2014 : What I’ll be blogging here?

So its a new year! The time when everyone embarks on all new things
New Year Resolutions
New Year Wishes
New Year Changes

Well, as I mulled over what I’ll be doing here on my blog, the one thing that I was clear that I would continue to write..

So, how frequently will I post?
Once a week

And when will I publish a post?
Every Thursday at 3 PM IST

So what will I be blogging about?
Well.. The focus will continue to be on areas of professional interest which range from Marketing, Social Media, Leadership, Innovation, Strategy and Business.

So is there a specific plan for the postings?
Well yes!
Week 1 of the month – A post on Social Media
Week 2 of the month – A post on Marketing
Week 3 of the month – A post on Leadership
Week 4 of the month – A post on Innovation / Strategy / Business

Will I do anything different this year on my blog?
Well, there will be a few surprises along the way. So wait and watch.. And do follow my blog to know what these surprises are!

Till then, continue reading..
And LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE
Its one life to LIVE

Happy New Year 2014…

How Social Media can help in Chronic Ailments?

Over the past few years, I have experienced close and personal what it means to have people you know / love / care about deal with chronic ailments – For e.g.: Diabetes, Chronic Renal Failure, Cancer, etc.

And if there’s one thing I can say with absolute certainty it’s this – Its NOT EASY!
It’s NOT EASY for the patient
It’s NOT EASY for the immediate family and friends

Dealing with chronic ailments which will most likely be a part of your life till the very end tests you on many dimension of life. Mainly

  • Physical – Your body goes through a lot lot lot! Hard for anyone to “truly understand”; Suffice to say that it has to endure! There is no escape!
  • Mental – Stress and Tension of every-day living; & dealing with emergencies
  • Social – Pressures of society : Questions, Pity, Free unwarranted Advice, Suggestions (many times useless and destructive), Criticism, Feedback, Opinions, etc
  • Financial – There is a financial strain, whether or not you have insurance
  • Emotional – Why me? Why us? Tears, fear, uncertainty. Lack of interest in life, When will this agony end?
  • Lack of timely knowledge – No clue of what to do? Where to go? Whom to ask?

And here’s where I believe Social Media can really help and make a difference – Both to the patient itself or to those caring for the patient.

So, How can Social Media really make a DIFFERENCE?
(1) By providing information – One of the key challenges in dealing with chronic ailments is getting access to the right information at the right time. Especially in terms of treatment options and the institutes providing it at affordable costs. Providing this information as a “one-stop” repository will prove to be invaluable ; and help in decision making at a vulnerable and critical point in the choice of treatment
(2) By providing emotional relief – The emotional highs and lows that engulf the patient, family and care-giver are unimaginable. Social media can be a welcome break by making you laugh, changing your perspective or just feeling inspired to live another day!
(3) By being a mental de-stresser – The mental stress that the patient, family and care-giver go through can sometime be enormous, and hard to deal with. Social media can be a great de-stresser in more than one way – Providing information, connecting you to experts / experienced  / advisers who can possibly provide timely guidance and intervention to enable you to tide through the situation.
(4) By creating a “new social world” - Many people ailing from chronic ailments have told that when people from the real world get to know about their ailments, “something changes” in the relationship. They can’t pin-point what it is, but things are no longer the same – And this is from both ends. Many patients don’t want to / wish to interact with their “real-world” connections , and tend to distance themselves. At such instances, “creating a new social world” through the power of Social media can be a real blessing!

What Social Media Channels would be EFFECTIVE?
Honestly, I think choosing the right channel  is important, and there are abundant options available.
(1) Twitter - A twitter handle which shares regular updates on a specific ailment. Specific Twitter hashtags will aid in searching for specific information
(2) Blogs / Web-sites – Information sources which focus on a specific topic, and share useful information from patients, care-givers , insurers and people from the medical fraternity would be an invaluable repository. One of the best examples I can think of is BabyCenter.com – which has become the ultimate online resource for most expecting mother (I’m giving this only as an example here). Something like this for chronic ailments like cancer, chronic renal failure, etc. would be AWESOME!
(3) Pinterest - Boards around a specific topic / sub-topic containing information which can consolidate information, enable decision making or simply bring a smile to a “tired and stressed mind and heart” will make an ocean of difference
(4) Communities / Groups – Like a LinkedIn Community, Google+ Hang-out or a community blog where people can interact in a honest and transparent fashion can make a lot of difference. From what I’ve seen, just knowing that there are so many people out there enduring the same “pain and trials” on a daily basis – some better / some worse, makes it easier to accept and deal with one’s personal situation!

And I hope this post inspires someone somewhere to leverage the power of Social Media to help many people dealing with Chronic ailments!

Your PRIORITIES can make all the DIFFERENCE

Looking back at my life for the past few years, the one thing that has made a REAL DIFFERENCE is CLARITY on my PRIORITIES.

I don’t think I was so clear about my priorities till a series of events (which included loss of a loved one, becoming a mother and a couple of other “life-changing and thought-provoking” events) compelled me to introspect and reflect on my own life.

As I go down memory lane and look at my own life; and also see people around me, I note the following:
(1)    A vast majority of individuals DO NOT have clarity on their priorities in life – Be it as a part of their personal life or professional life. So if you ask yourself or someone to list the Top 3 Priorities for the day / week / month / life / home / work, majority will struggle to respond. And those that do will not be so sure about their answer.
(2)    Those individuals who do have clarity on their priorities in life don’t translate these priorities into everyday action. For e.g: In my priority list, health and fitness was a TOP Priority. However, if I looked at my everyday routine, I had not really factored any time for any physical exercise. So, there was a fundamental gap between Thought and Action.
(3)    A vast majority of individuals have too many items on their list marked as TOP Priority. And hence over a period of time (say monthly, quarterly, yearly, etc.) – They are not able to show or see or demonstrate any visible / tangible difference in progress. And hence wonder what went wrong and where?

The other important aspects about PERSONAL PRIORITIES are:

  • Your priorities are personal to you – No one can decide them but YOU!
  • Your priorities WILL change as you journey through life – Be aware of these changing priorities and model your life accordingly!

How can CLARITY on your PRIORITIES help YOU?
Having clarity on your priorities can help you in umpteen numbers of ways. From my personal experience, the most important one’s are:

(1)    Focus: If you are clear on your priorities, it enables you to focus better on what you’re doing. Simply because you know what’s TOP on your priority list and what’s not can be truly empowering; and can aid you to focus on the task at hand.

(2)    Decision Making: Decision Making becomes a lot simple and easy if you have clarity on your priorities. You know whom to say Yes / No to and Why?, You know what can / can’t wait and Why?, You know

(3)    Letting-Go: Many times we hold on to things simply because that’s how it’s always been or because we don’t know any other way or because we don’t know what else to hold on to. But the minute you have crystal clear clarity on your priorities – You will recognize what you really need to hold on to, and letting-go becomes a lot easier – in the emotional and intellectual sense.

(4)    Expectation Management: Many of us live our lives living up-to “expectations” of others. Nothing wrong with that, but maybe it is also good to live of our lives up to our own “expectations”. And your expectations of yourself become a lot clearer if they are driven by your priorities of life!

(5)    Saying NO: NO are two simple letters, but form an extremely powerful word. NO can make our life so simple if we just use them more often. And yet the fact is that most of us complicate our lives way too much simply because we find it so hard to say NO. And why are we conservative in the usage of NO? – Because we are not used to saying it or we worry too much about the implications of saying NO.

But when you have clarity on your priorities, it is a lot easier to say NO. Simply because you know that what’s being asked of you does not figure in your priority list, so it’s better to refuse! This one benefit is probably the most liberating!

The fact is all the above are critical for anyone playing a LEADERSHIP ROLE. And hence being clear on your PRIORITIES is of paramount importance for any LEADER

Call for ACTION Now
(1)    Write down (on pen & paper preferably) your TOP 3 priorities for your Personal Life
(2)    Write down (on pen & paper preferably) your TOP 3 Priorities for your Professional Life (Ignore if you don’t have an active professional life)
(3)    For each of these priorities, ask yourself

  • “Are these PRIORITIES taking you closer to your GOALS”
  • “Are you taking any specific action on a regular basis (daily, weekly, etc.) to address these priorities?

(4)    If yes, Great! You are on the right path. Best Wishes and Good Luck to you
(5)    If no, then Pause & Reflect. And make the required course corrections. It is NEVER too LATE!

As I end, I’d like to leave you with a few quotes on prioritization from the wise.

Action expresses priorities.” BY Mahatma Gandhi

Good things happen when you get your priorities straight.” BY Scott Caan

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” BY Stephen Covey

An Interviewers Musings..

During the last few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to interview several potential candidates for hiring against a specific job opening. Most of these candidates had an overall experience of 3 to 6 years ; and in their own assessment / as per their resume – They have the required technology knowledge, skills, expertise and experience to qualify for the specific job opening.

Unfortunately, when I interview them , I find HUGE GAPS.

If I had to summarize the key areas where the gaps were evident, I’d list the below areas:
(1) Gaps in “What their Resume said” and “What they said” : Let’s be clear! For starters, if you are applying for a job opening, your resume should be updated (up-to-date) and reflect what you are actually doing / did! So if your resume said something, and you say something else during the interview process – There’s a good chance that you’ve filled the interviewer with a ‘seed of doubt’. And once this doubt is planted, its hard to regain ground!

(2) Gaps in Communication : A glaring issue is on the basic communication skills of the candidates. Its common knowledge that majority of the interviews would typically start with the interviewer asking you to share details about yourself and a summary of your work experience. Suprisingly, about 80% of the candidates I interviewed were not able to articulate even this clearly! Giving them the benefit of doubt (And the fact that they may be tired or nervous or that many of us find it hard to speak about ourselves), moving on to the technlogy questions. Again! There’s a huge GAP! I don’t know for sure if they don’t know the answers, or they are not able to articulate. But here’s what I do know – A lot of work is required in the “Oral Communication” aspect

(3) Gaps in Technical Knowledge : Again if you apply for a job posting and claim to “know” a particular technology, you should “know” the basics in theory, and be able to explain what you know. Unfortunately, a BIG GAP in knowledge as well!

(4) Gaps in the understanding of their own past project experiences : This I find very suprising and interesting. I’d assume if someone has worked on a particular project, he / she should be able to explain atleast questions like “What was the problem you were trying to solve for the client?”, “Why did the customer want to do this project?”. After all, if anyone is working on a project and building a “technology solution”, there has to be a “problem to solve” – Right? And if you’ve worked on the project, would it not be natural for you to find out “What the REAL problem is?” – Even out of sheer curiosity? Sadly, most of the people I interviewed did not know the big “WHY?” of the project! And had spent years working on these projects! A big GAP again in my view. Technology is an enabler to solve problems, but if it is making you blind to the problem itself – Then something is really WRONG here!

(5) And the biggest GAP is the Gap in Expectations – What can I say here? Interview is barely over, and comes the list of expectations which go like “I want to go onsite as soon as a I join” – yes! sure : provided you have the skills that are required for onsite (read as communication skills, technology knowledge, relevant experience). “I am expecting an X% salary hike” – yes! sure : provided you demostrate during the interview process the value you bring to the table. “I want to lead a team” – yes! sure : provided you demonstate you can lead a team

Welcome to the Interviewers World! If you thought taking an interview was easy, No – Its NOT! Because everytime you say Select / Reject – You are in some way influencing / impacting / affecting someone else’s career, someone else’s life..

And with so many GAPS that exist, its somewhat easy and yet so hard to take that final decision…

What’s your view on this subject? Leave a comment to let me know..

Session on Corporate Innovation

Yesterday (14 May 2013), I had the opportunity to conduct a session on “Corporate Innovation” to a diverse audience (3 to 10+ years experience). It was an interesting, and interactive session. The one strong view which was echoed from the participants was that there is VERY LITTLE INNOVATION happening at the ground level within most organizations!

Sharing below the key messages from my session

Overview to Corporate Innovation

  1. Innovation has evolved from “Nice to Do” To “Good to Do” to “Must Do”. Innovate to survive
  2. There is no “universal / standard definition” of Innovation
  3. Innovation within an organization can happen at any time, at any place and from anyone. Innovation can occur at any level within an organization – from entry level to executive management
  4. Innovation can be of technology, process, business, delivery methodology, product or user experience
  5. What the wise have to say about Innovation. To read a set of interesting Innovation Quotes, click here
  6. Focus of Corporate Innovation is how to “Simplify” / “Solve problems” / “Make things easier and better” / “Improve efficiencies” for internal (employees) and external (customers , partners, suppliers, vendors) stakeholders. Of course, corporate innovation initiatives focus on “Reducing costs” / “Improving Revenues”

* Innovation Life Cycle : Every innovation typically follows a life cycle as depicted below

InnovationLifeCycle

* Importance of Corporate Innovation

  1. Getting employees to “Think”, “Learn”, “Reflect”, “Experience”, “Comprehend” and “Apply” : Build a culture of innovation
  2. Key Differentiator ; Competitive Advantage in the market
  3. Additional “Revenue Potential” ; Non-Linearity
  4. Better Customer Engagement
  5. Market Positioning & Thought Leadership

* Lessons from my Corporate Innovation Journey

  1. There are three distinct phases in the Innovation Life Cycle and each requires a different mind set
  2. Your idea need not be unique; How you position your innovation makes all the difference
  3. The Business Plan is just a baseline plan
  4. When you start the GTM [Go-To-Market] activities can make all the difference
  5. The first customer is the most crucial in your journey to success
  6. Corporate Innovation should be a priority from the top
  7. Internal communication and collaboration is critical to succeed

Extracted from paper published in the IIMB Summer Magazine (2012)

What do marketers really LOVE?

“What do marketers REALLY LOVE?”
On Valentine’s day, I wondered what do Marketers really LOVE.. As I observed several marketers and mulled over this subject, I figured that broadly there are a 5 Categories of Marketers based on what they LOVE

(1) The “Product / Service Centric” Marketer
This kind of marketer truly loves the product / service he / she is associated with. They believe in it, are passionate about it, and live breathe and dream the product / service.
The only issue is that they probably focus way too much on the product / service, and many times ignore the end-customer or the most effective way to market it, which generally has an adverse impact their marketing strategy.

(2) The “Marketing-Centric” Marketer
This kind of marketer truly loves “marketing”. The product / service is immaterial. The industry is immaterial. The channels are immaterial.
What matters to them is Marketing. And they can market anything anywhere anytime and to anyone; and end up doing a fantastic job most of time.
These are individuals who have “marketing in their DNA” and usually are an asset to any Marketing Team

(3) The “Customer-Centric” Marketer
This kind of marketer truly loves the “end-customer” and usually focus their marketing efforts around the “end customer”. They usually design and develop “customer centric” marketing strategies; and usually are pretty successful in what they do.
There are probably the best breed of marketers simply because at the end of the day the most important aspect of marketing is to connect, engage and create awareness of your product / service among your existing / potential customers

(4) The “Combo” Marketer
Most marketers are usually a combination of a “Product / Service” Centric Marketer + “Marketing-Centric” Marketer + “Customer-Centric” Marketer with varying degrees of focus on each; and varying degrees of success. Over time and experience, they hone their “marketing” skills; but most likely end up as “Combo Marketers” even decades later

(5) The “I Don’t really Love Anything” Marketer
This is the kind of marketer who does marketing as his job. They don’t really love anything – neither the product / service, nor marketing, nor the customers. They do an average job most of the time, and sometimes good and sometimes bad (Simply by the law of averages)! This is the kind of marketer you probably don’t want in your team (especially since most marketing teams are very small)

Those are the 5 categories I’ve come across. Have you come across any more? Leave a comment to let me know

Is there a measure to EXCELLENCE?

Excellence is the
Result of Caring more than others think is Wise,
Risking more than others think is Safe,
Dreaming more than others think is Practical, and
Expecting more than others think is Possible.

BY Ronnie Oldham

Everyone I know proudly recalls moments during their school years when their school work was graded as “Excellent!”. OR their parents said “Excellent!” for any of their efforts and creations or their coaches / mentors praised their efforts and outputs as “Excellent!”. Simply because that was the BEST POSSIBLE GRADING one could ever receive. And who does not like to receive the BEST?

As you grow older, you get to hear less of the “Excellent!” – Be it at home or outside.. Simply because as you grow, expectations increase and more importantly, it is probably hard to be the BEST in the eyes of everyone around you! Adding to this is the fact that many people don’t pause to appreciate and express the EXCELLENCE around them…

So, I’ve been thinking..
Is there really a measure to EXCELLENCE?
How does anyone qualify EXCELLENCE?
Is everyone qualified to judge EXCELLENCE?

And here’s what I realized…
In any sphere of work or life
Sometimes, EXCELLENCE is a FALLACY
Sometimes, EXCELLENCE is a REALITY
Sometimes, EXCELLENCE is a DREAM

EXCELLENCE is RELATIVE to your experience
EXCELLENCE is SUBJECTIVE to your ideas and views
EXCELLENCE is INFLUENCED by your emotions
EXCELLENCE is PERCEIVED in your mind
EXCELLENCE is BOUND TO CHANGE.. with time.. with life

So that’s my view..
What do you think? Is there a MEASURE to EXCELLENCE? Leave a comment to let me know

How frequently should you blog?

There’s a lot of global debate and discussion around “How frequently should you blog?” – Be it a personal blog or a professional blog.. And also a lot of answers, advice and best practices ranging from “You should blog every day”  TO “You should blog 2-3 times per week”  TO “You should blog once a week”  TO “You should blog once a month“… With so many diverse opinions it becomes hard for any blogger to figure out the right answer..

From my personal experience I can definitely say that there is NO RIGHT ANSWER.. It all depends on the big WHY? Why are you blogging and what do you want to achieve from your blogs? So the frequency of your blogs should be governed by your own personal blogging objectives..

Having said that, I can also say from personal experience that blogging in the long run requires creativity in terms of
- Blog topics and the way you articulate,
- Discipline in the blogging process and
- Time and effort to keep the blog active over a long period of time (say years)..

All three parameters are equally important. So if you have a lot of ideas, but are not disciplined and don’t take the time to publish a blog you will not have an active blog!

Also, most of the globally reputed blogs publish atleast 1 article per week, some of them 2. But they do ensure that the blogs are updated regularly at a pre-determined frequency (including days of the week and times of the day). Having been a blogger for several years now, I can definitely say that the recommended frequency for any serious blogger (no matter what the objective) is 1 – 2 blogs / week. It can be your own blogs or a guest blog, but there absolutely has to be an update every week.

From the reader’s perspective it helps to know when one can find an update on your blog and hence they can look forward to your posts regularly.

For the blogger’s perspective, enforcing a frequency ensures that you read regularly, you think constantly and you also write on a regular basis so that you have an active blog. And if you look at the larger canvas of life, reading, thinking and writing are 3 key foundational pillars for anyone to learn, grow and evolve in the journey of life.. So why will anyone not do them?

Customer Centricity

“Customer Centricity” is the latest buzz-word across the globe. Be it a banking organization, a telecom company, an insurance firm, an IT services organization, an entrepreneurial venture or a retail business.
At a high level, “Customer Centricity” translates to the following:

Know Your Customer: What this entails is to:
Know the Customer Profile – Based on the business that an organization is in, information about the customer profile varies. For e.g.: In a B2B scenario, customer profile includes information on the organizations history, its vision, its values, its offerings, its management, its employees, its location, its clients, etc.
Know the Customers Plans – An overall understanding of where the customer is headed is important. What are the short term, medium and long term plans? And more specifically, what the customer is planning with respect to the offerings relevant to your organization.
Know the Customers Priorities – This will help in getting insights to the customer’s point of view; specifically on where they would be willing to invest their time, their money and their resources.
Know the Customers Preferences – Every customer has their unique preferences. Investing time in learning these enables an organization to align and position their offerings accordingly.

Understand Your Customer: The next step is to process all the customer information to understand the customer. Many organizations do a great job of information capture but forget to do the required due diligence to understand the customer. What it translates to is:
Get the Big Picture – This means processing and analyzing the customer information to get a holistic view of the customer. If an organization is able to piece the big picture from the customer’s point of view, they usually are able to successfully work with the customer.
Identify the Requirements which are relevant to your organization – An organization needs to have the required maturity and business acumen to extract customer requirements relevant to their business context and offerings.

Service Your Customer: The third step is to service your customer’s requirements as per the pre-defined agreements. Typically the date of completion, quality and scope of work is non-negotiable. What is important in the long run is to consistently honor these contractual commitments.

Invest in Customer Relationships: Building customer relationships is the one of most important step in Customer Centricity. However, also the most overlooked. This means building meaningful long term bonds with the customer – One which provides the opportunity to play additional roles and wear alternate hats – that of an advisor, a mentor, a true consultant, a confidant, a strategic associate, and lastly that of a valued partner.

Originally published @ http://blog.wipro.com/blog/2011/07/04/customer-centricity