Friday, April 27, 2007

Life

I may not be able to post for the next one week or so....! :

Hoping that I learn enough in the next one week to come back and prepare a dozen worthwhile posts.... :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Valyou?

I find it intriguing to think about organizational values and how they impact the character of an organization. We all respect and admire organizations that genuinely understand the importance of values in the organizational context and do genuinely everything that it takes to introspect, establish, inspire and inculcate the values in its employees and other stakeholders. It is easier said than done, though.

-There are organizations that may not even believe in sporting any values – they’d rather spend the time making more money.

-In some organizations that spend time on articulating its values, the consistent pressure on business managers to get more business and deliver on their commitments results in recruitment practices that might put the (I exaggerate) police to shame. As long as the technical requirements are met, even a snake will do. This means you’re looking at an organization where the passion for the organization’s values does not percolate down to even the second layer from the top.

-In some organizations, there may be a frustrating two-sided game being played. On the one side, people wax eloquent about values and on the other, they whisper the opposite into na├»ve and confused ears and act it out that way too. These actions, though, it must be pointed out to such people’s credit, removes at least the confusion. But even amongst these, there may be atrocious people who claim to stick to the values even as they do exactly the opposite. Such hypocrites, I presume, would imagine that the others are foolish and unfit to live in this world.

- In some rare cases, organizations perhaps choose values that are not inspiring and appropriate enough for the business that they are in. Example: A health organization cannot – at it least in my perception - have a value that revolves around value for money. A transport organization that leaves out safety from its list of values is missing something very important. So forth.

- In those organizations that genuinely believe in values and will do anything but violate them, there seems to be a huge practical challenge in recruiting people who have similar values, who are equally serious and uncompromising about them, and who will inspire everyone around them too. My heart bleeds for such organizations. Is curtailing the organizations’ growth the only way in which they can retain the value of their values?


Here are some initial thoughts I have…..just thinking aloud. Would love to hear your views.

- Right at the time of identifying and framing the values, it is important to choose ones that are intuitive and highly relevant to the situation and the context that the organization is operating in


- It is important to involve the employees in every step in whatever way possible

- It is essential to make these values public. Not just circulate it within the organization but also to the world at large. Let employees understand the seriousness and significance of these values. Let even the layman question the employee about his company’s values. This way the accountability goes up. With increasing transparency and accountability comes improvements in behaviour.

- It has to be clearly shown by the senior managers of the company in every step they take and in every move they make. If necessary, the managers have to think aloud – be transparent about how they consider the organizational values, how they evaluate their decision and weigh it against the values and how they arrive at the final decision based on such thinking styles. Meetings will have to dwell upon it, the quarterly results will have to dwell upon it, the company reports will have to talk about it…etc

- Employees have to be encouraged to tell stories about how they used value-based thinking in day to day incidents as well as unique and unexpected situations. Such stories have to be spread and the employees roped in for values dissemination. The lines between hierarchies have to be eliminated altogether when it comes to any value-based exercise/initiative. It has to flow upwards, downwards, sideways, across et al.

As a fellow blogger was pointing out (I’ve lost the link but will try and locate it again : ), a virtue not tested is no virtue at all.

Eh?

A sentence that I made up after some hectic brooding over life etc. Wanted to unwind.

KM helps the organization Know More about itself. Shows that I am stressed? I heard you – when have I been sane anyway, eh?

Sorry about lack of good posts for the past few days. There are some in the pipeline. I shall put up at least one of them some time this week. :)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Are you a Big Dog? ;-)

A couple of days ago, I'd shared a nice quote. Just came across another that is quite similar.

"Small dogs bark. Big dogs don't have to" :D har har

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Why is KM such a challenge?

More often than not, posing a KM question is equivalent to posing something that touches the most fundamental of aspects in the organization, impacts a large section of the organization - most individuals, calls for a lot of hard work, challenges assumptions and calls for conviction, authority and confidence. Doesn’t make it sound particularly enticing if you're looking for an easy life, does it? No wonder KM teams often point to the portal they’ve developed and shy away from everything else. If there’s something valuable in there, it is probably thanks to some champions, some inherent culture of sharing and caring, some do or die situation etc.

KM appeals mostly to the idealistic and never-say-die characters. Or the optimistic lot that sees the cloud but also the silver-lining.

PS: Scribbled down in a moment of inspiration. :)

Building the civilized workplace

The McKinsey Quarterly: Building the civilized workplace

While on Bob Sutton's ideas and thoughts about workplaces, here's a nice article from him on the need for a civilized workplace. We all deserve a nice world, don't we? And a nice world starts with a nice workplace. One of the things that attracted me the most about this article is the concept of Total Cost of Jerks. TCJ. It shows the people obsessed with numbers that it can be proven that the TCJ is deadlier than keeping jerks (and maybe lower versions of jerks) in the company because they seem to be earning some money/are intelligent/get things done.

Organizational Culture

As usual, visiting Gautam’s Blog triggered me off into catching up with some of the current hot topics. Bob Sutton’s new book (The no a.h rule) seems to be hugely popular, going by the amount of debates and discussions it is generating in the blogosphere. Sad to note that this means there’s no escaping the fact there are more a.h in the corporate world than there ought to be. Yea, that’s the idealist in me speaking. Anyways, Bob (in collaboration with Guy Kawasaki) has come up with a list to assess one’s future boss’ a.h quotient. Among the comments in response to his post is one that I think is brilliant. It is about assessing the overall culture of the organization and the commenter, Wally Bock, suggests the following. I love it. I really think these three questions tell a lot about an organization’s culture.

I have three questions I use to get a quick handle on the culture of an organization.
1. What kind of people get promoted around here? The behavior and performance you reward is what you'll get more of.
2. What "bad" behaviors are tolerated here? This is good for patterns of behavior.
3. What kinds of stories do people tell each other? Stories are the carriers of culture. Beware if all they tell are "dumb boss" stories. Understand that service is a value if what you hear are "heroic service" stories.
-
Wally Bock

I guess if there really are no clear answers to one or more of these questions, then we are talking about an organization that’s groping in the dark and has so much churn that the culture is nondescript. That’s no good either. :(

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Budding Buddha?

I recently watched a Discovery Channel documentary on a boy (teenager) called Ram Bahadur Bomjon. And have been intrigued endlessly ever since. This boy went into deep meditation for more than 10 months at a stretch without food, water et al! (I am not using words like seems and apparently as there are reliable eye witnesses to vouch for the episode, including the Discovery Channel team) The boy is a Buddhist from Nepal and I do think he has divine looks. I am not going to narrate the whole story as you can read the story in its original form by just Googling for “Ram Bahadur Bomjon”. The world never lets people be themselves. There’s always someone or the other who waits to take advantage of others. There was apparently a commercial angle to the whole episode and money was being collected from intrigued and reverent visitors. Ram, also called the Buddha Boy, did not want the swarm of people around him and disappeared one day. He reappeared a year later (earlier this year) and said he would go back to the forest to meditate and would return yet again, ready to be buried alive while in meditation - which in fact is something that ancient Indian mystics have resorted to. The documentary aired on Discovery included comments from doctors who were amazed that the boy faced no physiological consequences whatsoever despite the rigorous meditation minus food and water!

For people – especially in modern days - who are skeptical about the existence of a supernatural power, this is one of those great excuses to think again.

Do you think you're mature? :)

“Maturity is being content to know that you are right without having to prove someone else wrong”

Source: this article

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

45 KM resources

Lucas puts together a list of 45 essential knowledge management sites and blogs. Good to see that this blog's also in the list....Got no excuses now. Ought to improve my post content and do more of the thinking! :)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Motivation in the Army

I recently went to a training program on leadership and we happened to discuss how organizations can learn from other industries other than their own and use what they learn to get creative with their own problem-solving endeavours. One of the examples that came up was how organizations could learn from the Army about motivating people. Though I appreciated the idea, I was under the impression that the Army would anyhow largely comprise motivated people. I wasn’t able to imagine people who were not passionate about protecting the country joining the Army – and I am talking about India (not countries where it is mandatory to at least temporarily serve the country as a member of the Army). So, I posed the question and was told by at least three people in the class that I was mistaken and that there are people who join the army because they can’t join elsewhere. That was mildly surprising. Moreover, since performance as a member of the army is literally a question of life or death unlike many other fields, aren’t people bound to be “good”? So, doesn’t that automatically make motivating people a job that – I am oversimplifying it a bit here - simply means telling them to perform or perish and let that fundamental rule sink in????

I need some views on this topic. I mean, do let me know what you think.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Creativity - A Perspective

Another confession coming your way! I enjoy creating power point slides (as long as no one’s dictating and forcing me to follow the ‘rules’) though I don’t like being subjected to boring presentations that have overflowing text and/or statistics. ;) I love presentations that go easy on the text but sport a lot of cute pictures and punch lines etc. I like to see every power point slide as a plain white sheet of paper that I can use to express myself. Given a topic, I enjoy using slides to think of the flow of information, use of metaphors, interesting visual content, and quotes that go with the contents of each slide etc. Ahem. I heard you….and will move on to talk about something worthwhile. This post isn’t about my love for particular types of presentations……so, instead of waxing eloquent about my likes and dislikes, I will go straight down into the reason for this post. I am participating in the World’s Best Presentation contest. It’s been a long time since I first planned to write something on creativity – a full-blown paper or article or presentation that could be used to pass on my perspective of creativity to anyone interested. I finally got down to it, loved working on it and finally decided to share it on slideshare.net. Here it is. Let me know what you think. And errrr, as I am submitting it to the contest, if you happen to like the presentation, you could give it a “Thumbs up” vote. What? :)

PS: The presentation is embedded at the bottom of this page

Pas(spor)t to the Future

Came across this quote today. Simple and effective to communicate the significance of learning from the past.

"The more extensive a man's knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do" - Disraeli Benjamin

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wonderful words of wisdom

From this article in HBR

“No one can truly define success and failure for us- only we can define that for ourselves. No one can take away our dignity unless we surrender it. No one can take away our hope and pride unless we relinquish them. No one can steal our creativity, imagination and skills unless we stop thinking. No one can stop us from rebounding unless we give up”

I can say it again. Wonderful words of wisdom….

Monday, April 09, 2007

Happiness and the Art of Innovation

Happiness and the Art of Innovation

I've been trying to catch up with my mail backlog and started off with long-pending BW articles. And I am happy. :-) Have been looking at some fantastic articles as you can see.....

Karma Capitalism

Karma Capitalism

Talks about Indian Management Gurus and how they are accelerating the adoption of ancient Indian wisdom in Business and Management.

Key words/phrases - Concentration, Consistency, Co-operation, Detached Involvement, Purpose before Self, Defocus on gains, Inner Peace over Materialistic Achievements, India - Fusion Society

Rising Above Being Cut Off at the Knees

Rising Above Being Cut Off at the Knees

I like this article. Nothing philosophical about these things in case you think so. There are times when I've done exactly this and liked myself for it and times when I've failed miserably and hated myself for it....

Got any experiences to share?

Motivation @ the Workplace

Why Your Employees Are Losing Motivation - HBS Working Knowledge

Lovely article. Spot on. It says that employees are looking for three key things from their organization and as long as organizations deal with these, most employees will perform well. It also very rightly points out that most employees are enthusiastic when they start. It's the organization and its ways which demotivates the employees more often than not. The 3 key things pointed out are Equity, Achievement and Camaraderie....and I would like to add....perhaps in the same order?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Of Apple and Cults

Ilker has a well-researched post on cults in the context of the iPOD craze.....
The world's always loved to love some and loved to hate some.....

Creativity...

I am putting together a presentation on Creativity that I plan to submit to the World's Best Presentation contest. I'm actually done...but holding on to it a little bit longer just in case I get some more ideas. The last date to participate is 15 or so days away.

One of the things I discovered as I looked inward in my pursuit to understand creativity better is....Creativity is the manifestation of a lack of desire to be logical at all times...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Help

"Try as hard as we may for perfection, the net result of our labors is an amazing variety of imperfectness. We are surprised at our own versatility in being able to fail in so many different ways." - Samuel McChord Crothers

Help! I am almost splitting at the seams laughing....! :)
"Never speak out of anger, Never act out of fear, Never choose from impatience, But wait... and peace will appear." - Guy Finley

Very hard to apply....all the time! Sigh.

This is a quote borrowed from
one of my favourite blogs. This blogger is undoubtedly a great cook. Apart from that, her style of blogging is cool. She shares the recipe of a dish that she apparently prepares on a given day, almost everyday of the year. The way she patiently shares her wonderful recipes along with some excellent photographs of the dishes that she prepares, appeals to me. She also shares some nice quotes every now and then...! :) Epitome of discipline.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Storytelling...

I believe in storytelling. No two ways about it. I’ve tried it before and continue to derive inspiration from the concept. I’ve written stories (long and short ones) to influence and provoke people, told stories albeit not so well, coaxed people to tell stories, listened to stories – and almost chewed up a few adventurous and exploratory insects because of a sagging jaw in certain situations. So forth. You get the idea. It works wonders (not from the perspective of certain insects, of course). But I want to understand something better. Help me. There’s one possible downside to storytelling. Certain people may get carried away and exaggerate a bit. So, you are looking at a situation where distorted stories are floating around. Over time, the story can get so distorted that it becomes an almost untrue story that evokes unwanted skepticism from the listeners. What can be done to prevent this from happening? Written stories, of course, may prevent continuous distortion that may accompany verbal stories. What else? Any thoughts?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

What is Collaboration?

"The Role of 'Invitation' in Collaboration" - Dale has an excellent post on the basics of collaboration.

PM and KM Culture

Bill talks about a Project Management Case Study that he read on How Culture Affects Knowledge Transfer and quotes some important reasons why there is little knowledge sharing:

-Masculine values - compete and dominate rather than reflect and build relationships
-Perception of time as scarce
-No concern about the past and limited concern about the future
-Relationships based on respect and no unrequested interference
-Private ownership of projects
-Project managers don't need help

You can read Bill's full post here.

Interesting Idea...!

Organizational Charting Our Course

Immediate thoughts....
Advantages: Companies and their key people are going to be found easily - by prospective partners etc
Disadvantages: Another source of information for Head Hunting

How are you being, as a leader?

How are you being, as a leader?
....good post on leadership.

More on Ideation-The Birth and Death of Ideas

This is my final post on the book, Ideation – The Birth and Death of Ideas. It somehow has taken me too long a time to read the second part of the book as it is more about the formalities of registering, protecting and developing ideas. Here are some more tidbits from the book. I loved the first few chapters as it provided some well researched details about inventors and their psychology.

- Creative thinkers are divergent thinkers and have the following characteristics based on a study by P.J Guilford :

o Fluency – volume of solutions

o Flexibility – plethora of approaches

o Originality – things that have not been thought of

o Elaboration – thinking through details and execution

- Many inventers border on eccentricity. Examples quoted in the book are that of Archimedes’ famous reaction to his discovery while in his bath, Mozart’s giggling and promiscuous behaviour in court which resulted in many people not recognizing his genius (except the court musician who noticed and got jealous), Einstein’s confusing lectures, Newton’s lack of friends and preference for complete solitude, and suicidal tendencies in visually creative people and authors. The book puts forth an interesting reason for some of these behaviours – “Frustration of seeing the truth clearly but being unable to convince anyone else of this vision”. Another reason is apparently the possibility of one part of the brain not being able to cope with the intensity of the vision that the other part of the brain - that operates in an enhanced mode - conjures up.

- The authors also note that most creative/inventive people are alienated, live in poverty (mostly because they don’t care about money and enjoy the very experience of being creative/inventive and also because their talents are not understood or recognized), are persistent, and highly focused on the relationship between their inventions and ethics. Inventors are also labeled as traditionally paranoid because of reasons like theft of ideas by wily people often leading to unfair kudos and financial rewards for the latter. The authors of the book step out of the confines of typical “professional” thoughts for a moment and go to the extent of cursing idea stealers.

- Ideas are classified as Problem Solution, Evolutionary, Symbiotic, Revolutionary, Serendipitous, Targeted, Artistic, Philosophical and Computer-Assisted Discovery.

- In the chapter on The Corporate Innovation Perspective, the authors point out that the Finance and Accounting body in USA has been the first to admit that CFOs are ill equipped to value the intangibles in an organization.

- Another lovable quote by David Sarnoff that the book provides is “Let us not paralyze our capacity for good by brooding over man’s capacity for evil

Previous posts related to this book:

So what’s more important?

Ignorance and knowledge are strange siblings

Monday, April 02, 2007

Change!

"Whatever is flexible and flowing will tend to grow, whatever is rigid and blocked will wither and die." - Tao Te Ching