Archive | April, 2010

Do you have a Jugaad?

29 Apr


In other words, how to turn lack of resources into an advantage?

The Economist has recently published a special report on innovation in emerging markets. I had a chance to discuss it with an alumnus of AIESEC India who is now doing his MBA in LBS and he told me more about the concept of Jugaad.

Jugaad basically means a solution in Hindi or as The Economist puts it – making a do with what you have and never giving up. Indians are often faced with lot of resources constraints but most of the times they manage to overcome them by radically reengineering the process or the final product.

This phenomena is starting to be called a frugal – constraint-based – innovation and jugaad is starting to be coined as a management term. The Economist compares this to a nowadays equivalent to the introduction of mass production by Ford at the beginning of the 20th century or to the ‘lean’ revolution which took place in Japan in the 1970’s.

So next time you are faced with lack of resources to realize your idea, what is going to be your Jugaad?

Just for illustration:

A good example of frugal innovation is Tata Nano. A bunch of recently graduated engineers who have never build a car before was asked to design one. The result was the world’s cheapest car.

There is quite a lot of leg space actually… :)

Unlocking Potential.

28 Apr

>This post is dedicated to my MC team and to AIESEC UK.

I believe that every one of us and every organization has inside a great potential. There can be two main reasons why that potential is not realised. Firstly, we might are not be aware of potential that exists within ourselves or within organizations and therefore we are not even trying to unlock it. Secondly we are aware of the potential but we do not have sufficient resources or the right attitude to unlock it.
My team will be leading AIESEC UK in the 10/11 year and we have chosen Unlocking potential as our team motto. I will therefore describe my thoughts on the topic using this example. In general we can unlock potential in three main domains. Firstly in ourselves, secondly in others and finally in organizations.

How to unlock it?

See it.
Believe it.
Achieve it.

This is the second part of our MC mottto. Firstly we need to be aware of the potential we would like to unlock. Once we have discovered it and defined it, we need to believe that we are capable of doing so. This means to plan how are we going to acquire the right attitude and the resources needed and to get a buy-in into this plan. Finally we need to execute that plan.

Unlocking potential in youself.
I always think what is it that I would like to develop. I just got back form an AIESEC conference where my team presented our motto to the members for the first time. We run there a session on this topic and me and my team shared there what potential we would like to unlock in ourselves over the next year. As for myself, I would like to go and chair a conference abroad which is something I have not done yet.

Unlocking potential in others.
It is a big satisfaction for me if my actions contribute to development of others. This is also one of the main reasons why I applied for the MC of AIESEC UK. I like creating an environment where others can unlock their potential. We are responsible for the experiences people around us are living and we should always ask ourselves how are we facilitating those experiences so that people are getting the most out of it. My focus next year will be to unlock potential in my team members and our team focus will be to provide the members of AIESEC UK with experiences which will allow them unlock their leadership potential. This will not only equip them with skills for their future lives, but it will also drive AIESEC UK forward.

Unlocking potential in organizations.
I want to be a strategy consultant in the future so this is something I am passionate about. In addition to what I have already mentioned in the previous paragraph, management often keeps running organizations so that they do not fall apart and can sustain themselves in the near future. But because they are constantly pressing the panic button, management sometimes does not take time to look at the bigger picture and to develop a robust strategy for three or more years ahead. My objective for the coming year is to facilitate development long term business model that will allow AIESEC Local Committees at universities to be financially independent on the national headquarters.

Unlocking potential is about making things better. It is about thinking what can we do that would add the most value to ourselves, others and to the organizations we are part of. The things mentioned above are my plans for my year in the AIESEC UK office. What is the potential you are going to unlock?

What kind of listener are you?

19 Apr


I have recently realized how important it is to be a good listener. I think it is actually one of the most important skills one can have, both in personal and professional life. But from my own experience I can tell that there are many different ways of listening. Let me think about the main types.

Type 1

You are listening, but not with the intention to understand the other person. You are thinking what to say next or how to ‘steal’ the conversation and take it to a topic you want to. I was like this for quite a long time but I have learned that this is not the way it should be. It is disrespectful and it does not lead anywhere.

Type 2

You are listening with the intention to understand the person, but you are not genuinely interested in understanding what the person really thinks about the subject. You just want to build your arguments against what is that person saying. I disagree with this way of listening as well. People will sooner or later be able to tell what is actually going on in your mind while you are listening to them and they will start building negative feelings about you. Again it is disrespectful and it does not lead anywhere.

Type 3

Finally a good one. You are listening with the intention to understand the other person. I know this can be sometimes difficult. We enter every conversation with already formed opinion. That opinion is based in the information set available to us at the moment and on our ability to interpret that information. Once we have our opinion formed, we tend to compare any new information against it. This can often result in dismissing the new piece of information just because that one isolated piece of information does not comply with our ‘fixed’ opinion.

Two things have helped me to overcome this. The first one is called tabula rasa. It means that when we listen to a new opinion, we forget everything we knew about the topic before and we approach it with a blank page – tabula rasa. That means we do not question things as they are being told to us, we firstly try to understand the whole idea and only once we are sure that we understand it well, we start thinking about it critically. An idea often makes sense only if it is understood properly, individual elements of that idea often do not make sense to us. Therefore it is important to understand the whole idea before we start questioning it.

The second thing that has helped me is the concept of thinking hats. What it means is that when we are listening to somebody, we take off our own personal ‘hat’ and we try to put on the ‘hat’ of that other person. We for a moment forget about our own preconceptions and we try to understand things from the other person’s perspective. If I was in the same situation as that person, if I had the same kind of feelings, what would I be thinking about the topic that is being discusses? Only once we fully understand the issue from the perspective of that other person, we can start thinking about it from our own perspective. It takes effort and lot of patience, but the insights and the level of understanding we than get is amazing.

Closing thoughts

The third type is the most polite one because it means that we are not only listening, but we are also genuinely trying to understand that person. I know that it might be less convenient and take more time than the first two types. But what I have realised is that while it might take more time in the short run, it can save us lot of time in the long run.

Why to start a blog.

17 Apr


I meant to start a blog for a long time. Why? For two main reasons..

Firstly, I believe that if you get a good idea, you should share it with others! Some people just take things for granted, do not question them and accept the world as it is being served to them. But that is a minority I believe. Most people reflect on things and do get good ideas, but the problem is that they often keep them for themselves. Either because they are not sure whether their idea is good enough to be shared or because they do not have enough time. I think those are excuses, people are just lazy…

Now think about this. You either get an idea about something you like or about something you dislike. In the first case, you should share it because it would be selfish not to do so. In the latter case, not sharing your idea would mean that you accept things you do not like and that you make no effort to change them. And that is wrong, if there is something you dislike, change it. Sharing your opinion is the first step.

Secondly, and this is a selfish reason, I want get better in formulating my ideas and in sharing them in a simple way. This is a great skill that not many people possess. Lot of people can talk for ever without actually saying anything. Good communicators can say a lot by saying only little.

That is all for now, I am looking forward to sharing my ideas with you in the future!