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Archive for the ‘Excellence’ Category

Brand Equity,Value, Promise, Experience, Authenticity….?

From brandsofdesire.com

Daryl Person clears the deck with some simple concepts with handles:

We’re all someone’s customer, and we all love when something about a brand makes us feel great. Your customers are no different. If you take time to think through how you can connect with them authentically, personally, and meaningfully, your efforts will be rewarded with affection and loyalty.

No surprises here – much of the same has been said and written about it.

The interesting bit about her message is the further drill down to where she discovers a vein:

Essentially, you as a brand have to act like—and be like—a human….if the humans who represent the brand act like humans and friends, then that’s how customers will see you. They’ll defend you when you have hard times, celebrate when you accomplish something, and thank you for being a good brand.

And you hit the gold right and proper, Daryl avers, is when you create those genuine moments of great personal experience for your customers.

More about it and some thoughts on ‘how to’ she shares here.

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This is about the sage Viswamitra (V) requesting King Dasharatha (D) for his young son’s (aged 12 years or less), help to conduct a sacrifice successfully – he expects two demons to disrupt the ritual with their usual fiendish antics. The sage gives the reason for his request: on the eve of performing the sacrifice, he does not want to lose control of his mind and curse the demons all the way to their hell (through such outbursts, sages often lose their power gained after enduring practice of austere tapas).

It is described essentially in Sarga 19 of Bala Kanda in Valmiki’s Ramayana.

The source used for this analysis is here.

In the 21 verses contained in this Sarga, the sage makes 13 statements (five of them are compound with two parts) as under exactly in the same sequence, reproduced verbatim from the source:

  1. Born in an illustrious lineage and initiated by sage Vasishta, this way (of speaking) befits you.
  2. Take a decision and be truthful to your promise.
  3. Rama is valiant, young and true to his prowess.
  4. (a) Protected by me and (b) by his own divine power, Rama is capable of destroying even those demons causing impediments to the sacrifice.
  5. (a) I will confer upon him, without doubt, a lot of blessings for his well-being (b) by which he will attain fame in all the three worlds.
  6. Both of them (Maricha and Subahu) will not be able to withstand Rama in any way. Rama, and Rama alone, is capable of destroying them.
  7. Proud of their strength, the two wicked demons have been noosed by Yama, the god of death. O tiger among kings they are no match for the mahathmana Rama.
  8. (a) O king, it is not proper for you to hesitate because of your paternal affection. (b) You need to know that both the rakshasas will perish. This, I assure you.
  9. (a) I know Rama who is a great soul, true to his prowess and (b) also Vasishta of great luster and these other sages who have been steadfast in asceticism also know.
  10. O king of kings, if you are seeking the benefits of righteousness, great everlasting fame in this world, it is fit and proper to give Rama to me.
  11. Kakustha, if your counselors and all other sages headed by Vasishta give their consent, then only you may relieve Rama.
  12. (a) You should spare your dear son, the lotus-eyed Rama, (b) impartial and detached, (a) for ten nights.
  13. Dasharatha, descendant of Raghu, act in such a manner that the time for my sacrifice is not delayed. Do not indulge in grief. Prosperity to you”

After speaking these words charged with dharma and artha the great sage resplendent Viswamitra fell silent. 

It’s easy to see these 13 statements fitting into a well-structured script planned by the sage V as under, set roughly in the same sequence:

  • Starts with two praises of D, (1 and 2) for him to live up?
  • Next, first mention (3) is made, rather simply, of Rama’s prowess and, not so startlingly in passing, about his divine power in 4(b) (also the word ‘mahathmana’ in 7?).
  • Follows up talking about his personal support to stand by Rama in 4(a) and 5(a).
  • Names and belittles the enemies for reassurance vis-a-vis Rama’s ability in 6, 7, 8(b) and 9(a).
  • Time to bring more pressure and ‘carrots’ for D to oblige in 5(b), 8(a), 10, 12(b) and 13.
  • Rounds up defining the duration of his demand for Rama’s assistance in 12(a) and also
  • Drawing support from other unassailable sources including his ‘arch rival’ sage Vasishta to buttress his assessment of Rama in 9(b) and 11.

Could it be better, you think?

Now for another interesting perspective: Going by the count (not by relative strengths) of the statements, it adds up to (each statement in full counts for one and part of a compound statement, half):  

  • So for D to be persuaded, there are 2 praises and 3.5 of pressures and
    ‘carrots’ for a total of 5.5 out of 13.
  • V’s personal support (‘his skin in the game’) assured for Rama makes up for 1 out of 13.
  • On Rama’s prowess, said matter-of-factly, it is 4.5 directly coming from him and another 1.5 of vouchsafing support from others for a total of 6 out of 13 on assessment of Rama’s abilities to meet the challenge.
  • Specifying duration of V’s demand is 0.5 out of 13.

Is that a good balance?

Some observations:

The sage’s assessment of Rama’s prowess is based more on his
insight than any precedent display. Nothing is said by the sage about Rama’s
equipment, no mention is made of specific astra-shastra’s
(weapons w/wo mantra’s) in Rama’s quiver – perhaps unnecessary, premature or
even inappropriate?

Rising above the family-pulls, Valmiki ends the Sarga with

‘Having listened to those auspicious words of Viswamitra, the king among kings, (Dasaratha) experienced intense grief out of fear. He became despondent.’

How could the words inducing fear and despondency in the virtuous other be considered as auspicious? Simply because the killing of those two demons – the sage had enough insight Rama would accomplish it despite being too young – was necessary (directly or otherwise) for the good of the kingdom at large, besides V himself gaining from it. Here’s a cardinal principle of well-being of a society, said not in so many words: the call of dharma is more powerful and must be heeded to than the tug of one’s heart-strings should there ever be a conflict. The same is asserted without ambiguity in different ways in statements: 8(a), 10, 12(b) and 13. This comes to us in age when the principle is made to stand on its head, when parents amass wealth brazenly thru misdeeds for themselves and, more so, their children. Or, clouded by affection, they’re guilty failing to check adharmic acts of omission and commission of their near and dear.

Interestingly the phrase ‘lotus-eyed Rama’ in statement 12(a) is unimaginably double-edged!! How? The ready explanation is: Poets often compare beautiful eyes like those of Rama to lotus flowers in bloom. No surprises there. Now to the not-so-ready: Just as a lotus folds itself up in the night and come night, the young Rama goes off to sleep peacefully. And that is exactly when the demons become hyperactive. Is it fair to the sleepy young boy to be thrown against demons when they are in their elements?

End

PS: The source is responsible for the translation of the
original verses, included here verbatim and not for the rest of the content in
the post. The interpretation of ‘lotus-eyed Rama’ comes from here.
Image from flipkart.

So you know to hurl the brickbats at whom:-}  

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“…that pernicious nonsense about being a leader and not a manager. Your challenge is to help the team and team members succeed. The only way to succeed at that is to do all three kinds of work. Lead. Manage. Supervise. Do them all well. “

Read this short post from Wally Bock to know what each entails.

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You cant go too far without hitting an expert sounding off on content and content marketing. Everyone and his uncle…

But not much said on what goes into content. Of course there is stuff to be found on story telling, but not tied tightly with content creation.

To clarify the point, many of travel and touristy content is at best a package of excitement experienced personally by the traveler like the cliche kid-in-a-candy-shop, but not necessarily worrying about taking the audience along vicariously. This is where story-telling gets in. But to tell a story, one must discover them first during travel, bringing altogether another dimension of excitement to travel!

A case in point is this short photo-post: Animation In Stone!

Posted just after returning from a sight-seeing trip to Egypt and Jordan, its impact could be to make one dig up a little more of history or may be to look henceforth at stonework wherever a little differently or even lure one to consider a trip to the place.

A small side story: The local tour operator, owned by some globally well-known names, did not take it up along with a few other posts for promoting his tours, when offered free for his use. Not even an acknowledgement! Of course the content may need to be improved upon with more drama and history injected and made a part of a larger canvas.

In conclusion, need to create content is widely accepted, but making it readable and actionable is something else.

End

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There was a story posted here sometime ago how one man successfully turned around a murky vitiated ambiance in an org with some ordinary common-sense ideas.

Here comes another story how a dark horse turned around a loser into a shining paragon of performance! Of course his ways were different and very interesting with applicability far beyond in org dynamics, public institutions, government of the land…A war of a different kind.

Read on:

<<an extract>>

On a blustery October day in 1987, a herd of prominent Wall Street investors and stock analysts gathered in the ballroom of a posh Manhattan hotel. They were there to meet the new CEO of the Aluminum Company of America—or Alcoa, as it was known—a corporation that, for nearly a century, had manufactured everything from the foil that wraps Hershey’s Kisses and the metal in Coca-Cola cans to the bolts that hold satellites together.

Alcoa’s founder had invented the process for smelting aluminum a century earlier, and since then the company had become one of the largest on earth. Many of the people in the audience had invested millions of dollars in Alcoa stock and had enjoyed a steady return. In the past year, however, investor grumblings started. Alcoa’s management had made misstep after misstep, unwisely trying to expand into new product lines while competitors stole customers and profits away. So there had been a palpable sense of relief when Alcoa’s board announced it was time for new leadership. That relief, though, turned to unease when the choice was announced: the new CEO would be a former government bureaucrat named Paul

O’Neill. Many on Wall Street had never heard of him. When Alcoa scheduled this meet and greet at the Manhattan ballroom, every major investor asked for an invitation.

A few minutes before noon, O’Neill took the stage. He was fifty-one years old, trim, and dressed in gray pinstripes and a red power tie. His hair was white and his posture military straight. He bounced up the steps and smiled warmly. He looked dignified, solid, confident. Like a chief executive.

Then he opened his mouth.

“I want to talk to you about worker safety,” he said. “Every year, numerous Alcoa workers are injured so badly that they miss a day of work. Our safety record is better than the general American workforce, especially considering that our employees work with metals that are 1500 degrees and machines that can rip a man’s arm off. But it’s not good enough. I intend to make Alcoa the safest company in America. I intend to go for zero injuries.”

The audience was confused. These meetings usually followed a predictable script: A new CEO would start with an introduction, make a faux self-deprecating joke—something about how he slept his way through Harvard Business School—then promise to boost profits and lower costs. Next would come an excoriation of taxes, business regulations, and sometimes, with a fervor that suggested firsthand experience in divorce court, lawyers. Finally, the speech would end with a blizzard of buzzwords—“synergy,” “rightsizing,” and “co-opetition”—at which point everyone could return to their offices, reassured that capitalism was safe for another day.

O’Neill hadn’t said anything about profits. He didn’t mention taxes. There was no talk of “using alignment to achieve a win-win synergistic market advantage.” For all anyone in the audience knew, given his talk of worker safety, O’Neill might be pro-regulation. Or, worse, a Democrat. It was a terrifying prospect.

“Now, before I go any further,” O’Neill said, “I want to point out the safety exits in this room.” He gestured to the rear of the ballroom. “There’s a couple of doors in the back, and in the unlikely event of a fire or other emergency, you should calmly walk out, go down the stairs to the lobby, and leave the building.”

Silence. The only noise was the hum of traffic through the windows. Safety? Fire exits? Was this a joke? One investor in the audience knew that O’Neill had been in Washington, D.C., during the sixties. Guy must have done a lot of drugs, he thought.

Eventually, someone raised a hand and asked about inventories in the aerospace division. Another asked about the company’s capital ratios.

“I’m not certain you heard me,” O’Neill said. “If you want to understand how Alcoa is doing, you need to look at our workplace safety figures. If we bring our injury rates down, it won’t be because of cheerleading or the nonsense you sometimes hear from other CEOs. It will be because the individuals at this company have agreed to become part of something important: They’ve devoted themselves to creating a habit of excellence. Safety will be an indicator that we’re making progress in changing our habits across the entire institution. That’s how we should be judged.”

The investors in the room almost stampeded out the doors when the presentation ended.

One jogged to the lobby, found a pay phone, and called his twenty largest clients. “I said, ‘The board put a crazy hippie in charge and he’s going to kill the company,’ ” that investor told me. “I ordered them to sell their stock immediately, before everyone else in the room started calling their clients and telling them the same thing.“It was literally the worst piece of advice I gave in my entire career.”

Within a year of O’Neill’s speech, Alcoa’s profits would hit a record high. By the time O’Neill retired in 2000, the company’s annual net income was five times larger than before he arrived, and its market capitalization had risen by $27 billion. Someone who invested a million dollars in Alcoa on the day O’Neill was hired would have earned another million dollars in dividends while he headed the company, and the value of their stock would be five times bigger when he left.

<Impressed?>

So how did O’Neill make one of the largest, stodgiest, and most potentially dangerous companies into a profit machine and a bastion of safety?

By attacking one habit and then watching the changes ripple through the organization.

“I knew I had to transform Alcoa,” O’Neill told me. “But you can’t order people to change. That’s not how the brain works. So I decided I was going to start by focusing on one thing. If I could start disrupting the habits around one thing, it would spread throughout the entire company.”

<end of extract>

Grab the book ‘The Power Of Habit” (2012) by Charles Duhigg and go to pages 97-109 to find out more on how the miracle was wrought. Of course there are many other interesting anecdotes too and theories in the book also worth perusing.

A copy of this book was available here for reading (copyright implications not known). The link does not work now. May be it is moved to a new site.

End

Source: pdfbooksinfo.blogspot.com and image from Amazon

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They all have small feet!

How else could they get into other people’s shoes 🙂

In his article ‘Empathy Is The Key To Innovation’ Baruch Sachs assertively identifies a key ingredient for innovation:

“…Every great innovation has come from a place of empathy. This makes great sense because innovation is so often borne out of someone’s frustration with the current way or state of things. For example, Steve Jobs was frustrated that he could not carry his library of music around in his pocket. He thought others might share his frustration. His answer? The iPod.

Ride-sharing services were borne out of people’s frustration with the overall taxi experience. All of the innovations that Uber, Lyft, and others have created through their technology and services have come from a place of empathy. These are just two examples showing how empathy has driven tremendous innovations that have shaped the lives of millions of people…”

And yet “… Empathy is the single most-overlooked ingredient of innovation. This is a huge problem because empathy is a critical ingredient of ensuring successful innovation…”

Design thinking and other methodologies by themselves will not take the org far in innovation in absence of empathy.

So you know now who is the most likely to drive innovation in your org.

End

Image from cio.com

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“Good service design is important for the overall user experience. Yet, it is even more important at the end of an experience (or exposure to a brand) due to the Peak-End Rule and Recency Effect. Placing the business needs before the user’s needs, breaking the user’s flow and not addressing a user’s need at the point of their need are primary culprits in designing a poor experience.”

Chris Kiess writes in his article “Service Design — How to Fail at the Checkout and Ruin Your User’s End Experience” appearing here.

While he talks about “8 ways I see retail merchants like Target, Walmart or Meijer fail in service design as it relates to the end of the customer experience and the final impression they make with consumers,” there’s an interesting snippet about a negative perception and how it could be turned around.

First about the perception:

“The biggest faux pas of superstores is having too many checkout registers and not enough cashiers. Most people would probably not be concerned during the holidays (or any other time) if they sauntered over to the checkout and there were ten cashiers at all ten registers with lines behind each. This would give the customer the illusion the store is busy and they are doing everything they can to help customers move through the checkout process. But, what generally happens instead is you walk up to the checkout area after finding everything you need and there are thirty registers with only five in service. This, I cannot understand. On the surface, it gives the impression the store could do more. After all, there are twenty-five more registers and surely they could open one or two more of them. It boggles the mind that a store would feel the need to install thirty checkout lanes and never use them all at one time.”

He suggests:

“This is largely about human perception. The simple fix is to cut the number of registers installed and use a greater percentage of them during busy times. This would give the impression (and shape perceptions) a greater effort is being employed to move people through the lines.”

A thought:

The suggestion could still leave at times a few unattended counters. So why not have counters that could be rolled in from back of the store on need basis and wheeled away when done? Just as many as needed, leaving no visibly unattended counters at any time.

Also could the stores do like the airlines doing in-line check-in with staff going around with their special devices? Of course, it needs some adaption to allow for handling the purchases in the cart.

End

Image from here.

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Like the doctor here.

When outside, I keep my eyes peeled looking for people doing things differently.

Apologies for the quality of the pics – this is as best as I could manage.

We all have heard of the anecdote how a consultant solved the problem of office goers waiting restlessly in the morning hours before a busy bank of lifts in a high-rise building. He got mirrors fixed outside the doors in the lobby and presto! The irritation abated. People liked to look at themselves in those mirrors while killing time.

Likewise:

The map you see here is pasted on full-height glass panels in the office of a Architects/Consultants firm. With employees of this firm more likely to be out in the field for good part of the day, it would not be uncommon for visitors having to wait out in their office.  And while waiting, the map segments on the panels, large unlike a mobile screen, clear and easy on the eyes, are actually interesting to look at and visually explore and discover even for the blase, making the wait a little more bearable.

**

A few days ago, returned to Mumbai. As the Indigo aircraft came to a halt at the gate for passengers to get off, an announcement was made requesting the deplaning passengers to pull down the window-shades before they leave  and open the air-vents overhead to full blast.

Very thoughtful of them to keep the aircraft insides as comfortable as possible and ready for the incoming passengers.

**

End

Source: Image from livemint.com

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… Your Kids Need To Learn For The Future

If the best you produce in your written communication are (annoying) one-liners, this is for you too.

Here’s what far-looking prolific Greg Satell has to say, something one will do well to sit up and take note, something I subscribe to whole heartedly.

<<extract from his article dated 29/05/19 appearing here>>

Let the ink flow, keys be struck…

Many say that coding is the new literacy

Kids are encouraged to learn programming in school and take coding courses online. In that famous scene in The Graduate Dustin Hoffman’s character was encouraged by a family friend to go into plastics. If it were shot today, it would have probably been computer code.

This isn’t actually that new. I remember first being taught how to code in middle school in the early 80s in BASIC (a mostly defunct language now). Yet even today, coding is far from an essential skill. In fact, with the rise of no-code platforms, there is a strong argument to be made that code is becoming less important.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of coding to be done on the back end and programming is certainly a perfectly reasonable thing to learn. However, there’s no reason people need to learn it to have a successful, productive career. On the other hand writing, as well as other communication skills, will only become more important in the decades to come.

Collaboration Is The New Competitive Advantage

When my generation was in school, we were preparing for a future that seemed pretty clear cut. We assumed we would become doctors, lawyers, executives and engineers and spend our entire lives working in our chosen fields. It didn’t turn out that way. These days a business model is unlikely to last a decade, much less a lifetime.

Kids today need to prepare to become lifelong learners because the pace of change will not slow down. In fact, it is likely to accelerate beyond anything we can imagine today. The one thing we can predict about the future is that collaboration will be critical for success. People like geneticists and quantum scientists will need to work closely with chemists, designers sociologists and specialists in fields that haven’t even been invented yet.

These are, in fact, longstanding trends. The journal Nature recently noted that the average scientific paper today has four times as many authors as one did in 1950 and the work they are doing is far more interdisciplinary and done at greater distances than in the past. We can only expect these trends to become more prominent in the future.

In order to collaborate effectively, you need to communicate effectively and that’s where writing comes in. Being able to express thoughts and ideas clearly and cogently is absolutely essential to collaboration and innovation.

Writing Well Is Thinking Well

Probably the most overlooked aspect of writing is that it does more than communicate thoughts, but helps form them. As Fareed Zakaria has put it, “Thinking and writing are inextricably intertwined. When I begin to write, I realize that my ‘thoughts’ are usually a jumble of half-baked, incoherent impulses strung together with gaping logical holes between them.”

“Whether you’re a novelist, a businessman, a marketing consultant or a historian,” he continues, “writing forces you to make choices and it brings clarity and order to your ideas.” Zakaria also points to Jeff Bezos’ emphasis on memo writing as an example of how clarity of expression leads to innovation.

In fact, Amazon considers writing so essential to its ability to innovate that it has become a key part of its culture. It’s hard to make much of a career at Amazon if you cannot write well, because to create products and services that are technically sound, easy to use and efficiently executed, a diverse group of highly skilled people need to tightly coordinate their efforts.

Today, as the digital revolution comes to an end and we enter a new era of innovation. it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the rapid advancement of breakthrough technologies. However, the key to success in our uncertain future will be humans collaborating with other humans to design work for machines. That starts with writing effectively.
 
<<end extract>>

I can hear some of you saying in technical communication, one uses formal models using standard icons and labels. So where’s the need to write effectively?

Well, get an application architecture diagram to explain itself!

End

Image: Pixabay

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