Archive for December, 2010

Improvisation the Heart of Innovation

December 28, 2010

This video shows the great master, Ravi Shankar, at work. Notice how with the change of locale the music or the melody changes instantly. When in India (depicted by the famous Taj Mahal) the melody has a distinct ‘Indianess’ about it. But as soon as the locale changes to China the melody highlight strains of typical Chinese melody. Again the mood changes with changes in nature and times of the day. Isn’t is quite remarkable that while the tune (or raga as it is called in India) remains just the same for every situation the melody changes to reflect the master’s feelings or his responses to the changes in the locale, mood, timings etc.

This is a brilliant piece of music or innovative music at its best. But this is what the Ravi Shankar calls improvisation or instant improvisation. Such instant improvisation is nothing but human responses to his/her situations and environment. Improvisations reflect human feelings at that particular moment in time. 

This helps us to understand innovation much better. The other name for it would be improvisation or a response to a given situation.

There would be many ways to understand this response. But one of the easiest would be — ‘going with the flow’ — responding to the feelings the situation evokes in us.

But that is tricky business. Much more tricky than what we might care to imagine. It is tricky to feel and stay in the present. This is because our feelings can take us back to the past experiences through our memories or transport us quickly to a future that is yet to be born through unbridled imagination, which is again distorted memory. Both are bad for us. The risky balancing act is to stay with the feelings and be intuitive about it without falling back on memory or false imagination. That is a risky tight rope walking. But that is what all masters of their games have mastered. 

For example, Sachin Tendulkar in cricket from whom rival captains have a hard time setting a field to hold him down by closing gaps.

Or take Ravi Shankar, the musician, for whom feelings flow from the depths of intuition.

Or the World chess champion Viswanand Anand who invariably finds a gap in the strongest armour of his opponents.

Or Michel Angelo who ‘saw’ entrapped figures trapped in uncut stones waiting to be freed by his hands. 

There is one thing that is common to all of them and one thing that sets them apart. The common thing is they all intuitively find the gaps or the existing imperfections in the present moment with their uninhabited awareness. They improvise their games based on those gaps or existing imperfections in the most intuitive manner — no copy book styles for them. They have learned the rules of their games so well that they now break them with impunity.  

And what sets them apart? They apply the same principle in whatever game they have chosen to play. The games differ but the principle does not.

They are constantly responding to the existing ‘gaps’ or ‘imperfections’ by understanding and balancing numerous resistances the system offers. They intuitively sense these resistance and respond through improvisations accordingly. They seem to see the parts and the wholes at the same time within the same space.

This is what innovation is all about.

The Japanese have a name for it. They call it Wabi -Sabi, which means understand the imperfection in a given situation and improve upon it to make it stronger and more reliable.

The Chinese have a name for it. They call it Shan Zhai, which originally means balancing numerous resistances, see what is possible to be done cheap and effectively, start small and then grow in strength.

The Indians have a name for it. They call it Juggard, which means understand what is to be done, start with whatever is available at hand, go with the flow and build up over time.

These are all present moment responses to the feelings evoked. That to me is the best way to harness ‘uncertainty’ that clouds our lives.

Being in touch with one’s feelings without distortion of any kind is being in touch with one’s essential nature.

Or as Gregory Bateson said, “When man lost touch with nature, he lost touch with himself”

That touch has a magical creativity about it. It is innovation through improvisation born out of intuitive feelings.

This is the only way to create a good sustainable future for all since “The future is never empty, never a blank space to be filled with the output of human activity. It is already colonized by what the past and present have sent to it.” (Fry 1999)

How do we develop that is the question?

Understanding that involves deep learning.

And having an answer would be nothing short of ‘Know Thyself’. That is living in freedom with heads held high.





Do we recognize talent in unexpected contexts? #in

December 27, 2010

This was an wonderful experiment that demonstrated how poor our perception of the present moment could be. And how easy it is to miss out on spotting uniqueness and talent in unexpected contexts.

Joshua Bell is a celebrated violinist of the world. His shows are always sold out for an average cost of $100 per seat.

In this experiment he played 6 of the most beautiful and intricate Bach pieces for 45 minutes with a violin worth $3.5 million at a metro station and only 6 people stopped for a while to listen to him and 20 threw in a total of $32 dollars for him to pick up at the end of the recital. There were none to stand and applaud and give him a standing ovation.

However small children of the age of three wanted to stop by and listen to him but their parents would not allow that and kept dragging them away while they kept turning their heads back to listen.

This is a beautiful story that shows how inattentive we are to the present moment and how we even ignore gems lying around us. We fail to recognize talent. We fail to recognize opportunities. We fail to appreciate others. We fail to discover ourselves. We are simply too preoccupied.

If only we were a bit less preoccupied with the useless burden of thoughts and memories of so many other things the world might be a wonderful place to live in and our lives might have been a little better.

But only if…

Amplify’d from
Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station (on Jan. 12, 2007) was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an appropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?



Developing a Design Mind – Design Thinking

December 27, 2010
An Introduction To Indian Music by Ravi Shankar  
Download now or listen on posterous

01 – An Introduction To Indian Music.MP3 (5945 KB)

This is a fine introduction to Indian Classical Music (around 4 mins of audio) by none other than Pandit Ravi Shankar, the sitar maestro.

The mot important characteristics are the following:

a) Improvisation
b) Going with the flow
c) Allowing others to have their say
d) Striking a natural conversation or dialog is the key (instruments talk to each other)
e) Can only be enjoyed with an open and relaxed mind
f) Divided into 3 distinct parts — free improvisation, dialog and convergence to a climax.
g) Primarily aimed as a tool for self development both for the players and the listeners

Reflecting on this I think appreciation and immersion into Indian Classical music certainly develop a design mind capable of Design Thinking since this is all about developing a design through doing and instant improvisation.

Hope you would find it interesting if not intriguing.

Vibration Case Study 3

December 27, 2010
Download now or preview on posterous

3_brg_outer.pdf (71 KB)

This is a part of the ongoing online interactive course that we conduct through social media platforms. The forum has an interesting name — Mahakumbh of Technical Creativity. In India it is believed that a dip in the confluence of the three rivers (Ganges, Yamuna and the invisible Swarswati) known as the Kumbh, purifies anyone and helps one in the difficult journey towards enlightenment. The Mahakumbh is held once every 12 years. The significance is noteworthy. 

Ganges stands for the power to heal – physically, mentally and spiritually.

Yamuna stands for the power to purify the world through love

Saraswati stands for the power of knowledge

No wonder the combination of the three makes a potent mixture worth all the admiration. If enlightenment can't be obtained through the help of these three powerful aids then what else can bring forth enlightenment? I wonder.

The significance of the 12 years must also not be lost on us. Today in modern language it is known as the 'Tipping Point', which signifies that it takes around 10,000 hours or more of devoted practice for anyone to reach an extremely high level of excellence. Roughly translated into years this figure would be anywhere between 10 to 14 years where the average being 12 years.

So Mahakumbh symbolically stands for the whole thing — heal thyself, purify the world through love and become enlightened through the power of knowledge and devoted practice. Such practice is aided through meaningful dialogs, deep interactions, meetings and a host of other exciting things. 

Other than the interesting name the group also has very interesting members. And the members have a certain characteristic — they are all bold and courageous and they all live by the following credo:

*Don't believe in anything simply because we have heard it somewhere; don't believe in rumors or things followed or spoken by many; don't believe anything written in books or spoken by authorities, teachers or elders or believe and follow traditions just because these are handed down through generations. Only after keen observation and critical examination when we find anything that agrees to our reason and commonsense and find it good and beneficial to one and all we would not only accept it wholeheartedly but also live up to it.'

That undoubtedly needs a lot of boldness, free and open spirit.

The following questions only help to train our minds towards that purpose — understanding and insights come only after critical observation and through examination.

1.  What did the analyst do when he understood that historical vibration data or trends were not available for this piece of equipment?

2.  Why did he make those decisions?

3.  Had he known the trends what changes he would have made in the decisions and why?

4.  How can you justify the selection of the frequency bandwidth of 2000Hz? What is the basis of such judgment?

5.  Why the highest overall reading appeared in the horizontal direction of the motor NDE?

6.  Why do you think the most informative signature was found in the axial direction?

7.  Other than using the formula how else do you think the analyst could have deduced that the problem was with the outer race?

8.  Would the analyst have done better by paying attention to something else and correcting that problem?

You can also be a part of it and leave your responses in the comment box. We can still have an interesting dialog.


We acknowledge the help of AV Technology, UK for sharing this case study for in-depth learning through discussions and dialogues (not debates).

In Search of Fame!

December 24, 2010

Mr. Pogolal De, CEO of a public limited company, is currently busy shopping for new clothes. After all he has to look at his best at the prize giving ceremony.   He has been invited by a national daily based at Mumbai, as a nominee for their annual function. Every year the newspaper felicitates the best CEOs who have demonstrated exemplary contribution in their field of work. The newspaper also had a TV channel and they had regularly started beaming the prelude and promos of the “much awaited awards function”.

Mr. De is excited and so is his small family consisting of his two sons and almost dwarfed rather midget wife. “Dwarfed” in the sense that she is only 4’8” tall and does not in any way match the stature of the nearly 6’ tall Mr. De. The Des have become “NRB” meaning “Non resident Bengalis”. They have adopted the local custom and tradition. Sometimes “Pogo “as affectionately called by his proud mother, sits with an “esraj” or listen to the songs of Rabindra Nath Tagore. “You should not forget your roots”, he often tells his sons, but who cares.

Mr. De is a Chartered Accountant by profession. He always tries to speak Queens’ English but unfortunately his “roots” doesn’t allow him to copy the immaculate intonation of Queen’s English. After hopping many a company he finally descended on a steel company. His bosses are happy as he is giving results. And what exemplary contribution Mr.Pogolal De had done as a CEO? As per the prelude of the TV channel—- Mr. Pogolal De had conceived and executed the idea of connecting the plant to the harbour by building a bridge thereby saving lot of money for the company. Imagine what the company engineers were doing?

Pogo and his family came to Kolkata for the big day a well twenty days in advance. It was more like athletes coming for the Olympics well before time so as to acclimatize themselves for the biggest sporting event. Pogo again went for a shopping spree. He and his sons brought Kurtas; wife brought traditional Bengali “Dhakai Jamdani” saris.  They would have to look and feel like true Bengalis at the show.  This is what they thought would win them some brownie points. Pogo’s proud mother started campaigning for his son well in advance The newspaper had designed a SMS voting system whereby the nominee who garnered the maximum number of votes would win the “coveted” prize. The people will vote for the “greatest CEO“of India.

The D-day arrived. All the action was captured “live” on TV. Mr. Pogolal De uttered something which common people couldn’t decipher and comprehend at all. After all common people seldom understand Management jargon. So, Pogo narrowly missed the mark. He just got a plaque and a chance to meet some “extremely beautiful” film and TV actresses. Next morning, Pogo was roaming in the local market only hoping someone will recognize him and start a conversation but no one came forward.  His childhood friends intentionally avoided him. Pogo had overtaken them in every sphere but what has he done for them and the unemployed youth of his locality. With a heavy heart Pogo boarded the flight back to his adopted home.

Many awards are conferred by government agencies, different institutions and companies which make a mockery of the whole thing. People strive to get awards, which help them to enhance their social status and fame. Liberal doling out of awards to the wrong people robs the very purpose of these awards. The best example is Dr. Chitranjan S. Ranawat who did a knee operation on Atal Behari Vajpai — the then Prime Minister of India and immediately gets a Padma Bhushan award. He was not awarded before for his services in the field of medicine. Similarly, cash awards are given to those employees who are close to their bosses. This sends a wrong signal to deserving individuals who really toil and sacrifice their lives often neglecting their families for the organization.

Organizations exhibit the same zeal in gunning for this award and that!

They are in the mad Search for Fame not prepared to work silently In Search of Excellence.


Sitendu De is the author of this post.

To be or Not to be Motivated

December 20, 2010

Two days back we were conducting a program on ‘Motivation and Team building’ for group of first line officers of an electronic component manufacturing company.

After inauguration of the course, with top managers still there to monitor, I asked the participants a simple question, ‘How many of you are motivated at work?’ In a second all hands shot up in the air as if it were a reflex action. I just couldn’t believe this. It was simply too good to be true. The next question naturally followed, “Why then do you think management selected you to attend a course on motivation and team building?”  Answers varied but the one that struck me most was ‘You have come to teach us how to be motivated. So we are in to listen to the tricks of being more motivated.’

Oh my God! ‘Teach’ motivation; ‘Tricks of being more motivated;’ did I hear correctly?

The top managers left the training hall happy with the belief — the training has taken off well and was ‘interactive’. This was all they wanted to monitor.  

Long after the ice was broken and transformed into flowing water I put the question again, “How many of you are really motivated at work?” This time there was no show of hands.

Surprised, I queried, ‘What happened?’

Then one by one they opened up:

“To tell the truth, I just don’t feel like leaving my bed to come to office.”

“I have been working here for the past 16 years. None ever appreciated me or my work.”

“I think I am stuck with a stupid job. My bosses don’t believe that I am capable of doing something much better.”

“The pay I get is insufficient to take care of my child’s education in good schools’

And it went on and on….

‘So why did you say that you all were very motivated?’

‘We just pretended because the bosses were around. We told them what they would like to hear. Otherwise they would take it out on us during performance appraisal review.’

Are bosses/managers/leaders listening?

Can anyone remain motivated in an environment of fear or in an environment that sucks?

Vibration Engineer and the Body

December 20, 2010
I am constantly in awe of the beauty and design of our human body. It never ever fails to surprise me. It tells me almost everything I need to know for my survival and sense-making of the world around me. 

It tells us when we need food. It never fails to tell us when we need love and when we must get up from bed and when we must go to sleep. It informs us of our deepest emotions and feelings and what is going on in our minds and in the mind of others and it tells us what to do and when is the best time to do it. It is a fine piece of instrument cleverly designed over million of years. It deserves a lot of respect and care since it would continue to serve us well only if we care to listen to it and train it.

The design is surprisingly simple. We have 6 senses that connect the outside to the inside. These, which we call inward senses, are sight, touch, hearing, smell, taste and feeling. These senses are all connected to the mind for sense making, processing and action. For action we have 5 outward senses, which are — move, eliminate, grasp/hold, express and create. In total, we then have, 11 senses and one mind to work with. It is as simple as that. But it creates a world of difference once we learn how to use them effectively. 

What do we often say about the highest class of musicians like Ravi Shankar or artists like Hussain or dancers like Birju Maharaj? We say that they feel their art in their bodies and expresses their art through it. Similarly, good vibration engineers also feel their subject through their bodies and mind. Let us see how the mind-body helps a vibration engineer to develop that great feeling for the subject and makes him/her effective forever. 

Our bones (while in the body) are piezo-electric crystals. Hence they act as accelerometers, which are effective vibration transducers. So, when we receive a shock or a vibration from the surroundings we can immediately feel it. We feel vibrations all over our body. 

We feel the low frequency vibrations (less than 10,000 Cycles Per Minute or CPM) in the lower part of the body (navel downwards right up to the toes).

We feel the medium frequency vibration (10,000 CPM to around 45,000 CPM)  in the middle part of the body (navel up to the shoulders)

And the high frequency vibrations (above 45,000 CPM) are felt in the upper part of the body (neck and the head).

So, different parts of the body have filters (high pass and low pass filters a result of neuron networking) to filter out certain frequencies of the vibration. 

Our index finger can feel a vibration of even 10 microns (really small when we compare that to the diameter of our hair which is around 60/70 microns). I find it so useful to detect soft foots by placing the index finger at the junction of the machine's base plates.

The hand especially the palm of the hand is useful in many ways. Each palm is fitted with a number of pressure sensors. A variation in pressure activates these pressure sensors. Hence if there is a variation in vibration (where pressure is dependent on the acceleration) we can immediately sense it through our fingers and hand. It tells us whether only the fundamental is present or it is present along with other significant frequencies and harmonics. These pressure sensors also inform us about the forces and the direction in which they are acting. Fortunately our hands also sense temperature quite well. If we can keep the palm comfortably on something for about 15 seconds we are more or less certain that the temperature is below 40 degrees C. When we do the same with the other side of the palm we can sense temperature up to 60 degrees C. 

What about our ears? That turns out to be very interesting. It naturally does a Fourier Transform for us. The complex sound waves that enter our brains through our ears are split into its various frequency components along with their amplitudes. That is why in a concert we are able to distinguish between the flute and a violin and between a sitar and a tabla (the difference is created by the frequencies). So through our hearing we can sense amplitudes, frequencies, harmonics, vortices, quality of vibration, i.e. presence or absence of damping etc. It is clear that our ears play a vital role in the understanding of vibration. I call this 'playing by the ear'.

Obviously, our eyes are fascinating too. It takes in a large amount of visual data at any instant of time enabling our brains to process them to make sense of what is going on. But one thing is striking about it. Our vision is sharp and clear at around 8.8 Hz that translates to 528 cycles per minute (CPM). So our eye senses very accurately a problem with low frequency vibrations that are around 500 to 600 CPM. We are fortunate to be thus tuned. This is because low frequency vibrations are the cause of most problems. It loosens nuts and bolts. We can see base plates jumping around and pipelines, ducts and structures vibrating. This has really come to my rescue a number of times. It helped me to understand the source of a problem even before I took vibration measurements or poured over the details of the vibration data that were collected. We can even make a sense of the amount of damping in a system and sense heat transfer mechanisms.  

Of course it is easy to understand that we don't use taste as a tool for understanding vibrations but we do use smell a lot. It tells us about the effect of vibrations on parts of the system. It generally informs us of the after effects of vibration — we smell the oil, we smell burning, we smell too much friction etc — most of which are the after effects of vibrations.

What do we do after we have analyzed the vibration patterns? We either 'move' things around like balancing or aligning. Or we 'eliminate' defective parts. Or 'create' better designs. Or modify the structures or tighten loose parts to 'hold' the vibrations. And lastly teach others about what we have learned ('express' our feelings). By teaching others we actually reinforce our own learning for life. Very few realize this great secret and the best secret of learning. It is so cleverly embodied in our Indian saying — the more you give the more you learn. Knowledge is the only thing in the world that increases with sharing. 

No wonder that visual data taken through all our senses and the mind make up more than 90% of what we need to 'Feel' and analyze vibration related problems. Instruments only help to enhance or clarify our understanding with some certainty. Nothing more than that. It is also not surprising that any actions that we take are only limited by our 5 outward senses. Hence the mind-body complex is the only thing that we really need to solve any problem. The real secret instrument for analyzing and taking action lies hidden in our 11 senses and one mind.

That is the secret I wanted to share. But what are we doing to train our mind-body complex to be razor sharp for sensing and action whenever we want to act?

Unlocking The Mystery

December 17, 2010

Phase and Non-synchronous behavior of Systems

December 16, 2010

This is a beautiful song composed by Oscar winner A. R. Rahaman. But this is a different type of song and music — having a sort of magical quality around it. At times, it seems to linger on for moments while sometimes it seems to suddenly speed up. This has a profound effect on the listener’ mood. As the speed fluctuates the listener enjoys the variation in emotion that the song and music evoke.

How does the celebrated genius achieve such an effect?

He does so by changing the phase between the song and the music. He purposely avoided synchronous behavior i.e. keeping the song and the music in tune or phase. Note that at times the song seems to lag behind the music. That slows down the speed producing a lingering feeling inside us. Going by the mood of the movie that is exactly the composer wants us to feel — feel the gentle thoughts of love between the hero and the heroine — therefore lingers the sound through the variation of the phase between the song and the music. But at times when the movie is about some action the effect speeds up by allowing the song to lead the music by a certain phase.

This leads us to a profound understanding of waveforms and system behavior.

Phase difference between two waveforms changes a physical effect. Like for example some of the harmonics or waveforms either lead or lag the fundamental frequency thereby slowing down or speeding up movement of the system as a whole.

This happens in all types of systems whether they be electrical, mechanical or electronics. Technically this is called non-synchronous vibrations that we experience frequently in the physical world.

It is worthwhile for analyst to develop a feel for such phase changes in the system. This reveals a lot about system behavior and its causes.

Listening to music and sounds is an easy way by which any analyst can develop this innate skill and hone it to perfection.

Can’t make a Chastity Vow while Impotent

December 14, 2010

One must have something before giving it up for better living or improving one’s way of life or following one’s dreams.

One pays a price for following one’s dreams. It is worth it? The choice is between living a mundane life by living someone else’s dreams and a brilliant life in full flow of a Himalayan river. One is forced to take a call and live by it by fully understanding the intended consequences.

Everyone lives his/her path in his/her world. One struggles within it to set oneself free. Both the path and the world views are important part of the internal struggle to liberate oneself. Once done neither the path nor the world views are important. These then can be renounced for living a life in constant enlightenment.

The point is are we struggling? Why? How much? We all have choices.

Amplify’d from

As Buddha said, first you have to have, then you can renounce everything. It is easy to make a chastity vow if you are impotent. Easier to make a poverty vow if you are incapable of earning money with your choice, your dream. I could buy a castle, but I bought a watermill, not because I feel guilty – I work hard – but because a watermill is close to my way of seeing life, and easier to maintain. As for my work, no publisher dares to ask me anything – I don’t see the point of “corporate capitalist structure”.

In The Alchemist you have said that you have to pay a price for the perusal of ones dream. What’s the price you paid in the journey with your dream?

A very high one. But I am glad that I paid this price for my dream, instead of paying the price of living someone else’s dreams.

You have been into an asylum twice. People like Michael Foucault have written about the power discourses that create madness. How do you see you days in the asylum?

I cannot summarize that. I wrote a whole book on my experience, “Veronica Decides to Die”. But one thing I can say: it was not a traumatic experience, to begin with. It was in my path, I had to see it as something that I must overcome, not as something I was victimized by.