Sunday, August 26, 2007


There is a feature on technorati called Authority. Nice feature, I am sure. Though, I am not sure what it means. Add to this the fact that there is no way I can find out who has given whome authority. Over what!

Added to this was the fact that on the Help page, there are tons of queries about Authority, but no responses. This brings out two things:

1. A lot of the social computing concepts out there are still not totally user friendly. But this is to be expected considering a lot of these concepts are not at a stage where they have evolved to consider user needs to a large extent. At another level, maybe a lot of the social computing tools are coming up with features, and then, we as users are finding out ways to use these features. Does this mean that there are a lot of bone-headed ideas oout there? Not that Authority is necessarily one of them, but I would be able to figure that out only when I figure out what it means.

2. It is not necessary that having the relevant social network would get you an answer to your question. But then, its not meant to. It is only increasing the probability that connecting to the right people would lead you in the right direction, but thats not necessary. The issue at hand is that most champions of social software are championing this as the answer to all your questions ... Something that it is not. This is something to be guarded against. We have seen this with BPR and with ERP, where the tool was touted as something which would do everything for you, except get you a cup of Coffee!

It is highly important that we look at the limitations of the technology, both in terms of the basioc limitations, as well as limitations brought in by the current level of maturity of the technology.

The Mind

What to say of a mind which can be tricked by another mind ... Basically, the human mind can be tricked into believing things that dont probably exist. Or, it may not believe things which do exist. Which means, that the mind, and the body controlled by the mind, may be living in an illusion.

Probably it is. How else could we explain that what you like one moment, you tend to dislike the next. Our favourites arent constant. Nothing is. What leads us to pin our hopes on something so transient?

Can we, for example, describe cause and effect without bringing in the construct of time? Hmmmmm ... Food for thought? More thoughts on this soon.

India's Real Heroes

I saw this extremely nice program on CNN-IBN today ... India's Real Heroes. An amazing show ... It was being anchored by one of my favourites (no, that has very little to do with the show being amazing ...). She is one of my favourite singers, and is extremely effervescent. Find her here ...

The program was all about the real heroes. Whether it was the gentleman fighting for the survival of the one-horned Indian Rhino, or the gentleman making sure the people who need medication get it. Or, two gentlemen from Patna who run a coaching institute for the IIT entrance for underprivileged children in Patna.

They are people who believe ... These gentlemen believe, for instance, that anyone can make it to the hallowed halls of learning, the IITs. You dont have to be rich, nor do you need to have access to vast resources ... You don't even need to claim the caste quota. Now, this, to my mind, is the real hero.

The program is an eye-opener. More in a positive way ... That all is not lost ... That we shall strive, that India as a nation, is not completely bereft of her heroes. Only thing, there's too few of them!

Sunday Post

Out of Body experiences would change us. In a fundamental, most rofound way. Lets look at the basics ... This holds the promise of changing the way we "see" things ... "look at them", so to say ... Literally! Logical corollary? This would change the way we observe our environment, and hence, the way we would interact with our environment.

But the most massive changes this would bring about are in the way you and I would interact, and the way you and I would see, feel, hear, touch the things "around us", and interact not just with our environment, but with each other. How? I dont know. Not at the moment, at least. But, I would like to see what the leading thinkers have to say about this. I am not talking about the spiritual aspects of this (you would find more in that direction here), but purely the social and business aspects of this.

No, I am not talking about the next 10 years (it may be more, but then, hey ... who knows!). But, definitely, this would have a huge impact on interpersonal communications, and the way we, as a species, communicate with each other.


Bomb bloasts in Hyderabad ... Must be condemned ... Anyone in his right mind would condemn them! However, these bring out two points:

1. The Numbers.

2. What are we doing about it?

I am talking about 1. in this post. More will follow ...

The television channels are reporting that 40 people have been killed in the Hyderabad bomb blasts, and apart from this, the numbers of those injured are 100. Massive casualties. Loss of life ... There is a story that doesnt even get a mention (its just scrolling across the bottom of the tv screen). This is about 80 Cholera deaths in Orissa. I dont know why the media is reluctant to devote sound-bites to Cholera deaths? Are these not deaths? Or, maybe they are not macabre enough? Is this somewhat akin to the argument put forward in Freakonomics that more people die in swmming pool accidents than with guns, and yet, nobody ever thought about outlawing swimming pools. Maybe those deaths are not macabre enough?

This argument would simply mean that the issue is not people dying, but rather, people dying the sensational way! Should be continue walking this road? Food for thought ... If terrorist killings (which actually claim less lives than road accidents, from what statisticians tell us), stop getting media coverage, would they just die their own, natural death?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Out of Body ...

A very interesting development ... Induced out of body experience. I have written about this over at my non-work blog where I have thinking aloud about the Spiritual implication of this. Essentially, how this has the possibility of bringing our way of explaining the illusion of Maya to a totally new level.

What I am blogging about here is the implications of this on the business world. Huge, I would think. Massive! Mammoth! No, I am not talking about being at two places at the same time (the more to get work done? Nah ... I wouldnt!).

The perspective I am looking at is how this kind of phenomenon would chnge the way people can collaborate. Already, we have organizations like IBM working extensively on Second Life. And, the fact that Second Life has come in for a bit of flak (I have blogged about this!). However, the major drawbacks of Second Life (jerky movements, not too user friendly ...) would be neatly taken care of by a development like this. Not only would this enable us to shre experiences and thoughts, this would enable you to put yourself into the other person's shoes. Literally! Now, look at the implications this has. Imagine discussing with a colleague how that nasty customer shouted at you, and the colleague being able to "step out of his body and get into yours", and get an exact picture of what you are talking about, and comparing this to his own experience. All the easier to exchange notes? And, an altogether different way of sharing knowledge.

But, more importantly, this may change the very definition of knowledge. If knowledge is associated with the patterns of life ingrained in the brain cells, then surely, this technology has the potential of breaking down knowledge into its most elemental level ... Cells! And, what would that do to the SECI model? No, I dont think this would stand the model on its head, but would seriously rupture it. How? Lets wait and watch ... No! Lets think!

Confused Senses

The Guardian today reported about scientists having developed a technique to induce out of body experience. Interesting, dont you think? I surely think so.

One thing in the article caught my eye ... That two research groups have com to the conclusion that it was confusion in the senses (which are capturing data, and transmitting data to the brain to interpret), which would lead to this. Taking this argument a little further ... If people have been known to have Out of Body experiences under traumatic circumstances (accidents, surgery ...), in a scenario where the senses can be considered to be inoperational (the eyes are not seeing when you are unconscious, or under anaesthesia), then what is it that lets these people have an out-of-body experience.

Is this a sense which is not among the five senses which the brain and the body relies on? Is this consciousness? All thoughts more than welcome!

OOB ...

This is not a Kerala style exclamation. Simply an abbreviation (we seem to be having a lot of them, and for some inexplicable reason, they are all three letters ... I do have a theory ... Most of these emerge from Management Consultants, and if they were two letters, everyone would be able to understand them and Consultants wouldnt be able to make any Money, and if they were four letters, the Consultants wouldnt be able to understand them themselves). What does this stand for? Out of Body Experience ... Wondering why I am writing about this?

The Times of India today carried an article about induced out of body experiences. Hmmmmm ... Interesting! Whither absolut realities? At this point, I would refer you to this blog by Prithwis da (not just because he was my Boss, but simply because this is an amazing blog!). OK ... Enough of beating around the bush. But, the story by itself is quite interesting ... Thought provoking, to say the least.

Would leave you with a question ... Where does this leave us in terms of an absolute truth? I have to go now, but you can be sure I would write more about this. Why? This is a very important step towards understanding non-duality, isnt it? Of undertsnading The Ultimate Cause? The Ultimate Cause, that transcends all boundaries of space, time, somethingness, and nothingness ... The Cause which created boundaries (so, how could He be bound by them?).

This, along with another article, on the same page of the ToI which talks about scientists having discovered a hole in the Universe! Wow ... A hole in emptiness? Food for thought, definitely?

Friday, August 24, 2007


I came across this interesting blog post of Luis Suarez where he is talkikng about search. He mentions Quintura as a search engine. And, I must say ... Amazing! Not just its a new kid on the block, but then, this seems to be a search engine with a difference.

Of course, theres only one reason why I am saying that. Thats the cloud ... Tag cloud is what they call it?

Kind of reminds one of the social tagging things they do on a lot of sites, doesnt it? And, a nice thing it is, too. What this does is, bring the concept of Social Tagging to search ... Can we search for things others are searching for ... I am yet to figure this out completely, but looks as though it forms a cloud of terms related to what you searched for. Somewhat on the lines of "People who searched for this also searched for these ...". Now, those kinds of recommendations would be very nice.

Where's the time

The largest issue which a KM practitioner faces ... Where's the time! Fact ... People are fully loaded when it comes to work. Or, they like to believe they are. So wheres's the time for KM. Where's the time for people to "do" KM. That, in addition to the work they already need to do in their regular job role.

Everybody agrees that living as we are, in the Knowledge Economy, there has to be an emphasis on managing knowledge. But when it comes to putting the talk into walk, theres a lot left to be desired. Question is ... How does one overcome this! The way I look at it, the answer is, well ... Simple! The answer is Value. No, not 42!

The way I see it, people would look closely at KM, participate (and end of the day, isnt that what all KM practitioners want?), only and only if they see value in KM. Whatever initiatives the KM organization runs, have to deliver value to the business.

In other words, if, and only if, KM is able to enable practitioners to derive value, and be able to find some value added through KM, would participation see an upward trend.

Which brings us to the next logical question ... How can we ensure that KM initiatives are linked into value creation activities in the organization? More about this soon ...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Oh, the Fish

Its been close on 14 years now. The last time was in Banaras (Varanasi for the uninitiated), the place is called Joyshree (now, dont even ask where it is, but its somewhere in the lovely city of Banaras). The Fish was Mourola ... After a long time today, had the same crisp-fried Mourola ... And its definitely a treat. It was a treat then (and I was uninitiated), and it is equally a treat now!

Friday, August 17, 2007

The K Word

We celebrated our 60th year if Independance, both Indian and Pakistan. And, the news channels were quick on the uptake ... Featuring opinion polls and debates covering both sides of the border. Nice thing (we probably should have more of these, as these would at least increase the scope of the dialogue), but the fact is, logically, if there are two parties, and one party says that he has a problem with a particular thing, the other party has to accept that the thing in question is a problem, even if he doesnt believe so.

Thats a lot of words. Lets just simplify. If Pakistan believes that Kashmir is a problem, then no matter what we in India believe, Kashmir is a problem. Stands to logic ... Absence of problem is when both parties agree on something. Presence of problem is simply the negative of absence. By this logic, Kashmir is the issue.

Though, the fact is, Kashmir is mired in legacy. There is plenty of water flowed under the bridge. The chronology of events as I see them:

  • Pakistan believes Kashmir rightfully belongs to them (according to the two-nation theory), since princely states with Hindu majority populations acceded to India, even though they had Muslim rulers.
  • Pakistan forces the hand of the Maharaja, who is forced by the "tribal" invasion to turn to India to save Kashmir, and India obliges once the Maharaja signs the Instrument of Accession, which makes Kashmir a part of India.
  • UN resolution calling for international plebiscite in Kashmir. However, a pre-condition for this is that both Armies should move out of Kashmir, which hasnt happened, and I dont think would happen anytime soon.
  • Shimla Agreement declares that Kashmir is a bilateral issue, and the international community has no reason to delve into it.
  • Agra Summit is a much-anticipated turning point in relationships, but the turn of events from there on proves that this is basically a damp squib.
Bottomline? No solutiuon to a problem which is recognized as a critical issue. People are dying ... Their nationality or political affiliation doesnt matter. Where should we go? Forward! Can we let "bygones be bygones" and look forward to a shared future? Is that so difficult to do? Or, are we condemned to keep fighting, and debating and discussing things which wont lead us anywhere?

Funny or Intelligent?

I was watching an interview with Bollywood's funny man ... Sajid Khan. No matter he gets on people's nerves, he is funny. He says people dont take him seriously, they dont think he is intelligent, because he is funny.

Hmmmmm ... Thats a fact, isnt it? People believe that if you are funny, you are a clown, and a clown is not meant to be intelligent. Is that true? I wouldnt think you would say it is. Fact is, anyone who is funny has to give people a reason to laugh. To do that, he has to find the reason that would make people laugh, and that requires a keen understanding of human nature, and of the cultural and intellectual background of the audience. And all of this has to be done in a split second. I believe I have a good sense of humour, and I can make people laugh, but the audience has to be able to connect to my wavelength, not the other way round. From that perspective, I wouldnt say I am intelligent, though I Hope that I get to be.

Storytelling and Mental Models

Back to Storytelling ... I had been blogging about this some time back, and have been hopping topics (hey, this is not a book, so I can do that, cant I?). But coming to the topic of mental models, storytelling cant be far behind, or can it?

Two points to note:

  1. Stories are easier to understand and appreciate by the listener, because a good story leverages the mental models of the listener to make the point, and to enable to listener to understand the point behind the story easily.
  2. Stories build a shared mental model between the storyteller, and the listener. At the end of the story, there is a moral, and this moral is what builds the shared mental model.

What this means is that the major value of storytelling in management is to create mental models, or images and assumptions about concepts, among managers of the organization, and this is the starting point for creating an organization where managers are not pulling in different directions (which is a great thing!).

More on this as we go along ...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

With or without SL

Even though this is cricket season, and India has just won a series (follow-on controversy notwithstanding), SL is not Sri Lanka. Rather, I thought I would like to write a bit about Second Life. Really cool thing, it is. And, matter of fact, has also been covered extensively n a number of sources. And, IBM loves it. Seems to be an integral part of their social computing/virtual worlds strategy. And they do have an interesting story to tell.

Having said that, Second Life has got quite a bit of negative press. This one actually puts it as one of the worst 5 websites. Interesting read, dont you think? Except that I dont quite agree with the reasons (as an opinion, I cant argue with their opinion of its utility, but the reasons seem to be all the wrong reasons. Difficult to navigate, even with broadband ... Whoever said 3-D technology would be light on bandwidth? I wouldnt expect it to be. Movements are jerky ... Sure they are. But then, here is a technology that is pretty much in its nascent stages, and these are quirks early adopters are pretty much to live with. The important point is that there are big corporations who are investing in taking this technology to the next level.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Importance of Mental Models ...

Peter Senge wrote about them ... Many people have known about them! And yet, they are neglected.

For a very lucid discussion on The Fifth Discipline ... Check this out!

While the book pre-dates my professional life (I was still struggling with college subjects when he wrote the book), I came to recognize the importance of mental models in my working life, as an Instructor, before I read the book, though I didnt really know what I could call them! :-) When explaining a concept in class, if an instructor can give an example which relates the concept to something which the participants can relate to (I used to explain Min-Max Planning with the way Mom plans for Rice, and procures Rice based on some logic, and this goes a long way in getting the participants to understand the concept ... in fact, they remember the example for much longer than they remember the concept!), its that much easier to relate to.

In my last blog post, I had written about the accelerating rate of change ... And, the consequence of this with respect to the challenge of acquiring ever new knowledge, and editing obsolete knowledge. To my mind, what is important is that newly generated knowledge is enmeshed into the exsting mental models.

Lets look at it this way ... If you look at mental models as a network of nodes, where each node represents a knowledge "element" (an example of a knowledge element could be the famous logic from Dilbert's Mom that if you work for free to worsen a presentation for a meeting that wont happen for a project that doesnt exist, you must be working for IBM) ... This network of "knowledge nodes" represents our lifetime experiences, thoughts, pictures, and assumptions ... Any new "knowledge element" (the famous Drew Clark quote that "We are not your father's IBM") must fit somewhere into this network. Not just anywhere, but in a relationship with other, logically related "knowledge elements".

The challenge to do this, is to generate the ability to relate new knowledge to the existing Knowledge Network. This is, however, much easier said than done.

Coming to the why ... As we would agree, more and more of new knowledge generated (whether it be the mapping of the human genome, or the evolution of networking/telecommunications technology), is "disruptive", for want of a better word. What this means is that it is not an incremental growth on the previously existing body of knowledge, but rather, a departure from it.

Does that mean that we are helpless to do anything? Not at all ... The first and most important step ... Unearthing the unconscious assumptions! We all operate based on a set of assumptions even without knowing about it (this, to my mind, is a corollary of the concept of mental models), and we need a mechanism of gradually unearthing them.

Anyone out there who could give me ideas and inputs how we could work towards this? All thoughts welcome, of course ...

Mumbai in Monsoon ...

Recently, I was travelling to Mumbai ... in the Monsoons! Yes, thats considered hazardous to the health. But, water-logging apart, Mumbai comes alive in the monsoons ... The air is fresh, and the sea-breeze is delightful, mixing with the monsoon breeze! Just the right weather for good Food ... though, Mumbai doesnt leave you with much time to enjoy the culinary specialities the city has to offer.

Knowledge Churn ...

A rather interesting book ... Revolutionary Wealth ... defines a new term ... Obsoledge ... the phenomenon that a lot of us operate with knowledge which is obsolete. Makes sense ... With every day, the pace of change is increasing ... Not just the change, but the rate of change as well. And as this change impacts our world, our working and personal lives, its a bit of a struggle to keep our knowledge base up to date ... To the latest findings, research, and other sources of knowledge which generate a veritable mountain of new knowledge.

By the time you get used to that nice, snazzy app you have been using, and figure out how to generate snazzy graphics using that software you downloaded, its already obsolete, and your friendly IT manager is asking you to upgrade to the next version, which is nowhere even close to the one you are using now. Ok ok ... Its not quite as bad as that, but just to make the point ... Imagine how more and more of research is coming forward with ever new findings ...

Question 1. How to get access to this body of knowledge. Simple ... In today's flat world, the Internet will help us do that.

The challenge ... How do we assimilate all of this knowledge into our existing knowledge base. Next post ... Assimilating knowledge into our mental models. The way I look at it, this is an aspect which is largely ignored in our KM models ... Which is why there is a large emphasis on explcit knowledge!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Corporate Blogging

I have been reading quite a bit of literature about blogging. From multiple sources, too ... Most of it focussed on corporate blogging. And, something surprises me ...

There is plenty of stuff out there on the use of corporate blogs in the marketing domain ... How organizations can use blogs as marketing, or as PR tools ... To reach out to customers, create customer communities, and to react to positive and negative press.

A question that I have been trying to think about ... Does this mean organizations cant use blogs at the corporate level for anything other than specific, market facing, or customer reach activities? Is there not value that organizations can unlock from social computing in areas other than marketing? Of course, there is. Which brings me to the question ... Why is most of the thought revolving around marketing and PR activities? More on this soon ...