Innovation is an accident!


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The act of innovation and the results thereby are always by accident. And, that’s when they are the sweetest.

Innovation is the after effect, the result of creativity. And when is creativity at its best?

Well, there are two schools of thought. One believes that you need to have experienced certain hardship, been under pressure or difficult circumstances and as you toil to get out of this situation, you innovate. You think and act in creative ways to solve the issue at hand and come up with some very novel ways of doing so.

Another school of thought believes that true innovation, for that matter quality innovation happens in an environment that helps nurture creativity. True breeding grounds of creativity need to be established and encouraged where an issue to be solved is first recognized; then, those enlisted to act on solving the issue are freed up of any other responsibilities and are charged with focusing on this one thing.

More often that not, history has shown us that true innovation happens under pressure, when you are trying to solve an issue you are struggling with. However, the latter is true as well, but what happens there is not creative innovation to solve an issue, but more of solution enhancement and optimization; albeit creative.

Let me enumerate through some examples.

The invention of the round wheel was innovation that happened to fulfill a need, transport; the improvisation of the wheel to make it last longer, go faster, adapt to different vehicles, etc. falls under solution enhancement.

Connecting people through e-mail and Facebook during this Internet age was innovation addressing a need, social connectivity. Twitter, chat and the different facelifts we see of Facebook are improvisation and solution enhancement.

Generally speaking, the birth of innovation to solve an issue happens purely due to the urge to solve the issue; there is not much needed in terms of money and establishments to do that for its entirely based on frugality and the excitement to see something new. What follows after that, demands a lot more in terms of money and material to improvise and scale.

Not to say that one is righteous than the other, we all know that the world needs both.

Creativity, whether in profession or hobby is the spark that makes what you do purposeful. Where do you find your fulfillment?  In the former or the latter? Once you can answer that, you will know where your passion, your heart lies and where you can prosper and thrive.

Leadership Today – From Command & Control to Being Inclusive


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Leaders are built, not born…..

Lead from the front…..

Yawn! This is old school.

Let’s look at leadership for what it is in the new age. Gone are the days of command and control. Today, there is an altogether different leadership that is expected.

Leadership, as we have understood it through the ages, stands for someone, being the champion of a cause and then, enlisting the help of others and influencing them in the realization of the same. It has also been seen as the act of leading others, directing them toward specific achievements through a means that is most effective.

However, leadership is not always about being at the forefront of a team and giving directions as to what they need to do next and how.

The entrepreneurial and corporate engines of today run with a different fuel, an altogether different steam. Nobody is directing anyone, people have the intellect and drive to choose and follow the paths they want to adventure onto 

Leadership is effectively sharing a compelling vision

What they need is a purposeful and meaningful vision, an articulation of how to get from point A to point B and finally, if you are someone who has been there and done that, there’s acknowledgement of what you’ve done and people want to listen to you. Mind you, I said listen. Today’s generation would love to listen to glean lessons from someone else’s experience. They do not care for direction. They will chart their path as long as they buy into the vision, the strategy laid to adopt and the results to be realized. They will chart their own path, a path that works for them to get there under the larger realm of the organizational vision and mission.

Leadership is being respectful of other’s intellect, skills and time

Everyone develops expertise over time at different things and then, can lead within that field, thanks to the skills they have accrued. Leaders are respectful of that. It’s often said that good leaders are aware of their own strengths and weaknesses and surround themselves with people better than themselves in areas they lack expertise in. It’s important that to effectuate strong leadership, leaders are respectful of those that work for them and with them. These helps nurture a mutually healthy relationship between leaders and followers and only then, do those that follow, do it willingly. Followers have the freedom, not to just follow blindly, but to question and opine before they follow. A leader’s recognition of every associate’s skills, role and contributions are critical to maximize productivity in any organization. 

Leadership is being transparent, showing strength of character and conviction

A leader is respected for who they are more than what they represent. People need to believe in a person before they decide to follow. A leader needs to ensure that more than having a charismatic personality; they are transparent, just in their dealings and have a high level of integrity and moral values. Trust is a key aspect of any relationship and nothing can establish it more than your true self, reflected in your words and actions. Another important aspect of reflecting true leadership is to show conviction in what you believe and stand for. Decisions that you take need to be solid and no matter what, you should be able to stand behind them. You should not take a decision without much forethought and facts to back it up. And when you do, stand behind it, no matter what. These qualities are vital in ensuring true followership that will stand behind you all the way.

Leadership is putting your shareholders, but first, your employees before you

Leaders focus on the big picture. Yet, they need to have a handle on the tactical stuff. Leaders focus on providing shareholder value, and will put their employees, those that are working on the realization of the articulated vision before everything else. Happy employees lead to satisfied clients and they, in turn lead to a thriving business, eventually ensuring shareholder approval. As long as you’ve got your people’s back, they will have yours.

Leadership is not about directing, but about listening and co-sharing direction

Leaders of this age are no longer the ones that can sit in their ivory towers, draw the shades down and call the shots from yonder. In this day and age of Internet, social media and fast paced actions and outcomes, its important for a leader to stay in absolute touch with their organization, the competition and the market. With rapidly shifting dynamics, it’s about effectively listening to what your people have to say to you. What are they seeing out there? What are they experiencing? What do they advise? All of this needs to be appraised constantly and decisions need to be made based on every input you can possibly get. Its shared leadership as to which direction the organization should take. This is the only way to remain relevant is a fast paced ever changing market.

Leadership is personal

Leadership is personal to every leader. Every leader is unique and to be effective, needs to be comfortable with their own style. You can be at your best as a leader when your leadership reflects your values, skills and life experiences. People seek to know you for who you are. They will look to you to be ethical, moral, righteous etc. before they follow you but eventually, your unique self will be a key aspect of why they would follow you.

Did you really say that? Hmm…that’s not what I heard!


Have you ever noticed that children demand 100% attention when they are communicating with you? Why children, try being a little inattentive with your spouse when in a conversation and see what happens!

Have you ever felt that you asked for one thing and received something different? What went wrong?  You thought you were clear in explaining what you wanted but how did it not get across to the other person? Did they not hear right or comprehend correctly? Or perhaps, were you not clear with communicating your expectations while you thought you were?

Communication & Comprehension are the crucial factors of discussion here. Mastering these ensures your professional & personal success. We live in a world of conflicting egos and hence, this becomes all the more important.

We, humans are a social animal and hence, social interaction is inevitable. Whether it’s in your personal, professional or social life, interaction is an integral part of relating with one another.

Communication is key, yet so little is done by us at improving our communication abilities and approaches. Communication is not just about knowing a language or understanding its application or mastering technical lingo before you start using it. Mastering a language in terms of how to write, read and speak doesn’t mean you have mastered the art of communication. Communication in itself has several subtleties that are to be recognized, practiced and honed upon in order to have total control on the interaction dynamics.

The real life application of communication is unique. In order to succeed at any relationship, you need to ensure you understand the other party a complete 100% and at the same time you ensure they understand you a 100% as well. Every little struggle, strife, altercation & collective frustration leading to something worse, is all a result of that 100% not being met.

Communication is a two-way street. Most of us let our ego drive us and make the mistake of trying to expend energy to get our point across. It’s not about you always talking. Have you tried to actually curb your urge to speak, control your emotions and listen to the other party? Even in a situation where you feel absolutely sure that you are right, it’s important to give space and the due respect to the other party in terms of lending them an ear. Mostly, in such a situation, just listening patiently & attentively might take the frustration and animosity out of the mix and you end up having a real conversation. Respect the other party. Listen, and then talk. Never let emotions get the better of you while you are communicating. Always ensure you validate what you have heard, especially when a reaction or deliverable is expected of you. When there are expectations of you, ensure you ask for instructions in written for validation of the communiqué.

Talking about emotions, communication is not just talking and listening. Body language & voice modulation, your tone & gestures; all are an integral part of a good communication mix. Although, you should never let emotions get the better of you while communicating, you need to relate the emotion through these intrinsic aspects of communication. They can be much more powerful than the literal aspects of the act of communication.

It is so important that you come across completely when you communicate, whether through the word of mouth or the word of your pen/keystrokes. Communication is all about clarity. A little distortion in understanding can mean a sea change in the after effects or actions as a result of that communication.

Whether you are communicating to your spouse, kids, family, clients, customers, peers, bosses, prospects or strangers; always ensure clarity of thought in your speech or written word. Relate the respect you impart by listening attentively and reacting carefully. Say what you mean and mean what you say and never leave anything unsaid unless you want your audience to read between the lines!

A little self-restraint can save you some precious “Ahs” and “Ohs”!


                                           

One would think that one can be a free soul in certain scenarios; be yourself in the midst of your loved ones, primarily your family. Well, sure. But, every situation has its own rules and tenets. After all, we are humans. How did you ever think there would be a situation or scenario where all rules could just be blown away?

In any case, what we are discussing today is about self-restraint. Every person has a unique temperament. I know “spur of the moment; say it on your face” folks as well as “duh, were you talking to me?” folks. There are those that just absorb a situation and do not react to it at all versus those that absorb, analyze and then, come out with a self validated reaction based on their experience. And, then there are those that first react and then, go on to analyze what just happened.

There are several situations you tackle every day, be it at home, at work, in a social circle or even, in your virtual world, you know what I mean, social networks on the web, your e-mail etc. With the rapid exchanges these days and a horrendous influx of information to assimilate and analyze, it somehow seems that impromptu reactions are the best way to keep on top of such daunting interactions. As tempting as it might seem, it is in your best interest to exercise some self-restraint. If an interaction is important to you, take a moment, pause, think and store your reaction away to come back to later. That “later” might be a few minutes away, a few hours away or if possible, a few days away depending on the urgency of the matter at hand. When you come back to react at this later time, you will be amazed at your self and the vast difference in your reaction then, and now. Time is a great healer and brings about the balance in your reactions, the right balance that just probably saved you a job, a relationship, a life.

I am not saying that there should not be instant reactions at all. There are situations that definitely need these to save the day or cherish a moment, but judge those and react accordingly. But, if you feel hurried before reacting or feel that your urge has gotten the better of you, STOP! And follow the wait and react approach. You will never have to cry over spilt milk!

Work Smart, not hard…


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Every time I strike up a conversation with someone, either in a professional environment or in a social setting, the conversation invariably moves towards how it’s been on the work front. Most of the time, what I hear is, “It’s been busy!” Then, the conversation meanders into how there is no time to even catch a breath, so on and so forth. Sound familiar?

And, I invariably start thinking that this has become an unconscious reaction of almost anyone, whether they are truly swamped or not. After all, work is such an integral part of anyone’s life. But, in the modern world as we know it, is any work truly “hard”. Well, most of it is not and whatever is, there are several innovations in place to make it easier to perform.

Today, it is not as much about working hard as it is about working smart. We live in a time where it’s your resourcefulness and acumen that plays a vital part in your success than sheer hard toil.

For every aspect of work where true muscle power is needed, machinery and computers have proven their mettle. When it comes to true productivity, burning themidnightoil has shown to be futile. The most productive contribution from a human is limited to about 8-9 hours a day. After that, a change in scene is required to ensure that you do not burn yourself out. There is a need to recharge and replenish for continuing your productive pursuit the next day.

It also helps to pause a moment and relook at the task ahead with a fresh perspective. Often times, you will see a different light on some other end of the dark tunnel. The modern workforce is distributed across the globe, some working virtually and some enjoying flexible schedules. These allowances have actually brought down stress levels and increased productivity. Imagine being tied to your desk working on a task while worrying about how your kids will be picked up at daycare if you can’t go. Who wins in this situation? Now, if you were able to take off for an hour to get your kids home and come back to work or if you were to take off early, get your kids home and then, continue to work from home, isn’t that a true win-win situation all around.

Coming back to the 8-9 hours you have available on a daily basis to tackle work, I think that is plenty of time to be truly productive without complaining about being swamped. It boils down to planning your work and then, working the plan. It also builds upon being accountable for what you do and showing responsibility. This will actually rub off on those that you work with. If you plan right and perform right, you should never be truly swamped or overwhelmed by work.

Today’s economy has created unique situations where many employees have taken on more than their due at work and are thankful to be employed. But, this also creates situations where they may be overwhelmed causing burnout. By nature, we try to pack as much as possible in a day. Working smart is prioritizing based on importance and urgency, planning workable chunks, setting yourself up to succeed, being flexible to accommodate your work/life balance without losing focus on either.

Now, take a moment and reflect on your own situation….

Are you working hard…..or working smart?

Do you support smart work within your team/your organization?

Small talk, how much do you indulge in?


Whether at work or in a social gathering, small talk plays a vital role in breaking the ice and taking conversations to the next level while developing relationships and taking them into exciting places. Whether you are an introvert or not, its important to conciously engage in conversations with others to develop your network as well as conversational skiils.

In work situations, small talk helps cement relationships with your colleagues and peers and actually, brings about a certain ease into these working relationships. The friendships this fosters goes a long way in helping you do a good job as well as improve your standing at work. However, on the flip side, there is a possibility of the small talk overshadowing actual work when seriousness is required to accomplish certain goals. Uncontrolled small talk has a tendency to overshadow the actual premise of what it needs to support and can further encourage gossip and groupism at work. This can be a detriment to teams working together for the accomplishment of common goals.

It has been observed that the workforce of the East is predominantly not at ease with small talk. This needs to become a learned habit in order to excel in the corporate world. At the same time, small talk has to be meaningful, intelligent and situation based. A little general knowledge and awareness of your surroundings goes a long way in helping you strike up a conversation.

So, the next time you see someone you’d like to get to know, or nurture a work relationship, strike up that conversation and leave your mark!

 

Whose side are you on?


“Whose side are you on?”

A question often heard by each one of us, at home when interacting with the family, at work when interacting with colleagues or at social events when interacting with friends.

 Really, “whose side are you on?”

Each of us plays several roles in our daily life. You are a parent, a sibling, a child, a spouse or partner, a colleague, an employee or business partner, a friend, an adversary, a competitor and much more. It’s important that we don each of these different hats as needed. It’s truly amazing how many roles we go through each day. And you thought you weren’t a good actor? Well, rest assured; you are a true to life actor!

In each of these acts, your loyalties differ and hence, your priorities. At home, your family takes precedence and all you do is for the family’s benefit and comfort. Even within a family; over time, different members share a premier part of you, be it your parents, siblings, spouse or children. At work, your time and action is governed by objectives of your organization’s success. On the social front, it’s the relationships you cherish with friends that are at the forefront.

There are times when each of these roles steps on the toes of another and that is when the question arises, “Whose side are you on?” When work keeps you busy and tied down beyond normal limits, neither the family nor friends are amused. Similarly, when you tend to spend more time with friends, the family isn’t happy either. And, if it’s the family taking up all the time, work and friends suffer. It’s a delicate balance that has to be kept up in order to hold onto a sane life.

You are out at work to provide for your family and yourself. When at work, you are representing the interests of whom/what you work for and it’s important that you believe in the same with your heart and soul to be effective at it. Your profession establishes your identity in the world since that is the yardstick the world has chosen to measure people by; what they do. The friends and relations you maintain are a true reflection of your core as a person. There are relationships that are a result of your work and the end result of those is just that, to propagate your work. Do not mistake them for what I am referring to here. The friends I am referring to are the ones whose company you truly enjoy, where you can be yourself and live within your own skin with no expectations on either side. Such relationships are an integral part of maintaining a balance in life. Today, in the world of online social media, you could have hundreds and thousands of “friends”, yet there is a close-knit group that you enjoy spending time with. That group helps you energize to focus on playing the other roles in your life.

Are you spending more time at work consistently? What is triggering this? Are you unable to catch up with your work? Is it now time to re-prioritize? Are you spending too much time out with friends and neglecting family commitments? Are you so engrossed with things occupying family that your work and friends are taking a hit? These are signs to watch out for since it means the balance in your life is tilting somewhere. Such tilt is bound to happen and in more cases than not, its important to have that happen. After all, each of these areas of your life is extremely important. But, it also means it needs to be addressed to set the balance right.

Simply put, work while at work, play while at play and cherish your family all through. That is the mantra of a happy, blessed and successful life!