[ To Express, To Reflect, To Give Back ]

Randy Pausch legacy

Friday, July 25th, 2008

A few months ago I was browsing through a ReadersDigest at the OBGYN’s office and stumbled up on an article about Randy Pausch and his “Last Lecture” and his book, under same title. Stuck with pancreatic cancer since September 2006, Randy braved through the last two years like a true hero. An accomplished engineer, professor and a humble man with many dreams and wishes, Randy delivered the “Last Lecture” not so much for the namesake or even for the thousands of people who showed up to see it live and the millions who are still watching it in YouTube, but just for his three kids! I can now relate to why he would have done better than I would have 7 weeks ago (our son was born on June 2nd). The hardest thing in life is to be upbeat when you know you are dying. I remember reading a small and wonderful book called “Tuesdays with Morrie” and felt the exact same emotions for Randy as well. I am sure hundreds of others like Randy and Morrie pass everyday without much fun fare, leaving their legacy with people near and dear to them. Randy was in a place and position from where he could make a difference in the world by giving back whatever he could, with the little time he had. And he did!

Time magazine declared him as one of the 100 most influential people in the world! If you watch the lecture (knowing his background), you will be influenced as well.

He died last night. May his soul rest in peace! May his legacy live forever!

Change needs understanding first

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

At work, we are going through a change. A big change in the way we will operate, that will lead the way to how we will be doing business in the coming years. Operational efficiency is the goal.

As I experience this “change” from my vantage point, I realize that it lacks widespread commitment and sense of urgency. The folks up in the organizational chain are likely doing the right things in many ways, but their own perceptions of what is happening is not the same as that of an associate’s (in the trenches) perception of what is actually happening. That is a fundamental issue in change management and it leads to stagnation sooner or later.

While some elements of the change has been communicated, it is unclear if its well understood and “seen” by all. Two critical aspects of change management in large organizations is commitment and belief from everyone (ok, mostly everyone). Commitment and belief in the change itself, happens only if everyone understands what they are committing to. Understanding is not the same as communicating!!! Understanding happens in multiple dimensions and scales. Reading a memo or listening to a CFO speak are just two, necessary but not sufficient, aspects! Some elements (consistent with memo and speeches) of the change must be “felt” in an associates’ day to day work in order to reinforce what they read and hear. This has to be a visible/sensible change in their local team and/or operating environment. If a big enterprise-level change doesn’t impact (even small impact helps!) an assocaite’s daily activity, its hard to get that person’s commitment, to begin with. An uncommitted associate usually infests the folks around him, so there is peripheral damage as well.

A sense of urgency is a broad term but, in my mind, speaks to three critical questions fundamentally. Why should we change now, instead of say next year or 5 years from now? This reminds me of Matsushita story. When Matsushita started his visionary institute for government and management, he explained his vision was to help Japanese politics become less corrupt and more visionary. When a skeptical reporter asked how long that would take, he said, “about four hundred years…which is why it is so important we start today!”. So, any operational change, especially in a fortune 50, is a slow and painful process. But we better start now so we make progress right away.

The second question around sense of urgency would be “Alrite, I am starting now, whats next?”. This leads to short-term wins. While change is a long-term process (at least few years), short-term milestones, directly tied to long-term vision is key to keep the masses running. Nobody wants to keep cutting the trees for years without frequent assurance that they are in the right forest! So, tell them we are moving towards the final goal, one step at a time. A short-term visible and tangible win, every 6 months, seen and acknowledged by everyone, is a key.

The last question is “Alrite, I know we had this short-term goal, but I feel I am out of touch, when are we meeting again to talk about all of this?”. This leads to “frequency” of all forms of communications around change. Usually, the sense of urgency wades off in a few months. This happens due to the illusion at the senior leadership level that everyone is on board and so things are moving as they should. While in reality, lower level people’s commitment is lost over time. So a constant reminder, every other week, if not, every week, about the change, why the change and how we are changing and how fast and stable the “train” is moving, will keep the sense of urgency strong and sustainable!

Tech star…tup

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Boulder is a city that I really liked though I have only visited it twice during my almost a year of weekly commuting to Denver in 2003. It is also a city high in entrepreneurial spirit, thanks to a vibrant university and the loads of venture capitalists around, and of course, a community that cherishes life and nature (and snow!).

Techstars is a boulder’s way of embracing startups and venture capitalism around the area. Through Techstars, local entrepreneurs are joining together to promote entrepreneurial activity, one summer at a time.

The website claims 80% of last years participants have now received additional venture/angel funding and thats a good statistics proving their selection criteria (10 out of 300+ applicants!) was pretty good. Most of the companies appear to be online, social media types

Now, bootcamps are not new. They have been around for a long time around Silicon Valley. Techstars differentiates in some ways, the best of which I liked was that they don’t want to see your business plan (at least thats what their website says!). So they do want you to pitch your idea but just that is enough. I think this in itself would be a boost for a lot of people to take the plunge. While ideas are dozen a dime, good ideas are still running into millions! Of course, you got to have an idea and a way to create something, so fancy ones aren’t going to make the cut. You probably need an idea that can be built into something over a few boulder summer weeks, with nothing more than a laptop, food and a bunch of mentors and perhaps, lawyers! I guess, if you can program it, you are halfway in!

If you truly have an software-based idea, look to spend your next summer in Boulder. The mentors are mostly local (previously successful & experienced?) entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, so you ought to get something out of those few weeks!

Internet booms

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

The data from the recently published 2008 Quarter two report of venture capital investments has an interesting hightligh in the new venture space : 238 Internet-based companies got an funding of around $1.5 billion! Thats just in one quarter! This quarterly figure in fact represents the highest since 2001. Are we seeing a surge in the dot com business?

On a side note, US venture capitalists sent about $473 million in India’s way.

How about prepaid gas as a consumer service?

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Remember Chrysler’s “Let’s Refuel America” program from a couple of months ago? GM new strategy to attract new buyers was tapping into the current gas price sentiment well. I remember thinking what if this “lock the gas price” was available to all consumers?

Thats exactly what is getting a lot of traction now!!!

MyGallons.com offers prepaid gas for everyone essentially locking the price at market rate for as much gallons as you can buy. The concept is bound to get sign ups as the prices move north by a few cents every week. The service is enabled via a debit that is apparently accepted at 95% of gas stations across the US. If predictions are right, we might see $7 a gallon soon (may seem ridiculous but I would have given the same look a decade ago if someone had said gas would be $4 a gallon, when it was around 80 cents!)

But I got to think its probably not the best business to be in selling sort of gas futures in retail. The firm claims it has sophisticated hedging strategy, but we will have to wait and watch, if it survives the market pressures.

If you want to know where all the money you are shedding on your gas is going? look no further than below!

Dubai The World
Why bother to take dubai to rest of the world, think inside out, lets bring The World to dubai!!! You got crazy dreams? We got the money in Dubai to make them real!

So your money is not going waste, right?

streaming our lives

Monday, July 7th, 2008

Heard life streaming? Then you are not as much wired yet.

[source : readwriteweb]

Its the myspacefacebooktwitter economy. Take that to next level, you are hit with life streaming. Do you want to spend your life recording your life? or living? you decide. But if you decide to record, you will be lifestreaming instead of living. So that explains it, isn’t it? Should you do it? Some folks try to convince you, so read it for yourself here.

Google believes lifestreaming in various forms is likely to going to be big…check OpenSocial. A good social app is TypeRacer. I type like crazy (with auto spelling correction ofcourse!) so I am addicted to it TypeRacer style apps.

japanese watermelons

Friday, July 4th, 2008

On our grocery shopping this afternoon, we picked up a American (read big!) watermelon today. Obviously, due to its sheer size, no carry bag would hold up so it was on its own at the trunk. It rolled all over to the point that on one of the stops, we almost thought somebody crashed on the rear of our car! Well, not really…the watermelon was playing around the trunk!

Coincidentally, a few minutes ago, my sister, who lives in Japan, forwards an email with an article about the clever square watermelons harvested by Japanese farmers. I remember reading about this a long time ago, but what was different in this forward email was the additional “inferences” about lessons for life from the creative spirit espoused by the Japanese farmers and scientists!

The main lesson is Japanese’s ability to constantly push the limits, taking nothing for granted (never leave an assumption unquestioned!). As far as I can see, this is the core of their success! The rest of their behaviors are a consequence of that fundamental thinking. Another example is Japan’s ability to look for new ways to find energy sources decades ago and its now a new booming export industry for Japan. I am sure their collaborative society will lead to more such innovations before we run out of options in the US!!!

As this graph shows, Japan’s oil consumption remains fairly stable since 1975, and lets not talk about U.S. consumption!

[source : washingtonpost]

Read a more detailed blog about square watermelons here.

Big Picture TV

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

BigPicture TV

I was looking through some of the online short film contests and came across Big Picture TV. It is a neat project conceived and executed by Marcus Morell. Simply put, he has reached out to some of the leading thinkers and advocates working on environmental and social causes to share their insights. It is a worthy cause and demonstrates the power of new media and how it is leveraged to connect the movers to the masses. The website is neat and elegant though I was having problems with playing the videos.

Most of the people speaking are unfamiliar to me. Not surprising, I haven’t heard of many of them, given the momentum and breadth of support that environmental movement has and of course, my lack of awareness too!. I guess what matters is their insights and ideas more than who it is from. If you have heard of Cradle to Cradle, you should listen to Bill McDonough. I have read that book through my brothers recommendation and his ideas are fascinating and much needed. You should also check out his speech at the TED conference.

Kudos to Big Picture TV for bringing ideas into action! It goes into my favorites!