Lead to Regenerate

How to apply principles of regeneration for self and organizational development

Hackthons : leapfrog into future

(Image source )

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 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

“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.


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.


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 here

Learning Organization

For real benefits to accrue, not just people but the organisation, as a whole, needs to learn

The new recruits were huddled in a conference room large enough to hold all top and middle level managers together. The huddle was in one corner of the conference table. They were waiting for the CEO to address them. It was 10 minutes past the scheduled time of 2:30 PM. At 2:42 a HR junior came in panting. He breathlessly announced that the boss would be there any time, looked around the room and ran out.

At 2:45, the Operations Head walked in looking into his phone. He gave a quick glance and nod to the huddle and settled down some distance away from the Chair. Supply chain and HR Heads walked in later, both with phones to their ears.

One of the recruits got up and started moving towards the door. He was stopped and asked to return to the huddle by the HR Head, who frantically waved him back.

At last, the CEO walked in. He smiled at the huddle, and gave a disapproving look to the Supply Chain head, who was still on his phone. Without a word he went to the white board and wrote in block letters

‘Learning Organisation’

He then looked at the huddle and glanced at his senior managers meaningfully. “Hope someone already told you that we are a learning organisation,” he said. There was a murmur among the huddle. He took that as a yes and looked at the seniors. The HR Head got the cue. He said: “We have arranged many training sessions. We have a metric for learning in terms of number of learning hours per employee. They are aware of the training programmes they will need to undergo during the year.”

The recruits didn’t seem too happy. One of them had found out that all the training programmes were in-house. They would be held in the same buildings during the weekends.

The reaction would definitely have been positive if HR had planned some beachside resorts or hill resorts as venues.

The boss interrupted the HR Head: “Excellent. But I hope the learning is not restricted to the training programmes.” Looking at the huddle, he asked encouragingly, “So friends, I understand that you are with us now for over a month. That qualifies you as veterans! What did you learn here?”

The one who had tried to go out conference room raised his hand and said: “I learn that everyone is very busy. So busy that nobody can keep his or her appointed time for meeting us.”

The seniors shuffled their chairs uncomfortably. The CEO responded: “Is that so? There is no doubt that we are busy out here since we are pushing the envelope. Looking at the seniors, he added: “But we must spare time for these young people. They are our future, aren’t they?” The seniors explained that they took special efforts to meet the young group even if they had to stay back late to do so.

Another recruit asked, “Sir, what do you mean by a Learning Organisation? Does it mean that it is an organisation of people who learn or is an organisation which learns as a whole?” The CEO responded, “Well! They go hand in hand, don’t they?”

“No Sir, I don’t see how.” The young man wouldn’t give up. The meeting came to life.

“Young man, we encourage frankness here. But let me show you a bigger picture.” For the next 30 minutes the CEO then proceeded with his presentation, talking about numbers and challenges. He ended the session saying: “The HR Head will address your concerns about learning. Have a Good Day.”

The CEO did what any smart person does when confronted with a difficult question. Change the subject. In this case, he proceeded with his stock presentation.

The discussion could have also gone like this

CEO: Why don’t you see it that way?

Recruit 1: They are two different things.

Recruit 2: Yes. For example, everyone learns something or other every day — things like how not to annoy a customer, or how not to disagree with the boss. How no one keeps promises, so how to pad up time estimates, and so on. Someone may also learn a new technique in production. But this doesn’t mean that the organisation as a whole learned anything that is beneficial to it.

CEO: You guys make sense. So let’s see how to make sure that the organisation is learning as well. Do you have any ideas?

Recruit 1: Yes, Sir. One way is to find out of the organisation is doing anything differently based on some experience and its analysis.

CEO: Can you give an example?

Recruit 3: Let’s say that we have a way of handling normal and urgent shipments. We collect data and find that urgent shipments take as much time, or not much less, than the normal ones. This annoys customers. Based on specific data we can diagnose the workflows to find out errors or impediments. Then we can modify them and try them out. Finally, when a better workflow is implemented, we can say that the organisation has learned something new and better.

CEO: Excellent. We should use this for almost everything we do here.

Hoping that something sticks?

A usual learning ‘strategy’ is: Let us throw a lot of training (X hours per employee per year) at them. Let’s hope that something of that sticks and they get better at what they are doing. Budget permitting, we can plan some training programmes at holiday resorts. We can also send some high performing people abroad for training.

Such an approach assumes that:

– something is better than nothing

– a lot of it is better

– People get motivated by training, even if it is not utilised

Look around you to see if the above approach makes the organisation as a whole learn something that gives it an advantage. Also check if people benefit through the ‘hope something sticks’ kind of strategy and if they themselves stick around.

Has to be need-based

A learning organisation doesn’t get built through a ‘hope something sticks’ attitude and a training budget. Training must be planned based on the needs of the ‘work’ being done and the requirements of those doing it. Whatever is learned needs to be used immediately in one’s work with enough time for practice. If this is not ensured, the learning evaporates within days of employees returning to work. If managers don’t take responsibility for such systematic learning, the organisation, as a whole, can never learn.

( This article was first published by here )

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: