Sunday, January 21, 2018
In Hit Refresh, Nadella scores runs all across the park
First heard about the book when I read about SN doing a presser with Kumble as a book launch. So I picked it up during some time at Mumbai airport. Frankly, the book did not get off to a great start in my head, because the one book Testimonial on the book is by Bill Gates (I mean, no reviews such as this: "Nadella's story is remarkable, prose is captivating, and vision sees far - Financial Times' , or this: 'From Cricket to the Policy framework for the future, Hit Refresh is a whirlwind tour of the world today' - NYTimes. Such stuff you'd expect would grace a book by the CEO of the 3rd biggest market cap co of the world) Also, the first quarter has an overdose of how Microsoft is revolutionizing everything, which I thought was advert-like. However, now that I think of it, Microsoft is right up there with Apple, Google, Amazon in the league of tech heavy hitters, but I feel it gets much lesser mention in the press - atleast the press I see. So it's probably OK, that the book has an element of PR.
However, my opinion is well and truly changed. It's a great book in terms of the 'what' it talks about and the 'how' it does it. In terms of themes touched upon (the what)- right from an interesting story of his school days in Hyderabad, to his times - both professional and personal in the US, his life story is interesting to read. His story of transformation at Microsoft is an interesting blueprint for any large company which is treading water. He has given a good perspective of the key acquisitions of Microsoft over the past decade- LinkedIn (I had forgotten) and Minecraft (I did not even know about Minecraft) And lastly, his take on the world at large from the august chair he sits on (as CEO of one of the most global MNCs) is quite enlightening. And the way he does it (the how)- his literary references add a dash of color, and he calls into the living room an impressive array of experts to add credence to his conclusions. He has written out so many clean 'frameworks' to address big questions- it's almost like a slide deck we might use in a Strategy case at my current employer. He actually says MS loves making huge decks for every topic, and when I told a friend he reacted saying- 'Of course, it's the maker of Power Point we are talking about!' . Apart from the 'array of experts', also like all the material he has referenced- reading through all of that will be fun and a worthwile activity. For example, just a few minutes ago I chatted with MS' chatbot 'Zo' , and read about this Indian start up co. called Enlightiks which does health care analytics.
Aside: There's also this interesting QZ piece on how Silicon Valley's new wave of leaders are much more of 'listeners' than the more take-no-prisoners first wave.
Here is a whirlwind tour of some of the frameworks in the book I alluded to in the previous para:
3 'missions' for MS outlined in his speech at his first MS Global summit as a CEO- 1) Reinvent productivity and business processes, 2) Build intelligent cloud platform, 3) Move people from needing Windows to choosing Windows to loving Windows.
3 Principles of culture change at Microsoft: 1) Need to obsess about customers, 2) Actively seek diversity and inclusion, 3) One company and not a confederation of fiefdoms.
3 principles of leadership for anyone leading others: 1) Bring clarity to those who work with you, 2) Need to generate energy, 3) Find a way to delivery success and make things happen.
3 Cs framework from Steve Balmer for building a robust Org culture: 3 concentric rings: 1) Outer ring is Concepts, 2) Capabilities, 3) Culture
4 ways for companies to participate in Digital transformation : 1) Engage customer base by leveraging data, 2) Empower own employees by enabling mobile and collaboration/ digital world of work, 3) Optimize process and 4) transform Products and services . SN says 'every company is a digital company'. This also ties in to what Ram Charan said in his book Attacker's advantage- any company that is not a 'Math House' (a term he has coined) will go extinct over the coming few years.
Way a large companies could avoid being trapped by The Innovator's Dilemna: Look at investment strategy across three growth horizons: 1) Grow today's core business and tech, 2) Incubate new ideas and products for the future, and 3) Invest in long term breakthroughs.
3 breakthroughs that are accelerating AI from Sci-fi to reality: 1) Big data, 2) Computing power, and 3) Sophisticated algos.
3 layers of AI: Bottom layer is Patter recognition, Middle layer is perception, and highest level is cognition.
3 levels how AI will scale: 1) Bespoke (in the hands of those atop ivory towers), 2) Democratized (in the hands of everyone), 3) Learn to learn.
MS' approach to building AI, on the lines of Asimov's laws of robotics: 1) Build AI that augments human abilities and experiences, 2) Build trust into tech, 3) Inclusive and respectful to all.
Skills which kids today should prioritize:1) Empathy, 2) Education, 3) Creativity, and 4) Judgement and accountability.
Managing his time as a CEO: 25% each towards Employees, Customers, Products and Partners.
3 leanings from sports to business (from his days in the school Cricket team): 1) Compete vigorously in face of uncertainty and intimidation, 2) Importance of putting team first ahead of personal stats, and 3) Bolster the confidence of the people you are leading. This really resonates with me because i really like the alternate world of trust which is built up in team sports, better than any other activity in the world. In fact, more than cricket, it's in games like football, where every individual contributes much more to the end product (than in cricket). All said and done, Cricket still is a highly individual game, based on my experience.
He's also put some great quotes and literary references: 'Technology is nothing more than the collective soul of those who build it', from Tracy Kidder's 'The soul of a new machine'. SN later ties it to his grand framework of how AI should be built (not just the conception of ivory towers of Silicon Valley but also incorporating the sensibilities of say the bustling bazaars of Cairo). I loved how he referred to the 'metaverse' from Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, since I've read it. FB is more and more becoming the 'metaverse', and now if you add a layer of Hololens or Oculus to FB, that's what the metaverse was, after all. Nietzsche- 'He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how'. Goethe- 'He who does not know foreign languages does not know anything about his own'
There's a good tour of the cool new stuff happening at MS and in the industry at large. MS: The Holo lens, and the story of the founder of it and his mission (to make machines that perceive the real world), a babel fish (from Hitchiker's guide!) - a real time language converter, Cortana, Zo, Minecraft.... While all of this is of course MS marketing, it's a good peek under the hood. Industry at large: reshoring of jobs due to robotics. The example he gives is Bicycle Corporation of America bringing back mfg from China to US- read here . Apparently the robotics aided manufacturing is getting 2x the productivity of offshore manufacturing, which probably offsets the cost benefits of low labor. I read somewhere that India's nascent gains in car manufacturing could also be curtailed due to this wave. On the optimistic side for India, he's talked about 'India Stack', a stack of tech building from Aadhaar which can enable transition to cashless and to more broader digitzation of Indian citizens.
In terms of the 'way forward', he's talked about four landmark cases which have posed deep questions about the role of government in technology- Snowden's expose of vast governmental snooping, The government co ercing Apple to reveal data from the iPhone user behind the San bernandino attacks, North Korea's hacking of Sony as retaliation for the movie 'Interview' which satirized North Korea, and lastly the US govt's order to obtain files stored on a server in Ireland, despite Ireland being another country and thus the order violating sovereignty.
In the last section, he's also talked about how 'the bigger a company is, the more responsibility its leader has to think about the world, its citizens and their long term opportunities'. Yes, I think in this borderless corporate world, the CEOs of Microsoft, Apple and so on are as powerful and responsible as Presidents and Prime Ministers of big countries.
He's talked in depth about events in his life and himself as a person, too. He talks about how the multi cultural background in Hyderabad Public School and the hostel shaped him. I also felt the multi cultural background at my undergrad hostel in Bombay was quite illuminating, for me. I feel that there can be much more appreciation in India for the diversity factor which we inherently possess as a country, and there can be much more cross learning from the vast cultural gaps there exist, between say a Kannadiga and Delhi ite- the unfortunate spat bw Kumble and Kohli is an example, and is covered in R Guha's article here. Kumble's tenacity and background in sports analytics (a company he formed) combined with Kohli's aggression and visceral desire to win could have helped India really become a world champion team and prevent the debacle in South Africa we are witnessing. In India, we need to appreciate diversity instead of mocking it, as I feel is the norm. Nadella's paras about life in HPS hostel offer a good example on those lines.
His descriptions of cricket are fun, including how he was in awe of Jaisimha's on-field presence- his fashionable upturned collar and distinctive gait. I remember having a discussion with VB when he said Azhar left a similar impression on him; VB- Jaisimha is probably the inspiration for Azhar! Actually, Hyderabad seems to have declined as a cricket powerhouse. Anyway, Badminton and Olympic medals have replaced it, which I feel is totally fine. By the way, he's creating a full size cricket stadium in the Microsoft campus, which is good for the game. Cricket needs to be an Olympic sport.
He's given an account of his love story, which is heart warming. He later talks about the travails of having a kid with severe disabilities, and how that experience has shaped him to be much more empathetic to people with different needs.
Summing up, some of the points of resonance for me:
Literature (references to Snowcrash and Netherlands, books I've read!)
Technology meets human meets government
Diversity in India
A few small things, like his life in Mussoorie in the company of Nanda Devi- a month ago I too shared the company of Nanda Devi!
Saturday, January 20, 2018
A post post the Post
The Post saw the Supreme Court in its 6-3 ruling, and a united Media (NY Times+Washington Post), come together as one - involved in a show of strength for the 'check and balance' side, in the democracy. Good job, yo, media and jury.
In the US consciousness, this movie probably comes at a good time- the zeitgeist of the press bashing from Trump and the Metoo movement being represented in the movie by the attitude of Nixon towards the press (his sentences on the white house silhouette shots mirror those from a certain famous twitter handle), and Meryl Streep's rise.
It was also interesting for me that the lawyer team of two in the movie stars two actors who I recognize from some of my infrequent dalliances with Sitcoms- Jared from Silicon Valley and Robert Daley from 4*1 Black Mirror 'USS Callister.
Oh and this was the first movie I've gone to a theater watched alone. But, in my social self's defence, the theater was 750 m away from my house and I booked it just an hour in advance, and I did reach out to a large-ish whatsapp group.
Sunday, December 31, 2017
Deoriatal lake and Chandrashila summit (4,000 m) - a walk to remember
Base camp Chopta, with Blue being dining tent and White being kitchen tent. In the background looms our constant companion, Chaukhamba
Monday, December 18, 2017
After an AR Rahman concert, musings on the music and beyond
Music good; some new numbers unrecognized
Not exactly within touching distance of the maestroSound quality was a bit muffled because we'd scrimped on ticket costs (1,500 per head) and bought far off seats- 20th row from the ground level, at Brabourne stadium (if you've ever been there). In terms of watching a cricket match, it was close enough- pitch was close- but AR Rahman was near the sightscreen area, and I was at deep point (20 rows behind). CSS had an interesting point when she said that she'd decided that she'll go for concerts only if she buys the real pricey tickets where you can get up close and personal with the artist, else she prefers MP3s at home. Maybe it goes hand in hand with the life philosophy of do a few things well vs. do a bunch of things ok-ish.
Another maestro is summoned; slightly ridiculous stage props; and cricketOften, when there was a gap, people started shouting "Sacheen, Sacheeen", which was amusing. The sight of one maestro reminded the crowd of the other? Not really, I think cricket ground and shouts of Sachin go hand in hand. Some of the stage props I thought were bit ridiculous, like a girl dancing inside a bubble. It was like Filmafare awards meets India's got talent. Oh, and they had respectfully cordoned off the pitch and nearby areas. I was imagining a bunch of flippant lads actually playing cricket while the concert was on, completely oblivious of their surroundings. They would have restricted ARR's motion on stage- movement near the sightscreen!
India's got few music-alone stars- most are Bollywood
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Weighty matters at work- a 1 kg dumbell
On Saturdays, it will help my upper body get some action during the Carter road runs- leg muscles do so much work while arms are flailing along uselessly during all those 5Ks. Shoulders, tricpes and biceps were crying for some action- and I have given them this gift. With the cellphone strapped to my arm and this red fella at my hand, I will be the coolest cat running Carter road.
They should just give a 1 kg dumb bell today to all "knowledge workers" to keep at their table. Part of induction kid. All the upper body exercise we get is our fingers- going pat-pat-patter on the keyboard. This one's way better than a stress ball.
Think your cubicle is a cage? Well, get CAGEY at work, then.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
1100 AD Hoy!Sala times, Karnataka farming, VR-self drive
Belur Halebidu- Getting there, and what lies thereinWe set out on a road trip to Belur Halebidu - 240 kms west of Bangalore- on a road trip. Weather was co operative, but the innards of the car were not. A wheel alignment issue arose 100 km into the journey- While we bore westward towards Hassan district, the car if left to its own would have gone to Mysore, which is south of Bangalore. In other words, the steering wheel was tilting leftward. Now this gave the car an unnerving wobble- causing us to limit ourself to 60 km. The road was the best highway I have driven on*, but unfortunately we had to live life in the slow lane, and thus I could not play "Life in the fast lane" by The Eagles on the car stereo.
Belur and Halebidu, Hoysala temples, have been recently crowned UNESCO world heritage sites. They were Capitals of the Hoysala kingdom. Interesting apocryphal story- Boy named Sala studying with guru and classmates, Attack by marauding tiger, Guru shrieks "Hoy" which means "strike", Sala bravely strikes and kills the tiger with sword, and grows up and forms the Hoysala kingdom, which takes his nickname. They should name companies this way, today, after some apocryphal story of the founder. Anyway Hoy!Sala has a millennial seeming exclamation mark in the middle of name, also, like a social network handle or something.
The empire flourished between 10th and 14th century, spread across entire Karnataka, and segued into the Vijayanagara Empire.
Marvellous sculpture workMarvelous sculpture work on display at both sites. The sculptors seem to have wielded the stone like clay. Below is probably the piece de resistance.
Apart from the god-related sculptures, which is probably common temple fare (leaving quality aside), interesting thing was that there was a lot of work depicting life of the plebs- a hunter, a trader with his weighing scales, women with 600 hair styles in various sculptures across the Belur (gender sterotypes here, but its 1000 years ago so please excuse brave young Hoy!Sala and his descendants).
Below are walls lined with seven rows of sculptures - bottom most is elephants for strength, second is lions for bravery, fourth is horses for speed, (strength + bravery + speed = Hoy!Sala). Third and fiftth are general artist swag in the form of curly patterns. Sixth is scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata, seventh is general war scenes, eight is swans, and so on. Top most row is the life of common man, in the Hoy!Sala times. On the right, is further general life- pleb woman drying her hair (not royalty, not divine or anything- just a lay person).
Farmative experienceWe drove (at our enforced gentle pace ) through roads on either side of which lay the verdant farmlands of Hassan district. We saw lots of crops, all identified by agri expert D, and we covered all parts of a basic meal- rotis made of Maize and ragi, Arar ki daal, and Ladies finger curry. We also later inspected Ginger and Chillies, to add a dash of spice. Hope to cement these learnings and thus have more fruitful road trips in the future, by gazing intelligently at the crops. Also, Interstellar connect below- Okra and Maize are the last crops to survive on earth. I don't know when the blight is coming, but these pictures with Ragi and Arar ki daal could get famous later.
Self drive and VR sectionSince there has been a throwback to 12th century architecture and to farming, both ancient vocations, this para is to set right the balance of the ages in this post. Further, allows me to put Self drive and VR in the title, as a classic click bait or reader bait for insecure readers (such as me on many days) who want corporate/megatrends gyaan in everything they read.
During the highway drive (my first highway drive in 10 months)- I really felt the need for self drive. Driving on highways is fairly mechanical- no gear changing, limited direction changing- just gotto drone on and on at a constant speed with limited need for manual interventions. And the roads are smooth. In India, while there is chaos is the city, self drive can probably first take off on the highways.
And VR. Well, now that I've visited B-H, I really want to re visit some parts of it - the wall near the Southern gate of the main Halebidu temple, with the seven rows. I am especially interested in the pleb life. But it's 250 km away! I want it in my VR goggles. VR goggles could also have a guide, built in. India tourism could take it up big time- especially maybe as a bait for foreign tourists since we want to ratchet up that number anyway. I'll probably tweet it to them just now.
KA tourism FTW
Sunday, October 15, 2017
Two trek mind- Gorakhgad and Irshalgad
This para not just for reading pleasure- 1. An Optimal template for a Western Ghats trek; 2. Small Steps adventures
Weekend 1: Perilously exciting Gorkhgadh in blistering heat
Weekend 2: The one that did not happen- Kaas plateau
Weekend 3: Friendly Irshalgadh under overcast skies (which snuffed out the “star power” of the trek)
Hat doff to employer for enabling connect with new
people I meet
However, the curve RSP has drawn will vary from person to person, because the GPG limit is defined for every person. However, the original curve is valid for all people- different treks lie at different points in the "Optimal experience window" (For example, Mt Everest has a high x,y co ordinate and random neighboring hillock has a low x,y co ordinate), and a person picks based on his or her GPG point. Therefore, the original curve is true in general, and RSP's curve is true for an individual.
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