Thinking inside versus outside the box

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Think outside the box – a cliché in business world. If you agree that creation is essentially dual in nature, and that seemingly opposite principles are ‘bound’ to each other by tangible or intangible forces, then it should not be difficult to understand that the conceptual opposites – problem and solution – should also occur in pairs. In highly competitive business environments where heavy-weight words like radical change, groundbreaking technology, breakthrough invention, innovation, etc. are tossed around abundantly because they are required at times, misunderstood some times, and sounds fashionable many a time, it’s difficult to see the sensibility and practicality of ‘thinking inside the box’. This approach looks at the problem as a part of the system that has one or a few ‘wrong notes’; a local-area malfunctioning that requires fixing and that is all. The fixing or the intervention is done from within the system using the very elements and processes of the system. This is an organic approach, and by its very nature thinking-inside-the-box approach gives a sustainable solution to the problem. It is sustainable because the solution is brought about from within the system by using its own constituents without introducing a foreign element. When a totally new element or process is brought in to a system to address a problem, which is what a think- outside-the-box approach would do, the new element dominates the existing system due to the importance attached to it by human intervention, and it tends to change the entire set-up around it in compliance with it’s own nature. Eventually, the whole system is subjected to unnecessary change, when all that is required is a simple, local addressing of the problem area. Yes, sometimes the very foundation requires change. But that is altogether a different situation. The situation in this case is a need for invention. And this requires out-of-the-box thinking because thinking out of the box is essentially a creative and inventive act. But for finding solutions to problems and even for improving a situation, the way is to think inside the box. It would do much good if we know what we are addressing and what we want – whether a problem or a system-change and whether a solution or an invention. The following quote sums it well:

“If you never venture outside the box, you will probably not be creative. But if you never get inside the box, you will certainly be stupid.”
– Christopher Peterson

Giveaway Signs of Organizational Culture

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I am not going to dwell on the academic definitions of organizational culture; there are a lot of books that deal with this subject.  The aim of this blog is to give a few ‘tips’ on how to assess an organization quickly, say within the first 20 – 30 minutes of your interaction with it. Organizational culture is the expression of the mindset, character and attitude of all the people working in it, right from the CEO to the watchman. It is the collective mindset of an organization which reflects in each and every entity within an organization – both human and non-human, tangible and intangible. A visitor to the organization may not have the opportunity to interact, or even just observe the CEO, but certainly would have such a chance with the watch man, lift man, the receptionist and people of that cadre: The people in the lower wrung of the organization’s hierarchy. There are many types here, but can be broadly categorized into three: the rude and the intimidating type, the ‘mechanical-plastic-expression’  type, and finally the warm and the approachable type. A happy employee with the right kind of grooming from his/her  management will naturally adopt a benevolent and considerate disposition towards the visitors. The same holds good for the person from the organization whom you are supposed to meet and are at a higher level in the organizational hierarchy. Even if the person is going to be a tough interviewer,  he/she will not, even for an instance, breach the boundaries of professionalism and never assume an intimidating  stand against you.The company’s culture will be reflected in all of the employees’ words and body languages . Considerate and ‘true’ politeness (not the ‘mechanical’ politeness), especially when reflected at the lower most level of the organization, is a sure sign of a people-oriented organization. Neatness is yet another strong indicator of an organization’s culture. The general cleanliness in the reception area and even the way newspapers and journals are arranged, speaks strongly about the culture followed there. A shabby, carelessly arranged reception area is a big giveaway of a shabby organization as well. Any organization can have wonderful vision and mission statements, because they know that these are the areas where any interested person would first check into. So, these are not the aspects you should be measuring if you want a true assessment of the company, as these can be ‘performed for the gallery’. Watch out for the small, subtle indications where careless organizations usually miss out. In my experience, it is usually these small giveaways that proved to be the  accurate measuring scale of an organization’s culture. In fact, this method of assessment holds good even for assessing a home or an individual,  because ‘God is in the details’.

LIKES AND FOLLOWERS – How much do they matter?

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The answer depends on the purpose of your blog. People blog for many reasons.  I at least see three categories of bloggers on a broad basis. First is the business community of bloggers who want business from their blogs. For the business bloggers, number of likes and followers is a very important matter. Business always measures its success in numbers  and so they have well tested tricks and technics to bring in the necessary traffic to their blog pages. It’s purely technical for them. The second category is of those people who come here for fun and time pass. I assume that they really don’t  bother much about the number of likes and followers their blogs can fetch. And finally, the third category is of people who blog for the love of language and sharing. I include myself in this category. It is this section of the blogging community that gets very sensitive and vulnerable to this number game. We come here for some quality time and interaction, but eventually are lured by the glittering numbers of likes and follows, get addicted to it, and when the numbers dip, we begin to question our own ability to write.  I understand that this addiction is stronger than the addiction for getting likes on our facebook profile photos, because here the like and follow is for our head and heart,  something much more dear and precious than our appearance. If you belong to this sub community of bloggers who are suffering from the number problem, you need to seriously consider this question – How  much does all these likes and follows really matter ? Of course , it is nice to have a big number of likes and followers, but should this be the measuring scale of your blogging talent ?

This category of bloggers seek meaningful interaction. Meaningful interaction is a thing of quality. If you try to measure quality with a set of quantitative tools like the Stats page provided by WordPress , then you will be grossly misled. It really amuses me when someone follows my blog, but does not  ‘like’ the particular post which made him/her to press the follow button, and then never ever show up again, similar to those who send friend requests in facebook and then never interact once their request is accepted. I can even understand those who just ‘like’ someone’s post and move on, but what about those who follow you and then vanish into silence? If you notice, majority of such people will be having huge following and their aim is just to get your attention hoping you would reciprocate their ‘following’ by following them in return. These are business people doing their business, that is all. Such ‘followers’ will not add any value to your blogging experience. Those who want quality interaction should ‘count’ only on those people who comment on your posts, who share, appreciate or constructively criticize the ideas of your posts. That is your true community. What matters to quality seeking bloggers are interaction and the depth of interaction.  And remember, more the quality, less will they be in number. That is the law of nature. It will take time to meet like minded people who are willing to communicate.  So, for now, even if you have just one follower who regularly interacts with you on your blog’s subject matter, be thankful!

Don’t bother about the STAT page. Sometimes the page gives you a trophy, be glad to achieve it, but don’t get carried away. Keep calm and blog on !

IMPORTANCE OF SOCIAL AND MOBILE OF THE NEXUS OF FORCES TO THE BUSINESS COMMUNITY

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“A Nexus of converging forces – social, mobile, cloud and information is building upon and transforming user behavior while creating new business opportunities.” –  Gartner Inc.

As the research firm says, studies over the past several years have identified the independent evolution of four powerful forces: social, mobile, cloud and information. Because of ‘consumerization’ and the ubiquity of connected smart devices, people’s behavior has caused a user centric convergence of these forces. The reason behind such phenomenal ‘consumerization’ of IT services is the availability of excellent devices, interfaces and applications with minimal learning curves. In the nexus of these four forces, social and mobile have a more direct impact on the consumer and business world. As technology becomes more and more ‘fluid’ and disruptive in nature while radically changing consumer behavior, it makes business sense for the corporates to align their business strategy to this nexus of forces in order to stay relevant and competitive in their market space. Apart from the consumer side experience of these nexus of forces, what this article mainly focuses is the effect, implications and potentials of these forces on the business side and the repercussions if ignored.

In Social Media Examiner’s 2013 End of Year Report, marketers now place very high value on social media marketing. Around 86% of marketers stated that social media is important for their business and 89% of marketers stated that increased exposure to the target group was the number one benefit of social media marketing. Advertising through print media, television, and through public relations can be effective traditional tools of marketing even today but one cannot ignore the fact that 1 in 4 people around the world use the social media. Social media has a global penetration of 24%, which is on the increase as per a research conducted by emarket.com. With such large consumer base using the social media, a business house can only ignore the channel of social media at its own peril.  This particular channel, or ‘force’ as Gartner calls it, is even more useful for startup businesses, which cannot spend exorbitant amount on the traditional channels of marketing. Interestingly, some of the most successful businesses are small startups that have learned to use technology to gain edge. These companies have learnt to get attention of the potential customers by creating viral content and encouraging shares and likes. Once a product or service becomes a trend and talking point, more and more customers gravitate towards it, eager to learn more. Therefore, undoubtedly the foremost advantage of using social media for marketing is that it can be deployed in a cost effective manner.

Apart from the aspect of cost effectives , the other significant aspect of social media as a business tool is its ability to connect business to customer, business to business and peer to peer, all in real time. One of the few big challenges organizations face are who they need to reach and how can they reach them. The greatest benefit of social media is its ability to promote business to a vast audience of diverse stakeholders in real time, thorough a highly interactive platform and in a cost effective manner.

From an employee perspective, encouraging employee following allows for constant communication of key message leading to informed employees with greater employee engagement and visibility within the organization. Companies also use social media as a recruiting tool. Sites such as LinkedIn is used by internal and external recruiters on a regular basis to target particular skill-sets and put together a candidate pool that will more closely match a specific position, as opposed to advertising in print media or depending on resume database.

Businesses that use social media as part of a planned corporate approach are 1.5 to 2 times more likely to anticipate revenue growth than business that use social media in an ad hoc manner. In a nutshell, this particular force in the nexus has the prime advantage of connecting business to its target group in real time, in a cost effective and interactive manner.

“People are mobile” says Rick Howard, research director of Gartner Inc.

He elaborates that for the Nexus to be really useful to companies, human behaviour must be taken into account. He argues that people spread their experience over a constantly shifting array of devices. People expect context-aware delivery of ‘experiences’. This means that information should move seamlessly and easily across different devices to keep up with the people it’s meant for.

As per data, of the 7.1 billion people on the planet, 6.6 billion people are mobile subscribers, which makes it for 91% of the global penetration. Americans spend 162 minutes every day on their mobiles. This technology eliminates location, time and platform as determinants of the ability to access, interact with or participate in collaborations and solutions. With such impressive and promising facts and figures, it is becoming more and more evident that a Pro-mobile organization that takes its business to mobiles has a clear-cut advantage in the market space. Mobile-friendly websites and applications will give the organization a competitive edge. People often use their mobile phone to search for businesses while they are out and using the GPS built into their smartphones to find businesses close to their current location. If the company isn’t accessible, it could be losing business that is already right around the corner. In addition to that, if the company website is too hard to navigate on a mobile phone, it could lose mobile centric customers. Company websites and apps available on mobiles have a significant role in maintaining the customer base apart from creating potential new customers. These websites and apps are an extension of the company’s services and products and must be handled with total professionalism to maximize its benefit to business.

The success of mobile apps has not grown alone as a single application stovepipe, but rather has been fed and accelerated by the intertwined nature of social networking applications, the feed into big-data environments with contextual mobile data, and an enriched mobile experience through the supporting services of the cloud. People require devices and applications in their hands as opposed to (only) machines tethered to a desk. Taken in combination with the other three forces of Cloud, Social and Information, it can, and in fact, is already revolutionizing the business process.

Social is the most accessible of the four Nexus forces. Mobile is the most ambulant of the four nexus of forces.  India ranks third among the top countries for smartphone users with an estimated 117 million subscribers, behind only China and the US. “Look for disruptive opportunities at the intersection of the Nexus of Forces,” says Howard. “Do not focus on technologies first”. He advises against focusing on technology strategies in isolation. He also says not to expect old approaches to IT delivery to support Nexus scenarios. According to him, in 2015 the Nexus of Forces will affect industries differently. Communications, banking, healthcare and manufacturing will make up “value targets” with initiatives around social media presence and mobile apps and a more ‘bring your own device’ mindset. It is writing on the wall for all corporates that their business shall increasingly revolve around these nexus of forces especially the social and mobile forces, a fact, which if understood and adopted pro-actively by corporates, can lead to phenomenal accomplishments in their businesses.