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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Understanding a Story – The Vivékin Way

Almost all the houses in the community I live in have solar water heaters installed on their terraces. For most of these house owners, while the logic behind doing this has more to do with considerable savings on the monthly electricity bill than any green initiative, they still are managing to do their little bit towards energy conservation. Then again, all these houses have inbuilt reverse osmosis water purification systems under their kitchen sinks. Convenient and safe, yes. But I wonder how many of them have taken into consideration the fact that for every glass of clean water produced, another glass gets wasted; that it is possible to channel this water to the garden for watering plants. And if anyone has actually done that. Kind of ironic, isn’t it? In one shot, the good that was done has come undone. But, I digress. What I actually wanted to write about was an article I read last week – about this gentleman in Bangalore who has gone way beyond just installing a solar heater. He installed a whole set of solar panels on his terrace, bought himself a few hybrid inverters and now manages almost all of his household energy needs (with the exception of one submersible pressure pump) with the supply from these solar panels. And if that were not enough, he supplies the surplus energy, around 8-10 units, back to the Electricity Board. Free of charge. Now, if only more people in our country could be like him! Even if some of us were able to take care of half our energy needs, the load on our energy reservoirs could be decreased and so much electricity would be freed up to electrify villages and towns in rural parts of India.

In Vivékin terms, what is the significance of this story? Here is someone who has done something rather innovative – but what is the dominant Leadership Intelligence here? Because he is being innovative, does it imply that it is Inventive Intelligence? Surprisingly though, it is not. To understand why, we first need to break this story down a little more. He used Analytical Intelligence when he studied the different kind of panels and inverters available and decided which combination to use, Operational Intelligence while setting up the whole system (even if he didn’t do it himself, he drove the process) and some amount of Communicative Intelligence while dealing with the equipment dealers and engineers/ technicians who set up the system. But not really Inventive Intelligence, as he didn’t apply knowledge from another domain for this innovation. He simply extended what he already knew – the ability to channel solar energy using solar panels to power something other than just a solar heater.

But where does he use Ethical Intelligence? To understand this, let us take a step back and try to understand why it is that he even chose to embark on such a project. Was it to save on his electricity bills? To start and follow a green initiative in order to conserve energy? To free up energy for others to use? To set a precedent in his community in the hope that it would inspire others to follow in his steps? It could have been one or the other, or all. The point is that he explored a possibility, weighed his options, looked at the long-term implications and then made a decision. Without a doubt, this is a perfect example of a dominant Ethical Intelligence.

To read the article, please click here

Having the Right Steam Team: Is Your Team Providing You the Right Support?

Reading Vijeeta’s article on her cricketer husband Rahul Dravid made me realize a very key aspect of leadership excellence – having the right team working for you. Imagine Dravid to be the CEO of a company and Vijeeta a key member in his team. Dravid’s excellence at what he did was influenced by Vijeeta’s understanding of his cricketing greatness and what was required for him to focus and nurture it. This coming from someone who may have never played cricket shows tremendous maturity as his support team. The hallmark of a great organization not only depends on how well a leader carries his team but also on how well a team can carry its leader. A Steve Jobs or a Bill Gates was/is successful at what he did/does because his team understood the greatness of his vision. For a majority of the world, this team was invisible until Steve/Gates decided to step down. Playing this support cast effectively and consistently is not easy since at times it can involve sacrificing some of your own ideas/ aspirations and aligning yourself to a greater cause. It is in such situations that the mentoring role of the leader is vital to understanding them and providing an ethical solution. Case in point here is Dravid’s clarity on when to remove his cricketing cap and play the role of the husband who accepts the lead role his wife plays in matters of his family.

Appreciation of the excellence from your team alone is not enough since a leader also needs to be constantly challenged to improve further. Externally, this comes from the business environment they operate in; their team acts as internal challengers of the solutions/models that they come up with. This provides them with a broader perspective to improve and refine their solutions/models. When Mr. Narayanamurthy was the CEO of Infosys, I remember reading an interview where he was asked about India’s younger generation. He mentioned that what excited him about the generation was their ability to challenge the norms. He drew inspiration from some of the young members in his own team who challenged him and were always up for a challenge from him. While there may not be a direct link to this aspect in Vijeeta’s article, it is interesting to note that although she finds Rahul’s methods of preparation for a game quirky, she understands the importance of it and ensures that he gets his space by not allowing their children to disturb him. It reflects her willingness to support him in his quest for bettering his performance.

The above mentioned points are among the many important facets that make a great leader. What is remarkable though, is that such instances happen to all of us in our everyday lives in different forms and we fail to notice the significance of it. Identifying and understanding them not only makes for a good leader at work but also a good role model in life.

Frameworks and Hierarchies

The response to my recent op-ed in The Hindu (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2967567.ece) was overwhelmingly positive. But about 1% of people misread my message. This small percentage of responders thought that my op-ed was against western frameworks and theories, and that I was calling for them to be replaced by Indian ones. We are conditioned to any call for Indian ways to being seen as nationalist.

Drawing on mathematical logic–I admit I used it rather loosely–I said that western frameworks are “necessary but not sufficient.” And I was thinking here of the oft-quoted example to show the relationship between necessity and sufficiency: being a mammal is necessary but not sufficient to being human. My argument was that we need to understand that frameworks from western thinking are necessary but not sufficient for strategic success. They form one option that needs to be placed alongside Indian thinking (one another option among many others that I did not refer to–Chinese, African, whatever) so that both western and Indian frameworks become options for any strategist to choose from–options that should be level with each other, and not arranged in a hierarchy as is the case now with western theories placed much above Indian ones.