Saturday, September 29, 2018


I did quite a few courses on "Strategy" during my MBA. I find strategy intriguing, complex, and at many times misunderstood. While I ain't giving a lecture on strategy now, I have been increasingly amused and amazed by the fact that - strategy is too damn difficult and most of us (including me) just don't get it.

Organizations are resource constrained. When I say resource I practically mean - we have a limited no. of people (employees/ partners/ contractors), very limited amount of time (8 - 10 man-hours a day, 5 days a week), and a very limited amount of money. As an organization, you are expected to increase that limited amount of money that you have and generate some more of it, by using the other two resources - people and time all while competing in an externally uncontrolled environment.

For me (the layman) a very important aspect of strategy is - how best you can utilize your time and people everyday so that you can generate increasing amount of money for eternity. Deceptively simple. Period.

Strategy is not an one off thing you do beginning of the year in a resort and then forget about it. But the complexity of executing strategy lies in the fact that every person in an organization can spend her 8 hours of the day doing things that may or may not contribute to money for the organization in the future. This may either be because of alignment problem (lower level people's work is not aligned with overall organization's strategy) or the operational employees are not strategically "managed" (When I say managed, I mean specifically told what NOT to do).  

Let's talk about a very practical function - Sales. A VP of Sales (let's call her Priya) for an Enterprise Software Company. Now Priya has 8 hours in a day. She has 100 prospects that she can reach out. Depending on her territory - she might have the option to go after a specific industry, sell a specific product, and focus on a specific geography. Whatever she chooses, she inherently is taking a risk. That's because every choice of her limits the options. Which means if  she is going after one prospect, she ain't going after 99 others. Every time she focuses her energy on something, she is effectively not doing so many other things that might also have led the company to a better outcome.

The problem with strategy in hindsight is - everything seems to be done with a reason. However, in reality, outcomes are a gamble that everyone takes. The successful gambles give us the survivor-ship bias. No one thinks about what would be the state had they taken the other options.

It's fascinating how many times we go after the wrong opportunity, spend time chasing the wrong customer, selling the wrong product in the wrong market.

I feel strategy should be though of more in terms of - What are we NOT going to do. Most people and organizations I have come across have trouble in choosing what not to do. No wonder, so many employees are so busy doing things that ultimately do not bring any value to the organizations' ultimate pursuit of making money and growing.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Get Bored

Have you guys noticed lately that we (as a human race) hardly get a chance to get bored? With our smartphones, tablets, internet, TV and always-on entertainment availability, there is hardly a moment when we get to sit and just do nothing.

I was wondering whether such complete occupation of the brain has any side effects. Well, based on the limited amount of Google articles I could read on this topic, it looks like it does. Most of my "Aha moments" and my creative ideas (however limited they are) have always appeared when I am doing nothing. I don't seem to get any ideas when I am seeing YouTube videos, playing games, surfing social media or engaging in any other kind of entertainment.

So, before you lose all your creativity, and become a drone, I think it has become increasingly important now to actually make time in your busy schedule to - "do nothing". I mean, I am thinking of chalking out specific time periods in my day/ week where I switch off internet, keep away my smart devices and sit and be a man. Pondering into the void, actually doing nothing!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Productivity Hack - Bluetooth Hands-free Headsets

One of the necessary evils of my job is - I need to still talk and present to a lot of people!

On an ordinary day, I get calls on WhatsApp, Skype for Business, WebEx, Zoom, Skype, Hangout old-fashioned phone calls (yeah they still exist!) etc. Not only do I have casual conversations (personal and business) but also I need to do a lot of "virtual" presentations in which the people on the other side sometimes are in another continent and timezone. The other pain of having so many channels for communication is that - I need to keep switching between my mobile phone and my laptop and it's stressful and messy.

A year ago, tired of all this mess, I decided to give Bluetooth headsets one more try! This is even after having a bad experience of breaking or losing at least 5 Bluetooth headsets before. Anyway, this time I researched long and hard and zeroed in on the Jabra Evolve 65

The Jabra Evolve 65 by no means is the best or the highest end Bluetooth headset that you can get. But within my budget and after researching my needs, I felt this was the right fit. So what exactly was I looking for in my headset?

  1. Connect to a phone and laptop at the same time
  2. Mute and control volumes off the headset
  3. Talk with a lot of background noise so that the listener on the other end can still clearly hear me (boom mic with a capability to cancel other noises)
  4. Listen to music when I am working so that background chatter doesn't affect me (stereo headset not mono)

It's been more than 10 months I have been using it day-in and day-out continuously and I am very impressed by it. Not only has it taken away the pain of communicating through so many apps, on 2 devices, but it also gave me the wireless freedom and the ability to roam around while talking or presenting. The added benefit is - I can listen to music to focus on my work (yeah we have an "open" office - which means there is a constant background chatter that I need to tune out if I have to get serious work done!). And the mic can cancel background noises so well that I am able to even take calls in crowded places like the MRT