Future of Information Consumption

Posted in Hot, Ideas, Leadership

After having a long meetings involving several hours of technology and market research, me and my colleagues were tired. There is so much of information available that it is almost impossible to comprehend every bit of it. All we wanted was an easy way to collect and digest information faster and in a less tiring way.

This is when we jokingly started discussing about if there is a way we can inject all relevant information directly into our brain – perhaps by taking an “information” injection!

Information Consumption

I see many folks, smart people that I meet suffering from this problem of “information-overload”. There are times when as many as 25-50 browser windows are open on the folks’ machine. I always ask, “When do you have time to read all of this”. And most of them admit that when the browser windows crash, they rarely open that link again. Opening several windows only build pressure – pressure of reading rather than understanding and building knowledge.

But this has to change in future. Today, we are physically limited by our senses (eyes, ear) to consume more information. It is like the current system is built on USB 1.0 data transfer speed and while we need USB 3.0 or beyond speeds.

Interestingly, I just watched a TED video from Nicholas Negroponte talking about a pill that we can take in future to ingest information. I can’t agree more having discussed about the same idea when faced with the challenge of consuming information rapidly. I feel more and more people are running into this issue and someone somewhere will take up this as an opportunity to find a solution.

How are you solving the challenge of information overload today?

So, what problems does the Internet of Things solve?

Posted in Hot, Internet of Things (IoT)

In the last article, I provided a very short explanation on the Internet of Things. So, what problems does IoT solve? Some of the areas where the IoT is making progress are

1. Healthcare - Patient monitoring and home care systems

2. Smart grids - Utilities in general but more specifically efficient energy consumption

3. Industrial Internet - Efficient maintenance and energy conservation

4. Transportation - Smart logistics

5. Consumer wearables - Fitness, consumer engagement etc

There are many verticals where companies are beginning to experiment with IoT related technologies and I will be writing about what specific problem IoT is solving and how it is providing value and monetization opportunities.

3 Ways Engineers can think like Product Managers

Posted in Decision Making, Ideas

In product companies, the business teams highly solicit good ideas coming from the engineers. While engineers often come up with many bright ideas, they lack a proper structure that can guide them through the idea development phase and prioritize top ideas. Once you have an idea, use the following three classifications to evaluate your idea, rate it or present to others.

1. Customer Value

A simple way to check customer value of your idea is to measure in terms of better, cheaper or faster? Is the new feature or idea better than whatever else that already exist, perhaps in a competing product?

If you use a 1-5 scale where 5 denotes highest customer value, call the highest value of 5 as customer delight. So, instead of a numeric scale, really think of a scale where high value indicates customer delight and low value indicates hygiene.

CustomerValueMeasurementScale

So, the question to answer is – “Will the idea provide delight to the customer or be seen as hygiene?”

2. Business Impact

How will this idea impact the business of your product? Measuring business impact is already a very challenging task for product managers and can be daunting for engineers. A simple way is to think if your idea will feature prominently in the decision making of your customers. For example, a feature that improves performance of the system can have high business impact.

Typically you would expect high customer value to be associated with high business impact. This is not true in cases where the user of the product is different from the decision maker. For example, you may have an enhancement request related to changing the user interface workflow with maximum user votes. This request has high customer value but not high business impact. Simplifying licensing can have high business impact but low customer value.

3. Engineering Effort

This effort analysis should not be difficult for engineers. You have to decide if building this idea is a low effort or high effort initiative. If it is high effort, can it be done in phases? Low hanging fruits with medium customer value or medium business impact often find their way into the next product releases.

Overall Priority Calculation

Many a times these ideas are targeted towards existing Go To Market (GTM) – and hence some of the aspects around target customer, size, opportunity, channels and how to reach target segment need not bother engineers. If you have multiple ideas, or  if you are managing multiple ideas as a lead, mentor or manager, you can tabulate and sort your top ideas as shown below.

Idea_valuation_table

And you now have enough scope to apply mathematics as you feel like to decide priority.

10 Things you should do to set New Hires for Success

Posted in Hiring, People & Culture

This is the time of the year when new campus graduate join their first organization to start their career.  And like everyone else, these first time employees want to be successful in their careers. If you are a reporting manager, how can you set them up for success?

In my recent blog on Law of Hiring, I wrote about how a new hire changes the average performance of the team. Now that a new person is joining, how can this be used as an opportunity to bring about a positive change in the team?

Here is my list of top 10 areas to cover for new hires as a reporting manager -

1. Product Related – Ask them to learn about the product they will be working on as an end user. If they don’t know how users are going to use their product, they have already failed. Ask them to install the product and write their first application. This should happen during the first week of joining.

2. Technology/domain related – Ask them to learn the technology required for the role, and related spectrum around it. Typically, this is a longer process and also related to on-job training. But having a plan around areas to learn is a great start.

3. Company related – Provide a quick understanding of company and its overall direction and strategy. If you can’t, your new hire is in a wrong team.

4. Business & customer related – Who are typical customers of your product. Why do they use the product to solve what kind of issues? What is the future roadmap or vision of the product? Depending upon the role, some amount of information around business should also be covered like pricing and how the product is sold.

5. Process related – There are several processes that a team follows. While most processes are understood once someone uses them, it is most important to talk about best practices to follow and bad practices to avoid. This is your opportunity to improve processes and set expectations before new hires pick bad practices by observing others. For example, for a development team, it can be about doing proper source code review , or doing appropriate amount of unit testing before checkin.

6. Soft skills for high impact - These qualities are subtle but many new hires and managers miss to develop them right from the beginning. Self-driven, low management overhead qualities and communication skills are desirable. New hires should discuss with managers and pick top 3 else the list is too long.

7. Time management - Yes, it should start from day 1. Managing office time, not indulging in time-wasting activities, managing web browsing and Facebook time are important. It is very difficult to achieve peak performance without proper time management. Add ability to prioritize work to that list. You must share your experience and expectations with new hires.

8. Innovation - Many companies and teams desire to build a culture of innovation. They are struggling. This is an area of big opportunity for both new hires and managers. There are several models and processes available, you help setup one for your new hires. This is a good long term investment for both.

9. Culture & Values - My simple ask is around hallway or water-cooler discussion. What topics helps to build positive impression? Explain new hires how to use the informal discussion time to generate new ideas, initiate interesting professional discussion and build relationships. These informal conversations define the culture of your team.

10. Plan for first 4 weeks to make an impression - All of the above should be part of new hires first 4-week plan. This is the time when everyone is forming an impression about the new hire and he/she should drive this plan – it is a matter of his/her career and success.

Education 2.0 – case for mass customization

Posted in Education, Ideas, Technology

I had a great lunch conversation with a friend and colleague on how schools kill creativity. A little bit of Google search points to several articles where people  have spoken about this topic. I found two interesting links on this subject.

A TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson where he makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. The Paradox of Creativity in Education says in an era of accountability and measurement, it’s more difficult to imagine advocating subjects that can’t be easily measured. And creativity is difficult to measure.

Mass Production Approach

If you have watched your younger ones grow, you will notice it is around grade 3 or so when they start to lose creativity because of “mass production” effect. Current education system makes you do what you are told, over and over, and over again. This mass production approach allows to serve education to large homogeneous market with consistent quality and standardization. It is also an efficient approach.

Education

Building a case for Mass Customization

Henry Ford famously said for his cars – “You can have any colour as long as it is black“. However, the need for today is one that serves specific needs of students. My daughter’s needs are different from other 30 students in her class. The question is how do we move to an approach that is based on customization — where customers can tailor a product’s appearance, features or content to their own specifications?

The paradigm shift to mass customization is mainly driven by three forces:

1) Market demand – There is an ever growing frustration with the current education setup from both parents and educators. Many industry expert believes in the disruption of business models established in the 20th century impacting education.

2) Market competition – I have not done extensive research about the competitive landscape but from what I know education is extremely fragmented with many players in a huge market. A different model may allow an existing player or a new entrant to dominate the market.

3) Technological revolutions – This is an area with most potential but perhaps undeserved. There are companies like mytwinn.com making customized dolls or tastebook.com providing customized recipes and differentiating themselves. And technology can play a big role bringing customization with new innovations. There are opportunities to co-innovate, co-configure and co-produce with the customers, namely parents and educators. And in some cases with the students themselves.

This is what will bring an era of Education 2.0 – private & personal classes for students that are delivered at a massive scale of efficiency. And may we remember famous song Another Brick in the Wall from Pink Floyd just for the music!

 

Entrepreneurship is #1 career aspiration today

Posted in Data visualization, Hiring, People & Culture

In April, I floated a survey on What do you want to be in your career and I received a great response from many folks within a week of sharing the survey. So much so that I had to purchase a basic plan on survey monkey to analyze the results properly and quickly.

In the 7-question survey, overall results from the four central questions are shown below.

1. What is you career development/growth aspiration?

36% folks want to become entrepreneurs followed by 35% folks who are looking for a new team or promotion to a new team. This is true for individual contributors and managers. This question allowed multiple-choices so do not try to add to 100%.

What is surprising is that almost 60% people are looking at new roles, new teams and new companies to meet their career aspiration. Very few people (31%) think of current team to be able to provide opportunities for their career growth.

aspiration

2. What actions can help you meet your career aspiration?

The top three choices here are – talking to seniors and colleagues (66%), acquiring new technical skills (57%) followed by acquiring soft skills (55%). As expected, individual contributors care less about soft skills but most about technical skills followed by talking to seniors and colleagues. However, managers care less about technical skills compared to soft skills.

3. How frequently do you think about career development & growth?

91% people actively think about career growth while only 3% do not think about it. Those who are frequently thinking about career development are looking at entrepreneurship and new teams. Entrepreneurship is the top choice for managers and new team for individual contributor.

It will be interesting to correlate employee engagement and career development results. A recent Gallup survey showed 87% employees worldwide are disengaged in their jobs. I see a strong correlation here and it is plausible that career growth issues are responsible for some of the disengagement. But I did not ask a direct question about current engagement.

4. How often do you check careers of your peers, colleagues & seniors to get some ideas for career path?

88% people check careers of others and 63% does so very often. I think this also tie down to 66% folks talking to seniors and colleagues when planning their career growth.

I calculated Pearson correlation coefficient using joint probability distribution between how frequently someone thinks about career development & growth with how often someone checks others career. A result of 0.57 shows a fairly good correlation between these two variables. What it means is that someone thinking frequently about one’s own career is often looking at others career path.

If you need raw results, please leave a comment below.

4 tips from an eight year old to become a star performer

Posted in Leadership, People & Culture

Kids keep it nice and simple – most parents of young kids will vouch for that.

This is how my 8 year old girl summarized a book on legendary women tennis player Steffi Graf.

Steffi Graf - How she became a star

So, what professionals need to do to become stars?

1. Play well - Do your work to the best of your ability. You need to demonstrate what you have got.

2. Work hard - Easier said than done. Perhaps some amount of planning is always helpful to make it a bit smarter.

3. Enjoy - Very important. Many researchs have proved that there is a direct correlation between productivity and having fun. I have written three articles on this topic. What makes us feel good about our work, Guiding principles on work-life balance and Whopping 87% of employees worldwide are dis-engaged in their jobs!

4. Listen carefully - Well the idea is to learn. And to learn not only you need to keep your eyes and ears open, you need to have an open mind to be able to take the feedback about your mistakes. All great athletes have this quality.

This book is part of my recently purchased books for kids. See details here.

A short explanation on The Internet of Things

Posted in Hot, Internet of Things (IoT)

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept where all devices with an on/off switch are connected to the internet. This concept allows multiple devices to work together to complete a task now that they are all connected to each others.

Internet-of-Things

So, what does The Internet of Things enable?

In most cases, this task is driven by automatic determination of human need or to make a smart decision on someone’s behalf. For example, after waking you up your alarm clock notifying your coffee machine to start brewing coffee for you. Or your refrigerator ordering vegetables for you once the stock goes down. What if your car can access your calendar and if you are running late, notifies others that you will be late.

There are many possibilities that can happen when multiple devices can come together. What do you think?

6 books for young kids

Posted in Book

This is the latest collection of biographies for my kids. The reason I love biographies is that they inspire you in a real way – there people were able to push the limits and utilize their talents.

Kids book

I enjoy such books as much as my kids do. The other reason is being written for kids, the books are simple and not voluminous.

How your hiring abilities impact voting decisions

Posted in Decision Making, Hiring

It is that time of 5-year period when you have to make a political choice. The good news is that more people are making this choice. The polling figures so far shows around 20-40% increase in the polling. There is a sense of urgency in the people. However, many people are still struggling to decide who they can vote as the best candidate.

I want to compare how this decision making process is similar to the decision making during hiring process. Hiring process typically involves a panel of 4-5 people with a hiring manager. Many of us have been part of such panels. The outcome of hiring process is a boolean – Yes or No. You either select or reject a candidate.

If you have been on interview panels for long enough, you may not be surprised to know that there is at least one person who actually ends up with a “maybe” vote. And many companies support this “maybe” decision by having a 3-pointer scale or much worse, a 5-pointer scale. The worst is when the entire panel declares a “maybe” decision resulting in “on-hold” candidates.

Interview

Now if you are an interviewer who replies with a clear Yes or No, you should not have much trouble in deciding your candidate for this election. It is possible that you have done a detailed research, asked references, attended a campaign or just used your gut.

If you are an interviewer who often replies with a “maybe”, you are in trouble. What do you do when you are the hiring manager and you are forced to select or reject a candidate? Do you try to find more information about the candidate? Do you discuss with other interviewers? Do you search their web presence? Do you do background verification? Do you talk to references to know about their past work? You will probably do anything that will help you to make a firm decision.

There are many things that you can do if you want to make a good choice. The below quote by Jim Collins is applicable to both hiring and voting.

“Get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus”

Note to my international friends and followers – India follows multi-party democracy with 6 national parties, 47 state parties and 1563 other parties.