoning, if for example, one gave it an animate licence for personhood. My questions of Leadership have been largely centered around the cognitive challenges to leadership, arising as they do in the social learning dynamics of heterarchical enterprises. If there’s even an iota of impact media and messages have, then, it is not about the keeping up with the new social channels in virtual mode, as much as it is about discovering the self enough to stay relevant in a sphere of influence, no matter one’s preferred constituency. No artist can assume to make original distinction without identifying with the needs of the connoisseurs and / or a significant mass of customers of the internet age.  Leadership as I surmised a few years ago, is about becoming oneself, and not about changing others or even about changing oneself.

Insight 3 . “Transformation comes from pursuing profound questions, than seeking practical answers” says Peter Block.

End-note : I have earlier referred to the nation we live in as an uninterrupted mystery. Testimony to all of the above are rife in our midst in the absolute miracle called India. Look forward to 2014 indeed. I hope to meet some of my readers in the work I love doing! 

What would you like to opine of the year gone by? What is the passion you will enjoin to the year ahead?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Who are We? The Phantomness of 'Self' among other things...

The last I heard a philosopher speak at a public event, was at Minneapolis in 2005. Peter Koestenbaum spoke of courage, will, ethics and reality from a business standpoint. A businessperson’s philosopher, I valued his perspective on guilt as a product of choice, and man’s essence as a chooser. His treatment of anxiety as the tunnel of growth left a mark from the relatively diminutive frame in which such sagely sense embodied itself.
Thomas Metzinger

Last evening I heard a German speak of the Phenomenal-self model (PSM). Thomas Metzinger says being a philosopher, he needs to wrestle conventional boundaries of the discipline as he traverses the neuro-sciences evenas he holds a chair on Theoretical Philosophy. The contrast for me between Koestenbaum and Metzinger had already been sharp.  Seeking neural correlates of the conscious self is a venture that modern day observations make possible through technology like virtual reality and even the relatively inexpensive $5 magic box of Viliyanur Ramachandran’s phantom limb fame.  

The brain as it turns out from Metzinger’s expositions yesterday has the capacity for self-deception too. The rubber hand illusion that constructs for us the sense of ‘ownership’ is one such piece of evidence. Hence Being No One is at once illusory and yet real. That robots can be designed to have a self-consciousness is something that scientists are already working on, as also constructing extension of this line of experiments via the internet.

Even if George Moore wrote early on the Refutation of Idealism, the transparency of our perceptions is composite now in the integrated internal representation of the organism as a whole – in the Transparent Phenomenal Self-Model. While this took me back immediately to System 1 and System 2 representations that Kanhemann talks of in terms of behavioural economics, the thin line between fantasy and constructionism began to develop meaning for me. Simultaneously, the following held sway in my mind.

1.       Marshall Mcluhan famously said nobody in the electric age will consider it sane to have a point of view, as one will pay attention to several aspects at the same time. Is the message the medium at all?
2.       What strange twist of attentional focus that I chose to look at Andre Beteille from the lens of philosophy itself?
3.       When virtual reality constructs images of the self technologically to confirm or disconfirm workings in the brain, parental re-imprinting and future pacing that we engage in NLP seem so much like cousins of the curiosity family with the connectedness gene.
4.       VERE experiments (Virtual Embodiment and Robotic Re-embodiment) hinge so closely to neuro-ethics, that the bias to watch for may continue to be a product of the optimism bias. Are researchers in this genre males, supremely confident of themselves, and held back in advance merely by the introceptive anchors in our body?
5.       The phenomenology of Immediacy and Identification or infinite proximity, may lunge us forward in hedonistic somnambulance, at the cost of reflective wholesomeness. Philosophy seems to be both urgent and important in this way to our times.

Like with the nature of paradoxes, the one that really resonates with me is this – that self-organising systems as may be in our body, may not have a physical correlate. Yet the self as subjectively experienced, or as psychologically constructed may contain the following elements :

1.       Temporal patterns of neural activity
2.       A neuro-biological self
3.       A representationalist self
4.       An unconscious self (although the relationship between psyche and soma is not yet clear)
5.       An Innate core – perhaps pre-existing even before we realise identity
6.       An evolutionary self that provides us with a body model for the self
7.       A Functionalist self

Metzinger’s work is both prolific and an invitation in empirical work to substantiate phenomenal experience. What struck me in the Bangalore audience was this. Questions were begging points of view from Thomas Metzinger, as in philosophical propositional logic. Like first-order conversations, while meaning requires second-order conversation especially if as in Metzinger’s work, evidence liberates us from convenient biases. There’s a pattern in our socialisation perhaps, that the arduous aspects of scientific enterprise are weighed down by a naïve self-understanding of the self. When in India would we ask questions of science?

Thanks again to the Azim Premji University, that I will now set my sight on Spirituality and Intellectual Honesty, one of several tunnels in which I may be right now. In the meanwhile, let us brace ourselves for the optimism bias of democracy in India, where again, the supremacy of male over-confidence would hold sway in an uncritical socialisation of sentiment.

Monday, December 2, 2013

If Good Customs are habits of the heart, why do we expend energy on law?

When sociologist Andre Beteille mentioned about the distinction he made between laws and customs, I reminisced another evening where HR professionals were gathered to discuss implications of diversity in the workplace. I mentioned with regard to sexual harassment, that law would be a remote approach, even in the near term, as it hinged on rule by fear. As I can now reflect, laws that evoke fear, may give rise to bad customs. Good customs endure due to its integrated essence with nature.

For man to know woman and woman to know man, the mind and body needs to live through the emotions of either gender. The liability in society is the abject neglect of parenting in this respect. Adolescents confuse literary (and these days digital) knowledge with awareness, whereas knowing the other gender is an awareness of embodied integration.   The movement in awareness from deep masculine to deep feminine cannot rush with neglect of our shallow masculine or feminine aspects.

Our recent press brings about the explosion of information that reveals the penury of our hearts and of course the burden of bad customs. Good customs after all, as Andre put it, are habits of the heart. I wonder then what frank conversations occur when a training administrator assembles employees in a room for an ‘expert’ on such matters to educate or ‘train’ them in gender sensitivity. In the meanwhile, we live through the fallacy of ruling the heart by law and the rituals of society in this respect - in an illusory notion of civil reins on male libido.  

Male has female in it, and female has male within. Good conversations can begin one at a time, one person at a time. Broadcasts are control instruments. They train our fears. Conversations are rapport instruments. They endear our hearts. Pick your choice and realize the energy within yourself – in mind, body and emotion.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Sociologist Andre Beteille on Democracy in India

When I studied Sociology at the University of Poona in the 1980s, I heard of Broom and Selznick, Margaret Mead, August Comte, Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, Karl Marx, and of course Andre Beteille. Today thanks to the Azim Premji University, I saw Andre Beteille in the flesh and heard him speak like the ‘sutradhar’ of our lifetimes in India. The venue was the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, on Race course road, Bangalore. I was impressed by the articulate views of a range of generations in the audience gathered there on 29th November, 2013. 
Padma Bhushan of India Andre Beteille

For someone, who studied in Kolkata when Lenin was both alive and had a lead influence on communists of Bengal, his alacrity on what may be fact and what is opinion is sharp. It edges the idealism of youngsters armed with fingertip internet information.

While his scholarship, focus and passion shone through – as if here were a political historian, I was absorbing the philosophical stance from which he treated sociology. His vantage point could shift in malleable form from historian to social relations student to political anthropologist. Yet he was unapologetic of taking on the categories he saw his world view from. For him structure and order were cornerstones of analysis of paradigms in democracy. He used a colloquial term to explain his perceptual position – the conformist. To have held that standpoint to hold out his categories of analysis is a feature of analysis in itself. 

His sociology may be seen as a sociology of regulation, and disorder to be seen as a sign of ‘movement’. For ‘movements’ like that of Anna Hazare, JP  Narayan, and the like would change and evolve into something like ‘parties’. Such legitimacy in Andre’s perceptual position is the necessary condition in which ‘meaning' is restored to regulate relations between institutional entities in society. He says, that the difference between Anna Hazare and JP was simply this – that JP was more self-critical and a thinker. And although Andre did not see it himself from the outside, he gives credence to the possibility that those within the movement, saw it coming before most could. E.g. Arvind Kejriwal created a political party. And this when the democracy we have in India hosts a multitude of parties under the swelling tent of liberty, quite apart from a multi-party democracy of 5 or 6 political parties that European nations have.

In terms of signs of deviance, we should look for patterns in factions, which according to him is an unstable entity in parties. It is difficult to pin down factions to stable properties. In fact, factions happen to find friends among university teaching staff too. In terms of regulation however, the academic function of a university, would be lost if faculty co-opted students within their factional identities.
Otto Scharmer's view of the world in 2013

On rather lighter notes, Andre’s pearls included the following :
  1.  Laws and customs are different units of analysis in sociology.
  2. Longer lasting democracies survive on good customs, not on good laws alone.
  3.  Somnathda, erstwhile Speaker of the Lok Sabha,  in his farewell speech wished none of the parliamentarians get re-elected. In his subsequent withdrawal, he expected a Brahmin’s curse to have a salutary effect in Indian society, as he confessed to Andre the sociologist whom he respected. So much for entrenched communism in India!
  4.   Lenin may have called India a zoo, and not a democracy, but more fatally, he may not have known his own country any better.
  5. One must not disdain disorder in Indian democracy as to wish it out of existence, but as in The Westminster model, make sure that the opposition is Her Majesty’s Royal Opposition. (His need for order to contain disorder a clear sign of the sociology of regulation, than the dialectic sociology of radical change).

Lastly, his most telling sign of democracy in India having brought about change is the average age of women at marriage. He would not have imagined this of the India of a 100 years ago. His one distillation of institutional resilience was if the institution survived the life of its founders! Indian democracy has survived, and we could be more hopeful than being in the grip of irrational fears of factions like Naxals and Maoists whose inherent structures would not help their endurance as institutions.

I am however left with how Andre's sociology of regulation may survive the age of the internet, and the mindless degradation of our ecology, if man proceeds without conscious attention to destroy givens.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Big is getting bigger

1. Mckinsey shared their piece n Big Data, Open Data et al this year.
2. Hans Rosling has been crunching numbers on global health, and shows how the world's 7bn may still have a chance to survive with evidence of falling population growth in countries such as Bangladesh, India and China.
3. MOOCs are beginning to catch the digitally connected and increasing speed of access to high quality education the world over.
4. Behavioral Economics is getting embedded into the grain of corporations. Some companies will get bigger and others will get smaller to be relevant.
5. Fields such as neurology are working on adjacancies with law to examine bio-ethics as a new frontier of human rights and obligations.

Change without preparation can numb. Innovators would do well to sensitise their eco-systems in embracing and coping with the emerging impact big data and big impact will soon have on the world. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

As we think, so do we become?

In the last few weeks I have seen many busy hours of toil. They were followed by many hours of restful activity – as in soulful conversations with people from ages 84, old school and college mates  to teen-age children. Witnessed meditative sculptors, handicraft hands, painters, and interacted with writers 
of Indian diaspora of different genres. The tales they hold in their expressions have lessons for me in the way frenzied corporate denizens get about their days at work. Let me share a few reflections.
Anu Kumar, Author

1.       Employees get unrelated development, and employers may not know it. This is an amazing occurrence, when the employee gets to participate in learning events and feels satiated by what is on offer. The employer feels that the arrangement was apt and both go about their businesses without critically reflecting on how they co-designed their experiences. Employers fail to recognise that employees do not challenge their own conditions enough to challenge the relevance of the employer’s offerings in learning and development. At one such organisation, the conundrum was this – the employer felt they did better than they ever did in caring for employee development, whereas the employees felt that the employer’s efforts lacked alignment with business focus areas!
Diaspora in LA

2.       Employers rarely reflect within of what they may be missing in their situation. A consultant’s vantage point is to hear from a myriad voices. While one employee voice was to do with unchecked deceit and overt manipulation of innocent employees, another was to do with short-sightedness of top management in the nature of decisions they made regarding business growth. The folly of assuming omnipotence in turning employee and organisational capability 'on' or 'off'. Authenticity at the workplace is most signaled by those who have control over resources. Yet the vulnerability to face unknowns seems a mirage. In the bargain, unknowns like global warming, mass inequities in wealth sharing and unmindful citizenship rear their ugly forms.

3.       The need to defend status quo needs a healthy challenge from those who want to challenge the status quo. The paradox of defending the indefensible lurks round the corner. The Abilene paradox is a great reminder of human perceptual processes in a group setting. Teams end up committing to outcomes that they do not want. At one organisation, the HR fraternity recognised the signs of their times, but furiously wished to defend what their management wanted to listen to. When the top management listened to consultants they seemed more taken by what they could contribute to larger society than in marshalling the potential of their own employees. Now, why would the consultant be more committed to their clients’ employees than their own management?
Mandakini Mathur of the Devrai Farm, Panchgani 

4.       Whole system is not in the room. The bane of high power-distance cultures is the untended potential of the minions. I have been often met the optimism of an entrepreneur, on whose convictions a possibility in engagement is born. Midwife like facilitation begins almost thereafter, because the entrepreneur’s real difficulty is in getting his team to express themselves more fully to the moments that they see their firm in. Most such organisations have a painful realization that organisational capabilities are group or team orchestrations than about messianic release from constraints.

5.       Rationality makes for superficial defense, reality descends in tears of wisdom. Finally a word about the individual in our times. Schools of influence like Cialdini’s and Hogan’s all remind us that emotionality trumps rationality. Yet, in armors that are put forth as façade, individuals within and outside corporations hold out rationalisations that do not connect with people they try to relate to. In defense of their ‘intellect’ they overstretch generalisations to the extent of mis-reading their situations. When I get proximate enough in calibrating their stances, they recognise their folly, but alas, it may take a lifetime to bring their being to their moments. In avoiding tears, we deny a part of our under-nourished selves. People chase mirages of achievement with such predictability that it may put the solar system’s regularity to shame.

In the noble traditions of Organisation Development (OD), the model of the human being is not just a philosophical alignment with humanism, truth and justice. It is a rapport of congruence and a statement of capability. Like what the Naked Liberal George Menezes shared with me about the origins of Integrity : it is from the word ‘integer’ – the whole. Do we accept the whole person in ourselves? For what greater purpose would people want to avoid becoming who they can fully become? 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Coaching as an Extended State of Awareness

It is often that one gets to experience the range of phenomena and their interconnectedness when dealing with human beings. Coaching is an exceptionally intense zone of insight. Am sharing a few insights from recent coaching episodes that may make for some interest in readers.

1.       Situations are a crucible, not the enemy. If one recalls the Stanford prison experiments this canon is very evident. However, when one moves from one work context to another as in a role change or in a change of employer, the situation does have a strong influence on one’s adaptation. 
      It is not uncommon that the incumbent finds that two employers may share a lot in common with regard to higher purpose values as good for society or causes rooted in spiritual transcendence. It is yet a commonplace occurrence that people from the same profession in either organisation may behave without  reference to the core values, because their immediate concerns are removed from the lofty ideals of the corporation. It is here that the opportunity to dip into one’s beliefs and values become more meaningful than in steady-state situations. 

2.       Placing the Challenge is not as critical as understanding it with acceptance. A very accomplished professional once came to candid confession state when confronted with a very counter-intuitive coaching competence. It is known as activity inhibition. It is the coach that should exercise this competence, yes. Indeed, knowing where the coachee is is critical to placing and positioning a developmental challenge. While it is useful to rely on measurements to get a head-start in developmental focus, several underlying aspects of coachee motive and commitment need calibration from the inimitable rapport that only the coach and coachee can strike between themselves.

3.       Engagement is vulnerability with one’s gremlins. The concept of self can be sealed for one’s own convenience in an elegance of thoughts, but defending that self-concept may be the cost of ignorance when dealing with how others perceive it. It is quite another conundrum that people who love their ability to hold their own and put their facts out there in the open do not even conceive of a stark impossibility in their lives, until of course ‘the’ insight develops. The insight is this : for the fear of annihilation, one holds up one’s own views, blind to the less conscious and more automatic fear – the fear of upsetting others and therefore choosing only the comforting aspects of those relationships.

4.       Listening is an extended state of awareness in Coaching. I am particularly energized by committed coachees who prepare ahead of a coaching conversation. They even send me agenda points before we get talking. I assume they are listening to their own developmental focus and their relationship with their coach. I assume they are keen on listening to the unvisited spaces that the coaching conversation throws up. 
      All in all, the coach benefits in service through listening too. For both, then – listening is an extended state of awareness. Like knowing which metaphors energize the self, and what bodily sensation triggers the old anchors that need overcoming. Like being alive to new sensations in the course of development and watching them for oneself until the new practice or behavior is fully integrated in one’s repertoire.  

Well, many a corporate employee misses out on the fullness of human potential, when their work climates are strung on a fantasy that stock prices activate. It is often a sign of an unaligned set of purposes, values and leadership identity. Behaviors are but a symptom of the deeper meaning of life.

The biological purpose of thinking is to keep us alive, than to be right. This could also cause errors. Nature takes that chance. What choices are you making right now? What aligns your choices anyway?

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Is Psychology Science?" Is The Wrong Question - Neuroskeptic |

"Is Psychology Science?" Is The Wrong Question - Neuroskeptic |

Fundamental questions in the length and style of a blog. Would labels have limits?

Like the recent understanding of the plasticity of the brain reducing the significance of brain hemisphere specialties.

At one level, a brain teaser. At another level a leap into meaning making and philosophical issues.

Language has a way of getting us within and contemplate. Language may also help us relate to others and enjoy human company. But is it language alone at play?

Science may be the method to a kind of knowledge.  What are other forms or methods of knowledge that we have not visited or embraced with similar enthusiasm?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fiction from Fact - the spewing and spawning of Management terms

It has been a week since I attended CII's Annual Innovation Summit in Bangalore. While the impression I got there was of India asserting its identity as a nation where start-ups may thrive, a flash of fads, fleeting interests and uncritical explorations rushed my mind. I’ve known a few terms that a set of intersections between communities have developed over the years. Practitioners, Academicians and Consultants of management have conceived of, discovered and disused terms that language has registered through journals, reviews and news media. The salient among these for me are the following.

1.       BPR – Business Process Re-engineering. It took a long time for people to realise that reduction of process views to values of efficiency did not account for human elements. If the process was reducible, the incidence of human beings attached to the extant process were just that – extant. Scholars with a humane disposition have impressed upon me the roots of this ‘expert’ led philosophy to the detached traditions of related statistical procedures that predated the BPR fad by decades, perhaps even earlier than WW-I.

2.       Theory ‘Z’ – When William Ouchi traced manufacturing shopfloor routines and factory layout enablement in American and Japanese auto majors, he probably realised, that neither American practice nor pure Japanese collectivism by themselves held promise. Yet, he selectively established the significance of the human element in the perpetuation of the firm. It makes me wonder, why there is no such reference of Chinese and Korean models of management to extend any promise of effectiveness into the future. While, the Nano may have been the car for India’s masses, the universalism of western thinking has us believe, that the Tatas went into uncontested market as in a Blue Ocean. Yes, no Indian ‘archetype’ beyond the vernacular ‘jugaad’ labelled the phenomenon on the ground.  Ranjan Acharya would probably be heartily chuckling in the heavens at how after qualifying as India’s earliest Lead assessors for PCMM, the systemic nature of continuous improvements in the knowledge economy has been jettisoned with the convenience that only short-horizon mercantilism can institutionalize in their industries. The leaders of firms with People Capability Model credentials, wear the title like a badge, not knowing the difference between terms such as ‘assessment’ and ‘certification’; validity and reliability, behavior modification and behavior modelling.

3.       TQM – Total Quality Management is probably one of the more enduring management practices, more comprehensive in its embrace of organisational life, and tenure. Again, while the Tatas adopted the Business Excellence mould to adapt the Malcolm Baldridge award criteria to its companies, the idea of the long-term is competitively pitted against the mean aspects of Lean, where the negotiation of results at the bottom-line could take away from the perpetuation of the institution. The proverbial tension between the short-term and the long-term is heightened by the voracious appetite of stock-markets.  Repeatedly finding errors and fixing them (quality control) can result in a high quality product, but it is a very inefficient process. The best approach is to build a quality product the first time. In general, your team can’t build a quality product the first time without quality work processes (quality assurance). Quality Management is a mind-set profession. So is Human Resource Management. Private wealth makers have sided with mammon for short-term security too often, only to be deceived in the long-run to hit the melting icebergs of our planet and the oxygen baths of their megalopolises.

4.       Restructuring is a term that spells the end of corporate careers for seasoned professionals, and spoils the broth being cooked from the effervescence of human ideas. When people play God at the decision-table, their assumption that their idea is right is falsely attributed, in service of the mammon, whose might prevents the heroism that leaders could aspire for. Population ecologists may argue that imitative effects shape the structure of an industry or the internal procedures of organisations in an industrial sector. Yet, the sentience of social systems, and the altruism of the human race stands exposed in brutal irreverence in recent times. Social Enterprise forms seem embarrassing apologies for the compassion of the social sector and the efficiency touting of the corporate creed. Restructuring events are applauded in most economic theory, while their social impact, includes the adverse effects and implications of social disruptions caused by downsizing and other organizational and corporate changes. 

A lack of critical thinking skills among employees compounds the verification and classification of institutional knowledge held by employees at their workplace.

What would you say separates fact from fiction in the work experience you have?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

For what reasons would you deploy a survey in Indian organisations?

In many cities in India, the governance may sport a rur-urban, near agrarian era mindset, evenas the citizens yearn for a first world living. The disconnect here is to do with lags in social consciousness and avenues for participation in governance.

In formal Indian organisations, top managements fantasize the benefits of their first-world counterparts, while their employees prefer the security of their third-world relationships. Responses to a survey presupposes that both top management and employees respect openness.

How would you know if the top management only uses the survey tool to perpetuate their control, by getting sneak previews to their status and privileges? Would that be openness? Or would that be nosy neighborliness, where 'gossip' can meander into a new form while the real motive is surreptitious surveillance? Oftentimes, the after-taste is one of conditional curiosity or self-fulfilling angst. Anonymity at least protects privacy of the provider of feedback if demographic detail are tended to with thought and care.

YES, surveys may invoke THREAT response in hierarchical India, whereas a REWARD response is the aim of survey based democratic information. Institution building is a multi-year process, and surveys are milestone interventions. If that is not the IDEAL, what satisficing does the survey serve?

Surveys are often spoken with the same breath as we speak about face validity and content validity. Perhaps, on the face of it, survey items capture data that gives prima facie evidence. However, perceptions may belie the underlying truth. Most surveys I have seen being implemented in India lack content validity.

In fact, if the survey sponsor asks for a reliability score - that organisation can be deemed blessed. A measure of internal consistency of the survey is at least a start-point indicator that science is at the service of organisational democracy.

If an organisation is about people, WHAT are you enabling in them, via a survey implementation? Will you be happy with saving face? Or would you like to strive towards cause-effect loops for making an impact on mind-sets of excellence at work?

Friday, July 19, 2013

July Monsoon Musings

Attachment is the root of sorrow. Ambition that reeks of unfulfilled desire may be a symptom of attachment, the shadow side of ambition or the unresolved self.

Detachment is the beginning of equanimity. Neither attachment nor detachment can be known without knowing the other. The joy from detachment is not a pursuit to be enslaved to - nor the sorrow from attachment a burden to despise.

Love transcends both these as the decision of giving all of oneself in service. As Mother Teresa once said "When we judge we have no time to love".  Love is the decision that liberates us from trapped potential.

Love that is effective is a result of calibrating for rapport - a state in which nether party in the relationship judges each other. Loving the self is also a calibration of mind, body and emotion. That is why even if it is logically possible to love another, it is psychologically impossible to do so without loving one's own self.

Compassion is empathetic acceptance rooted in trust of the unknowable. It is a product of vulnerability and vulnerability is an act of conscious will.

Happiness is the uncaused ecstasy of traversing in surrender to mystic depths.

Awareness is communion with the unconscious, united through mind, body and emotion.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Paradigms I've experienced over the last decade

No major paragraphs. Just a few reflections from my experience in India as someone at the world of work.

THEN around 2000-2002
NOW around 2011-2013
1.       Does this belong to our industry? If yes, your opinion is of value to me.
Does this apply only to our industry? If no, good. The more beyond our industry that much more value.
2.       Is he joining a good Company?
Is he working with good People?
3.       Does he know problems of the Third-World?
Does he know what is an emerging economy?
4.       Do they have capability to change?
Do they have capability to learn?
5.       Is the person eligible to apply for the job?
Is the person suitable for the role?
6.       Is the professional inter-personally effective?
Is the person socially active?
7.       Is the person God-fearing?
Is the person spiritually inclined?
8.       Can the candidate write well?
What does the candidate read?
9.       Does the candidate come from a good family?
Does the candidate have positive peer references?
10.   What successes does the candidate possess?
What learning does the candidate have from failure?

Does this read like a familiar set of perceptions for you too? What implications does this set of differences have for you?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Between Neutral Anxiety and Positive Anxiety? How do you Innovate for Awesomeness?

When it comes to Innovation, would you be cautiously optimistic for fear of slipping into academic fundamentalism? Did you not pay homage to the fundamentals during your education years?

I was on this cusp of reflecting the Monday 8 July, 2013 meeting of the CII Innovation forum. That is when a lucid, evocative and utilitarian perspective came in from Intuit’s Vijay Anand. Embedding emotional appeal within Lean process improvements has largely eluded the Indian IT services businesses, despite the rich opportunity potential to fill that experience economy market. Is it because Intuit is a product company that it has been relentlessly innovative for almost 30 years?

Well, this is not an advertorial for Intuit, but a stimulus from which I hold out a premise that may appear as symptoms of competitive myopia in service businesses. The Tofflerian Third Wave was to be about service economy proliferation or penetration with knowledge flows and momentous delights. What could be the deterrents that prevent providing customers with positive emotional experiences throughout the customer relationship journey?

Intuit’s example provides simple check-points, like the following:
1.       Do you deliver customer benefit?
2.       Do customers use your product / service for the benefit you claim to provide?
3.       Do customers recommend your brand proactively?

Delightful service or awesome client experiences could materialise if

1.       The customer experiences benefits that he or she ‘cares’ about
2.       The customer accomplishes his organisational or personal need with ease or reduced effort. Your offering will work with other stuff your client lives with.
3.       The customer demonstrates positivity through prompt use, showing or telling others of your offering or actually buying more of your capacity.
4.       The customer is able to justify his or her delight in your offering in advocating your capability, not just his or her intelligent investment in you

Sounds simple, and even reads ordinarily possible. However, the capacity to identify the benefit your customer cares about begins with your own emotional bandwidth. What latent need of the customer would you have discovered during the prospecting phase? How do you nudge your client to value your offering without breaking rapport?

Tough one, admittedly for engineers from India to design to a vision that provide you the Love Marks of the Net Promoter Score (NPS). Visualising the Customer’s benefit is also about addressing the riskiest assumption of your capability to serve your client. Innovation is the process where your leap of faith on this assumption will be the one on which you are willing to stretch your known capability. That is where you get leads into what the client is also willing to risk on in terms of behavior to meet your value in discovery mode.

A critical fallacy in this paradigm could be equating customer ‘advocacy’ with a commodity that has a shelf-life in terms of inventory and scale.  

Advocacy that arises from authentic customer delight is a value realization episode. The value is however impermanent.

In itself, the sentiment of advocacy has potential of perennial nature. Suspending the accretion of value could however, cast shadow over perceptions of your service capability. We all know how emotionally draining a service recovery could become. We also know, how desirous feelings of delight are.

In closing, as adult learner, I tie my observations with a knot to an idiom the illustrious Shombit Sengutpta led his firm with - Emotionality trumps Functionality, perhaps even Rationality! So, how would we render Authenticity? If you do not experience authenticity in the bonds between your own team workers, what chance does your customer stand of experiencing awesome service? Let me know. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Questions of Leadership - not the trivial kind

India does not innovate, but Indians do” was the graphic distillation of a good friend, I Vijay Kumar. My trust is in his meticulous inferences derived from systematic note-taking over decades of work in India’s telecom and Information technology sectors. Part lament, part positive affirmation, I have yet to come across a more fitting statement that epitomizes the individualistic bias to achievement in India.

The subjugation of collective will to the adulated hero is an unquestioned norm, until it is chaotically opposed by a rupture from routine. E.g. Coordination that a natural disaster precipitates or in a pastime that is remote from formal accountability such as cricket or television dance choreography.

In the early 1990s, I was in Delhi for AIMA’s annual conference, where in the wake of liberalisation, speakers were invited from as far as Philippines to propound the LPG theme of the decade – Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalization.  The Yamuna was flooded then too. Arriving drenched at the Indian Air-Force Subroto Park Auditorium myself, I entered the hall as lone nominee from my then employer SPACO Carburettors India Ltd. The media sponsor The Hindustan Times had placed partially wet copies of its edition that had a catchy photograph of the rain situation and an accompanying story of a 14 year old saviour of small children. The first speaker of the day, the irrepressible Late Rajinder Singh was delayed, and he explained his absence thus:

You will appreciate my delay only if you hear my explanation. That story of the 14 year old – well, I read it too, and went to track that boy down before coming here. I wanted to know what it was in him, that he took the plunge when several able bodied adults around him did not.” He had the ears of the 600 strong audience already. “Well, after much persistence, the young boy broke his silence. “Why ask me? Ask the one who pushed me from behind, into the swollen Yamuna!” Imagine the energy in the room and the connect made with the audience!

My senior and hostel-mate from TISS Mohammed Abid, currently Secretary Cum Development Commissioner for the Trans-Yamuna Board, may not want such bravado for the same reasons of flooding today.  Yet, as of the early 1990s, the AIMA speaker – the then Chairman of NTPC regaled his audience with his version of Leaders needing the Push based on real-life cases within NTPC.

It is hardly controversial to observe that leadership-as-a-good-thing is deeply entrenched in our common culture. Much is expected of leaders and leadership when economic, managerial or other crises have to be met. The solutions to restructuring for purposes of greater efficiency and effectiveness, whether in private or public sector organizations such as district administrations, for example, are widely sought in better leadership or ‘strong leaders’ who are believed capable of steering the organization in desired directions.

However, in recent insights about such phenomena, I have come to recognise the importance of the following questions.
1.       Like the above account of ‘even leaders need a push’, what makes for individualist achievement when leader-follower or leader-member exchange in Indian context is not accounted for in theories of leadership?
2.       If there is a Zone of Proximal Development, in which even leaders learn to develop their exemplar qualities, is leadership more reduced to the administrative practice that occurs in modules of impact rather than extending ‘systemic’ effect on an organisation?
3.       What accounts for a theory perspective in leader behavior, when context and practice in context cannot be removed from the phenomenon?
4.       Is not learning in groups more connected to the administrative efficacy of a work unit than the convenient fantasy of the singular apogee of virtue and potency?
5.       What is the connect between functionality in leadership and the effect it has on practice of leadership, if context and learning in context matters to the existence of leadership, per se?
6.       Is the chorus for a resignation of a leader in the aftermath of a crisis an outcome of folk psychology than a moral creed under whose garb order and norm is mediated?
7.       Have we seen more of methods of observation in existing leadership theory than empirical data per se that explains cause and effect?
8.       When social media pervades the work-screens of almost any employee a company wishes to control through information technology (IT), what yoke fixes the social-media heterarchy with the corporate-governance hierarchy? What wedge of performance apart from control-intensive IT will cohere with these inherently diverse, if not contradictory eras of organisation? Is it merely financial capital, social power and legal sanction?
9.       If the structure of motivation of the emerging knowledge economy is Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, what accelerates the dereliction of leadership?
10.   If a relatively self-disciplined westerner experiences formal interactions with Indian or Asian workforces, does the word ‘global’ replace interaction expectations merely because of a dateline intervention? Has folk psychology like the proverbial smoke-screen denuded the cause-effect relationship in leadership theory?

This is why I am falling back on primal learning energy by turning to a savant, whose interests transcended our planet. Carl Sagan the cosmologist, said, “At the heart of science is an essential balance between two seemingly contradictory attitudes--an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may be, and the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense”.  I thank Gabrielle Lakomski for stoking me to such fundamental issues in 2006, a cause at which she has relentlessly labored since then.

Many implications extend from these questions. E.g. why in work that involves complexity, innovation in India is more difficult to orchestrate than in other national or societal contexts? There is no dearth of issues that require us to work meaningfully in groups that fetch enduring satisfaction and pride for its members. Do we build to change or to defend status quo, for example?

Do you not feel a dearth of sturdy, robust inter-disciplinary inquiry in leadership and organisational learning? For what reason does the last word on leadership theory elude us?