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Kaleidoscope

Blogging does three things: Makes you observant, shifts the focus away from self and leaves you a humble student of Life!

Successful people and also the not so…have always interested me for the varied lessons they offer.

O belongs to the first kind and I had/have the opportunity to see him from close in my past and present assignments.  What makes him tick! Would like to share a few of my findings very briefly leaving it to some enterprising biographer to grab the opportunity and do the subject at length!

S and he head a company of long years, now on a relatively uncharted course – digitally charting/mapping the cities and the lands of this country in 2D/3D, using technologies, complex, challenging, innovative and obviously quite expensive. Man-power intensive, their enterprise provides gainful employment to hundreds. He has the responsibility for offering 3D mapping services and applications, mostly unprecedented, to…

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Expertise vs Attitude

The typical online job site lists millions of jobs. And just about every one of them is a cry for expertise.

From the title to the requirements, companies hire for expertise.

Logic helps us understand that only one out of ten people are in the top 10% when it comes to expertise. And that means that most companies are settling for good enough. If the organization needs people with expertise in the top decile, they’re going to have to pay far more and work far harder to find and retain that sort of skill.

So most companies don’t try. They create jobs that can be done pretty well by people with a typical amount of expertise.

That means that the actual differentiator in just about every job is attitude. From plumbers to carpenters to radiologists to pharmacists, someone with extraordinary soft skills (honesty, commitment, compassion, resilience, enrollment in the journey, empathy, willingness to be coached… the real skills that we actually care about) is going to outperform.

If this is so obviously true, then why don’t organizations hire for attitude and train for expertise?

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Source: Seth Godin

M in his daily morning walk takes a couple of shots and sends them out to a few of his contacts. 

Received from him a couple of days ago the above taken from a resort in Neral (Maharashtra) he was holidaying in.

A question rose in my mind.

In turn, I forwarded to a few of my contacts adding my question:

“How does one tell sunrise from sunset?”

Just these words along with the snap. Rather laconic admittedly, but certainly unambiguously – at least I thought so.

Folks were just as clueless. It couldn’t be said one way or the other looking at the snap. One of them ventured to say the answer was in the glow though he did not know what, how…It was/is my theory too.

And then there were a couple, achievers in their career, incredulously asking: “WTH? It depends on you’re facing east or west!”

That’s when it struck – the link between the text and the snap above was in my mind and could be entirely missed out by some.

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Azad Maidan

Was attending a crucial meeting on planning for kicking off a large project. We were about half a dozen of us including the function-heads from the company.

The spreadsheet was up on a small screen before us. N was checking with us and updating the sheet in his laptop and on the screen.

It involved factoring in delivery schedules of many vendors, new hiring, statutory clearances and other umpteen dependencies. The meeting often devolved into confabulations in knots of two’s and three’s. Of course, for right reasons.

It fell on N and D from time to time to call the meeting back to order.

This is when I heard them use the metaphor ‘Azad Maidan’. A deshi description, though not exact for the present occasion, with an interesting etymology:

Azad Maidan is a triangular-shaped maidan (sports ground) in the city of Mumbai. It is located on 25 acres of land near the CST rail-station. It is a regular venue for inter-school cricket and club matches. And for the kids and young men from near and around playing softball cricket. Home to many cricketers of international fame, it boasts of something like twenty-two cricket pitches (Wiki), not counting interstitial spaces also used for the same purpose.

But what’s the connection, you ask, eh?

Here you go:

On a Sunday morning, especially when exams are not around and no official matches scheduled, the ground would be a host to so many teams engaged concurrently (mostly in soft-ball cricket), each match played on its own pitch, and the pitches, nearly overlapping!! Though an observer from outside would be hard put to trace a rolling ball to the pitch and batsman it came from, the players always knew. It was rare a fielder in the outfield found himself chasing a ball that did not belong!

It is this concurrent action of teams, independent, in close proximity, but mishap-free, each busy about its own play – the vivid imagery that gets captured and distilled into this metaphor Azad Maidan so succinctly!! Buzzing beehive? Yes, something like that, but with weak/no commonality of purpose expressed/hinted, more human for us to easily relate.

It is not too much of a stretch to liken this to a scene frequently played out in corporates where a meeting in its course often gives way to multiple mini-meetings, each with its own steering, diluting the focus.

A very colourful addition to one’s vocabulary of phrases and idioms! Sure to come handy to spice up any conversation. Just right for describing any coordinated collective activity going ‘to pieces’ – and Life throws them up for us aplenty!

Who knows, one day Azad Maidan may even make it to Oxford! Thanks to Deepak and Nikhil for the education.

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Kaleidoscope

The question raised in a forum and some responses it triggered:

From others:

Obviously, its bright orange peel is like the sun, always raising. When you remove the peel, it looks like the moon and sets. I think Plato wrote a paper on this.

The skin is full of tiny pockets of air and oils, which make the orange more buoyant. The oils repel water, and the air in the pockets is less dense than water. Without the skin, the orange loses buoyancy because it’s just densely packed fluid-filled cells and the solid matter of the pulp.

Think of the peeling as bubble wrap and the orange as a balloon filled with water

Oranges have tiny arm likeappendages called cilia with which they swim. Removing the skin removes its arms and the orange can no longer tread water.

The pith in the peel holds a lot of air. Reasoning says…

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The Right Thing To Do

Received this informative, interesting, insightful, inspirational, invigorating and instructional piece from V. Narayanan.

Here it is, self-explanatory and as received:

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The Right Thing To Do And The Tata Group:


It was the year 1946. Germany stood devastated by the Second World War. The Allies had won the war, and many German cities, including Munich, had been severely damaged by the British Royal Air Force. Munich, the picturesque capital of the Bavarian region of Germany, and centre of the country’s diesel engine production, had suffered as many as 74 air-raids. More than half the entire city had been damaged or destroyed.


On one gloomy morning that year, at the Munich Railway station, stood the Directors of Krauss Maffei, the reputed German engineering Company. They were waiting for the arrival of their guests from India. Founded in 1838, Krauss Maffei was a leading maker of locomotives of various types, and an engineering company with a formidable reputation. Unfortunately, the Company now stood devastated by the World War, since their factories had been destroyed by the Allied Forces.


The guests from India got down from their train. They were Directors from the Tata Group in India. If you had been there, you would have seen JRD Tata, the young, tall, lanky Chairman of the Group, get off the train. And accompanying him was a forty-year old engineer, Sumant Moolgaonkar, representing Tata Engineering & Locomotive Company (TELCO-now Tata Motors). They had come to Munich for discussions with Krauss Maffei, regarding the manufacture of locomotives in India. What they found, instead, were scenes of destruction and ruin.


The Germans requested the Indians to take some of their unemployed engineers to India, along with their families, and provide them jobs and shelter. The Directors of Krauss Maffei are reported to have told the Tata Directors – “They are very skilled people. They will do whatever you ask them if you take care of them. They can also teach your people.” 

 
This would have to be done without a formal contract, because the British, who were still ruling India, had forbidden Indian Companies from having any contracts with German Corporations, during those times of the World War. But this request was urgent, and compelling. Because in that year, with factories lying destroyed, unemployment in Germany was rampant, and the then German currency, the Reichsmark, had become almost worthless.  


The Tata Directors agreed to this request, and assured the Germans that their people would be well looked after. The German engineers from Krauss Maffei then came to India, and they were provided good jobs and housing by the Tata Group. They were well taken care of, and they also rendered great service to TELCO. In 1945, TELCO had signed an agreement with the Indian Railways for manufacture of steam locomotives, and this is where the German engineers provided valuable technical expertise. They helped the Company manufacture locomotives, which were amongst the Company’s very first products.


In 1947, India became independent. In the 1950s, TELCO moved on to manufacture trucks in collaboration with Daimler Benz. Many years had now passed since that fateful meeting at the Munich Railway Station. Germany had substantially recovered from the ravages of the war, and the reconstruction effort had borne great fruit. In one of these happier years, the Board of Directors of Krauss Maffei was surprised to suddenly receive a letter from India. 


This letter was from the Tata Group. It offered grateful thanks for the services of the German engineers, and it contained an offer of compensation to Krauss Maffei for the skills which had been transferred by the Germans to TELCO. Krauss Maffei was surprised, even taken aback at this offer. There was no legal contract, and therefore no obligation for the Tata Group to pay any compensation. In fact, I think, neither did this expectation exist, because the Tata Group had helped by providing jobs and shelter to the otherwise unemployed German engineers, during those dark days. So, the Germans were astonished, as they read the Tata letter.


This story was narrated many, many years later, in the 1970s, by Directors of Krauss Maffei, who met a Director of TELCO during a business transaction in Malaysia. They jumped up, shook his hands, and wanted to express their deepest gratitude to him. They then narrated to him this fascinating story, which, they said, is now part of their Company’s folklore.


One interesting and unexpected sidelight of this story occurred when TELCO was asked to provide a legally binding financial guarantee in the 1970s, but this was rendered very difficult because of the Indian Government’s regulations at that time. This matter was taken up to German bankers, who said that a guarantee on a Tata letterhead, signed by the Chairman, was more valuable than any banker’s guarantee.
I do not know what exact thoughts ran through the minds of Tata Directors in the 1950s before they sent that letter to Krauss Maffei, offering compensation where none was agreed upon or expected. But I think the Tata Group did this because it was the right thing to do. 


The right thing to do is never defined by formal agreements or legal contracts alone. Neither is it defined by the expectations that others have of us. What is right is defined by our own high expectations of ourselves, by the culture of fairness and trust that we wish to establish. Are we being truly fair to the people and the Companies we work with? We always know, if we listen deeply enough to our inner voice, whether we are being totally fair and right. The Krauss Maffei story holds such a beautiful lesson for all of us.

Written by: Harish Bhat-Brand Custodian, Tata Sons

***

Well, anachronistic? Discussed in the class-rooms of management schools here?

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The article may be accessed here.

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A Speaker’s Secret

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They Are ‘Different’!

We all have among our circle of friends, acquaintances and relations people who are ‘different’. And, it’s no different with me. I’ve often brought them here as subjects of my posts. There are in their own ways interesting, intriguing, inspiring and instructive.

So it is this time.  About W, X, Y, and Z. Four of them in one post? All for a good reason you’ll know.

Beginning with W…

Though it is widely claimed social network is essential to ones well-being, we usually limit ourselves to a few and do not actively go out seeking others except for special reasons. Of course we’re civil to respond to anyone reaching us. I for one prefer non-intrusive channels for most part of my communication. But W…has his friends and contacts in Anakapalle (his home town in Andhra Pradesh), Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune and Vizag, including surviving class-mates from his Engineering days! Is in touch over phone (not WhatsApp forwards) with a 100 of them, 20 regularly and 80 of them once a year! And when he talks, with unmistakable warmth, it’s not hail-fellow-how-are-you-good-bye. It’s a good leisurely gupshup about recent happenings at both ends and all things of mutual interest. This is happening in the times when it is difficult to carry on a conversation for a few minutes even among friends without hitting a line that divides us sharply on politics, faith, and other affiliations. How he handles communicating with his polar opposites without acrimony is a secret I’ve yet to unlock.

His constant refrain: “I have no time; I am always busy; but I always have time to meet/talk to a friend or…”

**

Let’s meet X next:

He loves spending every day two to three hours, reading two Newspapers, Times of India (English) and Eenadu (Telugu) when he’s in India.  When visiting USA, it’s Wall Street Journal and a local Newspaper. As necessary to him as morning coffee for us.

How could he ever do that and enjoying while at it?

I told him I stopped reading newspapers online or in print many months ago. Because, it’s so negative and depressing. My BP has since gone down by a few healthy points. Am more at peace with life.

He disagreed. I dared him to prove me wrong.

On the following day, I get this from him:

“As discussed, I am mentioning a few items I read today in Times of India:

1. Consumer goods makers get a festive booster shot.  Double-digit growth over year-ago period. 2. Telangana records lowest Covid-19 positive cases since June. 3. Auto sales pick up pace this Dussehra despite dampeners. 4. KTR (Telangana minister) hands over 1,100 2BHK houses to beneficiaries. 5. Hearing through video-conferencing successful says Supreme Court. 6. India records 36K fresh Covid cases, lowest in over 3 months. 7. Should India raise the marriage age for girls?  There are social and economic benefits, but the same results can be achieved through education and job opportunities. 8. Oxford vax prompts immune response in old as well as young. 9. Dietary habits have a direct effect on our mental health. ”

I think this was on 28th Oct. He continued sharing what he read for the following 2-3 days before I told him he has made his point.   

He’s quite taken by Sri Gaur Gopal Das’s: “Your happiness is your choice”.

I suppose you get what you’re looking for!

Nonetheless I haven’t gone back to newspapers.

**

Moving on to Y…

It’s usual for companies to have mission/vision statements. Y has a “Personal Mission Statement”!

In its first line it says “Help as many people as possible to achieve their goals”.

Even his visiting card carries the caption: “Helping people achieve their goals”.

Presently he’s helping financially three young girls to pursue what they wish to study. There’s an obligation on the recipients to return the money when they are able to. He doesn’t enforce.

Under the locked-down conditions, he spends an hour in a week over phone helping a young boy to speak in English.

He’s constantly on the lookout for ways and means to act out his mission statement.

**

Now to Z:

Like W, his constant refrain: I have no time; I am always busy; but I always have time…to attend a learning event or read a book.

On an average he manages to attend two webinars a day!

Presently he’s reading a book “IKIGAI – The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life”. Quite impressed with it, he has tweaked his lifestyle accordingly.  

**

CK is a retired senior corporate executive, running 78 now. Regarded as a guru by many who were associated with him in his long successful career.

His belief:

I am always happy.  God brought me to this world and He has no choice but to take care of me.

“ThoughI expect to live for 90+ years, I am prepared for the worst, ready to leave this world today.

I capitalize on what comes.

I continue to do what I love every day.

I have adequate money to live comfortably. But I love to work anytime, anywhere and earn.Yes, he’s available for hire as a consultant, a coach or a speaker!! He expects to give talks on IKIGAI soon.

I love doing Manava Seva (helping people).

He’s W, X, Y and Z personas rolled into one!!!

Different like I promised – In his own ways interesting, intriguing, inspiring and instructive?

Looking forward to my next chat with him – am sure to hear something more about IKIGAI.

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