Thursday, December 29, 2011

i-TFTD #349: Sense and Beyond

i-TFTD #349: Sense and Beyond

#349-1. The plural of anecdote is not data.
-George Stigler, American economist

49-2. Common sense is the best distributed commodity in the world, for every man is convinced he is well supplied with it.
-Rene Descartes, French philosopher

49-3. A man of great common sense and good taste, meaning, thereby, a man without originality or moral courage.
-George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright

Anecdotes have a compelling way of drawing our attention to interesting ideas.
Corporate storytelling is a concept gaining popularity. However, examples are not always a substitute for scientific data gathering. One author who churns our bestsellers using compelling stories and then presenting unusual statistics to bolster them is Malcolm Gladwell.

Each of us operates most of the time with what we believe to be common sense but my common sense may not be as common as I believe. Real common sense is extremely rare, a point brought out each time an exposed scam uncovers a large number of victims.

Too much of common sense and practicality is not healthy because innovation often comes from what initially appears to be a nonsensical thought.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

i-TFTD #348: On Kindness (yes, for businessfolk, too)

#348-1. Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.
-Bradley Miller, activist (b. 1956)

#348-2. To cultivate kindness is a valuable part of the business of life.
-Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)

#348-3. Kindness is a hard thing to give away; it keeps coming back to the giver.
-Ralph Scott, US Senator (1905-1983)

Going by news reports, a number of people and institutions believe in the practice and advocacy of RAK - random acts of kindness. Most of us would have experienced being a recipient of an unexpected RAK and perhaps, even the warm feeling of doing one.

Kindness need not be confined to charitable donations and social service, it can extend to our interactions with others including colleagues.

Prof. Robert Sutton of Stanford University brought the concept of workplace bullying into prominence with his article in Harvard Business Review titled, "The No A****le Rule" and has published a wide-selling book on the topic.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

i-TFTD #347: Rumination from the Front Row

Over the past two weeks, I had the rare privilege to observe, at close quarters, a new business leader engage with teams, trying to grasp the contours of the challenges at hand while getting to know people; asking questions innocent and sharp, memorizing new acronyms and probing to discover the limits of available information; dissecting elements of strategy and distinguishing them from objectives; revealing and sharing to begin establishing credibility and style. One quality of this person was of special interest to me, namely, this person is a voracious reader who quotes business aphorisms and thinking frameworks—in somebody's words, this person is a walking, talking i-TFTD!

Some of the topics of discussion I witnessed has inspired this bonus edition of i-TFTD. First of all:

The next thing to saying a good thing yourself, is to quote one.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

Proverbs encapsulate wisdom. They become famous through their usefulness across time for people to recall a point and to make it effectively. They can act as shorthand to convey rich thoughts in a manner that attracts through compactness or elegance.

In a complex information gathering situation, there are plenty of disclaimers about history and incompleteness of views. But:

To a clear eye the smallest fact is a window through which the infinite may be seen.
-Thomas Henry Huxley, biologist and writer (1825-1895)

Actually we make many important decisions like hiring a person based on subjective impressions in a brief interaction. The reason for this being a popular method is that a better one has not been found. Therefore:

Precision of communication is important, more important than ever, in our era of hair-trigger balances, when a false or misunderstood word may create as much disaster as a sudden thoughtless act.
-James Thurber, American author, cartoonist and celebrated wit (1894–1961)

One interesting concept I picked up was, "Questions requiring numerical answers, when responded with English, could be a sign of trouble!"

Not that clear and precise communication is easy to achieve. Because:

After all, when you come right down to it, how many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language?
-Russell Hoban, American fantasy writer (1925–2011)

Perspectives and dimensions of awareness figured in the conversation as an undercurrent. There is only so much that explanation and dialogue can achieve. Remember:

You cannot speak of ocean to a well-frog, the creature of a narrower sphere. You cannot speak of ice to a summer insect, the creature of a season.
-Zhuangzi, Chinese philosopher (370-301 BCE)

Aspects of personal and organizational change have been a perennial favorite covered in i-TFTDs before, such as i-TFTD #298: Change How We Face, i-TFTD #294: On the Difficulty of Change, i-TFTD #284: Navigating Change, i-TFTD #287: On Choosing Dots to Connect, and i-TFTD #252: On the Why and How of Change among others. Proactive change initiators are a rare breed but should constitute a necessary proportion of any performance-oriented team. As it is said:

Progress is 95 percent routine teamwork. The other 5 percent relies on restless, inner-directed people who are willing to upset our applecart with new and better ideas.
-Michael LeBouef, American business book author and professor (1942-)

While acknowledging the need for different kinds of individuals, it pays to keep in mind the strengths approach concept, which we have extensively covered earlier in i-TFTD #335: Managers Need to be Strengths-Spotters, i-TFTD #160, i-TFTD #115: Only One Move, i-TFTD #142: Don't Send Your Ducks to Eagle School, i-TFTD #79: 3 Tips to Be a Prime Mover, i-TFTD #20: Motivation + Talent = Strength and i-TFTD #10: Abolish SWOT Analysis. So finally:

The question, 'Who ought to be boss?' is like asking, 'Who ought to be the tenor in the quarter?' Obviously, the man who can sing tenor.
-Henry Ford, American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company (1863–1947)

If you like the way I connected one thing to another, you can connect with me by letting me know!

Friday, December 2, 2011

i-TFTD #346: Silicon Valley Speak

Indian-born techies, entrepreneurs and recently, management professors, have achieved extraordinary success and fame over the past 25 years. Recall the statement Kumar Mangalam Birla made in a speech around 2007: As the joke in Silicon Valley runs, if a person's name is Shreedhar, don't bother checking his IT skills! Many such Indians have gone on to become venture capitalists and mentors to use the wealth and experience they have gained to help nurture others. Here are a few quotes from this community.

#346-1. You have to accept the reality of where you came from. The moment you lose that, you stop listening, stop thinking and become arrogant. Usually, you see that in successful people. People become self-destructive when they become arrogant—they over-reach, become over-ambitious and dominating.
-Ram Shriram, Indian American venture capitalist and founding director of Google, in this interview

#346-2. MNCs and government are largely irrelevant in the business of innovation. Ignore conventional wisdom in order to invent the future. My willingness to fail gives me the ability to succeed.
-Vinod Khosla, Indian American venture capitalist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems (1955-), in this interview

#346-3. A recession is the best time to start a company. It is nev! er easy. Nothing ever happens automatically.
-Kanwal Rekhi, Indian American venture capitalist and co-founder of TiE, director at Novell Networks  (1945-)