Monday, December 26, 2011

iPad experiences

After we have acquired the iPad, it has proved to be a boon in the education space for the little ones. There are so many interesting apps on the iPad - like Science360, Ascent (space shuttle), Galaxy walk, Colour uncovered, Morris Lessmore and the flying books. There is of course a good and bad side to it. Good, obviously, because the best way for learning to happen is like osmosis - while you are doing something the learning is a byproduct. And if it happens while doing something you are keen to do, that you find interesting (which is stating the obvious), nothing like it. Thus it is that the iPad and the internet have opened the curiosities of the little one like no other. That being said, there is a downside. There is a significant chance that school will relegate itself to be "uninteresting" and a "chore". This is something we will have to guard or better still, work around, I guess. More later!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Creative pursuits

Take a look at this wonderful advertisement. It beautifully replicates a website into a physical design through the 90 odd seconds that it runs. First of all it is creative - almost burns the light bulb in your head - and makes you go - why did I not think of that. Second, truly, the internet, like life is what you make of it. Third, it is quite inspiring when you come to think of it. But as a creative concept, this has appealed to me for a longish time. We had attempted to do something similar for a website as part of a project at work. We worked on getting the entire website down a book. The whole idea was to make the website "physical". So, literally you would have dropdowns that would need to be folded back and then little windows would pop up as part of the book and so forth. Pages would cut like tabs on the website and would take you back and forth and so on. The project did go through, though to a time crunch in the end, we had to cut down many of the "features" and go with something relatively simple. But this video actually takes that concept to "god" level. Amazing!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

There are books

There are books and there are books. There are Wren and Martins for grammar and there is "Eats, Shoots and Leaves".

There a countless dry and melancholic books for Finance and there is Principles of Corporate Finance by Brearley and Myers.

Ditto for marketing - where Kotler is still one of the best books to read. And then you have Robbins on Organizational Behaviour.

There are a million books on programming and then there is the Dummies series or an even better Head First series.

These thoughts came to my mind as I skim through Thinking, Fast and Slow - which is perhaps one of the best books I have ever read on psychology. There are many other books, but very few like this one by Daniel Kahneman that teach it so nicely and lucidly.

What book would you rather read? Or write, for that matter?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Flinch, the e-book

I saw this post yesterday at The Domino Project on a new e-book - they are giving away for free named Flinch. More than the name, the cover made me curious. What the hell is this about. The preview on Amazon was superb. (It resonated with something I was doing!)

And instead of me expounding it, go download this glorious ebook on Kindle - Flinch which does it so well.

For some strange reason, it is free. So, dont waste your time and go download and read it (it works in India as well). I have started reading it and the book is lively and punchy!

10,000 hours

A significant part of my job goes around answering the question, "How does one increase domain knowledge?"

There are no easy answers to this, but there is a short answer and that answer is experience. Now experience, does not mean standing the non-strikers end in a cricket match all day long- though that too is undoubtedly experience. Experience means, real, solid, experience of doing things. In short practice. There is no shortcut. Read that again. There is no shortcut except putting in real solid hours of practice.

Read this story of 2 pilots and how a simple error made things go catastrophically wrong. Reading through the entire thing will only make you realize that the pilots, a) disregarded some common protocol and b) substituted it with the wrong protocol and c) failed to identify checkpoints and take appropriate action. Why did that happen? Because, they were never exposed to a particular situation.

Now they are flying planes - that carry people - so their trainings are about the best in the world - all across. The last thing you want is planes dropping out of the sky. So, in general, they are trained to respond to particular situations in a particular way. They call it the checklist (do read Atul Gawandes, epic book, The Checklist Manifesto on the same topic).

How is all of this related to domain knowledge - which in my view is a much abused word in the IT, ITES, BPO and KPO industry today?

Every company head or business head or account manager wants the training team to deliver "domain knowledge".

Unfortunately, they cannot. But they wont admit in as many words and respond like governments do in disaster hit areas. They respond by airdropping trainings. Whoever grabs a package gets a bit of food. Unfortunately, that does not really solve their hunger problem. The airdropping helps you survive one more day - they need to be rescued out of the situation. In the same way, dropping trainings on people wont help them. They need to be "rescued" - and that means, offered means to get out - and that means practice. Wherever practice is encouraged, there you will see knowledge bloom.

You cannot have domain knowledge unless the employee has had sufficient practice. Which means, if you dont have simulators, sandboxes, jam sessions, "Olympics", that let people practice, watch themselves, talk about it, spar and learn, there is no way in hell they are going to know beyond the obvious routine mechanical things that are put on their plates.

Ask yourself this question. Are your employees getting 10,000 hours of practice doing real stuff that leads to domain knowledge?