Saturday, January 31, 2009

The killer after the euphoria

I went for dinner at Barbecue Nation on Osman road last night. Wonderful food, good ambiance. LOVED every bit of it, with great starters, Lamb kofta, Claypso fish & Crab. It was worth every penny.

And today morning I received the terrible news. I have been allocated RR-M2 mess for the month of February. This is supposed to be the worst mess at IITM by miles. Should one be punished so heavily for missing the mess registration?

If the hostel affairs secretary is reading this, please make sure that from next time, the guys who miss the registration is allotted the same mess as the month before.

I am happy that February is the shortest month of the year :P

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Scalability of business

Just read Anurag Srivastava's note (on facebook) dealing with scalability of business and life in general.

He writes
" .... what keeps one going is not the regular earnings that you get from the business which in a typical year is predictable - but possibility that there can be a time when all things will go right and will payoff exponentially. Every one who gets into business does it with that hope - that if all things go right - there will be a windfall ..."

I am not very sure about the comment about the "typical year" claim - all of us have seen how the markets crashed within a very short time. We are talking about black swans here. He seems to look only for the positive abnormalities but (probably because he is a die-hard optimist) prefers to overlook the tough times.

Though the expectation part is very valid - no one wants to do something that will remain mediocre all along. Its only the faint hope of greatness that drives the men.

Further he adds
"... where the business scales up purely on creation of a design or an idea that gets replicated easily and you get paid for every unit that gets produced by anyone through a license. So the Chinese might have factories which make the Nike shoes and scale up production as per what Nike wants and make incremental profits - Nike has to design and market those shoes to make exponential profits without too much extra investment on capital or humans. Ideas and intellectual property is scalable , bodies are not. Running a hotel is not scalable but the format/franchises are ..."

Here he makes a very interesting point. All of us knew it somewhere at the back of our heads but it still is a revelation when one first gets to see it articulated. Its the idea that can bring a turn around. In my opinion, the distinguishing feature of a scalable business is the fact that an additional unit is not accompanied with diminishing returns.

PS- More on business scalability in the manufacturing sector here.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Source of motivation

Watched "Slum dog Millionaire" last night. and have not stopped thinking about it.
A wonderful movie - none of the actors overshadowed a 10/10 script. And the best part about the movie - the guy never forgets his childhood love, and tries to get her time and again: despite all odds. All this while there was not once that they professed love towards each other. Like the instance when he had to fight his elder brother to try to elope with the girl. And the girl willing to sacrifice for the sake of the boy.

The story got me thinking, what motivated the protagonist to do all that he did. For that matter, what drives a person to attempt world defying feats? what makes a man try things that none else would imagine doing? Assuming everyone to be rational, a person will venture into such a thing only if he/she finds the potential rewards to be greater than the value of the effort required. The only way this could happen with a consistent valuation is that he/she sees a potential that others don't. It requires a vision to be able to spot an opportunity when its not evident. Also it needs courage to try out new things, may be the fact that they trust themselves when they do so makes them successful. Ancient Chinese script, Tao Te Ching says - Love gives the ability to be brave. In this context, its the love for the winning that gives them the ability to attempt things unprecedented.

Lets look at various motivational techniques people use:
For a few people, its easier to stay focused if they have something to look for, like Clearing IIT-JEE, Clearing CAT, designing a novel pump, building a world class organization.

But if a persons' aspirations, dreams are limited to falling into the arms of some other person: I don't see how that can drive him/her. Probably I am ignorant of the ways love works.

As I am pretty sure, you must have observed: The journey towards the goal is often more fun filled than the destination itself. That is what drove the founders of now world leading companies - continual improvement. Once establishing the organisation was complete, they could have gone to cool off their heels. But they did not - they toiled hard, to improve, even if by just a tiny bit. That's what made them great.

Its the determination and perseverance that gave them a reason to work. And when a quantifiable goal is cut-out, motivation comes naturally.

But is the challenging work, the only motivating factor for us? Apparently no. As documented so well in numerous Bollywood scripts and romantic novels, "LOVE" triumphs all when it comes to motivating the protagonists. Apart from that, (I risk being politically incorrect when I write this, but what the hell !), money that one makes while working is also a huge (de)motivating influence.
Probably its to do with personal priorities. Different people are driven by different things and its the valuation of the work-love-money mix against one's own standards is what determines the motivation level.

PS - While writing the "Different people are driven by different things..", I could not help recalling the lovely Obelix from the Asterix series who cared for nothing more than a sumptuous meal of wild boars. Well now You know why I named this blog "Foodological".

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