Directioning: Where we should be going ?

Blue Ocean People at the Top of the Pyramid, BOP @ TOP

“If we are facing in the right direction, all we need to do is keep on walking.”—Buddhist proverb

Potentially, anyone of us could aspire to be one of them. Please see the wiki list of lists of centenarians to get a feel of what I have in mind. Most of these people would qualify to be there in the BOP@ TOP list that I am compiling.

Having worked for over three decades at the bottom of the pyramid and branded myself a low impact lifer, aka poor, much before the jargon was in vogue I am more fascinated with people at the top of the pyramid. It is for the TOP to make it lighter for those at the bottom. We have enough of them to show us that it is indeed possible. These people have taken the road less or not travelled. They show us the direction for the journey, milestones that point to further stretches of the road not taken, of the unrealised, unexplored territories, the blue ocean space of strategic directions for self-management or HRM, Human Resources Management, to use a B-School jargon. They give much more than they take. They are Low impact on inputs and very high impact on output. They bridge us with the past and point to us, the future

For me HRM is Hira Ratan Manek. Born in 1937, a graduate in mechanical engineering  who carried on with the family business, of shipping and spice trading till he retired in 1992. After working for 3 years, he re-discovered the secrets of sun gazing.   Since June 18th, 1995, HRM lives only on sun energy and water. Occasionally he drinks tea, coffee and buttermilk.  He had three strict fastings, during which he had just sun energy and only water and was under the control and observation of various science and medical teams. The first of these fasting lasted for 211 days which was followed by a 411 day fast from 2000-2001 in Ahmadabad. Indeed it is written “Man Shall Not Live by Bread Alone “

Another one is, Pandit Sudhakar Krishna Rao Chaturvedi, a vedic scholar, teacher, writer, translator and journalist was born in 1897. At 113 years he says in the Vedas it is said that a person of pure character can live for 300 years. He hopes to live that long. He has planned his work for another ten years.

PC Devassia, whom I knew from very close for over two decades, who is in one  of the wiki lists, lived for 100 years 6 months and 15 days. This by itself is not a feat but how those years were spent is. On the day he retired from  nearly four decades of work,  he talked on how he planned to spend his remaining 40 years. His magnum opus, Kristubhagavatam, a meeting point of two cultures was written in his seventies. All those forty years were exceptionally productive, even more productive than the first forty years of work. The decision to live for a 100 years was a conscious one taken very early in life which he had made known to his son when he was in school. The position was taken very early in life, the direction was set and reflection was a continuous process. His work was his spirituality and he was religious about it. Making work meaningful and fun is the best medicine to live long. Instead we wait for a day when nano-robots will make it possible for us to become immortal.

Dominic Chacko Kizhkemuri, DC,was born in 1914 .He worked as a teacher for over a decade, was involved in the freedom struggle and imprisoned, promoted SPCS, the writers’ cooperative which created history.   He retired   at the age of 60 and started his own publishing firm, the DC Books with a capital of less than $ 200 which became a market leader in the business by the time he died in 1999

I am grateful to my B-School education for introducing to me many in the following lighthouse people. Some of them continue to beacon us and would qualify to be included the list of immortals if there were one.  The immortality quotient, my fascination for the long term, was triggered by them

W Edwards Deming 1900-1993

Ludwig Vn Bertalanffy 1901-1972

William Ross Ashby 1903—1972

Peter F Drucker 1909-2005

Kenneth E Boulding 1910-1993

Russel L Ackoff  1919-2009

Anthony Stafford Beer   1926 – 2002

Ronald Coase, 1910-

Emanuel Revici, M.D, 1898-1998

Obviously living a long life is not the only qualifier to be in the list of BOP @ TOP. Warren Buffet or Bill Gates will not qualify in spite of the combined weight of their charities.

The Blue Ocean Strategy, W. Chan Kim and Rene’e Mauborgne, is about uncontested market space, how market leaders continue to stay far ahead of competition without wasting their energy and effort on market wars. I draw my lessons from people not corporates having lost my faith in B-Schools and business with my four years of education in two Of them. Imagine the vast unexplored space that is available to move on and the spin offs if more of us decide to adopt a blue ocean strategy in our lives. That would set one of the coordinates for strategic HRM, the blue ocean space that each individual discovers around oneself is the major driver for growth and improvement, true of all of history and the drive behind all those in the Guinness book of records. Future is in the making when we see this collective blue ocean space that remains unexplored.

The seniors shall inherit the earth

Can one grow old and young at the same time?

Some people, a small minority, do it. They mature like old whisky and still remain young, challenging common wisdom that old dogs cannot pick up new tricks. New findings suggest the opposite. For some seniors growing old and growing young are parallel processes.  They challenge their brain with continual learning. The result, plasticity of the brain improves. Intelligence too has the same character.  It improves if one keeps challenging it against problems. When the brain remains young and one is driven by work that is motivating on its own merit, the body grows young renewing itself continually like a river which is not blocked from renewal by our ecological footprints. One grows old and young at the same time.

Olive Riley, the world’s oldest blogger, passed away at 108. She must have picked up blogging when quite old by our usual standards. I also know some very smart, much younger people who boast of not using the internet or the computer claiming that they are against too much of technology. I am afraid it is a camouflage to cover up the resistance to embrace the new.  In my search for the old and young I met Joseph Smith. He weathered many a storm on the high seas and on land for 82 years and graduated from the school of hard knocks. He is old and young, more active and concerned than most of us about the way the system works or does not. The ‘old and young’ need closer attention because they are travelling a different road which is likely to be a mega trend, gathering momentum.

Elsewhere there is a conversation going on the future of social enterprise. I am convinced that the future of business is in the enhancement of community, global and local.   I spent four years as a student in two B-schools. Both claimed to be teaching management but proved to be just business schools. Some of them have an identity crisis like many of their clients. I would prefer to  believe that every business, including the business of religion and non- profits, is about creating community within to connect to the community outside and business performance ought to be measured by the enhancement of community or net value addition to the community capital. Many of them very successful by conventional norms could be destroying community. They survive and grow by reinforcing the business of shadows and substitutes. Growth does not differentiate between real goods and services and shadows and substitutes.

Established religions have stood the test of time, but have a shadow side to their existence. They appear to be more successful than most business organizations in promising the most intangible with the lowest cost of production, manipulating masses on the fear of death and retribution in next life. Priests and politicians play god and peddle dependence. Many of them love to be worshipped and are on a drive to fulfil their own power drive distortions. Did somebody say that the earth will be revealed to us when heaven is destroyed ?

Will insurance companies   have any business if   people have no fear of death or the future? If people are anchored to their true SELVES how would the fashion and cosmetics business respond which often assumes that the cosmetic is more important than the content?

Would there be a fall in demand for big screen heroes if we reframe our notions of the hero to the real meaning of the term, conquering one’s own fear?

If people redefine work as self-expression, will they continue to suffer from boredom and consequently will the market shrink for entertainment products and services? The entertainment industry stretches itself to keep boredom at bay. The demand is a derived one from the inability to find a purpose in life and work that is motivating by itself.

How would lotteries and the stock market fare if more people put an end to the wait for a better day game and start living in the present?

More than economics distorted human drives drive the economy. Which business is not a social enterprise though most of them implicitly admit that they are antisocial.  What would be the role of charity, other than as a measure of guilt associated with wealth when every business redefines its mission as enhancing global community?

These are landscapes   that one might come across on the two roads, one by design and the other by default.

One can go on ad nauseum about the shadow side of every business, profit or non profit. I believe more than the religions, business will take the road to spirituality. I have experienced better community in business than in religious organizations. Business will be more pressed to reinvent itself as enhancing community within to connect better to the external community locally and globally in a   borderless world.

It is neither easy for business or for individuals to walk out of the shadows, because we will have to turn against our own vested interests, the shadow side.

The ‘young and old’ show the way. The most successful of them have no learning plateaus as they take their positions very early in life. They quit only when their mission is fulfilled. The others have successfully negotiated the learning plateaus at different stages of their life. They live a life of their own design and they are their own heroes.  They earn credibility with their life and walk the talk. They are not looking for a secure tenure   or driven by the need to perform in the marketplace where your future is as volatile as the stock market, where in the first 15 years of your career your fate is almost sealed whether you belong to the ‘top of the pyramid’ material or not. Demography favors the seniors. Thanks to the web more of them are finding their voice and we have enough of them in the public domain to listen and learn how to live a life by design.

‘The elephant rock declaration’

In one of our workouts, we, twelve 60 + couples, got together to discuss the trend, climbed the elephant rock and shouted out the elephant rock declaration – “The seniors shall inherit the earth”

Building Our Own  Ark, Living in Real-time

The Burden of Normality

The Burden of Normality

What is the First Discipline?

The first discipline is about map making. Disciplines are but collections of maps of physical or virtual spaces. Art, Science or Religion cannot do without maps. Child or grown up, literate or illiterate, we cannot survive without maps.

What is the process of making maps?

The self mediates in the process. We start with models and when the results meet our expectations we elevate them to the level of maps.

What are Meta Maps?

Meta maps connect disciplines. The FDF is an attempt in this direction.

Is there a hierarchy for Meta Maps?

Yes, at the highest level, they connect meta-disciplines, science, religion and art, unifying them into knowledge. The silos get connected.

Explain. .

On 12 October 1492 Columbus arrived in America. The day is celebrated as Discovery Day in the Bahamas. Vasco da Gama reached Calicut, Kerala, in South India on 20 May 1498. It was a happy coincidence that Columbus reached America. It took six more years of effort for the map to be completed and the mission accomplished.

Ancient Chinese sea farers probably had better maps but history was shaped elsewhere. Galileo was struck by the bolt from the blue but complete acceptance came centuries later.

We need a new set of maps for the next phase of the journey. Most maps waste our time and effort. If we have a unified map, it would point us to the solution space. The ship is ready but the captain is waiting for the map.

Maps are many and they multiply exponentially. Aggregation and synthesis within domains and disciplines do happen but less so between disciplines.

Meta maps reduce the search effort to choose the appropriate map/s for one’s journey as individuals, as members of particular communities and for the collective journey of human progress

Environment, development and sustainability are critical and complex concerns that call for concerted community action across the planet. Simple solutions and quick fixes aggravate the problems.

Every scientist faces the problem of communicating his work within the shortest span of time to the widest audience which points to the complexity of communicating science to the masses in contexts where there is no substitute for reason and collective action.

The GUI, essentially a map and a pointer to possible virtual journeys, took   computers to the living rooms across the planet. The web and the cloud open up vast libraries of information and knowledge. The visual framework discussed here was evolved in the process of addressing the environmental, developmental and sustainability challenges in the state of Kerala while working with livelihood and food security issues in primary production (livestock and fisheries) to evolve institutional systems to address them.

The framework was later put to use in addressing similar issues in one of the largest information technology infrastructure projects to connect local communities for development and governance and   in schools, industry and academia as a tool for facilitation of accelerated organizational / community learning. 

Beyond the Burden of ‘Normality’

December 26, 2004

We were rushing to Cape Comorin, the southern tip of peninsular India, two families on a holiday.

Fishermen on the high seas were casting their nets.

People in other parts of the world were asleep, dreaming good and bad dreams

The Tsunami was wreaking havoc on the Cape Comorin shore, on other shores

We knew when we were blocked on the road by the police.

Most fishermen on the high seas knew when they returned to the shore.

Many never knew

When we ride much bigger waves spanning centuries, we are most likely to take them for granted.  It is Procrustean to catch a giant wave into the bell curve in the time span of a snapshot sans the ripples that the wave creates. So is writing a book about it, the damage is permanent. The trees are already dead.

A blog post is better because I can come back and correct this when I know better and if I am alive. Time is a better judge of our power trips.

Copy CATs do not catch mice

Black or white, intelligent or idiots, they should catch mice. They do, in China, it seems.

This happened here in India, the Biggest Bazaar, apologies to KB

Why do we have to clone cats when we make the best mousetraps?

Let us clone the very best cats, go for a bio-tech solution rather than a manufacturing one. It was decided that we will have the Indian solution and the CAT came to be. The first centre was so successful that beating the CAT became the ultimate dream of the slum dog billions. Every panchayat wanted to have one such center. A task force was constituted to decide the exact number of centers to be set up.

There was this farmer from pre territorial independent days who had four sons and 4 + daughters. The female numbers do not really count. One from the + side had only daughters and Nuthan was the youngest of them.  Of the four idiots, three went to the IITs and one took a short cut to one of the CAT centers. He wanted to prove that he was a better idiot than the rest.

One cool January morning Nuthan calls.

Hi, I cleared the CAT and am called to all the centers

Congratulations, you will soon be the newsmaker 2011

Why ?

You are one among 206,000, almost a Black Swan.  We need to wait before concluding that we are getting mature going by the 15% drop in numbers from the previous year.

You deserve the Miss India talent crown. To the best of my knowledge you never went to school or college but spent most of those years in indoor stadia all over the country, having a ball. You never picked up any quant other than balancing the financial statements in your B. Com finals. Yet you did better than the best in School and College.

What was your percentile?

99.2

Nuthan, you are the cutest of all the cats. All the top cats with a perfect 100 belong to the male of the species, went to IITs, went to school every single day, did their coaching circus and most of them took more than one shot to make it. You don’t figure anywhere here and you have a work ex of three years playing for the oil company which you claim to have been working for and getting paid for it.

Thank you.  I am scared whether I will convert the calls or not.  Will you give me some tips to make it to the finals, clearing the GDPI (for the uninitiated this expands to, Group Discussion and Personal Interview)

If you can bell the CAT without going to the circus you can as well do this without me. You should be scared that they will make you conform.

I know you have helped some to beat the CAT

Ok. Let me run a small test for you

What is the scope for more CAT cloning centers in the country?

13 more

Why?

We already have 13, and there are only 26 letters in the ‘Inglish’ alphabet. Taking the UID route will kill the unique value proposition of the brand. One should not kill the golden goose.

Good, you are already half way there to half the centers

What is Indian about the Indian Institute of CATs

I don’t know

Very good, that is why you are going there. You are almost there for 75 % of the centers

Next one, if they ask what if you don’t make it this year?

I will show them my GRE score which is even better than my CATS and tell them that you will have to face me next year with a still better CATS

Congratulations Nuthan, you will convert all the calls

Here is the last one. Suggest a few titles to the passage above

  • Normalization and the True Normal
  • Copy cats Do not Catch Mice
  • The Bell Curve in Indian Life
  • The Fourth Idiot
  • Talent Mania and The War For Talent
  • What is Indian about the Indian Institutes of Management?
  • MCPs and the Revenge of the Underdogs.

Great, don’t go back to school. They will make you conform to the other idiots, crucify = normalize you on the Procrustean bed. Gates and Zuckerman and the other natives of the connected world graduated from the market, nothing but a different version of the same. Copy cats do not catch mice.

Nuthan:  What is Indian about the IIMs?

I don’t know dear

Thanks. (Thank God, I didn’t go to school)

Similitude to living and dead CATs is intentional

Thou shall not Judge…but

The procrustean is the bedrock of modernity (mediocrity), the generator of pyramids and the hierarchical.   Procrustes is a monomaniac, a Narcissus who sees that he fits his frame perfectly and uses the same to sit in judgment. I am intelligent and the other is less intelligent. I am normal and the other is fit for the madhouse.  I am civilized and the other is primitive. I am a native and you are an immigrant. Mine is the only faith that guarantees salvation. He is the economist who says the American is 35 times more ‘developed’, since the Indian has an average income of 1000 dollars against 35000 for the American. Has anybody met the average Indian or the average American?    The happiness index is outside his frame of reference.

Our Mr Talent does not take to fools easily. He thinks the mainstream media is trash. To reply to the fools who read his books is not worth his time, the real resource, according to his own frame. He finds his dollar worth pocketing since that is the price he fixes himself for his intellectual accomplishments. He declares himself a flaneur, a Black Swan, Prophet in the making.

Prophets ‘normally’ come from the east.  Lao tsu, Buddha, Christ, Mohammad, Sankara (from Kerala) Our Mr. Talent could be a candidate for the elite corps of Black Swans. The rest of us are white swans. That sums up the HIStory of 2500 years.

Prophets can be understood only against their contexts. Christ and the society which created him are so interdependent, that to strip them and to judge them in isolation is procrustean. So is Lao Tzu, Buddha, Prophet Mohammad and Shankara. Black makes sense only against the white.

Mr Talent the immigrant rides the American wave better than the natives beating the natives in their own game and nearly transforms himself to a bridge figure.   Uprooted by the Procrustean and forced to flee, let us hope that he will not sacrifice himself on the bed of Procrustes. Gladwell starts on a very promising note highlighting how community contributes to the health of the Rosettto but very soon succumbs to the compulsions of conforming to the recipe to make it to the best-seller list and goes after what constitutes the success cocktail.

All of them are male?

This is part of the reason why we have the silent unseen wars between,  the female against the male,  the unconscious against the conscious, the revenge of the underdogs,  and why the Built to Last fall apart no sooner than they are built.

Black Swans to Black Sheep?

Throughout these posts we refer to people, not books. The books take us to the people since work defines the person. In the same spirit we look at the living rather than those long dead and still not buried.  What we see depends on where we stand, our positions. One could take the Wall Street perspective or the Bangalore Perspective. The Black swan from the New York perspective turns out to be a Black Sheep from the Bangalore position.

Some books, people and books yet to be written J

  • The Fifth Discipline, 1990, Peter M. Senge
  • If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him, 1974, Sheldon Kopp
  • The Bell Curve, Intelligence and Class structure in American Life,1994, Richard  Herrnstein, Charles Murray
  • Outliers, 2008, Malcolm Gladwell
  • The Black Swan, 2007, The Bed of Procrustes, 2010, Nicholas Nassim Taleb
  • Can Asians Think?,1999,Kishore Mahubani
  • Three Idiots,2009, Movie from India
  • Tunnel Vision, TV. Yet to be published
  • The WFT and the Future History of the Modern Pyramids, 2111. Yet to be published – it takes a gap of around 100 years to normalize our achievements and  to put them in perspective.

The above passage was circulated to the tribe. The comments:

  • Does normal exist?  Yes, when we are true to the design, we are truly normal. It has nothing to do with the fleeting ‘normality of the time’.  The compulsion  to conform to this stupid normality is the burden of normality
  • Based on the ‘normal’ perspective Nuthan would not have been able to get a CAT call since she did not tread the beaten path. She had meaningful answers for the sort of absurd questions that are asked at GDPI, questions tailored to fit the standard profile of those who clear CAT. Despite not being on the conventional bell curve Nuthan was able to crack everything designed to fit the standard CAT profile.
  • Exceptions point to the truly normal and only the truly normal can aspire to be super normal.

Thou shall judge… but keeping in mind the other 51 posts in the series.

P.S. 19 April 2011. Nuthan calls again. She did make it to the one she wanted.

What the Dog Saw…Did not See

Visualizing Knowledge

From the lowly perspective of a dog’s eyes, everyone looks short – Chinese proverb

From knowing to SEE ing

All dogs do not see the same

Stray dogs see better  than domesticated dogs

The latter become less intelligent in the process.  Leveling?

They may not be very ‘lowly’ as the Chinese say

We haven’t fared any better than them

On Community Intelligence !

Even the dog sees that we have gone astray !