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Category Archives: Food For Life

Bias


How many times you were frustrated because another person was having biased opinions?

Well, you are not alone. Everybody has felt that way or still feeling in day to day life. The fact is all of us has one or the other (in various degree) biases. Here is the list of biases to watch out for. All of us come from a wide variety of backgrounds, culture, environment, and upbringing. Our thoughts have been influenced based on the numerous interactions that we had so far with our family, friends, teachers to colleagues. There is no single person who doesn’t have any biases. Practically it would be difficult to have a bias-free thought process.

So what to do?

The first step is to spot that you are having a biased opinion,

second is to understand the reason and

finally plan/action on how to overcome.

Incentives


If you want to understand people, look at what are their incentives. The world is designed(rather somehow evolved) in such a way that everyone is working towards maximizing their incentives. If you understand the incentive for people, you get a better understanding of their behavior and motivation. For example, if a farmer would get awarded a reward based on the quantity rather than the quality of crops that he produces, he would try to maximize quantity without focusing on quality. Another crude example which you might have noticed in India is if there is no incentive(saving fine money) for following traffic rules, people won’t follow rules. In a corporate context, employees will work on tasks for which they are being measured/evaluated. Without changing the reward system, people’s behavior doesn’t get changed. Make sure your expectations from employees and their reward system match.

Innovation


What is the meaning of ‘Innovation’ to you?

Depending on who you ask, you are likely to get a different answer. Here are a few responses that you might expect:

  • Doing something new
  • Generating crazy ideas
  • Move fast and break things
  • Doing something that nobody else is doing
  • Disrupting industries with new ways
  • Doing traditional thing ‘cheaper, better and faster’

It could definitely mean many more things to a different organization but one thing for sure it is not a siloed team sitting in four walls of the corporate buildings. If you really expect out of your ‘innovation’ investment make sure your ‘innovation’ team speaks to your end-user/consumer. Incumbents who are doing investment without any strategic direction are soon going to get toppled by new entrants.

It also reminds me of a quote from my recent read ” Skin in the game

Two people can be using the same word, meaning different things, yet continue the conversation, which is fine for coffee conversation but not when making decisions especially which affect other people.

Leadership and self-deception


As a leader/manager, how many times have you felt that others are not understanding your situation and incompetent? How many times you got frustrated because of your colleague’s behavior?

On a first look, it looks quite common and straightforward to think that as an individual we are right and others are wrong but how can you be so sure if you haven’t heard other’s perspective? My recent read “Leadership and Self-deception” dwell into this subject and beautifully conveys the message that in most cases, individuals are at the fault and get in the way of achieving great results. The author talks about the concept of “inside the box”- meaning thinking of people as mere objects and “outside the box” – meaning thinking of people as person. Like everything in the world, people could be “inside the box” and “outside the box” to the different people and in different situations. Our goal is to maximize the amount of time we spend “outside the box” in other words empathize with people which in turn will get the optimal result for the organizations.

These concepts are explained in the fictional story form which makes it an easy read and helps in better grasping the concepts.

Special thanks to Gayatri for the book recommendation.

Priorities


What is the single most important thing for you at this point? In my opinion, it varies from person to person and depends a lot on what stage of life one person is. To make things more clear, for children going to school, it would be winning the competition or passing the exam with flying colors. For university students, it is mainly around lending that dream job or figuring out the next chapter after university. For working professionals, it would be getting that promotion or getting a raise. For people in the middle-age, it would be their kids and for people towards the end of their career, it would be around planning their retirements. Even though I am generalizing a lot here, I think it is important to understand that priorities change and that is a perfectly normal thing. In fact, it is our “Shifting Priorities” which makes our life exciting and engaging.

Behavior and Intention


Lately I have been quite active on Twitter and have come across really thought-provoking discussion and tweets. Recently I read thread from Sahil Lavingia – CEO Gumroad about different between Behavior and Intention.

Behavior is what someone is doing, intention is why they’re doing it. You judge yourself based on your intention, and everyone else based on their behavior.

If we think more about it, most of the disagreement, misunderstanding happens because of judging people on their behavior. Intention is something that we assume people would be able to comprehend from our behavior. Often times people have their unique ways of understanding and making sense of your behavior. To elaborate more on this, I was talking to one of my friend who recently traveled to USA and he had similar experience of inferring people’s intention from their behavior. He mentioned that USA team-members are not as hard-working as India team-members and when we talked more about this, he mentioned that most of the team-members used to leave by 5 PM (Behavior) which means they are not as hard-working (Intention) as Indian team-mates. There are lots of cultural aspects which comes into play and would be difficult to infer the intention of the people. Sahil also wrote about this in another tweet.

Let’s say you don’t think a new team member is working out. You’re judging them based on their behavior. Ask them their intention — if it’s in the right place, work with them to get their behavior to match. If it’s not aligned, a change in behavior is unsustainable.

So next time when you judge someone’s (friends, family, colleagues) intention, make sure it is not based on the inference from their behavior. Even if it is inferred from their behavior, it always saves time and provides mental peace if you clarify the ‘intention’ with the person.

 

The pleasure of finding things out


When I started reading book “Surely you’re Joking Mr Feynman” last year, I had limited understanding of Feynman and his work. As I was reading through pages, I was visualizing the kind of life Feynman lived. Ralph Leighton has put together an amazing biography for today’s generation to understand and learn from Feynman’s life. Recently I read another book about the great man titled “The pleasure of finding things out” which is a collection of some of the speeches he has delivered in his lifetime. Few chapters may be too technical for certain audience but it is a great collection to understand Feynman’s thought process and his worldview. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book.

I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is so far as I can tell. It doesn’t frighten me.

Doesn’t it feel so true and natural ? I believe all of us have been born with above understanding but somehow as we grew up, so called ‘society’ and our environment have shaped our thinking the other way. Not knowing things should not frighten us. We should take this as an opportunity to explore, understand and expand our worldview.

I think we should teach them [the people] wonders and that the purpose of knowledge is to appreciate wonders even more.

One of the misconception that people might have goes like this “once you become expert in something, you can relax, sit and enjoy the rest of the life”. But reality is “once you know something really deep, you realize that there are many more things that you don’t know”.

Inner curiosity should drive everything that we do. There is so much pleasure in finding things out.

Some books [really] change the way you see the world


Since I started my professional career, one of the advice that I got from seniors and people whom I admire, was to read books. During my school days, most of my friends were reading fiction books and taking inspiration from them I started reading fiction books but I could hardly complete those. Fast forward to professional life where I got introduced to amazing people with various backgrounds and cultural biases, non-fictional genre caught my attention. With the vast resources available at various firms where I offered my services, I started reading about everything that I could find from entrepreneurship, human psychology to evolution theory.

Image result for sapiens

Recently I read Sapiens by  Yuval Noah Harari and it had profound impact on me. It is a book about human history and evolution. It tries to answer some of the astute questions that is there today. What are the effects of all the four revolution? Can we free ourselves from our cultural biases ? Are we really happy today compared to our ancestors? For person like me who have little knowledge of history, this book is a masterpiece for me. It really changed the way I think about people from other culture, region and ideology, the way I think about my family & friends and most importantly the way I think about myself. Some of my favorite quotes from the book.

History is something that very few people have been doing while everyone else was ploughing fields and carrying water buckets.

Money is the most universal and most efficient system of mutual trust ever devised.

We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine.

Having understood(maybe partial) the human history and what shaped current generations, can we use this knowledge to build or at least shape better future for coming generations? Strongly recommended for everyone who would like to understand how history has shaped us in who we are today.

Different but Same


It is a beautiful Sunday Morning at Melbourne, Australia. Everyone at my house are in the weekend mood and here I am , sitting in one corner thinking about what should I write. It’s almost 3 months for me in this multi-cultural ‘world no. 1 best city to live in‘ city. When I first stepped in to this country, I was quite unsure about whether I will be able to adjust with Australian People even though I did some reading online about Australian people and culture. Initially I was very quite in talking to people thinking I might hurt their feelings considering my open nature. From my reading, my impression was that people over here will be very different. It is true in some sense but not true in absolute sense. People over here are quite different in terms of language they speak, the kind of food they like to eat, the kind of clothes they wear and the way they live. I think that difference is because of the past history and environments. Over the past three months, I had many opportunities to talk to many local people. I spend almost  40 minutes daily in commutation and that is blessings in disguise as during that time, I have opportunity to closely observe and understand local people. As I mentioned before, people are quite different in one sense but on the other side we are all same. “The way we think about our partner”, “the way we think about our children”, “our love for children”, “emotional attachment with some of friends and family members” and “respect for our parents” are all same. Stephen Hawking has rightly said :

We Are All Different, But We Share The Same Human Spirit. Perhaps It’S Human Nature That We Adapt And Survive. – Stephen Hawking

I have traveled a lot in different parts if India and had similar observation.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.


Recently I organized guest lecture on “Industrial Design and Visual Perception” at my organization. Speaker talked about industrial design, his background in product design and the process of product design. Somewhere he used quote from Wayne Dyer

When you change the way look at things, the things you look at change. – Wayne Dyer

Of course it was followed by relevant example in product design space. However the quote made me think. It is not that I heard this quote for the first time but this is the first time, it made me think a lot and I started comparing it with life that we live. As I thought more about this quote, I realized it is true in each and everything that we do whether it be our daily job, love life, or even professional life. Earlier I had written about Relativity of life in terms of Success and Failure. But I think it applies to everything. For example, there are some things that we like but there will be people who will hate those things. There are multiple factors affecting that , their background, their upbringing and their core values. Recently I read somewhere that some famous scientist’s school headmaster wrote a note to his mother. His mother cried after reading the note from school headmaster. When kid asked mother about the letter, she said “You school headmaster said: ‘Your child are too smart. We don’t have enough good teachers to teach your child.Teach him at your home’ “. Later he became the very famous scientist. I am not sure about the scientist but I think it was Galileo. After his mother died, one day he came across this letter from school headmaster and as soon as he completed reading, he started sobbing. The letter read “You child is dumb. We can’t have him at our school. Teach him at your home.” Inspiring ! Isn’t it ?

There is lot I can write on this topic. “If we start looking at the things from different perspective, we will get amazing results in life.”