Monday, 13 August 2018

My delicious laptop

No, no, I've not turned to those kind of 'bytes', nor do I see my laptop as an 'assetizer'. It's just that my laptop now brings a wonderful deliciousness to my life, gives me visuals and descriptions to slurp over and makes life a spoon more yummy.

My gourmet cravings have been met from the most unexpected quarter - a drab, grey machine that (too) often transports me from the world of words and presentations to a haven of aromas and flavors. The teleportation is so effective that I have almost ceased missing the actual texture and taste of a divine dish on my palate; it's sublime enough to read the description, see the images jump out in high definition glory and drool over the recipe.

Long years ago, I would pore over those gorgeously mounted cookbooks, resplendent in their imported gloss and visual feasts. They would be too expensive to buy and the school library would be my stop for them. Behind wood and glass cabinets, they held a peculiar draw - prized, yet accessible. Every 'library period' I would treat myself to one of these confections. It was never enough to skim through them there, they needed to be issued and carried home gingerly in eager anticipation. Once home, I would furiously leaf through them and stick little pieces of paper (DIY bookmarks!) into pages that captured me. And then, once again, I would backtrack at a more leisurely pace and savor the contents.

Out would come my well-worn hardcover 'register' and painstakingly I would note recipe by recipe, ingredient by ingredient, method by method in laborious longhand. The irony of it was that at that time in life I neither had access to those exotic ingredients or the means to whip up those fantasies. God alone knows what I was doing for what time in the unknown future....

And then came the days when I had the means and the accesses. The endless poring over those longhand notes came to fruition and I started churning those recipes into wonderful (and sometimes far from wonderful) concoctions that we enjoyed. 

Time moved on and the internet came into our lives bringing an infinite world of many treasures to explore and relish. Today, it gives me a curious thrill to quickly scan my favorite food sites, pick a recipe that catches my eye, do deep research on techniques across the web, click on a button and print a long sheet of ingredients and instructions out - all in a matter of seconds. It also has become a stress-buster and deliberate distraction to hover between food sites, learn a bit and drool a bit more.

The sheets of paper get filed away in my big black book today. Some of them find their way to the kitchen and to a delectable (with heart in my mouth!) dish. But even today, I hold on to that frayed register and once ever so often turn those pages back in time.... that nostalgia is as overpowering as today's convenience.                

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

The culture conundrum

Companies today obsess about culture. Big or small, there is fast-growing realization within corporate corridors that commercial concerns acquire a distinctive aura under the culture umbrella.

Corporate culture has almost become the by-word for a credible, legitimate identity that transcends mere profit-making. It's what the brand, the employee proposition and the customer value all get associated with. And there is enough research out there to prove that a defined, robust culture has engaged employees who add value to customer service and relationships. This in turn translates to healthier bottom-lines and satisfied shareholders. In short, a sustainable commercial proposition.

But is this so easily attainable? And what actually defines the culture in an organization? Commercial propositions are coded in hard performance metrics - goals, targets, financials - that are keenly chased and tracked. On the other hand are the softer elements of managing an organization - soft skills, leadership attributes, organizational values. Very often, these become almost synonymous with 'culture', but that's not quite the fact. 

Culture is actually the environment that is created when the 'soft' elements interface with the 'hard' elements. More often than not, these end up in conflict by their very nature; this is the culture conundrum I'm referring to. Aggressive pursuit of targets often means sensitive leadership falling by the wayside. Regulatory environment may see ethical values being short-changed. Obsession with quantitative metrics could lead to qualitative decline. And so gets built a pattern of behaviors that become the organizational culture.

In effect, the practice of the softer elements in pursuit of the hard elements is what organizations need to target to create a desired culture. Here, I'd like to cite an excellent article by Tricia Emerson that articulates What You're Willing to Tolerate Sets The Tone For Your Company Culture .

The more aligned the notions of expected behaviors or values are to their practice and outcomes, the smaller will be the culture gap and the more robust the company's culture.



Friday, 3 August 2018

Connect to your audiences with these 3 E's

It's apt, even if a trifle cheesy, that the same tenets that work in interpersonal relationships and life also work in connecting with your audiences. Be it writing, speaking, presenting, advertising, it's about the 'hook' you create to get them in, the stickiness of what you say that keeps them there and the feeling you leave them with as they exit.

Too often, we get caught up in creating complex material and presenting it elaborately. We work on how we look, what we say, data we cite and the 'wow' we create. These are great, but if we need to create the three touch-points above effectively, it's as much about empathy, emotion and enjoyment.

I am not discounting all the other things that go into great delivery or presenting or writing. Nor am I over-simplifying a craft; just that, for me it's as much about including your audiences in the experience or knowledge that you are sharing with them.

1. Empathy: Anyone who takes the time out to listen to you or to read what you have to say wants to feel that you understand him or her and their points of reference in some way. They want to feel that you have similar pleasures and pains, constraints and challenges and if you have something to share it's because you have found a way to address these. Be it a business problem or a life-skills issue, we all want to listen to someone who can relate to us in a similar way. Speak my language and I hear you! So, actively create those moments of mutual sharing, of being on the same journey and having similar goals that we are trying to address and you will keep them close.

2. Emotion: This is a wide scale. From the emotion in your words and expressions to the emotions you are able to ignite in your audiences. Passivity puts off, so animated connect is imperative. More importantly, even complex theories and ideations can be communicated in a way that strikes a chord not just cerebral, but one that also speaks to the heart. Reference to a patient's travails when one speaks on automating the healthcare system does not take away from the gravity of the subject, it just adds a resonant dimension, gives a small tug at the heart. 

3. Enjoyment: We are all susceptible to humor, to a little fun, a relief-giving aside. And, we so often forget to inject that in our connections with people. Nothing stays more with you than a laugh shared or a fun moment. And, nothing is so serious that we can't lighten the tone. I have always admired how some people just have the gift of spontaneous humor. It's probably worth our while to consciously practice this and weave it into the narrative if it doesn't come naturally. Personally, one reason why I so love to hear President Obama is the heavy dose of humor that he appears to slip in so easily. And, while we may not intend to have a roomful of folks clutching their sides, smiles around are always welcome!

If these seem very 'touch and feel', I forewarned you - this is about connecting, in personal relationships as well as with audiences with whom you have another kind of a relationship!