Absence made Visible


The water cascaded down the black granite sides, flowing as rivulets before disappearing into the small squarish void in the center. As I looked at the flowing water, juxtaposed feelings pulled in different directions. A feeling of melancholy and sadness about the flow of our lives which was perhaps never to return. But also a feeling of peace and acceptance, an emotional cleansing about all that was not right, maybe would never be right.

From the corner of my eyes, I could see the Oculus, that majestic steel ribbed white wings about to soar up into the skies. The reflections on the nearby glass towers seemed to be heralding a brighter, more vibrant tomorrow. A tomorrow in which peace and acceptance might run the winning lap.

I was at the site of the two World Trade Center towers in Manhattan which had gone down in the September eleventh attack more than two decades back. The black granite square pools with flowing, falling water had been built as memorials to that event. The Oculus served as the integrated transportation hub built for the Path and Subway trains.

Oculus Transportation hub at the World Trade Center complex

As I stood there in contemplation, the place was a tranquil and serene island in the midst of high energy Manhattan life. Did the flowing water suggest a life force embryo just below the surface? That somehow brought into our thoughts those who had perished in the attack, their names etched on the sides serving as the only reminder? Or was it that the simplicity of the slow cascades into the void which could never be filled (as per the memorial architect Michael Arad) allowed their ‘absence (from our living world) to be made visible’?

**

My memory went back to that day decades ago.

 It was evening. I was in the office and had called a colleague to discuss an operational issue when he excitedly mentioned about a disaster in which an aircraft had crashed into one of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers in New York. We spoke about the incident for a couple of minutes and wondered about the low probability of an aircraft crashing into a building.

Returning home after office, I switched on the TV only to see the news headlines flashing all over, ‘AMERICA UNDER ATTACK!’ In the interim, a second aircraft also carrying passengers had slammed into a second WTC tower. Burning from the aviation fuel of the colliding aircrafts, both the towers collapsed. A third aircraft had crashed into Pentagon, the US Defence headquarters in Washington DC. Due to the time zone difference, what was evening for me was really morning hours on the US Eastern seaboard where the attacks were taking place. Close to three thousand people died in the attacks.

What seemed at that point in time a senseless act of violence led to a fundamental shift in the way US saw the world and how its foreign policy would come to be defined. Over the next two decades, US would engage in conflicts aimed at crushing terrorism in various parts of the globe. From demolishing Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan to the Iraq invasion and removal of Saddam Hussein to confronting the self-styled Islamic State in Syria.

I think of our world today. The actors have changed, the issues have shifted but the conflicts remain.

**

A couple of days back, I heard the tragic news of the Texas shooting in which a teenager Salvador Ramos armed with a gun entered an elementary school and senselessly shot and killed nineteen children and two adults. The carnage was a deadly reminder that even the world’s most powerful nation is unable to protect its children in their innocence.

My granddaughter has been going to a play school. She loves going there. For us, the school is a safe haven that nurtures. I agonise when I think of what might be passing through the minds of the parents and grandparents of those children whose lives were so brutally snuffed out even before they got the chance to blossom. Like me they too would have had complete faith in the safety and security of their child in school.

I muse. What is that which leads to some folks inflicting injury and death on others? I sense that this arises from an extreme psychologically aberrant mindset. A mindset which shifts into viciousness from its inability to accept ‘we versus they’ differences. So it was with Osama Bin Laden, so it is with Salvador Ramos.

An all-powerful state like the US does possess the weapons and technology to wage war against the enemy without.

But does it possess the conviction and resolve to change the mindset of the enemy within?

In learning………                                                    Shakti Ghosal

Of Germ Pods and Personal Learning Clouds……… two trends of a post COVID future


It is fascinating to see how technologies originate in response to unmet needs and then go on to transform and impact the world in unfathomable ways.

In this post, I look at two such technology initiatives and then explore how they might evolve and impact us.

The first technology initiative is Germ Pods.

It was early April 2020 and the Covid had just started making initial inroads into India with recorded infections hovering around a couple of thousand.  The Government launched an innovative contact tracing and self-assessment mobile App called Aarogya Setu. It became the fastest growing App in the world with more than fifty million downloads in less than two weeks. The App gathered data from positive infection reports on a real time basis and was designed to identify infection hot spots and alert the user about the number of Covid infected people in the vicinity. Government ministries and Indian Airports made it mandatory for all people to register into the App to ensure low risk. Aarogya Setu was subsequently merged with the COWIN portal which was designed to register and update vaccination status at the individual level.

Countries around the world launched similar contact, movement and vaccination status tracing Apps during the pandemic.

As I muse, the import and the transformative potential of the tracing and status app becomes clear. The future would be about a real need to protect and secure the health of oneself and one’s own community. Increasingly, testing for various transmissible diseases, real time tracing and proximity alerts would form the basis of AI based algorithmic analysis to create hierarchies of health risk statuses. In spite of repeated assurances that individual privacy norms would be protected, geographic and digital clusters of such hierarchies would begin to emerge and, in more ways than one, would trample on individual’s privacy and behaviour. These clusters or “Germ pods” would over time become much more than mere health pods. They would morph as digital identifiers of micro-groups displaying differing economic, demographic and social behaviours.  Can you imagine what such identifiers would do in the hands of marketing organisations, Government policy makers and politicians?

What thus started off as mere health protecting ‘Germ Pods’ might become somewhat sinister gatekeeping tools allowing individual entry based on constantly tweaked algorithms; they would actually become functionally invisible to folks who do not qualify. Groups would get shielded from public view as well as from one another, as they get into exclusive symbiotic relationships with marketing organisations and the Government. Overall transparency and accountability in a society relating to spreading of resources would take a hit, further exacerbating the ‘have’ and ‘have not’ divide.

My sense is that in the future, the above transformative technology might usher in a societal problem.

The second technology initiative is Personal Learning Clouds.

 For some years, I have been engaged in training the next tier Leadership for a large business group in India. While the need for Leadership development programs is acutely felt in today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) environment, the organisation also senses that traditional class room case study-based programs are no longer working to prepare tomorrow’s leaders for the challenges they would face. The training manager thus finds it hard to justify costs relating to such training programs. Last but not the least, the program does not really get ‘owned’ by the participants’ boss and other team members leading to the program learning not getting the needed support for effective application at the workplace.

The pandemic has fast paced the shift of training programs onto Zoom and other digital platforms. My client organisation has started seeing this as a great alternative, cutting down as it does requirements of logistics and physical infrastructure. The participants are able to virtually join in from their work desks or homes with a much shorter lead time.

As I think of the emerging trend, I visualize the birth of ‘Personal Learning Cloud (PLC)’ in today’s rapidly changing and constrained environment. The PLC would be flexible, allowing  24X7 accessibility to learning modules aligned to the need and behaviour of an individual and his team. Over time the PLC would emerge as a networked learning infrastructure. It would not only allow overall lowering of training costs but would facilitate the organisational leadership to offer ‘just in time’ targeted learning experiences for personnel according to his / her role and immediate organisational needs. Finally, the PLC ‘s real time accessibility, relevance and interactive capability would allow the learner’s immediate superior to become an active stakeholder in the process and provide support and accountability.

I sense that over time the PLC would make learning personalized as well as democratized (in terms of access) and would allow organisations a better gauge to measure return on investment and ensure work place application. Something essential to keep the ‘just in time’ PLC based learning relevant in a fast-changing world.

My hope is that in the future, the above is where significant growth and development opportunity would lie.

In learning……….                                                                               Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement:

  1. ‘After the Pandemic: What happens next?’ – Document prepared by Ayca Guralp, Instititue of the Future, CA, US.
  2. ‘The future of Leadership Development’ – HBR March-April 2019

The economic inequality fallout of the pandemic


While doing a course on, ‘Welcome to our post-pandemic future’, the aspect of economic inequality trend jumped out at me. A trend that seems to have accelerated since the onset of the pandemic.

Statistics show that the eight wealthiest people in the world now have as much wealth as the bottom 3.5 billion people combined! Incredible as it seems, that is correct. The combined wealth of this league of extraordinary gentlemen out weighs that of three and a half billion people! It set me thinking. What is that differentiating proposition that creates such a disparity? Is it the intelligence quotient, is it the emotional quotient, a combination of the two or something else?

As I reviewed the behaviour patterns and articulations of these extraordinarily wealthy gentlemen. I could discern a pattern. A common underlying theme behind such incredible wealth creation seemed to be a knack of envisaging a future that seemed impossible, in fact laughable to most folks around. However, these individuals held the belief to hunker down and live into that future, having the doggedness to hang on till they could make it true.

 I discovered something else. As the world shifted in terms of technology and mindset, there came a moment when the window of opportunity aligned with the envisaged future and competence set of the individual. Because of the ability to hunker down and hang on, the individual could recognize that ‘clunk’ of the future as it arrived and take appropriate action. This seemed to be true for Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg as well as the others on the list.

In the next three to five years, how could we expect to see the growing economic inequality pan out and its impact on the world? One might envisage depressed ‘across the board’ consumer demand and a drag on the global economy. Most of us can recognize the negative potential of a severe long-term drag.

In one of my earlier posts some years back (https://esgeemusings.com/2017/01/22/a-brave-new-world/), I had mused:

“…….Our Brave New World too seems to be a story of the blue and red pills allowing us a choice of the path we could take.

One road leads us to a virtual utopia. Inhabited by people fully able to realise their creative and innovative potentials. A world where people are uniquely free to follow their passions and creative urges. Where innovations are exploding every other day and unimaginable wealth is getting created. Where products and services are plentiful and available to all. Where being wealthy or not no longer matters. A world that has finally come to realise the socialistic dreams of Karl Marx and Lenin, but in a warped way.

The other way is to the land of dystopia. Of people lacking meaningful work and condemned to exist on the lower rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy. With not a hope in hell of achieving the higher rungs of potential. Of folks condemned to live on a Universal basic income provided by the Governments of the day. Of large sections of society feeling increasingly dispossessed and spiralling down into drugs, gambling, terrorism and similar madness……….”

 As I think of the growing inequality of today, I do spot some of the above-mentioned patterns of change. But I remain unsure of a pre-determined outcome. Would the economic disparity continue to grow? If so, what could each one of us do to support folks to more effectively handle the situation?

I sense that over the next few years, the world would need to go through a period of healing, not only emotional healing from the damage and trauma of the pandemic but a movement to restore overall consensus and a more equitable share for all towards livelihood. All of us would need to get involved and ensure that groups who have been disproportionately affected are at the table for coming up with plans and solutions, including young people, and that they have a chance to really have a say in what happens next to ensure a better and safer future in the coming years.

In Learning…………..                                                                                                      Shakti Ghosal

Is Digital Leadership a skill or a mindset?


Moolya Foundation is a global non-profit organisation with an aim to bring greater inclusivity in public affairs through digital leadership.

The mission of Moolya Foundation is to expand the conversation surrounding public affairs and empower every citizen in the digital age where marginalisation of the common people is fast growing.

To abridge the socio-economic, political and information inequalities in digital societies, Moolya Foundation envisions creating future leaders in public affairs who shall be at the forefront to represent the interest of the common people.

Do see this first part of my freewheeling session with Neha Gour of Moolya Foundation in which we discuss ‘Is Digital Leadership a Skill or a Mindset?’ As happens at such times, The Chronicler of the Hooghly also gets discussed!

The Three Horizons- How to pattern the future


The Three Horizon methodology was developed by Bill Sharpe to provide a simple framework to envision the future and how to engage in constructive conversations about how to achieve that future, This becomes all the more critical in an environment which is uncertain and complex.

The three Horizons framework, to me, is a powerful reboot tool which we need to keep in our toolbox for an environment that we are currently into.. It allows us to coordinate disruptive innovations and create transformative change which has the best chance to succeed.

As per the methodology, envisioning the future always needs to deal with three horizons at play, which are always there, with the capacity to impact the future.

Y Axis is the dominant thinking or WorldView.

The first horizon ‘H1’ is all about how business is done at present, but there is something in it which is not fit for the future. It thus contains the seed of its own demise over a period of time.

The third horizon ‘H3’ is the future we desire and there do exist green shoots of that today. We would like them to grow and become the predominant way of doing business in future, replacing and improving upon H1.

The second horizon ‘H2’ is the most interesting space as this is where disruptive innovation takes place. Disruption can take many forms. It could be technology fueled like the Electric car, it could be event fueled like the current COVID19 pandemic or it could socially fueled like Occupy. Disruptions usually lead to innovations, new ways of Doing or Being. The opportunity of change actually exists in the space between the crests of H1 and H3.

The key question would be, “How would the disruptive innovation effect the transformation between H1 and H3?” To answer this, we will take the example of the current predominant transportation technology using the  Internal Combustion engine. This is a H1 model which has survived over a century with its negative impact of Carbon footprint and Climate Change.

Now let us look at the disruptive innovation of Hybrid Technology. This technology actually is the creation of the old world H1 horizon. The problems of H1 are somewhat reduced in this innovation but remain; they in fact get accentuated by addition of another layer of technology on top of the existing one with suboptimal utilisation of either of them. This is called the “H2-” innovation as it is captured by old dominant structures to extend the life of H1 horizon. Why we are using the word ‘capture’ here is because its innovative energy is not being used to help the H3 horizon to emerge.

In contrast now let us consider the same disruptive innovation technology but now paired with the H3 horizon, to support the emerging future to emerge and help to hasten the decline of H1. It would be the pure Electric car technology of Tesla, which essentially is a transformative exercise of building some kind of a computer on wheels; it is envisaging the future ground up. This is called “H2+”.

For the 3 Horizons Reboot tool to be effective, we need to do an enquiry based on three questions:

  1. What is being born and how could we support it emerge and succeed?
  2. What is dying and how can we help it to let go?
  3. What is being disrupted and how can we harness it as in H2+, not be captured as in H2- ?

Enquiry questions for conversation about how to achieve the future:

H1 Horizon :

What is business as usual, the key characteristics of the prevailing system?

How did we get here, what values, cultures, regulations, events led to this?

Why do we believe it is failing its purpose and no longer a good fit? How fast do we want to see its decline?

Is there anything about the old system that we would wish to retain rather than lose?

H3 Horizon:

What is the future that we would like to bring about, its key characteristics, how it looks like, feels like to be there?

What are the green shoots of that future visible in the present?

Whose ideas and work are the present possibilities built on? What history, values, culture are they embedded upon?

How can the possibilities be scaled and spread?

What are the competing visions of the future being pursued by others? Can we collaborate with them or are these essentially competing visions? If the latter, how do we prevent their vision from derailing ours?

H2 Horizon:

What is being disruptive in terms of technology, social, economic, ecological and cultural aspects? What are the roots of those disruptions? For each of those identified, what would it look like if captured as in H1-? Or harnessed as in H2+? What could be strategically done to ensure it is harnessed?

If you are a disruptive actor viz, Tech. Innovator, social movement etc. what kind of guidance can you set for yourself to ensure that your disruption is harnessed under H3 ( H2+) rather than captured under H1 )H1-)? What allies will you seek, what actions will you take, how will you assess potential offers of collaboration or finance?

In Learning…..

Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgements :

  1. Three Horizons : A Pathways practice for Transformation by Bill Sharpe, Anthony Hodgeson et al , Ecology and Society, June 2016. https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol21/iss2/art47/
  2. Three Horizons : Partnering of Hope by Bill Sharpe, Sept.2013

OODA- A powerful Reboot tool


As we Reboot and enter a world with a new normal, we need to know that Uncertainty and Unpredictability would be part of that normal.

A great tool to use in under Uncertainty and Unpredictability is the OODA Loop, first articulated by US  Colonel John Boyd in the context of air combats. In its simplest form it consists of the four stages of OBSERVE, ORIENT, DECIDE and ACT, looped as under.

OODA Premises :

  1. When circumstances change, we often fail to shift our perspective and instead continue to try to see the world as we feel it should be. We need to shift our “mind models” to make sense of the changing world – in order to deal with the new reality.
  2. As we make specific observations about something, we would  experience more uncertainty about another; this is the limitation of our ability to observe reality with precision.( Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle).
  3. Closed Systems viz. individuals or organizations that are cut off from the outside and new information would experience increasing mental entropy or disorder ( Second Law of Thermodynamics)

I propose to use an Airline, it could be Indigo, Air India or even Emirates, to showcase the OODA tool.

 A more detailed model of the OODA Loop is shown below.

Stage -1 Observe :

We must focus on external parameters and quickly filter out what is important. In this data collection stage we seek and absorb and evaluate all manner and forms of data to gain a more accurate insight.  

  1. What shifts in demography, buyer behaviour, traveller behaviour, Regulations and Technology are taking place that might directly affect our airline?
  2. What changes in the environment are taking place that might impact our airline and its business? Now or later on?
  3. What information do we have in terms of : (1) Routing options (2) Capacity deployment (3) Alliance opportunities (4) Marketing strategy (5) Gross revenue, costs and profits.

Mechanics of Observe: As we consider new information based on above questions, our minds move from being closed to becoming an open system. We thus start forming new mind models and gain the ability to “see” the emerging situation differently. We overcome confusion inducing mental entropy of closed systems.

Stage- 2 Orient :

Orient is the heart of the OODA Loop because that’s where our mental models exist, our mental models shape how everything in the OODA Loop works.

So how does one orient oneself in a rapidly changing environment?

We constantly have to do “destructive deduction” i.e. break apart our old paradigms and then do “Creative Induction” by using these old fragments to form new mental concepts that more closely align with what is really happening around us.

  1. In the context of shifting customer profile, buying and travelling behaviours, how do we :

(a) Evaluate and finalise ticket pricing?

(b) Manage seat inventory?

(c) Refunds and Exchange?

(d) Fare filings with Civil aviation?

(e) Supplier payments?

2. In view of new safety protocols, how do we :

(a) Optimise Check-in process?

(b) Improve efficiency of airport operations, ground handling, aircraft turn-around time?

(c) Make fight operations cost effective?

3. In view of shifting customer mindset relating to travel, how do we :

(a) Optimise route network?

(b) Deploy Capacity on routes?

(c) Enter into alliances with other airlines and associated service providers?

(d) Marketing partnerships with hotels, ground transportation, destination services?

4. In view of emergence of new regulatory frameworks,how do we:

(a) Engage with and support Governments and Regulatory authorities for creating worldwide / regional standards for hygiene and operations?

(b) Ensure an overall smooth and consistent customer experience?

Mechanics of Orient: We formulate new approaches using refreshed mental models and paradigms.  As we analyze the data collected in the Observe stage, we deep dive into our business’ internal capabilities to assess our current reality.

Stage-3 Decide :

We choose among the various alternatives generated in the Orient stage to move forward with our best hypothesis viz. “possibility” about which mental model(s) will work.

  1. What booking process will we roll out to inspire customer confidence in terms of fairness and transparency in pricing, adherence to regulations and ease of use and refunds?
  2. What Airport Check-in process should we implement which will ensure ease of passenger handling, customer comfort, adherence to safety protocols, improved operational efficiency and aircraft turnaround time?
  3. What routes, frequency and aircraft capacities should we deploy?
  4. What internal resource group do we need to create to work with Governments and Regulators to ensure smooth, consistent and safe customer experience?
  5. What Alliances and Marketing partnerships have we shortlisted?

Mechanics of Decide : As we start deciding on the courses of action, we need to be aware that Success or failure will be based on our competences, our practised experience and the quality of our observations and orientation. For every trip around the OODA loop, new data will be transformed into new information, driving new suggestions, giving us opportunities to modify our decisions and drive subsequent actions.

Stage – 4 Act (Test) :

Why “Test” has been put next to “Act,” is to emphasise that the OODA Loop is not only an execution decision process, but also a learning system; we get to perpetually test our new hypotheses in a shifting world. Action stage is where we find out if our mental models are correct. If they are, we achieve the objective; if they aren’t, then we start the OODA Loop again using our newly observed data and modified models.

  1. Evaluation and reporting of the following parameters:
  2. Revenue and Expense accounting
  3. Interline billing of alliance partner airlines
  4. Proration and fare audit
  5. Loyalty and marketing program effectiveness

Mechanics of Act: .  Making a decision and taking action will have an impact on the data you have observed, which drives the information you’ve created and influences the decisions you have made.The loop perpetuates until the opportunity is fully resolved by either completion or disengagement.

How we could use OODA Looping speed ( tempo) to gain competitive advantage: 

In an uncertain and volatile environment, mission does not solely end with deploying the OODA loop effectively. It is also about how relevant our organisation ( airline) can remain in comparison to other airlines under constantly shifting parameters.

An organisation should operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than its competitors or, preferably, get inside the competitor’s decision time cycle ( OODA Loop) to gain an advantage.

  1. Analytics: Our Airline system generates a large volume of data at a very high velocity. How could we use Analytics to collate and analyse this data in the subsequent looped Observe (1) and Orient (2) stages ?
  2. How could we synchronise our pre-departure processes like Check-in, flight operations, airport operations, transit services, post travel issues etc.with real time shifts in market conditions and own performance?
  3. How could we do inventory based dynamic pricing upto flight departure to force competitors review their pricing strategy ( Observe & Orient stages)?

Mechanics of Looping Speed ( Tempo)

By continuously collecting, connecting and testing data that is generated  the airline would create a data repository for use in any phase of its decision process (Strategic or Tactical). This would also enable an upstream and downstream impact analysis of all decisions.

How can you apply the OODA Loop to your own domain and business? Feel free to reach out to me.

In Learning…….

Shakti Ghosal

Acknowledgement: The Tao of Boyd: How to Master the OODA Loop By Brett & Kate McKay, May, 2019

Pandemic and how to plug into the future

There is going to be a post Pandemic world. That is a certainty. What is also certain is that the post Pandemic world would require significantly different perspectives and competence set.


“The one thing I’ve personally learned is you’ve got to get ahead of the curve, don’t try to deny it or put your head in the sand, and wish for the best. These are the times when a culture and an organization gets tested”

– Michael Hansen, CEO, Cengage

There is going to be a post Pandemic world. That is a certainty. What is also certain is that the post Pandemic world would require significantly different perspectives and competence set; we would come to live in a world with a new normal.

The pandemic is a black swan event. What that implies is that none of us have faced anything like it before. What happens when we are confronted with something about which we know nothing about? We become like the caveman in the dark of the night, neither able to see the path to the safety of our cave nor know whether a saber tooth is lurking nearby waiting to pounce. Neurochemicals flood our brain, we become geared to fight or take flight.

In the present day context, a black swan event leads to our primal brain conditioning kicking in. We get drawn into the uncertain and the total lack of knowledge aspects of the event. The more we try, the more we fail to make sense. We feel dis-empowered, make assumptions and frequently adopt high risk strategy without much thought or evaluation. When we fail we are quick to blame the VUCA (the volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) inherent in the environment. In short we are disrupted.  

Why do we get disrupted? Because we keep on trying to predict what would happen in the future. We keep on working with probabilities. But since a black swan event has no precedence, allowing no experience from our past to guide us, we fail.

In a post pandemic world, we need to shift into a mindset of possibilities.

I invite you to do this practise for just one hour a week. During this hour, unplug yourself from the present. Unplug from all your existing challenges and apprehensions. Unplug from your inherent belief system which is telling you that once things normalise, you would go back to how things were in the past. This is where the fallacy lies and you need to be aware of that.

Then plug yourself into the future. How do you do that? You do that by establishing hard trends about which you do have significant certainty and do know some facts.

Your One hour a Week practice to plug into the future

You make three lists.

The first list is of all things you are certain of.

The second list is of all those things and aspects which you know, which are part of your competences.

The final list is of all things you can do.

This very act of making these lists would shift your mindset and open up possibilities. This leaves you empowered, you evaluate to choose low risk strategy, thereby gaining confidence and focus. As you succeed, you become a disruptor in the new world.

As you practise, you would become more proficient to determine the hard trends. You would become Anticipatory as you develop the capacity for future back thinking. You stand in the created future and look back to establish what actions and strategy you need to work on today to make the future happen.

  1. How might you deliver business and revenue goals, organisational growth and marketplace success in a post pandemic environment?
  2. How would you make sense of what might put brakes on organizational velocity in the post pandemic environment and how to un-brake?
  3. How might you get high performance from team members in the uncertainty of the post pandemic world ?

In Learning……

Shakti Ghosal

How do we develop a COVID19 warrior leadership mindset ?

How could we use the current pandemic experience to develop a COVID 19 Warrior Leadership mindset?

A Do-It-Yourself program.


We are currently witnessing a level of Uncertainty from the COVID19 situation that none of us have faced in our lifetime. There is no past experience relating to such a pandemic or for that matter anything else to guide us. So how do we negotiate the right pathway? How do we exercise leadership that is effective?

We, due to our innate survival instinct, follow a herd mindset. A mindset formed by what we read, what others are saying, the ubiquitous social media of today.

Our COVID19 pandemic mindset is thus wholly focussed on the containment strategies of the spreading viral infection, how to flatten the medical curve so to say and gain more time before we as a species could fight back using some vaccine under development. And nothing wrong with that.

Now let us talk of Leadership and effectiveness. What makes leaders effective is that they see, comprehend and thus engage with the same situation differently. As if they see and come to live in a different world!

The COVID19 warrior leadership would review the ensuing economic recession curves arising out of the containment strategy based infection curve and determine an optimal balance.

Let us now explore the effect of the COVID19 lockdown on the business and economic cycles. As we can see several links in the cycle would get disrupted and are shown by crosses in RED. The general mindset arising out of this would be to hoard, avoid spending and investments. All this would further exacerbate the situation!

A COVID19 warrior leadership in contrast would be visualizing new and innovative policies and funding methods to remove the prevailing blocks.

So what could you do to develop yourself so that you gain the ability to exercise a COVID19 warrior leadership effectively in an increasingly Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous world?

I give here some pointers. Should we mull over them to try and determine your thoughts and answers, you would be well on your way to becoming a COVID19 warrior leader.

Clarity about a future that others cannot yet see.How could you communicate this future simply without being simplistic?

Dilemma flipping: How could you turn dilemmas into opportunities?

Immersive Learning: Do you have the ability to learn in a first person way viz. ‘on the Court’ rather than ‘from the stands’ ?

Bio- Empathy: Could we inculcate the ability to see things from Nature’s patterns and use that wisdom?

Smart mob organizing: Do we have the ability to engage and nurture social change networks through intelligent use of electronic and other media?

In learning……..

Shakti Ghosal

How do you increase your influence and impact?

How do you maximise your influence and impact in a fast changing environment?

A Do-it-yourself plan.


Some years back in my work life I came across an individual who for anonymity’s sake we will call Shib.  

Shib was insecure and hankered for a leadership role as a way to get out of insecurity. At every opportunity he would showcase and ‘beat his drum’ about his past experience. He refused to accept that in the disruptive environment that the business was facing,  experiential learning was ill suited to handle the situations being confronted.. More significantly the ‘All knowing, All doing’ defensive shield that had become his second nature prevented Shib from acknowledging that he might be lacking competences needed to engage with the situations.  These two over time  became a dangerous mix for an increasingly inauthentic and damaging behaviour with the guy resorting to his positional ‘Command and Control’ power more and more as the organisational performance nosedived.

What does use of positional power lead to? Like termite it starts to eat into the existing credibility and trust structure of an organisation which takes a long time to build. Once credibility starts getting lost,  influence gets diminished and impact gets diluted.

The Shib Case study made me recall what Malcolm Forbes, the publisher of Forbes magazine, had once remarked:

“Those who enjoy responsibility usually get it, those who merely like exercising authority usually lose it”

In the increasingly uncertain and fast-changing business world of today, many of us may be falling into the ‘Shib trap’ of over- reliance on positional power without even realising it. We thus need to do a periodic dip-stick test to review our sphere of influence and efficacy of our impact. Should we notice operational zones exhibiting uncertain influence and impact, it could be time to take action.

 So what could you do to enhance your influence and increase your impact?

  • To create a coordinated effort, you and your team members need to be accountable to each other in terms of tasks, actions and time lines. Ask this question of yourself:

‘Are you willing to be accountable to your team members about your performance as you would like them to be about their performance?’

  • Do you have a Learner mindset? Are you willing to discuss with your team the skills and behaviours you are developing for your own self? Are you willing to be vulnerable about yourself and your own need and efforts to improve yourself?
  • Do you personally invest in others? When things go wrong, are you willing to take a deep breath, desist from fault-finding but rather say to the team, “I know how stressed you guys must be feeling at this juncture!”
  • Are you willing to align ‘Who you are’ with what your team members perceive about you? To gain an insight into the extent of this alignment (or not), you may wish to see how many of these questions you answer as “YES”:
  • When you give space to others, do they see you as passive?
  • When you are compassionate, do your team mates see it as weakness?
  • When you display energy, do others see you as being pushy?
  • When you take a decision, do your team members see that as controlling?

Be willing to become vulnerable by asking  your team members to tell you about what they perceive as  your top three ‘bad’ areas. These could be aspects like Arrogance, Passive, Self-opinionated, Impulsive, Indecisive, Untrustworthy, Close minded, Impatience etc. In case they feel uncomfortable  to tell you these on your face, it is okay to get this feedback anonymously.

Identify the top three negative characteristics  that you embody in the eyes of team members and stakeholders. Then ask them these two questions  for each of these characteristics.

  1. “What is that one thing I could do that would stop me showing up as arrogant ( or impatient, untrustworthy etc) ?”
  2.  “What is that which I should stop doing that makes me show up as arrogant (or impatient, untrustworthy etc.) ?”

In Learning………

Shakti Ghosal

http://www.empathinko.in

Environment, disruption and you….

How to be an effective leader during accelerating change and disruption


Change is the only Constant. Or is it?

In my previous post, ‘Heralding the Twenties’ I had spoken of the Change Trap. To cope with an ever accelerating pace of change, we need to become someone or something we were never before. Which in turn leads to a negative impact on our creativity, performance and engagement. I had outlined a practice to avoid this negative impact.

As a changing environment and disruption touches us, we need to have a flexible surface to engage. Which essentially means the need to jettison our past derived rigidity and mindset. With accelerating change, our surface is always in a state of flux. For many if not most of us, this surface flux permeates inwards and starts effecting our core consisting of our values, our passions and relationships. This is when we fall into the Change trap.

Effective leadership in the midst of accelerating change and disruption starts with that changeless core containing your values, passions and relationships. You hold an enhanced awareness of these aspects. You then use these as guiding posts in your language and relationships. This becomes the basis for your effective tango with change and disruption.

An un-fixed and possibility-based mindset allows you to use future-based (rather than past-based) language with others.

If you already know based on your past experience, there is no place to change.

Be willing to reach out to others even if they are not seeking you.

Be willing to speak about the uncomfortable elephant in the room even if it disturbs a cosy status quo.

I invite you to think of and answer these questions in your dealings within your organisation and with team members.

  • What gets in your way of helping others who have taken on new and unknown challenges?
  • What language might you use with others which would ignite transformation?
  • What did you do that encouraged others to perform?

…… and more importantly,

  • What did you do that drained the energy of others?

Care to discuss on the above aspects further?

In learning………

Shakti Ghosal

http://www.empathinko.in

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