How to tell a story - Learn here !

How to tell a story


Have you ever spoken to someone, where you shared something interesting and they still lost interest – or you did! Have you ever wondered why some people are better than others when it comes to communication, influence and building trust/faith?

One of the major things these ‘better’ people do is to tell a story really well. Have you ever told a story?If yes , you can make it better and if no then you must try! This is one skill that can go a long  way with and for you to. Whether it is about landing your dream job or getting your dream partner – If you can tell a story well; you will have a better chance at being heard, being understood and being believed upon!

That is what my message was to the 1000 people present at TedxJUIT in the Solan Valley – November 2014. Here is my TED talk titled -

How to tell a story !

 

This talk was described on the Tedx website as follows :

“This talk was given at a local TEDx event, produced independently of the TED Conferences. The talk is woven around three short stories of a businessman, with each story having a moral of its own.

He describes how communication plays a chief role in depicting the thoughts while simultaneously conveying a message with a meaning. Telling stories are about questioning the question. The stories go around the world of four keywords – what, why, where and when.

Stories communicate emotions and not merely facts.He gives his mantra of telling amazing stories. This mantra constitutes the hook, the bait and the pull. Hook is about what you want the audience to be interested in. Bait is something that makes them believe that your statement is correct. Pull is about truth that drives the story.

Another point of focus was ‘Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma Phaleshou Kada Chana’. This vision of working without any dreams of bearing fruits is challenging the very basic idea of the existence and the way it is today thereby generating circumstances to create amazing stories.

Abhinandan Chatterjee is a storyteller. His forte lies in his ability to get people to learn through participation, thought and action! “Learning is not compulsory, neither is change, nor is survival”, is his idea to enable learning for grown-ups. He has been assisting learners for over nine years and comes with an excellent understanding of participant behavior and adult learning best-practices. He is also a people performance consultant and the managing partner at I Train.

In his current role he works with over a 175 organizations like McKinsey, PepsiCo, ILO, Philips, Google and many more around South Asia to help develop their culture, people and learning initiatives.

His education has been about business, psychology and human resources from institutions like the University of Stonebridge and IIM Calcutta.

When he is not with groups or individuals, assisting them in their professional development, he is often clicking pictures, eating or writing either for his blog at http://www.abhinandanchatterjee.com or books and articles. “

 

Please do share what you think about this. Cheers – Abhi

Believe them!

Why fairy tales don’t inspire anymore!


Believe them!

Believe them!

Who does not like a little story? A good plot, some identifiable characters, a little background, a convincing story-teller sprinkled with some emotions

  •  Little Red Ridinhood didn’t listen to her mother.
  • Jasmine was in a live in relationship with Alladin.
  • Snow White alone lived wid 7 men.
  • Pinnochio was a liar.
  • Robin Hood was a thief.
  • Tarzan walked without clothes on.
  • A stranger kissed Sleeping beauty n she married him.
  • Cindrella lied, sneaking out at nite 2 attend a party..
  • These r d stories our parents raised us with n den they complain our generation is spoiled!!
  • Jasmine was in a live in relationship with Alladin.
  • Snow White alone lived wid 7 men.
  • Pinnochio was a liar.
  • Robin Hood was a thief.
  • Tarzan walked without clothes on.
  • A stranger kissed Sleeping beauty n she married him.
  • Cindrella lied, sneaking out at nite 2 attend a party..

These are the stories we grew up with and still the they complain our generation is spoiled!!

There is one thing that has continued to bother me though. How is it that as kids we looked at the good sides of these stories and loved them. What really changed by the time we grew up? Today, even when we hear a good story, lets say – a politician doing something good , we still think there is some sneaky self interest involved somewhere.

I mean , by all means, please be a pessimist if you will but then either stop telling children lies or start looking at the truth in them as a grown up!

What really has changed is a term coined by Motivation theorist Ashland –  UPR (Unconditional Positive Regard). In  simple terms when you meet someone for the first time , you think of them as good people who are there to help and help them if needed.  Today however, you reach someone who you don’t know and you are taken up as a disturbance if not a conman already.

What is this happening to the world around us? I asked around , many poeple, and what I got was ‘The world is not a safe place place any more?’ Where do you intend to go – I ask!

So here are three super simple things you can do the bring the UPR back :

1. Realism – Tell children (and adults) what is with the risks and the good sides.

2. Make a Opinion marker – For E.G. I tell myself that I will make an opinion about someone only after meeting thrice. This works, if i did’t do this, trust me I would not have been married yet!

3. Share – When people make you uneasy, say things that you disapprove, share your feeling without accusing other of being wright or wrong.

Do this and slowly and steadily UPR will return to your life. Once you give it, you will get it and then the fairy tales will inspire again!

 

Creating Shared Value : The business of development & 3 things YOU can do !


Understanding businesses today

Part 1

Long time ago, there was a tortoise and a hare who had an argument about who the faster runner was. They finally decided to take on one another for a race.

As the race started, the hare sprinted ahead briskly for some time. Realizing that it will take some time for the tortoise to catch up with him, he decided to seek shelter from the sun under a tree before continuing the race. As he sat under the tree, he gradually fell asleep. The tortoise, crawling at a steady pace, eventually overtook him and won the race. The hare woke up and realized that his complacency cost him the trophy.

Moral: By the 1970, the industry and government was working on their own agenda and businesses felt that being slow but steady would get them to win the race.

Part 2

The hare realized that he was over confident, complacent and took things too easily. He decided to have a re-match with the tortoise. The tortoise accepted his challenge.

This time, the hare ran with all his might and didn’t stop until he crossed the finish line.

Moral: Fast and consistent will always beat the slow and steady. By 1980’s business were realizing the need to be faster and agile, India saw a splurge of global interventions that was to make Indian businesses work faster.

But the story doesn’t end here.

 Part 3

This time, it was the tortoise that did the soul searching and he realized that if the hare didn’t stop, there is no way he will beat him. He thought hard and decided on a different course and he challenged the hare to another re-match. The hare, of course, agreed.

With the lessons learnt from his earlier failure in mind, the hare kept on running once the race started and didn’t stop until the route leads him to the bank of a river. He was taken by surprise and he did not know what to do, since he could not swim. There were no bridges in sight and no one to ask for directions. As he was cracking his head, thinking of ways to cross the river, the tortoise strolled slowly along, dived into the river, swam across it and ultimately, finished the race before the hare.

Moral: Know your strengths and take on your competitors in areas of your core competency. Do you remember how all of sudden all doctors were specialists by 1990, It just wasn’t the doctors, but all businesses.

While the governments were busy with their bureaucratic tantrums, the industry learnt to discover its strengths and live through a quickly globalizing fast-paced market. By the 1990’s, everyone was specializing, everybody who was doing everything was now picking battles that appealed to their personal strength.

The business and government were both becoming technically savvy but at different levels.

The story still hasn’t ended.

Part 4

With the hare and the tortoise spending so much time together racing, they have learnt to live together, they have also developed mutual respect for one another as they realized that they are both different and they have different strengths. They decided to race again, but this time, as a team.

As the race started, the hare carried the tortoise and they sped to the river bank. There, they switched positions and the tortoise ferried the hare across the river. On the opposite bank, the hare again carried the tortoise and they crossed the finishing line together. They completed the race in a record time that both of them can never achieve if they were to do it alone. They also felt a greater sense of satisfaction than they’d felt earlier.

Moral: After the year 2000, it has been increasingly the sense of partnership governing most successes in businesses and otherwise. We a seen a remarkably higher number of government and industry partnerships. A higher number on mutual decisions that benefit most and most importantly a say in the policy making. While it has its glitches but for good cause people do come together.

Driving CSV for the future – Impacting the bottom line

In all this slowly has emerged a third partner, society, it elects the government and is a supplier to businesses. A very interesting position to be at.  Society is now at the driving seat towards the future and it only will decide the fate of government and and business in the years to come.

Simply put, growth of the nation depends on the education and decision making abilities of the society which in turn will govern the sustenance of industry. It is multi-dependent situation to be in and everyone has something at stake. One can’t function without the others any  more.

That is what makes this era, the era of Creating Shared Value between society and business.

Enough with the background. I know this sounds good for people with Moolah to match. But Not Everyone – right ?

Nestle is doing a good job with their bit in helping the society and in the process helping themselves.  Read more about how they are creating shared value at http://www.nestle.com/CSV.

But is the Nestle story enough to convince the SME’s to give a hand with CSV?

Here are three things you can do as an SME with the reasons why :

1. It’s a give and take world : As a business if you want to take people’s money, it’s just not going to work any more. People are smarter and penny-wise. Look at what can you give back to the immediate society.

Example: You are a small business owner who manufactures candles. Maybe you can look at starting at candle making school for local population and take their material at a good price. That’s much cheaper than hiring people and drives considerably more commitment.

You are getting a finished product with a better margin as a business and people are becoming entrepreneurs in return. That’s CSV.

2. Give enough and you will get it back – compounded :What you do for the society drives as leverage. Sounds almost Utopian? It’s not.

Example: Fab India – What started as a small venture led to employment of thousands of people. recession and inflation came and went , unions were set up and dissolved – They never really had a strike that impacted their output. While all their neighbors did. Guess why – Because their workers stood up for them in difficult times. That’s what you get when you give with an open heart.

3. Take only what you need: While most people (SME business Owners) work on the philosophy of ‘Take what you can!’ ; ‘ Take only what you need’ may be the change in attitude the society is looking for. CSV is not an annual investment or tax benefit, its not CSR, donation or charity. It about you as a business being an enabler for the society.

Example: What can a small NGO do which has absolutely limited budgets ? There is one story that I know of; a small kid introduced to his first camera in an orphanage. Today he is one of the best photographers in India. Google up – Vicky Roy – INK Fellow.

In a simpler sense, all I am saying is spread hope.

To summarize – three things all SME’s can do to create shared value :

1. Find common ground where you can get what you want from the society directly while helping them become employed.

2. Build social credibility to drive social commitment to your business.

3. Spread hope that allows people to believe in the possibilities.

Other than Nestle, another organization that makes me want  to work with CSV is Maruti – when they came to India in 1982, they did not have any vendors or suppliers. So they found people and enabled them with the technology, learning and skills required to be their suppliers. In some cases even the investment needed.

Today those vendors are multi-million dollar companies.

So take a step – go the extra mile – create shared value!

The Biriyani Lesson – How adults learn


Biriyani has always fascinated me !

What is more fascinating is what we can learn if we become a little more curious and observant of our own lives…

And to say that there is more to biriyani than just eating it, nothing better than that !

Here is me talking about how adults learn based on a few biriyani related experiences.

Its time to biriyani.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please do comment !

Cheers,

Abhinandan Chatterjee

Amazing life #6 – Go help A Little


Some of you may have read the other articles on the  ‘Amazing Life Series’, this video captures so well what I have only dreamt to share.

Mostly we get caught in the battle of ‘If’ and ‘Then'; ‘If i get help from my team, only then will i offer to help them next time.’ Here is a video that teaches us otherwise and shares how a small action can be big step towards making the world a better place to live in …

So go, help a little and spread a little love because that is what humanity was meant to do !

Cheers,

Abhinandan Chatterjee

Creating Shared Value : The ‘sunrise’ direction


What can a business do?

Like most of us who run, transact with or know businesses will say that a they can only make money! Not true any more !

A really interesting Initiative that I came across was the ‘Nestle Creating Shared Valueand their perspective towards the role of business in development is simple, clear, driven and the way I understand – Very practical.

In my humble opinion, they seem to believe ‘If they build a better world, even they will benefit from it’ something that everyone should learn from and strive towards.

Read more about their work here . Or watch a video here

I believe in this idea and want to learn more, after receiving an invite recently from the Creating Shared Value Forum,2012 (Organized by Nestle SA and FICCI) to be held in New Delhi, India on Nov 5th as a Key Online Opinion Leader, my focus is now to see what is actionable and write about it.

Stay tuned here for two more articles on this thread :

1. Creating Shared Value : The business of development

2. Creating shared value forum 2012 : Top 10 actionable items that your business can start tomorrow.

Connect with the forum directly on twitter at https://twitter.com/nestleCSV  

#NestleCSV stay tuned for my tweets from the event day

OR connect with them on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/Nestle

Personally, since I am doing a workshop on ‘Execution tactics’ for a leading automobile company today, I feel the best way to sum this up for now would be to quote The Tonite Show anchor and entrepreneur – Jay Leno

“Life begins at conception and ends at execution’

Preamble – The real route to independence – Part 1


” WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY, of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation; IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949,DO HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION. “

You would certainly have read this before in 5th Standard Civics… Remember!

Maybe you were too young to understand then, but now that you are old enough to read, can understand and choose your actions well – What do you do to uphold the constitution of India?

No; you do not have to read the constitution !

Just understanding the PREAMBLE and doing some little things at a very individual level should be enough – For now!

Let’s dissect : “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens:”

Leaving everything aside, all Indians are alike and equal. Can we treat our fellow Indian’s that way? Or is it okay if a rich man has rights and a poor man gets ‘Rights to admission – Reserved!’ even on government offices?

In 1949, we agree to be good people who care for each other.

Are we really SOVEREIGN ?

“The people’s will is in theory –  sovereign”. When we rule India as Indians, free from the pressures and politics of the world by being righteous and real.

The simplest way of being sovereign is to be aware – Yes, there are problems, but mostly because people love what’s easy and not what is correct.

It is time to stop looking at the constitution as something that stops us from doing things out of our own free will and start looking at it as something that gives us our share of the system, of  rules and more importantly – our rights.

The right to speak and be heard, right to be who we are and do what we want to without discrimination; as long as it is not hurting anything. We find it confining but it allows us to marry across cast, creed and culture while the society may not agree.

Take away : To be sovereign, know your rights.

Are we  really SOCIALIST ?

“To understand socialism, we need to understand the word ~ co-operation”

Be it economical, political or even historical; socialism is simply the act of being co-operative for the greater good. I think of the freedom fighters often – they had their share of problems like we do but they came out in the open to disagree with what was incorrect. They came together disregarding all biases. Considering now we are free, it should be easier for us to do so. Isn’t it?

Unfortunately the act of winning is more to do with ensuring that others fail rather than working harder and running faster. Co-operation is not against competition but it sure does favour ‘fairness’ in thought and action.

Take away : To be a socialist, think for more than just yourself by doing something good towards fostering equality in India. Be it just once a month you teach underprivileged kids  or donate in cash or kind.

Are we really SECULAR ?

“Humanity has no religion, it is one” – Gates foundation press release

Secular is simply the lack of bias. Not only religious but also social, cultural and in 2012, adding economical is not a stretch. Upholding what is available to all by abiding with law above religion. Being an Indian above an Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. Propagating humanity and not gospel is the real act of god, I guess. Still how many of us are comfortable with the religions that we do not understand. For a country with a constitution that claims to be unbiased and secular; the largest opposition party openly claims to be religiously inclined and downright intolerant on matters on religious equality.

I totalled up all the major religion driven deaths post 1949 (TOI, Archives), it took me 2 hours( that is how high the count was! ) to find that 1450000 Indians have died in various attempts of riots, terrorism strikes, honour killing, socially compelled suicides and post event trauma for all of the above.

It’s funny how certain religious institutions in India gross more money in donation and returns on investments than what is the educational budget for this country with over 50% population under 18 years of age!

Take away : To be a secular, read more about history and religion, a aware mind is less likely to be superstitious. Have faith not because you have to but because you want to. All that any religion ever led people towards was a better and peaceful world to live in.

Are we really DEMOCRATIC?

‘Between death and dungeon what do I choose?’ Voters turnout across country in last general election was less than 60 % and we were proud of it. A local Gurgaon newspaper survey suggested that the turnout at exit poll for urban Gurgaon booths were 20-25 % only. Local’s when asked ‘why so?’; 29 % people said they did not want to choose either of the candidates. Democracy is about the right to choose, the right is there but the choices are limited to be somebody’s pet peeves.  Did you know that you could actually cast blank votes if you do not prefer any of the listed candidates and RTI can also give access to the number of such instances. There are three aspects that make us less of a democracy:

  1. People – Democracy simply is ‘of the people, for the people, by the people’ where no individual is above ‘people’ but everybody seems to be missing this point. To vote or not to vote is not simply a choice; it’s a duty that we all have. But we are either lazy or busy.
  2. Options – I can choose between right and wrong like most people but in the art of choosing between two wrongs – I am not competent. Today, whoever gets elected says something and does something else. Even movies have stopped mocking this scenario now because it was over used! How do I trust such people, who do I trust with my vote and my future?
  3. Power – The thing that seems to control everything including the Judiciary and the law. Police is scared of a lot of things like politicians and their distant friends (A group that everybody in Delhi seems to be a part of); Press and the Fake I Cards like the ones that say ‘zalzala akhbaar’ and ‘Rohtak Mirroring’ eventually passing for journalists and their own ‘Babu’s’ who have taken so many favors from so many people that they now return even without asking.

It is comic but real that a man is not more valuable than a 21 INR toll ticket for which he got killed.

Take away: It is slow cooked broth reduced over 65 years and is not going to change overnight. Fight the wrong by being aware. Start with the traffic rules by reading them on http://www.delhitrafficpolice.nic.in/ The only way to rebuild democracy is to rethink our actions. That includes accepting  fault when you make one!

Are we a REPUBLIC ; yet?

On official documents – YES!

Republic noun state in which the supreme power rests in the body ofcitizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.

Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/republic

How powerful is the citizen today and how much does he trust his elected representatives? I asked 15 people in family and friends to understand if they trust whoever they voted for last. I told myself that even if I get 1 person who says ‘Yes’, not all hope is lost! But as I expected, I could not manage 1 confident ‘Yes’. Instead, it opened a Pandora’s box of foul language and dissatisfaction. Need I say more.

Take away: The words that made us a republic (SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC) are not yet in action after 65 years of independence. 4 words we could not hold true in a country that boasts of the Longest constitution in the world. What you can do is start with the four words today!

We will talk later about the rest of the preamble later because the bruise from the first line will take a while to heal. Tell us what you think can you do at an individual level. Comment now!

Story Time: How Buddha learnt a lesson?


Gautam buddha was sitting underneath a banayan tree, meditating.On the other side of the tree two local musicians met and were discussing their work.

One of them wanted to learn the ‘ektara’, to increase his expertise.

The other musician, to express his expertise, started talking about the ektara.

He said ” The ektara is a beautiful instrument. If you want to learn how to play it , you must first learn how to tune the string. Make it too loose and it will not sound desirable, make it too tight and it will break.”

He concluded by repeating “not too tight, not too loose”

Buddha left his meditation and jumped up to stand. It was almost like someone had told him something unbelievable.

He had realized the secret to happiness or ‘moksha’.

Like the string for the ektara, too much or too little of anything is the reason for most sorrow.

Be it money, love, knowledge or even life. This philosophy gave birth to the idea of ‘madhyama marga‘ or the middle path.

How many such opportunities have we missed, is anybody’s guess.

Source: Public Domain - Abridged and rewritten from Upanishands (Compiled by Abhinandan Chatterjee)

Progressive politics – India 2012


The Past 

It’s not vaguely under cover; how Indian politics shackles down progress. The budgets get weaker, the closer comes the elections. And a woman makes it her own right to change news and history to suit her taste.

I am a voter, but where is my choice? Or is it about living with a mistake? …One that I made last elections.

Questionably, is that what has become of what was meant to be a democracy – Of the people, By the people, For the people.

Somewhere in their hearts,people of India are burning of rage and are gripped by fear, a rage to change but in fear of the initial consequences. We have always had issues with the ‘Big Picture Perspective’ (Why else did the British manage to rule us?), haven’t we?

I know friends who did not vote – not because they were busy, but because they did not want to pick either of the nominees. With more than a billion people; that is how low we are on choice?

Frankly, it looked like dooms day for Indian politics about 3 years ago, misreported by the media(they need breaking news…), misinterpreted by the opposition (on purpose, just to slam), mismanaged by politicians (they only order in chaos is what makes to their bank accounts), misjudged by the voters (Fabricated facts can only create fabricated reality) and mislead by personal agendas (It is never about making India work, but about ‘Not’ upsetting a counted few).

The Present

Then a welcome change of wind came by, all of a sudden politicians were going to talk shows that were real and were asked the questions which the common man wanted to(E.g. The Big Fight). They were replying to e-mails and for the first time were answerable to the public. The public too was commendable and became assertive to a full. They asked questions now, not waited for the answers.

The RTI, Right to Information Act , 2005 – contributed tremendously in getting people to their own might. While it had been around for a while, people had now learnt to use it well.

That was the birth of progressive politics. A choice that all politicians are presented with in today’s world.

What is Progressive Politics?

In my view, the philosophy is about connecting with the real people even after the elections. Connecting for real issues and being responsible for solutions. It is about intention, a good one, for the country and it is very much visible.

The best I could define progressive politics would be: A state of politics were nominated members act as a medium of communication between the government and the common men and women of the constituency instead of being rulers, singular decision makers and power mongers.

How is Progressive Politics different from the regular politics?

The following factors should help you identify:

  • Priorities – The state of the nation, its growth and international sanctity is the more important than strategic development for coming into power the next term.
  • Decisions – Choices are created, shared and mutually decided on matters of importance between the nominated member and the voters with the overall benefit of the constituency in mind and not personal, regional or community based benefits.
  • Communication – The politicians make a genuine effort to communicate and connect with the people on a regular basis to sense their needs and expectations. They reach out to the people and people who reach out to them are answered well. Not the same as standing in a que for 8 hours just to get through to the peon or PA at a minister’s office. Social media certainly has helped.
  • Responsibility - ‘Under promise over deliver’ It is more like customer service than being in charge of your organization. Service is the key and the politicians understand that the public values sincere service, real and visible, more than the face value or the fact that they are in their centennial year in Indian politics. Work counts – age does not.
  • Support – Progressive politics both needs and drives, support. It is an interesting paradigm because it is self-sustaining. As long as the cause is potent and real to the masses, it will be driven through support from the masses. Anna Hazare’s movement against corruption was a good glimpse at this. Why have we never had a political movement to drive change at this level?
This is a welcome change in the way politics works in our country. I am certain, this is what the forefathers of democracy dreamt of.
Out of the politicians today in India, many have taken the route to progressive politics already.
The days of ‘we need change’ are gone and over. Now it is about supporting and standardizing this change. That is one area where I feel a lot work will be demanded.
But let me share with you why I feel this is the way forward – Change is constant. A lot of well established and repeatedly proved  management theories about change may give an insight to our situation. The situation of Progressive politics in India.
The figure on your left called the ‘Diffusion of innovation’ (Source:  Everett M. Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovations (1962).)
Let’s quickly understand the model in context to Indian progressive politics.
The  bottom terms represent the way Indian politicians will take up progressive politics and the curve represents the number of people in each category.
The height of the curve also represents the majority of public commitment  that a  particular groups’ effort will drive.
Just to add some more perspective in terms of progressive politics in India, here are some examples of the politicos who are into the muddle already -
Opinion Leaders – Sashi Tharoor,  Narendra Modi, Agatha Sangma
Early Adopters – Meera Sanyal, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Naveen Jindal, Jyotiraditya Scindia
The names are my personal views only and may differ from yours. Another aspect of Progressive Politics is empathy and listening. A world where different opinions may live peacefully and co-exist. Feel free to share your views in the comments section below.
We are at a stage where the early adopters are still building up. The key here to understand will be, that social networking may be a good medium but is not Progressive politics.Social responsibility is. 
The public is smart enough to spot who is here to play politics and get votes on twitter and who makes change happen – for real – even if it is through Facebook.
Mathematically there may be a few flaws in this alignment and it calls for a lot of research to find the real trends and do it justice. However, for me this analogy is just a lot of hope.And hope does not have to be mathematically correct. :)
The good news still is that CHANGE IS HERE. Knocking on the door. Chetan Bhagat (@chetan_bhagat) Tweeted yesterday
  • “In reaction to the TOI column, Civil Aviation minister Ajit Singh called me. Commendable of him to reach out.’
  • “Had a long call with the minister. He shared his thoughts on making AI better, but reminded me of practical issues like unions/culture”
  • “Invited me to meet him. Will do. Must say good to know there are some politicians who listen and are keen to change things. Ray of hope.”
This was in response to an article by Chetan “Burning money in the sky,” in TOI 21 April 2012, , about the current state of  Air India.
While Chetan was heard from his article on the TOI, but a lot of us will not write articles or go out to protest. We could be next on the list of people who might be heard next.
Support progressive politics, politicians and processes. Support the change for those trying to be it!
- Abhinandan Chatterjee

The other side of business – The True Story of Ratan Tata


‘It is futile to mix business with emotions!’ A well established fact that fuels lay-offs, inhuman sell-off’s, stone hearted acquisitions and the ever diminishing regard for people in businesses driven by people.

There is story that presents the other side of this picture. To top it up, it happened right here in India.

Ratan Tata is the chairman of Indian Hotels who owns the Taj Mahal Hotel Mumbai, which was the target of the terrorists on 26/11/08.

Hotel President a 5 star property also belongs to Indian Hotels.

Lets talk about what he did.

A. The Tata Gesture

1. All category of employees including those who had completed even 1 day as casual were treated on duty during the time the hotel was closed.

2. Relief and assistance to all those who were injured and killed

3. The relief and assistance was extended to all those who died at the railway station, surroundings including the “Pav- Bha ji” vendor and the pan shop owners.

4. During the time the hotel was closed, the salaries were sent by money order.

5. A psychiatric cell was established in collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences to counsel those who needed such help.

6. The thoughts and anxieties going on people’s mind was constantly tracked and where needed psychological help provided.

7. Employee outreach centers were opened where all help, food, water, sanitation, first aid and counseling was provided. 1600 employees were covered by this facility.

8. Every employee was assigned to one mentor and it was that person’s responsibility to act as a “single window” clearance for any help that the person required.

9. Ratan Tata personally visited the families of all the 80 employees who in some manner – either through injury or getting killed – were affected.

10. The dependents of the employees were flown from outside Mumbai to Mumbai and taken care off in terms of ensuring mental assurance and peace. They were all accommodated in Hotel President for 3 weeks.

11. Ratan Tata himself asked the families and dependents – as to what they wanted him to do.

12. In a record time of 20 days, a new trust was created by the Tatas for the purpose of relief of employees.

13. What is unique is that even the other people, the railway employees, the police staff, the pedestrians who had nothing to do with Tatas were covered by compensation. Each one of them was provided subsistence allowance of Rs. 10K per month for all these people for 6 months.

14. A 4 year old granddaughter of a vendor got 4 bullets in her and only one was removed in the Government hospital. She was taken to Bombay hospital and several lacs were spent by the Tatas on her to fully recover her.

15. New hand carts were provided to several vendors who lost their carts.

16. Tata will take responsibility of life education of 46 children of the victims of the terror.

17. This was the most trying period in the life of the organization. Senior managers including Ratan Tata were visiting funeral to funeral over the 3 days that were most horrible.

18. The settlement for every deceased member ranged from Rs. 36 to 85 lacs [One lakh rupees tranlates to approx 2200 US $ ] in addition to the following benefits:

a. Full last salary for life for the family and dependents;

b. Complete responsibility of education of children and dependents – anywhere in the world.

c. Full Medical facility for the whole family and dependents for rest of their life.

d. All loans and advances were waived off – irrespective of the amount.

e. Counselor for life for each person

 

Epilogue

1. How was such passion created among the employees? How and why did they behave the way they did?

2. The organization is clear that it is not something that someone can take credit for. It is not some training and development that created such behaviour. If someone suggests that – everyone laughs

3. It has to do with the DNA of the organization, with the way Tata culture exists and above all with the situation that prevailed that time. The organization has always been telling that customers and guests are #1 priority

4. The hotel business was started by Jamshedji Tata when he was insulted in one of the British hotels and not allowed to stay there.

5. He created several institutions which later became icons of progress, culture and modernity. IISc is one such institute. He was told by the rulers that time that he can acquire land for IISc to the extent he could fence the same. He could afford fencing only 400 acres.

6. When the HR function hesitatingly made a very rich proposal to Ratan – he said – do you think we are doing enough?

7. The whole approach was that the organization would spend several hundred crore in re-building the property – why not spend equally on the employees who gave their life?

It is funny why was this not repeatedly on the news?

Moreover, it drives attention to a rather undervalued aspect of business in this competitive era. That side is Kindness.

Source: Facebook Post with personal commentary.
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Amazing Life # 5 – Going to School


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Going to school

‘What days were those!’ everyone out of school would gasp. No matter what the school was, big or small, urban or in a village or even whether you were the person who got picked the most upon.

Along with the fun, a school was still a lot more than a promise of future, a statistic, a job guarantee or a social obligation. For some it was life’s playground and for all it was hope.

Yet, what did we really learn?

Learning was about sharing and never about competition so sharp that could split a hair in two. It was hard to get up everyday and difficult to stay up before examinations. A lot would refer to that as hardship.

But, is that as hard as it gets?

I call myself fortunate to have been able to get education at a good school, though at a point in time I did not have money to pay the fees and believe it or not my teachers paid it from their pockets; it was a 30 km bicycle ride and a still a lot of upset relatives; but I would still call my self fortunate. This is still a lot better than a lot of others who had it worse.

Take APJ Abdul Kalam for instance; who had to walk miles to get to his school every morning or these girls who do even more to get to their school in Nepal which happens to be in a different, distant village .

What is it that drives so much effort to school?

What could it mean? What Does it stand for?

What does it lead to?

These questions have been with me since I was at school but  to my vain I haven’t been able to answer them yet.

The only thing I could figure is that I owe it to the school to give back to the world. I owe it to the school to get those to experience the joy of learning who do not get to.

Answer the above questions for yourself if you can. But answer one for me first – What have you given back to people, that you took from your school? Sounds too idealistic!

I genuinely acknowledge the people and organizations who have dedicated their existence to help this cause. However, lets face it … not all of us can and not most of us will!

Here are a few simple things that led to me believe that it is not as difficult as we may think of it to be!

1. Give it back – When ever you can, what ever you can, how much ever you can – I am no philanthropist, it did not take much to go to McDonalds ,spend 500 bucks on a few – well actually 25 – McVeggie burgers and drive around Gurgaon. Look for the kids, playing around and share it with them. What a weekend! I ate 5 of them burgers myself , over 3 hours of driving around but the shining eyes of those kids can make all the effort worth it. Here is ‘Appu’  with his sister ‘Rani’  and the little dude. Some of the kids i had lunch with. Try it if you can and see for yourself how fulfilling it is while being a lot more interesting than lunch with your colleagues!

2. Teaching is the best way to learn (Yes, even the small things) – I remember, about 14 years ago, we had a person who used to do the cleaning etc. for us in our Jabalpur home. Her name was Sashi and we called her Sashi didi, she wasn’t too old – about 23, mother of two. My brother was in kindergarten and I never sat to teach him anything… it was boring.

One day I did, and her elder daughter (5) walked up to the book, picked it up and kept looking at it. She had a big smile. It was majestic, so I decided to teach her and my brother,that is the day, with very little help for me ‘Pooja’ wrote her name in English for the first time. My brother took another year to do so :P all in good spirit but he was just 3.

Pooja had then become the most literate member of her family and it cost me nothing to share those three minutes of joy and see her mother proud. Would do that again in the next opportunity I get.

3. Donation is great – Charity is good, but does not always cost. At least a simple thing that I have tried a last couple of  months works just fine. When ever you go out to buy some thing for yourself, buy something for others. Even if it is just a pencil. I refrain from buying food because it just doesn’t appeal to me. I would rather share some hope and if it costs 5 Rs. and can write, I sure don’t lose my savings over it.

All I am trying to say is that life isn’t the same for everyone and that is something I learnt at school. That is why it was such an amazing thing and now its my turn to return.

Just to get you started, here are some stats:

    • Less than half of India’s children between the age 6 and 14 go to school.
    • A little over one-third of all children who enroll in grade one reach grade eight.
    • At least 35 million children aged 6 – 14 years do not attend school.
    • 53% of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.
    • In India, only 53% of habitation has a primary school.
    • In India, only 20% of habitation has a secondary school.
    • On an average an upper primary school is 3 km away in 22% of areas under habitations.
    • In nearly 60% of schools, there are less than two teachers to teach Classes I to V.
    • On an average, there are less than three teachers per primary school. They have to manage classes from I to V every day.
    • High cost of private education and need to work to support their families and little interest in studies are the reasons given by 3 in every four drop-outs as the reason they leave.
    • Dropout rates increase alarmingly in class III to V, its 50% for boys, 58% for girls.
    • 1 in 40, primary schools in India is conducted in open spaces or tents.
    • In Andhra Pradesh (South India), 52 upper primary schools were operating without a building in 2002, while in 1993, there were none.
    • In Maharashtra (West India), there were 10 schools operating without a building in 1993, this has climbed to 33 in 2002.
    • More than 50 per cent of girls fail to enroll in school; those that do are likely to drop out by the age of 12.
    • 50% of Indian children aged 6-18 do not go to schoolSource: 7th All India Education Survey, 2002

Going to school made me stop wanting help and taught me to take responsibility and stand up with dignity. That is exactly what these 8.1 million children need. The whole world can be a school if we choose to make it so.

After all, what does life have to offer if not a little hope?

For you to do, not just read ; Abhi

Rags to riches – How shortcuts work!


 

A long time age, lived a merchant named Manibhadra in  southern city of Pataliputra. He was a man of principles who had lost all his wealth. His poverty made him very sad and one night he reflected on his condition and thought:                           

“Neither character nor patience, Neither humility nor pedigree, Dispels a poor man’s gloom.”

Even if a man has merit, the pressures of earning a livelihood overshadow such merit. The need to look after the family wears out one’s brilliance. A poor man’s house is like a sky without stars, a lake without water.

“A poor man is shunned even if, He has character and pedigree. A wealthy man shines in society,Without merit and caste roots. What he does is never shameful, But to be poor is always a crime.”

After thinking a lot about his condition, Manibhadra decided that death alone could solve his problems. With these thoughts he fell asleep and saw a dream. In his dream, a Jain monk appeared and said, “O merchant, don’t give in to self-pity. I am Padmanidhi, the treasure collected by your ancestors. Tomorrow morning when I will visit you in this guise, you will hit my head with a stick and I will turn into gold. You can live happily ever after.”

When the merchant woke up next morning he wondered whether what he saw in the dream was real or unreal. “This may not be true. It could just be an illusion because I have been thinking about money all the time,” he thought and remembered the following poem:

“Their dreams never come true, Who are sick, grief stricken, Lovelorn and infatuated.”

Meanwhile, a barber came to the merchant’s house because his wife had called him for pedicure. Very soon came the Jain monk who appeared in the merchant’s dream. Manibhadra was happy to see him and at once reached for the stick and struck him on his head. The monk turned into a statue of gold. The merchant then gave clothes and money to the barber and told him not to pass this information to anyone.

The barber went home and thought, “If a monk turns into gold if I strike him, I will invite all the monks and kill them and I can have lots of money.” He passed the night with great difficulty. Next morning he went to the Jain monastery, went round its precincts three times and prostrated before the idol of Jinendra and sang the praise of the Jains as:

“Victory to the Jain monks who keep lust and love at bay, who turn the mind into a desert, where desire does not grow. Blessed are the hands that worship the enlightened Jinendra and blessed is the tongue that praises the great Saint.”

After this prayer, the barber met the chief monk and knelt before him seeking his blessings. The monk blessed him and asked the barber the reason that brought him to the monastery. The barber pleaded humbly that the chief monk and others should accept his hospitality.

The chief monk said, “O my son, we are not Brahmins who are invited home to be honoured. We are mendicants who visit Jain homes and accept what is necessary to keep us alive. Please go away and don’t embarrass me.”

Disappointed, the barber said, “O great seer, I have made all preparations to receive you. Yet I cannot press you. You will do what you think is best.”

The barber went home and kept a stick ready after checking the exits of the house. He went to the monastery again and stood there pleading with the monks to accept his offerings. Taking pity on the barber, the monks agreed to visit his home. The elders have rightly said:

“Man becomes old and infirm,loses his hair and teeth and cannot even hear and see properly. Everything in his body degenerates but not desire.”

When the poor monks trooped into his house, the barber closed all the exits and began assaulting them. Some of them died while some were crying with pain. The sheriff, passing by, heard this commotion and asked his men to immediately find out what was happening. The men saw what the barber had done and presented him before a magistrate. The barber admitted that he had killed some of the monks. The magistrate ordered that the barber be impaled.

The judges then said that no one should do like the barber without understanding the situation for the learned have said that he who does things without discretion or prudence regrets his actions.

Food for thought : I find this story so interesting because it says, what worked for him might not work for you! Choice indeed is the greatest gift we get as humans, to choose wisely – be it action or inactions is not a suggestion. It is responsibility.

Source: Unknown. While I have not written this story, I am unable to trace its source too. Please help if you can.

Amazing Life # 4 – Being Forgetful


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about  little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Being Forgetful

Sonia, my boss, mentor and very good friend once asked me ‘How come you always keep forgetting things? When ever I ask you, you seem to have forgotten it for one reason or the other.’

I did not have an answer but as usual – I had to say something ! The last word was mine, I said and I quote “I don’t forget by chance, I forget by choice” That fact that I had watched James bond in Casino Royale the evening before had nothing to do with it.

She looked at me with a rather peculiar look and said.’That’s the weirdest thing I have ever heard’

It wasn’t the first time she said that, it sure was not the last.

The question is why is this a good feeling? Something that happened today strengthened my belief in the idea of forgetting.

I called up an old friend just to say hi (Got a friend request from her on FB.) ! She picked up the phone and we spoke for almost an hour… I just did not realize somehow that she dumped me when I was 14 and it sure did hurt back then. Life moved on and I forgot, and it was really okay when I remembered it today. Forgetting just takes the edge of things. Maybe it is the the little  bit of Emotional intelligence that we all need.

One secret to happiness is to be able to forget, forget what is not necessary or relevant to being constructive. Forget the regrets, grudges, opinions and mistakes if you can. Forget any superstition, rumor, allegation, frustration and worry and see, there will be so much more to remember.

A feminist friend of mine always says – ‘Women remember more! They are smarter’ …Sure they do ( I am not trying to be biased, if you take offence on this – get some humor hormones!), Its maybe because they remember more, they always have reasons to sound worried and men forget and see how happy they are:).

Of course it is easier said than done and it has massive disadvantages against people who remember… the conversation we had last year in summers about how bees fly and the conclusion of what makes the zzzzzzzzz sound. huh??? I don’t remember the conclusion, the conversation or even the weather – all i remember is that I met a buddy because that is what made me happy.

It is also a choice between being good and being happy. Memory is good, forgetfulness ( If that’s a word) is happier and that is just my personal opinion.

Look at it like a computer – What happens when too much of data is stored on the hard drive. Slows down the computer? and what happens when there are too many programs running together – Crash and burn?

All the information we collect, important and un-important is the data. Pick what you need and forget the rest ( Make notes if you like). The multiple processes are the emotions – the negative ones specially have a tendency of auto-start. They keep going on and on unless you forget about them.

So, how do you forget – Three things that I always do are :

  1. Get busy – Find something else that occupies you mentally and do it passionately enough to skip your lunch once because you did not realize the time.
  2. Get creative – Creating things from scratch is a great feeling and drives passion( Does not apply to creating babies) through the roof. It is this adrenalin that works as a pain killer.
  3. Get adventurous – Do something that you have never done before like Bunjee jumping. Personally,I feel it will be a great remedy for mid-life crisis.

These are just distractions, memory loses itself  and people forget what is on top of their head.

Some things that feel really good once forgotten are;

  • Forgetting why you fought with your spouse and end up bursting out into laughter
  • Forgetting to  watch a match where the team you like lost anyway
  • Forgetting to lie where you had planned to and end up saying the right thing with benefits later
  • Forgetting to say bye or express your love to the one you love only remember later how much you love them!
  • Forgetting to eat when you are putting on weight
  • Forgetting to do something nice in the first place only not to regret it later
Comment on this thread about ‘What can you forget and feel happy about?’

Live well and go forget… Cheers. Abhi

Amazing Life # 3 – Being happy for strangers


‘Amazing life’ is a regular thread about little things that make us happy. Today’s weird little thing is Being happy for strangers

It is just amazing how a smile can be contagious. It is one thing I would love to be contaminated with.

This is an old story about a day that happened to be pretty gloomy and dead. It was the day when it didn’t go too well in the office. Friends didn’t have time. I did not want to spend time with family. It was hard to focus on anything and window shopping was the only shopping because it was free and affordable.

Even on that day, stuck between 5 people, hitching a ride in a bus, when I saw that little girl hitting her nose with her hand, almost with the expression ‘Where did this thing on my face come from?’ and her mother looking at her in aw and disbelief, redefining beautiful; that split second of magic made me smile for a night and even the next morning.

That is the power of happiness and it comes in strange packages – correction! – stranger packages.

I am sure you would have had those moments in life when you look at something really everyday, in a different way, connect with it and end up smiling ear to ear. A little hard to explain, but it’s not  laughter, not a humorous smile, neither sarcastic,  nor sadistic, its not bound by the axis of being real and artificial; I feel neither English nor any other language has an adjective for it – its just a smile.

They come by at traffic signals, at bus stops, on silent evenings, on really really early mornings and with good news – even when it has nothing to do with you, good or bad.

In times when winning a race about creating strategies that ensure others fall so that even if you are not the fastest – you can win, its funny that such a feeling can exist.

Today I read in the news about Mohammad Aamir – spent 14 years in Jail for being wrongfully accused and finally freed to a dead father and and paralyzed mother. At least he saw the world outside of brick and mortar before his sun set far east. A touching account of how truth triumphed finally – better late than never. That put a smile back on my face in the middle of thoughts about how to handle the very-ignorable  problems that I, just like rest of us, was crying over…I was happy for a stranger and it felt great.

So my tip is:

Find such moments when you can smile for others. Close your eyes and think about that moment because smiling for others is certainly better than smiling at them.

PS- You can read the full story about Mohammad Aamir here – Its motivating!

Story @ The Sunday Guardian

Cheers to that one smile; Abhi

Story Time – The Right is Wrong


A physics professor was about to give a student a zero for his answer to a physics question, while the student claimed a perfect score.

Who was right? The instructor and the student agreed to an impartial arbiter (The Judge) , and a learned man was selected.

He read the examination question:

” Q 12: Show how it is possible to determine the height of a tall building using a barometer?”

The student had answered, “Take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to the street, and then bring it up, measuring the length of the rope. The length of the rope is the height of the building.”

The student really had a strong case for full credit since he had really answered the question completely and correctly!

On the other hand, if full credit were given, it could well contribute to a high grade in his physics course and to certify competence in physics, but the answer did not confirm this.

The judge suggested that the student have another try. He also gave the student six minutes to answer the question with the warning that the answer should show some knowledge physics. At the end of five minutes, he had not written anything. arbiter asked if he wished to give up, but he said he had many answers to this problem; he was just thinking of the best one.

The judge  excused himself for interrupting him and asked him to please go on.

In the next minute, he dashed off his answer which read:

“Take the barometer to the top of the building and lean over the edge of the roof. Drop the barometer, timing its fall with a stopwatch. Then, using the formula x=0.5*a*t^^2, calculate the height of the building.”

At this point, the judge  asked his colleague if he would give up. He conceded, and gave the student almost full credit.

While leaving the colleague’s office, he recalled that the student had said that he had other answers to the problem and asked him what they were.

“Well,” said the student, “there are many ways of getting the height of a tall building with the aid of a barometer. For example, you could take the barometer out on a sunny day and measure the height of the barometer, the length of its shadow, and the length of the shadow of the building, and by the use of simple proportion, determine the height of the building.

“Fine,” he  said, “and others?” “Yes,” said the student, “there is a very basic measurement method you will like. In this method, you take the barometer and begin to walk up the stairs. As you climb the stairs, you mark off the length of the barometer along the wall. You then count the number of marks, and this will give you the height of the building in barometer units.” “A very direct method.” “Of course.

If you want a more sophisticated method, you can tie the barometer to the end of a string, swing it as a pendulum, and determine the value of g at the street level and at the top of the building. From the difference between the two values of g, the height of the building, in principle, can be calculated.”

“On this same tact, you could take the barometer to the top of the building, attach a long rope to it, lower it to just above the street, and then swing it as a pendulum. You could then calculate the height of the building by the period of the precession”.

“Finally,” he concluded, “there are many other ways of solving the problem. Probably the best,” he said, “is to take the barometer to the basement and knock on the superintendent’s door. When the superintendent answers, you speak to him as follows: ‘Mr. Superintendent, here is a fine barometer. If you will tell me the height of the building, I will give you this barometer.”

At this point, the judge asked the student if he really did not know the conventional answer to this question. He admitted that he did, but said that he was fed up with high school and college instructors trying to teach him how to think.

While there is no proven record, some say that this man CV Raman, Indian Nobel laureate. (Read updates below for clarity)

Food for thought:  There always are many answers to questions, ones wrong answer can be other persons right. This makes me question all the feedback I get and that is where the learning happens.

Are you open to the new? To think and to understand openly by introspection and listening are the two biggest missing pieces in the emotional evolution of humans.

This made me wonder about one current situation which I would dedicate this story to – The Indian Lokpal Fiasco – Apparently everybody has the same objective ( Eradicate corruption) but nobody open to understand each other. Who can be our arbiter?

Update 1: 8/02 7.23 PM IST – After a reader comment, another name who could have actually been in the heart of this story is Neils Bohr, Danish Nobel Laureate. Either ways, the LOKPAL team can learn from it!

Update 2: 9/02 6.12 AM IST – Another reader shared a link while appreciating the thought that puts more of this story into perspective. It wasn’t Raman, or Bohr it seems. It was more like a textbook problem. Read it for yourself: http://www.snopes.com/college/exam/barometer.asp

Source: Abridged from various sources including what my grandfather told me (by Abhinandan Chatterjee). Primary reference - Disha - ASJ magazine 2003

TedxGurgaon Talk – On Non Conformity


My talk at the TEDxGurgaon. 2011 10’Dec

Penguins, Lightbulb and a Beer belly! – A talk about non-conformity and us. Happy watching!

I would request you to share your perspective about the idea in it, or the presentation. Looking forward to your comments!

So what if the technology fails, you can still keep going as long as you believe in the message you share!

You can even read an article about this topic at http://abhinandanchatterjee.com/2012/01/04/dreamsfaith-a-beer-belly/

Cheers,

Abhinandan Chatterjee

Story-time: No Try No Foul


This is a real incident.

Houdini was a master magician as well as a fabulous locksmith.

He boasted that he could escape from any jail cell in the world in less than an hour, provided he could go into the cell dressed in his street clothes. A small town in the British Isles built a new jail they were extremely proud of. They issued Houdini a challenge.

“Come give us a try,?” they said.

Houdini loved the publicity and the money, so he accepted.

By the time he arrived, excitement was at a fever pitch. He rode triumphantly into town and walked into the cell. Confidence oozed from him as the door was closed. Houdini took off his coat and went to work.

Secreted in his belt was a flexible, tough and durable ten Inch piece of steel which he used to work on the lock. He got it out and started his magic.

At the end of 30 minutes his confident expression had disappeared. At the end of an hour he was drenched in perspiration. After two hours, Houdini literally collapsed against the door. The door just opened.

In aw and shock Houdini almost had tears in his eyes. ‘What just happened? it opened itself!’ he exclaimed.

You see it had never been locked – except in his own mind –which meant it was as firmly locked as if a thousand locksmiths had put their best locks on it. One little push and Houdini could have easily opened the door but thanks to his perception he never tried that.

Many times a little extra push is all you need to open your opportunity door. You don’t get opportunities, you need to make them.

Learning: There is no harm in trial, there is only learning.

Source: Based on excerpts from a newspaper article. Rewritten by Abhinandan Chatterjee.

I am doing a bit of research about goals. Please answer this poll, will be grateful.