Developing Life Skills…

Like any skill development developing life skills is a serious business.

It needs three basic qualities —

a) Simplicity

b) Patience

c) Kindness and respect for yourself

This is because development of life skills goes through four distinct phases, which are —

1. Unconsciously incompetent — we simply don’t  know why we are doing things that we keep doing. It keeps getting again and again with no improvement in sight. We behave like a robot.

2. Consciously incompetent — we suddenly realize that there must be a way out of ‘failures’ and ‘sufferings’ and ‘pain’ that we are inflicting upon ourselves.  And we decide to do something about it. We also realize that it is our unconscious habits, ideas, concepts, assumptions, thinking patterns, convictions, weaknesses that are the source of trouble. We then start to see our feelings and thoughts as they arise and try to look at them before they transform into commitments, decisions and actions. We are conscious about it but find it a difficult job.

3. Consciously competent — slowly over time and practice we start to have a grip on the issue of seeing our feelings and thoughts and check the flaws in those, which would have undesirable result both for ourselves and others if acted upon. We then consciously start changing our intentions and actions. However, at this stage we sometimes succeed and sometimes fail. But we are aware of both our successes and failures and are able to keep ourselves centered.

4. Unconsciously competent — this is the transformation stage. And such transformation happens quite suddenly. When it happens we no longer need to be conscious about what we are feeling or thinking and about the decisions and actions that are to be taken. It happens automatically. We have before us many choices to make and the right choice for the right context is automatically selected. It is so automatic that it seems that ‘nothing special’ is happening. Such transformation leads to better outcomes for self and others and perhaps for the world at large.

We automatically take care of our problems, failures, sufferings and pains.

Without undergoing individual transformation, I strongly feel that there is little or no hope of changing our lives and the world.

Qualities of a Teacher…

We all need teachers/gurus/mentors to get ahead in life and do good to self and others.

But what are the qualities of a teacher that make a ‘teacher’ the right teacher for us?

There are at least seven qualities any good teacher has: –

1. Knows about a practice learned from past masters or having created a body of knowledge developed over years of practice through direct experience.

2. Knows the nuanced meaning of the body of knowledge.

3. Sense of oneself . Knows one’s convictions, values, virtues, weakness, ways or methods of learning, degree of discernment, wit, humor, kindness, emotions, feelings…

4. Sense when enough is enough. That is having a sense of enough food, shelter, clothing, health, knowledge, practice, application, concentration, thinking, effort, ….

5. Sense of time and place. Has a sense of timing of when to act, speak, think, concentrate, when to eat, when to rest, when to listen, when to memorize, when to collaborate, when to cooperate, when to ask questions, when to stop, when not to act ….

6. Sense of social gathering. Has a sense of what is to be done in a social setting. How much is to be spoken? How to behave? When to speak or act what? How a thing is to be told or communicated? What and how to tell whom and what… that brings out the best in self and others…

7. Sense of individuals. Has a sense of whom to follow, whom to learn from, whom to copy, whom to collaborate with, whom to cooperate, whom to stay close to, whom to avoid …..

First two qualities are related to knowledge, which can be transmitted through words, books, lectures, debates, dialogs. The last five are related to sensing, which can’t be directly transmitted but are to be developed by the student by copying the teacher and staying close enough to experience various situations and learn how the teacher faces and negotiates such situations.

What is so difficult about Entrepreneurship?

To understand how difficult entrepreneurship is one has only to understand the root of the word ‘entrepreneur‘. The root is a Sanskrit word ‘anthaprerna‘, which means inspiration from within‘. Incidentally the way ‘entrepreneur’ is pronounced is exactly the same as ‘anthaprerna’.

That might be the reason as to why we often ask, ‘Can we really teach anyone entrepreneurship?’

It is obvious that one can’t teach anyone ‘inspiration from within’. It is intensely personal and can’t be generated through any imposed structured education, routine or plan. This is because ‘inspiration from within’ is not something that can be copied from somewhere. As its name suggest it has to come from within and can’t be brought about by any force. It comes when it comes. But once it comes it keeps coming and the person is well on his/her way to entrepreneurship and beyond.

Such has been the case with Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and a host of other equally inspiring figures. They were all “inspired from within” and such inspirations blossomed into well admired and enviable enterprises.

It is worthwhile to note that they did not start with a business plan or model. They generated their inspiration exactly like great artists and improvised as they followed their inspirations creating wonder and awe in its wake.

So would it be possible for any other potential entrepreneur to copy their methods and techniques and build on them if their methods were taught in colleges as case studies? Daniel Khaneman argues in his famous book “Thinking Fast and Slow” why that is impossible by highlighting Google as case in point.

And why is this so?

Because the entrepreneurs who leave behind a lasting impact on our world don’t go out in search for answers to their questions. They wait for the answers to come to them. They are hardly inspired by what others are doing. They draw out their inspirations from whatever they are engaged in. Then a magic happens. Because every other thing that they need to follow their inspiration follows them.

…… now that is entrepreneurship!




(TINI (The International Nemetics Institute) keeps that in mind while delivering their 3 months certificate course on ‘Emotional Entrepreneurship’.)


When you must leave a team?

When you must leave a team?

The simple answer is when you don’t see your reflection in the team any more.

That is —

a) when no one is paying attention to what you are feeling, thinking or doing.

b) when others are not interested in playing with you — with the ideas you are trying to evolve, new directions you are trying to set.

c) when team members fail to reflect your excitement and joy of creation or the diligence of getting things done.

d) when team mates consistently fail to respond to reality or fail to respond to the weak signals in the environment that would soon grow big.

Leaving teams is as important as joining teams. This is because it is important to stay alive.

Alive or dead organization?

The size or money of an organization hardly determines whether it is great or stupid; alive or dead.

It depends on the people within an organization.

Are they attentive?

Do they have they ability to take risks?

Do they have child like ability to remain open, curious and playful?

Do they have the ability to be happy, free of assumptions and concepts?

These would determine whether the organization is alive or dead.

It all boils down to whether you are alive or dead.

Power of Visual Story Telling!

Few days back I submitted a written consulting report  to an owner of an NGO. This was to improve productivity of the process of making natural eco-friendly fertilizers. With rising costs he was increasingly finding it difficult to sustain the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ business. So improving productivity was his only means to not only save his business but also to save his customers – the poor farmers. The farmers use this eco-friendly product to improve farm productivity and also feed their live stock.

So the project was important to me. If I can help him improve productivity then I would also be able to contribute to sustainable and resilient rural communities.

I visited them. And clinically went through the present process. Then I wrote my ideas and recommendations in a written report and emailed it.

I quote the relevant extracts from the report:


A) Reduce the size of the batch being processed in the initial stage. 
At present a large quantity of raw material is processed in one go. It is slow, time taking and perhaps non-uniform. It suffers from all the 3 Mudas.
Break it up into smaller chunks.
For example a single batch may contain just the right amount of material that can be processed into finished product in a day. For instance if only 1T of finished product can be processed in a day then the batch sizes would be of 1T only.
A 1. Stagger 
The whole batch is processed in one go. That is the whole batch is left for fermentation for the next 7 to 10 days depending on the prevailing season of the year before it is taken out for further sorting and processing. It suffers from all the 3 Mudas.
Since it takes 7 to 10 days (varies between summer and winter) for the raw meal to be ready for further processing. The batches can be planned in such a way depending on the season of the year — where preparation and production are in sync and it can start after the first batch is ready. It means the first batch is taken out after the 7th day and the next batch (prepared a day later) is taken out on the 8th day from the start of the production and so on…
B) Combine Preparation and Fermentation 
The preparation is done in a separate area. This is followed by storing for fermentation which is carried out in a separate area in plastic drums.
Combine the two processes.
Prepare the raw meal in the fermentation drum directly. It combines two activities in one stroke.
A suitable size of drum (used oil drums cut into halves) may be used for the purpose. The drums may be designed like the boiler drum available in the xxx office which would allow for stirring and mixing as well as act as air tight drums, which is necessary for fermentation.
The sprinkling of the chemicals that is required during preparation of the raw meal might be carried out in the way mosquito repellents are sprayed with the drum placed on the back of the sprayer. Similar drum containing the chemical can be strapped onto the back of the operator who sprays the required amount of chemical into the raw meal.
There is a need to constantly stir the raw meal during preparation. This can be done manually by means of a gear drive made of plastic or wood (so that heavy lubrication is avoided, which may spill into the raw meal – thus contaminating it).
After the meal is prepared the drums can be shut tight (air tight) by a similar mechanism used for the xxx boiler drum.
The same drum can be placed on a titling mechanism (similar to platform used for industrial gases) which can be lowered when needed to the required height for packing and weighing.
Such a jugaard (half drum, detachable and movable cover, gear driven manual stirrer, chemical spray dispenser,  air tight mechanism, mounting on a tilting table like the way industrial gas cylinders are mounted) might be created for processing smaller batches.
C) Filling up the packets by calibrated mugs. 
At present the operator fills up the packets by haunch/feel. Then the right amount is adjusted after weighment. This is a trail and error method that entails a loss of productive time.
The material can be filled by help of calibrated mugs that would contain either 1 kg of raw meal (for 1 kg packs) or 2.5 kg of raw meal (for 5 kg packs). This improves accuracy, speed of operation and minimizes time losses from the system.
Presently the sequence of the processing is bit haphazard. This cause time loss and motion loss.
The entire process may be laid out in a orderly and logical sequence to eliminate motion loss, time loss and loss due to unevenness of loading.
The floor can be raised and leveled for that purpose complete with suitable and reliable electrical connections wherever needed. This would also prevent inundation of the work place by rain water during monsoon.
I am sure you found it difficult to follow what I recommended.
The owner, though he knew about the process, also found it difficult to follow the report. He called me up to say, ‘Hey, my men and I did not quite get what you want us to do in your report. Is it possible for you to come down and explain? I would be obliged if you may.”
Coming from a man who passed out from one of the best MBA schools in the world rang a bell in my mind. So if he can’t get it surely others might also find it difficult. And clearly there was any story here.
However, I wanted to avoid a visit (I never love physical travel) and thought what else might I do to make it clear to him and his men.What followed was a pictorial representation of what I wrote, which is as follows:
process (1)
After he got the pictorial view of the story I called him up to ask how he liked it. “Simply brilliant story!’ he replied.
I thank my colleagues Rick De and T R Khan for creating this moving visual story.
A picture is worth a thousand words — surely!!

Outline of the 1st Week of “Emotional Entrepreneurship”.

Here is a course outline for the 1st week of a 12 week course on “Emotional Entrepreneurship” 

It is all about innovation and entrepreneurship.

12 week course on Emotional Entrepreneurship

The general activities for the first of 12 weeks of ‘Emotional Entrepreneurship’ course by TINI (The International Nemetics Institute) at Kolkata.

Goal: by the end of 12 weeks participants would be able to design and give shape to and channelize their feelings into a small business that enables them to live more happier and contended lives.

The general plan for the first week: 

a) Reflecting NatureLearning to relax and reduce anxiety – dialog, demonstration, workshop, practice, innovation in their design of business. (Addn: notes – health, breathing, thoughts).

Without a relaxed body and mind designing and running an enterprise is an useless thing. Record has it that two out of three business start up fail during the first three years of operation and barely one out of 10 survive the first ten years of operation.

b) Catching the snake – the art of attention — dialog, workshop, practice, innovation in their design of business.

Perception is critical to anything that we do. If we get it wrong it destroys us. It is like catching a poisonous snake. If we catch it by the tail it swings around and bites us to death with its poison (wrong perception).  However, if we are able to catch it by its head (that is get the right perspective) we are safe. It is the same with entrepreneurship. Wrong perceptions lead us to death of any entrepreneur. Fortunately, getting the right perspective is not difficult and is teachable. It is done through the art of ‘attention‘.

c) Listening to flower bloom – the art of listening — dialog, workshop, practice, innovation in their design of business.

Listening is the critical to survive and thrive in a small business. However, it is not easy in a noisy environment that we face. We have to listen to customers and we have to listen to our own voice. The art of listening lies in balancing the two voices and making sense of it.
d) Introduction to social media and its use (part 1) — Gmail, G+, G docs, pages.

Social media is a way to learn, be in contact with mentors and get instant feedback about our activities. It is also about letting the world know about our activities and develop a healthy self-esteem about what we are doing.  All these are important to keep, sustain and direct our efforts in the right direction.

e) Keeping a journal.

Keeping a journal is an introspective tool of what we are doing right or wrong with every passing day. A well recorded journal tells us whether we are progressing or deteriorating as days go by. It is a sort of hard trend of our own happiness, health, inner growth that guides us and provides cues

Stay tuned for the plan for the 2nd week. 

How to create an Incentive scheme to boost Self Organized Productivity?

The Issue

Creating an incentive plan or scheme in an organization is a tricky affair. Most don’t seem to get it right. As a result the desired goals are left unmet. So the top Management feels that they lost in the bargain. And surprisingly the employees also think the same that they have been unfairly treated or cheated by the scheme. Nonetheless it leaves behind a bitter taste that isolates Management from its most vital resource — the employees.

What is known or desired by Management?

However, the aims of any well-meant incentive plan is clear; some of those being —

a) Improve productivity through self organized improvement of efficiency and effectiveness of a production system.

b) Improve self managed quality as an inbuilt factor into any production system

c) Enables employees to quickly discover systemic faults in the production system and self correct those through self-initiated interactions.

What is Unknown by Management? 

a) Management does not yet have a model to work out an incentive plan/scheme that is not only systemic but also self organizing to improve the system.

b) Presently management looks at bits and pieces of data to create work wise incentive plan that is applicable to an individual or a group or a department at most. It does not know how to create an incentive plan that would map and address both interdependence of different departments and their independence too.

c) The same goes for correctly evaluating or assessing the contribution of different types and grades of employees who work in various departments.

d) Management is also unaware of the type of data to look for that would not only help them create the right type of incentive scheme but also keep the inherent dynamics of the system, where the central idea is to create a dynamic incentive plan that helps the production system to be resilient rather than a static one, which can prove to be quite anti-resilient and limiting.

What is needed? 

a) A clear understanding of the system dynamics.

b) The maximum and minimum potential of the system

c) What would be the stability zone to operate in and how to predict when instability sets in?

d) The inherent potential for the system to improve without any additional investment

e) The limit beyond which only additional investment can improve productivity.

f) The right parameters to be selected

The Resolution

The resolution to the above issue is depicted by the conceptual model as shown below:

incentive Plan
Incentive Model


This model (based on science of complexity) was applied to one relatively large Indian multi-national unit and the results were the following:

1. Productivity improved by 1.75 times within 2 months of implementation of the scheme.

2. Self organized improvements took place

3. Real time communication increased between employees

4. Quality improved and sustained.

5. The improvements were self-sustaining without any other capital investment.

Design is about Changing the World; Not Selling Stuff

It generally feels so good to see a talented person getting interested in the work one does.

I felt the same when a pal of mine shared a paper entitled, ‘The Osmotic Bubble: Design Synchronicity: Unconscious Learning Through Osmosis: How Emotions and Intuition Empower Us to Imagine“, written by Niberca Polo

In Michael Josefowicz’s (her teacher in design) words:

“She teaches design as a praxis. She is the one who designed the Digit Bcorp website and the logos for Digit, Arrival City News and ACPress.  She is also a latina with deep roots in Dominican Republic with an understanding that design is about changing the world. Not selling stuff.  I have worked with +niberca lluberes over the course of many years since she was my student at Parsons. Awesome smart, gr8 dna, and a Latina spirit who has absolutely no time for bullshit. :-)”

Now the relevant snippet from her wonderful paper: —


The International Nemetics Institute (TINI’s), in India is doing very interesting work on what they call Emotional Entrepreneurship, and the relationship between “feel+think+design”. “Nemetics (Notice, Engage, Mull, Exchange, Train/educate) is a biomimicry model of information transfer” (

The term neme—sensori stimuli—is used to combine memes and genes in the service of understanding complex systems—where art and design are considered complex systems in dynamic interaction within networks (Josefowicz, 11.18.2012). When stimulating the Bilateral Brain in a learning environment that fosters intuition through sensory experience and emotions (nemes) design students will be able to learn how to design intuitively, and acquire tacit—unspoken, implied—knowledge, that can be archived in the long-term (implicit) memory through a process of unconscious (implicit) learning. Johnson in Emergence (2012) describes learning in a cellular scale as the iteration of circuits (neurons) where “memory creates a mental vocabulary” (pg. 133). Tacit knowledge is the source of our intuition—our gut feeling (Gigerenzer 2007)—and our capacity to adapt to new environments and situations, and evolve as one with technology and nature (Reber 1993).


Risk and Resilience – Learning Complexity: Leadership Series 4

Here are 3 problems on risk and resilience to be cracked

Problem 1 — Situation 1

Suppose we are given the following facts/observation —

50% of new start-ups fail in their first year of operations.

50% of the balance start-ups fail by the time they reach their third year of operations.

Again 50% of the remaining survives the 5th year of operation

Then 50% of the survivors would go up to the 10th year.

Those who survive the first 10 years of operations live to flourish during the next 15 years without fail.

Now imagine that you are the head of an insurance group mulling over the insurance premium one should charge for different age groups. Further suppose that you are considering two age groups — a) 20 yrs – 30 yrs b) 50 yrs +

For which group would you be charging more premium and why?

Problem 2 – Situation 2 

Imagine yourself as a Jewish prisoner in one of those dreaded and hateful concentration camps. Day by day you start losing hope of survival. After months of inhuman torture you have almost resigned to fate.

Then suddenly one early morning with dawn yet to break out you hear some commotion outside your cell. A fellow prisoner comes and breaks your cell open. You and your fellow prisoners tumble out and join the growing force who overpowers the German soldiers and kill them.

The prisoners break open the gates and rushes out to meet the haze of a bleak winter morning. They start running on the only road they find that leads away from the prison. They know this road well. They know that if they keep running for another two hours they would be out of German clutches and find their way home. So they keep running.

On one side of the road there is a dense forest. And you know that you can make your way home through this dense forest. But you clearly don’t know the way out. However, you know that if you find the right path you would reach home in about 40 minutes to an hour.

You discuss with your friends the option. They refuse to take to the forest.

What do you do? And why would you be doing that?

Problem 3 – Situation 3

Suddenly your 86 yr old father suffers from intense breathing problem and had to be rushed to a nearby hospital. The doctor says it is serious and does not rule out the possibility of a heart attack. They recommend tests and procedures and ask for your consent whether they can do an angiogram and a by-pass if they find blockages.

You are aware of the following facts about your father: —

He has survived a bitter war.

He has survived a partition (India & Pakistan) at a young age and had to leave behind everything in East Pakistan to settle in a strange place.

Years back he had blockages of the arteries (about 70%) but then over a two year period the doctors found all arteries to be clean (0% blockage).

You know that blockage does not necessarily mean a heart attack. It has more to do with millions of special cells in the heart beating synchronously. Going out of sync might trigger a heart attack.

You see on the control monitor that it is a case of breathing problem.

What would you tell the doctor – to go for the angiogram or not? How do you come to that conclusion? If the decision is not to go for an angiogram what is your estimate that he would be back home safe after treatment of the breathing problem alone?