Sunday, June 27, 2021

Problem Solving: Avoiding solution that creates another problem

Long back in 2007, Mumbai Municipal Corporation had a problem with mice. Mice were dangerous and vulnerable to spread the Leptospirosis and plague that time. The solution proposed by the administration for exterminating the mice was to pay people Rs. 5 for every dead mouse they delivered. So the municipal corporation declared to pay Rs. 5 for every dead mouse. People had to take dead mice to the ward office of the municipal corporation and get the cash from there.  It worked until the people began breeding the mice in order to make more money.

"By solving one problem, we generate another one and sometimes create an even worse one. I have encountered similar examples where the people generated another bigger problem to solve one.

To pay the credit card bill, withdrawing the cash from another credit card is another example. The person has to face recovery agents and he used to hesitate to come into the office when recovery agents started visiting the workplace.   

To take a loan to invest in shares assuming that the returns on the share will make you richer. Few borrow the money to invest in Ponzi schemes like selling magnetic mattresses or buying the plot which nobody knows where it is and losing all money.

Problem solving without considering the future consequences is the common flaw in decision making. Every action has consequences, intended and unintended. No matter how carefully we plan, we can't anticipate everything.

To solve the traffic problem, most of the metro cities constructed overbridges. In Pune we have around 66 road bridges including bridges on the river. Our political representatives and engineers in the municipal corporation found that adding new routes and building bridges to distribute traffic will solve the traffic congestion issue. However, in certain parts of the city before or after the bridge, where roads divert, the new issue of traffic congestion is created which is much bigger that earlier one.

Most of the time, it depends upon what we want to achieve in the short term. In business, the top line or the bottom line is the dilemma. CEOs always say that both are important, and they want profitable growth. But depending upon the product mix, they have to decide some strategy. When your product becomes a commodity, your pricing strategy plays an important role. In that case you may improve the revenue impacting your profitability, but again to what extent you can afford it. We have similar issues in different areas of the business.

Few years back, some consultants and HR professionals came up with the idea of fun at the workplace to create an engaging workplace. Every service and technology company was doing some engagement cum fun activities on the shop floor. It created a feel good factor but could not solve the attrition and engagement issue.  Companies ignored the important imperatives of employee engagement like fair treatment, respect, empowerment, culture, right compensation and benefits etc. I am not saying that such engagement activities don't have an impact, it has a temporary impact and that may be on engagement score, but the fundamental problem remains as it is. In fact, it created another problem of the entitlement mindset. We assume that rewards and recognition schemes will increase the motivation, sales incentive plans will increase the sales and so on. Short term basis, it gives results but after a few months, or years it doesn’t work. Another consequence is employees expect gratification in everything you expect from them and it has an impact on the culture.

The problem is good intentions don't eliminate the bad consequences.. Outcomes don't follow from intentions and intentions by definition apply only to intended consequences.

So, what is the solution to such thinking? One way to reduce unintended consequences is to stop focusing on isolated factors and instead consider how our actions affect the whole system. Taking a holistic and helicopter view will help to eliminate some negative consequences in the long term.

You can use some tools while solving the problem or making any decision which will help you avoid some negative consequences.

Ask questions? What sort of problem do you want to solve? What are those positive or negative consequences? Ask somebody to play the role of “devil’s advocate” to challenge you. 

Design thinking: Understand what others expect, their perception and design the solution. Then test with the pilot and take the feedback. Redesign if required.  

Use Six Thinking Hats: Read Six Thinking Hats

Please click on below links to read articles for more methods and tools to avoid future negative consequences.

Weighted criteria assessment in decision making

Decision making process during VUCA

Do you consider the intuition while making decision?

"However, sometimes you make the right decision, sometimes you make the decision right. It depends on what benefits you see." 

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organizations, current or past) 

Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkartPothi and BookGanga 

Vitality in Human Resource is now available in paperback edition. Please click here to buy

Buy Industrial Relations Strategy Framework For Every Manager on amazon. Click IR Strategy Framework.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Circle of competence

When you look around, everybody is glued to the mobile, internet and on social media. We receive a lot of information on social media like WhatsApp, twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. This gives the feeling that we know everything, and information is the power. What we forget is that we have just the information and not the knowledge. I have seen people hardly learning from those messages and information about what they are consuming daily. Most dangerous part is people making their opinion based on that or taking decisions without understanding enough. 

During the current pandemic, people have a lot of dilemmas. Should we take the vaccine or should we not? Is one of the dilemmas created by social media. However, very few people tried to contact their doctor and take his/her opinion instead of believing the news on social media. In today’s times, the perception of knowledge usually engulfs your true knowledge. Hence, our knowledge graph looks as under.

As you see, the circle of competence is the area that matches your experience and skills or ‘what you already know’. However, we think otherwise claiming that we have knowledge & skill in other areas also. This is because of the lack of reflection and insight we have.   

You must be knowing that Warren Buffet writes a letter every year to CEOs and shareholders of different companies where he invested. He does this to set expectations.  He referred to this concept in the letter he wrote to shareholders on behalf of Berkshire Hathaway. 

He says, “Intelligent investing is not complex, though that is far from saying that it is easy. What an investor needs is the ability to correctly evaluate selected businesses. Note that word “selected”: You don’t have to be an expert on every company, or even many. You only have to be able to evaluate companies within your circle of competence. The size of that circle is not very important; knowing its boundaries, however, is vital.” – Warren Buffett 

Knowing the circle of competence is not only useful to investors but also everybody. Everything which comes under your knowledge, skills, and competence comes under your “circle of competence.” Wise person knows exactly what his or her circle of competence is. Knowing your circle of competence increases the success rate and better decision making. It doesn’t mean that you can’t expand your circle of competence; however, your perception about the knowledge you have, needs to be corrected. 

Identifying the circle of competence is easy but overconfidence is the major hurdle in identifying it. We actually ‘think’ that we know better but in reality, we don’t. We need to understand that we may have limitations to expand our competence in certain areas where you need specialized expertise. For example, if you are a salesperson and you wish to become a data scientist, it is beyond your expertise. You can, but then you need to learn different skills to become a data scientist. 

One of the solutions to expand the circle of competence is moving from a “know-it-all” to a “learn-it-all” mindset. We are not superhuman who have all solutions and all knowledge. Our mind brings out solutions based on our past experiences. However, the mind does not relate those experiences to the contexts. Good news is, we can condition the mind to understand the context and that’s why learning is crucial.

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organizations, current or past) 

Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkartPothi and BookGanga 

Vitality in Human Resource is now available in paperback edition. Please click here to buy

Buy Industrial Relations Strategy Framework For Every Manager on amazon. Click IR Strategy Framework.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Experience failures and learn the success formula

One of the questions professionals, business leaders, entrepreneurs etc always get is, “What is the success formula you used?” It is assumed that most of the successful people have planned their career and they got what they dreamed for. We always share success stories of professional, entrepreneur, leaders but we never share failure stories. We forget that the success stories which you read or listen to are hardly 10% and there are almost 90% failure stories. 

You can learn from success stories but you can learn more from failure stories.   

After the graduations, there were very few employment opportunities. Initial days were tough for me and my generation. I was doing small jobs only to get some money. I was not enjoying those jobs. My bosses were terrific, my employers were not that good. Others were getting good jobs and good salaries. I was thinking, I was a failure, alone all the way. However, I always learnt whatever came to me. I learnt so many things, I learnt dealing with difficult people, I learnt to work hard, I worked till late night. Though the jobs, managers and employers were difficult, my family members, colleagues and friends were good. Till late night we used to spend time and have fun mimicking others. We shared the same bonding, same emotions. We used to share  food and borrow money from each other.

They were the same as me, living in a small house, their struggles were not different, they also needed their jobs to keep going. In fact, they were much senior than me and had a lot of family responsibilities.

I learnt a big lesson from them, and that is keep going…

I was also trying to get a good job with a good salary. I was rejected by a few companies because of various reasons, like bad English, lack of confidence, or just my poor presentation skills.

Failing one time or even several times doesn’t make you a failure any more than losing one game makes you a loser. Failure can be a great teacher, great mentor. Failure makes you stronger. Failure keeps you grounded.

I became stronger day by day. It kept me grounded and humbled. I was among those youths, who perhaps would get frustrated, disappointed, depressed but I was different from them and that is I never took failures personally. I learnt lessons from each failure.

All my failures taught me followings:

Being grounded and realistic: I was expecting too much from me. I wanted to be successful fast without understanding my limitations. If English is the hurdle to get a good job, I learnt English. I spent sleepless nights watching English shows, news channels, reading newspapers and books to develop the English language and vocabulary. Whenever I used to learn any new English word, I used to write it in a notebook. I  used to make sure to use that word during the next conversation. With the permission of my employer, I took another job in English Daily to edit their late night editions. I made mistakes in the language that I learnt daily. This helped me manifold. I learned language skills; I improved my vocabulary; I gained knowledge on multiple subjects.  

Not taking the failure personally: Failures are because of circumstances and some limitations we have. Human being is not perfect. Failures reminds us that we are human being. I used to get disappointed and frustrated because I used to take the failures personally. My emotions were not in control. I always used to blame myself and my background but then I realised that problems is not always with me. People are also unfair and political. Sometimes situations and time is unfair. It is just not the right time. So instead of taking the failure personally, I started to reflect upon the reasons. This made me stronger day by day.

Self-Image: Failures are inevitable but during this process we need to learn but also take care of self. Keeping a positive self-image is very crucial after failures. I learnt not to blame others but also not to blame myself. We should learn from failures and mistakes and be optimistic about the future. This helps me to gain confidence. I started not to think much about the failure events, instead focusing on next.

Never give up: Most people fail before achieving success; the difference is that successful people never stop trying. I always used to tell my mind to keep going. I took inspiration from others, I always used to observe those poor people who were struggling even to maintain their livelihood. That gave me the positive feeling that at least I have something in hand.  

Somebody rightly said, “Age wrinkles the body. Quitting wrinkles, the soul.”

Mediation, hobbies, and fun: Disappointments and failures never took my heart and mind from me. I used to visit temples regularly and sit there. I remember going to the ‘Lord Mahadeva’ temple which was located outside of the city. I used to sit there and meditate for hours. I read a lot of books, all types of books, books in Hindi, Marathi English. I listened to songs regularly. I spent time with my friends sharing stories and also helping them. I attended a lot of seminars and lectures on different subjects during and even after my college days. I also attended a lot of cultural and social activities. I also started writing columns for newspapers and magazines.  Even during the odd times, I laughed loudly. I never allowed my smile to disappear. I started to mentor young children and college students on personality development. All this has a positive impact on me. 

At present, I have all those things which I dreamed of. I have no fears and insecurities. But I went through the hottest fire in the past which made me stronger, curious and courageous.

Richard Nixon once said, “The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire”. I learnt resilience.

One piece of advice I always have is that “be like a sponge. Absorb good and bad, but learn from those.”    

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organizations, current or past) 

Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkartPothi and BookGanga 

Vitality in Human Resource is now available in paperback edition. Please click here to buy

Buy Industrial Relations Strategy Framework For Every Manager on amazon. Click IR Strategy Framework.

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Restoring the ecosystem - Environment Day

House sparrows are in our sentiments because they were part of our lives and memories. They were in stories, which we listened to during our childhood. During my childhood, we had a good relationship with house sparrows. Different types of birds were nestled on different types of local trees. They were part of our ecosystem. We all were living together. The ecosystem was maintained nicely respecting each other. Every evening, different types of birds were seen in the sky.  I left my village for education and career, and moved to different cities. When I moved to Roha. Our colony was the home for Flamingos and other migratory birds during every monsoon. However, I have never seen the fictions between local and migratory birds. Of course, the quarrels for space were natural and not deadly like us. 

House sparrow (Pic: Atharva Bidwaik)

House sparrows were rarely seen in Pune, however in the last 2 years due to lock-down and reduction in pollution, they along with different types of birds are regularly seen around. This is also an indication that Mother Earth is healing. It is our responsibility to maintain the ecosystem where all living animals live together. We, human beings, need to learn to respect the space required for other living objects. We also need to understand that we can’t survive without their survival. Do you know that honeybees have been dying at an alarming rate over the past decades? They are responsible for much of the food on our plate. Bees perform a task that is vital to the survival of agriculture: pollination. In fact, one third of our global food supply is pollinated by bees.

Kingfisher spotted by Atharva Bidwaik

Lot of species are on the verge of extinction. The impact on the earth is seen because of this. We all know the reasons behind this. We are sabotaging nature by interfering by cutting trees, building big buildings, and overusing the resources. Human beings are always selfish.   

Red Panda (Pic: Atharva Bidwaik)

Today we are celebrating “World Environment Day”. Every year, the world celebrates Environment Day on the 5th Jun. As per United Nations principle, a vehicle for encouraging awareness and action for the protection of the environment, this day is celebrated annually. This year’s theme is “Ecosystem Restoration”. The objective of ecosystem restoration is to contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity as well as create social, economic and environmental benefits, whereby healthy and connected ecosystems should contribute to improve food and water security, peoples’ livelihoods and to mitigate and adapt to climate change”.

Mula River (Pic: Vinod Bidwaik)

We need to seriously think and act to protect and restore the ecosystem, otherwise human beings will be extinct. We have a greater responsibility to provide the greater place to live to our next generations.   

As per American proverb, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” The message that we need to act if we want to pass on a world with a healthy environment to future generations.

Guest at our home (Pic: Atharva Bidwaik)

What can we do?

We can do it by just following the 3R philosophy which everybody knows.

Reduce, Recycle, and Reuse.

Our smaller actions will have a major impact.

Reduce: Just reduce all consumption, like food, water, fuel, travel, electricity etc just by ¼ from today. If you are conformable, you can reduce it by 50%.

Recycle: Use the products which are recyclable. Don’t go for flashy, costly. products.  

Recycle: While buying any products, check if they are recyclable. Make yourself educated about the product life cycle. 

Mula River near Pune (Pic: Atharva Bidwaik)

"The earth has enough resources for our needs, but not for our greed"  Mahatma Gandhi quotes. Let’s reduce that greed also.  

(Opinions are purely personal & does not represent my organizations, current or past) 
Author's book are available on AmazonFlipkartPothi and BookGanga 
Vitality in Human Resource is now available in paperback edition. Please click here to buyBuy Industrial Relations Strategy Framework For Every Manager on amazon. Click IR Strategy Framework.

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