A review – “Winning Anywhere – The Power of ‘See’ – The Nemetics Way

After submitting my manuscript to my publisher, I shared the manuscript of my book, ‘Winning Anywhere – The Power of ‘see’ – The Nemetics Way to one of my good friends, Mr. D. C. Padhi.

After a few days, he shot back an email with his review, which I wanted to share, with his permission.

Review of the book, expected in print in the next 5/6 weeks — [‘Winning Anywhere – the Power of ‘See” is now available on Amazon.com  http://tinyurl.com/o4q8kxq  (paperback) and would soon be available on Flipkart as ebook.]


Saw through the manuscript. Congrats on writing your first book and handing over to the publishers. This is going to be very very unique book for Indian readers. This is in form of short stories. There has been many books of short stories by many authors, however all stories are based on the same type of emotions. Your book is totally different in that aspect. Every story would invoke a different emotion of the reader and would offer the reader a different challenge. Yes, challenge–that is the most imp factor in the book. It would challenge the conventional thinking of the readers. Hence honestly I am little apprehensive if readers would be willing to face that challenge. Though most of the book has already been read by me from your blog, the book in its final form would surely be one of my handbook for the rest of my life. I have to start the study again and again from the beginning. The challenge would always remain to see coherence among the many non-coherent stories of the book, to see the central theme or the essence of the book which is made from many stray stories. The book would keep on asking me for the rest of my life ‘Can u really see?’. And whenever I would be able to see something in the journey of life I would recall the book and say to myself ‘Yes, this is the power of see”


Resilience through self renewal!

India is a case study of resilience through motion and adhering to one’s calling in life. The idea of ‘motion’ or nomadic life runs deep in our Indian culture. Our rivers flowing endlessly across the vast landscape, giving life to the parched lands, are personified as metaphors of creativity and serve as timeless symbols of state transformations. The timeless whirl of bhikshus and monks wandering for alms in exchange of advice and wisdom for better living, jhum cultivation obeying the rhythms of nature, continuous growth of clusters and settlements in steady flux of self organizing movements, people in search of work, sadhus (seers) and pilgrims, mobile fairs and haat bazzars (markets), itinerant pilgrims, performers, pastoralists, bards and tellers of myths all embody the notion of ‘motion’; all performing simultaneously on the thin veneer of our ancient but extremely flexible and adaptable ‘culture’.

No wonder India is home to the world’s largest nomadic population always on ‘motion’. Nowhere else is there such a variety of people herded and ceaselessly moving in a self organizing way giving rise to complex patterns nor can the diversity of peripatetic professions be matched.

Yet in our post modern times the sedimentary have increasingly come to represent the ‘civilized’. The mainstream (the sedentary) stands oblivious to the pull of the wanderers and the scribes and the worlds of the nomads have been circumcised’ to the odd curious enthusiasts. Little wonder, nomads are considered ‘strangers’ where ‘strangers’ in principle are ‘undesirable’ people.

And how does this ‘undesirable’ attitude surface? ‘Indifference’ is the shield used by ‘foreigners’ (the non nomads) when they meet nomads. Insensitive and aloof the foreigner seems deep down beyond the reaches of attacks and rejection that he/she nevertheless experiences with the vulnerability of a living and tortuous ‘medusa’.

Such a ‘medusa’ painfully brings on an ‘identity’ of ‘being’ something distinct from others with a fixed character of its own. What it fails to realize or let go is that our identity is changed in a nomadic style by the journey we undertake in life where both our ‘subjectivity’ and ‘objectivity’ towards ‘reality’ is recomposed, rediscovered, redesigned and evolved. What we fail to realize or give up or let go is that in this transformation every step forward is a step backwards too. Without this necessary stepping back I can’t go forward. The migrant (nomad) is here and there too at the same time. The exile from the ‘nomad’ life can be deadening with the lack of ‘stretching’ and ‘folding’, which every movement entails. Such ‘stretching’ and ‘folding’ is nomadic symbolizing ‘movement’ that is potentially creative through unleashing ‘chaos’. It can also be an affliction but can also be a transfiguration. Whatever it might be it is a vital resource to create the necessary movement from ‘being’ to ‘becoming’.

If that is so what happens to my identity of ‘being’. My ‘being’ existence is actually non-existent. Is my identity not with ‘being’ but ‘becoming’? Do I live always on the edge of a frontier – a place for separation, transition and new articulation of a state that I haven’t seen or enjoyed before? In ‘becoming’ am I relieved of the odd task of constantly creating a boundary and jealously guarding it against attacks or rejection by constantly stepping back to cross or transgress it?

I realize that I am stranger to my ‘becoming’ state. What would happen is not known to me. What I would do as a response is also not known to me. In the state of becoming I change myself physically, mentally and spiritually and nothing is known to me in advance or ever would.

That to me is the cyclical principle of resilience gained through the constant act of self renewal through ‘becoming’ leading to self transformation.

What helps me do that? Obviously the mind which itself is ‘nomadic’. I can use it the way I would like to evolve, change, be creative and change the course of my destiny and self transform myself. I know the ‘why’ and ‘whom does it serve’ but I still remain a stranger to the ‘what’ and ‘how’ in any given moment in my movement.

That allows me to develop the ability to concentrate or be focused & also keep up a defused state of attentive awareness of the contextual surroundings at the same time (integration of the left & right brains). It is the fine art of being focused on the part and the whole at the same time enabling me to flow with the dance of Shiva. That truly makes my mind & spirit nomadic, enabling flashes of fresh and original insights to act upon.

This video link below shows how we integrate our right and left brains in real situations and how such integration leads to ‘becoming’ rather than ‘being’. Though I would always stay a stranger to that ‘becoming’ I refuse to remain a stranger to my present moment that informs my ‘becoming’.


One thing I am sure of — Nomadic life – physically, mentally and spiritually – is usually the most gainful and risk free mode of resilient survival as it allows freedom from the limitations of confined space and time – the final form of slavery & exploitation, created by seemingly rational concepts, ideas and notions.

Living the life of a nomad is fun too since I would always stay a stranger to myself. It is a practice I love. Rightfully it is the only way one hugs resilience since it helps me to create what I want to. The practice is through travel to unfamiliar lands with new eyes and minds, engaging in spontaneous dialogs, self-study, storytelling, expressing differently through various forms of arts, interactions, improving interdependence and meditative reflection where both the right and the left brains are not only integrated but allowed to come into play simultaneously as a contextual response to real situations.

A few days from now, India celebrates Deepwali — the festival of ‘lights’. It reminds me of a celebration of a nomadic journey, thousands of years back, taken down the southern path of India (one of the two main trade routes) by Rama the hero of the epic story of Ramayana. It represents lighting the inner lamp to ‘becoming’ and to be a lamp onto others. It also reminds us to wish everyone Health, Happiness and Wealth so that the best things in life come back to us manifolds by creating sustainability and resilience at the same time.

On this auspicious occasion I dedicate this post to the Health, Happiness and Wealth of all who care to read this post or don’t care to glimpse through it.

But the question is “would you like to join me in the fun of moving and enjoying Shiva’s dance by being a stranger to yourself in the nomadic way?”

Would eagerly wait for you!





Pattern Based Innovative Management

This is a guest post contributed by Daniel Durrant.

Pattern Based Innovative Management


Daniel Durrant*

Over the past few weeks I’ve been conversing online with Dibyendu De, a reliability management consultant in Kolkatta, India.  For 23 years of his career he has applied his extensive background as a mechanical design engineer toward helping 50 organizations achieve sustainable growth.  Our conversation utilized social media channels like Twitter, Google+, and blog posts, written in response to some of the questions I raised for my assignment in “Management Issues for Information Professionals”, a class I’m taking at QUT.  Eventually we caught up for a brief Hangout using Google+, where we discussed his views on management, strategy, and innovation.


Dibyendu declares that “observation is the most important part of anything” and that it serves as the starting point for understanding and communicating “reality”.  He suggests that “observation” is the foundation on which we would build further (De, D. Personal Correspondence, 13, March 2013).  He then tweets, “Science Engineering & Management are like bikinis, what can be seen is interesting; what’s hidden is vital.”  He’s being humorous, but entirely serious.

Without observation, the strategies can end up being based on “dreams and wishes”, he tells me.  Dibyendu adds another tweet, “Business reality is complex. So it can’t be dealt by rules, fixed plans, policies or idealistic wishes.”  He goes on to explain that the starting point of understanding “complex business reality is by viewing failures & their undesirable effects.”

I’m reminded of Peter Drucker‘s suggestion that organisations should seek “windows of opportunity” not just in successes, but in “unexpected failures” (Druker, 2007).  It has also been said that “failure is more instructional than success” according to Tim Ogilvie, CEO of Peer Insight, an innovation consultancy based in Washington, D.C..  He argues that failure can be inspiration for startups to fill a void in a particular marketplace.  He’s quoted by Entrepreneur.com,  “I don’t think about failure … I use the word experiment.  I think, I’ve got a hypothesis about a business, and I’m going to do an experiment to test the hypothesis.  Just that language alone makes you less prone to self-delusion” (Hann, 2013).


Dibyendu shares a similar view as Drucker and Ogilvie; additionally, he emphasizes the failures resulting from overlooking the perceptions of customers, a serious marketing failure.  In an email, Dibyendu tells me that the customer is “the only profit center any organisation has” and that while management may look at ‘market research’ to find out needs “they don’t have systems in place to capture how the customer actually ‘notices’ the organisation.”  He continues, “Since they overlook this, they are at a loss to find ways and means to engage them till exchange” (De, D. Personal Correspondence, 21, March 2013).

A story on Dibyendu’s blog about a hospital in Kolkata provides an example of how strategy can be skewed by management’s failure to include their customer’s perceptions.  The hospital he visited was named after the famous poet: Rabindranath Tagore Heart Research Institute.  The formidable reputation of the hospital began in 2000 when it was founded, but more recently it’s business had slumped from what the chief administrator told Dibyendu was the “ever-increasing stress of handling the ‘swelling crowd’” (De, 2013).

Dibyendu shares a brief history of the hospital, founded by a famous heart surgeon, Dr. Devi Shetty and his top grade specialists, who were highly trusted.  A well-known national daily interviewed Dr. Shetty about his dedicated application of a service replica based on Ford’s Model T, a point of pride for the hospital because of the large number of successful operations and other procedures that had been carried out by his team who applied his system.

The chief administrator was worried by how many of their patients had switched to their competitors and how good doctors were leaving; he inquired how the hospital could keep their profits up so that they might open similar facilities in other towns and nearby states.  Dibyendu asked, “Where are your research facilities?” It turns out, the Rabindranath Tagore Heart Research Institute, didn’t have any.  Dibyendu then asks the readers of his blog what the hospital’s strategy should be moving forward.  In response, I pointed out that a service replica of Ford’s Model T is a poor fit for a hospital because “relating human beings to manufacturing cars is a mismatched metaphor.” I then suggest that the strategy would need to re-align with the perceptions that the name of the hospital suggests and “the fact that no research was being done and the spirit of Tagore was not alive and well in the hospital, is the key issue to be addressed.”

Dibyendu replies in agreement, “Yes, perceptions of customers rule strategy. A kind of inverted image to start thinking on strategy.”  One of his tweets also speaks to this point: “Strategy is [about] Questions. But before that comes, viewing or notice. … [Without] that, nothing.”


Tied up in the issue of failed perceptions is manager’s tendency to “label” and seek plans with “magic bullets”.  In a conversation, Dibyendu explains, “Once you have labelled something, you have siloed it.”  When management begins to label problems their minds go in a prescribed direction and they rely on what he calls “traditional medicines”.  The tools and methods of experts can be useful, but very often they are “applied forcefully”, which is the issue.  Again, he stresses that interactions are the important part and that what needs to be done doesn’t require “gurus”.  His suggestion is to “innovate your own cure” (De, D. Personal Correspondence, 21, March 2013).

When asked if manufacturing companies take up innovation as their first choice?  Dibyendu replies, “No. In fact it is usually the last choice.”  He detailed why on his blog:

… companies first try out tried, tested and proven methods to achieve their aspiration. In that process they do achieve quite a bit. The focus is generally on operational efficiency and cut costs. When they don’t achieve what they set out for then only they take up innovation to achieve their goal. They generally take up innovation when they find their ‘magic bullets’ not providing them the needed relief or results. (De, 2012)

His description of the issue reminds me of an often overlooked distinction between strategic planning and strategic thinking described by Fiona Graetz.  She explains how strategic planning deals with the step-by-step, rational, systematic, logical process.  While on the other hand strategic thinking views patterns, which Graetz says are “unplanned, emergent strategy patterns or consistencies that are realized despite, or in the absence, of intentions” (Graetz, 2002).  My understanding is that strategic planning tends to involve proven methods, while strategic thinking supports more innovative outcomes.

I asked Dibyendu, “Why do you think innovation is needed in an organization?”  He responded during our hangout, and then later typed out his answer on his blog:

Two things. First, while strategy gives direction to an organization innovation drives it. Strategy and innovation go together. Second, all organisations are unique in their own individual ways. This is because design of all organizations differ. These small differences create the uniqueness for each company. Hence there seems to be no common magic formula or bullets to bite. Each organization has its own story and those stories can only be improved by people within the organization through their innovative efforts. (De, 2013)


I wanted to hear more of his approach and wondered if it had to do with his brand of “Rapidinnovation”.  I inquired into its meaning and if it signifies that innovations can be done rapidly. He explains that “RAPID is an acronym which stands for Reliability, Availability and Performance Improvement through Design Innovation.”  He adds how RAPID can also include innovations achieved “quickly and effectively” (De, 2013).

Dibyendu has found that people are generally afraid of innovation due to the risks involved.  He writes about the importance of “decision making criteria to achieve a balance between risks and rewards.”  Rewards such as “improved reliability, availability and performance” must be clear in the minds of management, he tells me.  He goes on about the value of earning more with less effort and how innovation needn’t involve the cheap production of things by cutting costs.  He clarifies that innovation should “reduce risks to the minimum while maximizing the benefits” (De, 2013).

I inquired into how these benefits are achieved.  Dibyendu tells me it has to do with “design innovation, which is a type of minimal intervention that maximizes return on the assets.”  In manufacturing organisations, design is everywhere, from the layout of machines, their maintenance systems, product designs, management systems, strategies, and the organisation itself.  The issue is that each is designed and managed separately, yet the interactions between them fall out of balance, due to “small imperfections” which produce “failures, problems, or issues that prevent any organization from achieving what they want to achieve” (De, 2013).  He then puts this in context of Rapidinnovation:

The job in Rapidinnovation is to find or identify these hidden imperfections and then eliminate them through innovation thereby releasing the trapped or clogged energy within the organization to flow again smoothly and more productively. Thereby you achieve more with less. However, such innovations must be minimally invasive so that it not only uses the least amount of effort, resources and time to execute but also minimizes risk to the minimum possible extent. It must however ensure long term benefits to the company in terms of ROA (return on assets). Else innovations are meaningless. (De, 2013)


I asked how to go about discovering these imperfections?  He tells me, “Start from failures an organization experiences. Start anywhere and soon one gets to see the whole symphony” (De, 2013).

Much of Dibyendu’s work focuses on the people of the organisation, helping them find balance in life and work, as well as in the strategic decisions they make.   He explains to me that strategic planning often fails to recognize and explain complexity.  He believes that strategy and design “go hand in hand” and that people’s development and their lives needs to be a part of the equation if there is to be “social upliftment”.  In a blog post he writes:

… it is indeed stupid to have any fixed plan in the mind and exert our will to achieve the ‘desired mental model’ we have in mind. That of course does not tell us not to have any ‘intention‘ whatsoever. Nor does it ask us to submit to ‘fatality’ of reality. Our path clearly lies in balancing between the two wheels of ‘reality’ and ‘desire’ forged by our will emanating from intention. Such balancing act is fueled by the heady mix of courage to pay attention to our thought process and the deeply felt intention to balance.


During our hangout, Dibyendu explained how his approach to diagnosing problems involves “the mind of the people”.  He adds, “Innovation comes from their sufferings, their memories, and thinking.” This is done through extensive meetings and dialogues with all involved.   He said that very little data is gathered, but rather, attention is paid to stories and the underlying narrative which all parties involved have yet to perceive:  “By linking stories, little data is needed.  The diagnosis is in the narrative.”  He further describes his process on his blog:

It is mainly through dialogues with people. They tell about their pains, shortcomings, challenges, problems and you soon get to see the patterns within those stories and narratives. You then help them see or notice the underlying patterns that are affecting them and off they go on their own creating their own cures. Seeing the affected patterns is the important thing. Once seen the rest follows. However, there is one problem. If you don’t get to see the pattern in a blink you possibly miss the pattern for a long time. Whatever it might be — at the end of the day, there is really no magic formula to apply. People must innovate their own cure to get rid of organizational diseases and keep them at bay.

Dibyendu suggests that people become aware of their feelings and stories, thus self regulating potentially destructive impulses that may compound into an organisational disease.  His views remind me of Daniel Goldman’s work on emotions, popularized in his work on “What Makes a Leader”. Goldman suggests that “many of the bad things that happen in companies are a function of impulsive behavior ”  Goldman describes how organisational integrity is maintained by people who actively self regulate their emotions during changes by thoughtfully reflecting during times of ambiguity (Goldman, 2004).

Dibyendu’s approach could also be compared to the kind of “organizational conversations” that Groysberg and Slind describe in “Leadership is a Conversation”.  The casual conversations they describe are less about “issuing and taking orders than about asking and answering questions.”  They found in their research that smart leaders “engage with employees in a way that resembles an ordinary person-to-person conversation more than it does a series of commands from on high” (Slind & Groysberg, 2012).

Dibyendu’s method involves a unique line of questioning that at times may involve inquiring into the perceptions of individuals and then gauging their willingness to “see things differently”.  He plays an active role as a facilitator and by witnessing interactions between all parties involved, he discovers overlooked relations between processes and people in the organisation. He tells me that oftentimes there are debates, but eventually a new way of doing things becomes apparent.  In other words, the solutions to their problems emerge from their own stories and interactions.


The scope of management issues is vast and complex, crossing multiple domains.  Dibyendu’s emphasis on looking beyond the labels and seeing the relations is a capacity that I intend to cultivate within myself.  Organisational distress is often caused by the failures of prescriptive thinking which fails at observing the emerging patterns that matter most.  These patterns arise from interactions and perceptions that are engaged through a “whole symphony” of stories.  Designs that are derived from these stories can balance “reality and desire”, while accelerating innovation throughout the organization.

Innovation, strategy, design, marketing, and leadership are not separate, but enacted by the entire “symphony” of an organisation.  All actors in the organisation can notice what underpins their interactions and choose to engage in conversations more mindfully.  Time can be taken to mull over the stories and patterns of exchange that shape perceived realities.  When the whole organisation is given the chance to observe their own stories and emotions, balance can steadily be restored and innovation becomes attainable.

My dialogue with Dibyendu has helped me clarify the value of our collaborative learning relationship.  This engagement has revealed and continues to present ‘emergent patterns’ that are informing our own strategic thinking.  Indeed, it seems these patterns relate to a broader context, a narrative beyond the scope of this particular report, which I must now conclude.


De, D. (2012, February 21). Nemetics – Some Questions and Answers. Retrieved from http://dibyendu.tumblr.com/post/18006947480/nemetics-some-questions-and-answers

De, D. (2012, August 10). Problems, Landscapes, Habits; Leadership in the 21st Century. Retrieved from https://rgbwaves.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/problems-landscapes-habits-leadership-in-the-21st-century/

De, D. (2012, July 23). 1 of 100 Suchness of Wicked Problems through Nemetic Lenses. Retrieved from http://chaosysdesign.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/1-of-100-suchness-of-wicked-problems.html

De, D. (2013, March 16). Model T in a Famous Hospital. Retrieved from https://rgbwaves.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/model-t-in-a-famous-hospital/

De, D. (2013, March 28). Innovate Your Own Cure. Retrieved from https://rgbwaves.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/innovate-your-own-cure/

De, D. (rapidinnovator). “Science Engineering & Management are like bikinis, what can be seen is interesting; what’s hidden is vital.” 12 May 2013, 6:59 p.m. Tweet.

De, D. (rapidinnovator). ” Business reality is complex. So it cant be dealt by rules, fixed plans, policies or idealistic wishes.” 12 May 2013, 7:14 p.m. Tweet.

De, D. (rapidinnovator). “Starting pt of understanding complex business reality is by viewing failures & their undesirable effects.” 12 May 2013, 7:23 p.m. Tweet.

De, D. (rapidinnovator). ” Strategy is abt Questions. But before that comes viewing or notice. Most imp. [Without] that nothing.” 12 May 2013, 9:14 p.m. Tweet.

Drucker, P. (2007). Chapter 3: The change leader. In Peter Drucker (2007) Management challenges in the 21 st century. Oxford, UK: Butterworth – Heinemann, pp. 62-81.

Goleman, D. (2004). What makes a leader? Harvard Business Review, 82(1), 82-91.

Hann, C. (2013, January 23). [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225199

Marin, R. (2013, February 2013). Don’t Let Strategy Become Planning. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/02/dont_let_strategy_become_plann.html

Slind, M., & Groysberg, B. (2012, June). Leadership Is a Conversation. Retrieved from http://hbr.org/2012/06/leadership-is-a-conversation/

About the Author:

Daniel Durrant (aka Dan R.D) is a Masters Student of Information Technology at QUT in Brisbane, Australia.  Dan actively researches how organizations can best adapt, communicate, and innovate when challenged by complex issues.  He is interested in how mobile connectivity is enabling citizens and organizations to learn and serve each other in more meaningful ways.  Dan is just beginning his investigation into how simulation games can enable leaders to perceive a more holistic and contextually rich view of the environmental and social needs facing their organization.  Dan’s additional research interests include change management, leadership, learning environments, collective intelligence, publishing services, interaction and affective design, sensor networks, robots and drones, augmented reality, health and human potential, complex adaptive systems, strategic communication, and knowledge management. His collaborative approach to research has linked him with a diverse group of professionals from around the globe who share a common quest for stories and solutions that inspire us to achieve more with less.  Central to this aim is ensuring that workers from all walks of life can thrive during uncertainty by gaining new literacy and maths skills.


Rise and Fall of Nokia in India: Missing Patterns

On 28th March 2013, Nokia’s senior VP (India, Middle East, Asia) D Shivakumar quit the company after serving it for eight long years.

Shiv was known for his personal conviction on the importance of leadership. His conviction ran so deep that he sponsored many leadership programs throughout the region.

However, his tenure in India saw mixed results. While Nokia gained in brand image yet it suffered in sales.

Why was that?

Firstly, it completely missed out the emerging market of dual sim wave till it was too late. While competitors launched dual sim models in quick succession Nokia had nothing to offer. When it finally entered the market it was just too late. By that time their competitors have already grabbed 60% of the market share leaving Nokia with little or no elbow room to leverage. It substantially weakened Nokia’s leadership position.

Secondly, the company also failed to notice the emergence of smart phones with Android and Apple OS.

Nokia paid a price for not noticing two significant new market patterns in time – dual sim and smart phones. Their once enviable share of 60% of the market share quickly eroded to less than 40% in a matter of say two years. It now seems that this slide is irreversible.

All because leadership failed to see emerging patterns and act in time. And their aspiration did not match the aspiration of their consumers.

A costly mistake indeed.

Do you think ‘seeing patterns’ is leadership’s number 1 job?


Note: 11th Feb 2014:

That the above analysis made about a year back was correct is confirmed by this article dated 11th Feb, on Nokia’s attempt to stop the  slide http://tinyurl.com/pevtwho 

My prediction is they would still not be able to stage a comeback. They missed a few more vital perspectives in their strategy.

P&G’s Case in India: Aligning Strategy with Innovative Management

Aspiration driven consumption is unfolding with gusto in the rural markets of India.

For instance, take baby diapers. Today, rural sales of baby diapers are in excess of Rs 200 crores. Over the last two years, rural category sales have grown by over 150%, with rural diaper sales accounting for 15% of total value sales of diapers, which is Rs 1300 crores.

A key reason that could be driving such “aspiration driven consumption” is the lowest price of Rs 10/- offered by Procter and Gamble India.

Pampers (P&G’s diaper) has the greatest share of the baby diaper market across India and has also been growing value share consistently. It is a clear sign that rural consumers are choosing to buy branded diapers for their babies”, said a P&G spokesperson.

On the other hand, sale of rural sanitary napkins grew by 74% over the last three years, with sales now at Rs 366 crores.

In this case too P&G’s ‘Whisper’, which is the market leader across India, including rural markets, has also been made available at the lowest priced SKU of Rs 25 for a pack of 8s, which turns out to be Rs 3/- per unit.

(source of all figures & quotes: The Times of India, Kolkata, Friday, March 29, 2013)

The important thing to notice here is the deep relationship between company’s strategy, product design, manufacturing practices and marketing. They are all in sync. Else market leadership isn’t possible.

It does not come as a big surprise when we understand strategy formulation process of P&G.

In the book Playing To Win the former Chairman and CEO of P&G, A. G. Lafley describes the strategy formulation process as answering five important questions, which are the following:

1. What is our aspiration?

2. Where do want to play?

3. How do we play to win?

4. What resources we must have?

5. What management systems must be in place?

Answering these questions did three things for P&G in India:

1. The company matched their aspiration to the aspiration of their consumers.

2. The different management functions that generally run in silos were aligned and were in sync.

3. Helped them to be a market leader in a very short time.

It possibly serves as a clear case where strategy and innovation work together.

While strategy provides the direction and the energy of a vision, innovative management paves the way for achieving the aspirations of both producer and their consumers. And these must be in sync with the aspiration of their customers. Else efforts meet with inauthentic constraints to make operation meaningless.

What do you think about it? Do you think this should be the way to go in such tough economic times?

Other references:

1. Happiest People Pursue the most Difficult Problems:  http://blogs.hbr.org/kanter/2013/04/to-find-happiness-at-work-tap.html

2. Playing to Win: A.G. Lafley, Roger L. Martin, Havard Business Review Press, 2013

How to Win Anywhere in the World?

Last Friday evening, Mr. Giri called me up. Mr. Giri is one of the middle level managers of an Indo-Japanese production unit in the state of West Bengal, India.

He was very happy and excited to announce, ‘You must know that we have broken all previous records of production’.

“Is that so?” I asked; my voice laced with excitement.

“Yes, it is true… almost unbelievable.  We have shot up from producing 200 units per day to 2000 units per day from the same machines. Our quality rejection has dropped from 14% to around 5%. We have crossed the 8000 tonnes per month target… ” he almost gasped for breath to continue, ‘… and I must thank you so much…”

Indeed, this was incredible! His company was struggling for the last five years to crank up production and make some profit. They identified the bottleneck of the plant but were simply unable to do anything about it. The Japanese introduced all their famous improvement tools and techniques they had in their arsenal. Everyone sweated and puffed and huffed but no improvement was forthcoming. All efforts were in vain. The Japanese management team blamed the Indians for their ‘work attitude’, ‘lethargy’, ‘incompetence’ and gross overall ‘stupidity’… This obviously made the Indians angry. They in turn called the Japanese ‘overbearing’, ‘conceited’, ‘racists’, ‘foolish’ and what not… But at the end of the day in spite of all that shouting, mud-slinging and sledging no iota of improvement was in sight. In fact, things went for a nose dive. Crisis of closure loomed in the horizon as losses mounted.

‘Thank me for what?”, I asked with a tinge of eagerness.

Then he went on to tell me a story. “You know what the great music maestro Tan Sen said?”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tansen)

“No I don’t have a clue about what he said’ I mumbled.

Giri continued with a tone mixed with excitement and reverence, “‘Tan Sen said if you only know how to sing the first note of seven notes in music very well, you automatically get to sing all notes fluidly’.

‘Hmm..’ I nodded in agreement. ‘Right, but what has that to do with me?’ I asked.

‘Everything’, he quipped back. “You taught us the first note so well that I have now learned to sing anything.’

Absolutely clueless about what he actually meant I asked with curiosity getting better of me, “And what was that first note?” This was because I have tried to teach them many things to improve their performance over a period of 18 months.

“Oh! Didn’t you teach us how to pay attention or observe things and their connections in their own settings without seeing what the mind already knows?” he replied bit incredulously.

‘Yes, I remember that. And you think that was so important?’ I pressed in to learn more from him.

“It was. And it would continue to be so for the rest of my life. It makes me so confident that I think I can work and win anywhere in the world, tackle anything in the world and solve any problem in the world”, he said with a slow deliberate voice exuding lot of conviction.

“Thank you again and would you mind if I come over to Kolkata to meet you some day to learn more of what you say as NOTICE.?” he seemed to stress the last word.

This was the first time in five years they made a decent profit.

As the conversation ended, I sat on the sofa with waves of happiness sweeping over me. I thought to myself, OMG! The power of the humble NOTICE is just amazing! Nothing more is needed. We need not teach people how to think. They know how to think. We need not teach people so many tools and techniques. They would discover those by themselves. We simply don’t need to waste their time doing things which we think must be done. We need not bore them to death to the point of getting disengaged. We simply need to teach those who really want to sing well the first note of the seven notes — “NOTICE“. That’s all!

I noticed my tea getting cold…

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” (https://rgbwaves.wordpress.com/institute/).

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).


Self Organized Nemetic Environment for Learning (SONEL)

Have Fun & Learn
Mr. Shukla and I with the group of 28 who challenged Vibration Level 2 and Level 1 certification at PMI, Noida during last week of August 2012. 22 of these curious and brave souls successfully met the challenge.
Mr Shukla (from NTPC) is on my right and Mr. Anil Sahu is on my left. Both were my co-facilitators. As usual I am the shortest of the lot in dark green shirt.

Self Organized Nemetic Environment for Learning (SONEL) is a learning environment based on self inquiry of a person’s own problems helping one to instantly learn from those; supported by rich dialogs that build on each others ideas, questioning and peer learning aided by finding specific information from the internet.

Let me illustrate this through a practical example of how it is done.

The Story

NTPC (National Thermal Power Corporation) is the largest provider of power in India. They have a mission, which simply is to keep availability of their plants at the highest possible level. Since power plants like any other plant is a complex system it is not possible to plan out operation and maintenance activities in such a way to avoid sudden breakdowns and outages.

In order to do so they would have to base their actions on their understanding of the complexity or complex behavior of the plant and machinery. That is how we can work with any complex system, which creatively on their own keep changing their behavior. So the strategy is fairly simple — a) Understand the complex behavior of a complex system b) Spot an incipient failure growing or emerging c) Model that possible failure to determine what best can be done d) Take action to eliminate the failure or avoid it or reduce the risk of the failure to the minimum possible level e) Keep monitoring for the next emergence to appear.

In technical terms such a strategy is known as Condition Based Maintenance. That is the traditional name.  I don’t see any reason as to why it should not be called Complexity Based Management since the principles just remain the same. The same principles can be used over and over again to understand, decide and act in any complex environment, such as in organizations. I shall leave that discussion for some other day.

Coming back to our story one of the vital tools to implement such a strategy of knowing things in the now is Vibration Analysis, a very powerful tool since all machines and complex systems are dynamic and therefore vibrate in some way or the other. The tools and instruments of vibration analysis faithfully record the amount and the nature of vibration in various ways. However, only a human being can make sense of such records and form an understanding of what is going on. But the depth of understanding would vary from person to person depending on a person’s feel for complexity and understanding of the subject of vibration.

NTPC realized this very vital gap of enhancing human understanding in the whole strategy. This gap can only be filled through insightful and in-depth learning from a person’s intimate understanding of complexity informed by his/her practice. Hence they decided to expose as many people as possible to the subject of vibration analysis where they learn and apply their understanding to maintain a healthy level of plant availability.

So, every year NTPC organizes this all India SONEL event in Vibration Analysis Level 3 to Level 1 for their plants scattered all over the county. A suitability criteria is given, which basically sums up as ‘Are you practicing vibration analysis and complexity on the field?”. Against this criterion practitioners who are interested in challenging Level 3, 2 or 1 certification apply. Along with their applications they submit two case studies reflecting their failed struggle to understand the nature of complexity. The more intense their struggle as reflected in their cases better are their chances of being selected for the course. The idea is one can really learn very deeply from his/her cases and struggles. Only 25 students are admitted per batch.

Each candidate admitted to the course then submits at least two more case studies 15 days before the start of the course. From all the submitted cases (around 100 in number) the course work is carefully designed with a collation of appropriate questions to be used as triggers for live on-going classroom dialogs and peer learning.

Then a 4 day live workshop is conducted in the style of a concert. The only difference being that participants perform while I and my co-facilitators take up the role of the conductor. One by one participants lay bare their individual cases to the entire class with the hope of seeking a resolution of their problems.  They learn from the questions that are posed to them.  They learn from the ideas of others. They learn from the successes and mistakes of other practitioners who are their peers. Through the interactive sessions facilitators spot more weakness in the crowd and note them down for addressing them later. After some time through the rich dialogs the participants learn whatever they want to learn and decide on their actions customized to the problems they faced.  The atmosphere of serious play is constantly charged up further through more questions, interjections, explanations, suggestions and guidelines if any.

The questions for the final exam are formulated from whatever is happening live in the class and from the case studies.  The participants challenge the test by the end of the 4th day. Each participant is allowed to carry one A4 sheet of paper with their own notes, whatever they like to the examination hall. Obviously, I haven’t seen them using those notes since the final test is not a test of their memory, which I know they have in plenty. They get certificates as per the bands they achieve. For example, 90% and above get Level 3, 70 to 90% get Level 2 and 50 to 70% get Level 1. Below 50% get a certificate of participation.

Next year those in Level 2 come back to challenge Level 3 and those with Level 1 or with a participation certificate come back to challenge Level 2 or Level 3 along with a new batch of fresh candidates.  They can participate in the events twice a year. There is another interesting thing that happens on the side. A two hour video conferencing is conducted for all the plants for those participants who have already secured Level 3 certification.  It is a type of a feedback session trying to gauge as to how well the participants are doing. In most cases I found that their peers talk highly about them and their subsequent achievements in practice. That makes me proud indeed. Why not? Continued Peer Recognition is the best certificate in the world.

  1. Self organized learning is learning on ‘my problems‘ through interactions with other human beings (including those on the net).
  2. The role of the facilitator is important. Conducting such a Self Organized Nemetic Environment for Learning (SONEL) is a tough job. One has to be on his/her toes through all sessions — in sharply creative and attentive mode.
  3. The quality of the interactions is important to achieve the learning goals. That is the job of the facilitators.
  4. Three facilitators work in tandem. One facilitator is drawn from the participating organization and one more knowledgeable facilitator is drawn at random from any other organization. In this case Mr. Shukla is from NTPC and Mr. A Sahu is from Birla Copper (shown in the opening photo)
  5. The learning follows the non-linear Nemetic process of a) Noticing/discerning changes b) Engaging with interdependent constraints c) Mull about the deep and rich interactions d) Exchange value through adaptation, re-design, actions etc. (NEME)
  6. This time around in Dec I shall tweak SONEL a bit more. The participants would set their own questions for an interim exam.
  7. This certification is now widely sought in India and employers are happy to see this certification for employment.
Vibration Level 2 certification.

To a Teacher on Teachers’ Day…

5th of September is special in India. It is celebrated as ‘Teachers‘ Day’. This is a day to remember with gratitude the most precious asset in our lives – teachers. It is a day to reflect on the contributions they left behind in our lives and how close we are to the paths they showed us to lead our lives.

Every year this day is special to me. I remember with fond gratitude my teacher Prof Tim Henry. He has long retired from the University of Manchester, UK. But he continues to live life creatively and with lot of zest. This is the letter I wrote to him today – (certain portions are explained in italics to make sense of some words I used)

Dear Sir, (In India we refer to teachers as Sir).
My pronam (it is a deep bow touching the feet of a teacher) to you on this day of remembrance. It is not that I wait for this day to remember. It happens every morning as I am up to be delighted by another day. And if there were something more than gratitude, I would love to offer that to you. Hope you and Madam are happy and healthy.
As life moves on for me it becomes simpler by the day. Increasingly I am getting to love my “aloneness”, which I feel is a necessary component of life at this stage.
There is no need to overdo anything. Or over convince anyone. Or be too much active than needed. When I look back at the years gone by I am amazed as to how much activity I did and the energy I put into those, which I believed as hard work – much of which was plain stupid. The constant pressure to prove myself and a maniacal attitude to share what I enjoyed so as to inspire others was stressful to say the least. Now I do what I like or love doing not bothering to inspire or impress others. It is a joy. I no longer harbor any illusion or even the faintest intention to teach others anything. I realize that the way through which I saw and felt life and my work is something that can’t be taught to others. You were right when you warned me not to attempt teaching the ways. I was a fool then not to have listened. Fair to say all my attempts to teach others have failed. I could not develop any standardized format for my non-standardized ways to effectively teach others however enjoyable that might have been.
Having left that ‘outward journey’ I feel peaceful and breathe with ease. What a relief that is with a simple realization that I can’t change anything, less the world except change myself. The world has its own crazy unpredictable ways of moving. Watching that is of course a pleasure.
Rick is now in his fifth and final year of his architectural course. In less than an year’s time he would be well on his way with his own ideas repeating the same cycle – bubbling with lots of ideas and concepts waiting for expression all of which one day he would also have to shed like me being defeated by our so-called society that fanatically believes in an ordered ‘linear world’ – a world created by our imagination only.
Rit is in his second year of his electronics course and struggling with Laplace and Fourier Transforms. He is yet to appreciate the beauty and the limitation of maths. But seeing me do that for years he feels he can somehow handle that. He often strikes up conversations on these and it is a joy to engage with a willing and experimental mind. He understands when he can visualize maths. That is quite a challenge for me to help him visualize the nuances of maths.
Madhumita continues to struggle with her health, which has remained the same in predictable ways. She is now in a steady state equilibrium position — perhaps a very difficult position to maintain in life. I always thought life oscillates in non-linear ways operating away from equilibrium. Like many other concepts I held in my mind she proved me wrong. So I had to let go of that concept too.
Perhaps I am now confused about many things in life. Nothing is certain, sure and predictable in the long run. That is possibly a lesson I would have been forced to learn in the hard way had it not been for CBM (Condition Based Maintenance of systems based on non-linear dynamics) principles you taught me in the formative period of my career.
I still continue with some interesting work, one of which is the Blast Furnace. It appears that no one has been able to predict as to when a blast furnace would ‘hang’ or ‘slip’. When I started exploring the phenomenon it gave me nightmares and left me clueless for the first three months of the study. Then suddenly an idea struck me. What if I trend the difference of the frequencies of the multiple phenomena going on in the furnace? And as luck would have it I am now finding a pattern to go with and predict the situation 3 hours to 45 mins in advance, which is a big breakthrough as I understand from my client. Luckily the client did not expect any outcome from my play. But now they are sitting up and expecting more from the study. To me the blast furnace is the most mysterious of all systems I have seen and engaged with so far. It produces beautiful patterns on its own in a spontaneous manner. It simply leaves me fascinated and wonder-struck – Nature at her best. Incidentally I started off by using the same trend sheets you designed but the only difference is that I am plotting differences not the actual value of the parameters. This is because I think the differences feed back into the system dynamics to produce new order from non-linearity. It is fun to see stability and instability appear at the same time.
The other interesting work I did was on quality improvement in a Japanese factory that makes ductile iron pipes. Since the Japs failed to make any significant breakthrough in bringing down quality rejections to an acceptable limit through their time-tested universal methods it became a challenge to see quality improvement through the new perspective of non-linear dynamics. And soon I found that non-linear dynamics gives instant clues to quality problems which I did not suspect any earlier. It was a year of fun. For example, slippage of v belts of the main pulley that powers the mold of the casting machine causes as much as 100% rejections. It was hard to believe this. But then I discovered how true it was when small changes in fluctuations amplify over time to cause such problems. The causes of problems lie in the dynamics. This to me was a new understanding in quality improvement though it took time for the client to swallow all that.
Work on downtime reduction also continues. But that has become a piece of cake for me. It is as easy as A, B, C. The fun part is as I approach a machine or a system and pay attention, the machine starts off an extremely interesting and lucid conversation with me and keeps talking to me all the time like a girl friend would have done so in my younger days. All I do is to hear her intently with all the pure attention I can shore up and then simply write out the prescription for the client. It is lovely to hear the stories machines tell. For example, maintenance engineers take ‘leakage’ in a very straightforward way – just change seals. But ‘leakages’ tell me very amazing stories. It tells me where dimensions are not right, where synchronicity is a problem, where pipes contribute to the leaks and it goes on never stops surprising me… the stories are fascinating.
During the last week of August we had our usual Vibration Level 2 certification event at NTPC (National Thermal Power Corportion), PMI (Power Management Institute) at Noida This time I changed the nature of the interactions between participants and myself. No more of those dreadful Powerpoint slides. I asked the participants to bring their own cases where they failed to make any breakthrough or weren’t sure of what they did or simply wanted to know more about what was going on in their system. 28 participants came to challenge the test. It was a fun-filled event and I think they got inspired by the way vibrations tell stories. From their signatures and wave-forms when I said that a CW pump (Circulating Water pump without which a power plant can’t run) was too near the walls of the water tank and the distances between the 3 pumps were less than usual they gasped. They were equally surprised when informed that a particular pump that failed had its delivery pipe bent at the wrong place. Or they wondered when I said that the catenary of a turbine shaft changed since the oil pump wasn’t working properly.  They thought that I was gifted with the gift of clairvoyance. They found it hard to believe that I just listen to the stories vibration waves try to tell me and the stories are just available to anyone who cares to pay attention and listen.
Such new learning and understanding has made my life more simple and enjoyable. Never a boring moment for me.
Would love to hear about your life since that has been the source of my inspiration for years. Do you and Madame still visit Wales? Is she still busy with her paintings? I feel that I must again take up sketching and painting a bit more seriously. That is another thing that gives me a lot of pleasure. What about Jill and Kay and their children? Has Natalie, if I am not wrong, joined the architectural course? And what about the little boy? He seems to have taken after you. Is he interested in Engineering?
I think  in more ways than one I am simply copying you or rather cloning you without having any of your genius to create a fascinating discipline. I have stuck to your advice of staying alone and not expanding my practice into an organization. It has helped me tremendously – giving me enough time and space to go down the numerous rabbit holes of puzzles and problems and stay in a perpetual state of wonder and curiosity. It seems that I would never grow up though much of my hair has disappeared while the rest are quickly turning grey.
In the later years of your career I saw how you were engaged but detached at the same time without failing to enjoy what you did. To me it appeared to be the most sensible way to go forward in life and as I continue to work in a detached manner life becomes more enjoyable. It is hard though!
Pronam to You and Madame