Posted in My World View, Random thots.., Technology Talk

Idea #5: Fail Early, Fail Fast


A few weeks ago, Apple released its Maps App with the new iOS 6 upgrade. Within hours, the internet was awash with scathing criticism of Apple Maps. It was branded a dismal failure, the L’Enfant terrible of iOS 6 upgrade portfolio. FB news feeds flooded with lamentations about awful maps after upgrading to iOS 6.

Tech bloggers lashed out at Apple, calling it a company which had become arrogant in its greatness. Doomsday predictors began asking – is this the end of Apple’s commitment to perfection and its meteoric rise?

All this brouhaha really irked me. For all those going berserk over the Map App fiasco, wouldn’t it be nicer if we could cut Apple some slack and appreciate the benefits of failing early??

I am not an Apple fanboy, but personally I felt the new Maps app was awesome. It brought in radical features like vector-based maps and breathtaking flyover 3D views (my first reaction on seeing the App was “Wow!”). Yeah, the awesome 3D feature resulted in the most terrible goof ups too. But then, online Maps are complex and you cannot perfect it unless you have millions of people sharing it and reporting back to you. Does anyone remember Google Maps when it was first launched?

The point is, with technology cycles moving so quickly, could Apple have afforded to keep the critical Map app under the hood till the next iPhone release? Absolutely not.

The fact is – if anything can go wrong, it will. And the sooner that happens, the better it is for you and your product. And the most valuable company of our times has sent the message – the future is about failing early, failing fast. And if you do make mistakes, admit them quickly and move on.

Well.. Google does it all the time! (remember Google Buzz, Froogle and Google Answers?)

Getting a minimum viable product out into the world is the best way to kick start your idea, whether it is a new book, a business venture, or a project at work. It helps you overcome the fear of failure, test your assumptions and identify constraints in your solution. So go ahead with your new creation. Get it read, experienced and used.

Because usage is like oxygen for ideas. “You can never fully anticipate how an audience is going to react to something you’ve created until it’s out there. That means every moment you’re working on something without it being in the public it’s actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world.”

So fail early. Learn fast!.

And if you are an unflappable cool dude who hates to admit your mistakes or let the world know about your failures – Just fail early..   And then destroy all evidence that you tried!.. 🙂

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Posted in My World View, Random thots..

Idea #2: Everything is a Remix!


How many hours have you spent agonizing to capture that elusive original Idea for your Research project?

Or struggled to create a novel character for your book..

Have you counted the restless nights you spent pondering to figure out the pioneering Business Model which will catapult your yet-to-be-born Startup to stardom?

Yeah, I’ve been there too!

All of us dream of creating the next big thing..  

And everyone (including me) is obsessed with the myth that remarkable creations always begin with an original never-before-conceptualized idea. That makes our lives hell, filling it up with painful things like disappointment, self-doubt and procrastination. 

So, Ladies and Gentlemen..we have an inspired Idea #2, coming to rescue all of mankind. 🙂

Yes.. Everything is a remix!

“Original” stories are found, not born. “Invention, it must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating out of the void, but out of chaos”.

Many times we get lost in search for the perfect original thing. And end up with nothing. And that is because there is no perfect original idea in this world. Ideas are like DNA; they combine and create greater stronger Ideas.. And the most successful ones are those which are tried and tested improved versions of previous successful ones.

Great stories are mash ups of awesome stories told before. High quality code is one built successfully on old code. Don’t believe me? Here is the reason:

“Old code has been used. It has been tested. Lots of bugs have been found, and they’ve been fixed. There’s nothing wrong with it. It doesn’t acquire bugs just by sitting around on your hard drive!”

Still not convinced?

All of us will agree that Apple as one of the most innovative companies of our times. And we also know that the Mac of the 1970s was inspired by the primitive GUI developed by Xerox Corporation.  In an interview, Steve Jobs himself confessed how the idea of the Mac germinated in his head after a visit to the Xerox facility. On the same note, he even quoted – “We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”!  

The point is, he just saw what no-one else did. Everyone else saw a UI based computer. What Jobs saw was the awesome customer experience that it could create – a.k.a the jaw dropping, cult creating Macintosh PC.

And that’s the secret to breathtaking creations.

View ideas with different lenses. Have a different perspective –the same object inspires us in different ways.

Tinker. Remix. Restructure. Renovate.

And if you understand this truth, you will never fall short of ideas to create something – books, rain, thunder, clouds, conversations, dreams, the route to office, newspaper headlines, office gossip, chatter on the radio..

Anything can inspire you to create something great. You just have to tune in and find your Inspiration!

Posted in My World View, Random thots..

Thinking about Thinking!!!



It’s been a sort of lazy unhurried day, with me doing this and that. Browsing the Internet.. Sketching idle doodles in my imagination.. Many thoughts and memories flashing in my mind!.

And then, in all weirdness pops up this question. Where do all these ideas come from?.

Is there a director sitting inside my brain, crafting a massive orchestra.. Churning out performances as “Thoughts” when I am awake and showing me “Dreams” at night? Do I host some sort of embedded freakish weirdo in my head – doling out “Ideas” according to his whims and idiosyncrasies? Or do these “Ideas” have a mind of their own, sauntering out at their own leisurely pace?.

Sometimes I feel I am a slave to them. I cannot produce them on demand. They only appear out of some fortuitous accident. I can only train my mind to welcome them. Focus on un-focusing my brain, and let the music play…..

What’s the trick? Where do all these ideas come from? Some possible answers:

Maybe it’s the time of the day:
For me, it’s usually the mornings. Sometimes on my commute to work, I can hear many voices talking to me. When sit back and listen to those voices, they give me so many suggestions. Sometimes there are arguments and angry discussions, too many people talking together. The brain is furiously trying to solve unanswered questions, making bits and pieces of a forgotten puzzle fit in together. It’s like you are blank, not thinking of anything in particular.. Some interconnections fire up to give you an entirely new idea. And you have to scramble frantically write it down before it disappears!.

Perhaps it’s in your environment:
We are a complex processed form of the environment around us. Like us, maybe our ideas are also an assimilation of all the people we have met, seen or read about.
Is it some chemical locha, some combination of genes, some sort of cellular mutation ? Or just the madcap in my head fooling around with a magical wand?! Tough question.

Maybe it’s your state of mind:
Ideas come to you only when your mind is free, with no constant drone of to-do lists hammering at the back of your head. For me, it’s very difficult to think out-of-the-box when I have loads of other stuff to do. And when there is a lot of clutter around.

Sometimes it’s in the randomness:
Ideas are like soap bubbles. One moment they are there -all gleamy and shiny, and the next instant “POP”, they disappear!.. And they come back when you least expect them to – while driving your car, taking a bath, or even in the loo! Often they suddenly appear like some phantoms of your past life. Or float in uninvited and uncalled for – like ghosts in the night!!
Maybe there is some method in the madness.Who knows ?

A sense of urgency:
Remember how many “Creative” assignments you have pushed through the door in last minute desperation to make submissions?…A sense of urgency can actually kick start your thinking process. Thinking about extreme things like your own death, or what impact you would have after you are gone can make you extraordinarily creative. If you have a nudging need, don’t abandon it. Think about it. Sit on it. If it doesn’t work out, sleep on it. You might get the solution in dreams! ( Don’t laugh, once I completed an entire chapter for the exam in my dreams, only to wake up and realize that I was asleep all the time!!)

Sometimes it’s Ignorance:
Remember how imaginative we were as kids? Always curious to understand things..Unbiased by preconceived notions, always experimenting without the fear of failure!
But then, we’ve changed. As we grow older, we learn to put things in a pattern. We get addicted to predictability. Anything out of the blue scares us. Education encourages us to organize everything around us into certain boxes, and destroys us. Blame it all on the system my friend – “We don’t need no education. We don’t need no thought control.”!

So, what do YOU think about thinking?? Give it a thought! 😀

Posted in My World View, Technology Talk

The Great Indian IT tamasha



Not very long ago, I was working on something in office that needed some simple decision making. We had to choose between Plan A and Plan B.

And, the decision wasn’t something very earth shattering like – “Should our company invest in Antarctica?” or “Is it the right time to join the post war reconstruction in Iraq?”
If you think of it – it should have taken hardly 5 minutes. Someone just had to put her foot down and say – OK, Plan B. Period.

But then, oh Boy; you should have seen the number of mails shuttling around to arrive at a decision!. Dense communications with FYIs and FYRs floating upstream, downstream, left, right, in circles, small loops, big loops. No one wanted to kick the bucket on their own, so multiple stakeholders were invited. It was a whole round-we-go-the-mulberry-bush thing!

If you’ve worked in an Indian IT services company, you can probably identify with me when I say this. The task of “decision making” here is as convoluted as the process of finding an eligible groom in the Indian arranged marriage. It is a long drawn process, with loops and hoops, coupled with mountainous processes. Too many opinions and recommendations, too much sharing of responsibilities for the decisions made.

Ok, I don’t want to criticize and say that we should make snap judgments throwing caution to the winds. But focusing too much on insignificant details just adds to the flab.
Is it that we have too much time to spend on too less stuff – “Idle brains exaggerate matters” ??

Fine. A lot of emotional rambling here – let’s cut to the chase.
Here’s what I think is wrong with the Indian IT Industry.

We don’t take risks – Isn’t that the biggest risk of all?

We think too much – Paralysis of Analysis Baby!

We care too much of what others think – Log kya kahenge??!!!

We do not want to leave our comfort zone – I’m a C++ guy, how can I talk about JAVA??

We are afraid to try out anything new – The classical its-not-done-here Syndrome

We skimp like Scrooges – And call it our “Competitive Advantage”!

Take out any book on Entrepreneurship or Creativity, and the problems I listed above would top the list of Innovation killers. Isn’t this a huge cause for concern?
Now is a time when everyone is talking about Innovation. Hailed as a game changer, innovation is destined to transform the world. Shouldn’t it be on top of our priority list?

Innovation, I agree, is not easy. Not for the faint hearted, it’s only for the risk takers who are willing to dare. Innovation, my non-vegeterian friends would say is like mutton curry. Delectable, enticing and yummy to look at; but incredibly difficult to digest!. 😉

When every company ensures to have innovation somewhere in its tagline, or have innovation splashed all over its website. My question as an insider; where is this so called innovation in Indian IT companies?

Our IT service culture breeds Innovation killers amongst us. We are afraid to stand out of the herd, we want to be innovative, but in a very non risky conventional way (what was that? ).
With Process.. Process.. Process hammered into our heads, we are genetically programmed to work like risk averse automatons the moment we enter this industry.

When the US debt is downgraded, we begin tottering like a pile of dominoes.

When will we learn to stand on our own feet?..

When will we have something new to offer to the world?..

When will we become action oriented and stop working like machines and morons?

Are we even destined to come out of this rut?

Only the Narayan Murthys, Azim Premjis and Vineet Nayars of the world can say.

Mortals like me can only pray.
Amen.

Posted in My World View, Technology Talk

Shopping “Experiences”!!



You have walked into your favorite music store across the street. Just as you pick up a Justin Bieber album off the shelf, digital trackers embedded in the walls identify the album with its RFID tag. A Plasma panel at the store begins to play the latest video of the pop star. As you walk towards the screen to watch this video, sensors in the store track your movements, and a high definition Prosilica camera captures your picture, feeding it to complex algorithms that morph these images. Within seconds, you are pleasantly surprised to see yourself inside the TV screen in the video, gyrating right beside the teen pop star!

Delighted with the experience, you begin to explore the rest of the store. As you move down the aisles, biometric iris recognition software detects your digital identity, and instantly downloads your past purchase and publicly available social networking history into the store’s central database. Eye motion sensors identify which shelf you are looking at, and LCD panels display the message – You “liked” Enrique’s Insomniac on Facebook, would you like to check out his new album “Euphoria” ? Your friend Maria has already bought it, and 59 buddies flashed it on Twitter!!

Well, if you thought all this was a page out of a science fiction book, then think again. This is not a futuristic wish anymore, and sophisticated technologies like these are already being deployed in retail stores right now. With the advent of Web 2.0 and advanced digital electronics, consumer retail has morphed dramatically. Leapfrogging into the future, innovation in IT is now making the customer the center of this “Digital Universe”.

The new age consumer with deep pockets and short attention spans is now more individualistic and much harder to please. With razor thin margins and a consuming need for differentiation, retailers are increasingly pushed towards cutting-edge innovation. Retailing giants like Wal-Mart, Carrefour and Tesco have already boarded the bandwagon, and the others have no choice but to follow. The key is to involve consumers at an emotional and sensory level, and shoppers are now spoilt for choice.

Retailers are now leveraging IT to enhance the end user experience, reduce costs, manage growth and capture multicultural markets. IT innovation is being used to have a consumer centric view to solve problems, achieve creative differentiation and provide complete solutions to task oriented shoppers. In this era of Do-It-for-me marketing, consumers demand retailers to speed up their transactions, driving changes in store concepts, and providing faster and convenient transaction processing and payment.

“Ethnography is the new core competence” remarked Andrew Jones in his book “Innovation acid test”. This has never been more true than now! . Working closely with market research, “knowledge activists” now explore the innovative aspects of any business proposition by cognizing customer intelligence. Corporations compete to identify and “Catch a wave”, creating opportunities to generate growth and fantastic financial performance. Digital immersive technologies like Augmented Reality are being used to integrate branding and entertainment with customer experiences, offering services that resonates with the target customer.

When you look for avenues of innovation in retail, the opportunities are endless. Starting from the use of RFID to measure inventory, warehousing, distribution operations and the supply chain, to providing an enhanced shopping experience for product and brand differentiation, IT can be used as an enabler at every step. All that we need is an imagination to sell the dream!

Augmented technology can be used in storefronts to entice shoppers. Interactive Ads will allow shoppers to “try out” something even before they walk into the store. Large screen kiosks installed at store entrances will empower shoppers to search or quickly browse through the product selection. Digital signage can be used to deliver personalized messages to shoppers, using RFID tags to identify which items they are carrying through the store. Brands stocked in that store can advertise in these digital signs, creating new revenue streams. Mobile coupons are already being used by Starbucks and Target to enhance repeat business. Customers are sent personalized messages alerting them of offers at the store. These services can be customized with location based services, and serve as key drivers of store traffic.

Indeed, IT will now allow us to peer into the living rooms of our customers, data mining their inner desires, and making it available on the supermarket shelves. The IT revolution captures the social entrepreneurship and individualistic spirit of these times. Bill Bryson, a best-selling American author has aptly captured the essence of this era – “We used to build civilizations. Now we build shopping malls”!!