31 December 2015

Be your own case study

Reading books gives knowledge. But mere knowledge does not guarantee behaviors. All behaviors do not yield experience. All experiences do not give wisdom.

But it all starts with being theoretical (reading books). Read books and "do" something with the learning. Be your own case study - conduct experiments and create positive feedback.

After definite amount of work, there comes a masterpiece - hidden gem inside you that gets polished with every effort you make.

My "rational" tells to my "emotional" self when i am not yet there.

30 December 2015

Switch (Part 6) - How to keep the Switch going?

This is sixth and final part of my reflections on the book - Switch. This is going to be a short post. Before reading this post, read other posts.

Once the change process has kicked in and you got the Elephants moving, the next thing to do is to convert the momentum to forward momentum. A long journey starts with a step but a step does not guarantee the long journey towards the destination. We need to constantly reinforce - "point and move towards the destination", "get the elephant moving towards the destination" and remove impediments by "shaping the path". We need to follow the pattern of Switch.

A good thing about a change is that once you moved it an inch from stationary, the change feeds itself. Once you start, the change favors you. The mere exposure effect and cognitive dissonance play their part to continue to push through the change (snow balling effect). The only thing that you need to ensure is to follow the pattern again and again - "direct the rider, motivate the elephant and shape the path".

The learning from the book is immense and i think the insights are so engrained that i would follow Switch framework in my life - personal and profession. I would like to thank Heath brothers was writing such a wonderful book that is quite engaging. Hope to read the other books.

Want to read all the posts on Switch. Click here

Disclaimer: I neither get commission for a writing review nor using Affiliation of any Bookstore. The whole purpose of these posts is to provide value to my readers and give them information to be better.

29 December 2015

Switch - Video Review

Check this out - the review gives an overview of the book - Switch. This video provides quick overview of the book. I am sharing it here since i find it interesting and useful. This is published by Callibrain

Want to read all the posts on Switch. Click here

Disclaimer: I neither get commission for a writing review nor using Affiliation of any Bookstore. The whole purpose of these posts is to provide value to my readers and give them information to be better.

28 December 2015

Switch (Part 5) - Shape The Path

This is the fifth reflection post on Switch by Heath Brothers. If you are the first time reading the posts  on the book - Switch, it might help to skim through other posts thisthisthis and this.

Tweak the Environment - This is based on the premise that "What assumed to be a people problem is often situation problem". You see someone cutting across you at high speed and you curse him. You think that he is mad and yell at him. Do you think he is usually like that? We often see issues as people issues rather than situation issue. This is called as "Fundamental Attribution Error". The author discussed how to reward right behavior, making the environment easier for right behavior and making the environment little harder for bad behavior. The section provided ample case studies - Saints and Jerks Food Donation Campaign, Medication vests to keep nurses focused to reduce errors, Rackspace Fanatical Support. Haddon Matrix needs special mention on how the environment can be tweaked better (pre-event, event and post-event)

Build Habits - Habits are behavioral auto-pilots. Unless the behaviors are formed as habit, it is going to tax Rider and often needs Rider's supervision. Habits are environmental and mental. People are sensitive to environment and culture, we often try to fit to peer groups as behaviors are contagious. The second way of making habits is to have "action triggers". So it is very important to tweak the environment so that "expected" behaviors are formed as habits.

Rally the Herd - When you lead Elephant on an unfamiliar path, chances are it is going to follow the herd. Now, you need to create herd the way it is easier for change to happen. Make influencers and create free spaces so that the people flock together so that they build new identity.

The first part of the book covers three surprises about change, the second part covers how to "direct the rider", the third part covers how to "motivate the elephant" and the final part covers the role of the path and how to shape the path. This part "Shape the Path" discussed three important elements related to environment that are absolutely stunning and insightful. I often feel that each section gives an increased impact with respect to understanding the change, people's behavior and response to change and how it can be tweaked to yield better results. This section is no different.

Want to read all the posts on Switch. Click here

Disclaimer: I neither get commission for a writing review nor using Affiliation of any Bookstore. The whole purpose of these posts is to provide value to my readers and give them information to be better.

27 December 2015

New Year Resolution - Does it make sense?

Retrospection, questions and answers
  1. Have you ever taken a resolution on new year eve? 
    • Mostly yes. I often take every year since i became professional. Sometimes i share it with others and sometimes i do not share with others reason being "fearing failure". It looks like the goals should not to be made public.
  2. Have you ever successfully able to keep up the commitment to yourself? 
    • Yes for initial days/weeks and then it fades away. After few months, i hardly remember the resolution unless someone remind me
  3. What is the motivation behind your resolution?
    • I want to lead a better life. I think everyone has every right to be better and be happier. When i take resolution, it always give me a fresh thought and a fresh start. I feel that i can erase all the past and give my life a fresh start. I understand that it need not be a new year. But then it is a nice way to start a year so that we can review it mid way through the year.
  4. How does it feel when you have given up resolution?
    • It feels very hard. Though i smile, i really takes a toll on my self-confidence. I feel like i am an excellent starter & planner but a poor finisher.
  5. What do you think is root cause of failing in resolution?
    • There is no single answer. It is lack of experience, lack of ability to split the goals into minor critical accomplishments, lack of prioritization, lack of ability to connect emotional with the goal (Elephant), lack of understanding of tiny improvements & small wins, lack of commitment.
  6. Is it still relevant?
    • Yes, i do think that i am going to have very few resolutions.
  7. How do you think that you will be different this year?
    1. I need to think a lot. 
    2. I should marry my long term goals to shorter term wins (Rider, Elephant). I should focus on one month at a time than a year (a lot of things can happen in a year but shorter periods are almost certain)
    3. Focus should be on Health, Happiness and Skill building than making money.
    4. Approach this more psychologically by forming habits rather than seeing this as end points. (For example losing 30 pounds should directly related to walking. Unless i form walking as a habit, i cannot lose 30 pounds.)
    5. Whatever it is, i should share my progress with others.

26 December 2015

Switch (Part 4) - Motivate The Elephant

This is fourth part of my review/learning while reading the book Switch and it forms a critical step for the change process. This post covers - Motivate the Elephant.

Before reading this post, please read previous posts - this, this and this.

If you drive any vehicle, have you ever wondered why it takes more energy to move the vehicle in first gear. Read this in Quora. The simple answer is - "more" energy is needed to overcome inertia. It applies to Change too. When you are about to Switch, the folks who need to undergo a change and responsible for the change have to beat their initial inertia. It needs a lot of motivation to embrace the change as the people are quite comfortable in status quo.

In previous posts, we saw that Elephant is powerhouse and actually works on getting things done. It gives energy to the change process. Without Elephant's energy (and motivation), the change process is very likely to be a failure. In this section, Heaths discusses three important methods of getting started with change and keep it going - Find the FeelingShrink the Change and Grow the people.

Find the Feeling - The section on "Find the Feeling" discusses the importance of appealing to Elephant and help Elephant make the first step. It is very difficult to make Elephant move with analytical acumen. We have to appeal to Elephant emotionally by SEE-FEEL-CHANGE. The case study of HopeLab is amazing and it conveys how appealing Elephant changes one's life. It also discussed the effects of "Positive Illusion" with a case study. It is very important to find the feeling - feeling of control and power, determination to fix the issues or undergo the change and being empathetic. For any change that is big, we need to get to the Elephant with positive psychology, fresh thinking, creativity and instill hope and optimism.

Shrink The Change - Why is it important to shrink the change? Because the Elephant feels that it is easier to "do" which is very important to beat the inertia. Not only does it help to beat inertia, it constantly helps Elephant to march towards the destination (remember sequence of bright spots?). The case studies on Hotel Maids and Free Car Wash are excellent examples for a head start and keeping the ball rolling. Two strategies are discussed here - Limit the investment (amount of time required to complete the tiny change) and Small wins (ensure that small wins are meaningful and within immediate reach).

Grow The People - One way to make Elephant to make feel big is to shrink the change. Another way is to actually grow the Elephant big (bigger than the size of change). In both cases, the Elephant feels that it is easier to get it done. The section gives out two models of decision making - consequences model and identity model and discusses why the identity model is so important during a change process. It also discusses building identities leading to people learning new things and why it is important to set expectations of failure when people learning (During the learning process people tend to fail. Every failure will demotivate Elephant and hence set expectation on failure during learning process). It discusses on two mindsets - fixed mindset and growth mindset (pain now, payoff later). The case study of minimally invasive cardiac surgery is simple awesome.

Like previous sections, the section is also to the point and centered on critical case studies with some serious takeaway. After reading this chapter, you would certainly feel that you can catalyst a change (the chapter kindles your Elephant)

Want to read all the posts on Switch. Click here

Disclaimer: I neither get commission for a writing review nor using Affiliation of any Bookstore. The whole purpose of these posts is to provide value to my readers and give them information to be better.

25 December 2015

Positive Illusion Bias - Why we are not what we think of?

Answer the following questions. Answers sound familiar?
  1. Have you seen anyone boasting about themselves? (yep, they are all around us)
  2. Have you ever boasted about yourself to someone and later felt that you actually overrated yourself? (sometimes, not mostly i am grounded)
If you answer "yes" to one of the questions, read further.

We overrate ourselves, often. On the positive things we rate ourselves above average and on the negative things we rate ourselves below average. Yes, we perceive ourselves to be better than most others around us.

If you are a manager, you had to do handle it quite often and more certainly once the yearly performance rating are over. People rate themselves above most of the people in the team on work/impact they created and how much less overhead these caused. While that may not be intentional, we need to understand what are the implications of doing that - Positive Illusion Bias. It does not stop at performance reviews and extends in all facets of life. It is how we are wired.

Positive Illusion has both positive and negative side effects. In a shorter terms, it seems to help relieve stress and be more self-confident. But over longer term, it has negative side effects when we overdo it (it could be sudden fall). Thinking that i will stand out from the pack often leads to less preparation which leads to wreckage as it gives false sense (Ex: My health is better than my friends, i can cram the exam since i m better grasping, i am more honest than most in the society, trying to predict the stock market thinking that i am an ace trader etc).

To Sum Up: Whether or not it is good - it is not the reality. It is one more reason to remain grounded and modest.

24 December 2015

Why we take "Poor Decisions"

I wrote a tiny post on good, bad and poor decisions (blunder).

Making a bad decision is understandable. But why do we make blunders. When we are in the capacity of making a good decisions, why are we converting them to poor decisions? Do we like shooting at our own foot? Of course, not.

Researchers say, we have two minds. Have you ever experienced the dilemma in your life? One of your minds say "i do not want eat another scoop of ice cream" and yet another mind finds excuses "i will take another scoop and compensate with additional workout". The next morning, one of the minds thinks that "i had ice cream yesterday and now i should get up from bed and go for a walk" and yet another mind says "it seems like it is cloudy out and it may rain". Another example is shopping. Buying things way more than our need and what we can afford. I am sure that each one of us would have took several poor decisions in life only to repent later.

Our brain has two minds. The truth is that one mind is rational and the another mind is emotional. Emotional brain is mighty and powerhouse. The Rational (animals don't have this) one is tiny and succumb when there is a tug of war with emotional. First we need to understand that emotional mind is capable of making "poor" decisions as the decisions are taken based on "what it likes" but not on "merit". But the rational part takes decisions as it names says "rationally".

Understanding that we have two minds and accepting that we take emotional decisions and constantly using "rational" side would help us make better decisions. Making better decisions is a habit. Unless anything forms as a habit, the results ought be inconsistent and unpredictable.

Bottom line: Practice to use rational side to make "right" decisions. It is a long term process.

21 December 2015

Good, Bad and Poor Decisions

(Not a) Rocket Science: Good Decisions Vs Bad Decisions Vs Poor Decisions

Good decisions - Well thought out and the decision seems to be correct

Bad decisions (there are limitations) - Not well thought out and the outcome is not so great. There are some shortcomings that are outside of your control. You do not have expertise to decide but the situation is such that you need to take decisions. You learn something new. It is failure.

Poor decisions (limiting oneself) - Not well thought out again and the outcome is not so great. But there is a difference here. You had all information at your disposal or you have access to get those information with little to no effort. You screwed it. This is NOT a failure. This is a blunder.

There is a hell a lot of difference between a failure and blunder.

A failure gives you confidence that you will do it after learning and a blunder gives an impression that you lack commitment.

20 December 2015

Two TED Talks - Must Watch

I thought i would write my own post. But i thought i should share something more important than my posts. I will leave you today from my crappy posts but some other day i will give you a double dose. 

Today i watched few TED Talks and few of them are little outstanding than the others. The ideas are simple but inspiring, straightforward but difficult to do it consistently. Your investment is 40 minutes. Watch it and share your thoughts.

19 December 2015

Switch (Part 3) - Direct the Rider

This is concluding post on "Direct the Rider".

Review of Chapter 2: "Direct the Rider" - "Script the Critical Moves" and "Point to the Destination". (Click here to read all posts related to Switch")

Are you one like me takes a lot of time to decide when there are lot of choices?

Have you ever tried to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of a particular cell phone? Have you ever compared number of different cell phones on variety of parameters - "look and feel", "value for money", "technological features", "emotional feeling of feeling proud", "customer service" and so on. If you are stuck days or weeks in deciding which one to buy - you have been affected by "Rider's" weakness at least once.

The rational side of our brain pushes itself to endless cycle of analysis when there are more options (it doesn't matter whether the options are good or bad). Since the decision making is draining, the Rider quickly runs out of fuel leading to "spinning the wheels" (and taking enormous Elephant for a ride eventually dooming the change). The same happens where there is ambiguity in choices . In these situation the Rider is quite happy to continue with status quo.

How to mitigate this weakness? "Script the Critical Moves" and "Point to The Destination"

Convert the idea to specific behavior that are specific and concrete and provide a vision or compelling destination that is appealing to "Elephant" and engage the "Rider" to think how to reach there.

Another important issue discussed is "Rationalization" - finding excuses when the destination is not inspiring. And how setting Black and White goals would keep change process in tact.

Case Studies to note:
  1. Chronic Hip Pain for Arthritis
  2. Behring - Brazil Southern Railroad Turnaround
  3. Crystal Jones - Third Grader
  4. Laura Essermen - Breast Care Center
The bright spots helps us to kick start with change process and helps us give the feeling that we are already there (and see it easy). The pointing to destination with prescribing the critical moves help us to keep "Rider" from analysis paralysis.

Impression: Both the sections are to the point and discusses mitigation of "Rider's" weaknesses backed up with case studies. Few of the ideas are higher level and it might take couple of reads to understand it well and apply it.

Another little thing that i feel is that "Point to the destination" should precede "Script the Critical Moves". The reason is when the destination is shown the Rider thinks how to reach there (Rider would get his thinking and scripting his critical moves).

Want to read all the posts on Switch. Click here

Disclaimer: I neither get commission for a writing review nor using Affiliation of any Bookstore. The whole purpose of these posts is to provide value to my readers and give them information to be better.

18 December 2015

Do you have BRAIN? Watch This

Interesting video... If you want to improve your brain and increase neurons, watch this video. Just 12 mins

16 December 2015

Switch (Part 2) - Direct the Rider, Find the Bright Spots

Review of Chapter 2, Section 1: Find the Bright Spots

There are more negative emotions words than positive emotions words in the dictionaries. The bad things stick in our minds relatively longer than good things. Bad things spread faster. This trait of human beings put us in disadvantage when it comes to making decisions. The manifestation of this trait during a change process is looking for complex solution for a complex problem. We look at problems - the scale of the problem and try to find a solution of similar scale.
Can the solution be simple? If so, How to make it simpler?
The authors claim that the above shortcomings can be mitigated with "Finding the bright spots". Once we have the bright spots identified, the next step is to learn from bright spots removing any exceptions and cloning bright spots. The entire change process can be sequence of bright spots.

Let us dig it further

There are couple of case studies in this section that are quite powerful. One of the case study is "Jerry Sternin's Solving Malnutrition in Vietnam". Sternin was tasked to address malnutrition of kids in Vietnam. There were numerous papers published before on discussing the problem. But the knowledge were knowledge in piece of paper but nothing changed. 

Sternin identified healthy kids among malnourished kids and there were clear differences in terms of what they eat and how they eat food. Sternin found the bright spot (local wisdom) and made community kitchens for mothers to learn how to keep their kids nourished. Within months, the kids showed marked improvement and this kitchen become laboratory and spread across the country. In this case study the authors clearly bring out why the bright spots are needed. Without bright spots how the Rider derails the change process (spinning the wheels and analysis paralysis). 

This case study and another case studies anchors the subject very well.

To sum up, this section conveys the following
  1. Bright spots keep us moving without being stuck in analysis (without moving an inch from problem and not getting started with actual change process)
  2. Change is sequence of bright spots
  3. Transition from problem focus to solution focus
  4. Archaeological problem solving to bright spot evangelizing
  5. Solution-focused therapy to change behaviors,
  6. Red flag: Focusing on bright spots can be counter-intuitive for business - Talks about Rider's weakness to see initial "good news" as "bad news" or as an anomaly.
  7. Red flag: Rider's Weakness - Big Problem needs big solutions attitude

Impression: Very well presented and with some big takeaways. There shouldn't be a second thought to read this book.

Next: Direct the Rider (Part 3)

Want to read all the posts on Switch. Click here

Disclaimer: I neither get commission for a writing review nor using Affiliation of any Bookstore. The whole purpose of these posts is to provide value to my readers and give them information to be better.

15 December 2015


What a real leader would do in a firefighting?

There is a fire. The firemen are trying to put off the fire. What are they likely to do? Each one would do their job (which they are good at). Sometimes they give commands and most of the times they follow. They follow someone who is closer to the fire. They take directions. They ultimate goal is to put off fire.

If we are recovering from a disaster and working hard for a turnaround, "followership" is more important than "leading" (prescription). 

Followership gives us focus, disciple and confidence.

A leader is born when she follows. Followership is another form of Leadership

14 December 2015

Switch (Part 1) - Three Surprises

Review of Chapter 1

This is going to be another post on the book Switch. In this post i am going to quickly cover various ideas and insights in section 1 - Three Surprises. There will be 3-5 more posts on the book. The goal of writing the detailed reviews are as follows:
  • Discuss the contents so that you can decide why i am recommending others to spend time on this book
  • Internalize the ideas so that my recommendation is based on thorough reading and reflecting. Since i read this book for the second time. First time i did not take any notes. Since the subject and book is interesting, i started making notes.
Enough of reasoning. Let us move on.

The first section talks about "Three Surprises About Change". The section provides motivation to read the book further. I have bought many books in the past and hardly can complete any. But when i read the first section, i get the feeling that I should read this. The first section does a good job of giving an overview on Change - what is a good change pattern and what are common misunderstanding about impediments.

The first section introduces us our brain - "Rider" and "Elephant". Rider analyzes, thinks, provides direction and look into the future. Elephant gives us energy, motivation, love, compassion. It discusses few case studies why it is critical to involve both "Rider" and "Elephant" for the change to be successful. How "Rider" and "Elephant" derail the change.

The first section brilliantly demystifies the following the myths.

Surprise #1: What it looks like people problem is often Situation Problem
Surprise #2: What looks like laziness is often Exhaustion
Surprise #3: What looks like resistance is often Lack of Clarity

The following case studies are used as supporting materials
  1. Stale Popcorn in Bigger and Less Bigger Bucket to discuss how the situation changes people's eating behavior
  2. Clocky - The Running Rogue Clock to discuss Rider and Elephant fight
  3. Chocolate Cookies and Radish to discuss exhaustion
  4. Stegner's 242 Gloves to discuss what happens when Rider and Elephant are engaged
  5. Making West Virginia to adopt 1% milk to be healthy to discuss the importance of direction
  6. Saving 100000 lives by Donald Berwick to discuss what scripted change and a successful change
Sum up: Overall the first chapter is delight and sets the stage to read further.

Next: Switch (Part 2) - Direct the Rider, Find the Bright Spots

Want to read all the posts on Switch. Click here

Disclaimer: I neither get commission for a writing review nor using Affiliation of any Bookstore. The whole purpose of these posts is to provide value to my readers and give them information to be better.

13 December 2015


*** Not a rocket science yet a rocket science ***

All the posts that i write here comes from the books i read, the people i meet, my observation on events around me and many other ways - Influences

When i read book, i read with an intention of getting something out of it. I am motivated to read it. The results are mostly conscious.

Events around me - Whether are or not i am motivated, get registered in my mind. It gets registered in my sub-conscious and manifests in some form at later point even if i do not heed. If i have awareness on what happening, i place a filter before the events. My orientation depends on the filter. How i store the information depends on the filter/awareness.

Everyone and everything around me gives me opportunity to learn more and be better and "Influences" my future decisions/reasoning.

12 December 2015

Help and Giving

Tamil Nadu floods - see it good and bad sides

Bad sides - Lives are lost, Losing basic amenities of life, Pushing people to migrate to different part of city, Psychological issues, Material losses.....

Good Side - You got to know you are not alone. People are with you. People helped people. People donated to People. Some gave part of their salary. Some gave everything they had. Some might borrowed from someone to give people.

For a common man. "Giving" is big thing. Giving without advertisement for vested interest is another big thing. It shows your deep care for others. "How much" you give is not important. There is no price tag for the help done in needy time.

This picture summarizes everything.

11 December 2015

Think, Learn, Unlearn

Think - How to think properly and how to improve thinking.

Learn - Learn right things and learn to learn thing faster

Unlearn - Unlearn things and move on

It is a cycle, that's how i can be a life long student.

Think - Learn - Unlearn - Think - Learn - Unlearn....................you die

10 December 2015

Reading, Doing and Habit

Reading gives us knowledge. Doing gives us experience. It is not something that you do not know.

Why we say so?

Reading - I read a book and understand the contents. For people like me it would take 5-6 reads to understand. But i will never be able to understand it completely (read a book that tells benefits of waking up at 5am).

Doing - When i do it, i understand it more. When i understand it more, i am closer to perfection than mere reading (do it few times here and there, see the benefits yourself).

Habit - Do it consistently takes me a lot closer to perfection and the returns are huge (make it a habit and reap the fruits). 

Success lies in reading something, doing it to understand it and making it as an habit.

08 December 2015

Weird Questions

Lots of energy is pumped into Chennai relief work and everyone of us see the impact that youths are creating in Chennai during the last week and this week. The students and professionals work tirelessly to arrest the hunger and to put the life to normalcy.
  1. Why do they commit themselves so selflessly?
  2. Why do they feel that they can listen someone's order in relief activity?
  3. Why do they give space to others to give their share of ideas?
  4. Why do they collaborate?
  5. Who instilled the vision? 
  6. How do they chase their dreams?
  7. While they are very tiny in the whole, how they get the feeling that their "tiny" things make whole?
While their bosses and teachers say quite opposite.

Vision - Purpose - Passion - Drive - Results - Impact Delivered

07 December 2015

Branding Woes

Chennai is getting back to normal faster. The people share everything - food, water, shelter, clothes, emotions and morale. The severely impacted person consoling and giving confidence to worst impacted person. People are migrating within the city and reaching safest places. People continue their journey on becoming self dependent and self sufficient.

But the government's branding continues. The branding started allegedly when chief minister's sticker was pasted on the relief materials donated by a people (often NGO, caring individuals). I have myself seen ambulance displaying chief minister's poster (It is government's (people's) vehicle)

Irrespective of whether it is government's relief or someone else's it is poor branding and it is one of branding woes. If the government ensures that the relief is above everything else, it becomes a great branding. If operations of relief work is carried out with minimal issues, the people are going to think that it is great work by government which would be a GREAT branding.

Certainly the government has to downplay its poor branding (like pasting stickers on someone's donation and pasting stickers on sanitary pads)