Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A resource companion to "mindfulness: connecting with the real you" book

My book "Mindfulness: connecting with the real you" uses metaphors from movies, novels, scientific experiments, magic shows, etc. to illustrate main points. The table below presents the links to the publicly available videos for each of the chapters.


1. Balancing the bicycle of life

2. Listening to the mental shotgun

3. Stepping out of the train of thought

4. Recognizing wasteful thoughts

5. Watching the dance of necessities

6. Investigating the shooting game

7. Searching for the real hero

8. Dying to self-image every moment

  • Eckhart Tolle talks about the film "Groundhog day" from his interview "Conversations on compassion" by Dr. James Doty of Stanford. 
  • "Groundhog day...again", Phil realizes for the first time that he is in a time loop.
  • Bengali film "Ghare Baire" (English: The home and the world" with English subtitles. Nikhil's dialogue with his sister-in-law is at 1:36:18.
  • "Kamla" Hindi film (1984) with subtitles, written by Vijay Tendulkar, directed by Jagmohan Mudhra. The dialogue between Kamla and Sarita is at 1:13:54. The dialogue between Sarita and her uncle is at 1:54:25.
9.  Question and Answers

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Advance praise for “Mindfulness: Connecting with the real you”

I really appreciate these wellwishers who graciously agreed to take a look and write an endorsement for my book, “Mindfulness: Connecting with the real you” which is releasing tomorrow (Amazon link). In the top row, Thulasiraj Ravilla, Radhika Herzberger and Swami Chidananda. Bottom row, Ravi Venkatesan, Mukunda Rao, and Vipul Mathur. The one whose picture is missing is Fr Lancy Prabhu. Here is what they say:

Thulasiraj Ravilla, executive director, LAICO and operations director, Aravind Eye Care System
It’s a delightfully engaging and easy-to-read book on a really complex subject. It isn’t a spiritual book and yet at the core of spirituality is being conscious of who we really are. This book trains us to become mindful so that we don’t unknowingly deviate from things that really matter it. This book is a must-read for living a regret-free life.  

Radhika Herzberger, writer, educator and scholar of Sanskrit and Indology
Vinay Dabholkar’s Mindfulness: Connecting with the Real You is a ground-breaking approach to mindfulness. The book offers a practice that stills the mind and discerns the present—breath, music, skies, nature as well as our wayward thoughts and the surrounding garbage on the street. For Dabholkar mindfulness is a search for what is real, for truth rather than profit. In order to uncover deeper facets of the mind, the book adopts a layered structure, moving from the simple to the complex, and illustrating each with wide-ranging examples drawn from popular cinema and books by scientists and spiritual masters. In the process, the author seeks to untangle the rigid, deluded and trigger-happy tendencies of our minds. Based on the premise that self-knowledge is the beginning of wisdom, Vinay Dabholkar’s book holds out the promise of a new approach to the humanities.

Swami Chidananda, spiritual teacher, Vedanta scholar and founder, FOWAI Forum 
This is valuable writing that presents in a delightful manner many serious aspects of the challenging theme of mindfulness. It can bring tremendous clarity to the reader about the much-talked-about subject. It is intellectually stimulating as it draws from great minds in a spectrum of disciplines like psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and physics. It makes for enjoyable reading as illustrations are taken from movies of Hollywood and Bollywood, among other sources. We encounter in its pages mystics of India, thinkers of Western universities and life experimenters from everywhere. Above all, the deep insights and significant remarks by the author himself make this book a very precious addition to anybody’s collection of reading material that deepens one’s understanding of life. It can cause a major shift in one’s outlooks and facilitate a fundamental transformation.

Ravi Ventakesan, Business Leader, Philanthropist, Author
Mindfulness is a crucial practice in reaching our potential as human beings. Vinay’s book is very readable and makes the concept and the practice of mindfulness accessible.

Mukunda Rao, Author
It is not by sitting in meditation but by being mindfully aware in your to day-to-day living that you grow in self-knowledge and learn to creatively negotiate the problems of living. Vinay Dabholkar’s Mindfulness brings home this wonderful, cleansing truth most effectively.

Vipul Mathur, CEO, Mufti, coach, trainer, and writer
This book makes much-needed mindfulness accessible and achievable. Vinay, with his unvarnished narration, probing questions and heartening Bollywood stories break the far-fetched concept into a simple idea that can be adopted easily in daily life.

Fr Lancy Prabhu, former head of department, inter-religious studies, St Xavier’s College, Mumbai
Replete with numerous attention-grabbing stories, analogies, metaphors and anecdotes, drawn from diverse sources including especially movies, the book brings into relief the many typical problematic patterns our mind gets trapped in, resulting in misery. More significantly, the book clarifies the process of Mindfulness, at whose heart lies Investigation, or present-moment spirit of learning, that brings understanding and freedom to ‘see things as they are’ especially the ‘real you’. An appealing and challenging book for our times to many, especially the young.

Image sources: aravind.org, alchetron.com, sadhanamandira.com, linkedin.com, twitter.com, afaqs.com

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Career-chat with Ravi Aranke: Career as surfing a wave vs climbing a ladder

My classmate and friend Ravi Aranke and I quit our jobs around the same time in 2006. But between the two of us, Ravi has been far more adventurous in his experiments with his career. So, as we near and cross the age of fifty, it creates a wonderful opportunity to look back and see if there are any lessons we learned. Ravi now works as a Senior Director, Technical Support at Cloudera, a leading cloud platform company and is based out of Silicon Valley in California. When Ravi visited Bangalore a month ago, I grabbed the opportunity to have a chat with him. In this interview, Ravi presents his view of a career journey as surfing a wave rather than climbing a ladder. You can listen to the interview here (14MB).

Here are salient points from the interview:

0:00   Introductions

1:15   Brief sketch of Ravi’s career:  Spanning Japan, Singapore in software development and support, Sun Microsystems, RedHat, linear progression till 2006, from individual contributor to senior management. Sun Microsystems, Dotcom bubble, euphoric, Bust, layoffs, a period of introspection, slowly started the feeling, “if you don’t do it now, when will you do it?”, urge to do something different.

3:45 Were you sure as to what you don’t want to do rather than what you want to do? Yes. I was looking at some of the start-up success stories, there was some ego involved, “If I am working hard, I should be working hard for myself.” In hindsight, it was more of self-discovery and spending time doing what I enjoy.

4:45 What happened after you quit your job? I was gravitating towards reading certain books, spending time on investing related things, talking to those people. This was telling that I enjoy these other things more than building the company. Fortunately, I had saved some money. Internet was becoming a thing by that time. Videos on YouTube – 2007-08.

6:25 What was the day for Ravi at that point in time? I started seeing that availability and analyzing data would be a big thing in the future. This hunch came around 2006-07. If I learn these techniques, I will make money in stock markets. Idea of trading system, investing system.

8:13 Were you building skills? Yes, building skills, talent, assets in data science, building models.

9:50 What did the asset involve? Write code, acquire data, regression testing. Had to get back to programming.

12:12 Doing projects together with your kids? One of the best outcomes. Got a lot of time with kids. Google cloud in 2009.

15:25 Motivation to move to a small town. Could I build a small company in a small town? Broadband was a challenge. Now it would be easier. Suddenly I realized I doubled my time.

18:45 After 7 years, what triggered you to consider going back to a job? We made a 5-year plan. Son decided to pursue an undergraduate in the US.

20:30 How difficult was to get back to the corporate world? Wave of big data. New wave brings new companies, demand outstrip supply. Worked in my favor.

22:33 What does it mean to look at a career as surfing a wave? Needs a lot of preparation and some amount of luck. Building up for a wave to come. Not looking to go anywhere. Just enjoy.

25:30 Did you realize getting somewhere was not important? Yes. Buffett’s internal yardstick.

28:09 Is financial security an important aspect? Yes, absolutely, especially if you have a family. You need to get your burn rate down. Moving to small-town helped.

30:15 Anything else? Consider it more like adventure sport. Be prepared that ride would be rough sometimes.

Friday, October 18, 2019

"Managing technological innovation" course at IIT Bombay Oct 10-21

Currently, I am teaching 4 classes (Oct 10, 14, 17, 21) in "Managing Technological Innovation" course being taught by Prof. Anand Kusre at IIT Bombay. This course is being offered at Desai Sethi Center for Entrepreneurship.  

The classes are:

Oct 10 (class slides): Creating a challenge book, Iterative thinking, Framing a challenge through metaphors 

Oct 14 (class slides): Rapid prototyping, feels-like, looks-like and works-like prototypes, before-and-after storyboard 

Oct 17 (class slides): Taking big technological bets, technology sandbox, Lego mindstorm - building a sandbox collaboratively

Oct 21 (class slides): Building a margin of safety, pre-mortem, cognitive biases and investigating cognitive illusions

Oct 20: Based on the first 3 classes, students have to submit the following assignment by Oct 20 (Sunday):

What to submit: A pdf document with the following:

1. Class-1 (10-Oct) exercise:
   1.1 List of challenge areas - one each for pain-wave-waste
   1.2 Shortlist them using PIC framework - Passion, Impact, chance of progress
   1.3 Identify a metaphor
   1.4 Frame a challenge statement - one line only

2. Class-2 (14-Oct) exercise:
   2.1 A before-and-after storyboard of an idea
   2.2 A paper model of the idea

3. Class-3 (17-Oct) exercise:
  3.1 Design of low-cost working prototype
  3.2 Cost of the prototype
  3.3 Outcome of your 1-hour effort towards working prototype

Friday, September 20, 2019

3 tips on being mindful in the corporate world: An Edgar Schein perspective

I have been a fan of Prof Edgar Schein, an expert on organizational culture. However, I was surprised to hear Schein emphasize mindfulness in an interview at Google. By the time of this interview in 2016, Schein would have been 87 years old, active as a researcher, teacher and consultant way more than half a century. What is mindfulness according to Schein? What is the role, according to him, mindfulness can play in a competitive corporate world? Let’s explore in this article.

Let’s begin with taking a look at what Schein means by mindfulness. According to Schein, mindfulness is not some kind of meditation process. Mindfulness is situational awareness of how culture inside of us and around us is dominating our thinking. The point Schein is emphasizing here is that the culture is inside us in the form of accumulated learning from family, school, corporate world, etc.

Here are 3 tips Schein offers on being mindful in a corporate world obsessed with measurement and winning.

Be curious about deeper reality: Situational awareness would mean being curious about what’s going on as we observe things, communicate with people and make decisions. Schein suggests a couple of questions that might help in this process. One, what’s the deeper reality? For example, in a meeting, can I become aware of the fact that I am trying to win an argument rather than focusing on the point of discussion, whenever that happens? The second question Schein suggests us to ask is, “What else is going on?”

Be relational vs transactional: In a fast-paced world, we need to make decisions quickly. That leads to interactions which are transactional – e.g. telling what to do and expect the other person to just follow. In some situations, this may be meaningful. However, in many situations, this doesn’t work. This becomes even tougher when the job is to fire people. Schein uses the example from the movie “Up in the air” to point out that firing people by hiring an agency to do it over a video call is transactional. A more humane approach would be for the manager to sit face to face and discuss options together openly.

Focus on process vs content: According to Schein, mindfulness involves paying more attention to the process of thinking as compared to the content of thought. Mostly our attention is grabbed by the content – the ideas, judgments, decisions, etc. And we are unaware of the process that fuels thinking. Many times the process is driven by anxieties and aspirations. Anxiety could be about losing out in one’s career or it could be about not winning. Situational awareness means being aware of this process, anxieties-aspirations driving the thinking as much as the content.

Schein points out that being mindful doesn’t guarantee corporate success. If your boss values only winning, you may be stuck. Of course, being mindful of one’s own anxieties about being stuck and how that is being reflected in everything one does may open up newer possibilities.

Why be mindful if it doesn’t increase the chance of success in the corporate world? I don’t think this aspect is discussed in the interview. I feel that being mindful in order to succeed is taking one away from mindfulness already. This is because every action now is driven by an aspiration to succeed or anxiety about failure.

Hope you get to explore the tips Schein offers and experiment with being mindful for its own sake rather than in order to achieve something. I thought Karen May, Google VP People Development has done an excellent job as an interviewer. Hope you listen to the interview which may have much more in store for you.

Image source: youtube.com
Interview link: “Edgar Schein: Humber leadership” | Talks at Google

Sunday, September 15, 2019

My 3 takeaways from Scott Adams’ “How to fail at almost everything and still win big”

A few months back my friend RamP recommended Scott Adams’ “How to fail at almost everything and still win big”. At that time, I was struggling to convey the importance of “fail fast, fail often” principle to the students in my course on innovation at IIMB. The book helped me in showcasing to students how successful people like Scott Adams have a long list of failures and they are not shy of presenting it. But the book doesn’t stop at flaunting failures; it goes deeper than that. It presents some of the key challenges we face in our creative journey and suggests some practical approaches in tackling them. And it does so in a witty style. Here are my 3 takeaways from the book:

Fail often in order to succeed: “You want to be steeped to your eyebrow in failure,” Scott says, “It’s a good place to be because failure is where success likes to hide in plain sight. Everything you want out of life is in that huge, bubbling vat of failure. The trick is to get the good stuff out.” That’s quite an insight. In chapter 4 titled “Some of my many failures in summary form”, Scott presents 22 failures and the lessons he learned from them. Chapter 5 is dedicated to “My absolutely favorite spectacular failure”. I would buy this book just for these two chapters. When I present my failure resume in the class, students comment that my failures weren’t that bad. When I tell them the Nassim Taleb quote, “Learn to fail with comfort, pleasure, and pride,” they feel if you are failing comfortably that means you are not trying hard. Perhaps it is not easy to understand that for an idea with big upside, the cost and downside of experimentation doesn’t have to be high. In my failure to communicate this point lies an opportunity for me to improve my presentation in the future.

Goals are for losers, system for winners: “If your goal is to lose ten pounds, you will spend every moment until you reach the goal – if you reach it at all – feeling as if you were short of your goal,” Scott adds, “Goal-oriented people exist in a state of nearly continuous failure that they hope will be temporary.” He suggests that one should treat the system as primary rather than the goal. How is system different from goal? He says that running a marathon is a goal while exercising daily is a system. If you do something every day, Scott calls it a system and if you are waiting to achieve it someday in future, it is a goal. My take is that both have a place but the question is where do you place emphasis? Scott suggests that system should be primary and I feel the same.

Maximize personal energy: How does Scott approach the problem of multiple priorities? He says he focuses on only one metric – “my energy”. Scott says, “The main reason I blog is because it energizes me. I don’t need another reason.” In fact, Scott goes on step further. His Dilbert comic creating process is divided into two stages to maximize the energy-generating ideas and drawing the final art. He has observed that his creative energy is at its best during morning time. So he tries to get new Dilbert ideas at that time. And he draws the final art in the afternoon which is less creative. Shopping drains his energy, so he minimizes shopping. Everyone is different and hence one should pay attention to things that give and drain energy.

I enjoyed the book and strongly recommend it to anyone who wants to preserve or develop the creative part within oneself. I find all the three suggestions valuable, keeping a failure resume, focusing on the system rather than goals and paying attention to the sources of energy. Hope you get to experiment with them.

image source: amazon.in
Nassim Taleb quote is from his interview by Alleb Webb in McKinsey Quarterly, December 2008 issue.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Could “Create a margin of safety” be the toughest of the 8 steps to innovation to master?

Café Coffee Day founder V. G. Siddhartha’s unfortunate demise coincided with my class on “Margin of safety” in “Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation” course at IIM Bangalore. “Create a margin of safety” is the 8th step of the "8-steps to innovation" book I co-authored. Siddhartha allegedly committed suicide by jumping into the Netravati river near Mangalore. We would never know the exact reasons why Siddhartha took such an extreme step. Given the debt situation of Café Coffee Day group, could it be possible that Siddhartha lost track of margin of safety? And, if a seasoned businessman like Siddhartha can overlook margin of safety, could it be the toughest step to master?

When I discussed this question with my friend and co-author of “8 steps to innovation”, Prof. Rishikesha Krishnan, he suggested I read the book “Failing to succeed: The story of India’s first e-commerce company” by K. Vaitheeswaran. It turned out to be a textbook case demonstrating how difficult it might be to internalize the principle of “margin of safety”. Let’s look at a few anecdotes from the book which illustrate this point. But before we look at it, let’s note that we are looking at a venture story when it hit a downward spiral. The Indiaplaza story contains several ups and many things that the founders should be proud of. Moreover, innovators and especially entrepreneurs should be indebted to K. Vaitheeswaran for the candid narration of his experience. It is so rare in the Indian context.

June 2009:  "A jewellery vendor from Delhi came to our office with a few thugs and abused me with choice expletives in front of all staff members and threatened to beat me up physically if I did not pay up the dues within two days."

"An apparel vendor from Surat came to the office accompanied by a local policeman. The policeman threatened to arrest me if we didn’t settle the dues in one week."

August 2012: "I had stopped drawing my salary from August 2012, and worse, I had made the mistake of using my personal credit cards to spend for the company. Every day private collectors visited our home on behalf of credit card companies and loudly demanded money to embarrass and shame me in front of my neighbours and family. Then I decided to withdraw my Provident Fund (PF) because we desperately needed money."

December 2012: "The last week of December was terrible. On 31 December 2012, New Year’s Eve, a group of drunk people banged on our apartment door loudly and in front of my neighbours, family and some friends abused me for non-payment of dues. I was falling into bouts of depression and my health was taking a severe beating."

April 2013:  "When this deal (a potential acquisition) fell through, the creditors became furious. In a few days, our office was swarming with creditors in person. An electronics merchant, during the conversation in our office, pulled out a dagger and placed it on the table. The managing director of a big publishing and distribution house from Delhi met me in Bengaluru and said that he would ‘throw babies in front my car’ when I was driving."

August 2013: "I was standing inside the Ulsoor police station on Cambridge Road in Bangalore. I waited to be interrogated by the inspector on a complaint filed personally against me by a merchant."

8 December 2013: "I had quit and I was not coming back. I had nothing to show for my efforts over fourteen years except for several court cases against me, social media abuse, being avoided like the plague by people I knew and being branded a failure."

At one point the author says, “Whenever I read about people taking their own lives due to financial troubles, I confess, I can understand and sympathize with a moment of madness.”

Building a “margin of safety” involves asking two questions: “What kind of catastrophic risk is there? And, can I live with it?” From the anecdotes above it looks as if the worst-case scenario was not difficult to imagine in 2009 itself. And yet no major action was taken to protect oneself against such a situation. Hence, I am beginning to wonder if creating a margin of safety could be the toughest of the 8 steps to innovation to master.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

How can success be damaging to creativity? A Javed Akhtar perspective

“So do you think that success can be damaging to creativity?” asked Nasreen Munni Kabir in her interview with Javed Akhtar in 19991.  “Yes, of course,” Javed answers, “I think it happened in our case. If we had the right scripts, Amitabh would have done anything we offered him, without question. But what did we offer him? After Trishul and Don, we failed him as writers. We didn’t do anything worthwhile.” Why does this happen – i.e. success damages creativity? Let’s explore in this article.

First, let’s understand why Javed Akhtar says that success can be damaging. “I think what goes wrong is that we get too scared of failing,” he says, “When you’re too scared of failing, you don’t experiment. And when you don’t experiment, you become trite.”

What Javed Akhtar’s interview brings out is the first step essential for creativity to sustain. It is an acknowledgment that I have stopped experimenting and I am just repeating a formula that has perhaps worked in the past. In fact, by 1999, Javed Akhtar had stopped writing film scripts and found a new source of energy – lyrics writing. He says, “I have learned one thing that the moment I lose interest, I will do something else.”

By 1999, Javed Akhtar was not only writing lyrics for films but was also experimenting with non-film albums. He had done Sangam with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan (1995), Silsilay with Jagjit Singh (1998) and Breathless for a young man whom Akhtar calls “a talented singer and musician” Shankar Mahadevan (1998).

Javed Akhtar’s perspective highlights two questions worth asking oneself. One, are you doing something that gives you energy?  Two, are you experimenting?

Javed Akhtar’s career as a lyricist took off post this interview in such a big way that the title of the Oxford University Press book was changed later from “Talking films: Conversations on Hindi cinema with Javed Akhtar” to “Talking films and songs”. And perhaps later the conversation related to songs was culled out to create a new book titled “Talking songs” where sixty songs were added to the book.

In short, ask two questions to yourself once in a while, (1) Am I doing anything that gives me energy? (2) Am I experimenting?


“Talking films and songs: Javed Akhtar in conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir”, by Nasreen Munni Kabir, Oxford University Press, 2017.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Mot-chat #2: A master-class with Rishikesha T. Krishnan, Professor of Strategy, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore

In this 30 minutes conversation, Professor Rishikesha T. Krishnan, a friend, a collaborator and a veteran in the field of technology management, synthesizes the key concepts in a lucid manner without oversimplifying it. This is the second in the series of interviews I have been doing on management of technology called MoT-chat series.

Rishi is a professor of strategy at Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. He has been associated with this institute since 1996. He was the director of IIM Indore from 2014 till 2018. He has won a bunch of awards. The most recent one is “Change Maestro and Institution Builder” Award from Industry Academia Conference which he won this year. He was listed as a top management thinker in India in 2013-14-15. And he has won Dewang Mehta Award for the Best Teacher in Strategic Management. He is an avid reader and clocks 50+ books a year. And I had the privilege of working with Rishi when we worked together on our book “8 steps to innovation”.

In this interview, Rishi talks about: How he got interested in the study of management of technology (1:38), key decisions involved in management of technology (3:35), his favorite frameworks in this area like S-curve and portfolio of incremental-platform-radical innovation projects (9:38), challenging areas in Management of technology (13:07), why are decisions related to radical innovations challenging (15:26), Why are Indian companies don’t have the appetite to take radical innovations steps (18:15), any sector or company in India that is doing the management of technology relatively better (20:28), message for MBA students (26:08), books he is reading (27:44).

The interview audio (MP3, 17MB) is available here and the transcript of the interview is available here.

image source: Rishi's twitter account at twitter.com

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Empathy tips from Kahneman’s “Adversarial collaboration”

(Reading time: 5 minutes)

Empathy is one of the core elements of Design Thinking. It is easier to empathize while dealing with people we care about. However, things get more difficult when we are dealing with people whom we don’t like or who hold opposite views. It could be a family member or a colleague with whom we get into an argument regularly. It could also be a friend on the social network who holds exactly opposite religious or political beliefs than yours. How do you empathize with people holding exactly opposite views? I feel Kahneman’s idea of “adversarial collaboration” gives us a few clues even though he himself feels that this idea may not even survive. What is this idea of “adversarial collaboration” that Kahneman has proposed? Why does he feel it may not survive? And how could it help us build empathy muscle? This is what I would like to explore in this article.

“I have always hated quarrelling,” says Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman in this 2-minute video titled “Adversarial Collaboration”. “I have always despised scientific controversies,” he adds, “Because they become very personal and people very quickly get into a point-scoring mode where the truth is unimportant. That has struck me as quite destructive.” For those who genuinely seek the truth, he has proposed “adversarial collaboration”. And he admits, “It is not widely used and I am not sure that this idea would survive.”

Over several decades, Kahneman studied cognitive biases and concluded that human intuition is biased and not trustworthy. Gary Klein, on the other hand, studied expert intuition from people such as chess masters and firefighters and concluded that it is a marvel. Kahneman and Klein decided to work together to answer the question: In what context is expert intuition trustworthy and in what context it is not trustworthy. This collaboration lasted for 6-7 years. At the end, they published a joint article titled, “Conditions for intuitive expertise: A failure to disagree”. In short, they had found common ground.

What is my biggest takeaway from “adversarial collaboration”? It is the importance of context curiosity. The key hypothesis here is that every view is meaningful in some context. A drug addict, a terrorist, a money launderer – everybody carries a world-view which is meaningful in some context. In the extreme case, that context is limited to only one person. Understanding that context is empathizing. Hence, context curiosity forms an important element of empathy.

Understanding context would require a willingness to listen with openness. Listening to people who hold views opposite of yours is not easy. And hence perhaps Kahneman feels this idea of “adversarial collaboration” may not have takers. Listening with openness implies a willingness to say, “I could be wrong”. That’s harder than one can imagine. In Kahneman’s words, “People who think poorly of your work and your ideas, get on your nerves. And you have to overcome that.”

In a world where the polarization of views is increasing day by day, it is easy to encounter people who hold views exactly opposite of yours. I feel that is an excellent opportunity to build your empathy muscle. Are you willing to listen with openness? Alternately, are you willing to say, “Let me find out what is the context from which this view is coming from”? Please try it out and see for yourself.

Image source: YouTube video “Daniel Kahneman: Adversarial collaboration

Kahneman's video “Adversarial collaboration”: (duration: 1:52)

Another video: Daniel Kahneman: Adversarial collaboration (duration: 2:14)

Friday, May 17, 2019

MoT-chat #1: Interview with Zunder Lekshmanan, CTO, OpenTurf Technologies

I am teaching a course at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore starting next month titled “Strategic Management of Technology and Innovation”. The course has motivated me to interview technology managers, academicians, consultants and get fresh perspectives on the Management of Technology (MoT). Hence the series MoT-chat. Here is the first interview on MoT-chat series – of my friend Zunder Lekshmanan, Chief Technology Officer, OpenTurf Technologies.

In this interview, Zunder talks about what it means to run a VTO’s Office(2:05), how he monitors, tracks and assesses emerging technology trends (7:38), how he performs experiments (10:34), builds use-cases (19:46), makes build-vs-buy decisions (30:40), How he builds partnerships (32:42), What strategic bet means to him (36:26), His experience in starting a technology company (38:48), Role of Under-The-Carpet (UTC) R&D (43:04), His style of motivating senior engineers (45:06), Role of structured learning (47:06) and the meaning of being a “Cracked Pot” (50:45).

The audio in AMR format is available here (5MB) and in MP3 format is available here (25MB). The transcript of the interview is available here.

Here are a few nuggets of wisdom from Zunder:
  • In my view, technology, whether it succeeds or not, it’s the ability to get things out and feel it in the hands of customers.
  • I rely on the fastest time to market.
  • (On an interesting technology trend) I first see if there is an application area where I want to use it.
  • (Apart from experimenting myself) I also go to experts, people who have worked with me and still are in the industry, I take their views.
  • The success of the use-case is based on consumption.
  • In my books, CTO has to meet customers.
  • (In my start-up) I made the same mistake as many people, saying, “Build it and they shall come.”
  • UTC (Under-the-carpet R&D) was so successful for me that business guys used to ask, “Zunder, what’s cooking?”
  • Just don't be satisfied with the status quo.
  • You should have a sense of indiscipline somewhere.
  • “Cracked Pot” means don’t hold anything, don’t take permanent positions. Let the water flow.
Here are a few things Zunder refers to in the interview:

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Understanding self-deception through “Nayantara’s necklace” (Part-2)

In the previous article titled, “Understanding self-deception through Nayantara’s necklace – Part-1” we looked at a cyclic three-stage process of self-deception. The three stages are (1) Feeling “I am imperfect” (2) Identification of object causing imperfection (3) Striving to acquire the object. The process is deceptive because it creates an illusion that I am progressing towards perfection. Many of us may be trapped in the cycle of self-deception most of our life. Of course, one needs to investigate and find out. Does life offer opportunities to step out of this cyclic trap? Yes, all the time. Let’s go back to the short film “Nayantara’s necklace” directed by Jaydeep Sarkar and see how life created opportunities for Alka (Tilottama Shome) to reflect and step out of self-deception at least for a little while.

Questioning absoluteness:

Alka has dinner with her school friend Girish (Gulshan Devaiah) who is now a CEO. During their conversation, Alka projects the image of a “perfect Alka”. She says she travels abroad two-three times a year, loves five-star hotels and they are planning to visit the US the following year etc. In her image of perfection, these travels, five-star hotels, etc. are absolutely essential. Girish, on the other hand, admits that he feels exactly the opposite. He finds the five-star hotel ambience superficial. In fact, what he likes are mundane things like watching TV at home, sitting with kids who are doing homework, etc. Girish’s job demands that he live in five-star hotels and he does that under these circumstances. However, he doesn’t consider this lifestyle absolutely necessary.

Interactions like these where we meet or read about people for whom what we consider absolutely essential is not so important are not uncommon. And they create opportunities for us to reflect on the absoluteness of our necessities.

Questioning perfection:

When Alka returns home from the dinner, she discovers that Nayantara’s (Konkona Sen Sharma) husband has shot his wife, son and himself. They were in huge debt and bank guys were after them. Alka learns that Nayantara, the person whom Alka idolized, was subjected to physical abuse all the time. Seeing all this, Alka’s image of perfection gets shattered and she returns the borrowed necklace back in Nayantara’s car. Nayantara and her family perhaps at one point could afford a lavish lifestyle. Circumstances had changed. However, the necessities didn’t. Perhaps it created conflict resulting in extreme action.

The image of what is perfect is governed by absolute necessities – be it religious rituals, political ideologies, scientific theories or spiritual states. Once we see that there is nothing which is absolutely necessary, everything becomes context dependent. What then is the meaning of perfection? Every moment the context is different. What is meaningful in one moment could be different from what is meaningful in the previous moment. It demands openness every moment.

To summarize, we are saying that self-deception consists of constant striving towards an image of perfection which is a collection of absolute necessities. The illusion of progress is powerful and deceptive. However, the absoluteness of each of the necessity is questionable. And life creates opportunities all the times for us to question the absoluteness of these necessities. It needs openness to listen and observe.