Archive for November, 2011

Counting Money or Contributions?

November 30, 2011

The task of an owner of any ‘robust’ business is to simply count money at the end of each working day.

This is because the resource that primarily fuels such businesses is ‘money’.

Therefore, the health of such businesses is measured by ‘grades’ or ‘rankings within peer group’ and hard financial numbers and quarterly profits.

However the owners of ‘resilient’ business and entrepreneurs count on a different resource.

Their primary resource is humans.

When the resource is ‘human’ the currency involved is made up of a basket of stories, narratives, ideas, dialogs, engagements.

Therefore, they count human ‘participation’ and ‘contributions’ and at times they count the money gained from such human ‘contributions’ for a more equitable distribution. 

The health of such enterprises is measured by ‘comments’ users make about their experiences with owners of resilient businesses and entrepreneurial firms.

 

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Education – Social Innovation in CSR

November 29, 2011

This is a story of social innovation that became a part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of Tega Industries, Kolkata, India.

Workers’ Training is the theme of the story, which started out as an experiment, maturing into a full grown CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activity.

What prompted the Experiment?

For years we have been led to believe that workers are to be trained in the work they do in the factories. The concept is based on the inaccurate understanding that both work and workers are something similar to machines since a factory tends to work like a machine day in and out. Therefore, their work can be reduced to some simple steps and techniques that are teachable through standardized methods.

Therefore, the courses and training so far imparted to workers have been very dry, technical and often boring in nature, for instance, how to operate a lathe or a press or how to weld and cut etc.

No doubt it is important for a worker to learn the basic tricks of the trade. But somehow on the way we forgot that a worker belongs to the human kind and is not a robot designed to perform boring and repetitive work hours on end. The worker like most humans would want to know the why, what and how of most things and thereby derived the necessary self esteem to live, respect others and understand the interdependent connections they have with others. 

We also forgot that with the growth of technology and innovation humans have become appendages to the machines they work with. That is the design of the machines slowly and surely over time evolved to be free of human interferences operating with some sort of machine ‘intelligence’. Examples abound. Humble lathes have transformed into CNC machines. Welding is no longer dependent on human skills of weaving, moving and lifting but on fine controls of welding pugs and automated machines, and so on…

What does that mean?

It means that the tedium of repetitive work has now been taken over by machines liberating the human spirit in search of something beyond themselves. They can now create value through various interactions and dialogs created in the context, employ technology in more skillful ways and understand the why, what and how of things to improve further.

It also means that never before in the past 200 years of our industrial age society, workers got opportunities to raise their real self esteem, respect the skill and contributions of others and realize that they and their work are all interdependent part of something much bigger than what they can individually produce.

Issues considered in design of Social Innovation

There were four more issues that informed our design of the new approach to educating workers in the context of of present reality. These were:

a) People learn best from each other and through their own work than they ever learn through teachers. In this process only skillful ‘facilitation’ helps. For example, in the initial years of computer literacy in India, people learned from each other not from established institutions and officially designated teachers. This is the single most important factor that helped fuel the computer revolution in India till the “burden” of making people literate has now been hijacked by mushrooming technical colleges imparting computer education.

b) At no point of time in the last 20 years has foreign investment – direct and portfolio – exceeded 10 percent of our domestic investment. Our growth is due to our domestic savings which is again predominately household savings. Our housewives require awards for our growth not any western fund manager. It means that if the earning capacity of the workers can be increased in real terms then a company actually contributes to the national growth in ways apparently unseen. To my mind this is the real cost benefit of conducting a CSR activity where for a very small cost both the company and the nation benefit multi-fold.

c) In India, families are organized while governments disorganized. Organized family has been the mainstay of Indian civilization, culture and national wealth. So, can our course be designed to strengthen familial bonds to strengthen the economic base of the nation.

d) As a civilization, Indian culture places a lot of importance on ‘learning’ to the point of reverence and considered as a prime component of life and living.

With these in mind we set about designing an appropriate course for the workers with an eye to life long learning supported by the company.

The Practical Solution

The structure as it evolved centered around 4 main subjects, which were the following:

a) The practical applications of Science and Maths with an aim for self discovery by the participants in their daily work.

b) The practical application and use of English language with the objective of enhancing self esteem and understanding issues involved in their environment much of which were built on the use of English.

c) Skill enhancement to not only apply computer applications in a practical manner in their field of work but also to assist their supervisors in computer related work.

d) Personality and attitude improvement through understanding and discovering the self and eliminating weakness in personality and attitude through self rewiring of the brain. For this the method of ‘graphology’ was introduced and applied. 

Anyone willing to undergo the course was registered for the course. The company provided the necessary space and resources. However, each worker invested two hours of their own time for five days a week to undergo the program. The program has three levels of difficulty to master where a year for mastering each level was given to the workers. 

Four skilled facilitators leading ‘authentic’ lives took up the challenge to engage in movement.

Results

This pilot course is now two years old and the results have been more than astounding. Some of which are the following:

a) The workers self organized themselves to install a new machine in three days time before the engineers of the manufacturer could arrive at site for installation. When the service engineers arrived on the scene they were taken aback by the accuracy of the installation, which would have normally taken them five days to achieve.

b) All the workers showed marked improvement in their performance and quality as evidenced in structured surveys conducted by the company to monitor the progress and effectiveness of the training.

c) Many were found to operate computer applications to keep track of their own work and assist their supervisors in creating and maintaining production records.

d) Many found themselves in the permanent role of the company thus enhancing their pay and benefits that largely contributed to enhanced savings for their families. For some workers the average household ‘savings’ have doubled in two years time.

e) Large number of small innovations were done by these workers in a self organizing manner.

f) Many reported improved marital and family relationships that enhanced their internal motivation at work and living. There were many specific cases where participants were able to come out of emotional confusion, depressions, emotional distress and stress, migranes, effects of traumatic childhood expriences and personal limitations thereby leading more happier and productive lives.

g) Over 60% of the participants reported increase in household savings in real terms as compared to previous years without any real increase in wages compounded to an average inflationary rate of around 10%. 

h) And 100% wanted to continue the education for more years and even thought of converting it into a personal life long effort.

The moral:

Traditional workers’ training is ‘physical’ in its form and function. This new program addresses the issues of learning and improvement of work, life and living from the ‘mental’ and the ‘spiritual’ planes of human existence. If the results are any indicators, the way it has unfolded; the approach of addressing human issues and problems from the human spirit holds promises to redesign for the better many of our human activities in the future.

 

Case of Surja – The Entrepreneur

November 28, 2011

Living, Loving & Risk

November 26, 2011

Most earn their living by doing often boring and repetitive tasks and activities which others might be able to do just as well. They thrive on performance against time. It is risky since when either performance or time fails you lose your job or get underpaid. You might not be able to love yourself for that making evolution of your spirit difficult if not impossible. 

Some earn their living by solving problems for others. They thrive on performance. The risk is medium. That might enable you to love yourself and improve your self esteem and also create the right platform to evolution of the human spirit. 

Few earn their living by accepting challenges or by challenging themselves. They thrive on their innate skills loving applied to challenges that bolsters self esteem. The risk is low enough to bother much enabling natural evolution of the human spirit. 

Only a rare few amongst us earn their living by creating opportunities for others and themselves that stubbornly refuses to border on exploitation. They thrive on love alone. And the risk is nil. Evolution of the human spirit is almost guaranteed.

The opportunity and choice of evolving ourselves are in our hands.

 

Needs vs Real Needs

November 25, 2011

Customers want to pay as little as possible for something they need.

But they pay for things they really want and the price they pay for it is not as important. Though sometimes customers aren’t aware of what they really want till they see it and an emotional connection is made.

However, most businesspersons are busy creating and supporting products and services people need but not really want. Therefore, such businesspersons are busy fighting competition on price.

The good thing is true entrepreneurs focus on things customers really want for which they really have no solution in sight to create real possibilities to improve their life and living.

That might precisely be the difference between entrepreneurs and businesspersons; between competition and non-competition; between fulfillment and a job possibly done well.

Exciter Resonance Problem of 210 MW Turbogenerator

November 24, 2011

NTPC_Case_Study_Part2.doc Download this file

Vibration — Fluid Induced Instability!

November 23, 2011

NTPC_Case_Studies_Aug_2011.DOC Download this file

Case of Govindo – The Entrepreneur

November 22, 2011

Big Picture in Small Things!

November 21, 2011

We are constantly reminded or chided for not seeing the ‘big picture’ or not seeing things ‘holistically’ or ‘wholistically’ (as Ackoff used to say). And many think it to be the big problem with most of us for which the big, nagging, ‘wicked’ problems don’t seem to vanish.

But would that be the way forward?

Md. Yunush, the founder of Grameen Bank has something remarkable to share on seeing the ‘big picture’.

He said that as an economist he always saw the big picture of everything. He could see how things would change. And how things fitted into one another. And if something was done how that something would affect the big picture. But after that ‘big picture’ seeing and thinking he could not do anything worthwhile or bring about any significant change anywhere or solve any ‘wicked’ problem.

Till one day he saw the misery and pain of 40 families ravaged by a cruel flood. And he chose to see more closely at the incident and the condition of the affected families. He not only saw more closely but he saw more intently and clearly till he saw the ‘big picture’ in the seemingly small thing. 

He saw that if he could only loan out $27 the fate of these 40 families would change for good. And he did that. And then he did some more for some more families. And he again did it for some other families. Soon it became a movement that culminated into the concept of the Grameen Bank that significantly changed the lives of many, solved a ‘wicked’ problem of abject poverty, made history and needless to say won him the Nobel.

To me this is what “seeing the big picture” is all about. Seeing something small very closely with clear intention, intently feeling it and thinking of the ‘big picture’ of how to make sense of it and birth the emergent ideas into reality.

It is seeing the ‘big picture’ in small things that matters and not the ‘big picture’ of how large things connect. And from that ‘big picture’ of ‘small things’ other smaller details emerge spontaneously to breathe life into an emergent reality.

This is the stuff of problem solvers, designers, design thinkers, system thinkers, businessmen, strategists and most importantly entrepreneurs — from small to big and then back to small again.

Patterns to No-Patterns!

November 20, 2011

As humans we are so adept at noticing patterns forcing us to act upon them or upon the information they provide. And we have really come to believe that our thinking must alwys be based on recognizing patterns. 

Is that the right way? Are we deluded by patterns?

I think our natural ability to spot patterns have consistently deluded us since whenever we see something we immediately notice the outlines of an object that goes on to form patterns. We hardly, if ever, notice anything in between or anything connected to the object. In other words, when we see outlines of something we do indeed notice the patterns being formed by the outlines but fail to see the sound of tree falling in the background.

If this informs our judgment, decision making or creative designs we are bound to go wrong.

Let us see what Bateson says about this phenomenon.

He explains the role of unconscious tremors, which he calls ‘saccades’ of our eye balls.

He says, “The end organs are thus in continual receipt of events that correspond to ‘outlines’ in the visible world. We draw distinction, that is, we pull them out. Those distinctions that remain undrawn are not (noticed or seen). They are lost forever with the sound of the falling tree…. “

Today, the world around us moves so fast that there is hardly any pattern that stays long enough with us to inform our judgments, decisions, thinking and creative efforts.

So this is a peculiar situation we are faced with — To see or not to see Patterns? Or how do we see and act on No-Patterns?

Patterns initiate our ‘thinking’.

No-patterns turn on our ‘feelings’.

It would be interesting to observe whether ‘feelings’ or ‘thinking’ would take the center-stage of our human activities from no on. 

I feel it would be ‘feelings’ first followed by ‘thinking’ not the other way around. 

So far, for the past 400 years it has been only ‘thinking’ devoid of any ‘feelings’. We now know what a mess we have thus created through understanding ‘outlines’ that create ‘patterns’. 

Is it time we start with No-Patterns?