Saturday, May 15, 2021


When Elon Musk launched SpaceX, his idea was to buy a rocket but he ended up building one. He discovered that the cost of one rocket would pose a serious economic threat. Musk explains his next action:

"So I said, okay, let's look at the first principles. What is a rocket made of? Aerospace-grade aluminum alloys + some titanium, copper & carbon fiber. Then I asked, what is the value of those materials on the commodity market? It turned out that the materials cost of a rocket was around 2% of the typical price."

Ok, all of us don't make rockets for living but 'First Principles Thinking' as a problem solving approach is universally applicable.- break down a complex problem into its foundational elements.

How does one get started here ? Towards this, Loved the way Sahil Bloom articulated ( these questions-

What is the problem I am trying to solve?
What do I know to be true about this problem?
Why do I believe these "truths" to be true?
Is there real evidence to support these beliefs?
Are my emotions clouding my judgment & reasoning?
What alternative viewpoints might exist?
What are the consequences of being wrong in my original beliefs?

Without a firm grasp of the basics, there is little chance of mastering the details.

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A few weeks back, I was a part of a meeting- Ask Leaders Anything (open to all employees).There was no talk,written chat was the only mode of communication.I was astonished at the rate at which questions were asked by employees.I compared it with pre-Covid times when the All hands were held in person when people rarely came forward to ask questions.

Online meetings are a great equalizer but there is more to it. I learned about the concept of Silent meetings while reading the book- 'Always Day One' which quotes Square's product executive Alyssa Henry

"Lots of research says that minorities, women, remote employees & introverts are talked over in meetings &/or have trouble getting their voice heard in traditional meeting culture."

Silent meetings are inclusive.

My curiosity to find more led me to the David Gasca 's work. Read more here "The Silent Meeting Manifesto.."
(summary in my sketchnote)

Silent meetings possibly can't replace 1:1 where you need conversations but most of the meetings which require discussions, cover multiple point of views can benefit.

4 steps:
1 Prepare Agenda + Choose facilitator
2 Create a "Table Read" (doc that is read during the meeting)
3 Read + Comment
4 Facilitator Synthesizes + Leads Discussion

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In the last few months, we saw the emergence of new talent in Cricketing world. Washington Sundar is one such player. He was selected for Australia tour as a net bowler & in the last 3 months has surprisingly emerged as a serious batting prospect. He was a good T20 bowler but it is his batting that surprised many. Ravi Shastri also started as a bowler & ended his career as an opening batsman. Steven Smith started as a leg spinner & is now a leading test batsman.

Looking at these cases, it appears that these players were ready to disrupt themselves when the opportunity presented itself.

I get reminded of the book "Disrupt Yourself" (refer sketchnote) which applies disruptive innovation's S-Curve theory to career disruption. When talking about personal disruption, you are both Netflix & Blockbuster. You are the disruptor & the incumbent because you are disrupting you.

When considering personal disruption, i quited liked the perspective shared by Deepak Jayaraman in his podcast-
"Think of ourselves as balance sheet & not P&L. More often we think of ourselves as cash flows & expect to grow upwards year on year but sometimes taking a step back and building our assets could temporarily put us back but could create the new stream of cashflows."

What do you think ?

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Sunday, April 25, 2021


 Bob Iger in his book "The Ride of a Lifetime" rates the ability to compartmentalize the day as one of the highest leverage skills for a CEO, who has to switch context and deal with problems of different scale every hour.

Now consider the daily schedule of famed novelist Haruki Murakami. When he’s working on a novel, he starts his days at 4 am and writes for five or six continuous hours.

For simplicity sake, one can consider Iger as a Manager and Murakami as a Maker & their cases highlight a point-

"different types of work require different types of schedules"

Paul Graham in his timeless essay talks about the concept of Maker schedule and Manager schedule. An idea further expanded by Shane Parrish in his blog (Catch the summary in my sketchnote)

A manager’s day is sliced up into tiny slots, each with a specific purpose like meetings, calls, emails.
A maker’s schedule is different. It is made up of long blocks of time reserved for focusing on particular tasks, or the entire day might be devoted to one activity.

As Shane says, Awareness is the key. We need to be aware of which schedule the people around us are on so we can be considerate and let them get their best work done.

What is your preferred schedule ?

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 Clay Christensen once tried to improve the sales of milkshakes. He tried to make them sweeter,offered them in different tastes,& slightly increased the size of the cups. Nothing worked out, until he started observing the customers. He found out that the job the customers hired the milkshake for was in fact to make their morning car ride to work less boring. The big benefit a milkshake has is that it is a thick drink that lasts longer than any other drink and stuffs the stomach. This was the real problem; the customers had no idea about it. In the end Christensen came up with the solution to make the milkshake even thicker, which led to an increase in sales numbers. Source:

This story gives a glimpse into an astute product thinking mind, one attribute of which is: "Fall in love with a problem, not a specific solution“. And as Steve Jobs said: It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want“

What else does product thinking constitute ? This question is well answered by Julie Zhuo in this remarkable twitter thread Catch the summary in my sketchnote

My favorite part: The most important qualities in improving one's product thinking are:

What is your viewpoint ?

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 After scoring a skillful century against England in the 2nd test of the ongoing test series, Ravichandran Ashwin was asked about his thoughts. He replied:

"I will sleep well through the night, that is all that I am thinking."

He was focused on the next day but more than that he was focused on rest and recovering properly.

Why is it that the sportspersons value rest so much and we as a professionals undervalue it to the extent that we ignore it ? We somehow take regular late nights as a sort of badge of honour, something synonymous with working hard. Why doesn't rest and recovery feature in a professional's calendar ?

I came across this eye-opening TEDx talk by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith ~ Work-Life Integration Strategist in which she unshackles many myths about rest and looks at it in a holistic way suggesting 7 types of rest:


Catch the summary of the talk my sketchnote but would urge you to spend ~9 min to listen to it. More than ever the concept of rest needs to be understood and inculcated in today's times.

My bonus learning:
Sleep and rest are not the same thing, although many of us incorrectly confuse the two.

Will you prioritize rest today ?

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 Arne Sorenson, the CEO of Marriott, sadly passed away this week after bravely battling pancreatic cancer. Despite his illness, he braved Marriott through the pandemic time. I caught a glimpse of his extraordinarily authentic leadership when he released a public video for his employees.

His 5 minute speech is a case study in compassion & empathy. He presents himself as vulnerable yet fully in control of situation- a rare combination. Here are a few lessons for me, especially in dealing with warlike situations at work:

1.Despite his frail condition, he made it a point to speak with employees. Simple lesson,often forgotten: Talk to your team, they need to hear from you.

2.He called the pandemic situation (for hotel industry) worse than 9/11 & 2009 financial crisis combined. Lesson: Be transparent, don't sugarcoat the words. Delivering bad news is something a leader has to learn to do well.

3.He commits to forgo his full salary & his exec team by 50%. Gives a message that he & his immediate team are first in the line of fire before the impact reaches employees.

Of his 62 years of existence, most of us were exposed mostly to these 5 minutes but the manner in which he handled these 5 min left a treasure-trove of learnings.

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