Thursday, June 24, 2010

What Organizations can Learn from Talent Reality Shows

Why do I always have to start off my posts with an introduction to what I do/did and why I do/did it and so forth. Why can't I just plunge into what I want to share rather than get gregarious about the context? I suspect that contexts are really boring for most people however essential or important they are from a knowledge perspective. Ignoring the contextual pre-post introspection on contexts, here's what has been on my mind of late. 

Being a music aficionado, I enjoy watching music-based talent reality shows. Apart from enjoying the overdose of music and being amused by some of the occasional drama therein, what I really am in awe of is that most of the participants demonstrate radical improvement and phenomenal growth over a period of few/many months.

I think it's a great thing to genuinely identify, nurture and showcase talent to the world. It is true that most of the participants are already worth a lot but even diamonds need to be polished! As these thoughts sank in, it suddenly occurred to me that there must be something - actually, a lot - that organizations can learn from these shows about training, learning, induction and ramping up. I am not too familiar with international talent reality shows but I'd like to believe most of these points are universally valid.

I think the top reasons why talent reality shows manage to help their participants achieve exceptional growth are:

1. Mentoring and Training: Most reality shows engage full-time mentors and judges who spend a significant amount of energy on mentoring and training the participants. When organizations hire new employees, how serious are they about assigning appropriate mentors and monitoring their efforts?

2. Regular Practice/Focus (weekly, daily): Most talent shows involve daily or at least weekly practice, rehearsals and live performances which results in obvious improvements in participants' skill levels. How much of relevant hands on 'practice' do new employees get once they join an organization? Are they put on projects immediately? Do they get to work on pilot or internal projects if they are not assigned customer-facing projects?

3. Constant Feedback and Public Recognition: This is very important. I find that most talent shows spend a lot of time in giving the participants immediate, precise and clear feedback, suggestions and recognition. Sometimes this is from the judges and mentors and sometimes from the audience. I think this is an area where organizations don't do so well. Even the annual appraisals are rarely handled the way they ought to be.

4. All Round Development: In most cases, talent shows are great platforms for the participants to be exposed to various new dimensions of their subject. Even if the participants are only good at one or two aspects of the subject under question, by the time they are through the show, they undoubtedly pick up a lot of new information and learn about other aspects of the subject. For example, in Music reality shows, participants are exposed to all genres of music which improves their confidence and contributes to all round development. How many organizations have a clear and structured plan to ensure that their employees go through projects and experiences that develop them in many spheres of work and life?

5. Inspiration via the Gurus and Achievers: Talent reality show organizers, as far as I've observed, make an effort to bring in popular Gurus and achievers occasionally and put the participants in front of them. This may be an effort to improve the TRP of the show, but ignoring their intentions for a moment, it is true that participants find inspiration from such an exercise. Meeting achievers can change lives at one extreme or can at least teach new employees something very critical at the other. How many organizations take this up seriously and facilitate touch-time for new employees with the 'Stars' and Leaders of the organization?

6. Support from Family (Boss, colleagues, mentors): Most of the participants who make it to the top are the ones with enormous support from their family. How much of support does an organization provide? What do the new employees' manager, colleagues and mentors do to make it easy for them? Also, how much of importance is given to the employees' families and their work-life balance as they struggle to make the transition? 

7. Positive Team Dynamics: This is a versatile combination of healthy competition, team camaraderie, mutual support during all phases (low or high) and the very presence of a community of similar Talents. What could organizations do to establish such a beautiful culture and environment?

8. Fun Quotient: Every talent show worth its salt will have a prominent fun quotient. It's hard to imagine such a show being sober all the time. There is, for example, likely to be a person or two with a sense of humor or someone who imitates others on the show and so on. In the organizational context, teams with such 'humor glue' characters may do much better than others.

9. Tangible Rewards or Opportunities: I am not sure if I am underrating this aspect by putting it toward the end of the list. :-) I think an underlying growth motivator for most participants (however passionate they are about the skill itself) is the huge reward or promised opportunity at the end of the show. Is it clear or guaranteed in organizations that an employee will get a pay hike or a promotion or a wonderful project opportunity if she puts in her best?

10. Rules: To be more specific, talent shows have clearly defined rules that are however flexible in unique or unforeseen circumstances. The teams largely stick to the rules but the organizers are, I've observed, ready to make room for unique situations and bend the rules when required. Do organizations allow for such flexibility?

And here's a clarification I simply need to make lest I lose my wonderful non-existent reputation. (After all, I was the one who tweeted this recently - Give me 10 reasons why we need 10 reasons for everything.) I just happened to find 10 reasons, OK? I had no special schemes up my sleeve to make it to the common and ubiquitous "10 reasons why blah the blah" list. Believe me. And, more importantly, don't forget to leave your thoughts on organizations that are at level zero with reference to the list above.

How to Deal with an Alien Idea

I find it exasperating when I am around people who have a tendency to dismiss or criticize ideas, that come from elsewhere, without a second thought. I find myself glowing with happiness when I am with people who respect an idea, consider it from various angles with patience and then come up with genuine concerns and communicate it in such a way that it only motivates the idea giver to introspect further and enhance her idea. So, when I read this article, I had an urge to share it on this blog. I couldn't possibly put it in a better way.

Open your mind: Consider your first reaction when faced with a new idea. You might admit that you frequently feel compelled to analyze and criticize new things. For tiny seedlings of ideas to grow to become big innovations, we must open our minds and defer judgment.
Here’s how: remind yourself that idea generation and idea evaluation are different, equally important modes of thinking, and that you'll work most effectively using one mode at a time. When you’re generating ideas, suspend your disbelief and say yes to everything. When you’re evaluating ideas, first look for the value in every idea. Power off the grading system that was installed in your head in kindergarten. Give all of the ideas you encounter an E for Exotic, Exciting and Excellent. Then phrase your concerns in constructive ways that build and refine ideas.

Monday, June 21, 2010


The incorrigibly optimistic laughed loudly. 
The hopelessly pessimistic cried sullenly. 
Truth smiled in silence. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

Life is Like That. Roar.

"Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person, is expecting the lion not to eat you because you're vegetarian." 

(No idea who said it. But Mr. Big B tweeted about it. Too lazy to Google for the original author right now. For all I know it may be an original from Big B)

That's food for thought, what? If you don't like the pun, I beg your pardon. 

The picture is paradoxical of course. We'll never give up, will we?

Innovators Need Patience...

Leading an innovative initiative:

Check out this simple but useful article from Innovation Tools. Be prepared for rejections, objections, ridicule, sarcasm and what not. Prototypes are important. Get the right people to work with you. Sell the idea. 


Both - working with limited & adequate human resources involves stretching yourself. Limited human resources means stretching your capacity for work & efficiency. Adequate human resources means stretching your capacity for leadership & planning.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Ostrich and Other Stories

I have a four-year old nephew who is extremely entertaining and a total riot to be with. I grin, laugh and guffaw so much when I am with him that my face begins to ache after a while. I recently spent a rollicking week with him and was subjected to an overdose of fun and laughter. There was one particular episode that I thought I should share right away. (I ought to think about sharing some more such profound conversations when I find the time)

The Scene: A small but busy coffee and snacks shop with a few tall tables and chairs for customers. It's around 5 PM in the evening and there are around 10-15 customers wandering around the place and choosing/placing an order for their coffee and snack. Nephew asks for a Waffle and my cousin places an order and comes back to the table to wait for it to be made. While waiting, he asks my nephew, who manages to, by then, scramble up the tall chair and park himself successfully, how Waffles are made.

Act 1: Nephew (Very sincerely and thoughtfully): They take this thing (referring to the bread/cake portion of the waffle) and put it into that thing (points to the small waffle-iron that cooks and creates the pattern on the bread/cake) and it comes out. Then they spread the chocolate syrup on it (accompanies his descriptions with appropriate body language throughout the explanation) and put it together. After that they bring it and serve it to the customers....

Nimmy: (Interrupts spontaneously with laughter and surprise): Customers?!!! Hey...when did you do your MBA?

Nephew (Puts on a really cute and proud smile and stays silent in thought for a few seconds trying to perhaps understand why I got so excited...and then slowly says): No........they taught me this in Nursery....

Act 2: Nimmy: (Jumps down the chair and pretends to be an Ostrich desperately looking for sand)

Rest of the Gang: (Guffaws uncontrollably)

Happiness at Work

There's an interesting discussion going on about happiness and especially happiness at work on Linked In. Research apparently indicates that 60% of happiness is due to genetic make-up and circumstances (fulfillment of basic needs) put together and 40% due to what we choose to think and do. Read the full article and some responses (including mine) here. So, are you at least 40% happy? ;-)

Battery Full.

  • The highlights of a unique, rare and unforgettable vacation - to remember and cherish. Singapore. Malaysia (Melaka, Kuala Lumpur) 
  • A free and unexpected VIP buggy ride around a quiet little botanical garden in a brand new electric car.
  • A terrifying and hair-raising roller-coaster ride in the dark. A taste of hell. The revenge of the mummy.
  • A nostalgic second visit to a bird-park with a plethora of colorful, mesmerizing and talented birds from all over the continent. 
  • An enchanting river cruise at dusk with blue and yellow lights, sounds (a thousand birds chirping from the trees lining the water body, the echoes of the boat gently pushing water under a bridge) and sights (beautiful wood-houses and structures) reminiscent of colorful and soothing paintings.
  • A challenging climb (could as well be a cake-walk for those used to such exercises) up to some natural and lovely caves and a religious shrine in the middle of a mountain with no roof, plenty of pigeons and plants on the sides of the caves, dripping with cold water.* 
  • The exploration of a foreign city lived in by an adventurous and charismatic family ancestor (30+ years ago) and the discovery of an authentic Indian vegetarian restaurant (and subsequent gorging on food) right next to the ancestor's place of work.
  • The exploration of the lifestyles of ancestors who traveled abroad, settled down there and merged with the foreign culture in so many ways that they now have their own unique culture. 
  • The visit to a planetarium and watching of "Passport to the Universe" (with voice-over by Tom Hanks) along with a truckload of overwhelmed and excited school kids. 
  • The visit to foreign places of worship.
  • The visit to a handsome and huge Buddha temple the very day after Buddha Poornima.
  • The pure joy of listening to a four-year old talk affectionately and innocently - at times spontaneously and at times in a measured and thoughtful voice.
*Motivated and egged on - embarrassingly enough - by a four-year old nephew "Come on Nimmy Auntie, You can do it....You're almost done....You're the winner!!"

Dig This

I welcome myself back to my blog after two weeks of silence! :-)

And....I am greeted by a quote (from my email backlog) that gives me goose flesh.

"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them - that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like". - Lao Tzu, Chinese Philosopher

So hard to follow. But after years of pondering and consideration, it is crystal clear to me that this in no sense means one should not have any goals or objectives. It simply means you do what you think you must but don't get turned off by the consequences and external influences. Pursue those goals as if none of the external influences and changes mattered (apart from making operational or attitude changes to account for these influences). Be aware that you cannot create a vacuum around you and stop ranting about things outside of your control.