Friday, August 29, 2008

The Power of PPTs

Thinking about Power Point Presentations this morning. I know of people who love it more than you could possibly imagine and others who abhor them so much that they might even walk off from discussions in which people make use of them.

I, personally, have enjoyed occasions when I was able to get creative with PPTs. (Excuse me.....if you belong to the second school of thought). For me, it was the closest I could possibly come to making an official movie of sorts, however crude it happened to be. The joy of using creative and powerful themes, colours, images, charts, messages, metaphors, one-liners, take-aways etc was always there for me. I honestly think PPTs can be very interesting provided you let your creative juices flow.

And I am happy to see a clear trend in that direction. While people used to stick to plain text and bullet points earlier, they have begun to mostly experiment with backgrounds, themes, images, short and meaningful phrases, humorous one-liners and the like. But here's what it implies to me from the perspective of KM. While the old way of making PPTs served the purpose of asynchronous knowlege sharing to a reasonable extent (with notes, links and comments), the current style of PPTs, arguably, are best shared face to face. This does not mean that they cannot be shared offline. All it means is that it will not suffice to let readers run through just the need to capture the audio bites - the voice over - as well. Coming down to brass tacks, it simply means that we need truly enormous and efficient storage and retrieval infrastructure (and mechanisms).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Whew! I just wound up a stressful discussion with someone who sounded like a born pessimist and found something wrong with almost everything we are attempting to do! To top it, he even sounded annoyingly snobbish! :-X Where do they make such people? Can't the Pessimist Factory be shut down, please? Or be converted into an Optimists Shop? Don't they realize that they drain other people's energy too?

It's been ages since I ranted on my blog........ages, really! I don't really like ranting and complaining on my blog....(Should have named it "Ranting Inside the Blog" if that were the case! Poor joke, I know!...Sigh....but, hey, I am just desperately trying to bring some relief to myself after all that unnecessary stress). Anyways, even if I end up ranting occasionally, I'd like to see the silver lining around the cloud (I have to.....else what's the point in complaining about pessimists? ;-)) .

If you're worried things will not change, the world will not change, people will not change etc....remember, that is not a reason why you should stop experimenting or trying to change things. And changing things, like many wise people tell us, is about changing yourself. When you believe in something, go for it! You cannot change people with a magician's stick, but you can lead by example....and inspire at least a few.

The silver lining that I'd like to point out to myself is this. (Soliloquy! Err...shall we call this blogiloquy?) It's when you have no one saying anything to you that you have to be worried....for it is a sign of zero progress. So, when you find people around you trying to "act or sound smart"/pull you down/object etc, be happy. It means you're on your way to learning something and hopefully achieving something as well. Happy? Happy! Now...scream with me...1,2,3....."I am an optimist!"

The Battle between Products and Processes

Ever since I read the book Business Process Re-engineering and many other interesting articles on business processes, way back in college, I've been a strong believer in the concept of tweaking products to meet business process needs rather than tweaking processes to meet the product design and requirements. I've passionately argued against deploying products without a thought for existing organizational processes and sometimes even flicked a few specks of dust from my sleeves during these arguments ;-). So far so good, Nimmy. But a recent experience makes me re-look at my beliefs.

It's not been hard for me to understand that if you're talking about a really 'good' product (brilliant because of the minds behind it or something that has had time on its side and has evolved into a very mature version), then the organization deploying it must definitely consider studying and comparing the ways of the product with its own. If the organization has been a laggard in the innovation and improvement of its processes, it truly doesn't make sense to stick to them and say that the product must be turned upside down to meet the former's requirements.

Without rambling on aimlessly, here's what I think organizations could do to avoid this "business process ego" trap! If the fear is that of being brainwashed by the product features, why plunge into it without appropriate preparation? A few days of unbiased brainstorming, introspection and analysis of the existing set of processes and what they lack in, before considering products for deployment may do the trick! Post this exercise, When you actually look at the product and its features, you are ready to accept and admit its brilliance (if any) and are prepared to stoutly refuse to accept some of its features as not apt for the organization and the way it works.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Story of a Story...

Just occurred to me. I guess most of us end up looking, or rather intensely scouting and scanning, for lessons in stories that don't deliver them to us in the direct sense. We let out a whoop of joy when we think we have distilled the meaning out of a casual story. We believe that we have understood life and can see beyond the obvious. We are - rightly or wrongly - subjected to delusions of being intelligent and perceiving. But what do we do when the stories are otherwise? Here's what I've observed....we tend to almost dismiss stories that give us the lessons in a 'raw' form, as boring and too obvious. (I am referring to stories that make it clear to us that they are there to teach us something.) But, even amongst such 'raw' stories, I think those that successfully build a meaty and meaningful context and/or use inspiring language escape this trend. What could this possibly imply?

- People love "finding" things on their own rather than being told things directly. Hard situation to set up though. If you have the talent to make people believe they are the ones who are discovering the lessons, I bet you can "sell" anything under the sun. For that, you first need to shoot your own ego and not pine for credit.
- Those of us who do not have such niche talent need not panic. Direct play of (meaningful) context and (inspiring) communication alone can make up for the lack of fun that people get out of "discovering" things by themselves.

PS: BTW, this doesn't mean that the context and communication can be left out of the indirect stories. These stories not only have to be unique & creative but also complete in every sense. How we play around with the context and communication is what would perhaps determine how successful we are in delivering the lesson/moral in an indirect manner.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Blogs Again....

After I posted links to a couple of cool and popular blogs I discovered in the recent past, I realized that there are a few more blogs that I'd found to very impressive in the more distant past but had forgotten to mention here. I must spread the word about them as well... :-) Here goes....

(Note: There is one common element amongst all these bloggers - They were the ones to discover my blog and comment on it as a consequence of which I discovered their writings!)

Carnal Zen (CZ writes soooo well. And, btw, I love the tagline on her blog. She is very introspective about life and love among other things. In my opinion, she belongs to the category of bloggers that are liked for being genuine and honest. She has left many a comment on my blog that has helped me add to my thoughts)

Cool Alien from Mars (Has a cool writing style.....he muses about a variety of things...actually just about anything....but I guess the highlights of his blog, to me, are his compassionate stories and "out-of-the-world" poems ;-))

Medhini (She is a wonderful storyteller! Specializes in short stories and contributes to many a group-blog focusing on them. She also reproduces some famous short stories once in a while. Read this thoughtful story of hers. And I love this one off introspective post)

Circle of Life (Rakesh. Introspective. Poetic. Passionate. To start with, I found this poem to be stunning and extremely moving.)

And, finally, it is going to be difficult for me to forgive myself for missing out on mentioning this blog earlier.
For some strange reason, I seem to have st(r)ayed away from a specific post to spread the word (literally, because you are bound to discover all the beautiful words that exist in the dictionary, on his blog)......Anyways, better late than never. I've been reading this blogger's - Alok's - brilliant poems for perhaps more than a year now! His poems are extremely passionate, introspective, and extraordinary. He can get England down on its knees with his language and poetic skills. Alok has a huge fan following and can, honestly, be difficult to comprehend for the average literate like me ;-) Hee Hee. His middle name ought to be Wordsworth for both his poetic skills and his mind-boggling vocabulary. Be sure to drop in if you have a sophisticated taste for poetry (He used to be a frequent commentator on my blog but, unfortunately, seems to have gone into hibernation - from blogosphere - for the past two odd months.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday Fun

Love this song....

Discovered in Blogosphere.....

New discoveries in Blogosphere. Blogs I have become quite a big fan of.

Here's a girl who writes quite like RK.Narayan. The language, humour, and the narration. Typical Indian writing as many of us know it; Completely Desi with a South Indian flavour. She happens to be a journalist based out of Chennai. No idea what her real name is. She calls herself Asal Tamil Penn (ATP - Typical Tamil Girl) on her blog. Her real-life stories are guaranteed to make you laugh and chuckle......and sometimes guffaw.

Check out her latest post. Chuckle! :-) (BUT....there are a few sprinklings of Tamil words here and there.
So, if you don't understand Tamil, you may not be able to savor her posts in the sense that they are intended to be. Try some and decide for yourself)

Here's another girl who has a wonderful way with words. She is undoubtedly a talented and intense writer.

Check out this little but profound post of hers. I love it and it is on the lines of a poem that always has a huge impact on me - Kipling's IF. And check this post too. And this one as well.... :-)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cool School

Check this out. This is a topic that gets me thinking really hard and piques me enough to want to do something revolutionary about education and learning - at least in India. I have often wondered how wonderful it would be if children were to be able to find out - at as early an age as possible - what they are good at and what they would love doing their entire life. Not so easy except in the case of prodigies (which typically is related to music, dancing, computers, language etc). The paradox - in the context of Rashmi's post - is that you first need to know the various things that are possible to be able to find out what you are good at or what you would love doing! (Take for example this - you may have to go to 10 shops and see a lot of uninteresting things before you end up going to a shop that has exactly what you want!). And therefore it is the duty of parents, teachers and society in general to expose children to the whole gamut of possibilities and observe what attracts and appeals to them.

The challenge doesn't stop there. You then need to have the right environment and training to be able to encourage and develop that budding talent and passion. In order to lead a life that is not consistently unsettling, we do need to cover the basics of the worldly knowledge in school and learn how to learn a lot of other things if and when needed! Easier said than done because parents, having been brought up in a conventional manner, are not sure and confident of such an approach to life. I don't agree with the argument that we need to go through formal education in order to be labeled as an educated person. A truly educated person is one who has been exposed to multiple dimensions of life - emotional, spiritual et al. Schools focus on mental development closely followed by physical development (sports).

Anyway, lest I continue rambling forever....I'd like to also record what I hurriedly said in response to Rashmi's post...on her blog:

Thought-provoking! My 2 paise worth. I think the real question ought to be "How should schooling change in order to help us be what we want to be....anytime during our mortal journey?" People who have been considering this have been sending their kids to unconventional schools like the JK foundation etc. Having said that, I believe that quite a lot of the stuff we learn during primary school are essential irrespective of what we choose to do in life. So what if you're a singer....would you not want to use some basic school knowledge to figure out your financials, your relationships, your geography etc? I think only the sophisticated parts of math and science may not be of use for someone who gets into Arts. I think it is the post-school life that we really need to tweak. And we are bound to end up studying unwanted stuff in college if we are going down the wrong path (i.e we don't know what we want to do and therefore it doesn't matter whether we study commerce or science).

Where does this bring us to? For now, instead of rambling on....I think I'll safely conclude that

1. We need to help children identify what they want to do/what they are good at/what holds minimum promise for a decent future as early as possible
2. We need to realign schooling and education towards the above
3. We need enough options for schooling and education once we identify what we want to do
4. I agree with one of the above comments - We need to teach children how to learn so they can learn anything new anytime...

Thanks for the thought-provoking post! And I think you have a smart girl! :-)

Now, I am wondering whether there is research that compares and contrasts different methods of education and its results with a whole life-time as the time frame.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sarcasm, Anyone?

Sarcasm is sometimes strangely satisfying. Provided you're not the subject, that is. Wonder why? It obviously can be humorous if handled well. And it seems to be an entertaining way to more or less dismiss experiences that, in reality, call for some profound thinking and action. Having said that, sarcasm itself, paradoxically, leads to enormously witty solutions that may eventually be distilled into something worth being applied. And hey, this post is not here just for the alliterative opening sentence. If I must add something to it, I would say this - No wonder, Dilbert is so hugely popular. But, of course, Dilbert goes way beyond sarcasm...into super sarcasm.

Docs and Ducks....Promises Fireworks! ;-)

Time for a "nonsensical" post. They charge me up...these so-called nonsensical posts!! :-) So, here goes. Just wondering.....would Vets who are brought sick ducks to be cured, lose their temper very soon? That is, the minute the duck decides that its voice ought to be heard by the doc? ;-)

When the doc meets the ducks....
(Because)...there may be a lot of fireworks....!
Even if the duck spends many a buck...
It may soon run out of luck....!
For a duck has to say something to the doc...
And what else can a poor duck say other than "Quack"?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Life...and its puzzles...

"Life is a balance between holding on and letting go." - Anonymous

I call this emotional and spiritual maturity! a.k.a Wisdom? Oftentimes, holding on to something, however elusive it seems, will result in the expected achievement. What we need to consider during this mesmerizing/passionate journey, however, is whether what we are going after is really what we want. We also need to foresee what we are going to miss out on because of the obsessive focus on that something. On introspection, letting go may come across as the more sensible approach. This realization needs to be closely followed by an effort to realign ourselves and go after things that really matter to us, if we are to not lose hope and slip into a meaningless existence. Looking at it from another angle, not letting go would be the mother of all mistakes if the pursuit itself happened to be a mistake in the first place. It is perhaps the faith and confidence with which we pursue something or let go of it that determines how happy we are likely to be in life.

The Hare and the Turtle

From DailyOM. Appealing arguments. Be it learning something new (driving, swimming, music) or going out on one's own...!

Small Steps To Big Change - Making Big Change Easier

When we decide that it’s time for big changes in our lives, it is wise to ease into them by starting small. Small changes allow us to grow into a new habit and make it a permanent part of our lives, whereas sudden changes may cause a sense of failure that makes it difficult to go on, and we are more likely to revert to our old ways. Even if we have gone that route and find ourselves contemplating the choice to start over again, we can decide to take it slowly this time, and move forward.

Sometimes the goals we set for ourselves are merely indicators of the need for change and are useful in getting us moving in the right direction. But it is possible that once we try out what seemed so ideal, we may find that it doesn’t actually suit us, or make us feel the way we had hoped. By embarking on the path slowly, we have the chance to look around and consider other options as we learn and grow. We have time to examine the underlying values of the desire for change and find ways to manifest those feelings, whether it looks exactly like our initial goal or not. Taking small steps forward gives us time to adjust and find secure footing on our new path.

Life doesn’t always give us the opportunity to anticipate or prepare for a big change, and we may find ourselves overwhelmed by what is in front of us. By choosing one thing to work on at a time, we focus our attention on something manageable, and eventually we will look up to see that we have accomplished quite a bit. Forcing change is, in essence, a sign that we do not trust the universe’s wisdom. Instead, we can listen to our inner guidance and make changes at a pace that is right for us, ensuring that we do so in alignment with the rhythm of the universe.

PS: related post; another related post

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Music as a tool for Nostalgia...

I am back. A week of unplanned silence sometimes seems like a whole month of silence for a blogging freak like me. ;-) I have nothing profound to report or muse about. But I thought I'd just make a quick connection and resume my blogging frequency. I have a small tidbit related to music and friends that I should probably share. It is a coincidence that it comes just after the friendship day binge in the first week of August. There was a time (last year) when I was in the middle of a transition and utterly jobless as a result of which I indulged in considering all sorts of unusual ideas. One of the ideas I had that was easy to implement was to create a special playlist on my iPod. I went down memory lane as much as I could and added songs (to a playlist I called Nostalgia) that reminded me of all my friends and relatives in a chronological order. Some songs were to do with not just one person but experiences like school events/class tours etc. (These are songs my friends/relatives like, songs from movies we watched together, or songs that in some small or big way reminds me of them) I ended up with quite a lengthy playlist and was quite excited about it. But I knew listening to it immediately would not really have an impact on me as I had just wound up an exhaustive trip down memory lane. After almost a year, I listened to the songs yesterday night and it was an awesome experience. It almost felt like I had a face to face meeting with almost every character that I associated the songs with in my playlist! Nostalgia indeed! :-) I recommend it for all of those who would love to re-live some moments with their friends and relatives....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why and How....The VIPs

Whenever I start a new activity or task, I feel complete and confident only when I've attempted to answer the most critical of questions - Why, What, Who, When, Where, and How. (Rudyard Kipling's famous expression - the six honest serving-men). Answering Why and How gives me a lot of satisfaction for obvious reasons. Why explains the purpose and reasoning behind things and reveals the driving force. How results in successful execution and helps us dig into the details, unfold every dimension of the activity and discover everything that may matter. I am of the opinion that answering What will be quite easy once the Why is clear. And, How naturally follows the What. Who, When and Where are definitely important but, arguably, easy to crack once we know the answers to Why, What and How.

I guess you may now be wondering what I am driving at! :-) Well, to my mind, KM systems should approach knowledge sharing and exchange in the light of the above. People may find it easy to outline answers (verbal or written) to all questions except Why and How. Why so? Because Why involves a lot of contextual, historical, intrinsic, intuitive, inspirational and difficult-to-articulate knowledge. And also ,unfortunately, in many cases, people may not even have thought about why something is being done. (The orders come from the top and are executed without being questioned and understood why it has to be done.) How, on the other hand, is difficult to elucidate because of the sheer volume of details, complexities and inter-relationships, and presence of content that transcends simple information sharing and touches areas concerning physical action and skills. Moreover, even if the knowledge provider were to successfully share the answers to Why and How, the person who receives it is likely to have a different interpretation of these dimensions as compared to What, Who, When and Where! But what do you know? Tsk. Tsk. Life has its laughs. The most valuable knowledge that needs to be shared and leveraged upon, ironically, exists in answers to Why and How! Therein lies one of the most dicey challenges of Knowledge Management.

That is why Knowledge Management cannot be equated to simple repositories. It has to transcend them and progress into practices that get closer to people and their day-to-day routine; practices that touch people, identify them, relate to them and their behaviours, activities and thoughts. That is why we need to focus on collection-based connections, continuous debates and discussions through communities, mentoring and shadowing, and exhaustive collective thinking and learning. Identifying knowledge that is relevant from the long tail (of knowledge) is possible only through such collaborative methods.

On a related note, I wonder whether there will be a radical change in the approach that schools will have towards education here on. With the increasing internet proliferation and popularity of the Web 2.0 culture, students themselves are going to be open to (actually, excited about) a collaborative environment rather than a competitive one. Schools must make use of the changing environment and values and encourage collaborative and collective learning while, at the same time, retaining the individualistic streak in children. Tough job. We need thought-leaders who can show us how to balance the two. (The Long Tail, I guess, is an example of collaboration as a subset of individualistic preferences)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Gift of Thought

Aaahhh. August 4th was my 'happy birthday'. So what? I did not honestly plan to announce my birthday on this blog though I did tweet about it at the end of the day. (A good example of something that is tweet material but not blog material). But there's something that makes me blog about it now. If there's something I think I don't have to be humble about, then it's probably the friends I have. There is a hidden sense of pride when one shows off one's friends, I guess. But I'd like to ignore that thought for now. ;-) So, here's the story...!

A close friend gifts a fantastic book. I read the book. I love it. So, I blog about it. (here's the first post) The author of the book stumbles upon the post. (Thanks to Google) He contacts me. (Long live the Internet and Web 2.0). I am, of course, overwhelmed by the down-to-earth attitude of such a thought-leader! Email exchanges happen on a regular basis. He even keeps an eye on my blog and sends me thought-provoking messages whenever he feels like saying something in response to my musings. After some months, to my utter joy, I discover that he himself has started to leverage on blogging to spread his brilliant thoughts and perspectives (in short installments, outside of the book). And, well, here's what I am coming to........this year, he writes a beautiful post on the theme of unity in diversity on the occasion of my birthday and dedicates (gasp!) it to me!

What a thoughtful gift (in more than one sense of the word)! I am, needless to say, touched! And I am writing this post because I want to spread the message further. Not because a great human being like Zeph has dedicated such a nice post to me (yippee...that's for my own celebration!!) but because the message(s) it contains is meant to be spread. :-)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Twitter's Tomorrow

I wonder.........will there be a time when there will be automatic twitters of our thoughts, perhaps, based on predetermined rules and conditions? (Provided we agree to be involved in such a thing.....and it can be done through sophisticated receivers of brain signals or whatever). Rules could be....Twitter when the brain gets hyperactive, Twitter when extremely emotional....etc

And will that help us understand our own thoughts and emotions better? What a weird and scary thought, eh?! And here I am, blogging about it......when, amusingly enough, the thought of an automatic (involuntary) twitter doesn't really appeal to me!

Speaking of which, I think Twitter can be extrapolated to do a lot more interesting and intriguing things....I wouldn't be surprised if Tomorrow's Twitter is much more than simple twittering!

Sunday, August 03, 2008

What's the secret?

When poise is maintained within us,problems and challenges vanish like mist before the rising sun.- Swami Chinmayananda

:-) The 'real' mind we have been bestowed with is quite an undiscovered gold mine! I think one of the greatest assets we can have as a human is poise, composure and balance. I know meditation is known to grant us such a mind. What are the other things in life (especially during our growing years) that add this dimension to our character? Is it largely intrinsic or is it about how we are mentored by people around us or does it depend on what we go through (natural training)? I have miles to go before I sleep...!

She Knows...She Knows Not....

She who KNOWS NOT and KNOWS NOT that she KNOWS NOT is deceived. Ignore her.

She who KNOWS NOT and KNOWS that she KNOWS NOT is unlearned. Teach her.

She who KNOWS and KNOWS NOT that she KNOWS is asleep. Awaken her.

She who KNOWS and KNOWS that she KNOWS is wise. Follow her.-- Anonymous

PS: Methinks: KM helps the first category (Why ignore when we can possibly help?) through practices revolving around interaction and knowledge exchange that brings to light what one knows not. It helps the second category through the opportunity to learn from focused communities, mentoring, and sharing forums. The third category can leverage on platforms that help introspect - through blogging and sharing on request. KM provides the fourth category with ample opportunities to share and lead.

Friday, August 01, 2008

KM - Checklist

I like this post from Christian Young. Spot on. Agree with almost everything prescribed. This is a bit shameless, but, being a KMer, I myself ought to have written something like this a few years ago. Having said that, I don't want to be too hard on myself. Because, I did write a paper on my KM experiences and learnings after 2 years of fundamental but quite enlightening KM. In retrospect though, I think I should have written another paper on the same theme after putting in another 2-3 years. Rather, I found myself writing papers on potential KM concepts and concise frameworks for its implementation.

Anyway, had I made the effort to write another paper on my KM experiences and learnings, I am inclined to think that it would have been very similar to CY's post. Except a few significant differences, perhaps. I would have focused more on identifying and studying knowledge-intensive processes and then worked on effective creation/sharing/capture of knowledge as a by-product. And, I don't think I would equate managing KM to managing a product. I'd rather equate it to managing people and the environment. And, btw, managing is not a 'bad' word here. ;-) Managing = Understanding, Enabling, Providing, Supporting, Motivating get the drift?

Thinking about KM's Growth as a Concept....

  • Knowledge was thought of as an occasional and almost-permanent Thing - Thus were born Repositories
  • Knowledge was thought of as something only in People's Minds - Thus were born Expertise Locators
  • Knowledge was thought of as a constant Stream of Thought - Thus were born Blogs
  • Knowledge was thought of as a Collective Entity (rather than Individualistic) - Thus were born Communities
  • Knowledge was thought of as a Constant and Collective Flow & Evolution of Thought - Thus were born Wikis
  • Knowledge was thought of as Contextual and Specific to Relationships between People - Thus were born Social Networks
  • Knowledge was thought of as that which People Value - Thus were born Social Bookmarking and RSS
  • Knowledge was thought of as something that can be extracted, in the form of trends and patterns - from oceans of data and information, through smart/intelligent tools - Thus was born Business Intelligence and Data Mining
  • Knowledge was thought of as something that emerges and suggests itself rather than something exists in a ready-to-use form - Thus were born the practices of Brainstorming and After Action Review

Knowledge is not just one of the above but all of it. It has multiple dimensions. Each dimension contributes in its own way towards efficiency and effectiveness. But people, of course, have their own pets and preferences. The culture and specific situation determine what would be the solution's ideal mix.

A Vision that Liberates...

Zeph has a thought-provoking and wonderful post on being a visionary. I believe that the attitude that 'his' practiced visonary has is extremely liberating! The specific part of the post that made me come to this conclusion is this: "The practiced visionary understands that the vision which compels her in every interaction is owned by the universal flow and not by her limited likes and dislikes. She subjugates her ego to the welfare of the moment. Ultimately the practiced visionary is not heroic, because fear ultimately retreats."