Optimization to core?

Got this information via my college alumni group. This shows how much optimization can be done 🙂

Last week I took some friends out to a restaurant, and noticed that the waiter who took our order carried a spoon in his shirt pocket. It seemed a little strange, but I ignored it. However, when the busboy brought out water and utensils, I noticed he also had a spoon in his shirt pocket. I then looked around the room and saw that all the waiter persons had a spoon in their pocket. When the waiter came back to check on our order I asked, “Why the spoon?”Well,” he said, “the restaurant’s owners hired Anderson Consulting Experts in efficiency in order to revamp all of our processes. After several months of statistical analysis, they concluded that customers drop their spoons 73.84% more often than any other utensil. This represents a drop of approximately 3 spoons per table per hour. If our personnel is prepared to deal with that contingency, we can reduce the number of trips back to the kitchen and save 1.5 man hours per shift.”

As we finished talking, a metallic sound was heard from behind me. Quickly, the waiter replaced the dropped spoon with the one in his pocket and said: “I’ll get another spoon next time I go to the kitchen instead of making an extra trip to get it right now.”I was rather impressed; the waiters continued taking our orders and while my guests ordered I continued to look around. I then noticed that there was a very thin string hanging out of the waiter’s fly. Looking around, I noticed that all the waiters had the same string hanging from their fly’s.

My curiosity got the better of me and before he walked off I asked the waiter, “Excuse me, but can you tell me why you have that string right there?” “Oh, certainly!” He answered, lowering his voice. “Not everyone is as observant as you. That consulting firm I mentioned also found out that we can save time in the restroom.” “How so?””See,” he continued, “by tying this string to the tip of … you know… we can pull it out over the urinal without touching it and that way eliminate the need to wash the hands, shortening the time spent in the restroom by 39%.””Okay, that makes sense, but if the string helps you get it out, how do you put it back in?””Well,” he whispered, lowering his voice even further, “I don’t know about the others, but I use the spoon.”

BOOK REVIEW

Following are some of the books I have read and their reviews. I have posted them in my geocities homepage. Since some of my friends are interested in this posting it as a seperate blog. Read them and let me know your comments 🙂
Envisioning an empowered nation – Abdul Kalam with Sivathanu Pillai

This is the last by Kalam and it gives a very clear picture of what should be done in each sectors of India. India as a country is very diverse and only the knowledge based economy will help India to become a developed nation. This books talks about agriculture, healthcare, information and communication, critical sectors, biotechnology sectors. He explains clearly what is been done in each and every sector and gives a proposal of what should be done in each sector. This is a very nice book to understand India’s economy in a very top level.

Count your chickens before they hatch – Arindham Chaudhuri

This is one of the best selling books in India. This book consists of two major sections. The first section is more of a ‘Self development’ stuff where the author talks about the ASK paradigm (Attitude, Skill and Knowledge) in order to raise any individual. The second sections talks about the theory ‘I’ management. The ‘I’ stand for ‘India Centric’ management. Particularly I liked the second section where the author mentions that the management policies in any country should be based on the social architecture. He compared the western and Japanese management and gives a proposal for India for which is quotes lots of examples from Mahabharata.

Straight from the gut – Jack Welch

This is autobiography of Jack Welch one of the very well known CEOs of the world. He talks about how he became the CEO of General Electric (GE) and talks some thing about his personal things as well. Things like “Profit, Sell or close” policy, which he applied to each and every divisions of GE, “Churning bottom 15% people” which he applied when we wanted to downsize a particular business is simply revolutionary. One simple lesson, which at least I learned from this book, is neither the organization nor the technology, will give lifetime employment for anybody in any hi-tech industry. Only working in a focused way for the customer will give that.

Wise and Otherwise – Sudha Narayanamurthy

This book contains collection of short stories, which the author wrote in many newspapers and magazines. The author has traveled extensively to the rural parts of India where she met different people in a diversified country India. She explains how people in rural India are having very high value system and leading a self-contained life. This book contains almost 50 small stories. Written in very simple English, this book explains the author’s experiences.

The monk who sold his Ferrari – Robin S Sharma

This is a fable about understanding the real purpose of life. The main character in this book is a lawyer in the US who is very well known in his field. He becomes a workaholic and one day suddenly gets heart attack. After recovering from that he goes to Himalayas in search of Yogis in order to find out the real meaning of life. After learning the same he comes back again to the US and shared his experience what he learnt from the yogis in Himalayas. Wonderfully written book, which emphasizes about the real purpose of life and the importance of following the dream.

Only the paranoid survive – Andrew S grove

Andrew is one of the famous CEOs who lead Intel into the path of microprocessors. In this book he shares his experiences, which can be applied to individual’s career as well as organizations. He explains about how the businesses are affected by many factors which he calls as “10X’ forces. He explains this “10X” force will example of Intel. Initially Intel was into memory chip manufacturing. When the computing industry changed from vertical to horizontal, he made Intel to quit from the memory business and move to the microprocessor business. He also talks about how important it is to listen to lower level employees and the importance of leadership in crisis situations.

Awakening Indians to India – Chinmaya yuva Kendra

This book is a kind of manual, which serves as a manual to know more about India. The data in this book is a collection, which talks about India’s contributions to the world as well as achievements of India in various areas like arts, science, education, management, leadership, medicine, engineering etc. This book can be used as an index and on depending on the interest of the individual one can read more about any particular topic.

Accidental Entrepreneur – Puneet Srivatsava

This book talks about the Entrepreneurship and its components. The author explains the two components Strategic thinking and focused action with the help of the Krishna-Arjuna example in Mahabharata. The author gives some kind of ‘To do’ list for each topic which becomes boring to read. Anyways this is a good text to learn the basics of entrepreneurship.

Who says elephants cannot dance – Louis V Gerstner

This books talks about the historic turnaround of the IBM. In the 1990s because of the changes in the computer industry IBM was losing ground in the PC business and their mainframes business was going down day by day. That time Louis Gerstner took over as CEO of the IBM Corporation and made some revolutionary changes, which made IBM to come out of, lose making. The mentions about the changes he made into the organizations like making the IBM to become more service oriented, venturing into the e-Commerce business and changes in the performance evaluation system etc.

Who moved by Cheese – Spensor Johnson

This is a very small and wonderful story about change management. The couple of characters adapt to change and move ahead in life, whereas the remaining two characters are not accepting the change and end up in losing. Irrespective of age this book has got a very strong message.

The HP way – Dave Packard

Dave Packard, gives an insight of how he and his friend Bill Hewlett built the Hewlett-Packard Company. Both of them started the company in a garage, which was declared as the ‘Birthplace of Silicon Valley’. More than the company’s background the management practices that was followed in the company became very famous and became the popular ‘HP way’ of management. This book gives overview of Management By Walking Around (MBWA), Management By Objectives (MBO), Trust on individuals, which are building blocks of the HP way. This book also explains how the inkjet printing technology was invented in HP, which was an historic breakthrough in the area of digital printing.

Six thinking hats – Edward De Bono

Six thinking hats is a method, which can be applied to any group, or individual thinking by which the thinking process can be made in a parallel and more organized way of any given situation. The ‘Objective’ white hat thinking, ‘Negative’ black hat thinking, ‘Innovative’ green hat thinking, ‘Positive’ yellow hat thinking, ‘Overall’ blue hat thinking, ‘Emotional’ red hat thinking are the building block of the six thinking hats. This book also gives an introduction about the ‘Lateral thinking’, which is more of innovative thinking and suggests some methods for the lateral thinking.

Men are from Mars women are from Venus – John Gray

This book explains about the why men and women behave the way they are. It starts with a small story what the men are from mars planet and women are from Venus planet and the characteristics of the people in that particular planet. Because of the very reason that the people are from different planets they totally behave in a different way. This book is a must read in order to understand the behavior of the opposite sex.

The wings of fire – Abdul Kalam

This book is autobiography of Indian president Abdul Kalam. He starts of from his life in Rameshwaram, where he born and brought up. By seeing stars on the night he developed a passion for the space. Later he worked for DRDL, ISRO and he explains about how he and his team went ahead and built the indigenous security systems for India. He also explains about the dreams of Satish Dawan and Vikram Sarabhai, which motivated him a lot. He quotes examples from Thirukkural, Bhagavath Geetha and Kur-an, which give a philosophical touch to the book. In simple words ‘Wonderful, inspirational stuff’.

You can win – Shiv Khera

This book is about motivational kind. The author talks about the confidence building, self esteem, motivation, subconscious mind and habits. In each chapter he explains each concept with simple and easy to understand stories. Also he suggests some tools and action plans at each chapter, which can be used as a manual. This book I believe is the ‘First Book’ one should read in order to pull him out of socks and start working towards the goal.
The Alchemist – Paulo Coelho
This book is a fable about following individual’s dream. Santiago a Shepard finds about his dream, which is to get the treasure in Egypt. The Alchemy is a methodology, which was mastered by some people in the Arabian countries by which one can transform any metal to gold. Learning this methodology was not very easy and it involves lots of patience and persistence. Guided by one of the Alchemist the boy goes through huge number of hurdles and finally attains his dream.
India Unbound – Gurucharan Das
This is an excellent book talks about the socio-economic aspects of India. This book starts explaining about India’s history from 17th Century and how the British -Raj ruined Indian Economy in the earlier times. Then it talks about post independent economic in which India taken a back seat because of Nehru’s socialistic democracy. This the author calls as License-Raj. So starting from 17th century to 1991 British-Raj and License-Raj has almost done most of the damage whereas the western world capitalized the Industrial revolution and became super powers of the world. The author gives a very good picture of how the economic reforms in 1991 is reshaping India and leaves the hope of a brighter and better India going forward. This is one of the wonderful books I have ever read. I strongly recommend this book for all young Indians.

The Infosys Founder – N.R.Narayana Murthy

This is a small book about the Infosys Technologies founder N.R.Narayana Murthy. The good thing about this book is it is written in such a way even a school going boy or a girl can understand how Murthy built his software powerhouse with a 10,000 rupees investment in 1981. It also gives Mr. Murthy’s perspective about India and its society. Nice and crispy book!

Ignited Minds – Abdul Kalam

This is another wonderful inspirational book by Kalam. Even though this book is written for young school going children of India it gives a clear idea about achievements of Ancient Indians. It includes the invention of number ‘Zero’, Aryabatta’s achievements, Leadership qualities of Gandhi, India’s achievement in the defense and strategic sectors etc…
Competing for the Future – C.K Prahlad and Gary Hamel
This book is about the future strategies that organizations should think about in order to compete in the global world. The material given in the book shows the extensive knowledge of the authors in the management research. This book gives various examples from the past where companies capitalized certain opportunities which others missed. One exciting example they give is about NEC which capitalized on the Computer and Communication boom. I would enjoy this book more when I am actually going the management.
Rich dad poor dad – Robert Kiosaki
This is a very good book talks about basics of financial literacy. The author calls his dad as a poor dad who spent his life working for someone else and calls his friend’s dad as rich dad because he ran his own business and became rich. The book gives a basic framework for wealth generation by dividing the money idea into revenue, expenditure, assets and liabilities. Rich people become richer by making their revenue more and more by investing in assets whereas the poor invest in liabilities and suffer. Excellent idea but explained in a simple way. In some places he mentioned as if studying and getting good grades is not a good thing which I cannot agree.

Secret of software success – Harvard business school review

This is a book written by Harvard business school folks along with some consultants. These folks studied successful habits of many software companies in many places and came up with common observations. Ranging from hiring good people to using nightly builds this book covers extensive topics in the Software engineering area which is a good read for people working in the software industry like me. In some places I felt like some contents are repeated again and again but overall it’s nice to read.

Silicon valley greats – S.S Kshatriy

This book is a case study made by the author about successful Indians who brought in significant changes to the technology industry. This book contains people like Chandra, Kanwal who in 1990s built organizations that has literally brought a revolution in the Silicon Valley. This book also gives enough information about India based entrepreneurs like Narayana Murthy and Pradeep Khar. The author met these people in person and compiled the information in this book, which makes this book unique.
WINNING – Jack Welch
After retiring from GE, Jack went on world tour and met various people from all parts of the world ranging from youngsters to chief executives. Almost all discussions with them boiled down to one simple question “What it takes to win ?”, Win as a team, organization and individuals. In this book he talks about how to shape the Individual career, organization and strategies which lead to winning. Especially the “Your Career” portion I really loved it as I can co-related it to my daily work.

How buffet does it

Warren Buffet is the second richest person in the world next to Bill Gates. He earned all his money by investing in stock market. He basically introduced the concept of “VALUE INVESTING”. This means investing in businesses which has got real values and not thinking about short term benefits. This book consists of 24 powerful lessons of VALUE INVESTING.

Microfinance and Muhammad Yusuf

I got a big shock when I came to know for the first time that 300 million Indians earn less than one dollar a day. As a matter of fact what we get to see in urban India is just the ‘top-brass’ of English speaking, educated, knowledge workers. No doubt! The 1991 economic reforms has definitely turned out very good for middle class population in India, but the poor and uneducated population of the country continue to suffer. Access to basic education, healthcare and food is still a huge problem for these poor people. The next question came to my mind was ‘How to solve the problem of poverty?’ After observing Muhammad yusuf’s ‘Microfinance’ revolution in Bangladesh for quiet some time, I am getting confidence that the poverty problem indeed can be addressed to a major extent.

Before getting into details of Muhammad Yusuf, let me classify educated Indians into two categories. The first category is ‘best-and-best’, which consists of intelligent, educated people. These people in turn go to best institutions in developed countries (Especially in US) work with best people and achieve great things. For example one third of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are from India and China. These entrepreneurs (Most of them are IIT educated who left the country in 1970s) created world class organizations and generated huge amount of wealth. The second category of people ere also equally intelligent and smart but stayed in the country by accepting the limitations of the system. These people strongly believed in ‘bottom-up’ way of revolution and made a huge difference to the country. People like Narayana Murthy, Pranoy Roy, Dr.APJ Abdul Kalaam fall into this category. This great man Dr.Muhammed Yusuf also belongs to the same category.

Yusuf has created a revolution in Bangladesh by empowering poor people (especially ladies) by his knowledge, persistence, commitment and hard-work. His contributions have made so much difference that; he got the ‘Noble peace price’ for the year 2006 and the announcement read:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006, divided into two equal parts, to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank for their efforts to create economic and social development from below. Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty. Micro-credit is one such means. Development from below also serves to advance democracy and human rights.

The term Microfinance is a term used to refer to the activity of provision of financial services to clients who are excluded from the traditional financial system on account of their lower economic status. These financial services will most commonly take the form of loans (which is called as microcredit) and micro-savings, though some microfinance institutions will offer other services such as micro-insurance and payment services. Say for example if your home servant (who is about 50 year old) wants a loan of Rs.10000 it is almost impossible to get it from any banks today. What if such small loans can be given to poor people and train them to become entrepreneurs? That’s exactly what Yusuf has done in Bangladesh.

The concept of microfinance originated in Bangladesh, around 1976 through a pioneering experiment by Dr. Yunus who was then a professor of economics. Dr. Yunus and the Grameen Bank (http://www.grameen-info.org/) have successfully implemented microfinance in Bangladesh. The primary differentiator between microfinance and the conventional credit disbursal mechanism lies in the ‘joint liability’ concept. A group of individuals, almost always women, form an association to apply for loans. All members of the assocation undergo a training programme on the basic procedures and system requirements. Loans to individuals within the group are approved by its other members; the group is likewise jointly responsible for its repayment. To minimise the financial burden, there are upper limits on the amounts lended and lower limits on the duration of repayment.

Inspite of its limitations (Loan defaulting problems, venture failure) Yunus was able to tranform people’s lives in three decades. Since most of the beneficiaries were ladies, it indirectly brought other societial improvements in education, healthcare and birth control. Also this loan prevented poor people from local goons who used to exploit them by giving loans at very high interest rates. Following are the statistical evidences which speaks the success of this program:

  1. Breaking all myths 97% of the loans were repayed.
  2. From fewer than 15,000 borrowers in 1980, the membership had grown to nearly 100,000 by mid-1984. By the end of 1998, the number of branches in operation was 1128, with 2.34 million members (2.24 million of them women) in 38,957 villages. There are 66,581 centers of groups, of which 33,126 are women. Group savings have reached approximately USD 162 million, out of which approximately USD 152 million are saved by women.
  3. As of now 90% of the Gremeen Bank is owned by people and the remaining 10% is supported by the government.
  4. The kitty is growing strong and fast. Some more information can be found from:
    http://www.grameen-info.org/bank/GBGlance.htm

In conclusion Yusuf has successfully demonstrated true ‘Leadership’ by transforming million’s of poor people’s lives. This example once again proves my strong belief that promoting Entrepreneurship is the only way to eradicate poverty in countries like India. The technology based Entrepreneurship will result in ‘top-down’ wealth creation by empowering educated, middle class population. At the same time concepts like microfinance will result in ‘bottom-up’ wealth creation enabling uneducated, poor people.

Digital photography: The next big thing?

In recent times I have been observing the digital photography business. The fast growth of internet and mobile network growth is fuelling the photography business big time. About ten years before the Personal Computer (PC) was the only avenue for digital photos but today everything is revolving around internet. According to statistics, there would be roughly 650 million digital photographs would be available by the year 2009. This huge growth will open up lot of opportunities for camera manufactures (including cam-phones), online photo portals and print-media.

Unlike any other businesses, digital photography got to do more with people’s emotions. People feel happy when they share these digital photographs in electronic or print format with friends and families. Online portals (Which include big players like Yahoo photos, Google picasa) offer end-to-end photo solutions like editing, sharing and printing are on-demand. Apart from big players lot of small players are entering into this segment. One of the recent success is Snapfish (http://www.snapfish.com/) was acquired by Hewlett-Packard in the year 2005. Snapfish is pretty good success in the US but for a long time I couldn’t see any such portals in India.

Recently I came across ‘Snapgalaxy’ (http://www.snapgalaxy.com) and their Indian version (http://www.snapgalaxy.in) proving the photo print service India. Promoted by NRIs, this portal trying to bridge the ‘emotional’ gap between families. They have priced the online print cost at Rs.4.80 per photo (For 4”x6” size) which sounds pretty reasonable compared to Rs.7 charged by other vendors like GK vale in Bangalore. I have not yet used their service but the website looks interesting. Following are some of the salient features provided by Snapgalaxy.
  1. This service is started with Indians in mind that includes NRI and local Indian population.
  2. Users in India can order digital prints from SnapGalaxy.in and they will be delivered at their doorsteps. Additionally they can also ship prints to any part of the world.
  3. Non-resident Indians’ can ship digital prints to their family and friends in India using SnapGalaxy.com. They can also order prints for themselves.
  4. Recipients in India and USA have local shipping option available while those in other countries will have to use International shipping option.

Apart from online photo printing, the digital photography can create significant job opportunity in India. For example Hewlett-Packard has created a pilot project in Kuppam village in Andra-pradesh (http://www.kupnet.org/) which is popularly known as Kuppam ‘i-Community’. As one of the i-Community initiative, house-wives of farmers are trained to become home entrepreneurs by providing them a digital photography kit. This kit consists of a digital camera, photo-smart printer and solar battery charger. These ladies are also provided necessary training in taking digital photos and using the printer. For more details please visit the link:

http://www.kupnet.org/i-community/village-photographers/.

Unlike the traditional photography (Which requires complex photo processing lab and huge initial investment) the digital photography is making the photography much easier and empowering people. From hobby to online photo sharing to employment generation, digital photography has got a very long value chain and growing in a very rapid phase. This makes me feel it is the ‘next-big-thing’.

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Agent based modeling of terrorists

This weekend I got a chance to read one of the IEEE papers titles ‘Modeling terrorists’ which was sent by my cousin Shanmuga.

Predicting and preventing terror attacks has become a very essential task for any country today. There is a traditional ‘analyst’ approach using which these terrorist attacks can be predicted. This analyst approach includes spying, tracking people using satellites, using detectives and tapping various signals like telephone, mobile phone and internet traffic. This analyst approach requires lots of people to perform these tasks and churn out huge amount of data to come up with predictions. What if we can model people’s behavior using software and predict their actions? How about using a simulation program which can help predict how a particular group of people are behaving at this moment? What about a computer model which can help intelligence agencies to unleash the terrorist networks? This is exactly what couple of Universities in the US is trying to achieve.

Basically Artificial Intelligence (AI) based on pre-defined facts and actions. Say for example a robot can be modeled with a set of commands and actions. This particular robot doesn’t learn anything on its own because of which its actions can be predicted. Human beings are far more complex where every human being reacts differently to the same situation. To put it in different terms for the same ‘Stimuli’ there will be different ‘Responses’ in the system. This is mainly because our actions are bound by individual personality, emotions and culture. These factors along with our memory (what we have learned previously) creates an expression inside us which results in a particular action or response. Since these factors vary from person to person the response is totally unpredictable.

Professor Barry Silverman’s group in University of Pennsylvania Kathleen Carley’s group at Cornell University is working on creating this model. The former has taken the ‘inside-out’ approach in which he has created a ‘simulated world’ with set of people living in a particular location using ‘intelligent’ agents and predicting their behaviors. Later taken an approach in which the ‘network’ of people is created and conclusions are drawn based on ‘collective’ approach. Of course these simulations cannot be always true but can provide significant insights into predicting terrorist attacks.

I really enjoyed reading this article!

The 10X hypothesis on Entrepreneurship

If we look back the Entrepreneurs in India and their background, one pattern comes out very clearly. They were mainly from ‘family-oriented’ businesses and I can quote numerous examples like TATAs, Birlas, Ambanis, Godrej and Mittals. Individuals starting from the scratch and becoming successful was less heard in India, till the economy got opened up in 1991.Even after a decade after that Entrepreneurship is not very popular among Indians. Regular salary from a MNC, 2BHK apartment in any of the metro and Honda City cars are the necessary requirements for people and Entrepreneurship not even comes last in that list. For a long time a question was going on in my mind ‘What stops anyone in India becoming an Entrepreneur?’ Of course the first and big reason was the adverse economic conditions that were prevailing in the ‘pre-reform’ times in India. But there is ‘cultural’ reason behind that as well. Then the next question comes up to anybody’s mind is what does a country’s culture got to do with Entrepreneurship?

Recently I was reading the book ‘Marketing Maayajaalam’ in which the author presented some interesting facts. Based on lots of research experts found that there are three ‘Institutions’ which play major role in anybody’s life: Family, Educational institutions, Religious places (like temples, mosques, churches). In the western world the divorce rates are very high (as much as 50%). Most of the children are brought up by single parent/step father or mother, because of which children are not emotional towards family. Going to any university and getting a degree is not given much importance. As a matter of fact Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are university drop-outs. Also following any particular religion also cannot be forced on any individual because of the so called ‘free’ culture. In conclusion a westerner doesn’t derive his security from his family, university or religion and starts embracing ‘capitalism’. Since Entrepreneurship has got to do a lot with capitalism and he finds his security in following the business he goes on to make the business successful. In contrast for any Indian, these three Institutions play a major role in his life and naturally we get ‘emotional’ towards them. Most of our lift time is spent in taking care of family and leading a ‘comfortable’ life instead of venturing into something new.

But if we look into the big picture, Entrepreneurship is the only way out for countries like India to solve the problem of poverty by generating employment. In fact the first generation IT companies like TCS, HCL and Infosys have successfully demonstrated what changes Entrepreneurship can bring into our country. These companies have proven the ‘wealth generation’ formula in India.

Having said that, Entrepreneurship is never been easy in India. People need to fight against the gravity to make is successful. If 3X energy level required making a company successful in any western country, in India we need 10X energy. The extra 7X is spent towards fight against mindset, government, family and society. This is what I call as ‘10X’ hypothesis. I can give two examples to prove my 10X theory:

  • When Mr.Ramadorai (CEO of TCS) joined Tata & Sons in 1970s (There was no TCS by then) they imported a computer system by paying 120% government import duty. Please note the number 120% is not a spelling mistake. When they received it, nobody had any idea of operating that computer. In fact Mr.Ramadorai traveled to Canada to learn how to operate the computer.
  • When Murthy started Infosys he had to travel ‘seven’ times to Delhi to get customs clearance for his imported computers. Apart from that he dealt with government officials to move it to Mumbai.

At the same time if you think of any western country these things would have not even existed. They would have struggled with the ‘business’ but not with the ‘system’ whereas in India we need to fight with both of them. In conclusion, I strongly believe Greg Chappell’s theory: ‘Emotions leads to actions, reasons lead to conclusions’. As long as any individual is emotional towards anything the action will automatically happen irrespective of adverse conditions. The energy required may be in the order of 10X but it is indeed the need for our country.

Innovation by accident ?

Famous Author Edward De Bono, in his book ‘Six thinking hats’ talks about the ‘lateral thinking’ concept. This new way of lateral thinking is commonly known as ‘out of the box’ thinking and our right side of the brain (which is intuitive in nature) is responsible for this. The author argues that the lateral thinking can be cultivated in any individual or organization by ‘connecting’ things. What is this connecting is all about? How different this lateral thinking is from ‘sequential’ or ‘normal’ thinking? Can we cultivate innovation by connecting things? Yes. It is possible with ‘De Bono’ style thinking.

De Bono suggests choosing two random page numbers in English dictionary and pickup words in the right hand bottom of each of those pages. Now try to connect these two words. Say for example if my words are ‘programming’ and ‘desert’ then I can think of ‘writing a computer program to measure temperature of remote desert’. This will open up new opportunities and the ‘sequential’ thinking needs to be applied to execute the lateral thinking idea. This is also called as ‘blue ocean strategy’ in business world, where the culmination of two different ideas from different industries forms a new ‘killer’ business idea.

This lateral thinking is widely used in the industry to make the decision making faster and promote innovation. Recently Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has given training to Indian cricket team for innovating new ideas in the game. Also in his famous speech at Stanford University Apple CEO Steve Jobs talks about the importance of ‘connecting the dots’. Leaving them apart, can an accident become ‘innovation’? If yes how it is?

In the year 1978 the Hewlett-Packard (HP) company, formed their ‘HP-labs’ for nurturing innovation in Palo Alto, California. An engineer working on developing thin film technology for the hardware chips was testing the response of thin film to electrical stimulations. The electricity superheated the medium, and the fluid under the thin film was expelled. This particular accident caused the engineer to think more: ‘what if the jets of fluid can be controlled?’ Instead of heating the thin film how about heating the ink and making it flow on paper in a controlled fashion? This thinking caused the invention of Thermal Ink Jet (TIJ) technology which laid the foundation stone for thermal inkjet printers and the rest is history. By ‘connecting’ the film heating with ink heating made the accident as an innovation.

Now what about ‘connecting’ this printer businesses ‘shaving razor’ business? Gone crazy? No. I am not crazy. Most of us would have observed Gillette sells its shaving stick at a very competitive price (Say 200 INR) but their blades are very costly (Say 100 INR). You are forced to buy Gillette blades (Even though it is costly) because you have already bought the stick from them. Now what about selling printers at a very optimal price and then cartridges at high cost? Sounds great! Can you see the ‘connection’ now? That’s exactly what HP is doing with their printer business. They have formed the blue-ocean strategy by learning from shaving razor business.

It’s really amazing to learn and experience the lateral thinking. So let us start ‘connecting’ things from now on!