15 Nov 2015

How the culture of effort is dying out

Just read an interesting article about letting kids fail. (Aside: In typical American style, its title almost explains the main point of the author. No effort needed there.) Why is this entire idea of the necessity of effort being lost among the young adults I deal with?

The entire focus these days is on results, on outcome. We too talk that language in the corporate world. But we must not talk that language when we bring up youngsters, be they kids or young software engineers straight out of college. As one can well guess, the focus on outcome discourages people because failure some of the time is inevitable, and a focus on outcome does not teach us to cope with these failures.

I have not failed 10,000 times. I have successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.Edison

Focusing on outcomes as a corporate strategy helps us all be result-oriented. The trick is to dissociate the process from the outcome. The outcome to be rewarded may well be the successes. The process to reach that success must almost inevitably include failures. Needless to say, this sounds pseudo-philosophical because it contains an apparent paradox. You can’t ask me to feel good about failures if you want me to reward or celebrate success. / continue reading

10 Nov 2015

Why small companies don’t grow into big companies: part 2

Continuing my exploration of what holds up competent small companies when they want to grow…

It must be run by employees, not entrepreneur

Any business which wants to grow must keep the entrepreneur or CEO almost completely out of the delivery loop, and preferably, out of the business generation loop too. This is such a common issue that I am tempted to list this as one of the most common challenges of all small businessmen from all sectors and backgrounds.
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10 Nov 2015

Why small companies don’t grow into big companies

Most small businesses do not grow into large businesses, in spite of (i) dynamic business heads, (ii) delivering value very competently to customers and (iii) earning reasonable profits. Why?

I have seen a variety of recurring reasons, so here they are. This is not an exhaustive list. Some of these reasons hit companies started by techie entrepreneurs. Others hit even businesses started by traditional and experienced businessmen from business communities.

How much of this is India-specific? Frankly, I don’t know. I suspect about half of these points would either be less relevant to non-Indian entrepreneurs, or would be presented very differently in such contexts.
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7 Nov 2015

Trading, manufacturing, services and Indian IT

Traditional ideas of services imply work done without generation of physical goods; many experts define “service” as intangible economic goods. Traditional ideas of trading imply purchasing of goods from a supplier, performing little or no value addition on the item, and then selling it to a buyer, hopefully at a profit. And traditional ideas of manufacturing imply applying a process of transformation on physical raw materials using labour and/or machinery to create something substantially different from the raw materials.

These ideas do not work with software, and specially with the Indian IT industry. / continue reading

A project succeeds only when both customer and vendor put in more effort than planned, and compromise more than anticipated.

A project always fails when one party begins to feel that they have done more than their fair share and the other party is not doing enough.

Project execution wisdom

People don’t choose something because it is better. Most of the time, they choose that which makes them feel less afraid, feel safer. Even if it is technically, financially or logically the worse option.

A brainwave
18 Oct 2015

My country, my pen and my watch

The English language has a way of muddying the waters of some of the most basic ideas. Take the simple word “my”. What do you think the word means?

You will say: it means ownership. “My pen” means “the pen which I own”.

And what do you make of the phrase “My country”? What about “my faith”, or “my profession?” / continue reading

18 Oct 2015

You live to eat, do you?

As cocky teenagers, we would play one-upmanship games with friends by posing riddles and seeing them trip up. One of these was the question: “Do you eat to live or live to eat?” If someone got confused and said “I live to eat”, we would break out into raucous laughter, and make him feel like a fool.

I never thought that this was anything other than a silly teenage joke. Two decades passed. I finished college, got two degrees under my belt, worked at three organisations, then at age thirty-two, I became an entrepreneur. I acquired new entrepreneur friends, some of them from business communities. And I realised with a shock that my teenage joke was not a stupid joke to them after all. / continue reading

Palolem 2004
18 Oct 2015

A case of identity

This is a story from my school days. I grew up in Bihar. In the eastern and northern parts of India, there’s a puja which I don’t see much in the rest of the country: the Vishwakarma puja. This is a day dedicated to the worship of Vishwakarma, the presiding deity of all artisans and architects. This day is absolutely sacred for all workers who work with tools — it’s a total tools-down day of worship and quiet community bonding. / continue reading

17 Sep 2015

Techie or technician?

I remember the eighties when I was a BTech student, first exposed to this amazing world of computer programs.

We used to spend hours on many evenings simply arguing about stuff which normal humans would find outrageously geeky:

  • “IITFort is not a compiler. It is a software system. It has its own run-time environment where your code runs after compilation. How can you call it a compiler?”
  • “When you use the word stack, you visualise things stacking on top of each other. Therefore, a push operation must add to the top of stack. Therefore, a stack must grow upwards. Since a CPU’s stack pointer starts from high-mem and is decremented on each push, we must draw memory maps with the high address at the bottom, and 0x00000000 at the top. It’s blindingly obvious!”
  • “A GUI is meant to help an unfamiliar user become productive fast. Therefore, almost by definition, a GUI slows down a power user. An OS which aims to provide a pure GUI is an OS meant for new users, weak users. It it meant for low-productivity users. You have to be an idiot to call a GUI a productivity enhancement tool for people like us!”
  • “A RISC instruction set is the way God intended good engineers to design an instruction set. A CISC is an abomination, and the only way Intel justifies its x86 instruction set is by pointing to the MS-DOS legacy and begging for mercy. And if you still want to see a good CISC instruction set, forget Intel, look at the MC68K or the NS32K. Sweeet! Even the VAX-11 instruction set is a bit cloyingly sweet, best taken in small doses.”

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