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Notes to Myself

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Thoughts

Good Read: What’s Hard? And Other Thoughts

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Quick Thoughts: Skin In The Game and Facebook

Since Jan 2018 I have temporarily stopped buying books. This was a harsh but much-needed decision bacause I realized that I was only buying new books without finishing the earlier ones, and in some rare cases, not even opening the books bought earlier.

Looking forward to finish the books in shelf soon and start with “To Read” list which is also piling up – with some exciting additions.

One of the books on Top of “To Read” list is the new book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, “Skin In The Game”.

I have read book reviews and also watched several interviews of Nassim Taleb about this book. So I know the broad theme. In fact I wrote a blog post earlier on this theme and “Vested Interest” which you can read here:

The reason I remembered this was because of a note by Kotak Equity Research on “Uncanny parallels between Facebook and sell-side research. Here is the note:

Will write a detailed blog on this soon…

Quick Thoughts: Infosys and the Art of Business Transformation

Read this news about Infosys and thought of sharing Quick Thoughts (Mini-Read).

Here is the Infosys news in today’s Times of India.

So Vishal Sikka wanted to position Infy as a Product company and the rest of the management/owners didn’t. Interesting…this is a huge strategic shift and will define in couple of decades who was right.

I feel Infy present management is right. You cannot transform and position a Services org as a Product based company after 30+ yrs and after attaining huge size.

But I agree with Sikka’s vision in principle. So maybe he should have created new org for Products.

We should learn from IBM, Google (Alphabet) and Apple how they manage massive transformations successfully.

Something significant has happened around us last week!

Few weeks ago I wrote about Misha Osipov – the new chess prodigy. That was an amazing feat by a human in chess!

This week something equally or more significant has happened in chess. Google’s AI, AlphaZero, developed a “superhuman performance” in chess in just four hours. After being programmed with only the rules of chess (no strategies), in just four hours AlphaZero had mastered the game to the extent it was able to best the highest-rated chess-playing program Stockfish.

In a series of 100 games against Stockfish, AlphaZero won 25 games while playing as white (with first mover advantage), and picked up three games playing as black. The rest of the contests were draws, with Stockfish recording no wins and AlphaZero no losses.

This is a very significant development in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning!

Chess programs and softwares so far used to work as a combination of “Huge database of Chess games + Rules/Analysis Engine +  Brute force of computing power”. So the programs were “fed with” chess games and rules; they didn’t “learn” chess. Of course that was also a tremendous achievement. You should read Garry Kasparov’s book Deep Thinking to read about his match with Deep Blue and the future of Man vs Machine chess.

But Google’s AI is altogether different! Few months ago Google’s AI beat the best human in a Chinese strategy game called Go. Watch a short video explaining Google’s Deep Mind here.

Google AI is trying to develop a general purpose machine learning software that can learn things on its own and then excel. In the recent game of chess the Google AI learnt the game of chess in just 4 hours; not just learnt, it mastered the game of chess in 4 hours! The program AlphaZero then played with another strong program Stockfish in 100 games and destroyed it 64-36!

Look at reactions of some of the best Chess players in the world today

https://www.chess.com/news/view/alphazero-reactions-from-top-gms-stockfish-author

You can read an academic paper on this Mastering Chess and Shogi by Self-Play with a General Reinforcement Learning Algorithm

The world around is us changing rapidly! Driverless cars, Drones, Hyperloop, Self-learning AI, Machine learning, Blockchain, Robots performing human tasks and posing threat to jobs…disruption is inevitable in all spheres of life!

One can only imagine how these changes would impact us in year 2030 or 2040! Embracing the technology and facing disruption is not an option; welcoming it and adjusting ourselves, and keeping ourselves up-to-date is the only option! Gone are the days when you could leave University with a degree and spend the rest of your life without upgrading your skills, learning new things. You must earn all your life just to keep pace with the world around you! Because now the threat is not only from other humans, but from machines as well!

Remember the Red Queen quote from Alice In Wonderland?

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I Teach. Therefore I Learn…

I resumed my journey as a Corporate Trainer last week when I conducted a training on “Business Excellence” at Adani Power, Mundra, Gujarat.

I liked teaching even when I was young. I remember teaching my siblings/cousins Mathematics and other subjects when I was 10 years old. I enjoyed the process then and I enjoy it now – whether or not I am getting paid or getting any appreciation or any kind of reward.

It is said that when one person teaches, two learn! I completely agree with the thought based on my own experience.

To borrow from René Descartes (and twist a little bit): “I teach. Therefore I learn!”

All civilizations have valued teaching as one of the noblest professions. Indian civilization is known for putting the educators (the Brahmins) right at the top of social hierarchy (BTW, the hierarchy was not based on birth. There are plenty of examples of the same). A Chinese Proverb says “Give me a fish and I eat for a day.  Teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime.”. Aristotle said: “Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.” Albert Einstein said similar thing in more colorful manner – “Any fool can know. The point is to understand”. Another Nobel laureate Richard Feynman had interesting take on Teaching. Since it is not a one-liner quote I’m sharing the link here – Richard Feynman on Teaching.

The best way of understanding something deeply is by teaching it. You are forced to think; to get your concepts right before you present.

I had asked my MBA Professor what they look forward to in teaching. Didn’t they get tired of teaching same Case Studies, same theories/models year after year?

The Professor said that he would look for that “Teachable Moment” which would bring Aha! moment for him and would help him learn something new. Every time it is a different experience; can be made into a unique experience and that’s what all good teachers aspire for. I can totally connect with that thought now. The search is for “Teachable Moment” and the joy of pursuing it.

Good Read: I AM NOT AN EXPERT, I AM EXPERIENCED.

I came across this post on LinkedIn and liked it; so thought of sharing here (with due credit)

leader


I AM NOT AN EXPERT, I AM EXPERIENCED.

I see so many people label themselves as a Thought Leader, Expert & Guru on LinkedIn. Lord knows how many #1 authors are on this site. Good for them! Congrats on their hard work & achieving their goals.

I am none of the above.

Write a book? I can’t even color in a coloring book. I color as if i am blind-folded. Never in the lines.

Thought leader? Naw, not me. My thoughts are my own. I’m not trying to sell my thoughts & ideas. My thoughts are what I have seen over the years & my conclusions.

Influencer? I can’t even get my daughter to clean her room. That’s how much influence I have on people.

Expert? Never will be & never want to be. To me, expert means you have decided to quit learning because you have nothing else to learn.

All I am is experienced. I have learned from bad experiences & from good experiences. All I do is write posts from all of my experiences. I do not claim to be anything but honest & realistic.

My goal with my posts is that I hope someone can take something I write about & apply it in their private and professional life.

I want to thank everyone for their support of my posts. I want to thank everyone that have agreed/disagreed with what I have written.

You are the experts, I am the student.

written by Jay Jensen (LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jay-jensen-45b88686 )

 

Thought for The Day

The saddest aspect of life now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

—Isaac Asimov

Culture eats strategy for breakfast everyday – decoding Murthy-Sikka battle

If you were operating at or connected to the senior levels in the technology industry, the news of Sikka’s exit from Infosys would neither be shocking nor unexpected. It was a question of when – not whether – Sikka would be out of Infosys. So what went wrong ?

The History

When Sikka took charge, Infosys was in doldrums. Once an industry bellwether, Infosys stood still as industry peers like HCL and TCS grew quicker and delivered better returns. Its efforts at moving up the value chain through Infosys 3.0 came a cropper. Murthy’s second stint as CEO under those tumultuous conditions was a largely forgettable one The only positive event were Murthy’s efforts to bring in a new CEO.

The CEO search

The Infosys board envisaged what it needed in a new CEO: a successful technology executive with a global perspective and proven track record. Sikka’s academic success and credentials at SAP looked impressive: additionally, he seemed to have the depth of strategic skills and the right vision for an organization Infosys’ size. He took charge as the first non-founder CEO in 2014. All good? Not quite. Two areas simmered in the background right from beginning:

1. The very first clue comes from Infosys’s tagline: “Powered by Intellect, Driven by Values”. While Sikka’s Stanford PhD and SAP HANA success ensured his intellect stood out, his values’ fitment is unlikely to have ticked all boxes. Sikka was a global executive schooled in liberal values – diametrically opposite to te values of a traditional Infosys. Sikka’s masterful strategic skills and intelligence were an unlikely replacement for his mismatch of cultural values, especially for the top job at an organization that prided itself precisely on these very values,.

2. Sikka’s due diligence about the role of Infosys’ powerful and domineering founders presented an important potential fault line. There is a likelihood that Sikka mistook his experience in the West – where executive freedom is nearly guaranteed – as a benchmark for what to expect at Infosys. Little did he understand the true meaning of Murthy’s line “Infosys is my middle child”: Sikka, like others, might have laughed it off as parting words from a genius – not as literal words from a very possessive strong personality.

In the battle of nature vs nurture, Infosys founders expected Sikka to get nurtured by existing values whereas Sikka expected his nature to turn Infosys around. That dichotomy – as time would tell – made all the difference.

However, difference in such subtle yet vital areas rarely manifest themselves overnight: they build up overtime and blow over soon.

Enter Sikka

Sikka scored some early successes:

1. Sikka loosened the office dress code, promoted 500 employees, gave away iphones, strengthened grassroot communication and did everything to engage employees.

2. Sikka next wooed the investor fraternity and the stock markets by presenting a grand and aggressive vision of a $20 billion organization by 2020. For an organization known to under-promise and over-deliver, this was a cultural shock. The tall talk raised expectations drastically and while that enthused the stock markets in the short run, the expectations – as we now know – made it difficult for Sikka to live upto them.

3. Last, for a conservative organization known to harp on its brand but never known to pay top-of-the-line salaries, Sikka raised the salaries of his top reports to unheard-of levels.

Seen from the perspective of Infosys’ founders, these initial “successes” were not success at all: they were cultural failures, disturbing enough to lead to uneasy relationship with Sikka, but yet not alarming enough to cause a blast.

Meanwhile, Sikka brought an army of top people from SAP to change the culture and help him transition Infosys from a lumbering elephant to nimble cheetah. Unfortunately, Sikka misjudged what it would take to bring about a cultural change: if a culture of a 30 year old, hundred-thousand employee traditional organization could be changed with a handful of imported top-managers, Drucker’s powerful line “Culture eats strategy for breakfast everyday” would not have stood the test of line.

The challenges

All of the above would still have sustained but for a few areas where Sikka and the board crossed Murthy’s red line.

1. Awarding CFO Ravi Bansal a huge severance pay package raised question marks on corporate governance. Infosys prided itself on its disclosure standards. The board’s decision of not disclosing the contents of reports from an external law firm – especially when all was deemed “fine” – gave an already disenchanted founders’ team a stick to beat Sikka and the board with.

2. Within months of the Bansal episode, the board raised Sikka’s already high salary by 55%. The stick in the disturbed founders’ hands now got a poison tipping and became a lot more potent with Murthy incessantly and publicly lynching the board.

3. After some initial success, Sikka’s turnaround strategy missed its target by an embarrassing $5 billion: finally in June 2017, the board scrapped the $20 billion target.

For an organization that consistently beat investor expectations for years, this was a strategic Freudian slip and the Infosys stock – and Sikka – lost support of some of the vital institutional investors.

And for Sikka – long dismissed as a cultural misfit – who had strategic results as the last armory in his toolkit, a slipup in strategy, positioned his rhetoric as “all bark, no bite”. This was the last straw on the camel’s back.

The Exit

With a frustrated founding team led by combative Murthy, allegations of corporate governance, a failed turnaround strategy questioning the very competence of Sikka and missing investor support, Sikka had nothing to fall back on and nothing to look forward to – except a good nights sleep and the much needed peace of mind. Exiting Infosys provided him precisely those benefits – and Sikka cut his losses.

There are some really valuable lessons:

1. With the infamous Tata episode still fresh in memory, Indian founders and family business heads would do well to rethink if they really want to let go in the true sense when they hang up their boots. If all they want is to remote-control a strategically minded executive – who is tasked with the responsibilities of a CEO without the requisite authority, they should stop searching the market and instead stick to the comforts of loyal insider.

You can have loyalty or results – rarely both.

2. For prospective CEO choosing a top job at any organization – specially with powerful founders or families, it is well worth developing a thorough understanding of the cultural factors and sensitivities involved. Raw Intelligence is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to succeed – emotional intelligence provides the much-needed sufficiency. And that involves recognizing stakeholders interest before picking up the top job.

There is no point in diving in deep oceans and complaining about sharks.

The forces of nature are so strong that in the battle of nature vs nurture, nature often wins hands down. As Sikka learns that lesson and walks into the sunset, he would do well to recall Peter Drucker’s golden lines that Cyrus Mistry at TATA group learnt equally painfully:

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast everyday”.

Source: WhatsApp Forwards and long-time Infoscions

राजा कालस्य कारणम्

कालॊ वा कारणं राज्ञॊ राजा वा कालकारणम्।
इति ते संशयॊ मा भूद राजा कालस्य कारणम् ||१२|६९|७९

(भीष्म युधिष्ठिराला म्हणतात) काळ हा राजाला कारण होतो का राजा हाच काळाला कारण होतो, याविषयी तूं संशयांत पडू नको. कारण की, राजा हाच काळाला कारण आहे.

In modern parlance: "People get the King/Government they deserve."

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