Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

Some Crazy Innovative Ideas

I always assert this belief that I hold – that beyond what we see everyday – there is a new world being created every moment. We read them passively and rarely participate in this thought work. We think stock markets are somehow more relevant to us as news than to know of some cutting edge ‘mad’ scientist working his ass off to invent he believes is going to change the way the world works. The success rates are abysmally low but we rarely hear about the failures – we only hear a Facebook or Google. I am here listing out a few crazy ideas which are probably next-generation in their thinking and I really mean it when they say next generation because even approaching 30, I feel I am a dinosaur when I read these 😉

1. Living in the Virtual World – If someone tells me that people would pay to live in a virtual world, I would have laughed at them. If they said that people buy virtual gifts for real money, I would have straight away thrown him out of my home.

a. But there is a www.secondlife.com where you can ‘live’ virtually – buy a house, rent a space, open a coffee shop, buy coffee and a magazine and flirt with a girl. And it is a rearing success with close to 250 thousand + users, oops, Residents.

b. And then there is another Habbo Hotels – www.habbo.com , a place to virtually meet and make friends – the next step of Orkut or a facebook. This is modeled like a hotel, where you can rent a room, buy furni (Habbo Furniture) and even pets and pet accessories, operating in close to 16 countries with a revenue of close to $80 Million!

c. There might be more like this but this is one phenomenon worth observing

2. Too lazy to move that mouse, let your mind do it for you! Crazy, is it not –but this is the next big crazy thing on the circuit. Human Machine Interaction with emotion tracking!

a. I was zapped when I read of Emotiv (www.emotiv.com) as I always thought this is stuff for james bond movies or some science fiction movies (which are my current favorite, btw!) – Read about it here http://blogs.zdnet.com/BTL/?p=4603 or visit their website. But in one line, it allows a computer game to change the difficulty level, scenes of the game and a lot more by knowing what you are thinking and feeling – Automated and shipping for just $299 this Christmas, Reserve One! 😉

3. Startups in Bio-mimicry: A hot new field where a lot of companies would try to mimic a certain creature or phenomenon of nature to improve the efficiency and performance. As CNN article says, they are asking questions like: do lotus leaves repel water and stay so clean? How can the ventilation systems in termite mounds be used to cool city buildings? Could the glue that mussels use to adhere to rocky surfaces be adapted to heal broken bones? There are some promising companies here too

a. Like PaxScientific (www.paxscientific.com) , designing industrial equipment based on natural fluid motion and theories related to that

b. A company called Novomer (http://www.novomer.com/) is transforming carbon dioxide into a kind of biodegradable plastic using tricks it learned from the way plants turn CO2 into sugar and starch.

c. More companies tracking grasshopper flying patterns to auto pilot recon flights in the borders and war regions.

I am sure there are thousands more and it fills me with awe – fills me with a feeling that there is always a divide among the people of this world – some are more advanced and are stretching the limits of what human brain can conceive of – challenging what is accepted as ‘regular’ by thinking out of the box.

And on a more spiritual note, I think all of us should for atleast 5-10 minutes in a day think of what we would really love to see happening in this world – something TOTALLY not related to us in any form – preferably. And I am sure it would materialize in some corner of this world as an idea in freaky laboratory.

How I wish, someone finds a way to replace petrol with something that still allows me to fly and drive but does not screw up the environ in any way – No, no bio-fuels please 😉 Hydrogen, may be!

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Allies in wonderland!

“Nawaz Sharif, Zardari to meet on government formation in Pakistan”

The political history of Pakistan as a country is briefly divided into  Independence, First Military Era (1958-1971), Second Democratic Era (1971-77), Second Military Era (1977-1988), Third Democratic Era (1988-99) and Third Military Era (1999-07) – A total of more than 30+ years of direct and indirect military rule and brief stints of farcical democracy. I smiled when it is mentioned that there are going to be elections in Pakistan – oh yet again! I am surprised at the similarities and glaring differences between India and Pakistan every time I look at each of these nations. Considered the same country till 50 years ago, suddenly India and Pakistan are worlds apart – just in 50 years.

There are striking similarities between the two countries though, of political dynasty worships (Bhuttos and Gandhis!) to the shameless, if I may say so, political coalitions – of parties with opposing ideologies coming together to share ‘power’. Nawaz Sharif and PPP have agreed to work together – Bhutto and Sharif who fought with each other and levied allegations from corruptions to cowardice, now are together – why? Because they have a common enemy in Musharraf. Just like Congress and Communists have a common enemy in BJP. Enemies and terms of power are first discussed and then the intellectuals in both sides are left to work out what could be shown as common minimum program. An oxymoron right from the word go – they agree that what they have in common is in minimum – but their maximum desire to keep an opponent brought them together. Can we really expect anything concrete to happen in these political climates?


“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

–          Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

But as destiny has it, these allies and coalitions are here to say – this is the new political reality – the force of Aquarian age pushing people to work in groups – groups of people who don’t probably like each other or have immense egos and inner motives to fight with each other. But they cannot escape, they are forced to work together, because slow it may be but that is the ONLY way to move forward. Bleak it might seem but this is the only way toward Light. In the current age, there is no hope for an individual party or individual to change the fate of these two nations and their people – linked by more than history and culture, by blood. Curse, we may each other, but our destinies are tied together. Fight we may till blood is spilt on both sides by numerous sons of this soil –it is only a myth that India can continue to prosper and its people live happily while Pakistan goes to the dogs – politically and economically. As Sri Aurobindo used to call it, this country is Mother India. It is not a vast piece of land with its rivers, mountains, fields and forests but a living throbbing creative individual in all her spiritual glory – the world’s fountainhead of spirituality. And Pakistan now is a wound to the Mother India, because Mother India, always had Pakistan in anatomy. 

I don’t know how it would come about or when, but we are destined to work together for a common cause – India and Pakistan. I don’t know how and when but the culmination of thinking – the best of both sides – of Sufi Ascetism and Vedic science come together to show to the world – its new and higher purpose.

Welcome to the wonderlands – called India and Pakistan!

A Morning with James Champy

Listening to a guru is always invigorating, I think it’s the passion of their thinking that is infectious. More than the concepts they put forth – it is the conviction they themselves have in what they are talking that makes gurus different from the listeners. It can be a religious guru or a management guru. So, I had this opportunity to listen to Mr. James Champy (Of the Reengineering the corporation’ : Michael Hammer and James Champy fame). Currently the chairman of Perot Systems and previously with CSC Index consulting, Jim Champy needs very little introduction to the business graduates and practicing managers world-wide. As Prof Sadagopan of International Institute of Information Technology (III-T) Bangalore put it, there are a lot of people who cursed Mr Champy for allowing organizations to fire employees in the name of re-engineering or praised him for making their organizations more efficient.

It was a great talk to be in and he talked about the research that went in behind his new book – OUTSMART. His research set was a set of 1000 companies that were growing at double-digits and then which are challenging the existing beliefs and business models in some form. What I liked was he quickly mentioning that these companies that were chosen can grow to become bigger or just vanish out of the scene within some years but what struck him is the way they spotted opportunities.  I think this was intelligent thing to do remembering the other great book written more than 20 years ago– In search of excellence” – mentioned quite a few star companies, many of which are on the business scene now. But that is how the market behaves, it challenges every business model with passing time.

Anyway, here is the list of few traits he mentions for outsmarting companies along with the few companies he mentioned –  (Click on the links for more info at the company websites)

1.     SonicBidsSee What Others Don’t Saw a $13B unorganized market of entertainers at weddings

2.     Minute Clinic  Simplifying complexity –  Healthcare business in the US is a complex process of doctors, hospitals and insurers. Small health issues become a pain. Started Healthcare retailing – small clinics as a part of grocery stores – now bought by CVS pharmacy

3.     Smith & WessonTapping success of others    Manufactured only pistols but realized that people associate them with entire ammunition business and diversified well

4.     ShutterflyChange Frame of Reference From photo finishing business to Social Expressions business

5.     S.A. Robotics Do everything Yourself Integrated the entire robot manufacturing design to deliver, has 0% Attrition and best business

6.     Jib-bitzOutside the bubbleCreated a market out of selling charms for crocs (Crocs are slippers of a variety)

7.     PartSearch TechnologiesCreate Order out of ChaosSimplified the electronics spare parts searching and ordering process

8.     SmartPak Equine – Use all you knowMarkets leading name brand supplements custom-packed for the horses in a patented unit dose package. Realized a gap by utilizing their own experience with feeding horses on the barns.

Also there were more discussions on execution, change management, people, culture and a lot of desperate CP (class participation) from folks  in the room but in the end, an enlightening session with the Guru.

Intuition!

It was the usual drive that day – well not really, as I was driving back home at around 1130 PM. Working late and into night I was tired and raring to go back home. Driving on one of the relatively less crowded roads, I let my mind wander onto the nice tracks playing on the car stereo and let my hands and legs handle the dumb driving part. Was not even looking at the road properly because there usually are no people on the street at this hour in the night. All of a sudden, I am ‘nudged’ to look at the road more carefully and I saw a tractor coming right in front my eyes, driving in the opposite direction, with no head lights and seemingly for no reason. I have NO IDEA how I veered away driving at more than 100KMPH and safely on to the road all in less than 3-5 seconds maximum.

That incident kinda left me shattered. Not that I did not have those experiences before, who would not on Indian roads. But for the first time I realized that I should not attribute it to God, somewhere in the heaven. It is very physical – the phenomenon. Someone told me to look away from my CD Player and at the road. Someone nudged me to do that. And I realized that it was my ‘intuition’ – just something that I heard very clearly, very closely to be coming from too far from my body. So it must be someone/thing inside me. Then I did something I have not done earlier.

I sat down and listed out of curiosity, thinking hard into my past, all those or most of those times when I came close to being harmed in some form or the other and missed very narrowly. Surprisingly there were a lot of those on the list. How silly, I never thought I was lucky on so many instances. I always remembered how I narrowly missed all those great job offers, admissions, ranks in the class – but never remembered these many ‘fortunate’ narrow misses. That apart I also realized that we can ‘hear’ things that would help us become better people – lot of people have told me earlier but this is the first time I ‘realized’ it. As they say, I just became aware of it. And also how dumb are we as humans if we cannot listen to that ultimate guy inside us who is just too good – that he can tell you things that you can do to save yourself in 5 seconds. How better would we be if that guy talks to us all the time, telling us what to do next. 

Then came my next question, why don’t I hear him all the time? What is stopping me from listening or feeling that nudge I felt the other night or so many of those other occasions? If he speaks, why did I not listen and just do it – like I put the brakes or moved the steering on that occasion. This enquiry led me to another hypothesis. That we as people are actually not just one guy but two in one – the Person A1-  who was driving the car, listening to the stereo and Person A2 – the other guy who was watching. A2 must have been talking to A1 all the while but A1 is just not interested. Listening to Metallica was better for A1. Then suddenly A2 shouted – “A1! You are going to die, you fool!” and A1 listened because that was something that threatened his existence.

I went back to that list that I created and saw that most of the occasions when I heard something from inside was when there was some sort of physical harm to me as a human being. I realized this is nothing different from the intuition dogs, cats and all those other creatures have before an earthquake or a disaster. Small creatures have a greater chance of getting wiped out with any small change in the conditions around – so their A1s can listen to the A2s well before those things occur. But human A1s are not really bothered most of the time because we consider ourselves invincible. We do not consider ourselves a part of this nature around us. We think that nothing can happen to us. So it needs a SHOUT and SHAKE UP from our A2s for our A1s to listen.

So, just this one string of thought made me realize a whole bunch of new things. Not that I have not read such stuff earlier but you appreciate things when you find them out for  yourself. I am in that process. I had a lot of questions just out of that one incident, that are left unanswered. Like for instance, I was looking at my car stereo for some CDs when I ‘for no reason’ looked at the road. How does A2 see if the eyes which belong to A1 are looking elsewhere? How did that guy know of the tractor when I was not even seeing the road? Also questions on people saying I followed my heart – do we listen to it really all the time or do we just say it when our brains figure out what to do?  How do I distinguish who is speaking –A2 or the brain of my A1?

I don’t know the answers of a whole lot of these things but may be I would figure out some day.