GO.S.H., HA.G.S, or (yeah sorry…) S.HA.G?

16 Mar
Parenting Lack of Understanding

Parenting Lack of Understanding

Having a 14 year old is probably the most humbling/ nightmarish experience ever! You may be the superwife, super daughter, even supermom till now, the highest achiever by all standards – professionally, personally, whatever – but “mom-of-14-year-old” strips you of all accolades!

You become meanest mom, most hated person, evil heartless monster, insensitive and non understanding, torture chamber, slave driver, etc etc etc person ever – actually, I have to admit – this is not only in the 14 year old’s imagination, but in fact! SOMETHING happens at 13-14 when both you and your thus far sweet child transmogrify into separate evil avatars!

I think most folks facing this issue do the usual self help book/ counseller visit/ friend shoulder rant and rave – but, apart from all of this, I have done deep analysis, and I think at the heart lies the problem of GO.S.H, HA.G.S, or..erm..excuse the french…S.HA.G….

GOSH

Essentially, what do most parents want for their children? Apart from Good health, which is the overarching, most important thing; I think it is the following:

– That they are GOOD – they don’t lie/ cheat/ cause harm to others or themselves/ no criminal tendencies etc, and that they are sensitive to others’ misfortune and try to help others

– That they are SUCCESSFUL – They do well/ exploit their potential – (doesn’t matter in what field – Howard Gardner and his theory of Multiple Intelligences has only formalised what most parents knew) and are able to earn decent money to keep themselves in similar (or better) circumstances than they have been brought up

– Most importantly, that they are HAPPY – feel fulfilled/ loved/ in a good place/ not sad/ depressed/ don’t feel their “life” sucks etc etc…..

Now, in my opinion, parents wants their kids to have ALL three of these – even a 2/3 is not good enough (i.e., a thief may be successful and happy, but is NOT good — and so on)

It is precisely these 3 things – their relative juxtaposition/ the priority, and even the existence – that causes the teenage parent angst!

leaving home

So, i wd think most of us raise our kids to try and be good – this is what you teach them from when they are – (to get all Shakespearean about it) – mewling and puking in their mum’s hands. To teach them “don’t tell lies, help the elderly cross a road, not to bully”….

This really is a foundational thing.

The next thing is – and this quest begins at various stages – depending on the parent/ the child/ the school/ the country….we try and steer our kids towards “success” – the choice of school, of other skill “classes”, their popularity amongst peers, their habits….

This is I think where the biggest man-trap happens – coz, very often, your definition of success ain’t their’s (and understandably so). For you, their “success” often goes beyond the here and now – and is also aimed towards the future (bade hokar kya karogey??). In addition, it is coloured by YOUR experience of the growing up years, and YOUR vision of how their future will be – they obviously don’t know this at all.

Ofcourse, above all, we want our kids to be happy – but in our view, the happiness comes partly from being good and being successful (or, to be more exact, doesn’t come – at least in the future – unless they are good and they are successful).

Refer to Fig 1 of my handwritten diagram above.

The problem is because for the kids, success IS being happy…So, kids, if they view this GOSH/ SHAG/ HAGS thing at all – view it as Fig 2 – where they are NOT dependent on each other but 3 mutually exclusive axes!

In addition, they have to deal with the problem of, in order of priority, shd one chase GOSH/ HAGS/ SHAG/ GOHS/ HASG or SGHA……confusing right? even for us? Those poor 14 year olds get completely messed up heads :(

And THAT is the root of all the stress and distress.

YoureNotAlone

The only silver lining is a recent whatsap forward to me (the fates must have sensed my utter depression, coz I got it no less than FIVE times yesterday!):

Taken from a handout by Corrie Lynne Player:

“I just realized that while children are dogs—loyal and affectionate—teenagers are cats.

It’s so easy to be a dog owner. You feed it, train it, boss it around. It puts its head on your knee and gazes at you as if you were a Rembrandt painting. It bounds indoors with enthusiasm when you call it.
Then, around age 13, your adoring puppy turns into a big old cat. When you tell it to come inside, it looks amazed, as if wondering who died and made you emperor.

Instead of dogging your footsteps, it disappears. You won’t see it again until it gets hungry…then it pauses on its sprint through the kitchen long enough to turn up its nose at whatever you’re serving, swishing its tail and giving you an aggrieved look until you break out the tuna again.

When you reach out to ruffle its head in that old affectionate gesture, it twists away from you, then gives you a blank stare as if it is trying to remember where it has seen you before.

You, not realizing your dog is now a cat, think something must be desperately wrong with it. It seems so antisocial, so distant, sort of depressed. It won’t go on family outings. Since you’re the one who raised it, taught it to fetch, stay and sit on command, you assume you did something wrong. Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble your efforts to make your pet behave.

Only now you’re dealing with a cat, so everything that worked before now has the opposite result. Call it, and it runs away. Tell it to sit, and it jumps on the counter. The more you go toward it, wringing your hands, the more it moves away.

Instead of continuing to act like a dog owner, you must learn to behave like a cat owner. Put a dish of food near the door and let it come to you. But remember that a cat needs your help and affection too. Sit still and it will come, seeking that warm, comforting lap it has not entirely forgotten. Be there to open the door for it.

One day your grown up child will walk into the kitchen, give you a big kiss and say,
“You’ve been on your feet all day. Let me get those dishes for you.” Then, you’ll realize your cat is a dog again.”

cat and dog

Essentially saying – “This too shall pass”. Amen to that! Waiting eagerly for that day……

Not Musk, Bezos, Zuckerberg, Page & Brin, But Nora Roberts! (Or, the state of the Internet Of Things)

21 Jan

JDRobbIoT

I lead a very “must not do” lifestyle – I am retired from active corporate life; I snack on unhealthy junk almost everyday; I drink gallons of fattening beer every weekend; I don’t sleep all that much; and, most importantly, I read almost NO elevating/ informative/ educative stuff – all I read is some news on the web on technology, and LOTS of trashy fiction – specifically, romance and who-dun-it novels.

My current favorite author is Nora Roberts, maybe because she combines the above two genres really well! In reading avidly her futuristic cop thriller series, written under the pseudonym J.D. Robbs, I begin to see a strange similarity between her world of the 2050s and 60s; and what is going on in the Internet of Things/ Connected Device world.

Quick summary: the Internet of Things is essentially nothing but a world in which all devices are connected, and many of them are wearable on the human body, to enable use of the data generated in one place in order to predict actions in another! This means a world of tiny embedded “sensors” all over – on highways, in thermostat boxes, glasses, bras, beds, wind mills….you name it….that then allow seamless living!

Look at how some parallels exist between Robb’s world and the current endeavour of most of the technology world, with leaders being Zuckerberg, Bezos, Benioff, Musk and many many many other smaller/ niche players:

Virtual RealityCredit

1. Virtual Reality:
Arguably, one of the stars at this month’s CES was the Oculus Rift Crescent Bay prototype with Spatial Audio feature. It seems to have excited people, specially VR enthusiasts all around, with the advancements it shows over previous versions. A look at some applications – driving simulations and Gaming excites even boring ole’ non-gamer me!

But hey, in the JD Robb world, VR and Holo videos are very much par for the course! Not only can you program VR headsets in the gym to give you the real experience of whichever setting you want, HoloRooms are like Star Trek Holo Decks and owned by the wealthy, and can be programmed for interactive vacations at the beach, street scenes for training in fighting techniques, or rescue missions, or jogging along a path, or dining in a mountain chalet, etc. HoloGlasses provide 3-D life-like scenarios, similar to the HoloRooms, but worn on the head. And, to me, the extreme use was very very evil! In the book I last read, “Fantasy in Death”, a gamer whizkid actually injected reality into virtual reality – and as a by product killed a couple people!

“Roarke took another sip of coffee – “Let me understand you. You are suggesting that a holographic image, which is essentially light and shadow, attempted murder and committed it…Neuro and nano-tech have advanced, and the images produced in holo programs act and react, according to that program. They appear 3D, appear to have substance. The player’s senses are involved and engaged……found a way to enhance wave front, increase the power stream of the light….to create a kind of current that is an electronic replication of the substance….that could, cut, slash, sever….or could replicate an impact where the currents could inflict the same damage as they have been programmed to inflict”


2. Customized Talking Billboards:

Talking billboards are now old hat. Even a lot of the motion/ temperature triggered ones. But, essentially in that they use sensors to activate a series of actions that could be customised depending on you/ your location/ your preferences, they are very I0T!

Then, ofcourse, google glass is (was) the ultimate in customized billboards in a way – plus much much more. Despite its lukewarm performance in this round, Google is sure to get it back with a bigger bang …soon!

And, in a J D Robb parallel, Eve Dallas, the main protagonist, is forever catching customised billboards looking down at her on her drives/ airlifts through crowded noisy New York streets:

When she caught a familiar face burst across one of the animated screens…over the street at thirty fourth….she..whirled…jiggled, spun, in a few sassy and amusingly placed scraps of electric blue. With each revolution, her hair changed from red to gold to blinding green…her oldest friend…

3. Robotics/ Artificial Intelligence:

From Super Mario’s latest AI induced self aware tricks, to Facebook’s intense use of AI, the world of AI is definitely here. (After all, what was Siri, but an early version of AI). In fact, this is becoming a controversial area, with recently, Tesla’s Elon Musk coming out in strong opposition of the potential evil fallouts of AI!

amazon drones Credit

Then there are drones, which have been used for military purposes (e.g. in Israel and Afghanistan) for a while, and infact are now being advanced, e.g. with mind controlling technologies. Amazon also created news a couple of years ago with their pilot of deliveries using drones (Amazon Prime Air).

In J.D. Robbs’ world, there are “Droids with human characteristics that can be programmed to cook, clean, man office desks, physically fight and wrestle, watch over children and the elderly, teach, bartend, waiters and waitresses and even be programmed for sex. There are also droid animals – dogs, cats and birds.”

“The droids were well represented as well- mechanical looking household and yard droids, cheap mini droids, and a number of the human replicas lined up like suspects….”This model’s top of the line. She’s designed to exactly replicate the character physically, and she has top-flight programming capabilities””

“They were droids..you couldn’t even smell them…she swung back, slamming her knees into the droid behind her…catching him by the ankles as he deployed the weapon….he didn’t buckle as a man would, but teetered back, arms pinwheeling for balance.”

Then there are AutoVehicles that can fly and zip around, but also be driven like normal cars and buses.

“Three cars ahead of her, two rapid cabs shot into vertical lift at the same time…airlifts hovered above, shooting out their streams of light…..”

nest-labs-google Credit

4. Home Automation

With Apple’s Smart Home project, Google’s Nest and the earlier versions of the IoT which almost always had a pre programmed refrigerator ordering eggs when you ran out, Home Automation was one of the earliest applications of the IoT. And, lets face it, its also the sexiest/ most widely adoptable one; hence catching consumer eye balls far more than windmills, gas meters and smart highways! (Marc Benioff had addresses the Dreamforce 2013 attendees with a case on his Philips toothbrush!) It is also the app where a lot of work is being done without suffering reverses (like the glass). Companies like Philips, Logitech, Nokia and many more are working flat out to address and dominate their respective inches of the home automation turf. This article is a nice look at the news on home automation.

At the centre of everything – most things consumer IoT atleast, is the ubiquitous smartphone – that device that most other devices link to, that very soon 1 in every 4 earthling will possess, that works as your personal friend, philosopher guide, but also has millions of app developers working day and night on, that you use to talk/ email/ measure sleep patterns/ order cabs/ check restaurants/ listen to music and watch movies…in short, everything…And now, the smart watch

Motorola-Moto-360-Smartwatch-5

Cut to Robbs. She has the AutoChefs that can deliver home-cooked meals and coffee.

“He walked to a large Autochef “What is it then – Pizza or Burger”….Took a large bubbling Pizza out…headed to the AutoChef, programmed coffee….He’d already programmed their meal in the recesed Autochef – I thought we’d have ham and eggs today”

The Drying Tube that senses your temperature requirements and then dries you up.
“…Like the warm, clean scented swirl of air in the drying tube…”

The biometric scanning device, that tells you where anybody in the house is (Roarke has programmed all answers to Eve such that it always starts with “Darling Eve!”, a fact that really irritates the heroine!

“Where is Roarke”?.. Welcome home, darling Eve!..As usual the recorded voice using that particular endearment had slivers of embarrassment pricking up her spine”

Links that are a modernized video cell phone that can hold and transfer data besides making calls – both audio and video; Memo Cubes that are modern, electronic Post-Its, without the sticky paper, Wrist Units that combine most functions!

“Nice wrist unit…“Serviceable.” Eve turned her wrist to admire the simple band, the flat, silver-toned face….“It‟s got a couple of nice features,” she added as she fiddled with it. “It‟s nice,” Peabody said again, then drew her beeping communicator out of her pocket. “Give me a sec, I . . . hey, it‟s you.” Mouth dropping, Peabody jerked her head up. “It‟s got a micro-com in it? That‟s pretty mag. Usually they‟re all fuzzy, but this is really clean.” “Nano-com. You know how the vehicle he rigged up for me looks ordinary?” “Ordinary leaning toward ugly,” Peabody corrected. “But nobody gives it a second look or knows that it‟s loaded, so . . . same deal?” Automatically Peabody dug out her ‟link when it signaled, then paused. “Is that you? It‟s got full communication capability? In a wrist unit that size?” “Not only that, it‟s got navigation, full data capabilities. Total data and communications—he programmed it with all my stuff. If I had to, I could access my files on it. Waterproof, shatterproof, voice-command capabilities. Gives me the ambient temp. Plus it tells time.”

IoT Security
5. Security:

This is clearly the foremost concern in the IoT! The WEF has gotten a report together recently advising caution! Top executives similarly feel that the biggest risk of the IoT is security!

But, this article shows that despite security concerns, IoT is definitely growing.

J.D. Robb has her own version of the security issues – all data devices are controlled by the federal mother computer – the CompuGuard. This is very big brother-ish, and supposedly can track everything going on in any computing device. (Ofcourse, Mr. Know-it-all, ex criminal, richest man in the world Roarke can get past the Compuguard – and often does, thus, often aiding Ms. Dallas in her investigations, much to her irritation!)

“Compuguard monitored all e-transmissions and programming on planet and off….I’m obliged to caution you that this transmission is being traced through CompuGuard, and it’s being recorded.”

J.D. Robb has a few other interesting gadgets strewn about her books – Skids are high-tech sneakers that can float above ground and there are skateboards that hover a few inches above ground instead of on wheels; Glide carts are moving food carts on the street; Credits, which are tokens used instead of coins…

At the end, a lot of it is illusory and advanced stuff – both in the IoT world, and the JDRobb one. As an example, the much touted wearables have abysmal penetration and even worse usage figures for consumer devices (at an average, all wearables get discarded after 6 months). This article is interesting too.

Having said that, there is no doubt that some if all all of this, is coming, and coming sooner than later! Most pundits say the world should focus on “real” applications with substantial impact – healthcare/ infrastructure/ utilities, rather than consumer products – but, if consumers didn’t show an interest, a lot of the glitter and shine wouldn’t be there!

In my opinion, the question is no longer – “will it come” but ‘when will it come”….Maybe, some of the companies in the arena should consider hiring Ms. Roberts as strategic advisor.

In the meanwhile, interested in reading some of the JDRobb books? Here’s where you can download some free – enjoy!

How opposites attract, or, what makes a successful partnership

12 Jan

Two interesting things happened to/ around me this year-end: a) My husband turned 50 (we had a lovely celebration with family and friends). b) I completed two years of retired life.

Got me thinking even more about something that has been occupying my mind lately – which is, what makes good partnerships work.

A few facts:
1. My husband and I are the quintessential Venus and Mars couple.
– He wakes up early, I sleep late.
– He likes to always have the last word in an argument, even is it is pointless; I abandon an argument after a point – either because I believe everyone is entitled to one’s opinion, and it’s better to agree to disagree; or, because while I dont agree, I think this is a never ending exercise and keep my smug self satisfied feeling inside me…
– I like to sing, he is stone deaf; and therefore ….
– He likes the lyrics in songs, I like the drumming, the guitaring and the melody
– He is an amazing cook, my kids eat food cooked by me under duress
– He drinks whisky, I adore beer; he doesn’t touch sweets, I could make a meal out of them
– He reads financial thrillers and political satires, my favourite stuff is trashy romance; he likes blood and gore in movies, I am a hard core romcom addict
– He loves to network physically, I pride myself on maintaining steady email with …some people….some of the time…okay, steady-ish……..
– He is the financial wizkid and therefore manages all household finances – yes, even files my taxes; I plan all household schedules etc, ….we cd go on and on.
(This ofcourse may just be called efficient division of labour…but still…the fact is…chalk and cheese)

2. In a partnership of four in our startup, we had
– One alpha female, the driver of the enterprise, the one who always had the highest ambitions, who was most ruthless at delegation, the best seller, the face to the market
– Then there was the manager par excellence, the process person, the task oriented champion chaser-up who excelled at any job thrown at her at the right time and with precision perfection, the creative personna;
– There was the maverick trouble shooter brain of the enterprise, Mr. Client Man, always bending over backwards to please the client – and actually anyone who browbeat him,
– And then there was me – maybe exact fourth quadrant locus to all 3 above.
(Read here for an earlier view on the magic of co-founders for a start-up.
(this ofcourse may just be called efficient core competency matching, but still…the fact is…chalk and cheese)

So, what emerges? The sheer contrast of the elements of the partnership.

And that is what today’s blog is about!

One look all around you, and you see contrast everywhere!

Nature abounds with contrast –
– Everyone with atleast 2 children will tell you they are 180 degrees different always! One is the athlete, the other is the dreamer; one the carnivore, the other the vegetarian; one the sledge hammer the other the sensitive introvert (ofcourse in this matter opposites do NOT always attract)…for that matter what is the generation gap between parent and child but a study in contrasts?

symbiosis Credit
– Symbiosis is the phenomenon of persistent biological interactions (most often mutualism) between different species, that is seen in clownfish with anemones, lichens with tress and many other organisms

magnetism1 Credit
– It is common knowledge that opposite poles in a magnet attract, and like repel. This fact actually gives rise to many natural and anthropogenic phenomena – including, as an example, digital music that revolutionized consumption! of music

– Good story telling always means a good side and a bad side – if there is a Ram, there is a Ravan; a Harry has a Voldemort; Dorothy has Elfaba, Mufasa has Scar….and on and on….This article from Huff Post about storytelling using opposites is a good read on this

– And ofcourse, every good (or at least worthwhile) partnership has elements of “venus and mars”. Whether it is sparky temperamental brilliance vs. plodding dilligence (Sherlock and Watson/ Poirot and Hastings); or master strategist vs. executor (Chanakya and Chandragupta Maurya); or a typical good cop- bad cop routine followed everywhere and all the time in the world when negotiating/ interviewing/ dealing!

This feature becomes especially important when one is running something together – that partnership – one of co-founders at a start-up I sometimes feel is better/ worse/ deeper/ stronger whatever – than most marriages or sibling-hood!
This Article on some successful entrepreneurs and why their partnerships work makes for a good read on this…

The video below shows the different types of partners one chooses and why:

Dr. Helen Fisher talks about 4 personality types in men, and how figuring out which type you are informs the partner best suited for you. She talked about four brain systems that are linked to personality (not intelligence, but temperament):

1. Estrogen (pro-social/empathetic), “The Negotiator” – sees big picture, great verbal skills, imaginative and great people skills. These men often choose Testosterone types to be attracted to.

2. Testosterone (analytical/tough minded) “The Director” – analytical, logical, direct, decisive, tough-minded, good at math, computers, mechanics. These men go for their opposite — such as the high-estrogen type who is more big picture.

3. Serotonin (cautious/social norm compliant) “The Builders” – orderly, respect authority, traditional, conventional, conscientious, cautious and social. These men go for women like themselves who are also traditional.

4. Dopamine (curious/energetic) “The Explorers” – risk-taking, novelty seeking, optimistic, restless, spontaneously generous, creative, quite liberal and flexible. These men gravitate to women who are just like them, they want women who are also Explorers.

So the questions that arise are:
– Is it true? If “opposites attract”, then how do “birds of a feather flock together?”
– Does it need complete opposites to make a relationship work?
– What does it take to build success when partners are alike? Is it more work? Less?
– In case therefore one is in a partnership with “similar” people, does one of them have to change? Should the ego centric dominate the other?
– Why is it that there is only one “alpha male” in a pride of lions amongst many mates, and why don’t those mates kill each other?

Of course, as with any theory, there are many ‘counter theories” to this one too, and ofcourse anecdotally you and me could enumerate many instances to disprove the one above. One such article on opposites not really attracting is worth reading. And this article apparently gives advice about similarity being good for longevity in marriage.

I guess the answer really lies in – where do similarities lie, and where the differences. In basics/ broad moral/ ethical/ philosophical/ business values, it is probably good to have general agreement – and then if operational/ executional values and styles differs, it actually works better. (At least saves one from getting bored – so, differences makes for interest, but similarity for the glue in the relationship)

Having said that, I would think one has to WORK at every relationship – establish dos and don’ts, strengths and weaknesses, and embrace the difference while being secure in the similarities.

Which really means, if I were to shift the lens around on Manoj and me,

– (He wakes up early, I sleep late) – He can get the kids to school while I can help them revise for their exams
– (He likes to always have the last word in an argument…..) – While there aren’t continuous arguments in our house, atleast there are no fights!
– (I like to sing, he is stone deaf) – I get an audience when I do sing
– (He likes the lyrics in songs, i like the melody) – We both like music
– (He is an amazing cook….) – We are all foodies, and Thank Gawwwd, we get fed gourmet food often!
– (He drinks whisky, I adore beer) – We both like our drinks!
– (He reads financial thrillers and political satires…) – We both like books and movies, just different genres
– (He loves to network physically, ……..) – We are both ‘people” people!
– (He is the financial wizkid) …Our household runs smoothly, with no interference from non core folks :)

What say? I think I’ll end by showing you this lovely story of opposites staying together

The Problem With Context

15 Sep

Jack and Jill

Jack and Jill


Credit

“I do not fear truth. I welcome it. But I wish all of my facts to be in their proper context”: Gordon B Hinckley

Growing Up, my marketing 101 lesson taught me “Customer is King”. The Father of India, and probably its best known global personality, Mahatma Gandhi, said – “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”

However, It could be argued in today’s world that the all important C word is being replaced with another C word – Context. So, now, Context is king – mainly, because Context is what allows an organization to understand its (first C word) Customer better.

We as prospects, shoppers, switchers; movie goers, diners, Home owners, Business people, car drivers, facebook users, are today cumulatively generating Yottabytes (10^24) of data, which is going to increase very soon to Brontobytes (10^27)! Intelligent organisations are (or atleast are thinking of, and if not, then should be thinking of) investing in technology, infrastructure and analytic decision processes to use this data for higher revenue generation as well as cost optimization. Context, the accumulated historical data generated by people, places, and things, is almost a mandatory component of these analytic processes.

In simple, laymen terms – context makes up the circumstances in which an event or an idea is set, and that therefore is what makes something clearer to you —

– Does listening to a special song make you think of a special person or a special situation? That’s context! (As “The way you look tonight” was Julia Roberts’ and Dermot Mulroney’s “special song” in My Best Friend’s Wedding)

– Think of nursery rhymes – when you delve deep into them or take them out of context of being repeatable pieces of music for kids, they are fairly disturbing! (Jack broke his crown? Humpty couldn’t be put back again? Whoaaa!!!)

For the traditional marketing folks, context analytics is a bit similar to behavioural + psychographic segmentation in the good ole fashioned days, and not just demographic – so, you add parameters of date/ time/ purchase event/ mood/ place/ company/ actions/ attitudes/ usage etc., and layer them in – to create better profiles of people/ events/ data….

When you marry Context with Data, you trigger unique, new relationships between hitherto unrelated data points – this helps you derive trends and patterns – and generates new business opportunities. Context makes data become richer, more meaningful. Someone very famously once said “Context is worth 80 IQ points”

Conversely, without Context, business conclusions might be flawed. It’s the old analogy of “knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad”

So, is data and context a marriage made in heaven?

I would say, it is certainly high on the “will not make the divorce courts within the next 6 months – ok, 2 years” side of the coin, but, like all relationships, it needs work! One of the thing that contextual analytics ends up doing, counter intuitively, is still not giving the whole picture (A bit like the blind men and elephant story – where, depending on CONTEXT, each blind man ascribed a different name to the elephant – thus describing a piece part of it, but no one realized it was an elephant)

blind men elephant relativity

So, what then is the secret sauce required to turn this marriage into one made in heaven?

a) Disruptive Discovery: An inherent flaw in most predictive analytics algorithms – whether based on big data or not, is that their results are incremental – because what you know/ what has happened/ inbuilt assumptions – i.e., CONTEXT are what predict the future, they will to a certain extent pre-determine the outcome of the prediction.

As a friend said, facebook always recommends Metallica to me when because like Iron Maiden – it doesn’t realize that I also like Jazz! Similarly, Amazon always shows me more Nora Roberts – as I bought some romance once, and leaves a huge opportunity gap because it doesn’t realize that I have bought say a Khaled Hosseini elsewhere!

Not sure how many of you read this hilarious piece that was circulating recently on how “liking” everything on facebook for 2 days turned the news feed into a strange animal! Much recommended for an empathetic laugh

A good case study in how pre ordained behaviors, or context, or for that matter assumptions, to a certain extent skew actual results can be read here (a pithy commentary on Windows 8’s failure)

b) Response Timeliness: This one again is a bit counter intuitive. Experts and proponents of context analytics would say – but PART of context is the real time nature of the tracking! One is continuously refreshing data with newer and newer inputs, that turns the context richer and richer that then gives better and better outputs — and on and on and on.

The tragedy, however, is that while most organisations are (or atleast are thinking of, or if not, then should be thinking of) collecting and processing data on a real time basis, the RESPONSE to a lot of this data is NOT real time – why? Mainly because it CANNOT be! They don’t have the capabilities – this is the classical bottleneck/ the Blackwell’s limiting factor/ the critical path in the Gantt chart!

As a parent, I realized very early on that the concept of “quality time” that was created to essentially rationalize lack of adequate time spent with kids by working parents was a lot of bs. It fell into shambles the minute my tearful 1 ½ year old asked me – “when I fell down and was bleeding so much, where were you”!!

As business people, we also know the value of being at the right place at the right time. This time criticality determines a lot of what we do – how we behave as consumers – what time we eat, when we exercise, when we buy… – but also how we plan say marketing promotions, or budget calendars, or for that matter the pitch to the HR guy for a raise!

As one of my fav musicians George Harrison said:
“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.”

What this then means in the big data world is, that when a customer sends out data – you translate it into a signal/ information/ wisdom – and then you jolly well figure out a way to respond to it at the time that the signal is asking for a response! May be immediately, may be a few days later – but, figure it out! Use the context, to not only tell you parts of the elephant, but the whole mammoth! So, its not only to find out what you can sell to the customer and where – but when/ and how quickly to lend a sympathetic ear/ when to fix a broken washing machine or a crashed site!!

Unless you can gear up your response mechanism to be time dynamic and responsive, all that context married to your data – is going to —- to use the marriage analogy – not produce a baby!!!

c) The Human Touch – AI, the Internet of Things and all automation notwithstanding, atleast for now, we humans are just wired to need human intervention

a. This is because technology is still flawed – Watson notwithstanding, most humans actually instinctively and judgementally can scan a wide breadth of data and more or less give reasonably accurate judgements – after all, that is what experience and seniority lend to a man.

b.Man is a social animal after all – most of us want, nay need, human contact – a good case is customer service. Automated responses just don’t cut it for many – they want to talk to a real person, the more serious the issue, the higher the need for human contact (maybe shortly that “real person” will also be a drone, but that’s besides the point).

After all, how else but due to a human would you see these 2 really delightful examples of ‘customer service” interactions – one by a Netflix representative, and this one by an amazon guy.

Make no mistakes, human beings could just as easily make bad mistakes – like seen in this http://www.theverge.com/2014/7/15/5901057/comcast-call-cancel-service-ryan-block!

But, by and large, if one could only afford it, human beings would be the best response mechanism.

All in all, its great to see the progress made due to big data and the Internet of Things etc, but the organization who can take the best of the context plus data marriage, and add the disruption, the time criticality and the human interface element would be the one on which I would put my money!

All Hail The New KPI Metric: SOS (Share of Screen)

9 Sep

som sov Credit

Back in the days of yore, we all ran after this big metric – its the one that decided supremacy in the market, was an indicator of your competitive strength, was the clue to your competitor’s revenue and profit – was all important in fact. This was Market Share. Battles were won and lost, careers made and shattered, increments and bonuses decided on the basis of the measly decimal points that audit reports showed one had garnered over previous quarters/ years. Oh btw, one ALWAYS debated audited MS figures – since your own calculations ALWAYS showed yours higher than your competitors’!

On the media front, which was more output related always (as opposed to outcome – some would argue it’s still that way), the ruling metric was Share of Voice (SOV) – this was how many GRPs you had gained as opposed to your competitors (in the PR world, the equivalent was impressions/ mentions). So, was a measure of reach/ frequency and negotiation skills.

On Screen Apps

On Screen Apps

Credit

But, in today’s mobile first / m-commerce world, these are arguably outdated figures to chase – what matters is what “Share of Screen” or SOS you have received – in other words,
– Was your app downloaded or not
– If yes, how often is it being used
– For what periods of time is it being used
– In comparison, if your competitor’s app being used more?
– Or, as in the case of retailers, is an aggregator/ pure e commerce app like amazon/ Flipkart being used instead of yours?

(Look at how Target’s Cartwheel app is helping the retailer recover a fair amount of ground it has lost of late)

Fitting actually, that Amazon called its live customer service on demand app button “Mayday” – after all, its guaranteeing Amazon higher SOS!

What’s special about Nine – for my “Just short of double digit Niner”

6 Sep

Happy Birthday

Any parent of 2 children knows that the younger one is always “catching up”. As my cousin said, he/ she has never known a 100% world – one where 100% of parents’ attention/ 100% of household resources – which include time, toys, food, books, whatever are focussed on him/ her…So, the younger ones grow like weeds – confident that because their parents have “been there/ done that”, they are far more chilled out, but also therefore less gullible, and less generous.

This implies naturally that they are far more fiercely competitive than the older ones will ever get – after all, they are ALWAYS competing for the lion’s share of the 100%!

So, BECAUSE I wrote a blog post for my older daughter on her 13th birthday (in my mind, it was a milestone – and also she had badgered me no end about writing something-ANYthing! for kids her age), I am now writing one for the younger daughter – it will probably also appeal to her more, since she is a trivia accumulator, AND, she finally has her own email account (her wish list birthday gift!) , so she can actually read this!

Here you go, Achchu:

Language/ Literature/ Fiction:

Some well known sayings/ phrases:

“A cat has nine lives” : The story about this goes like this – A very hungry cat entered a house one day and found a plate of nine fish that were going to be eaten for dinner by the nine starving children who lived there. The cat was feeling a little selfish that day and ate up all of the fish in nine quick bites. With no food on the table, the nine starving children died of hunger the very next day, along with the cat who died from eating WAY too much. When the cat went up to heaven and spoke with God, God was so angry with the cat that he threw him out of heaven and made him fall for nine days all the way back to earth. To this day, the cat still holds the nine lives of the starving children in his belly, which is why he must die nine different times before he will stay dead. Apparently, the highest recorded fall survived by a cat is 45 stories! That’s something, huh?

– “A stitch in time saves Nine” – A timely effort will prevent more work later. So, always remember to show Tulasi didi your torn clothes/ bags :)

– The expression “to the nines means” to the highest degree. Someone dressed “to the nines” is dressed up as much as they can be (See, this is what N means when she says you have to be dressed to the nines to go eat at Via Milano!”)

– “On cloud nine” means happy, euphoric or `high': The phrase came into use in the 1950s from a term used by the US Weather Bureau. For the meteorologists Cloud Nine is cumulo-nimbus cloud at a height of 10 km, which is high even by the standard of clouds. (By the way, Ben was born at a place called Cloud9 :) )

The “whole nine yards” has a few possible origins, but a common thought of it’s origin is that tailors use nine yards of material to make top quality suits.

Interesting language related trivia

(one of it is also related to dogs so should make you happy!):

– The word “K-9” pronounces the same as canine and is used in many U.S. police departments to denote the police dog unit. Despite not sounding like the translation of the word canine in other languages, many police and military units around the world use the same designation.

– “Redivider” with nine letters is the longest palindromic word in the English language. A palindromic word has the same sequence of letters backwards or forwards.

– Something on grammar – (so Anna ma’am won’t be tooo unhappy with you) – The language includes, grammatically, nine parts: Noun, Pronoun, Article, Verb, Adjective, Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction, and the Interjection

Now fiction:

vanished prince

In your maybe all time favourite author’s (mine too) books, the 9th book in the Five Find Outer series was Vanished Prince, and in the Famous Five was Five Fall Into Adventure – enjoy :

In your current favourite series, the interesting sounding platform in King’s Cross (that now actually exists btw – we have to go see it this summer), is, ofcourse …9¾!

Nine_and_three_quarters

In your sister’s favourite series, The LOTR, there are nine Rings of power given to men, and consequently, nine ringwraiths. Additionally, The Fellowship of the Ring consists of nine companions, representing the free races and also as a positive mirror of the nine ringwraiths

In possibly your next favourite series, Percy Jackson, you will see that – It takes nine days (for an anvil) to fall from heaven to earth, and nine more to fall from earth to Tartarus—a place of torment in the underworld (and where Percy was stuck with Annabeth for a while in the last book)

But in the one that will probably come after, (the Hunger Games series), District 9 is the least spoken about district. The only hint given that District 9’s industry was grain is that it is said that District 9 has lots of factories. In the 75th Hunger Games, District 9 was one of the two districts to have both tributes killed on the first day.

Enough of English. Now some other languages

– In French the word neuf means both nine and new. (This you should know by now, given Anais ma’am’s hard work with you!)

– In German, the words for nine and new are neun and neu, and in Spanish, nueve and nuevo. As you count and reach nine, you know you are about to make a new start. (So, yes, make a new start on being nice to your sister :) )

Some mythology/ religion:

Nine (九 pinyin jiǔ) is considered a good number in Chinese culture because it sounds the same as the word “longlasting” (久 pinyin jiǔ)

– Interestingly however, the Japanese consider nine to be unlucky because in Japanese the word for nine sounds similar to the word for “pain” or “distress” (苦, kyū)

– Nine is strongly associated with the Chinese dragon, a symbol of magic and power. There are nine forms of the dragon, it is described in terms of nine attributes, and it has nine children. It has 117 scales – 81 yang (masculine, heavenly) and 36 yin (feminine, earthly). All three numbers are multiples of 9 (9×13=117, 9×9=81, 9×4=36) as well as having the same digital root of 9.

– The nine Muses in Greek mythology are Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (erotic poetry), Euterpe (lyric poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (song), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy). (This you should remember from your school play, huh?)

– The number 9 is revered in Hinduism and considered a complete, perfected and divine number because it represents the end of a cycle in the decimal system, which originated from the Indian subcontinent as early as 3000 BC.

– In Buddhism, Gautama Buddha , was believed to have nine virtues, which he was (1) Accomplished, (2) Perfectly Enlightened, (3) Endowed with knowledge and Conduct or Practice, (4) Well-gone or Well-spoken, (5) the Knower of worlds, (6) the Guide Unsurpassed of men to be tamed, (7) the Teacher of gods and men, (8) Enlightened, and (9) Blessed. Important Buddhist rituals usually involve nine monks.

– Ramadan, the month of fasting and prayer, is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar

– In Egyptian mythology, there are nine major gods and goddesses. The ancient Egyptians believed that a person had to earn the right to enter the afterlife. Before an individual could pass into the next realm, nine great gods known collectively as the enneagon had to judge his worthiness.

– Nailed on the cross, Jesus Christ expires at the ninth hour. Jesus appears nine times to his disciples and apostles after his resurrection. The nine spiritual gifts of God enumerated by saint Paul: wisdom, knowledge, faith, gift of healing, to operate miracles, prophecy, distinguishing spirits, to speak in different kinds of tongues and the gift to interpret them. Saint Paul enumerates also nine fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Basically all these are good things you should do)

– Even in Nepali (yayyy Tulasi didi!) There are nine “Dharmas”, books constituting the Nepal Bible.

I tried to keep it towards the end, given your current (non) love for it ☺, but one couldn’t avoid it for ever!

So, Math (and, actually, as you know already, nineis almost a magical number!):

– A polygon with nine sides is called a nonagon or enneagon. A group of nine of anything is called an ennead.

– If you multiply nine by any natural number, and repeatedly add the digits of the answer until it is just one digit, you will end up with nine:
• 2 × 9 = 18 (1 + 8 = 9)
• 3 × 9 = 27 (2 + 7 = 9)
• 9 × 9 = 81 (8 + 1 = 9)
• 121 × 9 = 1089 (1 + 0 + 8 + 9 = 18; 1 + 8 = 9)
• 234 × 9 = 2106 (2 + 1 + 0 + 6 = 9)
• 578329 × 9 = 5204961 (5 + 2 + 0 + 4 + 9 + 6 + 1 = 27; 2 + 7 = 9)
• 482729235601 × 9 = 4344563120409 (4 + 3 + 4 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 0 + 4 + 0 + 9 = 45; 4 + 5 = 9)

– There are other interesting patterns involving multiples of nine:
• 12345679 x 9 = 111111111
• 12345679 x 18 = 222222222
• 12345679 x 81 = 999999999

– The sum of the digits of the number added to 9 is always equal to the sum of the digits of the result. Take any four digit number and try the trick. Ex: 9 + 17 = 26. 1 + 7 = 8 & 2 + 6 = 8

– 9 is the maximum number of cubes that are needed to sum to any positive integer.

– It is easy to work out whether a number is exactly divisible by 9. This is the same as asking whether a number is in the “9 times table”. All you have to do is add up its digits. If the answer is more than one digit long, you add up the digits again, and go on doing this, until you are left with a single digit. If this single digit is 9 then the original number was divisible by 9.
For example, is 781236 divisible by 9? Adding up its digits 7 + 8 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 6 = 27, and adding again 2 + 7 = 9. And because the answer is 9, the original number must be divisible by 9.

– Any random number (e.g 35967930) when arranged with its integers in a descending order (i.e. 99765330) and subtracted from it the reverse number with rearranged integers in an ascending order ( i.e 03356799) the resulting subtraction (i.e. 96408531) individual integers when added (i.e 36) leads to a multiple of number 9

Examples:

2 Digit Numbers: 10-01 = 9 (9X1); 21-12 = 9; 32-23 = 9; 43-34 = 9; 54-45 = 9; 65-56 = 9; 76-67 = 9; 87-78 = 9; 98-89 = 9;

3 Digit Numbers: 210-012 = 198 (1+9+8 = 18 = 9X2; 321-123 = 198; 432-234 = 198; 543-345 = 198; 654-456 = 198; 765-567 = 198; 876-678 = 198; 987-789 = 198;

4 Digit Numbers: 3210-0123 = 3087 (3+0+8+7 = 18 = 9X2); 4321-1234 = 3087; 5432-2345 = 3087; 6543-3456 = 3087; 7654-4567 = 3087; 8765-5678 = 3087; 9876-6789 = 3087;

5 digit Numbers: 43210-01234 = 41976 (4+1+9+7+6 = 27 = 9X3); 54321-12345 = 41976; 65432-23456 = 41976; 76543-34567 = 41976; 87654-45678 = 41976; 98765-56789 = 41976;

and so on

– On a numeric keypad or calculator, the numbers from left to right and top to bottom are…

789 – row 1, 456 – row 2, 123 – row 3

If you add up the totals of each row you get… row1 is 7 + 8 + 9 =24, row2 is 4 + 5 + 6 =15, row3 is 1 + 2 + 3 =6 The difference between each sum is 9. (24 – 15 = 9 or 15 – 6 = 9)

– There are 360 degrees in a circle. 3 + 6 + 0 = 9.

Some random facts (some of them are – yes, ANOTHER (non) favourite subject, THEME!)

– Only about one ninth of the mass of an iceberg is visible above the water. Nearly all its bulk remains hidden beneath the surface. (that’s what sunk the Titanic – you DO know that song, right?)

– Before 2006 (when Pluto was officially designated as a non-planet), there were nine planets in the solar system.

– A human pregnancy normally lasts nine months – i.e., you were inside my tummy for nine months – AND you were a really restless baby! (ofcourse!)

– The 9 of diamonds – the playing card – is sometimes called the Curse of Scotland.

Nine judges sit on the India as well as the United States Supreme Court.

Nine Eleven is the day of the attacks on the World Trade Center, New York, USA (Odai was less than a year old then, and nana was having a big heart operation!)

Nine months is the average number of months per school year that most primary and secondary students are required to attend. Basically, achchu, you guys get to party all the time!

– A standard work day of 9 to 5 begins at 9 a.m. (duh! But for ma and babba, it started earlier and ended MUCH later, huh?)

– In astrology, the ninth sign of the Zodiac is Sagittarius, identified by the Greeks as a centaur. Centaurs are magical creatures known for their skills as archers, philosophers, and predictors of the future.

OK, this should make you happy again! Music:

– In classical music the curse of the ninth refers to the superstition that a composer who writes a ninth symphony will die soon. Beethoven, who left his Tenth Symphony unfinished, is regarded by the superstition as the first victim of the curse.

– The Beatles released a song called “Revolution 9“; its principle vocal feature is a voice repeating, “Number nine…number nine…number nine…” . John Lennon, the primary composer of “Revolution 9″, (yeah, he’s the dude who composed and sang “Imagine”) also released a solo recording entitled “#9 Dream”. The Beatles also released a song called “One After 909″. Lennon is known to have felt a connection with the number 9. Both he and his son, Sean were born on October 9th. Also, John died on the 9th (UK Time).

OK, I can see you getting tired now, so, to end it all, here is a game for two players which uses nine coins.

Arrange the coins in a circle. The players take turns and can remove either one coin or two coins which are next to each other. The winner is the player who picks up the last coin.

Go play it with R, N, S — and, have a rollicking year!

Ok, I’m convinced – technology alone can’t do customer service!

5 Sep
Vimbar Promo

Vimbar Promo

I am a big proponent of technology. By education, then a large-ish part of work, and ofcourse just by being a modern urban consumer, I interact with and appreciate it all the time. Having said that, there are times when I wish that it were possible to find that optimal mix of “human” vs “technology” in our day to day dealings.

In an earlier post, I had actually argued that one needs better technology to enable better customer service. This one is almost a contradiction.

I don’t do rant posts generally. This one may look like a rant – and it’s not really (not high enough stakes I guess), it’s just disappointment that even a company I really like and admire, with a winner promo, gets the “last mile” fulfilment wrong! :( (See another earlier post on Customer Service and man vs. machine, which has another example of last mile not working)

Background: A popular dishwash brand recently ran a promo – recognising that dishwashing in India is generally done by domestic helpers, who all now have prepaid mobile phones (India has anywhere from 3/4 of a billion to 900 million mobile subscriptions – roughly 70 – 75% of total pop, and 95% of these are pre-paid). The promo essentially offered 10/- mobile recharge – with varying degrees of certainty, depending on pack sizes. So, the 10/- bar had 1 in 3 probability of winning, and the larger ones had everyone winning.

I picked this up, and the delight on both my helpers’ faces when I explained the scheme to them was to be seen to be believed! They got very excited and ripped open one of the 12 packs I had bought after understanding from me how the scheme worked. They turned the wrapper inside out/ left and right/ asked me to do the same….no unique code anywhere! Ripped open a couple more packs – same result. Big disappointment! So, I got the consumer care mail id from the pack, and wrote in my problem. First time ever, actually! The mail trail post that is self explanatory!

Happy Consumers

Happy Consumers

August 29, 2014 9:02:58 AM:
ME:
Hi,
I bought the 10/- vim bar which showed the 10/- recharge scheme. Bought 12 – thinking would give it to my domestic help.
She got HUGELY excited – so its a cool scheme :) But, we couldn’t find the code – the pack said, Find code inside and then call the number. But, scratching the pack doesnt reveal a number – there is no number embossed on the bar itself (which is what I had expected), and there isnt anything printed on the inside of the pack – neither was there any slip or something with the number.
Would you please let me know where the number is supposed to be? I guess I can go to a retailer to find out – but since I shop most often at a supermarket, not sure the sales guys will know abt it…
THanks much
Regards

August 29, 2014 9:16:17
ME: (In response to very prompt email that came from care center)
Given below
On Aug 29, 2014, at 9:03 AM, wrote:
Dear Consumer,
Thank you for contacting the Levercare team. Your query is important to us and will be dealt with one of our team member within the next 48 hours. Kindly note your reference number 4001957190 as an acknowledgement of your email and quote this for all further communications.
If your query is related to one of our product, we request you to provide us with the below details such that we can help resolve the query better.

1) Name with Surname : Sangita Joshi
2) Contact Details (mobile / land line) : xxxyyyy
3) Complete Address : mmmnnn
4) Product Details (name, variant & size) : Vim Bar – 10/-
5) Batch Code of the Product (number stamped on the back / base of the product) : xxxyyyy
6) With a full description of your query: I bought the 10/- vim bar which showed the 10/- recharge scheme.
Bought 6 – thinking would give it to my domestic help……

September 1, 2014 3:17:01 PM
ME again, in response to email in string below!
Doesn’t look like you have read the actual query :(
On Aug 30, 2014, at 5:08 PM, wrote:

Dear Sir/Madam,
Thank you for contacting Consumer Care cell of Hindustan Unilever Limited.
Kindly provide me the following details to log your complain:
Your Mobile Number :
Missed Call number dialled :
Date & Time of Entry :
Mobile Number Portability :
Service Provider :

THEM:
September 3, 2014 4:46:29 PM
Dear Sangita,
Thank you for contacting Consumer Care cell of Hindustan Unilever Limited.
To help us investigate this matter further, we need this information from you. Could you please email us back with the following information?
Your Mobile Number :
Missed Call number dialled :
Date & Time of Entry :
Mobile Number Portability :
Service Provider :

ME: No action! What do you expect! It looked like getting into an endless loop, and I don’t really have the desire or the time to keep following up.

Lesson learnt: Automation will only achieve so much – you need at some point in time to escalate to the next level, which I assume is actual – human – people! (To be fair to the guys, maybe their business logic does escalate – but after another round of complaints – I don’t know/ am not willing to find out!)

The underlying business issue here is that of correct segmentation/ tiering of the customer – which then allows the organisation to respond to the customers per importance/ urgency. It’s the criticality vs. doability matrix. So, at first level, assign the cheaper technology options, but build in intelligence (context) and then response mechansims such that you are able to identify the increased attention (or not) that you need to provide the customer. In absence of this, you have disappointment/ disillusionment, maybe disinterest in future purchases! (I will for sure never pick up the 12 bars I did together – and my helpers may even switch brands the next time they go grocery shopping for me!)

I think great recent examples of human aided (what else, roll eyes…) customer service were as seen by Amazon and Netflix ! Truly commendable!

My ex business partner Debjani Deb has recently built this really cool product that does exactly the above – but for in mobile app support! Her company ZineOne essentially tiers app users by context and criticality, and helps organisations therefore offer appropriate levels of customer service to their customers. (Think how frustrating it is in the mobile app world, when you are looking to undertake a real time transaction, say book movie tickets HERE and NOW, and have the app crash on you! If you are stuck in a traffic jam just outside the movie hall, you NEED to purchase that ticket RIGHT THEN! A customer service response even 3 hours later will not help you, AND will lose revenue for the movie company! ZineOne’s product helps the booking app detect that your situation is critical and needs escalation – thus improving overall customer experience! Love it!)

Coming back to my slower/ less time critical Packaged Goods industry, my helper did find the unique code in another bar, called the number, (see, I really liked that the company had thought enough about their target audience to say “give missed call, and you will get a call back!”) got the return call, answered the survey, AND found out that she was the unlucky 66%. This end of the fulfillment was really nicely done – she loved the importance of receiving the call, of punching out numbers for the survey and the ease of the whole exercise.

So, the “marketing/ sales promotion” guys had done their job well – the customer care people just didn’t get their act together quickly enough!

Another common organisational anomaly!

As for me, I ended up buying some recharges for my 2 girls just to get them over their disappointment – so, no big deal :)

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