That passion – profession debate, again

In many beer fueled conversations, I have heard the sentiment of “quitting my job and doing something I am passionate about.” While I see merit in that line of thought, these days I also end up playing party-pooper by asking if he/she has a business model in mind, especially since the ‘passion’ is more often than not from the usual suspects list – digital photography, cooking/baking, writing, travel and so on. To clarify, unlike funded startups this model doesn’t even have to scale, but in the medium-long term, the revenue has to be greater than expenditure. That’s a requisite for survival in the world, unless one has alternate sources of income.

I saw a meeting of worlds when I noticed yet another job listing that demanded the person to be “passionate about digital marketing“? As someone who has been working in the domain since 2004, I have seen a version of this phrase appear in many job descriptions. I could replace digital marketing with startups, consumer insights, programming and so on, the question remains the same. More

Work, Parenting & the Monoculture

Sunday morning gave me a fantastic read, via  multiple shares on my timeline – “Why do we work so hard?“, in which Ryan Avent traces the evolution of work (hours) from the time after the second world war, and wonders why a trend was reversed and we started working more hours. She considers her own as well as her father’s experiences, and explores whether it is the treadmill effect, the satisfaction of work, or a combination of both. She sums up one of her answers thus –

It is a cognitive and emotional relief to immerse oneself in something all-consuming while other difficulties float by. The complexities of intellectual puzzles are nothing to those of emotional ones. Work is a wonderful refuge.

Something about it gave me a sense of deja vu. I realised that this has also been my hypothesis about parenting! Back to that in a bit. Meanwhile, she ends the article with

..precisely why what I’m doing appeals to me. They are asking about a job. I am thinking about identity, community, purpose – the things that provide meaning and motivation. I am talking about my life.

It reminded me of a short conversation with S recently, where we agreed about how (many) people follow up their introductory “Hi, I am XYZ” with their designation and/or place of work, irrespective of the meeting context.  More

Re: Skill

In The Entrepreneur and the ProfessionalI brought up the challenges at work faced by my generation. The focus was on an approach to work and the changes that have been forced on it because of rapidly shifting business environments. In addition to the business’ external dynamics, another factor that has been changing the organisation is the entry of a different kind of workforce.

How the Millennial Workforce is Changing Business” calls this a revolution, and writes further that they will prepare the organisation for the future by making them Digital, Clear, Fluid, Fast. PwC’s layered report on the same subject brings out this workforce’ motivations, acknowledges the generational tensions and suggests what the organisation would need to do to attract, develop and manage millennials.  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

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

Plan C

This post has been pending for a while, the date of publishing of the article that inspired the post is evidence enough. It is about people who leave their jobs to follow their passion, but instead of the success stories we are used to, it focuses on the difficulties on that path. Even if you’ve not taken that path already, it’s quite possible that you have contemplated it. It’s romantic – the freedom, being your own boss and doing the thing you like – Plan B. But it’s not easy, and it begins as early as even identifying one’s passion. (must read)

Interestingly, NYT themselves had an article almost a year later that asked “What Work is Really For” and answered that with an Aristotle quote “we work to have leisure, on which happiness depends.” Though I didn’t know about this quote until recently, this is a perspective that I have often used to debate with people who say those who do not like their jobs should quit. There are many reasons why people don’t, and one of them is consciously making a choice to work (possibly on things they don’t enjoy) for the 2 days (and vacations) when they are able to spend their resources – money, effort and time – on things they enjoy.

The reasons people don’t scale up those 2 days could be many, including the difficulties involved in the early stages of setting up, and then maintaining a positive balance – of money and life. Money is after all an essential resource. It buys things, it opens doors. But when your passion becomes your work and your principal source of money, does it feel the same? Or does it become a job?

I liked the second NYT article also for its last 3 paragraphs. It addresses the money conundrum. It talks about how right from when we are born, we are taught to be consumers, thanks to capitalism, which though calls itself an open market where we have the freedom to buy is actually a system unto itself.  The choices are not really independent. It points out that education should be meant to make us self determining agents. True freedom requires that we take part in the market as fully formed agents, with life goals determined not by advertising campaigns but by our own experience of and reflection on the various possibilities of human fulfillment. But that’s not an easy path either. It calls for independent thinking and a subjective view of fulfillment and happiness. And that brings us to the familiar “to each his own”

until next time, work it out :)

Bonus Read: Six Rules to guide your career

Gamification – Level 1

Yes, it is quite the shiny new object in the marketing/enterprise conversations around the web. One of the positives is that there are always new and updated resources in addition to some well thought out perspectives from advocates as well as naysayers on its applications on the consumer facing side, as well as the business side. For starters, I quite liked this ‘Gamification and its discontents’ deck (via Tom Fishburne’s post on gamification) that is meant to serve as a primer before marketers set out to apply ‘gamification’.

But though it’s very early days in terms of a structured approach to the concept of gamification, I’m quite upbeat on it. One of the primary reasons for that is its inherent application that has been happening throughout my life so far. The education system’s ranks and grades (performing x task well earns you y points) not only decide entry into schools, colleges, universities and the progression there abut also gets to dictate a lot of ‘real’ social experiences within (standing among peers, popularity) as well as without. (the varying reactions to the answers to ‘Where/what do you study’? in a social gathering) Many systems have even learned how to factor in different kinds of activities – say, sports and academics, as well as types of pedagogy. A constantly evolving ‘rank’ is built over time and the badges earned and the places they’ve been earned at also have a hand in the work stage that happens immediately after education.

From landing the first job to designations that happen later, we continue living in a world of points and badges. In fact, I had tweeted some time ago that gamification already existed in the enterprise in the form of designations. The badges also continue to affect real life through the other reward -the salary we get, which is a function of what we have done so far as well as what we are doing. Other acquisitions from that (car, house, vacations, contacts in the phonebook) decide social standing and open further ‘game’ opportunities. I can visualise life as one gigantic gameplay with said and unsaid rules. The badges and rewards were a system unto itself, until our own evolution made us rethink this. The result has been a linkage to a larger life purpose for many of us. Some of us do this within the existing structures, while others make their own niche/walled structures and rules. But that’s a different post. Meanwhile, unlike most other games, there’s only one life, and that’s what probably makes it more exciting. :)

When social networks came into our lives, we first had fun connecting with friends and potential friends, and then immediately sought to apply gamification by comparing number of friends and followers, #ff, recommendations, lists, circles and so on. Also arrived continually evolving systems to measure our activities – as a factor of presence, reach and credibility across networks – Klout, PeerIndex and Kred, for example. Increasingly, they will impact and even integrate with our ‘real’ game. My point is that we seem to inherently understand gamification and more often than not accept this. Hence, my belief that well thought out applications – consumer or enterprise, have a good chance of succeeding.

I just realised that the ‘introduction’ itself has been a long drawn one. So I’ll wait till next week to share my thoughts on application.

until next time, game on

Ok, its alright with me…..

As I walked towards the parking space to get the vehicle, the lion and the clown beckoned to me. While their masks sported plastic smiles, i could sense the beseeching look their eyes would have. It was almost the end of the day, and when I peeped inside as I walked past, I could find rows and rows of empty counters and mannequins and sales people with equally blank expressions. It wasn’t the first time I had seen this  shop and wondered how they managed to stay afloat. I see it whenever traffic gets held up in the junction. At the heart of the central business district, I am sure it must have seen better times, maybe a time before the malls and the big brands… what plans they must’ve made about sales and revenues and good times…wonder if it really matters now…

As i rode home, I got stuck in one of those endless traffic snarls that is as characteristic of this city now as a by-two coffee in darshinis. As the honks became louder and tempers got frayed, I thought the ordeal would never end. But  suddenly, the traffic began to move slowly. As I turned a corner, literally and figuratively, I could see a little distance way, a civilian directing traffic. I would’ve thanked him, but by the time I got there, the traffic was moving briskly, and he had crossed the road and disappeared into a lane. I’m sure he wasn’t getting paid, and he didn’t have any plans other than to undo a few knots…

I make plans… and you make plans.. some plans are better than others… sometimes I have to do what I have to do.. and sometimes, like the Joker, I’m a dog chasing cars, I wouldn’t know what to do if i caught one… but yet, more often than not, Krishna’s words in the Bhagvad Gita make sense. But one is attached – for fame, money, love, combinations of the above and a myriad other reasons.. it is never easy to be detached. I feel sorry for the shop even if they were greedy, and I am envious of the man who walked away after he did what he had to do..

Plans.. there were things I thought I couldn’t do without, a few years back, a lifestyle which I didn’t want to alter,  I thought a way of living could be kept constant across time, but things change, for a few days I may have mourned, and then I moved on.. they make good nostalgia frames – time,  places, things, people.. they all have a role to play..if you told me then that I would be living without them at a later date, I’d have smiled at you, a knowing smile acknowledging your silliness. But yet, here I am, with a new set that I don’t think I can live without…

Ok it’s alright with me some things are just meant to be
it never comes easily and when it does i’m already gone
i’m practically never still more likely to move until i end up alone at will
my life continues inching along

[Eric Hutchinson – Ok it’s alright with me]

So i move along, and I reach a place and I wonder how it all started… And I realise that even the attachment I claim is such a flimsy piece of string, it unravels for a while, and then at some point, the memory gets cut off, and then perhaps I make up the rest in the image of how it should have started…

I promise you, I have not changed the beginning of this post, this was an experiment of a thought stream, of giving up control, of not being a hostage to plans, but I  have to wonder, if I knew this was the way it would end, would I have started differently?

until next time, post….life

Note: I’d written this post a while back, and it was almost forgotten in ‘drafts’. Chanced upon it, and realised it made sense to publish it on the day before I leave this workplace. 8 years after i started working, I’m finally going to work… for me :)

Ride with a view

The regular route that I take to the office, and one back. There are buildings, homes, people, shops, and trivia that I don’t notice when I pass them regularly every day. Its not that they’re not interesting, but somewhere down the line, they have become routine, a part of the landscape, something that I take for granted, without putting too much of thought into. It took an auto ride to make me see all this in a different light. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t riding.. I didn’t have to pay attention to the road, and had all the time to leisurely watch the scenes and the life unfolding in them.

And that made me think whether the same applies to people too. The different people that we interact with, at work, at home. Over a period of time, do they become a routine in our lives? Unidimensional characters in our mind, who have been moulded by our own biases and subjective judgements, and so set in that mould, that we fail to see a human being with its own values, feelings, and a life that’s being lived in myriad interesting ways. Does our perspective become so set in its ways, that we take the people in our lives for granted. And we have to wait for life to give us an auto ride to make us see them from a different vantage point?

And then, what about people who always take auto rides? Do they manage to have a different perspective, but one that still gets set over a period of time? :)

until next time, look around