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Wake up XXIV - Oh no, not another one!

This is something that all of us would have been part of at some time or the other. And it reminds me of something that I read in a magazine when I was a little kid, “Meetings are an organized way of wasting time”. Odd that even at that age I found this statement very interesting – perhaps it was a sign of things to come!

How many times in a meeting have you seen people dozing (sometimes even snoring), people daydreaming and some people even composing poetry while the session is in progress! We spend a major chunk of our time in meetings – and a lot of times when you look back at it you feel you gained nothing out of it. Was that meeting really required?

  • Don’t worry if you sometimes wonder if you are the only one thinking like that; researchers say that frequent meetings tend to break your day into smaller chunks in which you don’t have a flow; in the end you do nothing in those small chunks of time before/after/between two meetings.
  • A lot of times the problem is that meetings are not prepared for and also other forms of communication which could be used instead of meetings are ignored.
  • Organization psychology researchers say that the more meetings one attends (or more time one spends in meetings), the greater the negative effects (like frustration etc).
  • A UK research says that it is the biggest factor for loss of productivity (up to 1.5 days lost per week).
So if you really have to organize a meeting keep it short and prepare for it – the human mind tends to waaaaander away…after 30…..minutes……. yaaaaawn………

Wake up XXV - Step back and think

The other day I thought over the dilemma faced by another person - to me the situation was crystal clear; I knew considering the facts what action the person should take. But for the person involved it didn't seem that straightforward - why? Because that person was attached to the problem - the person was unable to assess the situation unbiased; for any outsider the situation the action to be taken was easy but not for the person involved.

All of us go through such situations everyday - unable to decide what to do; the answer lies in taking a 3rd person view of the problem; unfortunately we are so emotionally attached to the problem that we view the problem through a jaundiced eye.

Shakespeare wrote:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts

If we were able to play our role like an actor does on screen, we can take decisions without doubts, without prejudice. One can see a plethora of characters in stock market trading - there are people who say when the market crashes, "Our growth story is still intact - so buy stocks now and accumulate". But when it comes to spending their own money they would hesitate wondering whether it is really a good time to buy!

So step back and look at the problem as if it were someone else's - what would you tell that person to do?

Wake up XXVI - Jack of all trades

Yahoo was once upon a time (before Google came) the undoubted search leader in the Internet. They were like what Google is today. But Yahoo diversified into other areas - trying to provide more content so that it became the one stop place on the Net; while doing this they didn't strengthen their main weapon - search technology.   Google came up with something better than Yahoo. Again the arrival of Google didn't mean doom for Yahoo – competitors keep arising always - they could have easily bought Google in the initial stage; just imagine what Yahoo would have been today if they had done that - they didn't; instead they bought some 2nd tier search engines and today they have to be content as runner-up to Google.   You can draw a parallel between that and us; it seems more apt in the IT services industry than elsewhere that one ends up knowing bits and pieces of many technologies and doesn't know even one properly. Though some might say that it is a good thing, most times it backfires since you can never claim to be an authority over any subject - yes, there were and are a few people who have been masters in multiple disciplines (Da Vinci is the first name that comes to mind); they were different from us since they spent a lot of time in different areas of interest – they mastered each area; but we rarely do that.   Perhaps we need to learn from them, learn to master a trade before moving on – or perhaps our profession doesn't encourage mastering anything!

Wake up XXVII - Is this a dream?

It is interesting to watch ourselves chase so many materialistic things even though we know that in the end we don't carry anything. Seems like something within us pushes us to chase material desires; something that we find hard to control...

A few statements I shall leave you with to ponder over...

There was a king who once dreamt that he was a beggar. He woke up startled and asked, "Am I a King who dreamt that I was a beggar? Or am I a beggar now dreaming that I am a king?"

A Chinese sage wrote over two thousand years ago, "Once upon a time, I, Chuang-tzu, dreamed I wa a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither...Suddenly I was awakened...Now I do not know whether I was a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am a butterfly now dreaming I am a man".

From the movie Matrix: Morpheus says, "Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?"

Whichever way you look at it, you'll realize that nothing is permanent; everthing is fleeting - the waking world as well as the dreaming world! Maybe we ought to remember these statements the next time we are in a quandary.

Wake up XXVIII - Misleading percentages

One headline screams "90% men want to wear slippers to office" while another reads "80% of people from country X sleep 14 hours a day".

Anyone reading it is fascinated by the headline; but what if you knew that the survey covered just 50 people and 30 of those 50 were clerical employees. What if country X has a population of 500 million people and the survey covered just 1000? If you knew those figures then you would dismiss the reports.

How about, "45 out of 50 employees surveyed like to wear slippers to office" or "1000 citizens sleep 14 hours a day" -> ah, that doesn't make for an interesting headline! Many surveys mention the sample data size in fine print (that is 50 times smaller than the headline) in some corner of a graph. Or they mention it as the last line in the report since readers will rarely read every line till the end and even if they do, by then the percentage that has been engraved in their mind.

It is not just the media who make up such stories to attract attention; it happens in companies as well when someone tries to impress the upper level (and also by the need to quantify everything). The corporate mantra is, "If you can't measure it you can't manage it". Usual example: some new employee satisfaction initiative is rolled out and after a month declares that 85% people are now satisfied; a closer examination reveals that many people might not have taken up the survey and the actual people at whom the initiative was targeted would not have derived any benefit out of it! Look around and you'll find umpteen examples of this.

Measuring is fine but don't do it just for the sake of impressing someone with figures - reveal the truth and accept reality.

"Say you were standing with one foot in the oven and one foot in an ice bucket. According to the percentage people, you would be perfectly comfortable." - Bobby Bragan