Habit as a deterrent


Most self help books and blogs typically advocate the use of habits and rituals for attaining goals. For example, they would say get up early at 530AM and do half hour of exercise. Or, set aside half hour a day for journalling. While it does help a lot of times to do this, this has its own problems. For example, you get up late one day, you would blame yourself and postpone the exercise for the next day. If you still want to do it, it would hit other rituals of yours, and delay yourself further and so on. Worse still, you would be grumbling at yourself for not having done your initial ritual(s).

I recently read this great FastCo article, which talks about about this conundrum. If you rather set yourself a goal of half hour exercise per day, this could work out better. You could do a 15 minute work out sometime in the afternoon. Perhaps work in another 15 minute walk after lunch. Maybe take your kid to the park and do some walking there. You would reach your half hour of exercise.

Today may not be the same as tomorrow. Maybe I could not get up early enough today because I had late night conference calls the previous day. Maybe I would be able to get up much earlier the next day. So again, the ritual goes against this philosophy.

Again, this is not a satisfy-all formula. In fact, that is the whole point. What works for today may not work for tomorrow. What works for exercise may not hold for diet. What works for the summer days may not work for winters. Hold yourself accountable for the end goal rather than how you reach the goal.

(Reference: FastCompany article)

(image src: flickr)



Knolling is the practice of organizing objects in parallel or at 90° angles. The term has been popularized by artist Tom Sachs; he picked it up from Andrew Kromelowwhen both were working at Frank Gehry’s furniture fabrication shop. Gehry was designing chairs for furniture company Knoll, and Kromelow would arrange unused tools in a manner similar to Knoll furniture. Hence, knolling.


Solar plants add glare to Pilots

Based on reports from pilots flying over the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, glare from the plant’s massive heliostat mirror array has obstructed the vision of some pilots, presenting a potential hazard for aircrafts flying overhead.

Solar plants are super helpful in adding renewable energy to society, I hope they do something about the glare for the sake of airline safety.


Victory for purity, integrity – for giving a damn !

“We’re surrounded by anonymous, poorly made objects. It’s tempting to think it’s because the people who use them don’t care — just like the people who make them. But what we’ve shown is that people do care. It’s not just about aesthetics. They care about things that are thoughtfully conceived and well made. We make and sell a very, very large number of (hopefully) beautiful, well-made things. our success is a victory for purity, integrity — for giving a damn.”

– Jonathan Ive – [link]

Company Culture and the Universal Workforce

I was reading this great HBR article on how praise and how it is delivered is very important. The article highlights the importance of this via an example of a manager from Germany working with a universal work force. As widely perceived, German culture is heavily result and detail oriented and quantitative. Praise, is often offered as an acknowledgement of the quantitative work delivered. The article described the manager as not being very comfortable with the american way of praise – such as saying “Good job” etc. And this lack of praise got folks to leave.

I do agree with this a 100%. And I would like to extend this to general cultural sensitivity. I work from India in a company spread across at least two geographies. And the folks on the US side are from even more diverse geographic backgrounds (such as the middle east). It is super important to understand the cultural context of the specific team you work with. In the current environment, there is no way, this can be generalized across the company.

Company culture cannot be decentralized either. Local managers (like me) are expected to handle the cultural implications of the local geography. While this is a noble idea, assuming that the local managers know best, it is necessary but not sufficient. This is because, given the increasing amounts of participation from remote geographies on larger projects, it is not just the local manager that the individual contributors work with. More often than not, on a day to day basis, engineers work with other engineers (or their engineering managers on the other side of the ocean). While the local managers tries his or her best to accommodate these cultural conundrums, if the relationship with the others are suffering, there could be bad side effects. This could work against the effort put in my the local manager, and hence making the local manager unhappy as well. Classic examples of cultural differences in the Indian context would be religious festivals (or pujas or functions) where the entire family congregates. In the American context, other than Christmas and Thanksgiving, there are probably no other similarities. Another example is the case of a close family member recuperating from surgery, where the employee would take some time off, or work from home. Again, in the American context, the love and affection is reflected in the quality of health care and care givers that the family member provides.

In closing, my firm belief is that, management in the 21st century is not just project management or technical management. If you are working in what we, in India, call an MNC (or a multi-national-company), management includes educating your peer managers in other geographies on your local cultural context. It also includes you learning from your peer managers about their cultural context and propagating to your team. The more the engineers in your team understand this, the more comfortable the work distribution and interactions become.

(reblogged from filterkaapi.in)

Only 20 hours to learn a new skill

Great TED talk that explains how it takes only 20 hours to learn a new skill and be moderately proficient in it. The speakers talks about the 10000 hour theory (by Malcolm Gladwell and other folks before him) as the time it takes to learn a new skill and become a master at it. Most times, that is not what we are look for. We want to get to basic proficiency in the shortest period of time.

(via TheMuse)

Ranting and Bitching


Rands has done it again. A very nice read for people managers in the tech world. I have experienced this first hand in my few years of management experience. It is defenitely true that, our first instinct as a manager is to see if you can act and fix the problem leading to the rant. But then most often than not, the rant is just a bunch of unorganized information that comes out of the employee, that he (or she) shares in the act of trust. The employee feels that talking about this to you makes him (or her) relieved. The most important thing is to determine when to act. The essay has a few nice pointers on that – such as “has this rant come in multiple times before?” Is the person ranting in pain? Is the impact leading to failure? Understanding and categorizing the rant is key.


(img src: flickr)