Can Digital World disrupt the Digitised Mindset?

The smartphones have revolutionized the world… the possibilities today on a touch are infinite… Be it commerce, collaboration, learning or getting any assistance at hand, it’s all possible. The phone owner gets a pat or gets chided for their fitness targets, gets reminded of that critical meeting, woken up softly in the morning, get the best pizza in town with the best deal, guide a cab to the exact point to pick you without any verbal directions, navigate you a foreign land, hold your money, automatically pay for your spa treatment, read out the latest recipe for paella for an enthusiast cook in Japan while she experiments in the kitchen for her European partner… It’s right in our face anywhere we go and lawmakers are grappling with the changing world order it is ushering in.

But then, We all know many who are still most happy using the same phone for calls and occasional SMS. That tells you who defines the smarts in the digital world. Unfortunately, if you are not stretching your imagination and the capabilities using one of these devices, neither you nor that device can be called smart, at least in the digital world!

We went through a wave of visible change with the advent of digital technology. We saw the phase of “paperless work environment”. It was probably first visible impact of digital technology to the world as we saw it. It was a huge change. We saw the phase when basic computing skills (read data input skills) became mandatory. I saw my bosses struggle with the keyboard trying to type using one finger (I still see the current ones struggling with the WhatsApp trying to manage the deluge of messages pouring in). It might appear as a skill challenge superficially, but in reality it is a mindset challenge. How difficult could it really be to learn how to use a keyboard? After all, we are talking about moving ten fingers over a three rows of keys! Now, if you extend the logic to the technology ecosystem, all those devices, networks, applications, peripherals and anything else is rendered to be a dummy unless the hidden potential of smart/intelligent outcomes are not engineered by using them!

It is important at this time for us to distinguish between “digitized” and “digital” because the differences could blur if you are the victim of a digitized mindset! To appreciate the difference, let’s go back to the age when ERP had just made a grand entrance to the businesses. The classical approach followed was – business process reengineering, technology implementation, process migration, new process definition and new system ramp up. The more evolved implementation ensured proper documentations, critical assessment of the benefits, identifying redundant or non-value adding processes and host of other people based considerations. This lead to a complete rejig and redefinition of processes defined by systems and procedures that were value enhancing. Organizations that followed this approach reaped immense benefits and were suitably rewarded by the stakeholders. GE’s digital transformation journey is an example of such an instance. Contrast this with an organization that just took an off the shelf ERP product and just to ensure the statutory compliances recreated business (mostly accounting) processes on them while running the business as usual. They of course missed any befits from the ERP implementation and had to compromise on their productivity for the compliance. Unfortunately there are many examples of such digitized approaches.

One could blame the present generation of professionals at the helm for any of this happening as much as one could blame our Stone Age forefathers for not exploring the power of metal when first of the Bronze Age tools began appearing. Remember a smart device with such a ubiquitous existence is only a marginal extension of many a mechanical (say a wrist watch), electrical (say a motor) or an electronic device (say an organizer) which was equally ubiquitous earlier. We seem to forget the ease with which we adopt the earlier change when we are faced with another one to adopt. How do we tend to ignore the fact that all we do with such ease and preference followed the same pattern of “haven’t done this ever before?” Something sure seems amiss here.

What then is the real problem? I believe that it is a mindset problem. We seem to be either getting blinded by the transactional view of life in general or we are being dishonest to the process of our own learning. One could even overlook the first challenge. In the real world we often see important taking a precedence over the necessary. Immediate fires are bound to get more attention; however, if this is done at the expense of addressing the cause we would be consumed in lose-lose play. It is far more productive and an approach with longer term value if one can look at the underlying motivations and greater relevance when looking at a challenge at hand. It is worth spending a moment reflecting on the idea – are we letting the things that we deem important to take over the things that are necessary?

While organizations can develop roles and responsibilities matrix to address the critical need to balance here-and-now doers and future gazers, unfortunately at an individual level we need to be conscious of the two and take steps to integrate them. A conscious approach to ones learning could address this gap to a reasonable extent. When we consciously adopt the process of learning a necessary part of learning along with the outcomes that we see as the important goals, we are truly on a win-win path.

If one now tries to see the conflict of important digitized actions and the necessary digital mindset, hopefully the gap I am pointing out would become better visible. Digital mindset is more about questioning the impact we are willing to work with when a new technology appears. Remember it is easy to be satiated by the wondrous world of technology, it truly has galloped at a pace that even the sci-fi authors have been challenged by the reality of progress. It is however important to cross through the instantly exciting digitized experiences into the realm of the possibilities it opens. These would surely be disruptive and unsettling to cope with but at the same time hold the real rewards of the digital revolution.

So next time you are immensely impressed and excited about a new technology offering, step back and revisit the premise – is it a digitized illusion standing in form a digital innovation or is it truly a disruption of current mindset…

Navigating into the World of Analytics

Big data, data scientists, BI, modeller and countless other fancy roles continue to scream out loud to anyone who is scanning any media today. The excitement of challenging times, the lure of big packages and career path, the possibility of hobnobbing with the decision makers, the tag of “genius” and many more silver linings adorn the profession. The insatiable demand for talent in the data space is no hogwash either. Reports from analysts, sectoral studies, recruiter briefings and the horizon gazers – all endorse analytics as the progression of the future http://www.itwire.com/it-people-news/enterprise-staff/69065-data-scientists-in-hot-demand-in-ict-market . Endorsing the demand is also the fact that anyone and everyone has already launched a program in analytics or is planning to launch one soon. You can even find a series of open resources to learn the subject – http://www.analyticsvidhya.com/blog/2015/07/big-data-analytics-youtube-ted-resources/ . But then, a serious word of caution here, not all paths lead to the Eden of analytics.
Analytics today is more a core skill that cuts across any business discipline as it deals with better decisions. Any professional with an aspiration for growth needs to master this skill. As the information technology matures, more data is available to the manager to make a sound business decision. What seems to be lacking is the managers capability and understanding of the dynamics that impacts any decision. A course in analytics holds the promise to provide this competency, but there are a few caveat that need to be followed. This note attempts to highlight the same.
Decision making hinges on five critical pieces – understanding of the situation (context), influencing factors (variables), the controllable parameters (decision variables) the desired goals (outcomes) and finally the panacea – (actionable insights). While there are tools, technology, computational power, connectivity, algorithms and frameworks that enable this process, the most critical piece is an anxious, fertile and dedicated human mind – because Note 1: All analytics is not machine learning! Very simply put, a machine can only process the past data with identified set patterns. An insight can only be derived and recognized by a primed and willing brain. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to learning this.
Action insight – Chose a program that gives equal weight to the problem solving skills as the tools and technology side
Decide as a word has its roots in Latin dēcīdere; literally – to cut off. It is very similar to words like homicide, insecticide which primarily denotes pain. The process of decision making is really painful as it involves killing some of the options one has.  Note 2: All about analytics is not enjoyable and rosy! It involves supporting some hard choices and making hard choices. Not always will you have the perfect information to make the perfect decisions, however, the outcomes will show no mercy if your choice was wrong.
Action insight – Chose a program that allows you practice in realistic scenario with realistic data sets and simulations
In businesses, decisions are very involved and a continuously challenging process. Do not mistake this challenge as any edge of the seat thrills or adrenaline pumping experience. Neither is it an experience of “eureka” giving you a high. It is rather repetitive, expansive and thankless experience. Every time you make a wrong decision, it would be known, but the right decisions would be expected and hardly acknowledged. You would need to ask seemingly obvious and stupid questions, you will need to revisit every detail multiple times just to ensure that you are not misreading or ignoring any facet. Note 3: Analytics is about getting into the murky details! It often needs one to sift through mountains of data which a typical mining tool has missed because of the assumptions made in writing the mining algorithm.
Action insight – Chose a program that helps you develop immense patience and attention to details
When one analyses, the interest is to be able to accurately predict the future. You would be surprised that the same data when analysed, would communicate at least 13 different things if there are 12 people in the team. We all carry our own biases and stereotype of the world. Note 4: Analytics is about challenging your own and other people’s biases!  It requires a great degree of conviction to challenge the convention. It is also equally critical to be able to question every assumption and even the established norms. One needs to be able to see possible connections where none seem to exist to a less inquisitive mind.
Action Insight – Chose a program that pays equal attention to building your analysis and reporting skills
Last but not the least, the value a business attaches to any analysis is the impact of the action it leads to. Analytics is most certainly about actionable insights. One needs to be able to connect the models and mathematics to the reality and plan actions based on them. Note 5: Analytics is about action, it is equally important that the action is clearly outlined with the assumptions that have been made to implement the insight. What are the possible risks and challenges one could face in implementing it? Also important is to understand the actual performance of the process/decision affected by the action insights and ensure that adjustments, modifications or sometimes even drastic measures are planned based on the outcomes.
Action insight – Chose a program that clearly makes action the primary driver and the learning outcomes are clearly linked to the actionable insights
Having outlined the caveat, it is also important that I encourage you to gain a higher perspective to a career in analytics. Any decent analytics program would generally offer that as long as you have done your homework in fact finding, understanding and evaluating the analytics as a career option. It would give you a structure to make better decisions in general and it is your own efforts to learn to apply it to making a better decision about your career choice as an analytics professional!

Would you follow any link even today!?!?!

af15

But sure April Fools’ Day is true… Happy Fools Day!!!

It is observed throughout the world now!

Practices include sending someone on a “fool’s errand,” looking for things that don’t exist; playing pranks; and trying to get people to believe ridiculous things.

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools. – Douglas Adams

Read more: April Fools’ Day: Origin and History Pic source: someeecards

Digital Learning 3.0

If version 0 was using digital technology for publishing and storing; version 1.0 was about actively digitizing available learning content; 2.0 was about serving the content in a more interactive, comfortable and collaborative manner; what could be the next phase of the Digital learning evolution process?

We have already seen some far reaching innovations in the technology side in creating, storing and serving digital learning. We are witnessing huge excitement around open learning resources and platforms to easer their access. Do we see noticeable change in the acceptance and excitement around digital learning an so on?

I think we will now see changes around three dimensions – the meta learning or learning about learning digitally, the ecosystem of learning – content, device, facilitators and the ontology (conceptual map of digital learning) and a fundamental mind set change that makes the regulators, thought leaders and formal degree granting institution to adopt, promote and populate the digital learning ecosystem.

As formal learning gets closer to the natural involuntary learning, some of the assumed aspects of learning needs to brought to fore. Do we all have the answers to the questions like – “what is learning?”, “why do we learn?”, “how do we learn/what is my preferred learning style?”, “where do I learn?” and “who do I learn from”. each of these question weigh heavily on the way we would experience the unfolding of digital learning 3.0 and beyond…

Flower of the Woods – Concept and Design

fow4Flower of the woods is a fictional narration of a junglekid Mali, presented in poetry form.

Mali is born in a very beautiful village called Floria which is nestled in a faraway land among the forests. Mali’s parents – Giri and Nadia go through the usual anticipation of her birth but choose too abandon her because of the evil omens at birth amplified by eerie looks she had.

Not known to anyone, Mali is bestowed with a special gift that spreads as  she grows up. Abandoned in the jungle, Mali is adopted, cared for by a hog family with piglets as her siblings. As Mali grows, her special ability of making everything around her merry by just her smile manifests unbelievable miracles in the jungle. Animals, birds, plants and everything around her just blossom in unified exhilaration of her presence.

As everyone begins to experience this miracle, The news of a special junglekid Mali’s spreads, first within the jungle and then to the villages. It reaches Giri and Nadia who are still trying to find their lives and happiness before they let Mali go. Nadia is especially unable to bear her plight and she finds herself losing her love for Giri unable to convince Giri to change his mind. She finally sneaks out into the jungle hoping to get a chance to hold her precious angel one more time. She is in for a surprise and fate does a turn for her too…

The story weaves around the interaction between good & bad as the characters and emotions mingles with happiness, grief, optimism, envy, trust, fear, compassion and resent shaping the consequences. The interplay unfolds a wondersome world of fantasies and dreams. Using a rhyming form and subtle illustrations, I try to convey this message in the form of a story woven around characters of the jungle and the village.

The key characters of these books are “Mali” – the junglekid whose story unfolds as the she is born and grows up with the forest animals; her parents – “Giri” and “Nadia”; “Sante” – village wiseman, “Balon” – village Strong man, “Ari” – wood gatherer, Mali’s hog parents “Swarna” and “Swari”, “Swupi” the hog kid and Maali’s best friend, the king of Jungle “Kesha” and “Aema” the lioness, “Kalan” the scheming fox who feasts on helpless animal kids and is the King’s sworn enemy.

While the target audience for this book will be children between the ages of 8-14, I believe that there is enough excitement for serious readers and some general readers with an exploring mind. Being in rhyming poetry form, it would be a great learning tool for children with different abilities and learning disorders.

This book also offers an opportunity for parents of younger kids to use this as a read along book for them. The poetry format allows both of them to paint the details with their own imagination and build a life-long memory.

To give an easy and sustained pace this book is organized in chapters and each chapter has a distinct start and stop. I would also got some illustrations worked out to enhance the appeal of the book to kids. I haven’t finalized an illustrator,  but have some sample illustrations and I am on a look out for someone who would be committed to illustrate the whole book.

The plan is to have about 60 chapters with 8 stanzas of 4 lines each for the book one. The plot however offers the scope to be expansive and can be extended into a series based on the readers response.

= = = FLOWER OF THE WOODS = = = >>

Eklavya – the unfortunate reality of modern learning

Long time ago, there was a Guru of far reaching fame and unparalleled accomplishments. His pupil could learn from him just by thinking of him and practicing the basics again and again… He came to know about one such pupil and was really surprised to find that a pupil he had once rejected on the grounds that there was no room for him among his more illustrious students (Pandavas & Kauravas) who he felt had a higher potential to reap benefits from Drona’s efforts. This pupil had taken rejection as a challenge and just by his dedication and unwavering resolve mastered the art by himself. His only failing, he dedicated his learning to this one man – Drona. The Guru feels cheated; he after all felt that he had an unconditional and exclusive right to all the knowledge that existed in that field – archery. He wanted his returns (vengeance?) – he got that by incapacitating this brilliant pupil – Eklavya, from ever practicing archery again!

How can one justify such an act? After all teaching has been defined as a selfless service. How can the idea of guru dakshina (meaning – alms to your teacher; interpreted as an equivalent to genie’s all-encompassing wish) be held together with the concept of vidya daan (meaning donating knowledge; equivalent to the toughest promise of performance). The age old belief of Guru being the highest form of relationship (even higher than the Almighty himself) one possesses is founded on the importance learning has been given in our legacy. In the same thinking is held a belief that the teacher is a sea of wisdom and answers to all the questions that a fertile students mind is capable and willing to soak. It is humanly impossible for any teacher in the current information age to accomplish such a feat.

Modern learning has unfortunately not seen much progress from that mindset at least in India. The other day I was sitting in a key note address given by a renowned and veteran teacher who compared a teacher to a tree. Like a tree, a teacher should unconditionally spread the fruits, wood, shade and other valuables to all the seekers. Teacher should expect nothing in return as teaching is a noble profession. Wonder, why no one stood up and raised the question – why should the charity begin and stop with the teacher?

Being a teacher once myself, I can accept that there is a Drona lurking behind each one of us. Any amount of cover up to make the profession noble and all giving just doesn’t cut ice. After all who is not looking for a return for the investment they make? How can one find their motivation to continue the process of transferring the learning if you don’t get the returns? Modern teachers do make a packet today if they are capable and catering to the needs of value conscious learners.

The conundrum seems to be resolving itself (for me at least) when I try and understand learning in its truest form – mutual, expansive, evolving and transformational. At any point in time when I reflect back on my teaching experiences I can easily remember the classes where I felt happy. I can relate to them on all the four counts mentioned here. I was mutual because I learnt something in that class too. It was expansive as I did not rule out the natural connections the class (including myself) made as we progressed. It was evolving because I had new experiences to share even when I was running the same course for a new batch and it was transformational because both me and the class felt that we went through a noticeable change either in our awareness (or expertise), behavior (overt or implied) or just the way we looked at ourselves (most difficult one to achieve).

After all wasn’t the objective of my class to learn? The course outline I shared with my class clearly mentioned something to the effect that “at the end of the session a participant would learn to…”. Did it not apply to me too? I feel really sorry when I meet a “professor” (quotes restressed) who seek applause because their course material did not change decade after decade. I only wonder, if they did not learn anything from their own course in decades, who could have possibly learnt any thing by being taken  through it just once?

That brings us to a new paradigm critical in modern learning. An age where content is free and readily available for anyone, an age where you can create a one-to-one learning relationship with each of your student using technology, an age where memory no longer establishes you to be a higher intellect, and most of all the age where learning is so evolved that the returns have to be visible for everyone.

Today it is implicit that the teacher plays more of a role of learning facilitator. To my mind that was always the case, only that today it has become more explicit. Please remember, learning is a very personal act, a teacher can only lead a learner to the water, but the act of soaking it is entirely the call of the learner. The effectiveness of a teacher is measured by her ability to facilitate the process of efficient (input/output) learning. This I contend can only happen, when unlike Drona, we seek our Dakshina in the mutual, expansive, evolved and transformational learning we acquire after each session we conduct.

It would hold equally true even in the eLearning context. All the comments that you leave for me after you read this post is my learning…