Friday 16 November 2018

If You Outsource "Thinking" ....

I had been to visit a cousin of mine this Monday. She broke her leg roughly three weeks back. Overweight, high heels and celebrating the last few moments of Durga Puja by dancing to glory during idol immersion is actually a deadly combination. She obviously faced its consequence.

As her daughter had her class eight final exams the following week, I asked her to move to one of the rooms upstairs to continue her studies while we chatted about my cousin’s health and other things.

One of the topics was about her daughter’s tutors. I was curious to know what exactly the tutor teaches her in Social Studies – History, Civics and Geography.

I was told - tutors prepare notes for the lengthy questions. (I was appalled). The most obvious question then was, what do the students do then? The students are responsible to answer the short questions only which the tutor will correct and confirm if the content is okay for examination standards

Why exactly is this arrangement?

I got the most unusual answer for that. Text books today are mostly in story telling format so many students cannot think or understand exactly how to frame the answers and write an accurate response.

If they try to write it in their own language based on their understanding or interpretation they may go completely off track and therefore will not be able to score during exams. If the answers are not written according to the tutor’s notes, the students are bound to lose marks.

Isn’t that the whole purpose to have a tutor?

If they are going completely off track in understanding, isn’t it exactly at this point, that the tutor should step in and rectify thinking pattern for better understanding. The tutor is supposed to assist the students find solutions, not facilitate solutions itself.

What does all this lead to?

The mechanical, search and find from text book part will be done by the students and the responses that requires rationalizing and critical thinking will be made readily available to the student by the tutor.

Is this fair practice?

In the freelancing market both the buyer and seller is banned from the portal if a student wants to outsource their homework or project work to an expert as it is considered unethical in nature. It definitely is.

It is sad but true that the tutor-student relationship today is not about learning any more, but scoring because their future depends on marks, they get to choose universities based on grades.

I can understand when students need additional assistance for subjects like Mathematics or Science where without logic, rationale, clarity in understanding, it is difficult to pacify their anxiety or fear for that subject considering the difficulty level.

So what is wrong here?


I am ranting about what is going on for ages perhaps.

The exercise for thinking is practically fractured since childhood.

What is the future then?

It all makes perfect sense now when many graduates are clueless what to do with their degrees and choose to continue studying in distant universities, so distant that it does not bother their active social life and inactive employment life.

This whole system is against the very human DNA to be problem solvers. This arrangement kills curiosity and produces large scale herd mindset.

Why will you not allow your child to learn first, instead of scoring?

This is not idealism or insanity. It is practical to let the learner exploit all faculties at their disposal to gather knowledge, apply in practical situations, earn livelihood and reach heights as per their ambition. You obviously cannot do this successfully if the mind is trained not to think, question, assess and process information.

If you were not allowed to think when you were young, expecting you to think when you are old enough to do a job is pure absurdity. If the tough things came to you in a platter, you obviously will remain unaware and never know what it is to earn or achieve something by hard work and learning new concepts

The Herculean task today is to challenge status quo. While there are innovation labs being established to let young students ideate, use STEM for greater good, majority is still fed by that commercial model of tuition for selective study to avoid wide extensive study leading to score driven mindset.

How will the 95% help if you cannot generate one good idea to uplift yourself and the environment around you while the 33% scorer using other multiple intelligence beyond Academics will obviously do better in life because he chose to learn 33% while his peers chose to score 95% That is huge difference.

Technology is a great leveler and offers many options to self-learn however to learn there effectively, you cannot outsource "thinking" to any one - parents, friends or tutors. You have to think yourself. 

Wednesday 17 October 2018

Beyond The Number Game. Beyond Productivity.

I maintain a blog for alternate lifestyles. I wanted to write a piece about how we spend our days because that actually determines if we are living a fulfilling and rewarding life.

The thought crossed my mind when I read this recently:

How We Spend Our Days Is How We Spend Our Lives: Annie Dillard on Choosing Presence Over Productivity. 

“The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less.”

Interesting notes!

So, what you do daily matters, to impact your life as a whole.

Isn’t it obvious then, what you do daily impacts your business as well?

I decided to use this theme for this blog on alternate learning and earning models instead of alternate lifestyles because there is significant learning involved in adapting, adopting and accepting a life of spirit. 

If you are influenced by the current wave or model of being grandiose, number oriented and consider that to be the new reality of living a good life, doing good business - most of us are doomed already who begins to prepare or invest their efforts for that kind of productivity from life and business.

How you want to live your life is a derivative of how you think and what your aspirations are – Do you prefer the life of sensation or the life of spirit?

How different would the business economy be if organizations aim to be more purpose driven? Profits follow automatically 

How will it change lives with one’s presence - someone we are fond of is present on a special occasion – just for us? Presents are poor replacements.

In a world dominated by top ten charts, high scores, good grades, major population takes care of the to-do list on a daily basis, with horizontal strikethroughs or those small ticks that give a quick high as tasks are completed, critical calls are made, mails are sent, goals are achieved and results are produced. Evernote calendar is beaming green – the chosen color to indicate completion.

Where does all this take you?

It just takes you to the next pay check or the next enterprise or next order or just another routine day.

There is a little more to life and business than being productive.

If there is anything that can stand against the power of productivity, then it is the power of purpose. Purpose is something that is gradually gaining value and the generation that overvalued productivity is slowly beginning to realize:

a) How going fast nowhere is as good as standing still and
b) Doing a lot without any impact is just activity, unless you are driven by a purpose.

A few examples for better understanding:
  • Production is great however sale is poor, how does productivity help?
  • Sales turnover is good and profit margins are poor, does it make sense?
  • Profit margin is good however there is no growth or expansion for years, is that progress?
  • Company scales well and yet lose talent everyday as poor employers, will that not tarnish their market reputation?

The success of each and every pursuit cannot really be determined just by productivity. The success of each and every effort can definitely be assessed by the purpose it was expected to fulfill in the first place.

Relevance Today

There are training programs to assist people acquire skills. How can training programs assist people to have a strong will, when they already have the skill? One of the key components to work successfully in the will economy is to have a purpose and commitment towards that purpose.

Case Study:

This is just to establish the point further:
  1. An experienced sales representative sells 15 units in a month
  2. new hire sells 8 units
  3. A counter sales assistant just sells 2 units however both  are  breakthrough sales for new clients
  4. An average sales guy who had a recent death in his family manages to sell 4 units in his territory based through telephonic conversations with his prospects
How fair is it to qualify the one who sold 15 units as the best performer of the month without considering the different the circumstances in which the sales people were during the month?

If 1 was in 4's situation, he would probably not be able to sell anything.
If 3 was out in the field, he would probably acquire more new clients for the company
If 2 had 1's experience and time to develop leads, he would probably be selling 30 units by now in a month.

The number game has its impact on:

Burn rate at call centers
State of mind of employees that work under tremendous pressure
Struggle of first time entrepreneurs
Depression due to number game

Challenging Status Quo

The common buzz words today are “Employee well-being”, “team engagement” “Employee happiness” “Work life balance” and how exactly can we achieve any of these, if we are keeping numbers as our only deciding factor?

The reality bite is if large corporations hope to achieve any of these by reiterating the importance of high productivity again and again, rewarding people only with that particular work behavior rather than celebrate purposeful activity, our decisions are predictable and soon can be replaced by machines. If the human element is missing in our decisions, number is the god of all - big and small

If only financial perks motivate people to act and financial profits trigger entrepreneurs to perform, then there is a cost to pay which will be evident in the long run.

The surest way to drive purposeful learning or act with a purpose is to work towards outcomes, not a checklist that is not remotely connected to outcomes.

Monday 24 September 2018

Moving Higher: From Outcomes To Returns

The first time I participated in a national level contest to validate our startup idea I think I took close to two months to answer just six questions. I felt a sense of accomplishment after that though, because I finally got the key elements right:

What problem we are addressing?
What is the magnitude of the problem?
What is the scope of impact across the globe?
What features the App must have?
What is our marketing strategy?
What numbers do we currently have?
What is proof of concept to support the idea?
How we will monetize?
What is the financial projection?
What kind of client traction do we have?

It is strange how a simple training program became an idea for an App. All I wanted to have a few years back - a training module that is outcome driven and can lead to measurable outcomes.

In the last organization I worked - I have facilitated training to front level managers when L&D team sent me invites for those. This was in addition to my primary role to migrate new business.  I was also part of an Action Learning Program that worked on a framework to measure returns for training intervention. 

Measuring outcomes is one thing
     Measure returns on investment is a lot more complicated.

A facilitator will find the function futile if there is no measurable outcome. The only thing that I pondered on for a very long time was to build a training program that will guarantee outcomes. I wanted a learning program or mechanism in place where outcomes can be measured. That can be the program differentiator too.

The general practice was to highlight how many people attended the program and automatically assume that many people were impacted – That was something that I could not quite accept. I wanted level 4 outcomes based on Kirk Patrick’s measurement model for the training program I wanted to design

That is how BECKON Methodology was conceptualized.

Till this point, I must have shared in many of my blogs before. What comes after this was how BECKON App came into being as an apt solution

The surest way to ensure return on investment is to deliver outcomes for which you are trained and then quantify based on cost incurred and financial returns received.

Who measures outcomes?Who measures return on investments?

Even if we identify stakeholders with ownership, what methodology should we follow?

None of this is easy. When large corporations invest crores in training - L&D Team, content designers, fees for online courses, external trainers, mentors, revenue loss due to learning time, calculating the financial component to measure returns post training is a Herculean task. 

Who is qualified to tell you if the approach to measure is perfect or has scope for improvement?

The challenge:

A recent fellowship application asked me this question – How did we adapt when someone challenged our approach to our work

The fact is no one really challenged our startup solution. We did a reality check ourselves and challenged our own belief system. We believed there are many qualified coaches, mentors, experts, companies ready to recommend solutions for measurable results.

When we approached experienced professionals who made lofty claims about past achievements and asked if they were ready to offer their services and own outcomes – they were more than ready. 

Our key differentiator is if the BECKON Coach cannot support a project till outcomes are achieved or if their association/ recommendation/ consultation/ coaching did not bring the desired results - they have to refund the fees. We did not find anyone ready for this. 

That is when we worked on 500 Model for a pilot run to have only 500 BECKON coaches on board first whose case studies will be approved by a panel. When anyone works with a BECKON coach they can be sure of outcomes. 

When we conducted a quick survey with a small sample size how many are willing to invest in learning, if they know they have a chance to recover the money back by working live projects, almost everyone were ready.

Out of 15000 applications, our idea was selected for the next round which is a powerful validation of the work we are doing. 

Who is a BECKON Coach - X or Y?

X has a skill who taught Y. Y is using that skill for a living and is getting paid for that skill or is teaching someone else. 

X is the BECKON Coach here because he has Y as his case study
Any coach that can provide a case study with measurable outcomes due to their recommendations/ consulting intervention is a BECKON Coach.

Do you have a case study to share?

Sunday 15 July 2018

Moving Higher: From Productivity to Creativity


That is how my Evernote Calendar looked on 14th July.

I watched TV, read a few pages from Sapiens, went for a long leisurely walk with a neighbor, chatted with my mother for hours, dozed off in the afternoon (which is very unusual), prepared dinner (which I do every day though) – You need to feel the power of doing nothing, once in a while. That does not happen. This is the closest I could get.

I checked Watsapp just once or twice throughout the day to see if our tenant had sent a copy of the agreement for us to review before he takes a printout. Later, I realized I should not have done that and should have just kept my phone away too. They would have called me after sending the draft for me to check. So you see - habitual thinking patterns and a nagging old habit that continued for many years, just do not fade way, one fine Saturday. 

It takes time.

Though I was away from my laptop I had a mental plan what I will be doing once I open my laptop just before going to sleep. I had sent sample of our work to a prospect and wondered if it will look unprofessional if there was no response from our end, in case they had sought some clarification pertaining to the sample.

I immediately put that thought to rest remembering it was a Saturday and they better get the message right from us at the very outset - what to expect during weekends:

No response; No work; No assignments: No Delivery Deadlines.

Recently in response to our pitch to a prospect from India, he proposed to have a call late in the evening, around 8 PM. We proposed 5 PM and snap it went - there was no response after that.

Did we follow up? Well, we are notoriously famous for never doing that with anyone. Here goes our simple logic and rationale.

When you move a call to fag end of the day, it isn’t important either ways, why have it then?

Dude, it is your startup. Feel free to work 20 hours a day, we don’t care. 

We care about our creativity big time. 

We do deep work just for a few hours a week not because we look up to Tim Ferris or Cal New Port but because we cannot produce creativity at factory or industry level - just yet. That requires focus and fresh state of mind.

If a prospect can move an introductory call to discuss a possible business engagement to late evening, almost dinner time, we draw our tested, sure shot conclusions - This is not his priority.

Those days are gone when the service providers will accommodate prospect's time just to be in the game.

We are not half as smart as the others are who do what we do. We are just more disciplined and we like it that way to keep our creativity intact.

The world is moving towards Gig economy. We work for global clients, we work as a virtual team, we work in different time zones, we work specific hours, we work on different assignments, we utilize our bandwidth across industries and we have over 45 skills sets in our growing team. 

We care to be creative, effective and measure outcomes.

We as a team, know and believe - it is not enough to be just productive by squeezing in another quick call just to feel good and to make calendars and Evernote look super nice.

"On_the_way_back_home" call is not our way of working. 

Thursday 12 July 2018

Moving Higher: From Content to Intent

My team keeps track of emerging Ed-tech companies, organizations involved in training, coaching just to follow impact stories. We follow world class mentors, mostly for our own doze of motivation and also  to broaden our horizon of thinking.

We are part of groups in social media channels for ongoing cerebral stimulation in the learning space. As advocates for alternate learning models that is outcome driven, when we come across claims such as these, we often fail to fathom the audacity behind such a statement.
“I have transformed the lives of 20000 people through my programs. I have been awarded A, B and C”

Remember, that introduction is to make you feel privileged that you can attend a seminar conducted by a person of this caliber - for free

Zero Cost. Zilch.

I am not sure about others in my team, but I definitely cringe with such lofty claims.

My thoughts are, if I had really transformed the lives of even 20 people, they would be on stage sharing their stories, not me. 

Techniques can be self taught, inspiration can be sought from a dozen sources but feeling motivated enough to act, requires a lot.

This just happened to rhyme. I did not intend that. If this rhyming assists you to remember the essence, I am not changing a word here.

As a business model – freemium to premium is very popular today. It works well and is quite successful - You attract the crowd with a free workshop, virtual summit, seminar, e-book, pdf download - briefly show them the personal and business outcomes that  they can achieve and then make them sign up to learn the techniques to achieve those outcomes.

The next thing you see is loads of branding everywhere of that free workshop - Images, reactions and bunch of vanity metrics uploaded in a dozen channels. I personally dislike this predictable flow chart so much that I have written many blogs on this to create some stir and awareness about its futility.

Coaching is a trillion dollar industry - It is time for the coaches to be a little more responsible towards outcomes, than the function. That space is not crowded at all as there are hardly anyone willing to explore this isolated zone - sharing the journey with participants for outcomes. We BECKON Coaches call it nesting.

An auditorium with over 250 participants receive free inputs, and how do you expect them the fill the feedback forms and impression books? Isn’t it human nature to be grateful? How many of them will share their honest opinion about scope for improvement?

"Loved it"

"I feel like a different person"

"X is an amazing coach"

"This session has transformed me completely"

"Would love to attend more of these. This is life changing"

Mere words!!

These workshops are useful and a free seminar is definitely a great strategy – just the claim “Transform” “Impact” is far fetched and misleading.

In 2015 I had a client from Arizona, whose core work was limited to do basic electric wiring etc. I was his content strategist.

After attending a session by Bob Proctor, he was so inspired, motivated and filled with purpose to live better, do something of value that he wanted to open an Ed tech company to assist teen entrepreneurs. He moved to one of the Asian countries to work as teacher for a couple of years while building his startup team. He not only found his co-founder and built the company, he went operational last year.

Now whether he is successful  in his business or not is a different story altogether. The point is, just one session with a world class mentor brought this change in a participant’s mindset to take the right decisions and initiatives to think, act, master his mind, his emotions, his dreams and his finances.

If I can afford to pay and attend his mentor's program, I definitely will. Do I need the mentor to use the microphone or brag? I can see the results in a person I meet online. That speaks volumes about the depth of learning the mentor shares.
(As I have not sought permission from the client, I am masking the company’s name)
In the past two years, my focus has been to build a team of coaches who can replicate what I do - self learn or learn something without bothering about certification and translate the new learning to revenue

In the process you create mental impact first that soon translates to physical impact.

With the confluence of AI, Robotics, machine learning, this transition point is very critical for most of us to be relevant for new set of jobs that never existed before and be ready for the future. 

The league of coaches that we need today has to be not only forward thinking but be able to focus beyond content download and be great story tellers with monastic belief and clear intent to assist the participant.

If you have an impact story to share with a profile of your mentor, we will be very glad to publish here because that is what we are looking for, learning that is outcome driven where the intent of the mentor reflects in what you do.

If you attended a great session with an awesome mentor and you go back to your work desk next morning to do the very same things, go back to live the same life, that speaks enough about the session and mentor already, regardless of the glowing online reviews. Spare us from that story!!

Thursday 28 June 2018

Know What You Want To Do, Before You Choose What To Study

In my last blog I covered a simple topic – How you choose to write your job advertisement can determine how many potential candidates you will have to apply for that job? The words you choose and the criteria you specify talks a lot about you as an employer.

Today, I want to turn tables and talk about average, mediocre students who believe they are meritorious, the ones who will be job seekers soon or will be picked from campus and miles away from entrepreneurship - How their words, online behavior, daily activities/ routine and social interaction talks so much about them. Regardless of what they pursue – PhD or Master’s degree abroad, it is such a giveaway that they are just after "feeling important" which is a very me-centric attitude rather than being resourceful for family, society and greater good.

It is okay for a generalist to behave like that – go with the flow and see what life throws at you. When you spend 20 to 25 lakhs on education and sometimes with an education loan to pay off, it is very important to know what you want to do with life, before you enroll for a degree.

We know most of the traits millennial generation have - the way they think and their priorities. It is like a flow chart or you can call it a blue print which means it is common knowledge now. In short, most of them are easily predictable. You almost know what they will do next and what is going on in their mind. With a deep sense of self entitlement and being a little low on patience, they are not very security driven souls.

Some of them are surprise package though. The brighter ones in this lot are purpose driven, with a huge need to express their thoughts and opinions freely. Lastly they are hungry for recognition, which is rightfully theirs.

Here are a few who belong to that population - You can draw your conclusions about their future and their ambitions.

In my residential complex I see an engineer who has graduated last year play football every evening, chauffeur their family here and there in their new car and prepare for government/ bank jobs. Why Engineering then?

A couple of months back I happened to hear two girls speak in excited tones about their forthcoming exams and I was in the same public transport, on a seat opposite to them. I wanted to know more about what they study and casually asked what would be the scope of the degree that they will acquire – in terms of industry use. One of them fell absolutely silent, not knowing what to say and nudged the other to explain. The other one did give me a rough idea about how the degree helps in pharmaceutical industry, Fisheries etc. I could also imagine the girl who fell silent will be the one who will score higher marks. That is her goal. Her goal is definitely not learning or making use of her learning.

Just a month back, I met a lady in her early thirties, who wanted to do Masters in Political Science but ended up doing in Education, because her friends asked her to stand in that queue when the form had to be filled. It will take me some time to digest this one. Each time I tell her to make use of it, her standard response – “I have the degree, that is enough”

I know a young engineer who got a job immediately after he graduated and after five years in that company –he quit to prepare for higher studies – and attempt for Government jobs and civil services.

I know a young girl pursuing Law from a reputed college in Kolkata while her interest is in dancing, fashion and performance. I will not be surprised if she takes up acting course this year.

I have a friend’s daughter who is pursuing Masters in Physiology and while I am happy to know that she is keen to do PhD, every Tuesday I see her with a friend  of hers going to learn dance from a local studio. She can practice para medical as she is qualified for that however as the pay is negligible, she prefers PhD. because of the scholarship. Can anyone study a subject for years and submit a thesis, if they do not feel strongly connected to it?

Image Design: Canva
The New Meritorious: Someone with 60% across multiple Intelligence 

If the adage, morning glory shows the day, holds true one bit, I find most of these people clueless about what they want to do and have been like that since morning, I mean, since childhood. Can anyone connect the dots? What they studied, what they like doing and how they want to earn their livelihood?

As they are not quite security driven, they see no reason to stick to a job or work on building relations in work place. Not many have what it takes to stay, perform and succeed. The percentages are still in their heads and will be there for a while.


Will a degree from a foreign university make any difference to attitude or bring mindshift? If the 16 years of education that you had in India could not even teach you how to build a vision first, how will higher education that is built on that myopic base do great things?

Blended learning and use of multiple intelligence can shape higher education - Physical and virtual learning


Even if they are doing a very simple job functionally, even as an entry level resource, they will talk about the education they are keen to pursue that year or how they cracked a tough B School, rather than why they chose that subject, what they plan to do after MBA. All internships are experiences and displayed in social media channels lasting 3 months or 6 months - Are they waiting to be taken seriously? What do these brief stints exactly say about them? Patient to learn and perform or ready to quit and start afresh?

Moving to hybrid model

There was a time, even I was confused  - I flunked in B Sc Physics (H), I wanted to just get a degree in Arts, which I did however I had also enrolled for Cost Accounting around the same time. I was clear about one thing - I will not spend a thousand years on education and yet, decades letters the only thing that keeps me going is - learning.

Internet is huge today with many learning opportunities, particularly easily accessible online Learning Courses. We take it readily at our own pace and we explore options to use it effectively because there is an outcome to be achieved - Living, Lifestyle, Assets, Legacy. If the outcome of a pursuit is limited to "feeling important" or "need for recognition" it is a different narrative altogether.

It is never too late, find your IKIGAI today and streamline education, career and learning.