Aligning with the unknown

Connect to your best friend

  • Why should I?
  • How do I diagnose whether the unknown is working for or against me?
  • How do I align myself with the unconscious, the unknown and the unknowable?
  • What are the payoffs of aligning with the unknown?

If this makes sense, go to next:

Start here:

Build the lighthouse

Light the beacon, Watch out

Notes from light house keepers

Before: self, by default

After: SELF, By design

The Misinformation Overload and another Snake oil Cure

Misinfographics

It is the same wine, in a larger bottle

Packaging is everything in a cosmetic culture

You seem to be at your humorous best

It is not humor, call it pathetic humor.

The best packaging, container, will not take care of poor content in the long run. Snake oil salesmen will make only quick bucks.

That seems to be what business is all about! How do you separate the chaff from the grain?

We will first arrive at the essential content, the ideal, that which renders real value not the kind of value that marketeers   create out of ‘appropriate selfishness’. When we club all our appropriate selfishness we get what we see.  Osama is less dangerous than Obama

What do you mean?

The enemy within is more dangerous because all our defenses are pointed towards the one outside. And though we might have all the equipment we will not be equipped to pull the trigger when it is called for because of this internal squeamishness. The emperor is naked though fully covered up by the most elaborate and intricate ornamentation

Is there an enemy outside.

It depends on the position. From  a variant position, yes and from the invariant, no. There is no enemy out there. All deaths are suicides and all conversation a soliloquy.

The ideal is an internal dress code, the bare minimum to cover up our nakedness. The day we were discussing the issue one of our participants had a dream of a beautiful tomb. She could also see the rotting body of the emperor inside.

She must have been a good Christian?

She had overheard her parents reading the bible

The ideal is pure potential, perfection, reason, will, design, internal, conceptual, god for ordinary mortals, the grand design  for Hawking, in essence the same content in different packaging. Re-packaging is what creates the best sellers.  The semantic swamp that results appears to be information at first glance.

Let us get back to the roots. Sanskrit means, processed, civilized, cultured as against, Prakrit, the primitive, unprocessed. The essential content is the output of this processing that goes on, something which is perennial, universally relevant, beyond time and space, ‘akshaya’, immortal, culture or the ideal. We need to be clear on this to master separating the chaff from the grain.

This is the most essential competency to survive today.

Why flout all the rules of grammar and convention?

Sanskrit was the language of processing at one time. We need a new language of processing and our language experts suggested, Inglish. Inglish does not have the worldview that goes with English nor most of its rules of grammar. It is a common purpose oriented language which retains the essence. Most memories and conventions keep us tied down to the past.

So how does this competency take care of the information overload?

Information overload is a misnomer since the very character of information is that it kills variety and reduces the overload. It increases the order, fights decay and death. It is life giving.  We might call this data overload which is a boon to the storage industry and those who put all their faith in more power to the machines and less to the humans in general but not necessarily to an elite few.

We need some kind of meta information about information itself.

‘Ravana’, the emperor,  has ten heads, quite a burden for most practical purposes.  The ideal is mapped under ten heads in the call out in the top left quadrant of the map.  We have ten balls within that one ball.

You are making it more complicated? All those ten heads didn’t really help him.

All complexity is not a curse. Requisite complexity and variety are unavoidable. Miss out on anyone of the recipe, the dish goes to the garbage dump.

Why ten?

Ten is the minimum requisite variety to understand the basic design, the master templates of nature.

What do these ten heads stand for?

Let us take the information head. The information head is information about information. In the absence of this information one will not be able to transform data to information and reduce the complexity. Misinformation overload is the result

Another example

2×2 = 4, 4×4= 16, 16×16= 256, 256 x 256 =?

The multiplication table ceases to serve the purpose at a certain stage of increasing complexity. All tools reach this limit and at some stage the wheel needs to be reinvented. Reinventing is a new synthesis. It is relevant in other contexts too. When one has a major accident, on the road or off, it is time for a new synthesis. There are always better solutions and the best is always yet to come. Even health and healing is more about information than about medicines.

Now a little more meditation on the ten will give you all the clues. You are on your own.

Why always leave a large part of it unexplained?

We need to break from treating others as children, like all governments do, and relate as adults so that the adult emerges.  We point to the issue and one has to figure it out for oneself if it has to be of any use.

Bon Voyage

The Window to the Self – A Thought Experiment

Return to the Centre and the new beginning

Imagine yourself at the centre of a perfect sheet of rubber being inflated all around in the conflict between the old and the new, the ideal and the operational.   Being a perfect sheet of rubber it does not get torn but stretches perfectly. The centre of the sheet remains at the centre, undisturbed

Now imagine the sheet being transformed into a perfect football. What happens to the centre? The centre is shifted to the centre of the football and the football is being kicked around in the world-cup with no timelines.

It is a perfect football. Nothing happens to the centre. It remains at the centre absolutely centred, motionless and at peace. Sometime during the process of being kicked around the football becomes aware of what is going on.  Instead of being chased around it decides to chase the players!

Imagine your own self, the perfection and the conflicts and the process of becoming centred, taking the lighthouse position and the beginning of the journey of sustained continuous improvement.

Infographics – Return to the Centre, 

Metaphoria of Transformation

“Connecting with Consumers Using Deep Metaphors.

Famous brands have an emotional meaning that taps into thoughts and feelings related to the positive aspects of transformation, according to Gerald Zaltman and Lindsay Zaltman, authors of  Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal about the Minds of Consumers (HBS Press 2008). Transformation is just one metaphor that finds expression in products that satisfy deeply held consumer needs and desires. Other metaphors they notice include balance, journey, and connection”. Martha Lagace,  http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/5871.html

To learn is to connect.  To connect is to solve a problem, recognize or see the pattern and in the process the solution emerges. The learning resultant from problem solving, accumulated knowledge, catalyzes development and growth.

Some learning is possible only through parables or stories.  Stories synchronise brains. The story outlines that follow can be used to develop the connecting, catalyzing and reflecting skills. A story acts like a map, a metaphor and can be used to connect the internal and external territories to unearth something that people already know at deeper levels.

E.g. connectivity and the structure of silicates, maps and meta maps, programs and meta programs, competencies and meta competencies, archetypes and design

More metaphors

1. Story of One , Differently Abled Child and the Teacher

2.Mental maps – Eagle’s gift

Thinking about what we can’t think about

The eagle nests on the tallest tree

The tree is by the side of a very deep well

In the well is a community of frogs. The well is so deep that the frogs have never been out of the well.

As the sun sets and the darkness rushes into the well, the little ones in the community crowd around the nanny frog pestering her for stories.  May be she will repeat one of those stories, yet it is still very comforting at the time when the shades of grey drives out th world of light darkness takes over.

Darkness is yet to take over the tree tops. It is very rare that it happens, once in a while when the sky is completely clouded and stars are invisible.

At times the eagle listens to the familiar stories. Over the years of its immortal life, it has heard them many times over, many versions of the same stories over many generations. There is nothing new about the stories other than it is almost a ritual that disturbs it in some way.

It is another day

The thermals are forming. The eagle is waiting for the thermals to gather force.  It is quite strong now.

The eagle swoops down into the well, grabs the nanny frog with its claws and rise up from the well into the sky assisted by the thermal moving up at a frightening pace.

The heights and the fear of death overtakes the frog. It shuts it’s eyes tight and wait for the inevitable.

The eagle has reached the heights and hovers there circling in the sky. It goes round and round for a long long time. It senses that the frog has quieted down and has opened its eyes. The thermal is waning. It gently floats down once again into the well and gently leaves the frog from where it has been taken for a ride.

On the return journey the frog had just a glimpse of the larger world outside the well.

The eagle goes back to the tree and waits for the sun to set waiting for the story of the day.

What will be the story of the day?

The participants are to write down a story and the trainer gives the feedback based on participants’ stories. Switch the roles of Eagles and trainers so that trainers don’t come to assume that they are the eagles. One has to be an eagle and at times a frog depending on the context.

The human condition is like that of the frog in the well. The mental maps are influenced by the ‘well’ we live in. They are improved with every bit of learning. The developmental process involves revision and improvement of the mental models or maps. Facilitators play a very critical role and to fulfil these roles they need to have the necessary competencies.

3. The Chandrasekhar Effect.

Chandrasekhar is a very saintly soul who has a weakness for     liquor.  One morning we found him in front of his regular hangout. Chandrasekhar was relieved to meet some familiar faces. He came out with a question which he wanted to ask somebody who is familiar. Even at this stage he was aware that his condition might make him ask stupid questions and he did not want to be humiliated.  The question was “Where am I?” We take the most fundamental for granted which takes us farther away from reality. When our basic assumptions, the home position, are wrong it is certain that we will reach some place where we never wanted to be. Any process of improvement calls for fixing a starting position, deciding on the direction and reflecting/review with reference to the starting position. A large number of people were asked this question as to what our basic needs are and the first reply is always the text book answer, “food, shelter, and clothing”. But for the person who has decided that life itself is meaningless none of these matter. If they are asked to respond to a question like “How many sides the coin has?” the answer is always the same – two, though with a little bit of clarification they will soon shift their original positions.   One of the obstacles, as old as history and symbolized in the story of Babel, to reaching a solution to the issue is the semantic confusion and that there is very little convergence between the domains that have the potential to offer solutions.

4. Blind men and the elephant

5. Don’t shoot the messenger

6. Mahabali and Vamana

7. Taj Mahal / cathedral Building

Emperor Shajahan asked the same question to the three stonecutters.  “What are you doing?”

The three answers are:

“I am earning a living”,

“I am polishing stones, and I am the best stonecutter available”

“I am building a monument which is an expression of the love of the emperor to his beloved and this stone that I am polishing will be the corner stone of the monument”

It is obvious that the third mason is more likely to meet the standards for quality and quantity and that if all the three are to meet these and other standards – of effectiveness, excellence and zero defects – the third mason’s vision is to be shared. When we work more and more with intangibles and the slave driver is replaced by one’s own self this becomes all the more difficult but essential to keep the network as one, connected.

9. Indra and the pigs – Resistance to change.

Indraonce transformed himself into a pig just to find out why   pigs enjoyed wallowing in the mud. He remained there till Narada searched him out and compelled him to go back to his former self.  It is quite possible that we get stuck with poor performance and come to accept that this as the limit of our possibilities till a compelling experience/crisis or vision might lift us out of the situation.

10.  Frog soup

A frog is placed in a bowl of cold water.  Turning on a heater     gently warms the water.  The frog initially enjoys the warmth and feels comfortable.  The increase in warmth is so gentle that the frog does not notice it.  The warmth gradually increases; the frog falls into a stupor and eventually turns into frog soup. The opposite possibility is that of continual renewal, to respond creatively to the process on a real time basis.

The story is quoted in two of the popular books on management, The Renewal Factor (Waterman) and The Fifth Discipline (Peter M Senge).  The frog in the cold water initially enjoys the increasing warmth of water in which it is immersed and by the time it is unbearable it is immobilized and incapable of escape from death.  The process of continual renewal is the opposite of this whereby individuals, institutions or a community continually respond to the environment and improve their contexts.  The process is qualitatively different and most often ignored in the preoccupation with the short term.  U.S. companies now lose half their employees every four years, half their customers in five, and half their investors in less than twelve months[ii]. The returns on investment, yield rate of stocks, market capitalisation   or increase in value of ESOP by themselves are not sufficient measures of success.  Corporates need to be concerned about the internal as well as the broader external community also, other than the shareholders and the targeted market segments.

11.  The Cannon Shot/The Two Roads

The road by design and by default

The two roads, one by design and the other by default and the  moment of truth.

What we believe as maturity, normal, is a HABIT, history, the roadblock.

The system at physical birth is comparable to the bullet that leaves the barrel of a gun.

The bullet is helpless to influence its trajectory.

Most systems, individuals or institutions seldom go beyond this level without that choice, a conscious decision to evolve, becoming aware of the position, direction and reflecting on the progress.

When it happens the bullet goes into orbit.

The linear is the road by default, the road to death, accidents, burnout and the road on which time runs out.

The other is the road to eternity, continual renewal and timelessness by CHOICE, the conscious decision to be on the road to continual IMPROVEMENTs, creating the future NOW, by DESIGN,  a future better than the present.

The cannon shot does not have the potential to become aware of it’s self. Individuals and organizations have the unique capability of self-observation and self regulation which implies the possibility of improvement.   This is what qualifies us to be termed human. The cannon shot that goes out of the cannon has no possibility of becoming aware of itself and the outcome is already determined at the moment of its departure from the cannon.  But the more advanced of human creations like those of sophisticated machines do have more and more of self-regulation built into them.  Thus in the case of space vehicles and satellites, extent of self-regulation and the possibility of controlling the behavior of the system from outside the system increases.  The extent of self-regulation, the possibility of reflecting on one’s behavior and even laugh at it, is what draws us apart as a class, from the rest of the systems.  In the case of the cannon shot gravity operates mercilessly and ultimately the shot is overtaken by it when the shot reaches terra firma.  In the case of individuals and organizations, it is the vision that keeps them going.  The vision is liable to be corrupted and needs to be renewed continuously.  Just as gravity operates continuously, the forces of decay too is natural to all systems.  In nature decay and renewal are continuous and it follows that for organizations to sustain growth, the effort at renewal too needs to be continuous’.

12. Ashram and the prophets– Leadership, Creating and Renewing Vision and Shared Values.

There is an ashram in which four sanyasins struggle to make both ends meet. There has been a golden time for the ashram when crowds used to flock together to the ashram but now the ashram has fallen on bad times with no visitors and no income.  One of the sanyasins hit upon the idea of visiting another sanyasin in a distant place to seek help.  They set out on the journey together, meet the sanyasin and present the problem. The sanyasin sends them back with just one piece of advice – One of you is a prophet. The sanyasins are not able to find out who   the prophet is but over time the ashram renews itself and recovers the lost glory.   ”.

13.  First monkey – Creative communities

There live a community of monkeys in an island. They had never eaten the nuts of a particular tree.   A curious little monkey picked up one of these nuts, dips it in seawater and eats it.  It finds that the nut is very delicious.  Rest of the monkeys slowly follows the little monkey one by one. Eventually the nut becomes a common meal for all the monkeys and when a critical number of monkeys pick up this habit, the behavior spreads all throughout in no time, all over the world. The group soon emulates the behavior of the first monkey.  When the group size crosses a certain critical mass, the new behavior is manifested globally without any apparent interconnections.  Something, which was beyond the realm of possibility, has now become possible and collective learning results. The phenomenon is observed in many other situations also.  Fostering individual creativity within the organizational community is integral to continual renewal.  Besides, the context now offers the possibility of creative individuals to make much larger global impact.  The typical examples are the emergence and growth of startup IT ventures during the last two decades.

14. The Imperial Chill – Daniel Quinn

15. Sheet of Rubber and the Football – Centralization and decentralization, Yes and No, Static / Dynamic

16. Caterpillar and the Butterfly, Seed to Tree, Cream to Butter, Ahalya, Pygmalion and Galatea , Rama and Ahalya

17. Less is more

18.  Complex vs simple

2×2=4

4×4=16

16×16=256

256×256= ?

19. Blindness, Seeing, Jose Saramago

20. Magister Ludi, Herman Hesse

21. Time

Mastery of time involves going beyond the ordinary or common to the transcendental experience of time. The common understanding is very essential to deal with the day to day world but this is never the complete story. It is only a partial truth (illusion). Time /timelessness is another duality, gate, to learning the direct (mystic) experience, freeing one from the entanglement of a linear experience of time.There is nothing linear about nature. Linear time kills in many ways. Timelessness, eternity, is a common experience if one reflects over those experiences when time stood still, while you were in love vs. waiting for a P breakts

22. Timelessness/Real time

Real time

What black is to white is time to timelessness, as memory is to forgetting

Linear time meets memory at ground zero

To beget the NEW

As the eagle soars up in the sky details get blurred

But the essential is not lost

It swoops down faster to the goal.

Knows when to strike and when to sail

To switch between time and timelessness

What to gather and to leave behind

Complete the learning so as to forget

Learn history so that history is not repeated

Both personal and collective, for the flow of life to go on

Bury the dead so that renewal rules, not death and decay

Free the ground for the dance of eternity – timelessness

23. Habit/New habits

New habits

Transcend habits by more powerful habits.

Habit is history that keeps us stuck. Even death is a habit  and fear of death is the mother of all fears which drives many businesses. Resistance creates resistance. If the child wants to touch fire we can tell her don’t do it – a sure fire way of achieving what we never wanted. Instead show her the butterfly. Her attention is shifted to something beautiful. Big time improvement strategists play the latter game. They don’t preach change. They play the game of radical improvement through which people come together as one, in relationships, internal and external alignment, creating history. In the process we move forward, get unstuck. Everyone wins and none loses.

Amor is the Roman god of love. The root from Sanskrit ‘amar’ means immortal and ‘amrut’ is that which makes one immortal – knowledge. Work is love expressed – Kahlil Gibran. The path to immortality, exceptional performance, is possible only through transformation of work as expression of the self, an expression of love

24. The Light House Position. What is your call?

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is then not an act but a habit – Aristotle

Juggling with P’s – The Picture of Philosophy

Further :

Buddha’s smile, silence is

1990.

We had a Buddha’s picture and one of us would start off

Why is the Buddha smiling?

Some of the answers were

“It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure it out. It is simple. If it is that complex God wouldn’t have anything to do with it – that only the ‘Einstein’s’ would be able to figure it out.” ‘

It is all there in you. You don’t need me.”

“Stretch your lips. That is all it takes to improve the world.”

We took the game to our community stretch workouts which would go on for 8-10 hours for 3-5 days, to give us breaks in between. The game came to be called ‘The Buddha’s Smile’ and continues to evolve.

Here is how it goes after a bout of questions and answers on his smile.

Close your eyes. Stretch your lips just enough to feel the gentle vibrations around them when you smile. Be with it. Come back when you notice that the stretch is lost to regain the pleasant feeling. Observe your breathing as it goes in and out of your nostrils. Go with it, in an out. Observe the breathing becoming slower and slower

Imagine that you are lying down on the ground on a rectangular sheet of rubber with your hands and legs along the diagonals

Keep observing the stretch of your lips and the rate of breathing

Imagine the centre of the sheet, where the diagonals meet and the sheet being stretched evenly in all directions. The sheet is under stress and there is conflict all around. But the centre is not disturbed. At the centre, ground zero is the lighthouse with nine levels. Keep connected to the stretch of your lips, breathing, the centre and the growing silence. Four garden plots of rectangular and equal size spread out from the centre. The sheet turns into a foot ball and is filled up. The centre of the sheet is shifted to the centre of the football. It is being kicked around but the centre is not disturbed. Imagine the football to be a living organism, an amoeba or a cell in your body capable of going on continually

Re-NE…Wing its self.  Observe the stretch, rate of breathing, the centre and the silence

Silence                                                           IS

This is a rough cut of the game. The details vary with the facilitator, community and from events to events. Buddha continues to smile

Stretch your lips. The body chemistry improves….

Silence                                    IS
Most eloquent

the space between every letter, word and sentence. But for these, gaps nothing would be communicated.

Aruna is beautiful, deaf and dumb, in her teens. She comes home with her mother in the morning to help Lizzie with the household chores. Liz makes a lot of noise with her mother, to get things done her way and often fails. Aruna is different. Nothing needs to be said. She connects directly to Liz – no noise – in silence.  She connects intuitively to whatever Liz wants done and always exceeds her expectations.  There is perfect communication, best results and no noise. When they leave Liz makes a lot of noise. She is overwhelmed. All praise and wonder as to how she does it

We learn, communicate, connect and reflect in silence yet seldom do we recognize the power and value of silence and to be connected to the centre. Silence is the most powerful weapon, the communicator. We are afraid to face it and keep making noise to avoid facing it like an idiot box that cannot be switched off.

Connect to the centre in us, the silence, at the core of our being.

At the centre there is absolute silence

Return to the Centre (Bede Griffiths).

Silence                                  is

Our Models of the World

The Eagle’s Gift

The eagle lived on the tree beside a deep well and in the well a community of frogs. None of them had ever been out of the well. Every night the eagle could hear the granny frog tellling bedtime stories to the young one. One morning when the thermals had begun rising in the air, the eagle swooped into the well, grasped one little frog in its claws and rose up with the thermal. The heights and the fear of death overtook the little one. Then the eagle let go of the frog from the heights above the well. While falling back, the frog had just a glimpse of the world outside. The eagle went back to the tree and waited for the sun to set, to hear the story of the day. What will be the story of the day? Tell us?

We have been collecting these stories for over 19 years now. Initially everyone connects it in their own ways.

Some identify themselves with the eagle and some with the frog and the fear of death. Not many with both, eagle and the frog, the big and the small, telescope and the microscope, Hubble and the Femtoscope, Global and local and the  connections in between, how mental models are formed and revised to become  mental maps – knowledge

How best to continually learn and how an old world of the frog collapses or the new frames come to sit on the older version of the software. A new world is born. Yet we are all in that well – of Nature

We will never see all of it, but we can see much more now than any time in the past and there is a long way to go on that road.

Knowledge architecture

Meenakshi asked, “Explain knowledge architect” and Wanderer found the word “awesome”

Knowledge Architecture is Knowledge + Design, as we see it.
Designed to?
• Creating a more desirable future.
• Learning faster as individuals and communities
• Targeted at problem specific solutions
• Deliver sustained improvements.
• Facilitate dialogue and learning
Most often, solutions do not lead to net improvements. The provider turns myopic to the issue out of a natural bias to one’s own baby, driven by selfishness than appropriate selfishness (Handy), create leaders and followers, teachers and students amounting to more of dependence than independence and interdependence
Knowledge is the sum of all that we know, we will know and can know and the process is learning. To learn is to connect, reflect and catalyze- better, faster and deeper and improve together. Parents and teachers desire that children learn faster. Managers desire that they learn faster than the competition. Citizens wish that the country positions itself as a learning community and improve faster. But do we really learn?
There is extreme urgency for rapid learning in the context of environmental concerns, social divides, growth vs. inequity, war for talent, inclusiveness and the role of corporations in creating a more desirable future. Technical connectivity enhances the possibility of real time collective and purposive learning. Complexity of these issues demands a new pedagogy, tools and processes. More of the same would not suffice. It is not that we may not know. It is also equally important to design new ways of prioritising, showing, experiencing, comprehending what we already know at a greater scale and pace. Knowledge architecture addresses these issues of crafting new ways of seeing, a prerequisite to creating a more desirable future. There are many ways to achieve this.

Visemiotics is one. Symbols facilitate easier navigation than written text as in the case of GUI of computers and software applications. A picture is worth a thousand words. At times there is no substitute for a visual symbol as in the case of road signs. Some aspects can only be communicated through visual symbols and text often hides the big picture. The younger generation is more visually dependant than on any other stimuli for learning. The visual stimuli have the highest bandwidth too. Yet one cannot ignore any one since each one has their own preferences. Stories, storytelling, scenarios, dream work, models, experiential leaning, open space, real time management development, dialogues, a lot many tools are now available to take care of the process.
The integral framework is a visual tool, a product of knowledge architecture to accelerate learning and mastery of some of these competencies

+ Manish Agarwala, the Mac Arthur Grant 2009

Employability and the War for Talent (WFT)

India is the top remittance receiving country in the world with annual remittances of 1, 28,500 Crores which is even more than the defence expenditure of the country. Kerala and Tamil Nadu account for half of the total immigrants. The bulk of remittances are from West Asia contributed by semiskilled and unskilled labour. The demographic profile of immigrants is in transition and the next generation of new entrants to the job market need skills and competencies of a different order to leverage the demographic dividend of the country and to move up the value chain Enhancing employability and quality are major issues to be addressed expeditiously.

Over 6, 00,000 B.Tech/ MCAs and 20, 00,000 other graduates pass out every year from colleges in the country. The number of engineering graduates is more than double that of graduates who pass out of all US universities. For many of these young people the lure of employment rather than aptitude influenced the decision to choose the course of study.  Even a professional degree is not always a passport to a certain job, more so in the global context that increasingly compels to focus on quality and productivity of human resources.

Employment in the government and public sector is down from 19.6 million in 1997 to 19.1 million in 2001.  Employment in the organised private sector increased marginally from 7.58 million in 1990 to 8.65 million by 1998. Corporates are shedding jobs and the potential for job cuts is increasing. Jobs in the service sector, hotels, tourism, financial services, insurance, trade, BPO and telecom, is increasing and the trend is likely to continue. The software sector, for example, is projected to grow at around 20-25% (?) and BPO at 70%. BPO alone is expected to account for around 2 million new jobs by 2010. But these new jobs are insignificant when compared to the 16 million people who are expected to join the workforce by this time.

Employability is the capability to gain initial employment, maintain employment and obtain new employment if required. The war for talent (WFT) model is elitist in character. It is assumed that there is only a limited pool of outstanding talent that becomes even more important as companies compete on innovation, knowledge and ideas. Employability is a measure of individual contribution.  It celebrates the Darwinian struggle for success and sees income in equalities as a fair reflection of market contribution. It assumes that organizations are driven by small elite of leaders that stand head and shoulders above the rest of the work force. It also supports the view that elite should be identified and developed at an early stage. Once selected their mobility is sponsored within the organization in preparation for the leadership roles they are expected to assume. The liberation of talent model is based on a different set of assumptions of the knowledge economy. It recognizes that the problems of intelligence and knowledge have changed. There is not a limited pool of innate talent. But rather the major problem today is how to utilize the capabilities of the work force. This calls for new ways of approaching the management of talent given the fact that the majority entering the job market will be university graduates, technical or non-technical.

From the perspective of employability of fresh graduates, there exists a wide gap between what industry wants and what educational institutions offer. The requirements of firms vary depending on their business areas.  No educational institution can meet the full complement of such dynamic and fluctuating requirements. While striving to meet the academic requirements of a particular programme, some other skills that are essential to survive and succeed in the work environment are left out. Though not deliberate, this emphasis on technical excellence alone ignores the human aspects that are increasingly becoming essential in the new workplace.  Employers usually have the following expectations from new recruits.1
Work ethic, including self-motivation and time management.
* Physical skills, e.g., maintaining one’s health and good appearance.
* Verbal (oral) communication, including one-on-one and in a group.
* Written communication, including editing and proofing one’s work.
* Working directly with people, relationship building, and teamwork.
* Influencing people, including effective salesmanship and leadership.
* Gathering information through various media and keeping it organized.
* Using quantitative tools, e.g., statistics, graphs, or spreadsheets.
* Asking and answering the right questions, evaluating information, and
applying knowledge.

* Solving problems, including identifying problems, developing possible
solutions, and launching solutions.

However during the selection process it becomes quite obvious that some of these basic, ‘soft’ skills are wanting in many new graduates. Industry sources point out that only 6 out of every 100 applicants finally make it through to jobs in the ITES sector, and that too only when the selection process is conducted in cities such as Bangalore, Mumbai or New Delhi!

For people working in technology the ‘hard’ skills include the technical competencies the individual possesses, skills that are obtained through formal education and hands-on learning which are measureable and learnable and need to be constantly renewed. ‘Soft’ skills on the other hand are generally interpersonal competencies that are more difficult to define and measure. While one may, for example, learn to make a bomb, even get some practical training in this respect and also get certified to the effect, no consideration is made as to the mental framework of the student. But it is the mental framework, the ‘soft’ skills and attitudes together that decide whether the bomb adds value or adds costs. (September 11).

Besides all this, there are the cultural aspects, embedded in each one which often stands in the way of creating and sustaining a high performance system. Consider for instance, something as simple as the ability to ask questions, a competence that is essential if one is to add value in a professional high performance organisation. Over a decade of working with B- School students, we have found them extremely reluctant to ask intelligent questions. The engineering graduates and graduates from the humanities stream who do not receive much of formal training in these areas are still down the ladder. There is a world of a difference between what students  are exposed to and what they are expected to deliver when they join professional organisations. And this difference can be quite a shock. Bridging this gap and reducing the impact of such shocks is essential to be globally competitive.

Competencies and Skills

Competency is the state or quality of being adequately or well qualified to perform a task. It is synonymous with ability. A person gains competency through education, training, experience, or natural abilities. Competencies are observable or measurable Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSA) that stand out in comparison to superior and ordinary performers. Performance is the accomplishment of a task in accordance with a set standard of completeness and accuracy. While a person may have the skills or knowledge (competency) to perform a task, does not mean he or she will have the desire (attitude) to do so correctly (performance). In other words, competencies give a person the ability to perform, while attitudes give a person the desire to perform.

To generate superior performance, job holders need core competencies that allow them to transition into other jobs, and distinctive competencies to perform in specific positions. This requires the development of a mix of several competencies:

  • The first is a set of core or essential competencies. These are the organizational competencies that all individuals are expected to possess. These competencies define what the organization values the most in people. For example, an organization might want each individual to possess teamwork, flexibility, and communication skills. The goal of the core competencies is for individuals to be able to perform in a diverse number of positions throughout the organization.
  • The second set is the professional or individual competencies. These distinctive competencies are grouped for each job within the organization. For example, a trainer requires a different set of competencies than an accountant, and a teller requires a different set than a maintenance worker.
  • Some jobs also require a third set of specialty competencies. For example, managers require the core and professional competencies discussed above, plus a set of leadership competencies since they occupy a leadership position.

Good generic qualifications such as a B. Tech or MCA are excellent starting points. Some students will acquire additional ‘hard’ skills, for example do a course in mainframe technology or pick up similar additional skills sets to increase one’s options.  Some of these skills are relatively more stable, but others are not as the industry requirements vary from time to time and from firm to firm. But the ‘soft’ skills are more or less set in the sense that all employers look for these skills. Outstanding success is related to these skills. With a combination of these two, the candidate’s chances of securing a job is enhanced.  We will certainly find that we have more growth opportunities in the context of a growing domestic economy and greying population in the developed economies.  It is necessary to hone ones aptitudes since the preliminary screening procedure most often, is based on these aspects and skills  such as verbal ability, logical reasoning, mathematical aptitude, data interpretation, details complexity, visuo spatial aptitude and so on, in addition to developing skills to handle GDs and interviews where the ‘soft’ skills come to play a decisive role.  Hard’ skills change from time to time especially with the rapid pace of change of technologies. There are obvious limitations to students being trained in technical skills that match the requirements of industry.  At the same time ‘soft’ skills do not find a place in the curriculum, and these become critical in the selection process and later success in the career

The strategy, therefore, should be to have the maximum options available – have a good professional degree, consistent performance and good marks, have one or more ‘hard’ skills that are currently in demand and simultaneously strengthen and develop your ‘soft’ skills. Over and above the technical competencies, organisations look for the following competencies at some stage of the selection process. These are skills that will decide the longer term career prospects of employees.

  1. Communicating ideas effectively: Most job openings today seek candidates with strong communication skills, especially public speaking skills.
  1. Team-orientation and emotional intelligence.  How well can one get along with others in the workplace? Most often it is not one’s intellect, experience or skills that make one successful, but the ability to connect reflect and be a catalyst in the process of continuous improvement that makes the difference.
  1. Creative problem solving. Is one a problem solver or worse a problem creator?
  1. Multi-tasking.  Can the aspirant perform a variety of separate tasks at the same time and do all of them well?
  1. Life Long Learning (LLL). Are you willing to keep on learning: How open are you to new knowledge and continuous self-renewal?
  1. Mental maps/ models: Each of us carries a mental map of the world with us. These internal maps are the software that influences performance.  In the context of the learning organisation or continuous improvement these maps are perfected with every improvement. There is also the possibility of being stuck in-between when there is no new learning and concurrent improvement.
  1. Active listening
  1. Managing time

Given the above context, it is an imperative to develop an accelerated learning and competency development framework and methodology to address these issues on a war- footing to ensure that the demographic dividend does no turn into a demographic liability. Over the years the ALCD approach has been tested and it appears that it is certainly feasible to evolve a fast track model with the involvement of all stake holders.