I, The Absolute

Archive for April, 2005

Become; Don’t be.

Posted by itheabsolute on April 5, 2005

• Advice is a noun; Advise is a verb.
• You have command over physics; but have command of English.
• You can laugh with someone and please him; you can laugh at someone and annoy him.
• I am good is correct. I are good is not. ‘Am I not good?’ is incorrect. ‘Aren’t I good?’ is correct.
• The company have is correct; the company has is correct too.
• There is only one God; there are many gods.
• A little is something; little is nothing.

English is a funny language. But I like it. English is tough to master. But it offers immense opportunities for thought and expression. Thinking clearly without language is almost impossible. Rather, language is a precondition for logical thought. Without a rich language, thinking will remain limited. English being the richest language enables the most complex thoughts and expression.

English was not always so rich. It ‘became’ rich. It picked up words from various other languages, vernaculars and cultures. If a good number of people were using a particular word, the English language adopted it and gladly included the word into its lexicon. That is why using ‘prepone’ for ‘advance’ is correct English today. It was not so about a few months ago.

The lesson to learn from English language is that, enrichment is possible only when one tries to ‘become’ and not ‘be’.

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She will keep me going….

Posted by itheabsolute on April 4, 2005

People tend to rationalize their behavior. It is not easy to set high aspirations. Some people are able to do it, usually involuntarily. Parents, Bosses and others force them to set aspirations. But then it is even tougher to keep up to expectations to realise those aspirations. It is sometimes easy to get lost, lose focus or give up on the goals. Later, rationalize the behavior on why something could not be achieved. The excuses usually will centre around externalizing the problem (It was too tough; I was not well; those guys did not cooperate; but for this I could have done it; it rained; the client had gone mad; suddenly there is no demand for this product, etc.).

The punishment-reward system is one good way to have higher goals set and then extract performance. This is practiced by organisations very effectively. Parents practise this when children are young.

But, when aspiration setting is voluntary as it is in case of all ISB admits (or other b-school admits), who will execute the punishment-reward system?

We are all happy about getting an entry into ISB. A little bit apprehensive, as anyone would be about things new. Once we enter there, things will pile up on us. There will be no tomorrow to do things. Things have to be done today. There will something else to do tomorrow. How do we handle such deluge of work, how to manage performance. It will be pitiful to let oneself wander and later come up with explanations rationalizing behavior ( Does life ends if I cannot get into ‘the firm’ or GS; life has to be balanced between profession and personal life; grades are not everything; the system is biased towards CAs; BS, I have never seen such things happening in the real world outside school.).

I am responsible for myself, sure. But I am responsible for my wife too. I have asked her to sacrifice a good lifestyle for one year. Further, I have asked her to keep her expectations low till sometime after ISB as there is a loan to be repaid.

She is a good choice to implement the punishment-reward system for me. I have asked her to design a punishment-reward system for me. Every time, the punishment has to be different. I could get lazy and complacent and prepare myself for the punishments if I knew what the punishment is. The reward will also be equally secretive and will be motivation enough to keep performing.

I trust her to keep me going.

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IIMA – One-Year Program

Posted by itheabsolute on April 3, 2005

IIMA has launched a one-year program. Obviously, to leverage its excellent brand. But, it would be cursing itself for not having thought about a program for experienced professionals before ISB came.

My views

1. The reason why the students of IIM two year program are most sought after is not necessarily the curriculum, faculty and the infra facilities. It is the difficulty level of getting an entry that puts premium on the students who have gone through the process.
2. Given that the number of seats in the one-year program is just forty, competition will be high. Entry will be difficult. I won’t be surprised if recruiters show enthusiasm for this program too.
3. Other IIMs will come up with one-year program. Give another couple of years.
4. IIMA’s application is somewhat vague. Can’t understand how they are going to check up with references. Will IIMA call up the recommenders and discuss the candidates?
5. One-year format is not its flagship. Why would I want to spend INR 8 Lac to do an MBA program from an institute where that program is not the flagship?
6. IIMA has a huge corpus of funds. It really does not have to price its one-year program that high. But its pricing decision is very good. Its costs will be very less. It will leverage its existing infrastructure, faculty and make a lot of moolah out of this program. It will use these profits to maintain its flagship program at very low cost to maintain the ROI (for a student) as the world best.
7. Since the number of seats at IIMA is just forty, ISB will not be too bothered. IIM cannot match ISB on infra and faculty. But, ISB needs to change its strategy to counter any ‘possible comparison’.
8. ISB should focus on admissions. Given that the response is excellent, ISB should ‘up’ its admission criteria. Any application-to-seats ratio of more than 10 will be detrimental to the overall quality of admission and the process itself. “Ultra Filtering” is important because in India just the population size can make the applications go beyond manageable levels.
9. Any b-school that wants to be world-class cannot but have world-class students. Students are ‘the’ most important differentiating factor for any b-school.
10. Competition will hot up in the b-school segment. Competition has always brought benefits for the consumers. Quality goes up. Good for the students and recruiters – the consumers of a b-school.

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Multiplex Culture

Posted by itheabsolute on April 2, 2005

When I was in school, I had INR 2 of allowance per week to watch movies. INR 1.85 for the movie ticket; the rest INR 0.15 to splurge on eateries. The ticket prices ranged from INR 0.85 to INR 2.35. There was differentiation. The eateries were available starting from INR 0.05 till INR 2 (for a soft drink). The process of waiting until Sunday to watch a movie, particularly those that had a lot of action (read fights) was fun. I used to leave home 2 hours before the movie starts and reach home 2 hours after the movie ends. I used to stand in hours of queues to get tickets for my favorite hero’s movies (2 hours for this). There were occasions when I used to get suffocated in between those biggies who had equal craze to watch the movie on the same day. On the way back from the movie, my friends and I would mime the hero, fight as he fought in the movie (2 hours for this). The fight sequences would be repeated ad nauseam at school, on streets, till we went to the next movie.

Small town. Little or no money. Small dreams. Life was fun that way.

Today also I go to movies. Only at a Multiplex. This is usually what happens:

1. There are no balcony, dress circle and lower benches. All spend same amount. Where I sit depends on when I buy the ticket. That’s about it.
2. No queues. Get the tickets through someone.
3. I spend more money on eating corn/chips and on drinking colas / cane juices than on the tickets.
4. I eat more but stop to check my weight. Cry over the BMI, which will be above the recommended level.
5. Curse the management for not allowing to use escalator to come down.
6. Start from home 2 hours before the movie starts and come back about 2 hours after the movie ends. But this time not to mime my hero or fight with friends. But to drive through the traffic, spend more money on food and sundry items.
7. I “also” watch a movie

Life has changed. This is fun too. In between what has been lost is the possibility to entertain oneself with small amounts of money or no money at all. It costs a lot of money to entertain oneself. Multiplex Culture.

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Management of Technology

Posted by itheabsolute on April 1, 2005

(I)
The other day I was in a meeting with our e-commerce team and a client. We were discussing how life was getting difficult because the SAP system of the Client produced an extra comma into the file format, which made it impossible for the file to be converted into readable and thereby printable form (through our e-com system).

Was life this difficult all along? No. Transactions used to happen without any of these for years. We were stuck with a misplaced comma causing misery to teams of people whose KRAs could get affected and which threatened loss of business from the client if our e-com team did not take care of properly positioning this comma.

An example of our inability to properly use technology to develop “simpler” solutions to everyday problems.

(II)
Usually Airliners do not prefer to ground the flights. It is an expensive proposition. But aircrafts need to be cleaned and maintained. During a routine cleaning, a certain nozzle of an aircraft was sealed with a tape to enable ‘proper cleaning’. Keeping the nozzle open is the only way to know the altitude of the aircraft. The aircraft takes off normally and in no time the pilot discovers that he cannot read the altitude of the aircraft. At night, if you cannot read altitude either you could be flying well above the required altitude or could be flying very close to the ground. The aircraft crash-lands on a sea and many of the passengers die. The ground boy who cleaned the aircraft ‘forgot’ to remove the tape put on the nozzle. An example of a small manual error resulting in a large technical failure. Also an example of implementing an inept technology, which could result in such major mishaps.

(III)
It has been vociferously argued that ATMs and other direct banking channels will make branch banking redundant. (Senior people from Hum Hain Na bank believe in this too)

In the last few years, I have seen the queues at the bank counters only going up. People are still not comfortable with direct channels; people still want to talk to bankers. There are many types of transactions, which direct banking channels as of now do not cater to. It is not possible to replace human beings. I understand that Chase Manhattan Bank has 500 branches in NY City alone. Technology is an enabler and definitely not one, which can make human beings redundant.

Moral: Technology per se can never bring solutions. Nor will technophobia help. Technology will have to be properly understood and harnessed to bring, inter alia, maximum benefit to maximum number of people. Administrators and Senior Managers have an important role to play in putting to use technology. Management education hopefully will teach us how to put to use technology to maximise ‘human convenience’.

Post Scriptum:
– Direct Banking Channels include phone banking, ATM, internet banking, etc
– Branch banking refers to transactions happening at branches

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Unrelated Factoids / Thoughts – Part IV

Posted by itheabsolute on April 1, 2005

1. Thank God, it’s Friday. There won’t be many people at office to disturb me on Saturday and Sunday. I can work longer and undisturbed
2. With the possible exception of equator everything begins somewhere – anonymous
3. The greatest bliss is that the innermost thought CAN remain undivulged. If others knew what we ‘can’ think, there could be a war everyday
4. ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ duality is a reality of life
5. We will do all that is possible now. The impossible will take a little longer – anonymous
6. If it could have been done, it would have been done. Provided it was tried. Since it was not done, either conclusion is possible. It cannot be done or it has not been tried
7. I wan to live in the world on my terms – Hemmingway
8. Conscience is many times a matter of convenience. On things convenient to us, we can be moralistic. On things otherwise a little licence is always okay
9. Can anyone please tell me who designs the on-court attire of Serena Williams?
10. Rebel destroys the system; revolutionary transforms it
11. What is common need not be simple. For instance, a common emotion like love
12. Do the best things in life come free or is there no free lunch?
13. Some good things definitely come free. Life has come free. Sleep, at least till one gets old, comes free
14. Sleep is the second best thing in life
15. Finally, OED had to accept ‘prepone’ as a word and publish it. It will not be long before we (Indians) make The King’s English to be edited to meet “Indian grammar” convention
16. Is there a ‘right’ age for marriage?
17. Salman Rushdie (British citizen) writes “Satanic Verses”. Ban the book; disown him. He wins booker. Declare that he is an Indian. Invite him for felicitations
18. Do good intentions justify mismanagement?
19. What would all those on-looking foreigners be thinking when our heroes and heroines rehearse/shoot for dance/song sequence for our movies in those foreign locales?
20. India seems to be the only country with song-dance sequences in films
21. Indian is a very old country. But does it require that it always needs to be ruled by old ministers?
22. Has anyone kept a count of how many times ZMZ repeat telecasts a movie?
23. The idea of an agreeable person is one who agrees with me – Samuel Johnson

Post Scriptum:
Point 7 – That he later committed suicide is a different matter
Point 10 – In India, many activists do rebellious/destructive activities in the name of revolution /constructive activity (Medha Patkars of the world included)
Point 18 – Behind Nehru’s misplaced planning on making India a superpower through socialistic philosophy were good intentions
Point 19 – It is more interesting to watch these people in the background (with question mark on their faces) than watch our heroes and heroines dance

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