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Lead to Regenerate

How to apply principles of regeneration for self and organizational development

Pushing the envelop : JargonJungle

Pushing the envelope’ means going well beyond what is believed to be normal

Rewind to India of early 2014. Could you have imagined at that time, the following scenario playing out?

“Over 1 crore relatively well-off Indians have given up their LPG subsidy only because of an appeal, not through coercion or law. The savings are being used to partly finance free LPGs to five crore needy families, so that women can avoid the health-hazard of smoke.

“Opening of over 21 crore new bank accounts, for those who were earlier without access to banking, is helping in targeting subsidies better to the really needy, and preventing leakages. These bank accounts are also being used to disburse small loans to people for generating livelihoods and for directing insurance schemes that are partly funded by the governments.

“Aadhar enrolments have crossed the 100 crore mark, making it the world’s largest personal identity database. Aadhar enables better subsidy targeting.”

India has been “pushing the envelope” as they say.

Fast forward

… to some time in the near future. Imagine:

Scene 1: You are away on a business trip. In your hotel room, you turn to your Facebook newsfeed, put on your Oculus VR (Virtual Reality) headset and catch up with your daughter’s birthday party which you missed. You have joined the party — well, almost. You not only see and hear the action, but you also record yourself into the party video and send it back to your family. Your daughter’s birthday is, in a sense, complete.

Scene 2: You are in a furniture showroom. You try on that lovely sofa set and that classy bar by virtually placing it in your living room. Doing so, you know that they look good and fit perfectly well in the available space.

Some companies push the envelope to bring to us completely new and better ways of doing some thing.

Cut to present

You are discussing your product launch plan and surprisingly, everything seems to be in control. Your team is on course for a smooth product launch. It’s a known game for your team, since it has launched many products in the last one year. You have ironed out many wrinkles and squashed potential glitches by invoking Murphy’s Laws.

Your boss walks in, and after being satisfied that everything is in order, he says, “Guys, what I see looks like a good job. But why don’t we (your team) push the envelope this time?” He pauses, gets up, and while leaving says, “Get back to me if you need anything.”

Did you get what your boss just said? You have to figure out whether pushing the envelope means advancing the launch date or achieving several X time on the ground activation level. You also have to figure out how you will do it.

Performance envelope

Individuals, groups, and organisations usually end up in little envelopes of performance, which act as standards for lower (what is the minimum acceptable) and upper limits (what they think is possible).

This happens by habit. Most times, this habit is also quite economical. You don’t wish to get up every day and set your goals from scratch. You know what you have been doing and if that is good enough, you try and stick to it, unless someone else is upsetting the balance by doing it more, faster, or better. As your envelope gets more and more comfortable, you live in it. Trying new things and bettering yourself becomes rarer.

Some individuals may get bored with the self-imposed envelope and try to ‘push’ it. But organisations don’t get bored. Unless they are threatened by external events or are challenged to perform by their leaders, they stay where they are.

If ‘benchmarking’ makes you aware of where others are and motivates you to achieve at least their level, ‘pushing the envelope’ means going well beyond what is believed to be normal.

 This article  in the Jargon Jungle series was published at bloncampus.com here 

Hackthons : leapfrog into future

(Image source bloncampus.com )

Thirteen-year-old Neelesh groggily staggered through the door in the morning after three nights and two days. His parents, confused, asked him if anything was wrong. Though Neelesh had informed them of his absence from home, they were worried. Neelesh managed to say cheerily: “We won! My team won the first prize!” and pumped his fists in the air. Then, he crashed on his bed and fell asleep.

His parents exchanged a glance that said ‘typical of him’ and sighed. His team had won a ‘hackathon’ organised by a multinational company to develop working prototypes for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Neelesh is your typical guy who loves coding and goes at it for days.

“I have participated in more than 10 hackathons in the past year. I have consumed copious quantities of coffee and Redbull, but the projects my team and I completed were worth the effort. I also met amazing people at these events,” says another passionate coder.

Hackathons are contests in which groups of developers, experts, graphic visualisers, user interface designers and project managers collaborate to develop prototypes of innovative products, services and components. These competitions typically last from a day up to a week. Hackathons have a specific focus and rules by which teams have to operate. This framework may be open to all or restricted to individual teams.

Origin story

Where does the endless stream of new features, products or services — whether in messaging, streaming of videos, ticketing, navigation, checking status of trains or purchased items, games, buying or selling — come from? Who is behind this deluge? It is not just armies of developers, designers, artists, experts, who work for colossuses like Google, Apple and Microsoft that keep launching them. Small but highly innovative companies also help. Large development projects and teams are often behind these launches.

Increasingly, cutting-edge products and features come out of these breathless events. Even companies with large internal development teams organise hackathons to leapfrog into the future and come out with innovation that would otherwise have been impossible. The famous ‘Like’ button and ‘Facebook chat’ were first demonstrated at one of Facebook’s internal hackathons. Another example of a ‘hack’ (a product that first came out at a hackathon) is ‘GroupMe’, which was later acquired by Skype.

Marathons of effort

Hackathons are marathons of hacking efforts. The ‘thon’, from the word ‘marathon’, signals long duration and the endurance needed when competing. ‘Hack’, in this context, doesn’t mean unauthorised or illegal access to a computer system or facility. It also has no connection to physical violence. Here, it means a quick and dirty job that serves purpose. It is like cutting out a block of rock or wood to create a useful and interesting object; there is no time to chisel and polish the product. Hackathons aim to create something useful immediately — the finish can come later. They can be very useful for agile development or achieving business agility.

Encouraging talent

Hackathons draw upon passion, energy, skill and creativity of the people who wish to create something great quickly without getting bogged down by corporate working. Talented people thrive on such challenges, and the chance of winning prizes and being recognised provides further impetus to such people. Hackathons are a great way of engaging with talented people.

Though they are usually software development events, the idea is now spreading to other sectors as well. They are being held for developing business models around core technology or a problem statement, sometimes even for developing cooking recipes! One can only imagine the kind of hackathons that could be held for building a movie’s storyline.

Hackthons are events for creativity, they can be conceived creatively.

This article was first published by bloncampus.com here

Left Brain Thinking, Right Brain Thinking

Success comes with diligence and passion, by using both the left brain and right brain thinking
Image source bloncampus.com

“Branding and communications? I knew you as a Left Brain guy back then.” Ashish was catching up with Chandan during their alumni meet. They were meeting each other after they left behind their campus life — almost two decades. “You used to score well in Maths and Physics despite playing table tennis and carrom well past 1 am — even the nights before our quizzes and semester exams!” Ashish continued as Chandan looked on. “You were a brainy sort, a guy with left brain thinking. It beats me how you’re doing this right brain stuff now.”

The cool breeze coming from the beach and the strains of soft music made for a perfect evening with old-time friends. Chandan too was in a great mood. “Let me explain to you what happened. About five years back, my left and right brains exchanged their places!” he explained. Nonplussed, Ashish asked, “Does it mean that you are duffer in Maths now?” Raucous laughter from the adjacent table drowned out what Chandan said.

Logical and creative

Ashish relied on a popular belief: Left brain means logical and analytical thinking; right brain stands for the creative and emotional facets of thinking. It is interesting to note that neurological research finds no linkage between a creative person’s right brain ‘prowess’ or an analytical thinker’s left brain ability.

But let’s leave aside neurology, and examine whether left and right brain thinking exist as mutually exclusive thinking patterns. Let’s also look at whether such patterns help excelling in some fields, as is popularly believed.

Math

Consider Mathematics. It is widely believed that those good in this subject are left brained, since it involves tasks like counting, and using multiplication tables which are said to be left brain thinking — you follow precise rules and think logically and sequentially.

But on the other hand, solving mathematical problems needs an ability to define or model a given situation, imagine possible laws or relationships which might be applicable to the modelled situation. At times, one’s mind might jump to a possible or several probable solutions.

And all these are instances of, what is popularly known as, right brain thinking. Mathematical proficiency, therefore, needs both left and right brain thinking.

Music

Musical activities are seen as creative or right brain activities, because the so-called ‘right brain’ abilities, like imagining a sequence of notes and its effects and experimenting with them, are needed.

Yet, music also needs attention to detail, sequencing, and repeating precise patterns — all of which are left brain abilities. These activities can lift a performance or mar it, depending on how they are done.

Whole brain thinking

It is well known that great scientists and artists work diligently and consistently. They live out their passions. However chaotic their lives may seem to others, their left brain discipline and right brain passion lead to their creative excellence.

As a child, Albert Einstein was intrigued about the speed of light and how it might relate to other physical phenomena. He used think about it a lot. He continued this quest while negotiating the vagaries and distractions of adult life as a clerk in patents office.

Einstein said this extremely ordinary and boring job allowed him to follow his quest and led to his formulating the special theory of relativity. It will be difficult to find a better example of whole brain thinking.

Even in our ordinary lives, we stumble upon solutions or deep insights after sequential and long painstaking efforts (so-called left brain work) when we are deeply concerned or involved (so-called right brain domain of feelings). If we consider left brain and right brain thinking as mere metaphors for analytical and creative thinking respectively, we need to remember that both are crucial for excellence in every field. We need to aim for whole brain thinking.

What he said

What Chandan said and got lost in the roar of laughter was this. “I don’t use that kind of math. So yes, I am not good at it. But back then, concepts in Physics and Mathematics had captured my imagination. These subjects inspired me and I solved every problem that came up. I tested my understanding of theory using various problems. The loop of a Table Tennis ball also captured my imagination and I loved the feel of imparting or countering its spin. I really never thought of all these as efforts.”

The key to progress and success are passion and inspiration, diligent and persistent practice. Chandan had nicely summed up the whole brain thinking.

This article was first published by bloncampus.com here

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