Speed and Agility

“Next time, I’ll come and spend a week teaching them ( PG mgt students) how to use Agile for business innovation.” was a suggestion to the Board. It wasn’t the first time I was attending a board meeting, but it was the first time I was in attendance for a business school.

I wondered what the concept was, an oft repeated statement. Is it often that IT philosophy is used in other disciplines? I remember Prof. Karl Ulrich at Wharton had a background in Mechanical engineering and also borrowed some concepts from operations management to create rather interesting and simplified matrix for use to students learning about design & innovation.

Before I could organize or even attend the above stated, I was bag and baggage out of Mumbai and journeyed to Calcutta. What this term, and its cousins used in IT industry were, I never got a chance to delve. Until today.

At this point, lets look at the similarity of Ulrich’s method of design process and agile. Both talk about iterative design. (Then there is “Lean” and “scrum”. Both of which I haven’t googled yet. leaving it for another post.)

Two concepts that emerge from the overlap in similarity is: resource management and time management, leading to fast results and speed of innovation. If I were to consider time as a resource, then only one variable, resource, is at play, behind all innovation processes. Resource dictate what we make and how we make. Ironically, on a macro level thinking, our entire world resources should benchmark and ascertain which resources should be used how and when, and in how much quantity. That we have already overshot our capacity to fulfill our needs gives us two options; to stop production completely or to stop wanting more things.

Recently I also read (along with a million more people of this world) the book by Marie Kondo, The Life changing magic of Tidying.

Both Agile and Marie Kondo’s book stress on “eliminating waste”.

Both  breakdown work into manageable chunks. Kondo, takes up categories of home one by one, eg clothes, books etc.

Agile tries to create a minimal viable product; Kondo tries to keep things which spark joy and eliminate those that don’t.

We are at a threshold of a time, when our own organizations, our systems and documentation of our systems is an impediment to our work and life. The more we build systems upon system, we are further complicating and putting stress on our own time commitments. Wouldn’t you at school also have liked to learn, five-methods-to-do-something  and try developing a sixth one on your own, rather than a huge historical note about something which might get obsolete by the time you graduate? Now the question is, Can we have speed and agility in education? Could we have a discussion one day, think about what to work on; work on it the next day?

I mightn’t have wondered about speed and agility, had it not been for this prompt.

 

 

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Three of my Deepest Darkest Secrets…

As the year comes to an end, there were great moments, but there were failures & setbacks too. The good moments, which I already highlighted in my post here, a tribute to self and really nothing more than feeding my vanity and past laurels. Here are three confessions of the grey part of me, which have caused me embarrassment and dejection and I’m opening the book up for the world.

Number one: Not taking enough risks this year. Throughout my life I’ve tried to face my demons and strive to make what is my weakness, my strength. I still remember my Design School teacher’s words that resound in my mind till date. While giving an example in the class she said, “If I tell you to jump from the first step ( of the staircase), anyone would; If I tell you to jump from the second or third step, many people would, But if I tell you to jump from the fifth or sixth step, only a few would attempt.” Then she turned to me and said, “I do not imagine you ever jumping from the sixth step.” After that incident and a year of overcoming the shock of  brusque reality, I think my efforts were to always take risks. Working in new cities each time, changing and embracing new job profiles. But somewhere, the rewards are not there. I sometimes wonder if I am doing the right thing, personally and professionally.

Number two: My realization that I’m not a great entrepreneur and perhaps have no aptitude for it. I consider myself a serial failed entrepreneur. At 21, first company launched with my friend was called “Conceptuelle”, we sought to offer webdesign.At 22, when conceptuelle wasn’t pushing, I thought let’s make jewellery. In a months time, I had a diamond jewellery collection ready for valentines. I actually sold 25% of it. But thought  the conversions wasn’t good enough. Then after working for other people  for another ten years and learning about management, I launched drawing and design classes. I felt this venture would never go wrong, but somehow it’s not given me the necessary success. But, I plod.

Number three: I confess that I’ve gained weight and do not care about myself the way I used to before. Before I go about justifying how age has slowed me down and how difficult moving from town to town is ( there I go again…), I’ll say that I’m merely been lazy. Add on top of it the juicy sweets of Bengal, and you get 70 kgs of a round rossogulla , which I have become and not proud of it. Somehow this weight thing is new for me (never been above 50 kilos) and its surprising a warm feeling, I just wish I snap out of this state as quickly as I can.

Resolution to self

Don’t Rush, Don’t Fret,

Don’t Push, Don’t Bet.

Just pray. Just see,

Just read. Just be.

Smile. Sing.

Happiness, tis brings.

Talk, not loud,

Walk, not proud.

Run, not a race,

Simmer that pace.

Discover world,

As if a child;

Sometimes Wild,

Sometimes Mild.

 

My Ten Top Moments of 2017

Life is about living. A small part of it is of course work, as we strive to enjoy the rest of it through the rewards it brings.  The sweet balance of life and work is yet to be achieved, but here’s looking back at ten moments which highlighted 2017, cherished with the slow pace that choices and Calcutta has brought.

1) TAUGHT DESIGN

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The work part, “You Can Sketch” is alive and kicking. While there are hiccups brought by after effects of demonetization, GST and other government induced disenablers; some moments were very special. In the beginning of the year itself, I was contacted by a young girl for advise on NIFT preparation. Yes, she did finally get through NIFT. Yes, she finally got subject she wanted.

2) DESIGNED A CREATIVITY TEST

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A biggest issue I face is the selection of students for my workshops. Many people who want to learn drawing for the first time are unsure where to start. To overcome this, I designed a tool to check the level and aptitude of various participants.

3) MENTORED ON COURSERA

It had been a while since I mentored last on Coursera, being one of the earliest teams of community teaching assistants on this very innovative concept. So, when I was invited to mentor on “Planet Earth & You” course offered by University of Illinois, I took the opportunity to participate in the new offering.

4) MANAGED AN EVENT

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If managing a group of 200 odd people is challenging, managing an all women group of 200 is even more so. Everything has to be perfect. While I was merely a treasurer of this all women support group, I soon found myself to be the quiz master, photographer and documenter for this monthly meet group. Poila Boisakh, is the New Year celebrated in Bengal, and was our theme reflecting in the backdrop, quiz questions, décor and also the dress code. I think I learned just enough to write a longish article on it by now!

5) HONED MY WRITING SKILLS

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Jeffry Archer was promoting his new book and T2, the local supplement of the English newspaper, The Telegraph, held a contest. The challenge was to write a story with a beginning, middle & end, in exactly 100 words. Not a word less. Not a word more. Out of 190 entries received, mine was one of the few chosen by their page editor to be featured on their page.

6) APPRECIATED ART

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Art & Calcutta go hand in hand. On one occasion of visiting an art gallery, hoping to pick up some of the famed art, I found myself the subject instead. I found myself observing a painting, on the front page of the daily, instead.

7) RODE A HORSE

How difficult can it be reaching the race course at 5:15 every morning in early spring? Not very. The air is fresh, it’s peaceful and add to that a like minded riding group and you are all set. The breeches were bought, so were the strong leather shoes and a stiff round riding cap. The trotting was not painful and a horse with a very human name, “ Mr Vijay Kumar” was allocated to me. It was a fine majestic horse with a shiny dark brown body and a tall countenance. After a week of getting accustomed to the horse, I decided to call it quits. The reason? The pain. Not to me, but to the horse? Each horse is held with a harness attached on their mouth, all the way to their teeth and to make the horse “obey” you need to pull the muzzle tight or loose as required. I don’t know whether the poor creature felt the pain, but I felt it every time I wanted to make it “obey” me. One day my instructor told me to whip the poor thing. I decided that it was the last day for me.

8) STAR GAZED

The year’s hyped astronomical event was the total solar eclipse seen after a gap of a century in America. In Calcutta we had an episode of a partial lunar eclipse.  I waited till 1 am to see the complete phenomena and tried to record it.

Then another star caught my eye one evening. Dusk had just descended on the quiet hazy evening. It blinked red, then green and appeared to give out flashes of light. Sirius is its name, the brightest star in our constellation. While my hand did shake to capture on manual mode, the colors it gives out are ethereal and almost unreal as if belonging to another dimension.

 9) THE EYE OF A ROYAL BENGAL TIGER

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The Royal Bengal tiger looked directly towards me. He was half hidden behind the leaves camouflaging his stripes. They are known to be man eaters. But I saw him from the safety of a partition wall, in the zoo. Alipore Zoo was built in the late 1800’s. He also shares the zoo with a white tiger. A lion and a leopard are the new occupants. Can sometimes hear them roaring at night. (I stay close to the zoo.)

10) TRIED DIFFERENT CUISINES   

 

Whether it is the bakers, the Mughlai cuisine or the seafood, in abundance you find it all in Calcutta. If I wasn’t online much of the time this year, I was probably eating some Biryani, the Victoria Vada or savouring an English Tea with thin sandwiches.

Looking forward to more feasts on the last year of the Calcutta exploration!

Five Lessons in Installation Art 101 with Puja Pandal Hopping!

A decade or so back when friends would say: “We are going to Calcutta for the Puja”, the Delhites would wonder what the brouhaha was all about. What was this connection between every Bengali and Durga Puja Pandal?

These temporary Hindu Temples come up for nine days in a year and block many roads all over the city causing traffic snarls and packed streets. One wonders, “What’s the rush about?” avoiding the affected streets. Life comes to a standstill specially in the last 2-3 days and even if you don’t step out, your newspaper stops coming, offices close early and the help turn up late or not at all.

The entire close to a million NRI bangla diaspora, seem to descend on Calcutta at this time, along with surrounding villages, taking the population a few notches more than 15 million at this time.

“You must visit the pandals at least once to see the art of Bengal” urged a young Bengali. I could visualize him pandal hopping on a two wheeler with his friends adding to the traffic and then jostling his way through the crowds in sweaty heat.

Amid the surrounding filth of last night’s disposable plates and soda cups, people waddled through to see a glimpse of the structures. Different thematic installations emerged. Some of the lessons are below from visiting a few:

  1. Recreations: Recreating a building of another city or a temple structure found elsewhere. Calcutta seems to be superb in this. The reverse engineering of temple design.
  2. Recycling: Used tires. Used medicine boxes. The Calcutta dump itself provides raw material for many structures.
  3. Sustainability: Straw, bamboo, & materials resembling straw and bamboo, for an earthen feel.
  4. Sparkle & Shine: Mosaics, Mirrors, Tin, Special effects lighting, colored lights.
  5. Pomp & Hype: World’s Largest… Biggest… Most expensive…. Gold sari of so many Kgs and Gold ornaments.

I recommend visiting these structures as a part of Indian Design education. The variety of themes, elements, material exploration and intricacy in detail is quite inspiring. The hygiene and man management are two issues which if tackled, could make Calcutta Pandal hopping superlative.

 

 

Lady In The Deluge

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LADY IN THE DELUGE. (Mixed Media: Pen & Pastels)

There is something about Calcutta which brings out the need for creative expression. The rain clouds over the sky for over fours months a year. Many times it rains when the sun is shining. Dull, dreary, this perhaps explains the slow pace of everything including traffic. The last week across the globe has been about floods. Everywhere. Typhoon. Tornado. Bursts of rain in Mumbai yet again, and of-course in Calcutta too.

Who is the “Lady In The Deluge”?

She seems to be an urban lady, dressed for a party. Wearing a cold shoulder dress, tattered at one sleeve. Her oversized umbrella doesn’t help in this rain and a stream of water finds its way down her arm. She makes a futile effort to save her smartphone from the rain, bu doubt if it would be of much use. Same with her garments outlining her silhouette. Doesn’t help. The sound of her shoes clicking on the gravel gets muted. She is perhaps trying to find the way to her car.

Is that her car? The one that is submerged? What are those pieces of paper stuck under the wheel?

In the background a couple of friendly colleagues document their adventure.

An empty soda bottle bobs along silently, trying to find its purpose.

END

Letter to Nikola, written a century later.

SEND: through wireless ether, non-time specific

Calcutta, India

19 Aug. 17

Hi Nikola,

It’s been two years less a century between your autobiography first published in 1919 in the Electrical Experimenter and now that I first read it. I happened to find the copy titled “My Inventions” on the net. It’s a couple of decades short a century since your death too!

However, the feeling of connecting with you was so strong, that I thought, “What the hell!”(It’s a current slang phrase), “Let’s get on with it, maybe some vibration, some energy field or some time-wrap could take this message into the past.”

Everything is after all Energy & Frequency.

You said in your book, quote, “I am prompted to this prediction not so much by thoughts of the commercial and industrial revolution which it will surely bring about, but of the humanitarian consequences of the many achievements it makes possible. Consideration of mere utility weigh little in the balance against the higher benefits of civilization.”

By the way, today the United Nations is celebrating “World Humanitarian Day”. (Are you sniggering?)

You also say quote, “The greatest good will come from technical improvements tending to unification and harmony… (You gave example of your wireless transmitter)”.

News! You have been right. We have this thing called the internet, joined by fiber optics across the sea bed. (Like you professed in your book: a wire buried in the ground, insulated from interference). It has been revolutionary. It has connected like-minded people like never before and reduced the distances between countries. We have smartphones to talk, radios, microwaves to cook food and your discovery of alternating current to provide electricity, is still providing energy to most homes in the world, to power our many devices.

But they still haven’t figured how to harness the energy of the sun and direct it to water arid deserts. Or maybe we haven’t heard about it yet. Some countries, though, are working on a large model of the Sun! Interestingly they don’t have large deserts or arid lands.

About the use of electromagnetic frequencies for warfare, there are doubts that this might have already been misused for weather modification and the sorts. You did warn.

Well, they discovered the Van Allen radiation belts swathing around the atmosphere of the earth, in 1958 tells NASA. Maybe the time to build that free floating ring across the equator, enabling fast travel is now, though the supersonic planes have reached over 3000 km/hr by this era, we like experimenting with new ways to be mobile.

Must mention as a passing note that two things are still around, misinformation and your favorite journal, the Scientific American. The latter has a twitter account, which in today’s times means that it is thriving well into this century.

Do you know, they named a car inspired by you? The Tesla? They are however still looking to make such cars cheaper. The fuel used in electric cars is lithium, which is available in China, Australia and Afghanistan. And there is war-like situation on in at least a third of these places. It won’t be long before Electric car technology are competing with the traditional car models, and your Detroit car manufacturer; is threatened by the laws of demand and inventive supply (Twist of destiny, 🙂

There is sudden interest in you again and led me to wonder, why we didn’t ever learn about you in school? Ironically your invention brings the electricity to every working classroom of the world, illuminating the books, where we learn the name of Edison. (He didn’t actually invent the incandescent light bulb, did he?)

You say in your book, “My belief is strong in a law of compensation. The true rewards are ever in proportion to the labor and sacrifices made.”

On the world humanitarian day, here is hoping that with the same spirit/energy with which you tackled science and harnessed it for problem solving for good of the society, may each inventor in this era direct their energy towards higher benefits of the civilization.

END MESSAGE