Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Almost every news these days seems to have a different outcome based on who reports. Be it war, politics, or even a simple altercation between two individuals the way it is reported can be poles apart based on where and from whom you are reading.

Never in my life have I questioned and not believed a news article the way I do now. We as a society have become extremely cynical and have lost complete trust in all media and in other people. Though social media has give people power (in general) it has also caused a lot of unnecessary noise and it is  becoming increasingly difficult (if not impossible) to distinguish the truth from the lie. Any person with a twitter handle, a blog or a Facebook post can change the course of history. What is a lie and what is the truth is left to the gullible readers to decide.

This also means a lot of what we have read in the past as news from distinguished media outlets, and as history has been manipulated to a great extend to satisfy a person’s or a political party’s agenda. Our world view as we know it today, is just a “view” that was built based on who brainwashed you. The “reality” could be far from what you think you know.

In the last week there have been a series of events that were reported in totally different ways based on where you read them:

  1. A protest against a government policy went wrong in Singapore. Based on whether you read the news as told by the protestors, by the bystanders or by the media you get a completely different picture of what happened.
  2. A news reporter got into an altercation outside Indian Prime Minister’s speech in New York. Again, despite all the conflicting evidence (with those YouTube videos floating around) it is very difficult to decipher what actually happened chronologically.
  3. And any action taken by any political party (however noble it might be), there will always be a counter argument on how bad the consequences are going to be.

Never in my life has news been so complicated and stressful. I miss my good old days when I could blindly trust anyone.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

You too!

Practically every netizen is aware of the new phone launches by Apple last week, followed by a bunch of announcements about the new Apple Watch. So far so good. Apple fans went crazy and Apple’s stock went through the roof yet again. I am sure the products are amazing and everyone will live happily ever after.

In all this frenzy, one of my favourite bands of all times – U2 released a new album. It is titled “Songs of Innocence”. Apple released it for free on iTunes. U2 seems to have a multi-year commercial and philanthropic tie-up with Apple. I am pretty sure both of them have done a fair bit of good in the world through the Product Red Campaign.

Songs of Innocence

However, free is bad. Free gives the wrong perception that the thing that you just received is not valuable. From Joshua Bell (the acclaimed Violinist) playing for “free” at the DC Metro Subway to Open Source software, people have consistently assumed (and many times falsely) that free means – not good.

I am appalled, sad and disappointed that U2 did this. Of course I am happy that I got their album for free. But I am not happy about all the negative reviews and articles that they are getting.

U2 made money in the deal. But they lost a fair bit of their amazing flair and credibility. According to NY Times online, this is what I could gather:

“To release U2’s album free, Apple paid the band and Universal an unspecified fee as a blanket royalty and committed to a marketing campaign for the band worth up to $100 million, according to several people briefed on the deal.”

So, it’s not that U2 gave you the album free, but indeed Apple did it. I feel, rather than pushing the album for free into everyone’s iTunes library, Apple should have made people to do the effort to search for and download the album. That way it would have been more valuable and people who don’t know them wouldn’t have bothered.

As for non-Apple users like me, I had to go download iTunes first then download “Songs of Innocence” and then uninstall iTunes. Anyway, I am listening to the album as I am writing this. And this week is gonna be all U2 for me. To end on a happy note, here is their funny “10 things” appearance on David Letterman:

Top 10 things U2 has learned over the years

Saturday, September 13, 2014

HBR Articles that influenced me

Continuing on my theme from last week, I decided to write on the Harvard Business Review articles that most influenced me. Top 10 makes it banal, so I stuck to the list as my “most favourite” articles. Since a considerable amount of my “reading time” (during my MBA and after) has been spent reading HBR, I feel it’s unfair to not credit it to have influenced me.

Most articles are behind a pay wall, but if you are creative enough with your Google skills, I am sure you can get them online free. I had free access to HBR as a student, and subsequently my organization also gave me free corporate access.

So here is the list:

Competing on Analytics

If there is one thing that I can squarely “blame” for me jumping into Business Intelligence (head first) as a career, this has to be it. Very well written and then followed by a book by the same name, this is a must start if you are wondering what Analytics can do for an organization.

What is strategy?

The first article that I read on my quest to understand “Strategy”. Simple, but effective. Ended up reading a lot of Michael Porter after this.

The Core Competency of the Corporation

If all that strategy talk gets you confused, I suggest you read this article to understand what is “core competence” and what is a “sustainable competitive advantage”. Though they have mostly become jargons now, it’s good to know what they actually stand for

The Five Competitive Forces that shape Strategy

Strategy again. One reason I love so many Strategy articles is because I specialized in Strategy. None the less, I like reading about it more than on topics of People Management, Marketing and the likes. I have written about this before. The classic Porter’s 5 forces.

Managing Oneself

A very thought provoking article on what to do in life in general and choosing careers, and making life-changing decisions. Peter Drucker at his best.

Who’s got the Monkey?

Another article that has featured on my blog before. Helped me change from an over worked worker bee, to a smart working worker bee (yeah still a bee). Easy, funny but insightful.

Leading Change – Why Transformation Efforts Fail

Whether in life or at work, we all go through these notions of working on “grand transformations” and then miserably failing. I love this article for its clear “8 step approach”

The Power of Virtual Integration

I love this article for the amazing clarity with which the entire concept of integrating across a Supply Chain is explained.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

10 books that influenced me

A very close friend of mine “nominated” me on Facebook to put this list together. Since Facebook for me is ephemeral (I still love to document my thoughts and life here), I decided to blog the list.

An intellectual exercise indeed. I spent greater part of my weekend ruminating and here is the outcome. I am aghast to see that almost all the books are prescribed “reading materials” in education. What that means is – I don’t read much (or at all!) fiction. That should partially explain why you find me so boring. Anyway, in no particular order, here is my list:

The Dorling Kindersley Science Encyclopaedia

If there is one reason I am what I am, I have to give credit to this book. My parents bought this book for me during my primary school days (1990s), and I got hooked. This book was my source of “all information” till I discovered Google!

Applied Cryptography

This book was a recommended reading for an Information Security course in my Engineering. I loved it so much that I ended up reading it again after I started to work, just to get a kick out of reading Bruce Schneier’s humorous way of presenting a particularly dry subject. Have followed his blog ever since!

Principles of Economics

I always found Economics to be extremely boring till I read this book. It is practically un-put-downable. I read this book during my MBA and I ended up neglecting other subjects during this term just cause I wanted to complete reading this book. And then I wrote the Economics of Love.

Power of Habit

One of my recent reads. Opened my mind to all this procrastinating and not sticking to schedules and plans that I keep doing. Interesting take on how our life is practically ruled by our habits (good or bad!). The Target Pregnancy detection fiasco is also explained in detail in this book.

In Search of Stupidity

This book is a must read for everyone who criticizes companies for their idiotic decisions in hindsight. A humorous account of how big companies managed to screw it up big time and wipe themselves out. If you have read all the happy books about companies succeeding (Built to Last, Good to Great, In Search of Excellence … ) it’s high time you read this one.

Understanding Michael Porter

Did a lot of Michael Porter during my MBA. Understood some theories, confused some others and ignored a few more. Then I saw this book. Pre-ordered it, and loved it. If you wanna understand the “theory” of strategy, I will highly recommend it.

The Data Warehouse Toolkit

Yup a rather technical book. But if you are struggling to understand what is OLAP and why we need star schemas to keep data to analyse, this is the go-to book. The author is amazingly eloquent and the entire concept is made easy to digest and appreciate.

Show me the Numbers

This book completely changed my understanding of Business Intelligence and Design. A must read for every person who has to routinely work with numbers and present them as a part of their job.

Why does E=mc2? (And Why Should We Care?)

Theoretical Physics has always intrigued me. I wanted to read a book to at least get a very layman understanding of theory of relativity, string theory and the likes. I browsed this book in a bookshop and bought it to go home and spend a considerable amount of time to “study” it. Helped me understand a lot of concepts. Highly recommended to all Sheldon Cooper fans.

Da Vinci Code

The only fictional book on my list. This book really got me hooked to the Internet, Wikipedia, Renaissance artists and the history of Christianity. While the story is celebrated, the side plots are laced with partial truths amongst all that fiction. Really made me spend a lot of time to figure out what is the truth and what are the controversies. Made me spend 4 hours staring at the Mona Lisa.

That pretty much concludes my list. Special mention – Harvard Business Review, Joel Spolsky and Seth Godin. I think I have been heavily influenced by the short (30 odd page) articles that are written in HBR, the nuggets of wisdom shared by Seth on his blog and in his books and Joel on Software – the go-to guide for all Software problems.