Friday, 9 December 2016

Pay for Performance & Behaviour

This article is published in the Business Manager magazine, Dec-2016 issue.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Humility will decide your next Increment

My views as captured in the attached article published in the Times of India editions 23-Nov-2016

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Is diversity the only Destination?

My response as part of a case study as published in the Human Capital, July-2016 issue

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Realisation: The art of knowing Self

Nature and nurture influence human beings. I heard this first time in my school when my teacher asked me to speak on it in a debate. I did not understand about these two words at all at that point in time, but could speak well whatever was told me. Got public applause, too. Destiny was not leaving me behind not to understand it. In my Genetics class in college later, I was theoretically and practically taught the importance of - nature and nurture. As said, incidents repeat themselves in one’s life, when same was asked by my professor of Psychology in one of the classes. The incident ran for me for more than 3 hours wherein I was supposed to tell me “Who am I”. I said and said and said repeatedly without know about what all realisation is, unconvincingly but un-tirelessly, who I was. Finally, I could not succeed in convincing my professor. I failed. Failed miserably.

But the lesson that was taught  to me directly by my professor and what I learnt indirectly  left me perplexedand  knowing that I don't know who am I? Incident left a mark on my mind. So,  whenever I got chance to know about 'myself',  I tried hard.  But I learnt eventually,  deftly who this myself in me is. 

Thoughts once in your mind, never leaves you. And, incidents repeat themselves as said above.

Recently, I was giving a lecture on Relationship to a heterogeneous group of professionals from a very large organisation.  Interestingly, while speaking on the subject, I found people in the room were least interested to know about the subject but became more interested to know about REALISATION, as I was referring to it time & again.

I later thought to share my views to my readers & followers through this blog.

Let’s look around, people at different stage of life are busy with one or other profession to earn their livelihood to survive, without having realisation about themselves. They however, interestingly use the words: I-ME-MINE-MYSELF repeatedly without dropping the hat. To me, they do not understand the real meaning of these words and therefore are aloof to realisation.

I could see there is a relationship between I-ME-MINE, but myself is quite different than these three words. It is the epitome of the I-ME-MINE.

‘I’ that is 'Emotional - self',  denotes the state of mind. It therefore makes one drive to look for ways and means to survive. The nature has supported it and therefore has built the ‘Old Brain’ first which is full of emotions. Fear- the basic emotion is the emotion which makes one survive. It primarily entails physical self in the mind . What a person believes about self.

‘Me’ that is 'Biological - self',  on the other had conveys about self-belief of one’s existence. All biological systems and activities inside a human body, makes one think of ‘thyself’ every other moment. Hunger, thirst and pain are prominent in making it happen. You remove these three from human body, ‘me’ will be lost, as these provide support to ‘physical self’.

‘Mine’ that is 'Relationship - self',  the last in three, exhibits worldly possession of existence.  May be relationship also comes under this category. It is most easy to understand. It tells more and more about relationship with living and non-living things.

Then comes ‘MYSELF’. Undoubtedly, the most difficult of to understand, but most commonly misused while narrating about oneself. And, this is the seat of REALISATION. 

Myself, does not display any relationship with I-ME-MINE. It is the source of these three which primarily depict existence. Nature and nurture come hear handy to know thyself- discreetly one-by-one. Nature has given you various emotions and the thinking brain. Emotions as read by thinking brain help in making one, MYSELF. Reading emotions although depends on new brain, the new brain gets its energy from old brain through five senses. How one treats all these senses to trigger emotions either naturally by being in a certain environment, makes his/her –MYSELF.

Yes, certain techniques and heuristic comprehension can make one know about his/her ‘Myself’.


Realisation is external depiction of ‘Myself’.

In organisations, people come for I-ME-MINE and this throws up challenges of dis-engagement or partial engagement. Organisations do try various ways and means to increase engagement by they end up increasing their I-ME-MINE. This worsens the situation further.

The need of the day is to make people realise about themselves, in other words to make them know about their individual ‘Myself’ which is very distinct to I-ME-Mine and needs very different interventions.

Leaders need to bring in unique and unheard interventions to make it happen.  These interventions could be blend of GENETICO-PSYCHO-ENVIRONMENTAL in nature.

Lets come together to make REALISATION a reality.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Gamification in HR: Need of the Day

My article on GAMIFICATION: NEED OF THE DAY was published on HR Plug website. You can access article on the link below.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

The Abilene Paradox: A killer disease in Organisations

Couple of years ago when I entered corporate world with some ‘pieces of papers’ - called degrees, I was quite fascinated by stories about it. In general, open culture, respect for knowledge & hard work etc but in particular, decisions making process wherein ‘everyone’ was included in deliberations and discussion in a team before taking a decision.

This hallucination continued for some time, as being junior it was “Master’s Voice’ only screaming in your ears with some instructions to do only and being pulled up on one pretext or other. Fact to me remained was that there was no point of my being part of any deliberations and consensual decisions, as I was a junior. I could solace in the rationality that being junior I may not be knowing much about ‘business’ perhaps that could be one reason of my not being part of deliberations. In my fantasy, I used to think that all team members do partake actively & openly in decision making process and more commonly at senior level, until there is a dictator in a team who doesn’t allow such things.

Reality, is always far from facts. No matter what, today I understood, a decision is taken by a person only at a time, rest remaining people in a team only second it in one or other form, although they differ to the decision taken. And, this I first observed at my home. Either of parents taking a decision, other parent along with kids were supposed to say yes to it, not forcefully but ‘naturally’, reason to not to hurt others, including the decision maker. I was confused a bit first, then out of curiosity started observing what happens in other’s houses. Story was same. No change, no alteration. Ditto, the same. I used to be bewildered by such mockery happening at all levels of society. By the way organisations are also a level of society.

Then came down heavily on me, corporate culture and theories of participation, teams etc, to boost participation of individuals in decisions.

But somewhere in my heart, I was not very much convinced with the ‘discussion based decisions’ theory, as being taught & said. It was only few years ago, this enigma of mine was solved when I came across the research paper of Jerry Harvey on ‘The Abilene Paradox.

‘Abilene Paradox, as explained by Harvey, is inability to manage agreement’. It can be explained further as people take actions which are quite opposite to what actually they want to take, consequently defeating the very purpose of consultation, deliberation. It’s different than the inability to manage conflict.

In organisations, people privately know about nature of the situation or problem facing the organisation and corresponding steps that would be required to cope up with the situation or problem but do say & accept something that is in agreement with a senior. In the whole process, information being shared is not what actually one wants to say and therefore, a decision taken is based on wrong information; resulting into catastrophe to the organisation. Moreover, such wrong decisions lead to more frustration, anger, irritation and dissatisfaction among people in an organisation. Perhaps, one of the reason of people leaving organisations to find something new in other organisations. Story but remains same, everywhere.

The Abilene Paradox to explain through an example is like a decision taken by a senior, coming to know about the decision taken is not correct, will continue following decision and would not change the course as changing course may communicate low about the senior. The second in command below him would not like to dare against a decision taken by his superior as it may annoy him. The manager below him would of course not talk about his apprehensions about the decision taken as both his seniors are committed to it. Heart-in-heart, all three know, the decision taken is wrong and should be corrected immediately but because of their own fear of losing face, they continue to fail.

In meetings, it is a common phenomenon wherein an idea which was not agreeable to many becomes agreeable, the moment the senior most supports it. Everyone starts speaking well about it.

It’s what happens in fact. All efforts go in vain as people are wary of ‘losing something’. But, eventually it hurts everyone, as organisations fail.

Knowing disease of ‘Abilene Paradox’ is one, but finding out medicine for it is different. The real medication to me is building trust among team members and respecting them. Trust building starts from the team leader. The leader has to take actions, else it is simple deceiving.

Leaders should build trust to avoid the Abilene Paradox in their teams,  else succeed to fail and make their organisations fail, one day.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Friday, 29 April 2016

‘Father knows best’ style of Management

Generally, when someone uses the phrase ‘Father knows best’ style of Management, it does imply that the style being protruded by an organisation to the outside word indicates about how decisions are being taken in that particular company. The phrase, perhaps has its origin in a belief that the founders of organisations, generally know ‘everything’ and therefore issue orders and people who work for them, do follow these orders without any question. No doubt (?), this style of management may work well for smaller organisations, having handful of  employees working for them; but does not suit larger ones. It becomes the root cause of failure for larger organisations in long run and in short run, a reason of inefficiency.

Reason being, you look at the style and you get the impression that there is a ‘person’ who has founded the organisation, knows ‘everything’ to instruct and direct. But in reality it does not happen like this. You will find same person talking to various experts in other fields to seek their guidance. Isn’t it?

My reason of writing this blog however is not to pin point ‘Father knows best style of Management’ but to take discussion further to reality in larger organisations. I when look around find many a larger organisations infected with this disease of ‘Father knows best’. In these larger organisations, on the pretexts like experience or sometimes subject matter expertise or even functional knowledge, people adopt ‘Father knows best’ style without realising the fact that all possible studies show that ‘every’ individual is handicapped even in the field he has been trained in for long time. Even general questioning to self like – is it possible to know everything in a subject for a person? And you get the instinct answer ‘No’. For people who say ‘yes’ may be in minority, then why these people go out and seek expert advice more often than required.

Contrary to all given facts, such peculiar feature of an organisation undermines most desirable feature of the ‘Autonomy’. No ‘empowerment’ please.

It is a known fact that larger organisations’ survival is dependent on what amount of autonomy, it gives to its people to deliver results and not dependent on often used word empowerment.

By the way, I see a huge gap in understanding of people when they use the word ‘empowerment’. Just to clarify here, the word empowerment comes from the fact that a ‘person with vested power’ in other words, ‘powered’ person or authority sharing his power with others. It means, this empowerment is optional and only pushes the fence to a little far and open the gates of power occasionally at the whims and fancies of a ‘powered person’.

‘Powered’ always remains powerful. Drawing the analogy, ‘Powered’ Style or ‘Father knows best style’ are nothing but two sides of a coin. Only difference is that ‘Father knows best’ is prevalent in smaller organisations and ‘Powered’ in larger organisations.

It therefore means that if organisations are really serious then they need ‘powering’ of their people, it hereby means giving ‘autonomy’ for better decision execution and results.

Organisations breed behaviour and people breed culture.

To know what sort of culture, your have in your organisation i.e. is it of ‘Empowerment’ or ‘Autonomy’; then try knowing, how many times what you check in a day. It will let you know what is the culture: ‘Father knows best’ or ‘Autonomy’ style of management.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Societal ideology in a brand: A sure for success factor

Brands, in general, contour functional ‘superiority over each other. This functional superiority has short life cycle as everyone is trying for incremental changes in their products and therefore in brand displays. As a matter of fact, shorter life cycle gives rise to tremendous pressure to succeed and complete every stage of life cycle- birth, growth, decline and death. Eventually, even before the stage of birth is complete, people start giving booster doses for growth. Booster doses do not give time to a product or brand thereon, to stand on its feet and therefore, collapses due to not able to give economic benefits leading to withdrawal of support in the form of budget for advertising further. We here can make inferences that is it the failure of brand to establish itself in the market or wrong strategy and conceptual interpretations that lead to death of a brand.

Iconic branding is the panacea for it. Iconic branding is based on cultural expression which are out worldly depiction of an Ideology, either existing or in making. This cultural expression has three components – ideology, myths and cultural codes. Iconic branding is based on demand for ideological expression and not on demand for functionality. A dichotomy comes the way – whether to go for meeting out demand for ideology or functionality. In this fast moving world with a pressure on managers to earn quick bucks for organisations, meeting out demand for functionality is easy. Also, incremental changes are easier to achieve than innovation. Adding fuel to this fire, economics, engineering and psychology of human beings make organisations go for incremental benefits as they have to publish their accounts books. Not only organisations, even people look for functionality more than anything else in isolation in a product. This troika ultimately stops in building iconic brands.

If organisations are looking for long term success for their organisations through branding itself or products, cultural branding as expressed through Iconic branding is required. More so, in meeting out demand for functionality, organisations make their products and brands commoditised – leading to more blood bath in the market.

Interestingly, iconic brands require all those ingredients as required for making other brands. Why I am emphasising it, as managers need some adrenalin to rush into their heads regularly through organising, planning and executing brand making efforts. These efforts include product design, print ads, corporate business policies, retail design, packaging, service encounter, naming, outdoor media and Tv ads. Only difference lies in when conceptualising all these societal ideology be woven in them.

Go for cultural branding, although tough but in the last gets you - managers a place in the history and also for for your organisations.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Iconic Brand Creation: An art or Science?

While deliberating on Brand creation strategy & process, a group of people innocuously asked the question, is Brand creation an art or science and more importantly, Iconic Brand creation?

Still a student of Brand Creation and Marketing, it was not easy for me to deal with it by crass talking & giving an upbeat answer but a moment to think and ponder upon. My interest in other subjects however, could give me some insight. Systematic adoption of changes is what science teaches us, art on the other hand recognises that change need to be soothing. Brand Creation is a science, deeply immersed in artistic expression of facts about society.

Let’s look at what goes in brand creation.  Brands are primarily created based on certain features of a product with rhetoric communication so that there is an influence on the purchasing decision of the customers. These are very sequential in nature. However, success coming out of these sequential activities do lose their intended relevance, the moment customer does recognise the intent of advertising and thereupon compunction. On the other hand, these sequential activities are not the cause of iconic brand.  In iconic brand, tacitly cultural strategies are woven through well placed communication about customer value. Cultural strategies are facts through stories, a society through its well-placed brands, is projecting out at a given point in time. These stories become the reason of buying a product for customers. An Iconic Brand becomes a manifestation conduit for customers to either express their feelings unintentionally to society or brand societal feelings & convey back to masses. Stories are experiences revealed ‘artistically’, product features display themselves ‘scientifically’. Thereby, there has to be continuous change in the expression of stories and myth-making. Brands need to shift as per changes in the society & keep creating newer myths, continuously. Just opposite to conventional brand modelling.

I say in the end, branding is more an Art than Science. Brand managers need not to look for features to influence customers through rhetoric communication but give them brand which they weave in their dreams having same product features to buy. Quality, benefits and values keep changing for customer, what does not change is their love for societal myths. ‘Society at large is the expression of individual thinking.’

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Does Cognitive Branding Model help in building Iconic Brands?

By definition, a brand is a timeless, abstract entity; thereby anything which is short lived, time based cannot be recognised as a brand in real sense. Brand Identity, however specifies a product markers, having reputation, benefit or value attached to it and this brand identity helps marketers to achieve short term success for their organisations. This at the same time, helps managers to control and coordinate easily the abstractions attached to a brand. It means cognitively one can conceive abstractions and manage it within the boundary of an organisation and even outside. This branding having Cognition at its base characterises Cognition Branding Model.

Cognition Branding Model has its birth somewhere in 1950s, the era which is known for emphasising Unique Selling Proposition - USP - i.e. each product must communicate to its potential consumers a simple but distinctive benefits. The idea of USP got a shot in arm in 1970s when “Positioning” became the dear word across corporate. The idea was primarily led to building brands by ‘Compulsive Reiteration of Distinctive Benefits’, supported by rational arguments and emotional appeals. For example, brand Dove. Other fact which came around the Cognitive Branding model was that brand essence was reminded to potential consumers in every activity that carries brand mark and  repeatedly, consistently.

These cognition and controlling features came against the basic assumption about branding. As said before, a brand is timeless, abstract thing. Controlling and managing make a brand short-lived and mortal in nature. There are innumerable examples of brands which were noticeably successful initially but died down soon. Reason, these brand could not create myths around them, drawn from society that point in time.

Cognitive model is more appropriate for products which are utilitarian in nature. These utilitarian features help products get a distinctive position in the market, giving consumers a tool to easily separate them from others and can make easy buying decisions. This distinctiveness which is helpful to build a brand, becomes a constraint and comes the way of becoming an Iconic Brand.

Therefore, managers or organisations, need to think very carefully what they are looking for – a short term 'advantage' or long term brand.

Nowhere, I am suggesting to leave aside Cognitive Branding Model. But be ‘cognitive’ in deciding what the ultimate aim for conceiving a brand is. Brand Identity can be a stepping stone to move to Iconic Brand level, but it may prove to be a trapping for many, not able to move to Iconic Brand level eventually.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Iconic Brands have their roots in Culture

About brands, a question generally been asked – is brand a means to convey a message to consumers about a product or it is a route to reaching customers via depicting socio-eco-cultural state of the society?

May both be true to some, but it is the second more to me . Thoughtful scrutiny of brands clearly shows that Iconic brands have their origin in a state of the society. As Brand strategists say, Markers of a brand – Name, Logo and Design do not only depict product features but the then socio-eco-cultural transition, a society may be undergoing. To support it, look back in 1970s when the US was under economic and political meltdown along with increasing independence of women, beer manufacturer - Budweiser made use of it in its all advertisements. Budweiser, interestingly targeted acute tension between the revived American ideals of manhood and the economic realities that made these ideals nearly unattainable for many men. In India, 1970s and 80s, saw movies portraying anger through ‘Angry Young Man’. Branding, has moved miles from its early days to today from Cognitive Model to Emotional to Viral Model of Branding, but having one common thread across – Cultural Model of Branding. It is this Cultural Model which makes brand move the Identity Value cycle and becoming ‘Brand Icon’

Every product around has all the markers - name, logo & design for them but every brand is not a Brand Icon. Reason, these markers are empty as there is absence of myths around these markers. It means, one can reach in branding by the virtue of filling in empty space by myths, using all possible means, primarily by storey telling.

Marker myth generally enhances REPUTATION, BENEFITS OR VALUE or all the three.  Reputation could be for Quality of the product; benefits for distinctive Features and Value may be displaying the Status. Apple could be cited as an example to drive the point. Consequently, in just couple of years, Apple has moved from Identity Brand to Iconic Brand position. ‘Iconic Brand are the brands that have become Cultural Brands’.

Since branding birth, three models, namely Cognitive, Emotional and Viral Model of Branding is being practiced. But the common thread across these three is the Cultural Branding Model which provides a distinctiveness to a brand. It is this Cultural Model that helps in converting a brand into an Iconic Brand.

In India, Nirma is an example of Cognitive brand, however rested in Culture shift, society was witnessing that point in time. It has lost its relevance now. Therefore, a good brand could not reach its height of Iconic Brand level as it doesn’t have myths built around it.

In B2B scenario, companies can try exploiting Viral Model by roping in some leading customers. But, it needs regular fillers to attain Iconic Brand position that can only be achieved through Cultural Model as it helps in personalizing the brand’s myth to fit individual biography of customers.

Brands resting on some USPs do not go long way in their journey. Because, USP only tries to communicate a single distinctive benefits to consumers.

Branding is nothing but a channel to portray a culture – a society wants to follow, based on its socio-eco-cultural shift. Therefore, creating Iconic Branding can only be achieved through continuous creation of required myths around Markers.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Serial Temporary Advantage

Not able to understand one’s business nature and appropriate strategy is what I see a major reason of companies not able to get a place for themselves in the market.  Companies float between various approaches of strategy without realising what actually they need for success. The situation becomes more cumbersome for a conglomerate, comprised of various businesses, having need of specific strategy approaches for each business.

Of late, you pick up any article on business strategy or talk to Business Heads, you will find mostly talking about how to ensure SUSTAINABLE COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE for their respective business, without understanding that it may not be possible for them to achieve it as their individual businesses are in different phases of evolution & market placement. Nature of a business and phase they are in, differentiates the need of having a specific approach to succeed, eventually.

Through this blog, I would like to stress upon the need to look for SERIAL but TEMPORARY ADVANTAGE instead of always looking for Sustainable Competitive Advantage to run a business successfully. As I say, ‘backstroke doesn't work when you are facing strong cross current in a river’, so is the case with businesses.

Serial Temporary Advantage is quite beneficial for companies which have either entered the market recently or have introduced new products, which are still to grab the consumer attention. This approach, however primarily provides required edge to companies which can neither predict the market, nor having capabilities to shape it.

New and nimble companies, having flexibility and adaptability to their side, are able to deal with such situations of not having predictability and malleability capabilities, well.

To add here, sustenance is only possible, when an organisation has built fortress in either capabilities, differentiation or scaling up.

In the last, comprehension of market should be looked at while deciding whether to go for Sustainable Competitive Advantage or Serial Temporary Advantage.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Friday, 12 February 2016

Business Success: By Luck or Strategy

I have read innumerable articles on strategy and companies following a ‘definite’ strategy which has made these company ‘run their businesses successfully’ for a long period of time. No, doubt systematic analysis of environments around, marketing capabilities may be some of the factors which have made these companies tuck into the business world. But, simultaneously a question raises its head,  are these factors only really responsible for success, various organisations, if not all, tasting today?

Let’s together, peep into the business world. On close look at various businesses and their success stories based on ‘certain strategy’ being followed by them, reveals that truth is far from the fact. It seems that most of the time, it is due to a product simply as there is no other comparable product in the market that makes a company run its business ‘successfully’ to a point and not because of having an appropriate strategy. Regarding strategy, most of the people do not even know what strategy actually is being followed in their own organisations. Routine business analysis, achievements of short term business goals, product demand, and pricing engross people so much that they do not have time to look for an appropriate strategy based on certain fact analysis and the capabilities of organisations. On top of that, some well ‘marketed strategy concepts’ make scenario more complex. I find today everyone talking about five forces strategy as a panacea of all business constraints  without realising that this strategy and many others do work under certain circumstances. Business leaders, to my understanding must work on active & regular reading & analysis of the market and their own capabilities to frame their strategies. To touch here, one should look for a different strategy if an organisation is having strong linkages between market share and profitability then for fragmented or specialised market. In short, where to play, how to play and how to win should define strategic goals.

Conclusively, different environment require different strategies. Therefore, strategies can be formulated only based on the capabilities of an organisation to foresee and impact the future or not. It means if an organisation can foresee future well but does not have ability to change it, it needs different strategy then an organisation which can. Accordingly, culture, leadership, marketing and business planning are decided upon to follow the chosen strategy.

I want to here, emphasize on the need to thin slice & delineate business environment around and individual business capabilities to decide upon which strategy has to be followed. Classical or adaptive or visionary or may be shaping strategy - either of these, may be the final choice. Organisations which work on either product capability or demand for its product do necessarily not follow a strategy and run a business in hindsight.