Subba’s Serendipitous moments

May 12, 2008

Eric Schmidt unveils an exciting future.

Eric Schmidt in a very short speech at the recent IBM Partners leadership conference shows to all of us what the future could be in a very interesting compelling way.

Some of the facts:

  1. Currently the Internet has 1.3 billion users, with 200 million getting added each year.

  2. In Japan, 3 of the most popular books were delivered first on the mobile readers and subsequently done on print.

  3. There were just 400 servers in 1983, and now there are more than 500 million servers worldwide.

  4. There are 70 million blogs, with over 120,000 blogs being created every day

  5. 7 million photos are uploaded to Picasa (Google’s photo sharing site) each day

  6. 10 hours of video uploaded on YouTube each minute.

  7. 500 million Wifi chip sets will be sold next year.

His most provocative statement of the future: By 2019, there could be a device that could sit on the belt or kept in the wallet that could have 85 years of video on it. You will be dead before you can see all of it. One of the ultimate frustrations in life.

But what he said about Convergence was interesting. Convergence is not everything (services) going into one device. It is entering (all the services) into one server or services in the cloud and hence even if the devices are different, the content in all that will remain the same.

His quote on Breakthroughs was equally profound: Great breakthroughs are closer to what happens in a flood pane. It is not one idea. A dozen tributaries converge and the rising waters lift the genius high enough so that he or she can see the conceptual obstruction of the age.

His entire address and the subsequent panel discussion can be viewed here. Each time I hear Eric speak, I come back with more knowledge and insight. An earlier interview of Eric is also available on my blog here.

As you see this, maybe you should also see some of the other great CEO interviews and discussions. A few are listed here

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June 7, 2007


Three men set out on a journey. Each carried two sacks around his neck — one in front and one in back. Which of them finished first?

The first man was asked what was in his sacks. “In this one on the back” he said, “I carry all the kind deeds of my friends. In that way they are out of sight and out of mind and I don’t have to do anything about them. They are soon forgotten. This sack in front carries all the unkind things people do to me. I pause in my journey every day and take these out to study. It slows me down, but nobody gets away with anything.

The second man said he kept his own good deeds in his front sack. ” I constantly keep them before me” he said. “It gives me pleasure to take them out and air them”.

“The sack on the back seems heavy,” someone remarked.” What’s in it?

“Merely my mistakes,” said the second man. “I always keep them on my back.”

The third man was asked what he kept in his sacks.

“I carry my friends’ kind deeds in this front sack,” he said.

” It looks full. It must be heavy,” said the observer.

“No,” said the third man, “it is big, but not heavy. Far from being a burden, it is like the sails of a ship. It helps me move ahead”.

“I notice that the sack behind you has a hole in the bottom,” said the observer. “It seems empty and of little use.”

“That’s where I put the evil I hear from others,” said the third man. “It just falls out and is lost, so I have no weight to impede me.”

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Some ingredients for success

Filed under: Perspective,Winning,Winning strategies — Subbaraman Iyer @ 4:44 pm
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To be able to carry money without spending

To be able to bear an injustice without retaliating

To be able to keep on the job until it is finished

To be able to do one’s duty even when one is not watched

To be able to accept criticism without letting it whip you.

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Filed under: Inspiration,Perspective,Stories,Winning,Winning strategies — Subbaraman Iyer @ 4:40 pm
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After actor/ director Michael Douglas had been in five block buster films, his father, Kirk Douglas wrote him a small note.

It said “Michael, I’m more proud of how you handle success than I am of your success..”

It’s a note that Michael Douglas treasures

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March 6, 2007

Converting weakness into strength

Filed under: Business,Innovation,Stories,Winning,Winning strategies — Subbaraman Iyer @ 11:57 am

It requires a bit of audacity, imagination and a great sense of conviction to convert one’s weakness into strength. As a business coach, I often face the dilemma of advising clients about their weaknesses (and do little about it, unless it is debilitating), and leveraging on their strengths, or trying to convert their weakness into a strength.

The following story about Arnold Schwarznegger highlights how they encashed their weakness into strength. 

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February 14, 2007

Finding right metrics

Filed under: Learning,Perspective,Strategy,Winning strategies — Subbaraman Iyer @ 6:24 pm

Seth Godin has a wonderful post on metrics here. I also find it interesting that both companies and individuals rely on metrics. Metrics is a measure of tracking progress, towards the goal, but often assumes such significance that it becomes a goal in itself.

Just because something can be counted, doesn’t mean it counts, and just because something is difficult to count, doesn’t mean it doesn’t count.

Choosing the right metric to track is often a difficult art, while counting it accurately is science. We have so far advanced much in the science front, without improving the art aspect.

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February 11, 2007

What determines learning behavior?

Filed under: Business,Competition,Innovation,Learning,Stories,Winning strategies — Subbaraman Iyer @ 10:36 pm

Someone sent me the following story and this led me thinking:

In early 1900s, milkmen in England, would deliver bottles of milk to the door of each country home. As the bottles didn’t have any cap, the titmouse and the red robin (2 British garden songbirds) siphoned the rich cream from the top.

Then somewhere around WW II, the milk bottles started having aluminium caps. Well, for a start both the bird species occassionally figured how to pierce the seals. However by the early 1950s, the entire titmouse population almost a couple of million birds had learned how to pierce the seals. And as far as the red robin was concerned, though some individual birds managed to pierce the seals, as a group they could not break the seals.

The scientists were clearly intrigued because both the titmouse and red robins being songbirds, they had the same range of communication. It was after a long time, that they figured out the reason.

The difference between the titmouse and the red robins was not in their communication abilities, but in their social organizations. Red robins are intensely territorial in nature, do not allow another male bird easily and the communication style is clearly antagonistic. The titmouse on the other hand are very social birds, who move from garden to garden in groups. Their communication is a lot more friendly and they seem to learn faster. They hence increase their chances to survive and evolve faster.

Learning and adaptation can only proceed only so far independently. As organizations try to become learning organizations, it pays to watch what and how information is shared between groups. If best practices need to be shared and adapted, is it because of a top down approach or because there’s a shared identity and a shared view of the future amongst people in the trenches.

Will learners "flock"or will they be dictated or mandated to fly in a particular direction?

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January 30, 2007

Good bosses

Filed under: Leadership,Motivation,Perspective,Winning strategies — Subbaraman Iyer @ 6:23 pm

Being an effective boss is a challenge. Surveys have pointed out that more people leave their jobs because of bad bosses. And unfortunately those "bad bosses" seldom realize that, and don’t institute any behavioral change. Bad bosses can be defined by one simple term — just unfair. This small clip gives valuable tips to becoming a good boss.

From my experience, bosses need to calibrate their behavior towards subordinates. Subordinates in their formative years need a boss who can give them tough love. With slightly older subordinates, the right kind of freedom, participative discussions and a more democratic approach works.

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January 28, 2007


Filed under: Inspiration,Learning,Winning strategies — Subbaraman Iyer @ 8:53 pm

Some say life is a struggle. If it is, every problem we face leads us to one of two choices. Either we choose to be victorious or we choose to be a victim. Either we choose to be responsible for the life we create or we shirk our responsibility by blaming others for our failures and unhappiness.

Those who choose to be victorious don’t find life to be a struggle. They find it to be exhilarating. They don’t encounter PROBLEMS; they merely face THINGS THEY WISH TO CHANGE. When they find something blocking their way, they look for a way to get around it or to overcome it. In a word, they look for, and find, solutions. On the other hand, those who choose to be victims are experts at looking for excuses. They almost delight in finding others to blame for their self-inflicted misery.

Let’s take a look at two real-life examples.

Carl is in his fifties and claims he wishes to recover from a long string of failures. To this end, he enrolled in a college course to update his skills. One day, when the instructor was writing on the blackboard, he shouted from the back of the room, “Write larger! I can’t read what you’re writing.”

Carl was miffed when the instructor ignored his pleas. A few weeks later, he complained to his classmates, “I’m afraid I’ll have to drop out of this course. I have bad eyes and our teacher writes too small. How can I take notes and learn the material? Our instructor doesn’t seem to care about my ‘disability’.”

“Why don’t you come to class early so you can get a seat in the front of the room?” suggested a classmate. “Because the bus in my area runs only once an hour. If I took the earlier bus, I would arrive much too early.” replied Carl. “Get a pair of glasses.” another classmate advised. “I have a pair,” said Carl, “but they are not very helpful.” Exasperated, another classmate asked, “Well then, why don’t you get a pair of opera glasses?” Carl had an answer for that too: “I can’t afford opera glasses. I can barely afford to pay the bus fare to get here.”

Carl had an answer for every suggestion. Although he could never find solutions for whatever was troubling him, he was proficient in finding excuses for his inaction. He was convinced he had certain ‘disabilities’ that warranted special treatment. The world should conform to his ‘special needs,’ he reasoned.


Kyle Maynard is an entirely different breed. Born with stumps in the place of arms and legs, he believed it was his responsibility to adapt to the world rather than demanding the world change for him. The challenges that Kyle has to face make Carl’s pleas for special treatment embarrassing at best and laughable at worse.

Despite the enormous obstacles facing Kyle, his lack of arms and legs did not prevent him from learning how to write and type. Neither did it prevent him from becoming a defensive lineman on a football team, a university student, and the top wrestler in the state of Georgia. Though still a university student, you can add to his list of accomplishments author, world traveler, and motivational speaker.

“No Excuses” is the title of Kyle’s book (Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2005), and it points out the difference between him and Carl. Kyle realizes that making excuses holds us back while assuming responsibility moves us forward. He understands that responsibility is empowering, and the more of it we take on, the more we will be, do, and have what we want.

Problems, difficulties, challenges, or whatever we choose to call them, shouldn’t stop our progress. Rather, they should cause us to ask the following three questions.

  1. What do I want from life now?

  2. What is preventing me from getting what I want?

  3. What am I going to do about it?

    The answer to the first question introduces purpose, direction, and meaning to our lives, for when we know what we want to be, do, and have, we have goals to achieve, mountains to climb, and a reason for being.

    The answer to the second question is the first step in finding a solution. After all, we cannot solve a problem until we admit that we have one.

    The answer to the final question comes in the form of steps we can take to defeat our difficulty. It is a road map, an action plan that, as long as we follow it, will take us where we wish to go.

    Those who choose to be victims can usually answer the first question because even they know what they want most of the time. However, they blind themselves to the truth when it comes to the second question. For instead of looking for solutions, they doggedly search for excuses. They blame anything or anyone else for their problems. They refuse to get involved in finding a solution because they are, after all, victims. Their answer to the question, “What am I going to do about it?” is “I am going to do nothing. I’m going to stay put. Even though I’m unhappy where I am, I’m not going to change. I prefer to have the world change, and I refuse to do anything until it does.”

    If there is something in your life that you wish to change, but are finding it difficult to do so, you may find it helpful to understand the five steps of change.

    In the first step of making a change, we will feel AMBIVALENT. That is, we will both want to and not want to change at the same time. That is perfectly natural. You see, although we WANT TO improve our lives, we DON’T WANT TO experience the immediate, though temporary, discomfort that usually accompanies making a change. So, when you find yourself hesitant, don’t get discouraged. Rather, understand the cause of your hesitancy, focus on the benefits that change will bring, and force yourself to take the right steps.

    You begin the second step of change when you answer the third question (What am I going to do about it?). For the second step of change is one of preparation. In this stage you outline the steps you need to take to get you where you want to go.

    The third step is implementation. That is, you carry out your plan by taking the necessary steps.

    The fourth step is broadly called maintenance. You check your progress and make corrections when needed. Reworded, you make sure you stay on course and are headed for your target.

    The fifth step or stage of change isn’t experienced by everyone, but is important to understand. It is the step called relapse. You may suddenly find that, despite your initial progress, you have slipped back to your previous state. Like step one, relapse is a natural event. It is to be expected. Although not everyone experiences it, many people, if not most, do. So when it happens, just pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and say, “I’m not going to get discouraged and give up now! I refuse to choose to be a victim! I choose to be victorious, so I’m getting back to the program of change and regaining control over my life!”

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    January 23, 2007

    Money and motivation

    Filed under: Perspective,Winning strategies — Subbaraman Iyer @ 11:16 pm

    The Scientific American has a very interesting article on Money and Mind.

    I believe money is definitely a motivator to some extent, but beyond a point, it loses its value as a motivating factor. Successful people have rarely used money as the prime motivating factor. I think they believed in the cause, or genuinely enjoyed the effort. Money was merely the by product.

    I also believe that there has to be a right balance between rewarding effort and rewarding outcomes.

    Hence I feel deeply distressed when the Singapore Government defends its high ministerial salaries and money becomes the sole determinant to judge people.

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