How do I increase my efficiency?

Someone asked.

For any human resource, I believe that efficiency doesn’t matter. Efficient means using minimal resource for maximum productivity/output. Humans can’t do that. We are not machines. Humans do not deliver output. They deliver input. We need to shift our focus there. We need to stop looking at humans in that manner. We have ruthlessly killed the human resource ecosystem by making them work like machines. It has killed the idea of quality and replaced that with quantity. Humans are made for quality.

Efficiency is a term which befits machines/automated equipment. Since you can design them for any projected productivity. You cannot design/equip humans like that. If humans need to target super performance, they have to put to use optimum energy. This energy comes in the form of a developed competency for a job. Humans must, therefore, chase competence, not efficiency. Competency, to my mind, is a glorious ability, proficiency, or skill that separates us from the rest. Separates us by virtue of we being unique in our input. So, we must focus on developing that rare competence, which helps us separate ourselves from the rest. That, helps us grow our stock up and keeps us relevant in the game.


Curiosity, the next chase!

Our public education system is between 150-200 years old. It replaced the good old, Gurukul Vidya system that prevailed in our country for a few thousand years. The public education system was created to fund the industrial revolution. So, we wanted more and more people to be ‘compliant’ and and ‘conform’ to orders. In the Gurukul system, we celebrated the idea of questions, whereas here in the new system, we glorified the concept of answers. Grades to those that replied closest to the version in the book.

The focus on answers created compliant followers. And the industrial revolution thrived. Today, the world has found itself saturated and we need newer solutions, which cannot be born without breaking the prevailing notion of compliance and conformity. Curiosity is one of the answers. The tough part is, you cannot teach curiosity. To get there, we need to move to questions and not answers. Curiosity originates when constraints hold back aspirations. We need to remodel the educational system giving a choice of solutions in the book/exams and asking students to match them with the ‘correct’ problem. They need to interpret/explain their choice. We need to have answers in the book and ask students to frame questions in exams. We need to feed stories of aspiration but disallow the students excess around themselves. Today, we give raw materials in a workshop test, show them the model and ask them to replicate/reproduce. That creates conformity. At best, you may get accountants! We need to give them a vision. Let them make their solution, find their raw materials, etc. Don’t give grades on results. Offer marks to intent, process and not results. That makes them follow why and how and not what!

Curiosity keeps you focussed, agile, active and is always elevating. It inspires. We don’t need more ideas, we need newer ideas. A curious mind is a good solution. Backed with culture, though!

Be a Business non-opportunist!

Business isn’t about being an opportunist in everything. It is about seeking opportunities in something. Yes, some ‘one’ thing. That is how you seek purpose over plain profit. Don’t hunt for ideas and filter them to get to the one that you will take to the world. Get your purpose first. Why do you want to do business? That should be the question to ask yourself. Bind yourself to your belief. Enlarge and expand that belief. And you’ll become a non-opportunist. Business isn’t for profit. It can’t be. Business is to earn and build value. Business is for longevity. It is for creating wealth and goodwill. Not short-term gains or hefty bank balance. Business must solve problems. Business must create employment. Business must better the ecosystem, not spoil it in selfish interests. That happens due to chasing opportunity.

If you care to follow the humdrum, you will face the crowd, and be the crowd one day. You will begin to compete with others. Build your belief and take it out there to matter to the world. We are saturated with ideas today. People do not realize that. We actually need a breather. More stuff isn’t the solution. The right stuff is. So, don’t do boring stuff and trust me, you shall win attraction. Do exciting stuff. Look around, the world is clogged. Don’t do anything that can clog it further. Chasing opportunities can only clog it further. Do something that can repair/remove/reinvent the clog and you shall rise, be remembered and stay relevant.

Master of one. Meaning!

Everyone wants to do everything. We want to be a jack-of-all-trades, not a master of one. Historically though, people that are successful are not the ones that do everything. The ones that eventually become ‘great’ are essentially those that focus on their inherent charm. They invest in their belief and not the opportunity alone.

Great people think or look at small things but they apply those ideas in a big way.  In short, their mission is tiny but the vision is like a titan.

When markets had fewer players in fewer categories, in the past, the question used to be ‘What do you do?’. In a market filled with numerous ideas, products and services in multiple categories, the ‘What’ doesn’t make a difference anymore.

‘Why and How you do it?’ does. That is the new question. The differentiation is right here.

When you study enterprises in the current world, you’ll find they all produce quality products or offer a promising service, but there are only a few who make it to greatness! There are only a few who we care to not ignore. My sense through the study is most of us harness ambition which primarily revolves around means, measure and might. We have always been taught these while growing up. There is an extra ‘M’, which needed to earn your focus. These enterprises know that ‘M’ very well.

Meaning. If you care to studiously observe great enterprises (even personal brands) that have been able to raise a loyal audience, defeat the paradox and build a legacy, they all have one thing in common. And that common is actually what makes them uncommon. They are the master of one. The Meaning. The other M’s are the default.

P.S. Btw, in the future, a few years from now, when Meaning shall run common, there shall emerge another critical ‘M’ and shall come to the fore. Morality! Take my word.

A worthy lesson…

This is when my son was in his early adolescence. It was a usual, lazy Sunday. His hair had grown and his mother was after him to go down to the barbershop and have it cut short. He wasn’t too keen and a little war had ensued between the two. I pitched in and asked if I cut his hair. I have been bald last 12 years or so my visits to the barbershop are only a piece of good history. I have a trimmer at home to trim the hair that grows around the head barring the centre. It is called something, but I don’t remember now. Anyway, so I suggested to my son we trim it. His mother immediately rejected the idea and asked him to go down to the shop. He still wasn’t too keen with both the ideas. I kept quiet and didn’t try to oversell my idea. He consumed a few hours. Post lunch, he came up to me and asked. ‘Will that look good?’. I replied ‘I don’t know’. He said ‘I don’t want it as short as yours’. I said, ‘That’s fine. I use 4 number on me, I shall use 10 (max) on you’. After serious discussion, he agreed. Mother was still ranting at this decision. She didn’t want her son to go through this. Of course.

Next, we sit in the bathroom and start the haircut, rather the trim. Every 120 seconds, he would get up and look at the mirror. Some five minutes later, he rose to look at himself and didn’t quite give the expression I would have loved. But then, post that he didn’t rise to look at all. I believe, he submitted himself to it. It took the entire process some 45 minutes. The trimmer had become hot. It was finally done. I was scared at what would be his reaction. He rose. I left him alone there. He came out and said, ‘Not all that bad, baba’. I was relieved. Mother was still unpleased.

But, the next few days, he would wear a cap on his head, while going to school. One day, he forgot the cap and his school lads, and kids in his society made fun of his hair, barring a few friends in school and a couple of them in the society, who backed his cut. They were on his side. Yet, he came home dejected at the idea. Mother got quiet this time. They both were angry at me. He was angry at himself. The next couple of days he didn’t speak to me. I also didn’t make too much of an effort. He needed his time. One evening, I got home a little earlier than usual. He was alone at home. He came up to me and asked. ‘Why did you do it when you weren’t confident, Baba?’. I replied, ‘I was confident. It just didn’t work out the way I expected. I realised, I need to keep doing it for a few more occasions and I shall master it. I took a risk. It was on you, I agree. But you know risks sometimes work and at other times they don’t. But they never fail to inspire us or allow an experience to us. The experience taught you something and taught me something, right?’ He smiled and hugged me.

The next day, he went to school leaving his cap home, carrying with him a lesson for life!


An advice for young Aaditya Thackeray

In a long thirty years of political partnership, the longest time, Shiv Sena (SS) between the two appeared, ruled and enjoyed the ‘big brother’ role, responsibility and respect. However, 2014 onwards the equations altered and began to reverse for the Sena, while progressing dominant for the BJP. The ‘yuti’ (partnership/alliance) did go through a few hiccups. On some occasions emotions went sour and led the historical alliance to the brink of a collapse. Almost.

Today, Sena seems to be looming under the large influence of BJP, almost depending on its aura. This needs to be tackled by SS for its future. Elections are round the corner again in Maharashtra and Aaditya Thackeray, the scion of the Thackeray family and Balasaheb’s (SS) huge legacy. He looks well groomed with talks of being considered for the much coveted post of Dy Chief Ministership. The young lad looks focussed, is almost every time found sending the right signals to his electorate. This is a great opportunity for Sena keeping the 2024 elections in mind. Hence, I feel that Aaditya must play a smart, politically deft move and must accept Dy CM position but with independent powers for Mumbai city and Region. He must operating as a CM for Mumbai. This, for the seemingly young lad shall allow an opportunity to keep his territory shorter and hence bigger and better focus. It could help him gain confidence of administration and success. Knowing his flair for public service and adept handling of issues in the past, he might score a winning chance here. BJP, in its current avatar is an overtly ambitious party, while Sena under Uddhav has largely remained modest in ambition and communication. Sena must get back to glory and to get there, in my mind, it needs to ‘cut off’ from BJP, must look detached in its disposition and allow the electorate an opportunity to ‘assess’ its performance independent of the state. It hardly has that boastful leader profile anymore and AT must use this chance to reignite that passion. AT needs a hugely commendable work behind him, and work with independent powers and territory. This can be the way to be one-up with BJP. Mumbai can allow that opportunity to him. Sena is also popular in the city and Balasaheb’s legacy is huge even now. It allows him to utilise all that, keeps him virtually away and separate from Maharashtra and BJP’s bandwagon and closer to the people. It shall be interesting to see what this young man does…

The bad idea of Competition

The idea of overt capitalism introduced by the West saw its fairly intense infusion into India post the opening up of our economy in 1990-91. And a new journey began, which of course brought a few things good to India, the most prolific being the ‘power of choice’ to the consumer. However, it also injected the idea of competition in the Indian mindset. Particularly to the young, it made winning everything, overthrowing the idea of participation. Competition worked hard to replace conviction. Remember, competition is between two or more of the same or similar types. Conviction is being unique. The idea made us chase winning, which made us hunt the profit, not the purpose and not the process, as much. We lost that we are humans, an evolved animal. Competition made us spot the common, the tested and join the bandwagon and then fight to surge ahead, this way or that way. Competition kept the majority of us ordinary, whereas unordinary and extraordinary should have been the order of the day, with all the opportunities that were available. But that’s how behaviour works. Chances around us make us comfortable, while constraints pull us up. Anyway, add to all the ordinary stuff around, our educational and corporate system and the extremely safe parenting ideologies coupled with the advent of social media played their pivotal roles in making the idea of competition thrived. Herd thinking thrived. Commonness thrived. We ensured we brought back the animal in us and over time, we hardly noticed that from doing it wow, we slipped to doing it anyhow or somehow!

Entrepreneurship & Employment

I was invited by someone for a discussion over lunch with a forum, to share my views on Mass Entrepreneurship. I could not attend due to prior commitments, but shared my views nevertheless which were represented by some one else there on my behalf. Sharing an excerpt here…

“I am not quite comfortable with this whole idea of an entrepreneurship ‘factory’… I don’t think you can ‘make’ them and in such ‘mass’ numbers. It is a game of vision and valour, not volume. Also, the failure of entrepreneur led businesses is far larger than successes, almost at 9 : 1 in a three to five years of launch. The forum must care to do things to make the already started, running and existing business ideas work, reinvent and not simply push newer people to get newer ideas. This whole idea of creating employment is short term since a lot of these people and in big numbers face unemployment as and when the idea goes defunct. Because when it is started we think of rise, not of staying relevant. That rate unemployment is much higher. We do not have a rolling (fast-consuming) economy like the West so this whole idea of following big numbers isn’t great in longer run. Consumption needs to be driven not just adding new ideas for consumption, but making the existing ideas more consumable and consumedly used. We need to induce habits for quicker, repeatable consumption pattern. Just statistical references don’t work anymore in a big size market, one has to apply a poignant view.

For India, the idea of making every promising and passionate citizen ‘financially self-reliant’ is far bigger ‘idea’ than to create mass employers (as entrepreneurs) or even mass employment (as employees)!”

Don’t blame the Indian millennial!

Recent news reports and statements from the government and even the consumer companies imply that the millennial (born between 80 & 96) are the ones to be blamed for the slowdown. That is an outrightly ridiculous and lazy assertion.

I had written about this a few years back that the consumer economy (I mean consumer marketplace) was driven by ambiguity all along the 70-80 years or more of its existence. Capitalism and the accumulating idea of consumerism thrived during the period of ambiguity. it thrived only due to that. In the last 20 some years things have changed. Clarity replaced ambiguity as information exploded and people explored. The millennials were born. Now they have grown into adults and potential consumers. Clarity is now rampant and shall remain so for long, very very long.

Clarity means you cannot be cajoled into something, fooled into an unnecessary purchase. Clarity is a villain in consumer marketing. Not just the millennia, but a majority of the young audience is clear about their wants. They still maybe faltering with needs, but wants are clear. Wants drive marketing, never the needs. Desire as we understand it. In the period now, it isn’t easy to lure the young into a purchase. They bring logic and rationale into it. Yes, the flip side of it if they bring that into personal relations too, but otherwise it is a strength. For the nation, this is good and bad, both.

Btw, our markups (margins) have remained the highest in the world. For years, we fooled people into a story. Now it is not going to be easy. We are indeed a big consumer market, but 50% of them being young and young with clarity is surely not a story a marketing person would love to take with him. The reason for slowdown can be technical, meaning the global economical parameters and so on, but poignant observations could reveal what I just shared. Hope some sense prevails in the administrative corridors. Marketing and brand brains must factor this in their research too.

Liberate from the common good.

Our world is made of all kinds of people. Some talented, some very perfect, some imperfect, some fighters, some dolts, some misfits, and many conformists, but they all are born into some or other tradition.

We all begin our journey as commoners, barring some fortunate few that are born in the affluence of a pedigree. Yet, when we see a vision others don’t, sow the seeds others didn’t and sew a story others can’t, an uncommon legend begins to evolve. Despite nothing inherently different or remarkable in the lineage, some are able to choose a path different to chase that same goal which hundreds of others aim for. These unordinary people challenge the world-order and assume a significance that many of the others aspire for but are not able to accomplish. These unordinary people build a legend uncommon.