A case for the showcase

Clever tees have been an attraction for quite a while now. Less generic, and more fun mashups. This one is an example from a few years ago.


Once, when I wore this while out in a group, one kind soul complimented the design. Another person in the group immediately commented that people wore such tees to send a “look how smart I am” message. My views was that at least for me, it was less vanity/personality and more a means of expression and identity, which served as a conversation starter, given my less-than-gregarious nature. But it did stay with with me, and make me wonder whether he had a point. More

Identity Cleft

..and finally, I got myself to see the last episode of Mad Men. I’d been putting it off because the series was the kind I enjoyed so much that I never wanted it to end. The last few episodes were quite ‘meta’ in the sense that through Don Draper, the show’s protagonist, the show itself was searching for a befitting ending.

<spoiler> These episodes saw Don getting rid of his possessions, until all he had left was an envelope with some money (and a ring) and a cover with a change of clothes. He had lived the previous few years of his life as Don Draper – a name that wasn’t his. The idea of Don Draper though was all his, but somewhere in him, was also Dick Whitman, his original name. Every time he made the confession of taking another man’s name, you could sense his guilt, and relief. Maybe that was the freedom he was looking for, when we was getting rid of all the paraphernalia attached to Don Draper.  More

The people we are….with

After I shared the “We, the storytellers” post on Twitter, Surekha sparked off this interesting discussion on how we could persuade others to be less judgmental and more compassionate. I really didn’t have a fix-it-all answer and felt that it was more important that we simply practice this ourselves. That, however, did not stop me from thinking about it.

The next day, my reading list had this post, which touched upon things that get people to change their behaviour. I remembered this William James quote used in the post from something I had seen a while back at Brain Pickings.



The evolution of work and the workplace

I spent Rajinikanth’s birthday  at Jaipur, all thanks to one of my favourite bloggers – Kavi, who, in his official avatar, invited me to his organisation’s annual HR conference. The theme of the conference was Evolve Connect Enhance, and I can honestly say that many of my perspectives were enhanced during discussions about the real  implications and challenges for organisations, brought about by radical changes in the business environment.

For now, I’ll let the talk do the talking!  (transcript below the ppt) Do comment with your thoughts!


Final Talk Points by manuscrypts


until next time, work it out

Institutional Realignment

As I was returning from the Bali vacation, I thought about how we had planned our vacation without the help of a big travel operator. Something that would have been infinitely more difficult, if not impossible a decade back. It’s still early in this decade, but when I begin to think about what it will be known for, the recurring theme that runs in my head is institutional realignment. It’s not really the most original thought I’ve had, and I’ve been influenced by several, most notably Umair Haque. He calls it institutional collapse, and the only couple of reasons I have played semantics are one, that while I don’t see a seamless change, I do think that different parts of society – across geography, industry, demographics will shift at different points in time and the change might be distributed across time and space to prevent a complete collapse so that we fail to see that the institutions are completely different from the earlier era, and two, a sense of optimism. :)

To me, these institutions are across all facets of our current existence – political, societal, economical, professional, cultural, health and so on. From an era where most individuals required ‘props’ for a sense of identity, we are moving to an infinitely more connected era where people are using the web to create their own unique identities.

The fall of several regimes, the increasing push for better governance and transparency etc are probably advance warnings that the concept of a nation state is up for an overhaul. Think about it, what really does being ‘Indian’ signify? Is it a common identity? Do you need it any more?

Societal norms on the concept of family and relationships have been shifting for quite a while now. Marriage, parenting, do they mean the same thing as they did until a few years back? Do you even remember an era without marriage portals? As people create their own spaces, nothing is sacrosanct and almost everything is becoming acceptable.

Businesses and corporations. Industries like music and news media have already seen the disruptive powers of the internet. I have already mentioned how travel has completely changed. More industries will follow. Around me, I see more and more people refusing to be tied down to organisations and wanting to do their ‘own thing’. It’s the thrill, the freedom, the sense of purpose and many other reasons. The rigid structure of organisations will probably give way to project based aggregations of individuals. What does that do to economies?

One level before that – education. Two words – Khan Academy. Though variations and different versions of it exist, it’s probably the best indicator of what the current structures will give way to – with a better focus on interest, building useful skill sets and the freedom and processes for the student to identify his calling early on in life. Somewhere during this, I hope to see medicine getting an ‘open API’ :)

On culture, Vanessa Miemis gives us a great read, more so because it goes beyond culture per se.

I see the not-so-hidden hand of the web in all of this. From its elimination of the middle man to its way of bringing out more and more information, it has changed the way we view ourselves, and the operational environment around us. I’m not saying that everything will have changed by 2020, but the seeds will be well and truly sown. Now that I am imagining, my biggest hope is that the current currency of our lives – money, will have a better successor, one that will be better connected with our unique identities, and weave in contexts better. (Nike has a great idea of what I mean :) )

Job (not the same as work), nationality, education – all indispensable parts of a human identity thus far. Will they be relics in the future as we create new paradigms? When do you think this will all settle, if it ever does?

until next time, bend of an era

PS: Bill Gates has aptly said, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.

Moral Signs

A little more than a year back, I remember writing a post on identity – what exactly constitutes the individual – work, relationships, consumption, combinations of these…….

More recently, I read a Scott Adams post which actually asks the same question ‘Who are you?’ He also provides his best answer to it ‘You are what you learn’. It’s an interesting point and I do agree that what you learn is what gives you additional perspective. It changes the way you view older experiences and how you react to new experiences. And so, despite believing in being prisoners of birth to some extent, and knowing that the apple never falls far from the tree, and at the risk of generalisation, I would tend to agree.

Which brings me to learning. In an earlier era, our ‘channels’ of learning were limited – parents, relatives, friends, teachers, literature, some amounts of media, and so on. Limited when compared to the abundance that a media explosion and the internet have brought into our lives. Sometime back, I read a post in the NYT titled ‘If it feels right‘, which discussed a study on the role of morality (rather, the lack of it) in the lives of America’s youth. The author clarifies that it isn’t as though they are living a life of debauchery, it’s just that they don’t even think of moral dilemmas, the meaning of life and such. The study ‘found an atmosphere of extreme moral individualism’, mostly because they have not been given the resources to develop their thinking on such matters.

It led me to think about the moral frameworks that were instilled in us by our sources when were young. At the very least, value systems existed, though obviously their ‘quality’ would be a subjective affair. I wonder, if in this era of abundant sources, we are missing out on inculcating the basic moral guidelines that are necessary for a society’s sustenance and  evolution. If people are what they learn, then the least we could do is take a closer look at our own moral framework. The next generation, despite the abundance of sources, could be learning from it. Or perhaps this is the way it has always been, between generations. :)

until next time, moral poultice

PS: a beauuuutiful related video

The Future Belongs to the Curious from Skillshare on Vimeo.

Good cop, bad cop

Identity in era of social media proliferation was something I brought up in last week’s post. Since then, my office has shifted, and I have to travel a little more to get to the new place. Instead of going below the elevated highway, I take a shorter route that gives me elevated views every 5 minutes thanks to ‘amateur’ humps. But the traffic is better. Traffic and violations – that’s the connection.

A few months back, a video on the Facebook page of the Bangalore Traffic Police made headlines. The cops asked for help in finding the errant car driver. (I’m not sure if they did nab him) Since then, I’ve seen increased participation on the page, with users adding photos of traffic violations, ad campaigns on safety and questions being answered by the cops themselves, though that’s occasional. In many cases, numbers of vehicles are clearly visible and I’ve seen one in which the cops have noted a violation by a fellow officer, uploaded by a user. This, and the brouhaha over the London cops naming and shaming those involved in the UK riots last year made me think about individual identities beyond virtual social and in to real social.

Though we are still at a stage where even a person’s social, let alone all online activities cannot be comprehensively tracked and measured, technology on that front is rapidly catching up. In the near future, real world tracking technologies will probably catch up too. We’re already seeing signs of the worlds colliding. It is then possible that the social identity of a person would include his real-life actions too and a ‘Klout’ would probably have a holistic ranking of an individual, one that includes traffic violations and philanthropy and so on. :)

This is probably one area where brands will then have a head start, because naming and shaming them is something many of us already do via social platforms. I wonder if we will be more lenient towards them after we get a dose of identity warfare.

until next time, coping with cops

Well. Begun

Twice in the last few weeks, my hosting service took down my sites citing database problems. The second time, I decided to a slightly more detailed check, and figured out that the rogue database was one of my lifestreaming experiments. Thanks to memolane, I could delete it without fretting much. Coincidentally, that was also the day that I gained access to Facebook’s new Timeline feature, and was inspired enough to start filling it. :)

Though I have connected all my online presence, the blogs retain their individual identity. The only place where they really met was the lifestream. But like I mentioned in an earlier post, Google+ allows me to integrate identities even while allowing compartmentalisation. Increasingly, so does Facebook. Privacy is already a huge concern, and anonymity is not something our institutions can digest. Thankfully, in my case, I do end up behaving as per Darth Schmidt’s adage “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place” At least I wouldn’t post it 😀

What I do post however (across both the blogs) are a range of topics – personal perspectives, restaurant reviews, book reviews, my start up and technology columns, travel photos, job notes, and so on. All of these are part of my identity, and technology allows me to distribute it according to the audience. Considering that these parts are already getting integrated on social platforms, one of my ‘projects’ for 2012 is going to be how I can accommodate all of this on a single blog/site. Any ideas?

Meanwhile, memolane is already thinking of how brands can use ‘lifestreaming’. When Facebook opens the Timeline feature for Pages, it is going to be really interesting! But for now, I’d like Facebook to open up imports from other sites.

until next time, 1/2.0 done :)

Brands, Identity and Consistency

So, Google+ kindly consented to host brands and organisations on the platform (announcement) and immediately gave examples of pages already available. These include Pepsi, WWE, Burbery and so on. The typical ways most brands have approached their new Google+ page is to use the features of the network (mostly Hangouts) to reasonably good effect, in addition to using the platform for content distribution and in a few cases, even displaying their employees. This last one was an interesting use case and has potential, I thought, and better than Facebook’s fanpage Admin version.

When I read the announcement, I immediately thought of brand identity. In the initial days of Google+ launch, the circles feature that allowed users to compartmentalise their different identities created a little flutter. It helped that, at that point, Facebook’s options for achieving the same ends were pretty well concealed. The visual identities of the brands on Google+ remain consistent with other online and offline platforms and so far, so do the tone and activities.

I have a different identity for different sets of people I deal with. Work, Friends, Family, Acquaintances, Twitter connections etc. How I behave with them and what I share with them varies too. (though there are overlaps)  I thought about this from a brand’s perspective. My relationship with a brand is different from the one that another person has. (use cases, context etc) And if I do have to share this relationship, what I’d share and the way I would share it would also vary among my own different audience sets.  In a world where the consumers are moving towards a fluid identity, do brands have to consider one too?

In the real world, brands sometimes tweak their identity according to geography. This was reasonable and worked fine in an era of mass media. With the internet, the whole world would easily see the changes across geography. And the end consumer could ask questions too. He/she even expects the brand to communicate like a human. If we consider different networks as different geographies, with peculiar consumption patterns (of information, for starters), does the consistency that brand currently focuses on become a constraint? Considering that different platforms have different advantages and are used for different objectives, how fluid can the brand and its communication be, on the web and off it?

until next time, identity crises

Identity & Equity

I read two quotes in a completely unrelated (to this blog) context – Ashwin Sanghi’s “Chanakya’s Chant”, a work of fiction – but was intrigued by the perspective when I saw the ‘brand-social’ domain through this ‘framework’.

The quote to start with is the one by John Wooden “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

In the days of (only) traditional media, (if given the money) both character and reputation were relatively easier to establish and maintain because the number of publishers with significant reach were limited. Which leads to the second quote – from Winston Churchill “There is no such thing as public opinion. There is only published opinion

And then came the blogs, social networks and the statusphere, which allowed everyone to become a publisher.

The question I’d like to ask is whether this published opinion and the pressures of real time (not to mention limited characters) are making brands focus more on reputation than character. How would you define reputation and character in brand terms? Would it be brand equity and brand identity respectively? If the focus were to be more on creating a strong brand identity through the product itself, customer care, sales process and even marketing communication, among others, would reputation/brand equity be much easier to handle?

until next time, identity scarred