Sunday, November 29, 2020


 Loved this anecdote from the Netflix's documentary- 'Inside Bill’s Brain'

Bill Gates started taking “think weeks” in the 1990s. During "think weeks", he spent time buried in books and technical papers, reading, writing, and thinking about the world at large and the role he can play in improving it.

In a recent interview Bill said " Since I retired from Microsoft in 2008, I don't have to do it necessarily as one block, a week at a time, but I do set aside lots of days, and then I say, “Did I write the memo that I intended to write?" The act of writing-when you try to explain it to someone else-is where you really are forced to think things through and not be sloppy in your thinking."

Writing effectively is indeed a way to untangle your mind and can help you make a better thinker. While remote working becoming a norm now, #Writing has become a default way to connect with colleagues. Be it responding by slack messages, chat apps, writing emails or taking meeting notes, writing is turning out to be a crucial skill in these times.

On improving one's writing skills, I quite liked the tips shared by Tathagat Varma in this blog

Would recommend reading through it. For summary, catch my #sketchnote below

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 Here's a real life story-

In 1986, the Challenger Spacecraft was launched but it exploded 73 seconds post liftoff. Much of the research that went into finding actual reasons for the crash points to the lack of communication between NASA and the contractor responsible for the component that failed, Morton Thiokil, Inc (MTI). Almost 2 years before the fatal launch, MTI tested to confirm that the O-ring was not reliable, particularly when temperatures dropped below 53 degrees. Yet the launch was not delayed. The researchers say- the people around the table were afraid to express their doubts or even to ask questions that they had determined before entering the room that morning that they would ask.

This is a form of Authority Approval Bias that Shreyas Doshi explains in his blog-
It is the tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure and be more influenced by that opinion.

The blog includes 6 more biases on why products usually fails-
-The Execution Orientation Fallacy
-The Bias-for-Building Fallacy
-The IKEA Effect for products
-The Focusing Illusion for products
-Maslow’s Hammer
-Russian Roulette for products

Catch my Sketchnote below & highly recommend reading the blog-

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 Many articles that explore the differences between #leadership & #management are written in a way that undermines the importance of managers, while projecting leadership as the superior of the two. There is often more goodness to the role of management than some of the public literature really captures.

In his book, "How Will You Measure Your Life?", Clayton Christensen said-
"Management is the most noble of professions if it’s practiced well. No other occupation offers as many ways to help others learn & grow, take responsibility and contribute to the #success of a team."

But how does one play a role of #manager in a way that it brings out the goodness & the nobility aspect of the job ?
Vala Afshar in his tweet ( shared some ideas that resonated with me. Have represented these ideas via a #sketchnote for easier consumption and retention.

Larry Bossidy, former CEO of AlliedSignal, once said, "At the end of the day, you bet on people, not strategies.”

Management as a profession becomes noble only if managers demonstrate the willingness to take their role a step further by committing to creating memorable experiences for their employees.

What is your take ? What else would you add to this list ?

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 Estonia, a tiny country of 1.3 million people, was referred to as the 'most advanced digital society in the world' by the Wired magazine. Estonia was the first Nation-State in the world to deploy blockchain technology in production systems – in 2012(more details here

With all the buzz around #Blockchain and newer use cases emerging, it is a technology that is approaching 'Plateau of Productivity' in the Gartner Hype Cycle.

How would you explain a technical term like #Blockchain to an non-Technical audience ?

Drawing inspiration from the examples in our day-to-day lives usually is of great help in simplifying a complex concept.

In the book on Digital Transformation, 'The Tech Whisperer' Jaspreet Bindra beautifully explains the concept of Blockchain using analogies such as- Ledger, Kitty Party (yes you heard it right!) to explain Blockchain.

A few other analogies that i found useful were Casino and Google docs. To elaborate one of them (rest in my #sketchnote below), Casino chips can be thought of as cryptocurrency coins, and the casino as the blockchain network providing an ecosystem for players to participate in the exchange and transaction processes.

How else would you simplify technology ?

More details:
Defining blockchain
The Free Dictionary helpful says that, Blockchain is a distributed ledger that provides verifiable proof of transaction. There is no central repository. The blockchain is replicated on many nodes dedicated to that platform.

Gartner defines it as .. an expanding list of cryptographically signed, irrevocable transactional records shared by all participants in a network'.

One of my favourite definitions is that it is a distributed database shared among a network of computers, all of which must approve a transaction before it can be recorded."

All good, but it is a bit like defining the Internet as a connected network of all computers. Accurate, but does not mean much.

Ledger Analogy:
The blockchain as a universal ledger

There are many ways to think of blockchain. One of the best ways is to visualize it is as a 'universal ledger in the cloud'. I am sure you know what a ledger is. Try and visualize it thick, musty, yellowing book with large pages filled with little entries is perhaps what comes to mind. Actually, ledgers are

Why is it called Blockchain?:
In the software world, a transaction, or a set of transactions, is codified into a cryptographically protected block after it has been authenticated by a consensus, and this block goes and attaches itself at the end of a chain of already existing blocks (previous sets of transactions), to therefore form a blockchain, Therefore, the name blockchain. The authentication is done.

Is Bitcoin same as Blockchain?
Bitcoin is to Blockchain what email is to Internet. A use case. Bitcoin is a use case of Blockchain.

Analogy: Casino
Another helpful metaphor from Ajit Kulkarni to explain a fundamental difference between blockchain and cryptocurrency to a beginner is by imagining yourself in a casino. The process begins with exchanging cash for chips or tokens that can only be used to gamble at the casino. Outside the building, these chips have no legitimate purchasing power.
In this example, the casino chips are cryptocurrency coins, and the casino is the blockchain network providing an ecosystem for players to participate in the exchange and transaction processes.

Blockchain attributes:
The above attributes are built in the very construction or architecture of blockchain. In addition, many of them, notably the Ethereum blockchain (the second largest blockchain after Bitcoin) also have an in-built algorithmic logic of if this, then that' (IFTT) built in. These 'smart contracts' are useful to actuate transactions and actions if certain conditions are met. The above five attributes of consensus, provenance, immutability, smart contracts, and security and trust are what characterize and distinguish blockchain from other technology constructs.

Google Docs:
Google Docs made its appeal due to its efficient collaborative feature that allows multiple users to view and edit a document at the same time. It reduces the lead time of waiting the other party to receive, view, edit and send the document back. Normally, the software being used is Microsoft Word. Most databases in the world today still work like Microsoft Word: access and edits can only be made by one person at a time, while everyone else is locked out. Like Google Docs, blockchain solves the issue by updating any changes for everyone to see in real time.
Based on this metaphor, you can view blockchain as simply a technology, a powerful tool that helps business’s operational functions to collaborate efficiently. For instance, applying blockchain technology in the banking institution would allow any money transfers to be simultaneously verified on both ends.

Five attributes of Blockchain:
smart contracts,
and security

The Book: Tech Whisperer by Jaspreet Bindra


 In his book-'Only the Paranoid Survive', the former Intel CEO, Andy Grove mentions this memorable anecdote:

Andy Grove and Robert Noyce were at the office late one night discussing how to deal with Japanese firm's thread to their D-RAM business and they were talking to each other.

- Andy says to Robert: Wow we got a problem!
- Robert says we sure do.
- Andy asks- If Board says we would get the new guys to solve this problem, what would the new guys do.
- Robert says Oh that’s easy, they will get us out of the D-RAM business.
- So Andy Grove says, Yes why don't we do that before these other guys get in.

What happened next is history. Intel shunned the D-RAM business and got into microprocessor business, leading to one of the most outstanding business turnarounds.

Andy’s question about “what would new guys do” is quite profound because it reflects that Andy was more willing to be a beginner again. Embracing Beginner's mindset is one of the key principles to possess in #ProductManagement

I got reminded of this story while reading one of the finely crafted '15 Principles of Product Work', absolute pearls of wisdom by Shreyas Doshi. Catch the complete thread here-

For summary, read my sketchnote below

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 In his book- 'Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World', David Epstein shares contrasting anecdotes leading to the ascent of Tiger Woods & Roger Federer. At the age of 2, Woods appeared on TV, driving a golf ball. His father recognized his talent & nurtured it heavily over the coming years.

Federer tried many different sports when he was a kid: Squash, basketball, handball, tennis etc., His indulgences in these led him to discover his love for tennis in his teens.

These stories tells me 2 things-
1.There is really no single path to achieve greatness in one's career
2.Every career journey is unique and offers distinctive learnings if we choose to learn from them

I recently went through an amazing podcast on #career management between Rohit Kaila & Dr. Ajay Nangalia PCC (link:, found it hugely relevant, sharing my summary via the sketchnote.

My favorite: Tips from Doug McMillan, CEO of Walmart

1. Do a great job of whatever is given to you. Never underestimate the value of the work given to you.
2. Always do more than what is given to you. Always expand the scope of work.
3. Do it as a team. If you do it as a team your applicability for growth becomes better.

What are some of your influential career learnings?

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 'The Ride of a Lifetime' is the memoir of Bob Iger, for 15 years the CEO of Disney. It is, at best, a fast paced thrilling ride of a CEO on a mission to make the best he can- of the opportunity of leading a giant. He revitalized Disney brand and saw through the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox.

I picked up this book earlier this year after Bill Gates recommended it and didn't regret reading it.

Sharing some of the sharp leadership lessons that Bob shares (& my Sketchnote):

- Optimism. About a pragmatic enthusiasm for what can be achieved.
- Courage. The foundation of risk-taking is courage.
- Focus. Communicate your priorities clearly and often.
- Decisiveness. Chronic indecision is not only counterproductive, but it is deeply corrosive to morale.
- Curiosity. The path to innovation begins with curiosity.
- Fairness. People committing honest mistakes deserve second chances.
- Thoughtfulness. About taking the time to develop informed opinions.
- Authenticity. Be genuine. Don’t fake anything.
- The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection. This doesn’t mean perfectionism at all costs, but it does mean a refusal to accept mediocrity.
- Integrity. The way you do anything is the way you do everything.


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 Trillion Dollar Coach is a wonderful book not just because of the rich knowledge within it but also about the fact that it is written by Eric Schmidt,Jonathan Rosenberg & Alan Eagle to celebrate the learnings from arguably the Silicon Valley's greatest coach Bill Campbell. An ultimate act of showing respect.

One particular lesson that caught my attention is that Bill used to practice 'Free-form listening', which is about paying careful & undivided attention to the person you are dealing with,really listening carefully. Only then do you go into the issue.There's an order to it.

If one were to make a list of underrated professional skills, Listening would make somewhere closer to the top. How does one practice mindful listening ?

No easy answers here but thoughts shared by Prakash Iyer here- quite resonated with me. Key points below and in my #sketchnote

1 Don’t multi-task
2 Listen with your ears. & your eyes too
3 Don’t fill in the blanks
4 Don’t think about how to respond while you are #listening
5 If you disagree with what’s being said, try and understand the opposing point of view
6 Engage. Clarify. Repeat.
7 Don’t interrupt. Let them finish
8 Get comfortable with keeping your mouth shut

How do you practice listening ?

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The Way you Talk to Yourself Create s Your Reality

Martina Navratilova, the tennis legend, was once asked by a journalist,

“How do you maintain your focus, physique and sharp game even at the age of 43?”

She gave a humble reply,

“The ball does not know how old I am.” and she further says:

"You need to stop yourself from stopping yourself. Every game in life is actually played on a 6-inch ground, the space between your two ears. We don’t live in bungalows, duplexes or flats. We live in our mind which is an unlimited area. We keep on talking and thinking thoughts that are negative that affects our entire lives. Just like a bee that keeps on buzzing the whole day, we too keep on buzzing unwanted thoughts in our heads 24×7. Life is great when things are sorted out and uncluttered there."

Of course, we all know this but in the spirit of restating the good stuff, sharing this again.

Ending this post with a quote from Venus Williams, another Tennis legend:

"Tennis is mostly mental. You win or lose the match before you even go out there." (a true reflection of what we experience at work)

Have a great week ahead.