Saturday, February 28, 2009

Knowledge And Being Liberal ...

I have written before about how you never know what idea you may get from where. And this is something i have written about before. Though, i am not referencing a link here, because i cant find it. Which is one of the reasons i have been writing about the necessity for someone to come up with search for opinions, rather than just keywords (or maybe just aggregators which are rather more beneficial than the current ones) ... this would really help make much more sense out of the blogosphere. One of the reasons being that the way the blogosphere is today, and the way i see it going, is made up of a number of voices, which rather makes the signal-to-noise ratio rather low, the way things stand. I know, there have been a number of pieces written about this, but i just wanted to add this.

But i am digressing from what i wanted to tell. As i said, you never know what thought could come from where. These days, i am reading a rather interesting book (well, you may find it interesting, or not, depending on your personal beliefs ... point is, i find it interesting ... you may not ... if you dont, or if you do, please do tell me about it) titled The Templar Revelation. Of course, i am not writing this to write my opinion about the book. Allow me to keep this to myself, at least for the moment ... let me think if i want to write about this or not, at a later time.

What i am writing about, though, is a sentence in the book, which got me thinking ... no, this sentence has nothing to do with the subject which it triggered my thoughts towards. At one point, the authors say ...

A culture that encourages the pursuit of knowledge tends to tolerate radical new thought.

Now, i am not looking at the context in which this sentence is written ... its not relevant, and thats one of the points i am trying to make ... something from a particular context could actually get you thinking about something which may not be related at all. And what this got me thinking about is whether a culture of knowledge is tolerant, or whether tolerance leads to a culture of knowledge-acquisition? And i am not able to come up with an answer (simply because one moment i think that pursuit of knowledge leads to tolerance, and the next moment, on second thoughts, i feel like changing my opinion ... so, maybe, sometime soon, i will post a poll on this ... please do let everyone know your opinions then ... which will be soon, as soon as i think i can get a clear picture from the current poll, that is).

Now, even though i am not able to come up with an answer, the fact is, there is a relationship between the two. Now, if we look at this relationship in the context of organizations, and try to examine this relationship, we find, at least from the interactions i have with a number of organizations, that this relationship does hold good. What this means is that in an organizational context, culture or atmosphere which encourages the pursuit of knowledge is more tolerant of ideas which are more radical (or, shall we say, ideas which represent departures from the established norms), or vice-versa. And this, to my mind, is a critical ingredient to innovation ... i dont claim to understand the process of innovation too closely, but i do understand that innovation is about the creation of new thoughts, and the pursuit of these thoughts and ideas to their logical conclusion, whether that leads to the introduction of a new product, or entry to a new market, or to nothing at all. This, of course, has to be tempered by considearions of ROI, but that is expected, isnt it? Senior managers of any organization are not runnina laboratory, after all.

The point i am trying to make, however, is that one way or the other, there is a relationship between knowledge and innovation ... question is, what is this link? Simple ... if we look at it carefully, all innovation is directly or indirectly knowledge-driven ... whether it be knowledge about customers, or markets, or products, engineering, or business processes ... and in turn of possibilities of creating greater value to customers by changing some of these.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Next On KM ...

If you are wondering about the poll i have posted ... this reflects something i have been thinking about. The question that comes to mind is ...

Like the 90s saw the emergence of ERP, for example, as a major driving force in business excellence, and this, over a period of time, moved from the centrestage to being an initiative in the operational excellence space, would KM also move along similar lines?

With this in mind, i have been thinking what the direction KM would take over the next few years. Definitely, this is a question for which there are no definite answers, which is why i have posted the poll, to see what you think. The three thoughts that came to mind:

1. Web 2.0/E 2.0: This is something which is already happening. More and more of KM thought is towards how the concepts of social computing and social networking are emerging, their utility in the organizational context, and the impact these are likely to have on the structure of the organization of tomorrow. Is this likely to continue as the central theme of KM?

2. Innovation: Is KM going to merge with another stream, like innovation, or, to look at it in a broaded context, will KM become the next tool for driving organizational change? Would this lead to KM being the tool for developing organization responses to changing market conditions? Or, in other words, would KM become a strategy tool?

3. Operational Excellence: Would KM become another tool to drive operational excellence in the organization, rather than being a differentiator, or driver for change or development in the organization?

I am sure there are other possibilities. Just cant think of too many. Please do leave your comments ...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Goldratt On Economy ...

At a time when there is concern about the state of the economy, there was a news piece i read which mentioned that things might not be as bad as they seem (cant seem to find the link, so i am not referring to it here). Add to this, there is a very interesting newspiece about an economic upturn ... and, coming from someone as notable as Eliyahu Goldratt, one would sit up and listen.

Goldratt, to my mind, is one of the few business thinkers who go mre by common sense than by business theory. And, this reflects in the article i mentioned. Something i have been saying to friends, that the consumption of a billion people is not going to change drastically. Yes, there are going to be changes, definitely, but would these changes be as drastic as they have been made out to be? I dont think so. Even if people are to change their lifestyles, and reduce consumption, this takes time, and is not something which happens overnight. And if consumption is not going to be drastically altered, surely, the fortunes of companies which are linked to this, shouldnt change drastically either.

Lets look at it logically, as Goldratt does in this newspiece ... as fears of a slowdown continue, retailers reduce orders on manufacturers, who see demand going down, and they in turn reduce orders on their suppliers, and so on, down the value chain. What happens in this process is something well-documented ... the bullwhip effect. The fluctuations increase as one moves down the value chain, and this amplification is seen as proof of slowdown. Which would explain the disproportionate change in demand for component manufacturers, as compared to change in retail demand. Now, i am not an economist, but having studied supply chains, this logic rings a bell.

Monday, February 16, 2009


I am writing about a topic which is close to my heart ... though thats not the only reason i am writing about this. Over the last few years, there has been heightened interest in replicating the model of excellence as represented by the IIT's on a much larger scale, increasing India's competitive positioning in terms of highly skilled manpower, when it comes to engineering. As a part of this, there is the process of creating new IIT's across the nation. This is indeed a laudable effort, and should, over a period of time, contribute to a large extent to creating greater levels of technology excellence in the nation.

There is, however, one institute which is in the lurch, when it comes to being IIT. This is the Institute of Technology - Banaras Hindu University, lovingly known as IT-BHU. Before i proceed, let me tell you that i studied there, so please keep that in mind when reading this piece further. When i went to college, the number of IIT's was 5. There were the IIT's at Kanpur, Kharagpur, Delhi, Bombay, and Madras. However, the hallowed IIT-JEE was an exam which enabled you entrance to these five IIT's, and to the IT-BHU. As such, from the input perspective, the IT-BHU was quite at the same level as the IIT's. Now, to the process of converting raw schoolkids to engineers ... the college is one of the oldest in the country (founded in 1919 ... Prof. Charles King was the first Principal of the college, although then it was in a different form, Minin and Metallurgy still not being a part of a single engineering college), and as such, has a tradition of educational excellence. Add to this the legacy of a university founded by the Mahamana (my Grandfather used to tell me that Mahamana used to be referred to as Silver-Tongued), and which has seen such illustrious and learned men as Dr. Radhakrishnan at the helm of affairs.

With a legacy as brilliant as this, and a faculty which is considered amongst some of the best in the nation, if not the world, the process for converting schoolkids into engineers is among the best in the nation. Coming to the conversion process ... the process of converting schoolkids into engineers ... the input to the institute comes through the IIT-JEE ... the premier entrance exam. So, the quality of students who study at IT-BHU is comparable to the IIT's. The education given is world-class, with a standardized curriculum, and faculty which is among the best in the world. Hence, the output is comparable in terms of quality to the IIT's. With a legacy like this, and education which is of the standard of IIT's, it is only reasonable to place IT-BHU at par with the IIT's.

What is interesting is this ... There was a Press Release announcing the conversion of IT-BHU to IIT. And what is even more interesting is that somewhere down the way, this decision was reversed. Wouldnt it be logical to convert a college, which already has the standard, in terms of input, conversion, and output, of an IIT, into one? An interesting article i found about this ...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hockey India ...

Recently, there is a tournament which is going on which is notable for its being ignored by the media in a big way. Of course, it has to be, given that India is touring Sri Lanka, but having said that, there were quite a few large things which happened.

The tournament i am writing about is the Punjab Gold Cup ... being played at Chandigarh. This is a four-nation tournament ... Hosts India, playing New Zealand (who are featuring in the tournament, courtesy some lunatics who attacked Mumbai on 26/11, and seem to be the minnows of the tournament), Holland (a formidable team, no matter which way you look at it), and Germany (world champions, olympics champions, champions trophy holders ... the best team in the world today). Quite a mean achievement, isnt it? It is, especially when you read the scorelines.

India beat New Zealand 2-1, India drew with Holland 4-4, thanks to 3 goals in 5 minutes, and India stunned Germany 2-0. Which is wonderful, or at least, is a wonderful indicator of the way Indian hockey could take. Having said that, what i find even more interesting is the fact that which channel was showing these matches was one of the best kept secrets of Indian media. The other evening, i was looking forward to the India-Germany fixture, and i surfed all the channels, but couldnt find the channel which was telecasting this match. So, either no channel was showing this match, or whichever channel was showing this match, were very successful in keeping it a secret. Shhhhh ... dont tell anyone we actually showed a hockey match.

Whats even more interesting? The fact that most news channels just have a 1 minute, blink-and-you-will-miss-it coverage of the matches. Whats still more interesting is that there is far more airtime being given to off-the-field goings-on, than to on-the-field hockey. Somehow, the media seems to be allergic to highlight the highs of Indian hockey, but there seems to be a lot of coverage, and opinions, about the off-the-field goings-on in Indian hockey. One would wish they would just do justice to the national sport.