Should you let the Lions sleep?

While at NIFT, a major part of my job became pushing files with lingo such as post facto, ex post facto, pro bono, status quo and the sorts. (Why a “fashion” institute is still stuck with an ancient method of record maintenance is still a puzzle to me.)

The word status quo came towards me from many directions.

“Don’t challenge the status quo” came again from the HR in a private jewellery company, as I experimented with changes in the branding plan. That actually pushed me a step further towards the door.

“Let the lions sleep” advised another colleague in another firm.

But there have been some lessons which I share.

Innovation vs order

If you are in a job, you have two options. One is that you try to change things for the better and the other is that you try to maintain the “status quo” and work within that constraint.

After working in mostly jewellery companies, I realized that innovation comes not just from products, but also from process; and also from systems. System innovation sounds quite technical, but as I see it, it could be as simple as instructing your back end to do a certain task, or a single person incharge to do a single thing more (or less).

Productivity vs change

While you endeavor to change things around, there maybe resistance to change. Changes in work process without senior most management push, is an uphill task. Many areas that actually need changes are grey areas often between different departments. An ideal scenario would be to identify leaders from each department and enroll them as change agents for the larger innovation. This however also leads to those resisting change to react adversely.

What you think vs group think

When coming up with ideas, innovative thinkers may come up with ideas which appear to be so crazy, so mad, so eccentric that the larger mass of thought might not be able to accommodate it. New ideas are risky, because they have not been tried out before. Getting people apart from yourself out of their comfort zones and  fixed routine might be a huge challenge if you really do believe in the worth of your idea. But if it doesn’t work, its your neck on the line and that is the single biggest deterrent to individuals, our non acceptance of failure.

The conventional employee would let the “lions sleep” and the innovator? What would the innovator do? Would you let the Lions sleep?

How Colour Branding is working in Politics

Elections in India have become a huge gala of sound, noise and drama. Add the songs, events, digital marketing and you get a full 360 marketing campaign.

Today’s public held swearing-in ceremony at the state capital Kolkata, was fashionable.

The newly elected party had in huge doses, a political brand presence. It demonstrated people power, by the sheer number of human population surrounding the event and an association with a certain color scheme, liberally used in the decorations. For a State that boasts of as much  land territory and population as that of a small country ; a state language (Bengali) which has 211 million speakers in the world; a grand event did not seem unusual.

A creative like me with absolutely zero to borderline interest in the political scene, was surprised by the recent election campaigns used by various political parties. I grew up in the New Delhi area in the 80’s and 90’s, when every national event or visiting dignitary visit (there were plenty) had elaborate doses of tri-coloured flower & leaf arrangement or the “many-flowerpots-arrangement” of the horticulture department. While Marigold / Dahlias were usually denoting the Orange, the Leafy Palms represented the Green band in the national flag. I am forgetting what they did about the whites. Petunias, maybe.

In the national elections a couple of years back, while one party; (represented by the holy saffron hue bordering on fanta orange), tried to bring in the green and white in many places in its ad space, it was perhaps  primarily seeking to be identified with its lotus orange usp. Fanta, Vodaphone and other brands have successfully used the orange colour to show excitement and cheer in their logos.

The Bengal party, after branding the city with Blue and White (seemed to be borrowed from the sari of the Missionaries of Charity) and now adorning everything from lampposts, railings to the great event itself; exemplifies the success of its understanding of colour perception.

What remains unbranded perhaps is the rest of the contingent of the political nobles. Will it be a wonder if lack of symbolic colour translated to the lack in its personality? Or worse, the choice of a wrong colour could signal contrary emotions? Let’s wait and watch.

Visual Merchandising “on the go”

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The culture of India is diverse and we seem to thrive in the diversity. Every time you travel to a new state, city, town or even a lane; you would be thronged by a sellers with various wares. In some cases though, the quality could be questionable, but our ingenious sellers find ways to display, present and sell their wares.

Whether its a mobile shop “carried” from compartment to compartment of a local commuter train; or a pavement side display of something that would grab your attention, whether or not you require the products; your journey would be a moving canvas of color and variety.

Major audience? Women, naturally!

How we “Make in India”

Nothing Happens unless something Moves.

Albert Einstein.

Last autumn, I got the opportunity to take a “Makers” workshop for a bunch of management students. They considered it as “craft” exercise. The aspect of making was new to some of them.

We started with the material most familiar to them and many people across the world and that is Paper.

For the next Makers Workshop we introduced Plastic and this time the group was clearer with their understanding of how to use a material

The next trimester, we introduced a Hackathon competition and the brief was to use basic material such as ice cream sticks and rubber bands to create something that demonstrates the conversion of potential energy into movement.

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Our group of students was now prepared as they tackled this subject in a limited time within our “Makers Space”. The selected few from these got the chance to explore innovation in a multidisciplinary group at an MIT event at Nasik.

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Smarty Pants

If you were ask in India what is the current buzzword, supported by marketing efforts of course, you would get Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities among some more floating on the social net.

All of a sudden we are considering being “Smart”. Silently we whisper to each other “What is meant by Smart”? Is what is meant “Smart” by them the “Smart” we understand? (Do we really?) We then look up to the architects of the word and ask , “What is Smart?”.

The self appointed architects reply with a mock shock,

“You don’t know?… “See.”

They point towards a country and its city demonstrating some glass, shiny metals and a lot of automation technology.

“Oh!” We look amazed at the trains that go on hyper speed and the doors that open and shut automatically, sensors that send information ahead to someone and someone or something who supposedly makes life simpler in this maze of productivity with people like working ants going about their jobs.

“We can do that?!” we look on mesmerized, silently wonder how many potholes we have avoided that day and how much water to expect in the municipality tap. This smart city appears to look like heaven.

“We can accomplish that?”, We ask again in disbelief!

Nods the architect. “A few trillions here and there, but it is possible.”

“Where are the Trillions coming from?” we ask still in disbelief.

“FDI mostly. Fourteen countries have shown interest.”

We whistle in further disbelief.

“Wow! Fourteen countries will tell us how to live smartly.” Impressed at the achievement. We close the latest edition of Shiv Puraan. Old Sops of life. Lets embrace the new.

“Who..”, we ask further, “..would be living in these smart cities?”

“Smart citizens.” They answer. “Smartly qualified with smart education”.

We applaud!

“How..” we ask, “Would you find these smart citizens?”

The architects now loose patience at this inevitable question and blurt.

“You have too many questions! You are not Gift-ed. You are certainly not smart and don’t qualify to stay in a smart city!”

Disappointed, we start looking at the map and looking for the other non smart cities to live in.

“Don’t worry,” the architects console, “We may be working towards an inclusive society where even the lower income group can be accommodated.”

We breathe a sigh of relief. When we go to discuss this at our daily pavement dwellers meeting over a boiling broth of today’s Dal, most have the same question:

“Will the pavements be really clean? They won’t trouble us every six months for pavement leveling?”.

“We don’t know about clean, but they promise they will be smart.”

“Smart?” asks the pavement mother, cradling one kid on her lap and another suckling on her breast.

We go on to explain what is meant by “Smart”.

“See….” we point towards that country with that city gleaming in the night.

The pavement dwellers rub their eyes in disbelief.

( to be continued.)

Guess what I found! A 1990s clipping.

I think exposing yourself to new ideas and new industries and new places that are doing things in unconventional ways is terribly important” says the interviewee. Hold true even today.

…..The exciting new companies are inventing their way along without any role models”, talks about the spirit of risk and adventure in the game. This was the mid 90’s.

Around 20 years back, when digital technology was not omnipresent and accessible like it is today, some of us used to cut interesting news items from the magazines and papers called “clippings” and the more methodical ones used to file these, with proper indexing. With digital archiving, this seems like a meaningless exercise and the process of clipping, saving, storing and sharing is now simplified with a simple click or two.

When I had torn off that series of Quotations that I have been sharing on this blog, along with them I had also managed to save this page of interview on the backside of one of those papers. I discovered it only while electronically saving the well preserved papers (as you can see the article is dated March 1994, almost 21 years back). I found some statements to be classic and profound and very interesting even today!

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I believe this is part of an interview of Management Guru, Tom Peters by Business Today magazine.