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!

Being Human

“Being human” – this is the almost constant backdrop of all the conversations that we have at Vivékin – and it is something that has become increasingly important for organizations today, especially at a time that social media marketing has gained huge popularity. Who – right from big giants to small start-ups – has not dived into the bandwagon of creating a company page in popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn?


However, mere presence on social media sites is not enough and companies should be utilizing their presence more meaningfully.Interacting with customers through these sites, promoting new products&services, communicating the company’s opinion on current issues, solving customers’ problems, answering their queries et al are few of the ways in which they can make their presence felt.  And we should always remember that all these interactions should have humanness at their core, lest the whole effort of being on social media looks superficial.


Take for example, the social media outreach of Home Depot. An offensive tweet was sent from their official twitter account but the Home Depot team was quick enough to act on it and did a PR clean-up. The steps taken by them were perfect, till they decided to tweet everyone personally with the same message.  Gini Dietrich, CEO of Arment Dietrich Inc., in her blog-post says, “Tweeting the same message to every, single person makes it look like a robot – rather than a human being – is in charge.” Yes, we all know that it would take quite some time to customize the message but such a gesture would have created a lasting impression on the customers. And who would not want to be in the good books of the customer?


Again, like we say at Vivékin, being human is no longer an option but a necessity!

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.

Is Google being a leader with Nexus?

Mitch Joel, as usual, has an interesting take on Google’s new phone, Nexus One. He argues that the Nexus One should not be compared with other smart phones; rather, it should be compared to a hand-held computer.Yes, Google may be positioning itself to work on the hand-held computer market, but I’m afraid it may not be learning from the past. It labors under the impression that limiting access to a product increases te public’s appetite for that product. Look at Gmail for lessons. Nearly 5 years after it was launched, Gmail is a pathetic third behind Yahoo and MSN Hotmail. It just managed to overtake, of all things, AOL!! The latest Hitwise list provides a nice snapshot of email service usage:

Website Usage Stats from Hitwise

The “E” factor

I have often found that people trivialize a person’s success by attributing it to luck; luxury of having the right backing; being in the right place at the right time… the list goes on. Most of the times this Envy or “E” factor as I would like to call it is usually directed toward a known person—a relative, a friend or a colleague. There are plenty of instances of the disastrous impact that this emotion has had in human history. To cite a few examples: brothers have brutally murdered each other, big and powerful empires have been destroyed overnight, large organizations have vanished into thin air and governments have been brought down.

While all of us realize that Envy is wrong, the reality is that all of us are envious at varying levels and there is nothing we can do to stop this emotion. That being said, all of us also have an opportunity to take advantage of it and channelize it in a positive way. This is best exemplified in any competitive sports by individuals/teams that aspire to beat the best in their league to be the number one in their field. The way they go about by building on their strengths and improving on their weaknesses is a pure inspiration to read. Once they have reached the top, very few go on to reach legendary status by staying on the top for long periods of time until someone else comes along and beats them to the spot. The examples of such legends and legend dethroners are very valuable case studies at our work places.

The “E” factor is most pronounced in any workplace after promotion & raise period. Everyone feels they are good, everyone feels they have done their best of what was expected and everyone feels they need to be promoted and given the highest raise. The reality is that most of them end up being not good enough, are found wanting to better their best, end up not getting promoted and get a standard raise. This immediately gives way to a feeling of envy and indifference towards the “Haves” by the “Have nots”. Now this is a very critical and defining moment for those who have lost out. At the same time it is also an opportunity for their manager/supervisor to inspire and build a sense of loyalty in them. They need to understand that the person is disillusioned, low on self-esteem and a little pissed off, so do not bullshit and be honest. Pleading helplessness by saying they did the best they could but someone else decided otherwise will not help, clearly there was a reason why your candidate did not make the cut, be transparent with it. Let them know what they can do better and how you can help them in doing better. This will ensure they get more clarity and a sense of direction rather than becoming pissed off and losing trust on the manager/supervisor.

For those who didn’t make it, it is a good time to reflect on what went right and what went wrong. Promotion in any organization has a good ounce of objectivity and dollops of subjectivity although the intent is always to be other way around. A broad classification of reasons for promotion can be: seniority/loyalty, good performance and good communication along with good visibility and willingness & ability to take up new/complex challenges and execute them successfully. Now there are some whose performance are standard but are smart enough to get the right visibility through other areas, well this requires talent and it is not easy to compete with them unless you have it in you. Besides such people tend to stagnate at middle level management where the competition intensity is very high. So a good understanding of which category one is likely to fall under and looking at the positives of what went right for people in your category and what didn’t go right for you is a good start to increase your chances in the next promotion cycle.

The next time you find yourself looking at someone who is successful and asking the question “What’s he got that I ain’t got”, you are better off starting with their positives and your lack of them.

35 Lakhs down the toilet. Literally.

I was appalled to read this news. The Planning Commission of India has spent Rs 35 lakh renovating two toilets at its headquarters Yojana Bhawan – Rs. 5 lakh to install a smart card controlled entry to the loo and Rs. 30 lakh on the renovation.

In a country where the definition of the poverty line in urban areas is Rs. 32 a day, could we not find a better use for this money?

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.

The Dreaded Stairs – Or is It?

Here is an interesting video that has been doing the rounds on the net for a while now. It shows how a group of engineers motivate people to take the stairs instead of the escalator.

Well, what do you think are the dominant intelligences/combination of intelligences that are in play here?

Putting on Vivekin’s lenses, I would say that the Inventive and the Operational are the key intelligences used in this project. And as it is done with the ‘greater good’ in mind (getting people to exercise by walking up the stairs), Ethical intelligence too. Your comments?

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