Sunday, May 12, 2019

Nandan Nilekani's Playbook of Building Things

I was recently listening to this amazing podcast: Outliers with Pankaj Mishra in conversation with Nandan Nilekani.

I listened to first 7 minutes or so but got so much out of it that i had to stop listening and blog about it.

I am reproducing some of the contents right from the podcast (full credit to Pankaj Mishra and Nandan Nilekani) for this.

Nandan's thoughts on dealing with ambiguity:
My upbringing made me deal with new situations very easily. I am quite comfortable embracing change. I am also quite comfortable trying out something that is not in my comfort zone.
Very often what we do is because we become successful at doing something, we just remain in that space. I can embrace situations that are full of ambiguity.

Nandan's thoughts on how to build things:
My nature i am a builder. Creating new things is what interests me.
  • Is there an enough momentum and opportunity ?: First i look for an opportunity where there is something to be built and there is enough momentum to make it happen.
  • Do I have a role to make a difference ?: Second is i want to be in a situation where i can do the building. I need to have the role.
  • Have I defined an audacious goal ?: Then i define the goals. Usually the goals that are quite audacious because audacious goals often enthuse people. Good people would want to come and work with you when they are sure that they can make a difference. So having an audacious goal is important.Other advantage of having a audacious goal is that it submerges the difference in the team. When leading Aadhar, one of the challenges i had was to get the best people from bureaucracy and from the techno-private sector. They had different personalities, one is hierarchical and other is freewheeling and not as focused on process. There were strengths and weaknesses at the both sides. My challenge was to bring it all together and synthesize a team out of that. One way to do that it to have a big and an urgent goal. You are so busy chasing the goal that you don't have time for any internal disagreements. You still have disagreements but you agree on something because you have to move forward.
  • Have I thought through the process of driving change ?: Thinking through the whole change is quite important.Driving change is about changing mindsets, changing behaviors. Looking at the incentive structure, who is for the change, who is against the change. Having allies who want the change to happen and deflecting any threats from those who want to block it.
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