The Nature of Nature:Community/Social/Intelligence/Learning, A Metasystem Perspective

Accelerated Community Learning

Most of us live in  a black or white, flat world. What do we choose to see, black, white, black and white, grey, green, grey and green ?

What we see is what we get. Intelligence is about seeing all of them and beyond. Seeing in pairs (the ark had its pairs) is inevitable since black is black in relation to white. We make sense by comparing. The quadrants pair, reflect each other, Q1 with Q3, Q 2 with Q4, Potential with Performance and Old with New

Potential = Performance + Waste + an Unknown Quantity, our raison d’être

All systems are purposive and reduction in waste is the super ordinate goal of the system

Growth is a process of positioning, fixing the direction (finding true north) and metrics of the  reduction in waste.

Red stands for decay and entropy. Green stands for continual learning and renewal

Community is about the commons, what we collectively share, value, enhance and preserve

More: FDF,  Knowledge Visualization,  

suggested reading :  An Outline of General System Theory (1950) Ludwig von  Bertalanffy

Year 2065

Creating the future now/Remote seeing  !

At times, on certain roads,  we can see to the front as much as we can see behind us if we look back. I am over 60 years and can ‘see’ into my past rather well for 55 + years. Assuming 55 years to be the radius of my mindscape I can see 55 years into the future too.

Due to prevalent mental models I do not see farther than 2024, life expectancy being 74 years in my context.  If I subscribe to this my planning horizon need be just another 14 years which in turn would certainly be influencing my decisions, the prime reason why managers tend to believe in the sprint rather than the marathon.

We believe we can ‘see’ even much farther. If we can see through our DNA  and our collective mind we can see much much farther. Everything about the past is mapped into us in so many different ways and we are as old as the universe. There is something immortal in all of us.

We have been using the following exercise in ‘remote seeing’ mostly with young MBAs in the age group, 22 – 26 years, since 1990 and this gets revised every year.

The mental horizons keep on expanding but what we see hasn’t changed much.

The trends became more pronounced. The majority was taking the exit and the new generation, homo novus, was taking over. The flooding started much earlier but was not recognized by many. The minority could not influence the general flow. They found it more sensible to conserve their energy; certain that time would solve the problem.
The markets were collapsing. Longer life-spans and decline in births changed the very character of demand. The seniors influenced the markets much more. Most products and services could not hold on to market share. People found them not giving any more satisfaction, that many of these were just substitutes, products of survival drive distortions and had no basis in reality. The gold and bullion markets had become part of history. The chemicals and fertilizer industry was putting up a stiff fight to stay afloat. The stock markets too were on the brink of collapse due to the upsurge of loosely held voluntary business associations of real stakeholders. The cities were facing a crisis giving way to communes and virtual communities living a life in communion with nature, part of a loose network of similar ones elsewhere. People often shifted residence from one to the other. People in the communes lived a different life in contrast to the majority who failed to grasp the philosophical backdrop behind such lifestyles.

The shift could, now, no more be ignored.
Marriage and family seemed to be the most affected. With adults freed of the long years of responsibility and investment of their time and effort on child rearing, marriage itself lost most of its relevance. People of similar interests seemed to band together into communities of practice for reasons of professional and personal growth. These networks were more like extended families. Life expectancy had crossed the 100-year mark but people were, surprisingly in much better health for their age than at any time before. The communities were self-sufficient in meeting most of their needs. Products and services were by-products of life rather than ends in themselves. Work, fun, learning and leisure merged to become an indivisible whole and expertise in various aspects of knowledge accumulated in specific communities. Established religions were giving way to a new spirituality focused on conscious evolutionary growth by design.

It appeared that Homo sapiens was being overtaken by Homo novus.

Whether you agree or disagree, future is influenced now.

We can choose the world that we want to be in.

Homo Novus

Is the species of the future?
Gathering the scattered remnants of humanness,  building the Noah’s ark of vestigial human qualities
To salvage Homo sapiens from extinction, the most threatened of all species
Sapiens worshipped the dead, never really buried them fully
Oblivious that they were stuck in the mud
They chanted Buddha and Christ for millenniums
Not wanting to go beyond them
Found immense pleasure in wallowing in the mud
Homo erectus never evolved fully
Never really walked erect, mentally or spiritually
Just another of nature’s game of dice
Now vanishing in the millennium flood
Killing each other in the name of God and Satan
By-products of ignorance, another gate to learning

Homo novus is the human of the future
To be one or not to be is one’s conscious decision
Homo novus is androgynous, trisexual
Building islands of sanity in the midst of chaos
Islands of love and connected-ness
Networked beyond borders
Of those who by choice, select the road not travelled,
The Road by Design

Potter at the Wheel

The river of life flows forever – renewing itself.

A drop from the ocean has the ocean in it

The body is a drop from the ocean of nature.

We are much more than our physical self.

The spirit clothes the physical, animating it.

Soul , the unifier , is yet to take birth, the second birth, more real than our first birth.

It is both a personal and COLLECTIVE CHOICE for true community to emerge.

The soul is the unifier that bridges the divides within and without, in us, amongst us.

Beyond time, without before or after and as ‘old or young’ as the universe.

The body, the physical, is just the potter’s clay, soul the potter and ‘time’ the potter’s wheel.

Potter fashions the pot in tune with his internal map

If the map is of death we die and if that of illness we become ill

We have programmed our – SELVES to die, to fall ill (what a fall?)

Life is anti-death and its only purpose is to defeat death

It is not the food or the medicines but the maps that make the difference

–         The biology of our belief

–         What we believe together is the reality we create

If the map is of health, renewal, the river of life, the body regenerates

In the flow of life, wrinkles vanish, skin glows, old cells flow out, new cells flow in.

Re- collecting the body that we had at 25 and improving it further

Perfect health is so natural and our ‘efforts’ make it unnatural

RE – ‘COGNISE’ the possibility allowing nature to express itself

Not standing against the flow of life, continual renewal
Eat just for the fun of it, fact is you don’t need to (see the blue ocean people) Eat what brings joy to you, drink what you feel like

For it is the soul that fashions the body

The unifying principle, the glue of life, that connects and binds everything together,

That which re – NEWS continually

(Context in which grown 50 + Couples)

I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying. I don’t want to live on in the hearts of my countrymen. I want to live on in my apartment.”    Woody Allen

The singularity perspective

The Singularity Drive

The Singularity Drive

What drives the learning engine is the Singularity Drive.

How do we accelerate (CHANGE) continual improvement and align our SELVES to PERFORM?

Over 100 would be warriors wait to be tested in their skills of using the bow and arrow. The teacher asks the same question, what do you see? before they are allowed to let the arrow leave the string of the bow. All of them see different things. Arjuna is the only one who sees the bird’s eye, the target. He is poised to shoot and there is absolute silence.   Arjuna shoots and hits the bird’s eye. He only passes the test.

When we talk about singularity, the singularity is broken. The artist knows it which drives him to the visual medium. The silence is not broken when the painter or the sculptor achieves IT.

The child in the mother’s womb is in singularity. The singularity is broken at birth, oneness to duality. The newborn becomes more and more aware of its self , the process of taking birth of the self and grows into maturity (do we?) when it reconnects with the whole , Trinity, Singularity ‘ (singularity and singularity ’ !  ?  )

Up to the animal level there is a singularity, akin to that of the child in the womb

Freewill   comes with responsibility, informed choice, between the two arrows that branch out from the level of the animal in Q 3.  The animal pulls us down and the human attempts to break out of the ‘gravitational’ pull, to go into orbit something similar to a space vehicle. Once it goes into orbit it strives to break out from the monotony of repetition, being bounded like a clock.  The linear and static is transcended to the dynamic and real time.


Real improvements lead to narrowing the gap. Yet there will always be a gap like a road which unfolds as one move forward. The invariant lighthouse position (reference point), the direction of the journey, where we are now and true progress in relation to these three become measurable. The problem of metrics is resolved.    We now have the map for accelerated continual improvement.

If the periodic table is a map of the world of matter, this map is a navigational tool for the journey of life.

The singularity drive makes us leap for the impossible. It drives Bubka and Isinbayeva, to take those leaps again and again.  It drives us to sing, paint, sculpt, and create history

The singularity drive

That which drives the mystic

That which drives us to stories, folklore and myths

That which drives us to outperform, from our previous best

The fusion fuel for the learning engine that drives science, religion, art

That which drives us to take the leap into deep space, science fiction

That which drives us to aspire for community, immortality

That which will drive us out of the recession, from booms and busts, to the road of continual renewal and improvement.

What leadership is all about

What managers/institutions are expected to deliver but consistently fail to achieve. The disappointment comes when we park our trust and money elsewhere, much more than in our own SELF, in stocks, gold, god men/women, the consultant, prophets, the new President, at the top of the pyramid.

The foundation and the top needs to be in alignment for continuous improvement to prevail, the new habit, over the habit of precedence. Such alignment transforms the pyramids to continual learning communities.

The world is flatter but not flat.

A Nano to Immortality

David did a nano to Goliath

The Vietnamese did a nano to the US

Chandrayan did a nano to NASA, perhaps Virgin Galactic too.

Ratan Tata did a nano to automobiles

India did a nano to China in auto exports, by default

Raymond Kurtzweil is the champion of technological singularity who Bill Gates endorses as the smartest futurist around and Intel CTO, Rattner says ultimately machine intelligence could match human intelligence.  I wonder whether it would match the average intelligence of sapiens or the smartest human around, perhaps that of Ray. In both cases I am not very thrilled because the average and the exceptionally intelligent equally fail to trigger my curiosity.

Ray predicts this to happen around 2029 when those who are 60 now will be able to live forever with the help of technology available by then. Perhaps nano robots will do the scavenging of your system and continually keep it in shape for ever. I am 60 now and had decided sometime in 1990 that singularity always existed and will continue to exist. Perhaps, ultimately when technological and human singularities are aligned we could design an ideal future and translate this into reality?

What would you choose?

Wait for 2029 or start living now on the assumption that eternity is now and whether you make it to 2029 or not I want to have the most of now?

Even if technological singularity arrives sometime in the future, I could be run over by a BMTC bus on the least walker friendly roads of Bangalore during my daily grind of 9 Kms in 70 minutes and take the exit route. It could be today or tomorrow. Since I believe in human singularity rather than technological singularity I would have lived my days till that inglorious exit with the satisfaction that I lived a full life

I wonder, assuming technological singularity to be a reality in 2029, what would Ray be doing for an eternity to keep boredom at bay. I have never been bored since my shift to human singularity and every one of my decisions since were governed by the eternity time scale rather than my bonus at the end of the quarter.

POSITION, FOCUS and the LEVER: Do you see all the three as ONE?

“Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.”

– Archimedes.

The Path

Abstract to concrete – Imagination, Intent, Manifestation (IIM)

Where are you?

Nishtha asks, “JM, Where are you?  “

Where am I NOW?  I am 20 years into the journey with Nishtha

In Sanskrit, Nishtha means,

Assiduity, great and constant diligence and attention,



Firm devotion



Discipline comes very close to it. The question is about my position then, what is your “nishtha”, position,   in space and time, now?

My profile gives the location as Bangalore. So the question is not about my physical location. She must be referring to my growing up as a person, my journey. We need to ask more questions to give an answer to the question, Where am I ?   The first question on any journey- outside, inside, inside out, outside inside.   The second question is where do I want to go – the direction of the journey. The third is how do I make sure that I am on course – am I moving in the direction that I wanted to go and not speeding towards disaster. This is what a GPS or compass facilitates in our regular journeys.

So where am I now? I need to look back – where was I?  1949, physical birth, bullet that left the barrel of the gun – have written about it earlier, a low level system without self regulation. 1981, takes the lighthouse position, the invariant one, the Facilitator. I am my position (Peter M Senge) I have not shifted from this position since.  But I have other variant positions like the ship in relation to the lighthouse. 1981-90, I was busy making a map for the journey, a tool that help me answer the three questions, ‘The Map of Everything’.  From 1990, I am on the journey with that tool and a methodology to make the journey faster.

We are on  course, we believe.

That leaves room for more questions. Where were you before? Where will you be in 2049? – Centenary of the bullet?

Thank you, Nishtha. The universe must have conspired that we meet and you ask me this question.

The journey continues with nishtha – Discipline

The Path

The Path

Nature is perfect, beyond improvement. Nurture follows from history, institutions, assumptions, and habits- the knowledge hole.

Being from and of nature we too are complete and whole. From completeness arises completeness – being and becoming.

Why all the Ps ?

It was nothing but (was it?) synchronicity. It just fell in place. There are volumes  written on each of the Ps but the volumes will not give us the perspective that the visual gives.

Position, Align and Leverage

Sergey Bubka is my mental map for being positioned and ALIGNED for continual improvement. The site has a visual of Sergey standing poised with the pole for the leap. We also have a female version of Sergey Bubka in the making in Yelena Isinbaeva. Sergey is not just another sports person. He continues to do what he did in the field in other realms. The pole vaulter leverages the pole against the threshold to cross over and does it over and over to set new heights of performance. He is positioned and aligned to perform.  Every pole vaulter does the same, but Sergey is the exception. So what goes into positioning and alignment and leveraging is much more than a question of mechanical advantage.We take our cars to check for alignment. One could think of a similar service for people, organisations, communities and community (for the species)..The top left quadrant represents the internal system, where perfect alignment between all the levels is feasible. The levels are that of Compass (Position), map, clock, thermostat, cell, plant, and animal, human, organisational and knowledge

The right down quadrant represents the external system, the world of results and performance – metrics. In an ideal situation levels will mirror each other in both the quadrants. Results will depend on how well the internal and the external are aligned across the different levels. The threshold level of performance is the benchmark against which positioning and alignment are tested and the proof of the pudding is in the eating – better and better results.

We can learn a lot from the animals about positioning and alignment. It is natural to them For us it is not natural, it is a matter of choice. Freewill has its disadvantages too.

The home position


What is your home position? 6y4 ii3q qn320w3

I got the above gibberish when I shifted from my home position on the keyboard, F and J where I rest my index fingers.  When I move away from the home position, this is the result that I get. When I am at my home position, I can use appropriate levers- leverage me- to make improvements.  If I am not positioned, I create waste, a lot of hard work, stress and burnout and no improvements

Even if we are homeless we have homes on websites.  When we go off course, we can refer back home and navigate. We understand reality through our tools. It is a long time that I have used a pen or pencil and paper. I spend most of my working time in front of the monitor and the keyboard, PC, is my most used tool. When we were hunting and gathering, we would have used more of our hands and feet and less of these tools. With settled agriculture, we became more attached to a physical location so did our mental maps of the world. The fishermen are quite different since most of them gather and they use tools for gathering.  Their mental maps are different from that of the farmer. They use the compass or GPS since it is much more disastrous if they cannot locate their home position. They could drift off and never find the shore. When we got ‘educated’ we became language and ‘English centric’

Wanderer, see

The paradigms are changing as text is on the way out to the visual. Technology helps one to see reality as it unfolds. Reading gives way to browsing and if one wants to capture the flea span of attention of the reader, one has to use more of the visual, and you tube it.   Yet the deep structures influence comprehension of reality and to connect across divergences and barriers created by language and tools we need a ‘Babel fish’ which would reduce the noise and help navigate the semantic swamps.

In the last 100 years we have become less earthbound in our internal horizons as well as external. We cover much more distance in a day than ever before and this possibility continues to expand leaving behind a static linear world. Technology leverages these collective leaps of learning. Perspectives change with the position. The visibility is much more from the top of the mountain but the details get blurred.  Products and solutions are designed and positioned to meet the global and local requirements  of the users or a segment of the users.     Personal and organisational positioning precedes and influences the process.  The transformation of communities requires a critical mass of catalytic material – individuals and organisations.  Positioning is about those life changing decisions, the raison d’etre, like choosing a vocation and deciding to be best in that vocation, willing to sacrifice one’s life for it, work against all odds, make great sacrifices for a cause.

The child in the womb is blissfully unaware of its position. The terrorist is firm in his position that the enemy deserves death (you or me) The negotiator takes middle ground (yes and no, you and me) The catalysts take the fourth position, the home position or the lighthouse position. We feel at home and centred. One’s calling or vocation becomes expression of one’s self and work is transformed to fun. Here is the birth of the fully functional self, beginning of conscious evolution, characterised by dynamic mental maps, flow, synchronicity and continual renewal. Now, one can fix the direction for the journey (continual improvement) connect with the home position to the current stage (reflect) and be certain that one is on course. True community is in the making.

We check the design, when we are confronted with problems. If problems have no recession, we need to go back to the design and check our understanding of the design.

Nature has a design, a deep structure, which we have to live with. We continue to pay a price for our ignorance of the basic design. Our designs are but improvisations of bits and bytes of the basic design. Imagine billions of people continuing with a flat earth worldview and the reality we collectively create!

While we have ‘progressed’ a lot we have also ‘regressed’ in our connectedness with nature. Deep down we still hold on to the flat earth static models.  Better maps would facilitate faster and sustained improvements, accelerate the process of co-creating a more desirable present and future by leveraging technology and markets which work in real time and help us to make more intelligent use of these levers with lesser damage.

We have very sophisticated tools for navigation over the planet and beyond ranging from the compass/ GPS to satellites and communication systems and mapped our immediate environs to greater and greater precision.  We have managed to connect machines to communicate with each other across the planet in real- time and for the first time we can see the world as one in real time. Though machines can communicate to each other the man and the machine interface and communication within the human slow down the common journey ahead.  A real time evolutionary model of wholeness is one the requirements to bridge the divides and disconnects.

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.

Beyond the Waves

Reinventing Work, Technology, Community and Governance*
A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What one can be, one must be. Abraham Maslow (1908 – 1970).What India (world) can be it must be, if it has to be at peace with itself. We need to reinvent technology, management and governance in the Indian/global context. if we need to be what we must be. We have come to a fork on the road wherein an informed choice is imperative.
When the Tsunami struck the southern coast of India on 26, December 2004, many fishermen on the high seas did not notice what was happening till they returned to the shore. They were awestruck with the devastation, an unpleasant surprise. The recession which is officially recognized as recession now, a year later, is something similar. It was in the making much before. The IT revolution that was driving much of the shine in the country and elsewhere was a similar wave. Many of those who were riding the wave failed to notice the eventual breaking up of the wave. The Enrons, Fannie May, Freddie Mac, Lehman brothers, Morgan Stanley, Madoff and Satyams should prompt us to reflect and go ahead with renewed vigor anticipating the future much better than in the past. What happened after the Tsunami was even more tragic. The relief measures were even more disastrous than the disaster itself, another wave which washed away the developmental lessons painfully accumulated over the years by new dependencies created in the wake of misplaced relief. Much of what we do in the name of bail outs will most likely be creating a similar impact.
The developed countries have been riding a wave for centuries. The emerging markets follow the trend. Since 1991, India has come to be reckoned as one of them. During this phase, bulk of the talent in the country gravitated to the IT sector at the cost of other equally or more vital sectors. Since most of them were riding a wave it was difficult to notice the eventual downturn of the wave and be prepared for the next.. The going was good, and adrenalin packed. By the time floodwaters find the level many will find it difficult to climb down and join the new wave to come, since in the first place they were not trained to climb up. We need to learn from the pitfalls that were swept under the carpet during the earlier waves. Only those fishermen, who manage the ups and downs, reach the shore with the catch, which is also true of farmers, institutions and communities.
The new India was born in 1991. She is past 17 now. As a child which stepped out of the confines of an over protected joint family, she took a few steps which gave it a feel of the world outside. During this adolescence, there has been some groundbreaking learning essential to face the challenges on the new road. We have a National Adolescence Education Programme (NAEP) which recognises the criticality of transcending the learning plateau during adolescence when young people acquire new capacities against the new challenges. A successful resolution is very critical to transformation as an adult. The country now needs to grapple with the issues of adolescence. The learning plateaus are different at different stages of life, as a child, adolescent, adult, the expert and the seniors. Lifelong learning (LLL) is even more relevant to communities, since continual renewal is the key to sustained improvements and performance, which decides the lifespan. Work is love expressed, (Kahlil Gibran). Peter Drucker continued at the forefront of management thought into his late nineties. Many of the corporations ‘built to last’ did not survive even the first wave that came up. Most MBAs do not survive one recession. If we have been expressing our love, through our work, do we stop loving during a crisis’?
There is no better time than a recession to plan for adulthood beginning 2012. Historians will call the period, 2008-12, as The Great Transition, if we do it right. I would like to believe that the country will do it though many adults do not do it. If we manage to pull it off that will be because of a rare maturity in the current leadership in politics and governance who went into these vocations when both were noble causes to fight for. Good politicians are better than bad bureaucrats in dealing with recessions since they go through a recession every 4-5 years. Let us not forget that all of them are in their late fifties to seventies. The recession and the terror strikes should remind us about the role of talent in governance which need to become fashionable once again. Branding is essential for IT, IITs IIMs and governance. There is a greater relevance for it in primary production, at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ (Sic). The recession and the terror strikes keep us reminded of the role of good governance and developmental management. The shift needs to happen at the individual and the collective levels so that the paradigm of survival of the unfit changes to survival of the fittest

Re-Imagining an Indian/global Future
Nandan Nilekani’s Imagining India, is his portrait of the emerging India, from the vantage point of one of those who foresaw the future. To be an Indian is to be a global citizen. If there is one country which resembles the Noah’s Ark, that is India. Every species, every religion and every language is represented here in sufficient measure. It has the size and numbers in all dimensions that it is a veritable Noah’s Ark. It has withstood all the floods in the past and when one digs deep enough, one will find that what has been worth preserving over the course of history is very much alive here. This may not be true of other cultures and communities which have hardly any history to talk about at a large enough scale since nature does not go by our current human scale of time which seldom goes beyond five years. Solutions that emerge out of this context will have global relevance in addressing the single most important challenge of development and quality of life, as reflected in the Millennium Development Goals
More than economics, the demographic dividend is at work behind competitiveness. Whether this dividend turns into a liability or not will depend on how we respond to the challenge of learning and competency development.. While we are well aware of the state of our physical infrastructure and the recession might compel us to revisit the issue, we are yet to address the challenges of the people infrastructure which form the foundation to all other infrastructure. It is only recently that we have begun to see people as resources than a problem. The transformational issues involved in leveraging the advantage remain unaddressed. There is extreme urgency to resolve the challenge to make sure that the dividend does not turn out to be a liability.
I get weekly mail from the transition team of the US President elect. I fail to get a reply from the Head of Organisation Development in one of these ‘IT giants’ when I send them this mail, just to test the waters. The same is true of the NKC, the National Knowledge Commission. All four of these ‘IT giants’ from India put together would perhaps touch 20 % of IBM’s or HP’s global revenues and some of the domestic software outsourcing contracts that went to IBM India was roughly the same size as their individual revenues. My electricity bill is issued every month with a handwritten note on it by the service provider stating if there is any advance paid, pay the bill after deducting the advance and I am a resident of Bangalore city, the IT capital of the country. I am just giving a few examples of how people and institutions leverage technology. Obviously those who use technology as a lever will continue to move the world. For technology to be leveraged people behind the lever need to be in alignment with technology. To cite another example, much before the security agencies began deciphering the GPS, the ‘illiterate’ fishermen on the south coast of the country started using the GPS. Same was true of mobile phones too. Let us also remind us that IT did not save us from the recession, which is but a limitation of how we use technology which has by and large come to be understood as IT by our graduates in technology and the mainstream. Captains of Indian Industry with Ivy League MBAs who have the wherewithal to access the best of technology or management globally have more faith in their astrologers, an obsolete technology which did not do any good to the country for over tw0 thousand years, than in these disciplines. Most engineers too have more faith in the astrologer than in their own designs. In general we have more faith in default than in design. Even when there is a design and strategy, we would like to say “I have been lucky to be successful”. Design is still an infant discipline in the country and ambivalence rather than strategy appears to be a cultural handicap.

The human resource function became synonymous with recruitment and in a recession redefined as retrenchment or pink slips, and development came to be understood as software development. Till now an Infosys or TCS could afford the luxury of learning and competency development, stretching over years that would transform raw graduates to billable resources. The gates are now likely to remain closed for over three lakhs of engineering graduates, most of whom spend 4 years and over 7 lakhs in loans to earn an engineering degree without any assurance that they are employable – the ability to obtain and retain employment when the same is challenged during a recession. In place of the housing sub-prime we are likely to have a sub-prime in educational loans, though this may not be significant enough to cause similar repercussions. We have a system where the brilliance of the IITs and IIMs are outwitted by successful coaching shops which sprouted and established themselves as more successful business models than the IITs and IIMs without the huge investments to create such institutions. Most often, learning and competency development, the core of HR, came to be addressed at a very cosmetic level with theories and models of building the pyramid without a theory about the brick, the basic building unit. The function went through an inversion as reflected in the coinage of terms like hard skills for soft skills and vice versa sweeping aside the Moore’s law and the imperatives that follow from it. People who rode to iconic status on the upswing who had never survived a downturn came to don the hats of venture capitalists, mentors and management consultants. Management consultants downgraded themselves to client interfacing for IT services and software service providers attempted reinventing themselves as management consultants. Consultants talked about people process maturity in their thirties even before facing their own mid – life crisis. The shelf life of most managers came to be established as around 15 years, quite unlike a good professional who is governed by a code of conduct and practices his discipline for life. People who designed product obsolescence and product and organisational positioning could not walk their own talk. Graduates from professional courses could not answer the question as to what is it to be a professional. The cosmetic was taken care of but the content was not.
Finance Capital > Human Capital > Community Capital
Settled agriculture, followed by industrialisation and the information technology revolution were the prominent waves in history which lasted for around 10,000, 500, and 50 years. The fishermen and tribal communities, the eco-system people, belong to an earlier phase who live on community or common property resources. They have been pushed to the boundaries of ‘modern society’ which failed to recognise their silent but essential role as guardians of the eco-system against conventional norms of ROI. Most ot the fish we consume flow from the eco-system people, milk from the farmers, bottled water from industry and the software that keeps me connected from a proto knowledge community which has emerged  out of  the last wave. The fish and milk are cheaper than bottled water sums up the accumulated distortions in the system. While the meltdown continues, Ivy League B- Schools discuss ” If you are smart, why aren’t you rich?” and “How to Build a Professional Image” as if money is the only measure of intelligence and a professional image is more important than being a true professional. We don’t need lot of proof as to the degree of professionalism of the ‘smart managers’ who bothered more about their bonuses than the safety of the ships they were in charge of. As the product is in the process, it is time to revisit the B- Schools and the process through which managers are churned out. I pay $ 50, the equivalent of a month’s income at the “bottom of the pyramid’ for a best seller by an author who has been thrice on the New York Times best seller list. on application of systems thinking in an area of my interest to relearn  that the author’s understanding of the discipline is equivalent to that of a physicist who has only two dimensions to deal with physical reality. He is smart and he will be rich, but next time, I will be wiser. For two weeks, most of my time has been spent on dealing with two MNCs – global giants – to get some support for two of my gadgets that have failed. I keep getting calls to find out  the quality of  my service experience from some agency to which the work has been outsourced ,while I continue to deal with the agony of not able to work without these gadgets. The right arm does not know what the left arm does.
A recession offers a spell of time when we might listen well than when we are riding the waves. The four worlds need to come together as one, as a single eco-system, if we are to transition to the next phase of conscious and continual improvement / renewal, an economy of love’ (?), maturity and the highest respect for each other)
We now know the limitations of the overemphasis placed on finance capital when the paradigm had already shifted to human capital and now to community capital. Yet most of us are still stuck with the maps of these bygone phases, with obsolete maps and tools for a new generation of problems.
The demographic dividend of India is unmatched. The accumulated learning from all three waves need to be leveraged and aligned  for tthe emergence of a knowledge community to recession and future proof  against all the waves to come and to transition into a phase of  sustained continuous improvement. The metrics need to be against emergence of global community and achieving the MDG, decline of cross-border conflicts and terrorism in addition to conventional metrics of growth and development
One success story which demonstrated a very high degree of such integration has been the White Revolution in India though the learning could not be leveraged any further in other contexts. This is also the time to revisit the white, green, blue and the other ‘revolutions’ to bring them together into a rainbow of sustainability for the emergence of better ‘community’. The value of a new generation business plunges to insignificance when the last employee in the graveyard shift walks out of the campus. Microsoft or Infosys were founded more on human and community capital, leveraged by technology than on finance capital, by people who saw the emergence of the new wave three decades ago. Those of them who uphold community, the real value differentiator over short term profitability, will ride the next wave in the making. Most of the talent, who joined the tail end of the wave, went in for no other reason than that it was the in thing to do. There is no need to be perturbed by the recession, if we are able to visualise the unmatched opportunity that it offers. This is the time to move up the value chain as well as to address the challenges of employee productivity. Tools that could address these issues of leapfrogging the downturn could secure the competitive edge that would enable us to ride the next wave. The pink slip holders is an opportunity, not a liability, if we realise that, if we have the tools, they can be turned into resources with the least investment of time and resources because they had the benefit of some real context specific learning. It  is  ironic to use the term real learning, as we use the term real economy and toxic assets. A toxic human asset forms the best recruitment ground for terrorists. With an appropriate strategy, tools and methodology, designing a more desirable future would become feasible. Alternatively, the ‘Troubled Assets Rehabilitation Programme’ could easily become a TRAP. The ground is getting levelled and it is time to visualise the foundation and the superstructure that would be built.
Reality can be sliced in infinite ways. We show miniscule slices of this reality on the post mortem table or on the X, Y axis to the learner on the assumption that she would put them together into a whole. Had the approach been effective the present reality would be altogether different. We cannot expect that more of the same would lead to resolution of the crisis. What brought us here will not take us to where we must be.
The imperative is to evolve an integral pedagogy and practice to address these issues against challenges at the bottom, middle and top of the ‘pyramid’, a technology for Accelerated Learning and Competency Development (ALCD) for SHP. To the man who only has a hammer in his tool kit, every problem looks like a nail. (Abraham Maslow). We certainly need better tools than hammers and screwdrivers in our tool kits.

Limits to Growth OR Limits to Learning?

I would like to play god for a few minutes and in those few minutes I would globally find and replace the word teacher with student facilitator from the soft tissue memory banks of all humans and then go to sleep with the satisfaction of having done a good day’s work. The collective amnesia would make sure that the word is not revived from the storage devices, be it the computer hard disk or the hard copies of books and documents.

I wish teachers stop being teachers and bring back learning to the centre stage.  I thank the teachers who did it for me. I also thank those who drove me to write this piece. But for them I wouldn’t have. When I look out, I can see the Bangalore campus of the National Dairy Research Institute, which was once the Imperial Dairy Research Institute, started in 1923 by the British.   Mahatma Gandhi had been there, a student for a week. That was much before my time (1971-73). What he learnt in one week, I wouldn’t have learnt in two years. He would have foreseen the white revolution that would sweep over post independent India. The first learning point, the most important turning point in my life happened here. I discovered the fun of learning which had gone out during my formal education.  Having got disillusioned with the world of work I came back to Bangalore as a B-school student for another two years, 1981-83. What was then the outskirts of the city is almost the heart of the city now. I am once again in Bangalore, my third time. Where I live, the National Games Village used to be a marshy swamp. The locality around, Koramangala, is more than home to the techies in Bangalore.  In between, the IT revolution took off and reached its peak paving way for the next revolution in the making. I visualize Bangalore driving that revolution, emergence of a learning community which renews itself continually where work, learning and leisure come together as one so that work becomes its own reward. (Goodbye to incentives and stock options?)

Every time I am back in Bangalore, I get a fresh lease of life and at 60, it is happening once again

There is a campaign going on in Bangalore – ‘Teach India’. I wish they call it “Learn India Learn”. We put on our teacher’s hat all too often, at home, at work, on the road and even in our dreams

Often we kill the joy of learning when we set out to teach, more the teachers less the learning. (For me learning is purposive. It should lead to improvement. Otherwise it is not learning). The best of my teachers did the least teaching. They created the conditions for us to learn.  We had a wonderful pair, in B-School, who did the least teaching. We called them Laurel and Hardy. They allowed us to put on the teaching hats and listened to us. I was hooked to system thinking (not systems thinking) which was another learning /turning point in my learning curve. Habits seldom die. It took me three years of teaching to say goodbye to my ‘teaching career’- in 1984. I found myself unfit for the job, fished out my learner’s hat and got wedded to LLL, lifelong learning. When we do that growing old is something to look forward to. Julia Roberts, the pretty woman actress echoes it. Growing old is becoming free. Development as Freedom (Amartya Sen) is true in this context also but it is dependence for those who do not, stuck at the learning plateaus.

I remember the learning plateaus during my formal education, adolescence, at work and after work. I am not one of those Rushdie’s midnight’s children. I was conceived and born in a free India (1949) a baby boomer. Like most baby boomers I too grew up/down as a confused child. My early reading only added to that confusion.  Those writers have now grown old and changed their positions many times over. Not many returned like the prodigal son to be connected to the roots. Most remain still confused and they go on confusing others.  The revolutions died very young leaving many casualties in the process. The orthodox Christian religious atmosphere, at home, school and all around also contributed to the making of the prodigal son. I was lucky to break out of that stifling world to rediscover the fun of learning, to get unstuck and move ahead from the plateaus of learning that came over the years at intervals.

The process is not always very pleasant. Bangalore is also the suicide capital of the country and the incidence is the highest among those in the age group 15-44.There is pain and suffering while we are stuck and the joy and freedom of getting unstuck from the plateaus are abundant compensation for the pain. Having gone through the process, it was a logical next step to take position as a student/facilitator of learning. One can certainly make the process easier for those interested in transcending the barriers to learning.

We started with facilitating children in schools and moved up the levels to the ‘top of the pyramid’ with our facilitation tools. Our prevalent notions of intelligence encourage and support the notion that a few are exceptionally gifted and fit to survive. For those who fail to be recognized as such the school can be a torture machine which kills the joy of learning, creating the first learning plateau. It is also the stage when adolescents are assumed to turn adults.   When the species in general does not encourage adult behaviour and maturity, transformation to the adult is a near impossibility.  The emphasis on teaching as against learning arises from the position that majority cannot learn and they need to be taught. It is self-fulfilling and the adult is less likely to take birth. The first and basic distortion of the meaning drive is already seeded which gives rise to the primary learning plateau

When we moved to the world of work with the facilitation process we found that the first plateau is instrumental in creating other barriers in the world of work. The formal educational system seldom meets the expectations of the employer. The employer has to create the conditions for continual learning, more so in the context of a ‘knowledge society’ in emergence. Work is seldom perceived as learning or expression of one’s self with the result that most get burnt out in the process. Once again it is only a minority who manage to break through the glass ceiling. For the majority another plateau is in the making. Meanwhile our young man/woman has become a parent and bogged down by more responsibilities and expectations at work and home. The context is ripe for the classic symptoms of the mid-life crisis to surface. Some transcend the plateau and continue to be productive beyond their fifties. The individual and society suffer from the consequences. In large hierarchical governance systems, it is tragic to see young bright outstanding individuals progressively grow out of touch with reality creating more plateaus /barriers to the collective journey of improvement and renewal.  The circle is complete

One can go on ad nauseum (the teacher is still alive). I would like to sum up

We have created a Giant wheel. A few drive the wheel.  They promise better and better rides. A few refuse to be taken for a ride.

Habit is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent (William James-1890)

Our suggestion is simple. Limits to growth = Limits to learning