Sometime back, at a two-day Leadership Development program that I was running for Larsen and Toubro Ltd (a heavy engineering and multi-business conglomerate in India), a participant came to me during one of the breaks and said:
“All these techniques which we are learning seem to be of little value to me. I am faced with a different kind of problem. My boss has a strong controlling impulse. It is usually his way or the highway. It seems to me he believes this mindset is what has helped him reach his current position. So even if I try, there is never a win/win situation for my boss vis a vis me. What should I do?”
@ L & T Workshop
As I stood there listening to him, several thoughts came to mind. I asked him whether he was okay to delve into the issue some more.
We need to start exploring. We need to ask, ‘What is that which our ‘controlling boss’ would really like to control and change?’ And even more important, ‘What is that we ourselves are willing to let go?’ For ‘letting go’ could be the start of getting back in control.
Could we try and meet the ‘control freak’ half away down? For instance, certain relationships and one to one interactions could still be kept under our control. This realization itself can give us a sense of empowerment.
Could we ‘let go’ by avoiding reacting when we are being pushed to accept the controller’s point of view? Acknowledge what we have been told and then explain what we plan to do, why we have decided so and that we are willing to take full responsibility of the outcome.
The above exploration would allow us to create our action steps in the matter, thus elevating our own control of the situation.
‘Becoming a leader’ does not arise from knowing techniques or aping what we see great leaders do as they exercise leadership effectively in varied situations. Leadership and Performance is very little about what we know, it is almost all about how we see. ‘How we see’ comes from our ability to shift our perception through developing a contextual framework for our own selves.
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
‘After the Pandemic: What happens next?’ – Document prepared by Ayca Guralp, Instititue of the Future, CA, US.
‘The future of Leadership Development’ – HBR March-April 2019
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.
“…….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.
Do the following look familiar to you? Do they apply to you?
Are you living an E- Life, is your life made up of bits and bytes, black and white?
Are you perennially rushed, shortchanging your grasp of a situation as you celebrate breadth instead of depth?
As you face a situation, do you see yourself reactively ‘firing from the hip’ rather than standing aside and reflecting deeply?
In a fast-changing world, are you racing through your days without the clarity of who you really want to be and where you really want to go?
With relentless demands at work and home, are you becoming short tempered and easily distracted?
Are you so wired up that you are melting down?
Equipped with day planners, to-do lists, smartphones and laptops, we pride ourselves as efficient time managers as we hold the intention to multi-task and optimize our productivity on a 24 X 7 basis. What is that which stops us from bringing sufficient energy into all that we are doing, why is it that we fail in so many of our well-intentioned endeavours?
Have you wished you had more time and the wherewithal to do things better? But is it the paucity of time………. or is it something else?
There is a significantly different element, not time, which is the fundamental currency of performance and effectiveness.
“Clearly, the thing that’s transforming is not the technology — the technology is transforming you.” Jeanne W. Ross, MIT Sloan’s Center for Information Systems Research
Moolya Foundation is a non-profit organisation that aims to transform 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.
Moolya Summer School 2021`— 6 weeks internship cum training program — aims to engage with budding policy enthusiasts and familiarise them with the principles of policy research and practical approaches to policymaking and analysis.
I was recently invited to deliver an online address on ‘Reimagining Leadership in the Digital era.’.
The Merriam Webster dictionary defines ‘Reimagining as ‘to form a new conception of, to recreate. What is Leadership? A great definition is ‘visualization of and moving towards a future that was not going to happen otherwise.
In the digital era, our world is increasingly granular- more number of players are entering every day & increasingly interdependent- more unknowable connections between them. Information availability & sharing is 24 X 7 binding us all together and creating a global awakening of expectations.
As I write this the pandemic has been with Humanity for a little over one and a half years. If History’s signposts are anything to go by, the pandemic would remain with us for another one to one and a half years. In between the viral waves ( third, fourth and so on) would wax and wane as surely as does the moon.
At this point in time, we are witnessing two discrete trends:
The world as a whole is seeing a week to week increase in infections of 11%. Clearly the pandemic is waxing now, with large swathes of countries in Europe, South America and Asia adding to the numbers.
Vaccination has picked up pace with most countries rapidly vaccinating their citizens. The developed countries in Europe and North America have largely vaccinated their population.
If we were to look at India, which just a couple of months back, had a world beating surge in excess of 400,000 new infections a day, the decline from those highs too was rapid. However, as we speak, the infection numbers seem to be flattening out at around 40,000 new cases a day. While this signifies a drop 0f 90% from peak levels, it is still a 400% above the bottom level witnessed at the end of the first pandemic wave last year end.
Thanks to News channels and social media, folks remain nervous about the virus variants. How the COVID 19 virus keeps on mutating, how the Delta ( and other yet to come!) variants are leading to new infection surges all over. There is also widespread concern about the efficacy of the available vaccines against the mutating variants. Folks remain stuck in this narrative and feel confused and disempowered about what they should do.
People ask, “Are we into a no-win situation where a solution to a problem is leading to a new problem arising?”
Europe may provide an answer. Let us look at what is happening in Europe excluding Russia.
Week on week, infections have gone up by 41% ! Currently, new infections over the last week stands at 449,826. This could be partly due to the crowds gathering for the Euro Cup matches!
Total deaths in the previous week has been a mere 1317. This, on a base of 449,826, is a mere 0.3% ! I repeat the deaths as a % of infections is a mere 0.3% !!
What this means is that in Europe the deaths related to COVID 19 is now so miniscule that it might actually be lower than that being caused by common influenza.
What this implies is that while vaccination may not be preventing infection, it is surely diminishing fatalities and that too almost totally.
So where do we go from here? What could we do to shift the overall context so that we could return back to ‘normal living’?
What we could do is this.
Shift our perspective and language from infections to fatalities. In the ultimate analysis, that is what matters (apart from hospitalization, which too gets diminished by vaccination)
Stand in the cause of supporting vaccination. Each one of us could play an enabling role in this by getting one or two folks in our circle vaccinated expeditiously. For example, we could assist our service providers and household helps by registering them for free vaccination on the Government portal.
What will you do today to support your own and your family’s movement towards normal life? Apart from of course circulating this post!
I am sharing here a somewhat longish video on Youtube.
Loved the extremely thought provoking and insightful conversation between Prof. Michael Sandel, author of ‘Tyranny of Merit’ and Yuval Noah Harari, author of best seller ‘Sapiens’.
The conversation covers the following aspects:
What is behind the recent phenomena of the spread of authoritarian popularism and the rise of authoritarian hyper-nationalists?
What has led to the increasing divide between Winners and Losers and the rising socio-economic inequality over the last four decades of Globalisation?
The increasing support for Meritocracy has a dark side. The strain between the hubris amongst Winners versus the resentment amongst those left behind. Unfortunately, the created Inequality of Income and Wealth has in fact led to a much serious issue of inequality of Honour and Esteem. What could be a way forward to decouple this strain?
The study of History has been such that we can very accurately explain WHAT happened but not WHY that something happened.
The urgent need to reconceive and reimagine the mission of social democratic politics of today.
The increasing obsolescence of the classical Nation State model due to the easy movement of Capital, Technology and Labour across the globe. What could be done to prevent the collapse of Nationalism in its true sense?
If one were to accept the core premise of the conversation, it would imply that Meritocracy, which dictates that a few succeed and the balance fail, is not compatible with democracy which is about majority decision making.
A more worrying aspect seems to be loss of political space by left of center parties who have been espousing the cause of the masses but have supported the meritocracy structure in their socio-economic decisions.
I was in a meeting with my new Chairman. I was passionately elucidating my future plans for the business.
The Chairman looked at me, made a sign of smallness with his fingers and said, “Your businesses generate too small a revenue!”. The stress was on the smallness, the inconsequence of all that I and my businesses were doing.
Stumbling out of the meeting, I was in a daze. To be told by your boss that all your efforts and dreams, all that you stood for, did not matter in the larger scheme of things, was devastating.
As I look back at that crucible moment, I can see how it changed the trajectory of my life thereon.
For days afterward, I was pummeled down by negative thoughts and low self-esteem. I swung between anxiety, anger and bitterness.
The way it occurred to me, there were all these guys, less qualified and with less competence, who were being acknowledged because they seemed to be ‘at the right place at the right time.’
I felt small. I hadn’t done anything wrong to deserve what I had heard. From that one conversation, I seemed to have lost a significant part of myself, opening up hitherto un-noticed doors to self-doubt and self-flagellation.
But then a thought came to me, ‘Had I done enough right?’
I unburdened myself by speaking about the incident and my thoughts to my wife and a couple of trusted workplace colleagues. I felt less like an idiot when I shared what I learned from screwing up. This helped me to move beyond the dark side of my self-doubt and low self-esteem.
The incident supported me to work on that crucible moment question, “Had I done enough right?” It taught me the practice of Self Reflection. It is this that opened up for me new possibilities and opportunities of growth.
In his Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestseller, ‘The Blueprint: 6 Practical Steps to Lift Your Leadership to New Heights’, author Doug Conant speaks of his own journey of self-reflection and discovery that revolutionized his leadership and transformed his career trajectory.
Doug condenses his remarkable leadership story into six practical steps.
Reach High – Envision
Dig Deep – Reflect
Lay the Groundwork – Study
Design – Plan
Build – Practice
Reinforce – Improve
In today’s world of uncertainty and disruption which can leave us stuck and overwhelmed, the above six steps have the potential to lift our leadership and performance to heights that would bring us career success, joy and fulfillment.
Dr. Viraj P. Thacker, the best-selling author of ‘The Myth of prosperity: Globalisation and the South’, has remained passionate about continuing his Late Mother’s work of a lifetime in the areas of Women & Children, the Environment, Sustainability & Social Justice. This has also led him to set up ‘Manushi for sustainable development’ of which he is the international executive director.
I am sharing a collage of the events associated with the above initiative as well as a thought-provoking article on Globalisation that he has published recently.
Environment, sustainability and Climate Change are areas I remain passionate about. My next book might just be in this area…..
Chief Engineer Arunabh Pal ,domain expert in Naval architecture and Marine Engineering, has the following to say after his engagement with the Chronicler.
“I have never attempted a book review, but this one is special : The Chronicler of the Hooghly.
“No words”, is the first thought that crosses my mind when I try to praise the book. Spellbound comes close to describing the feeling…but then it is not fair that such a stupendous piece of work from a good friend goes unsung.
I read the book at a leisurely pace, soaking in each crucible experience as the author calls it.
“Ashtami” leaves you gasping. Gasping for more as you suddenly appreciate the myriad emotions of a mother around a not-so-perfect child. One would like to think it happens only to others, but reality is often so different.
It is not difficult to relate to the double tragedies portrayed in “Pandemic” given the numerous human stories of struggle, failure, triumph and deceit unfolding around Covid today. You wonder about the timing of penning this story just as you marvel at the brilliance in creating the character Elokeshi.
“Fault Lines” unleashed a volley of unpleasant memories in me, of being a victim of an industrial explosion many moons back. I consider myself fortunate to have looked death in the eye and return. Anjan’s tryst with his conscience is scarily real. Savio succeeds in unsettling you. Stellar work there!
“The Chronicler Of The Hooghly” does just that: chart a mystical course amidst several (lesser known) historical facts and events and keeps you glued to the narrative even as you anticipate the next turn. It brings up the rear end rather well, resonating with the common theme of weaving history intricately into fiction to create four fascinating tales.