Author Archives: sreedevi

Trending Now: Emergent Leaders & Agility

A recent write-up in the Business Insider examines “why Google has stopped asking bizarre, crazy-hard interview questions”—a quick read through and it is evident why. Google has realized that in order to better understand how candidates perform in real life situations, and whether they are capable of being agile, they need to do away with brain-teasing questions and in their place ask more pertinent behavioral questions. Like Google, more and more companies today are realizing the need for agile, ‘emergent’ leaders.
Who is an ‘emergent’ leader? And what makes you one? Anyone who can quickly adapt themselves to adopt the appropriate strategy in a context-sensitive manner is an emergent leader. Clearly, the key capability here is agility. Agility, often confused with Adaptability (a slow evolutionary process that is often a one-way street), is the ability to change gears at a moment’s notice, and to be able to go back and forth between different options or modes of operation as the situation demands.

 

At Vivékin, we understand the need for agility in today’s business environment and have developed the VIF™ framework with the specific aim of assessing individuals in a multi-dimensional way. Individuals can assess themselves by taking our VIF-based test after which they will be provided with their Vivékin Agility Profile (VAP), a report on their agility across 5-dimensions.

 

To get your VAP, please visit our test-portal, www.viftest.com. To learn more about agility, and strategic agility, please go through our website.

Strategic Agility in the New Year

We surge into the New Year filled with hope and determination.

Hope–that this year will see a lot of our dreams fulfilled. Determination–to get one step closer to our goal for Vivékin.

 

At Vivékin, we continue to forge ahead with our vision for a world where businesses flourish with a collective benefit, a world where companies think differently, where organizations empower themselves by being strategically agile.

 

Here’s to strategic agility in 2014!

Cross-Domain Application of Knowledge & Jugaad

It was around a discussion on cross-domain knowledge that I realized that there was no better place to look for instances of these than in India. India is a hotbed for innovation using cross-domain knowledge, most of which gets pushed under the umbrella of jugaad, a concept we find is commonly misinterpreted & misunderstood.

 

At Vivékin, we’ve understood jugaad to be a form of innovation, which while fabulously inventive and immensely beneficial to the immediate community of the concerned innovator, very often tends to be restrictive due to its inability to scale up and last long. In other words, jugaad is a short-term solution to a long-term problem. What makes jugaad truly an innovation is when it lends itself to being a scalable long-term solution to a problem.

 

Instances of innovation using the application of lateral thinking and cross-domain knowledge in India are many. The living bridges of Meghalaya, a tradition that was started sometime in ancient India, where bridges are built by coaxing the young roots of trees (planted on the riverbank) into formation – a practice that spans several decades; the MittiCool, an electricity-free refrigerator invented by a small time entrepreneur, Manuskhbhai Prajapati, by applying the cooling principle of the clay pot in which drinking water is stored in the hot summer months;  a water mill that generates electricity, designed by Siddappa, a farmer in Karnataka, using a giant wheel, plastic basins and a dynamo.

 

Instances elsewhere in the world – the windmill built by William Kamkwamba of Malawi, Africa, a 14 year old school dropout at the time, using spare parts from a tractor and bicycle to generate electricity for his family; or in the corporate context, the car-parts incubator (for new born babies) designed by a nonprofit firm in Massachussets, USA, “Design that Matters”, using the same technology used in cars to allow people in third world and developing countries to be able to easily repair them.

 

Some of the instances above could be classified as jugaad, like the makeshift water mill by farmer Siddappa, and the windmill by William Kamkwamba, but most of the others are true innovations resulting from the application of lateral thinking and long-term vision.

Wise Leadership

An article on ‘wise leadership’ talked about how we tend to think that the best and wisest leaders are smart, intelligent people. But what do we mean by ‘smart’ and ‘intelligent’? According to Prasad Kaipa (Senior Research Fellow & Executive Director Emeritus at The Center for Leadership, Innovation and Change of Indian School of Business) what we call ‘smartness’, falls into either the Red or the Blue Zone. The Red zone is about being more aggressive, always looking for the next opportunity, always looking at the big picture but not paying attention to the operational details, and so on; the Blue is about being more cautious and careful, paying attention to excellence, making sure everything gets done impeccably, etc.
So which is a better leadership style? Is it just a combination of the two or avoiding an extreme of either? Kaipa says that a good leader or a wise-leader is one who is able to maintain a balance between the two zones, or use each set of traits appropriately.

 

This ties in very well with what we believe at Vivékin: A good leader is one who is able to exercise the appropriate intelligence according to context. We believe that with anything, be it leadership, or business strategy, what makes it most effective is when the right intelligence is exercised at the right moment.

The Power of the Metaphor in Innovation

Last night, Times Now featured a heated debate on television on the allegations of Team Anna against the Prime Minister. As the debate progressed, it emerged that the speaker had used the statement where he likened the Prime Minister to being used by his government like ‘Shikhandi’. For those who may not know, Shikandi is a male-female (hermaphrodite) character in the Indian epic of the Mahabharata who was used as a shield during battle because men would not fight somebody not “fully man”. The implication here was that the (honest) Prime Minister is being used as a shield by his highly corrupt government against their fraudulent practices. This was an unfortunate choice of a word (‘Shikhandi’, brings all the connotations of social misfit, gender misfit, and a mask for heinous activities. This was, quite frankly, in poor taste). The speaker tried to explain that he had used it as a metaphor, and not literally. But what is interesting is the power of the metaphor to bring out such strong emotions. When metaphor has such strong emotional connect, imagine the power it would hold for innovation!

Metaphorical thinking is what allows problems to be connected to solutions across domains. A Guttenberg is able to invent the printing press by recognizing the metaphorical connect between the pipe organ playing in his church and the coin press he worked at. Unfortunately, we have forgotten the art of the metaphor relegating it to some “soft skill” that is only fit for students of literature. In our systems- and process-orientedness, we refuse to look beyond and see that metaphorical connect that can lead us to powerful new ideas and innovation.

Click here to see the video.

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

Communicating effectively in every day scenarios

What is the power of the spoken or the written word? Churchill said, “We are masters of the unsaid word, but slaves of those we let slip out” and Jean-Paul Sarte claimed “Words are loaded pistols.”

All of us have, at some point in our personal or professional lives, been confronted with situations where we have either averted a major “disaster” or fallen headfirst into one because of what we said. And when we look back on what transpired, very often we realize, it isn’t “what” we said, but “how” we said something that produced that desirable (or disastrous) outcome.
There is no getting away from it, or getting around it – communicating effectively is something we all need to do, in all walks of life, day in and day out.

The video below is a wonderful example of how your choice of words can influence people or situations differently.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzgzim5m7oU

Of the five Leadership Intelligences (Analytical, Communicative, Inventive, Operational and Ethical), it is evident that it is the Communicative Leadership Intelligence that comes into play here. In the video, the lady (in black) exercises this LI to change the way the visually challenged gentleman is perceived by people around (it can also be argued that she does this by appealing to the crowd’s Ethical Leadership Intelligence) thereby considerably increasing the donations made to him.