Anyone Read Tapscott’s Macrowikinomics?

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 13-01-2011

Normally, it is me who is dishing out my unsolicited judgment on books that are on my shelf, or that of my friends and colleagues. This time I am soliciting your advice on what you think of Dan Tapscott’s latest book Macrowikinomics. Just to refresh, he’s the same guy who wrote that classy eye opener – Wikinomics on mass collaboration. To delve a few inches deeper into your memories, he’s the one who orginally reported the Canadian Goldcorp example on mass collaboration in Wikinomics (It has been repeated in so many times in classrooms and forums that I feel he out to start charging license fee from speakers to use them!). While Wikinomics according to me was an absolute delight, what did you guys think of Macrowikinomics?

Checklist Manifesto – Irritatingly Simple, Pleasantly Good

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 04-01-2011

If you wish to read an irritatingly simple but tremendously valuable book to read, you must read Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

Why do I call it irritating? Deep inside our perceptive prejudices, any activity that leads to the improvement of a business activity is supposed to be coming out from the pen of a jargon spewing management guru.  On the other hand, medical doctors are programmed to explain even the most complex situations in plain language.  I dread to think if I were to ever go to a doctor who’s done MBA. Sample this – Mr. Kumar, if we were to perform the SWOT of your condition and weigh the natural recovery bandwidth vis-a-vis the best-of-breed off-the-shelf solutions, you might conclude that it is mission critical to juxtapose the available options with the probability of survival curve outcome. On the other hand, it is important to incentivize the body and close the loop to arrest the problem. And btw, on your way out, do monetize the clinic to the tune of Rs 1000. Ouch! I die!!

Now imagine visiting a medical doctor. Chances are, after looking at the reports and listening to the patient, the doctor might say, “Mr. Kumar, not to worry. Take these pills while going to bed tonight. You should be better tomorrow”. Simple.

That exactly is the problem with this book. Atul Gawande is a medical doctor (And an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School). This book deals with a very complex subject in the most effortless manner – how to get better organised and be better prepared for situations via Checklists. Atul goes about building the case with a missionary passion, and you cannot miss the point. Even this page on his site has links to so many checklists, which just reinforce his argument that the world is hell lot better and safer if we follow checklists. In other words, the applications of checklists goes beyond visa or loan applications. But what I really liked is the checklist for checklists – Is the Font Sans Serif?

I decided to cross check by looking up the recent incident on the Qantas A380 in which engine cover blew off in flight and how the pilot handled the situation. This crisis had happened the first time.

"I do apologize," the pilot said. "I’m sure you are aware we have a technical issue with our number two engine. We have dealt with the situation, the aircraft is secure at this stage. We’re going to have to hold for some time whilst we do lighten our load by dumping some fuel and a number of checklist [items] we have to perform”. There, there.

I know of organisations that have a checklist for customer visits, checklist for overseas travel and so on. But these are not life threatening situations. One change that happened in the course of my reading of Checklist Manifesto is the realisation that in crunch times, the checklists are even more relevant. This gives me the conviction that checklists is a science and an art, and has far more applications than we usually think.

Exactly as I said, irritatingly simple and pleasantly good. This one should be on every manager’s reading list.

Hickory Dickory Shock by Gorai Captures Drama Around IT Workplace Beautifully

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 24-12-2010

If you use these terms everyday without taxing your brain too much -  terms such as Conference Calls, Cost overrun, tele-presence, Toll Gate Review, Version Control, Source Code, Transitioning, handholding, Resource Crunch, firewall, Revised Estimate, Loop me in, Attrition, Involuntary Attrition, Calendar Request,  Mentoring (or lack of it!), Wrong Version, Knowledge Management, Efficiency, my client, Productivity, start performer, Tools, Please Revert, working from home (really, dude?), Non-billable, solutioning, architecture, Reality Check, Change Request, Frankfurt, Senior Lead, Timesheet, industry experience, relevant experience, domain knowledge, Code Drop, thought leadership, Next Build, we’ll take care in next appraisal, Delivery Head (OMG! This designation rightfully belongs to the lead gynecologist in the town hospital but then industry has stolen it!!), Six Sigma, resolution, Client call (WTF!), KT, Access Control, Reverse KT and so on – then you have truly arrived to be a part of the IT industry. Not just that – you are condemned to be part of it for your life, which you deserve by now!

 

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Industry veteran Sundip Gorai (IIT KGP, IMT Ghaziabad) has woven everyday incidences of this industry into a beautiful thriller that has some ordinary looking characters doing some extraordinary things, such as code theft, sabotage, murder, snooping, applying principles of Vedic mathematics, Fibbonacci sequence (brush up your math!) and the eventual solution of the mystery by a ‘techie’. Then there are  some not so ordinary looking characters in this story who not just do corporate fraud, but their scam gets in public domain exactly on 7th Jan 2009. And it all happens in a company named Shivan Computers, whose CEO is one Raja Reddy of Hyderabad. Rings a bell? The beauty of this book is its ability to string together the granular detail and the amount of research undergone in it. If you ever read a spy novel, this is the time to read it in Indian context. And please don’t blame me for the rushing adrenalin.

Grab a copy as soon as you can with all my recommendations. The book has hit the stores at just the right time as we all find ourselves in the vacation mood. LoRD, are you following this?

Book Recommendation: I love Outliers by Gladwell

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 23-08-2009

In a long time, I came across a book that challenges the core of all that I have learned in my professional education as well as professional career. How how effortlessly so!

We are all taught to be trend gazers in numerous murder-by-presentation sessions. The bosslike figure will holler to a struggling deputy making the presentation  by saying, “don’t make hollow statement, show me the data”. A graph would come up, and a trendline identified and agreed. A few dots that fall far away from the trendline are laughed at and ignored. Action plans would be made based on the trendline. Sometimes these small far from trendline data points are also seen as bad data. In life, the exceptions are ignored, sometimes seen are crazy deviations. As a B-School student, anyone who went to bed early and woke up early were seen as outliers. Irregular and deviant. Ignore them.

As student of engineering, I learnt the term ‘outlier’. The literature suggested this is is out of line  data that can be ignored. I was also programmed to believe that by ignoring the outliers, the analysis quality would only become better. I held this belief all this years and this got further reinforced all these years.

outliers Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent piece of work ‘Outliers’ gave an electric  jolt to my established thoughts on what is relevant and what is not. It has challenged my deeply entrenched belief around these outliers and next time I see an exception to the rule, I would surely be quite respectful to the exception. The core message of the book is, one can ignore the outliers only because you do not know what to do with them. Your inability to understand these outliers does not become them irrelevant. In fact, these outliers bring in new  and strong behavioural elements to a system. You would realize that Einstein was what he was because he was not part of the trendline. While I am just about a third into this book, I am madly in love with it. I recommend this book to professionals, students, artists, scientists (and everyone else) alike. Even to those who don’t read books regularly. And while you are at it, don’t miss reading Blink as well as Tipping Point by the same author.

Cold Steel is a gripping read

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 23-06-2009

I am reading (once again) a book by Tim Bouquet and Byron Ousey titled Cold Steel which actually covers the Mittal pursuit of Arcelor few years back. The coming together of Arcelor and Mittal resulted in formation of world’s largest steel making company, ArcelorMittal.

The Mittals (Lakshmi and Aditya) were chasing an M&A target that did not see a point in the merger. The CEO was Guy Dolle, who was actually pursuing Dofosco, to gain a scale and not become an Mittal target.

Some very interesting facts. The two parties were advised by two top shot M&A advisors. One worked for Goldman Sachs and went by as Yoel and advised the Mittals, and his counterpart in Arcelor camp was Michael, who worked for Morgan Stanley. Michael Zaoui and Yoel Zaoui were real brothers!

The book is very well researched and written like a story. You feel like you are watching things on the screen. Only one complaint – periodically you come back to real life! A must read!!

Short One on Chetan Bhagat

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 07-06-2009

True to the promise in the title,  I would keep this one short. While driving yesterday, I was wondering what’s the matter that Chetan Bhagat is a rage in today’s youth – even among those, who do not read anything on an ongoing  basis. I see his books with college students, trainees level folks, folks in diverse professions who are just a few years into their career, and even with some  ‘senior citizens’ like me.

After resisting considerably, I read one of his books – The Three Mistakes of My Life.  It has a historical backdrop, relfections of aspirations, drama, love, religion,turmoil, success and failures all seamlessly intervoven in a fast readable storyline. In fact, you do not even realize when he jumps from one to another aspect and still manages to keep the story alive. 

If you haven’t read anything in a while now, I think its time you did. Even suggest that if you travel frequently, you cannot have a better contemporary company. That’s why I am even classifying this post in ‘Business Books’

Amazon Acquires Shelfari, Good for us

Filed Under (Business, Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 29-08-2008

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As a person who buys loves to buy books every now and then, I have faced a constant nag. The stores in the town sell books that in their judgment, will move. They are not necessarily the books that match my taste or are the best. There are many occasions I just spend considerable time in a store and decide there’s nothing worthwhile to buy.Quite simply, there is not a single place where I can know about books, discuss them, and buy them right there.Not upto now at least.

My quest to know about books on marketing, business in general, great companies, business legends and so on got me connected to Shelfari some months back. Social networking to me till that point only meant leaving a few Orkuts scraps in iNcOmPrEhEnSiBlE blob of words and so on. Gradually I started following Shelfari and though I do notice that the level of action is not very high, I love the site for the books specific focus and the ability to have user provided reviews, discussions etc. If you are half sure on a title, ask ‘do you suggest I buy this book’ to folks who own that title.

It was announced today that Shelfari is has followed Skype into being another web property to be acquired by Amazon. Shelfari has seemingly good synergy and complimentary offerings with Amazon book section. It will be safe to assume that Amazon would use the social elements of Shelfari platform to generate book sales. Amazon would be able to tap discussions on books, see get to see early on demand being created by user generated reviews and ratings, opinions and discussions.Book lovers would almost certainly be able to buy those books there. Is social networking taking a new meaning here? Would Amazon use this platform to make people chat on other merchandise it sells?

Logical query: Are we going to see domain specific social networking sites getting consolidated by large ‘downstream’ or ‘upstream’ or ‘proximate’ players’?

Must Read -Prahalad and Krishnan's book on innovation

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 21-07-2008

If Dr Prahalad’s previous book on BOP kicked up quite a debate, here’s one that you should not forget reading – "The New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-Created Value through Global Networks" must be read for the brilliance alone. Read more…

Prahalad and Krishnan Bring IT Out of the Closet

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 21-07-2008

If there is one thing I would credit Prahalad and Krishnan for achieving via their latest book, it is to boldly bring Information Technology out of the closet to mainstream corporate strategy. Their book is around innovation and ‘co-creation’ a term used quite liberally in the book. You could read co-creation to mean value generation by collaboration(The New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-Created Value through Global Networks).

The leitmotif running through the chapters is what Prahalad and Krishnan call the new paradigm of R=G a and N=1. It essentially denotes global access to resources and talents (R=G) and ability to individualize experiences for consumers of various products and services. The R=G quest is generally attributed to optimize material and service costs and N=1 is the ultimate personal buying experience. No firm would have the wherewithal to satisfy the experiences of one customer at a time.They also point out that choice or no choice, the world is gradually moving towards this new paradigm. Think the personalized Google (igoogle.com) or the IT enabled personal tutor teaching math sitting thousands of kilometers away.

The implication of this simple to appear idea appear quite profound upon reflection. This model of getting access to the best resources (Wal-Mart =10 BN USD trade with China) and selling it to buyers they way they would like to buy – mass personalization- call for constant innovation and Prahalad and Krishnan have brought ICT into the central core of this innovation space. The message is very clear – the CEO cannot leave IT backbone of the organization to the CIO, the way he cannot leave the financial health of the organization to the CFO alone. In  other words ICT is not a service, but the core of an organization’s DNA. I like this idea.

The idea that has traditionally held ground is that IT is a cost , a type of price one need to pay to get the business going. Prahalad and Krishnan challenge this notion and emphasize that for innovation that may happen now and for times to come, ICT DNA of the firm need to sing in tandem with the corporate DNA of the company. Very bold indeed. And so marvelously persuasive.

And if you have read Nicolas Carr’s thought-piece ‘Does IT Matter?‘, you have an answer in this book. In simple terms one could say that Nicolas Carr had argued that IT would cease to be the source of competitive advantage since all firms have access to the same IT resources. Prahalad and Krishnan hit back so credibly on this notion and say just the opposite – IT (or ICT) is and would remains the source of competitive advantage. What is also interesting here is that while traditional corporate strategy has thought IT has being synonymous with ERPs, Prahalad and Krishnan notice the unbundling that is happening so rapidly, as one can notice through the applications plugging into Facebook. They also note the reality of the existence of proprietary systems serving the typical needs of  firms.

I really loved this book. If there is some grouse I have with this book it is the long narration on ICICI and ITC’s E-Chaupal- these cannot be cited as example of everything everywhere(BOP, Innovation etc etc) – I am sure there are other firms that have done amazing things worth getting that kind of coverage.

On the whole, very exciting indeed. Must read recommendation from me. And trust me, I had a very conservative take on Dr. Prahalad’s book on BOP.

Why would you want to read Bangalore Tiger?

Filed Under (Business Books) by Rajesh Kumar on 12-07-2008

Extremely few companies in India have achieved such an astounding success as Wipro, which was founded as an edible oil company and turned to IT. In fact, people outside India would be surprised to know that Wipro makes childcare products, lighting products etc. It is now a USD 4 BN giant employing nearly hundred thousand employees. Read More..


About Rajesh Kumar. Rajesh is based in Chennai, where he works for Defiance Technologies in Marketing. The views on this blog are his own. Rajesh Kumar