The Change Imperative

Ever since I first wrote about institutional realignment, I have been more conscious of it and its implications on our lives. To a certain extent, even paranoid, because of the pace of change. Ray Kurzweil is hard at work to make himself immortal, and believes we should get really close by the 2030s. He has been right before on many things of this nature. Moore’s law, digitisation and everything related are also getting us really close to the singularity. I am reasonably convinced that I will see both in my lifetime. If you live to be 200 and have robots smarter than you around, what does that do to education, money, marriage, work and pretty much everything that constitutes life? On the flip side, natural resources are running out, and I can see the complications already. It’s not a good sight, or experience!

I am finding it impossible to wrap my head around what all of  this would mean to our concept of life. In the meanwhile, I do know that everything is changing at breakneck speed, and in order to survive, we need to be cognizant of things that can impact our lives – as individuals, and as organisations.  I have deliberately avoided the word ‘disruption’ because it gives me a sense of suddenness and it is a furiously debated topic these days. Rather, to quote John Green (said in another context) I think we’re in the first state of “Slowly, and then all at once”.  This, is my take on ‘Change’.

(Thanks Nikhil for helping on a couple of alphabets and Amit for Unsplash, the source of many images used)

 

Penang Post! – Part 4

Continued from Part 1Part 2 and Part 3

The last day of our vacation. Sigh! We only had one item on the agenda, and no prizes for guessing it involved food – specifically lunch! But before that, we had our standard awesome breakfast at Spice Market cafe. They had an awesome Blueberry Crumble and the banana cakes had been fantastic for a couple of days now!

We didn’t have a lot of time to digest it, because we had to leave the hotel by 2 and had very minimal time for lunch. We took a cab to the Living Room Cafe (actually walk-able, but 10 MYR away by cab) which served fusion Malaysian. A small cafe on the main road that also sells art. They had quite a few interesting photos around  – Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin, Muhammad Ali & the Beatles etc. There was also a band practicing. I ordered a Cider, D an banana juice and we waited for what we had come for – Beef Rendang. We got talking to an American lady who had been in Batu Ferringhi for 1.5 years and planned to stay 2.5 more. We wondered what it must be like. Meanwhile, the beef rendang did prove to be an excellent choice.

collage29 More

Penang Post! – Part 3

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2

We lazed around and barely made it in time for breakfast! The buffet at Spice Market Cafe was awesome as always, and my meal was made thanks to the parfait and bread pudding. I also saw what suspiciously looked like a snide remark on Twitter ;)

collage23

The day was not really packed in terms of schedule, but we were a bit delayed and when I learned that the taxi to Penang Hill would work out only to about 30 MYR, I immediately voted to skip the elaborate bus plan. We reached the Penang Hill station in about 45 minutes  and it actually worked out to 50 MYR (contrary to what the lady at the hotel said) but it was a wonderful ride – peaceful settings with only a couple of traffic bottlenecks. There are a couple of queues to be navigated – one for the tickets (30 MYR per person) and the other to actually get into the train that will get you to the top. The internet suggests that one person should stand in each, since the waiting time could turn out to be quite much, but the line for the latter seemed reasonable, so we stood united! More

Penang Post! – Part 2

Continued from Part 1

The day dawned bright and sunny. Ok, maybe dawn is an exaggeration, and it’s usually so at 8.30. :D The buffet breakfast was at the Spice Market cafe, and the spread was just fantastic. I’d planned on a light breakfast since street food was a major part of the day’s agenda, but I really couldn’t help myself. Given that we were running a bit late, we skipped the original plan of taking Bus #101 and took a taxi to Georgetown, (40 MYR. They all claim to be metered, but ah, well. So ‘negotiate’ the rate before you start.) a UNESCO Heritage Site since 2008. Fort Cornwallis was where we asked to be dropped and the view from there reminded me a lot of Cochin.

collage7

Someone at this fort had a cannon obsession. The damn things were everywhere, and the irony is that the fort has never engaged in battle! We took a leisurely stroll inside and then turned into Pengkalan Weld, to begin our street art discovery.

collage8

You can do this street art exploration in many ways. You could just walk around and organically see the ones on your route, or research, figure out the ones you want to see and make a walking route. We did the latter. There are many resources available – a Google Map, an online brochure (doesn’t have the 101 Lost Kittens series) and the free guide that you can pick up at the airport is actually the most up-to-date one. Our first stops were Louis Gan’s “Two Children playing Basketball” and “Brother and Sister on a Swing”, both almost seemed alive!

collage9 More

Penang Post! – Part 1

For long, Malaysia has had a transitory presence in our travel itineraries – a temporary and forced stop on our way to our vacation spots. We had actually planned a trip within India, but then I chanced upon Batu Ferringhi, Penang. That led us to Georgetown, its street art and street food, and plans were abruptly changed! Meru, for the first time, gave us a scare, but we were rescued by Taxi For Sure. After a quick caffeine dose at the airport, we were on our way to Kuala Lumpur, courtesy Air Asia.

Based on our earlier experiences, we had expected to land at that glorified bus stand called LCCT, but were pleasantly surprised when we alighted at KLIA2. In fact, we had an abundance of choice for breakfast and found it difficult to settle on one place. Across three floors we roamed, until Ringgits were spent at Alessio, which offered a great value-for-money breakfast. (at least by airport standards)

collage1

A few hours later, another hour long Air Asia flight took us to Penang, the Pearl of the Orient. (that must be the most over used description ever!) The airport had quite a few useful free guides and they should be enough to plan the vacation even if you haven’t done so earlier! We took a cab from the airport pre paid booth to Batu Ferringhi. Our first impression of the place, during this trip, was that it was actually quite peaceful, despite the obvious urbanisation. Drivers followed road rules, there was minimal honking and not a lot of ambient noise at all. The driver got us to our destination in the promised 50 minutes for about 75MYR. The Shangri-La Rasa Sayang has a rather deceptive appearance. A lot of trees partially hide a clean, aesthetically designed yet minimalistic set of buildings. But once inside, you can actually feel the opulence. They were nice enough to let us check in a couple of hours earlier than standard, and a wonderfully refreshing welcome drink later, we were escorted to our room on the fourth floor, overlooking the pool, and the sea beyond.

collage2 More

Brewsky

First published in Bangalore Mirror quite a while back! I delayed posting it here because I thought I’d be able to taste the brew soon. Last I heard, they still hadn’t solved the brew problem, and it’s almost a year now!

Usually when there’s talk of something brewing in south Bangalore, the reference is to coffee, and when names such as Giltasura or Kamacitra are brought up, you’d be pardoned for thinking that it’s about some new play at Rangashankara. That probably explains the open jaws, quickly followed by excitement, when I mentioned that a microbrewery had opened in JP Nagar. (map) Spread across two floors for now, it goes by the name of Brewsky, and though they ran out of brew samples by the time we visited – and that was a real pity, because they really sounded interesting on paper – there was no shortage of sky.

On one side, the bar stools lining the wall on the lower floor offer a wonderful view of South Bangalore’s skyline – one of the best I’ve seen. On the other side one can view the brewery itself, glowing blue at night, with graphics of the brew characters. The upper floor is alfresco and would be perfect for a brunch. Another floor is planned below soon, with space for live performances – we got a preview and the Viking helmet lampshades and ‘chandeliers’ made of beer bottles all pointed to a hangout with character. Watch out for a few interesting elements of a biker theme too! They plan to serve the full-fledged beer menu in about a month, for now you’ll have to make do with a standard alcohol menu. More

The Agency Experience

Last Thursday was my first anniversary at GroupM, and the next day was my last there. A short tenure, and one year in an agency is too less a timeframe to be exposed to all the facets, people and processes a large (media) agency has to offer. But limiting though it is, I’d still like to share my (limited) thoughts, because I wasn’t able to get these perspectives before I made the shift to the agency side. My contacts on the client side had near zero clue on life in an agency, and my agency friends were veterans who had always been on that side. It wouldn’t have occurred to them that these things might be unfamiliar to a n00b! :)

These are based on what I saw and experienced, and hence more subjective than objective. I’m restricting it to three aspects that bring out some good and some not-so-good points. More

From The Ruins of Empire

Pankaj Mishra

The mid-late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century was a period dominated by Europe and later, America, and much of humanity’s narrative in that period has, as always, been written by the victor. The victors also did much to enforce their way of life and thinking on to their subject audience, which, seeing its own set of institutions crumbling against this onslaught, began admiring and aping their masters, or at least silently suffering.

What Pankaj Mishra does in this book, is give us a perspective shift – a view from the ‘first-generation’ thinkers of the time. Though their approaches and line of thinking were different, courtesy the varied milieu they lived in, their narratives had a couple of commonalities – an aversion for the West, and a recognition that they needed to build an indigenous renaissance to break the shackles and rise again. More

Happiness and compassion

Though I’d explored the idea of inculcating a sense of compassion in others in this post a fortnight back, I still think our own compassion needs to serve as a solid base. Not being judgmental is one way, but it’s not easy to practice. So I took a step back and wondered if compassion was a result and not a behaviour. The first behavioural direction I could think of was happiness. In myself, I have seen a correlation if not a causation. I am more compassionate when I’m happier. So I decided to explore this a bit. More

Bierre Republic

First published in Bangalore Mirror

Church Street has been getting quite a high these days – Social, Tapwater, and Bierre Republic. Pavilion Mall, where Bierre Republic is located, seems like a sandwich with nothing in between – the ground and top floors are active but the two floors in between looked unoccupied.  There’s no valet parking but they have space in the basement. The huge signage outside serves as a beacon of hope as you trudge past two floors of desolation and alien-looking faux vegetation to finally land up, ironically, near a man in a sailor suit! You could choose to be boring and take the lift too. Another small flight of stairs gets you to the dining area with many parts to it – alfresco with a few enclosed portions, a smoking section, a smaller lounge area, and even an ‘upper deck’. The furniture is almost all wood, except for the plush sofas in the smoking section and some other elements, and that includes the décor consisting of ‘barrels’! It was edging towards tackiness, but the beer posters manage to pull it back a bit. The alfresco section is the perfect place to be in typical Bangalore weather and offers a superb view of the Public Utility building. A live band was in the house, and except for a massacre of The Cranberries’ “Zombie”, which almost provoked us to violence for the sake of silence, they were quite good! Meanwhile, as the evening progressed, the service began reflecting the ‘ship’ theme – they were totally at sea, and were finding it difficult to manage the orders, despite the valiant efforts of their active crew, whom we felt sorry for. More

Culture Architecture

Despite several posts on ‘culture‘, of the four Ps I’d mentioned in the Agile @ Scale post, ‘People’ is a topic that has gotten the least attention here in the recent past. As the change imperative forces organisations to be more responsive to rapidly changing external dynamics, the structures, processes and methods it had adopted for its internal stakeholders will most likely have to change as well. Jobs in earlier era were well defined constructs, but this era requires employees to work far beyond their job description in order to thrive. (“Why We Need to Change the Software in our Organisations“) It is probably not a coincidence that the four organisations that are defining the larger contours of business and technology are also the most favoured employers.

The task is not easy. On one hand, there is a workforce that is increasingly getting overwhelmed by communication technologies that are dictating an always-on culture. (“Why you hate work.”) On the other hand, there is a new generation entering the workforce that has expectations of a culture tuned to their lifestyle and ways of functioning. They rapidly disengage if they feel this is no happening. In both cases, the end result is a loss in productivity. This is only one part of the story. There are several factors that define culture, and in an organisation, there are several factors that resist change as well.  How does an organisation adapt to these dynamics? A few thoughts, some strategic, some tactical. More