Embrace Uncertainty

Here’s how traditional businesses were carried out for generations:

  • The manufacturers wanted to be certain about the orders their distributors will place in the coming year so they will impose strong terms;
  • The distributors wanted to be certain about the assured sales so they will ask their dealers to give the huge deposit;
  • The dealers wanted to be certain about the advance payments that will get from the customers;
  • It was the customer who could not remain certain whether she will get the appropriate product until the product is installed … it is an uncertainty that they can’t do much about.

But now the time has changed. The hyper-connected world has given the never-before power in customer’s hands.

It is possible to do a research not only the product you want to buy but everyone involved in the supply chain along with their business practices, their successes, and failures without leaving your bedroom!

Today is the age of hyper-connectivity and traditional ways based on certainty are becoming least effective day by day.

That is the reason, rather than MBAs, MBA Dropouts are able to generate profitable businesses! (Ok, it’s just a figure of speech but the point is made.)

The design of the hyper-connected world works like this: The customer enjoys the most power … and can enjoy as much certainty as he can, not anyone else no matter if they are the dealer, distributor or the manufacturer. 

Manufacturing in this hyper-connected world is not difficult, it has become different and a lot of other aspects have come into the picture. The News of bad quality results travels faster than ever. So does the news of successes and happiness that the products or the experiences would have provided!

Today, it is not about whether you have a choice to have certainty in business. It is about the kind of uncertainty you choose to indulge in.

The whole supply chain could work effectively if it is part of an ecosystem that is relevant to the target market it serves or intends to serve … not otherwise.

How to know if you are part of an ecosystem that is relevant to the target market?

By testing each and every experiences and gathering quantifiable data … and base your decision on data and nothing but data.

The emotions of everyone involved in the whole supply chain, as it turns out, is a data point that can be quantified and transformed into creating a win-win scenario.

Openness, not the stubbornness, is celebrated by the hyper-connected economy and openness means the willingness to embrace uncertainty for the greater good.

Solutions mode

The hourly-mode is what your outsourcing provider in India (or Pakistan or Bangladesh or Ukraine) operates from to bill 12 hours a day copy/pasting the code from StackOverflow for your dream app.

The solutions-mode is what a mindful programmer operates from when he synchronizes your scattered thoughts and comes up with app functions that bring paying users and thus profits to your app/software in an hour or two.

The hourly-mode is measured by inputs: long hours worked, more graphics designed, more documents created, more lines of code written, long client calls attended … if the app fails, fails but the work carried out would always be there to justify the failure.

The solutions-mode is measured by the output: the app’s success in the market. No matter how great the quality of your code was, it is of no use if the app did not bring measurable success.

The solutions-mode does not give unnecessary importance to unimportant things. ~ Find out more

For the solutions-mode to work, the programmer has to “get” the greater application of his software engineering efforts in the market. Unfortunately, most universities don’t teach that as a part of the engineering curriculum.

A lot of people and companies shy away from the solutions-mode because of its inherent risk. The solutions-mode might not bring you enough money to pay your bills if you are not able to find the (relevant) solutions.

The hourly-mode is easy … you just show up, do mediocre work within a framework and cannot fail although the whole project or the product of the project might.

The solutions-mode is scary … where just showing up is not enough … there has to be a real value in what you produce or you are no longer required.

The hourly-mode has a structure, a framework to shift you away from the fault line if the possibility of fault arises.

The hourly mode has a structure to blame.

The solutions-mode, on the other hand, does not come with a structure or a framework.

If the fault arises, it is up to you how you solve it!

Of course, some frameworks may help in the solution identification and delivery process but there is no one to blame if the structure or the framework fails.

And that’s the beauty of it.

The hourly-mode brings the benefits to you when your client is unaware or to be precise, less-aware than what he should. For example, I have observed some companies continue the hourly-mode for as long as 10 years until they realize that hourly mode was the most ineffective way to maintain their 44 different lines of products with their outsourcing provider…

And when they realize, they look for a programmer, or a company, who is willing to work with the solutions-mode but they find it difficult to locate such a programmer or a company for a simple reason: It does not seem to have competition in this hyper-competitive market because people are busy working with the hourly-mode approach.

It is really up to you which mode to operate from. Know that each mode comes with its own set of consequences.

So, chose your work-mode and choose your consequences.

PS: Some people work on a fixed price fixed scope project in hourly mode … nothing is more pathetic than that for both the parties involved.

PPS: While this post has relevance in software engineering, the behavioral part of it applies to non-software work as well.

Be fearful when others are greedy

I read a post today on Ideapod.

The post was about What Top 8 investors say about Bitcoin.

Since when Bitcoin came, it has never resonated with me.

(I am not saying it is bad or anything, I am saying it has never resonated with me.)

But this post is not about whether the Bitcoin is good or bad.

No.

This is an investment quote which got my attention.

The quote goes like this: “Be fearful when others are greedy.”

This quote came as a “wise” investment advise but it resonated with me from the overall life perspective.

And here is my take on it.

  1. Look at your close circle of 5 people.
  2. Note down about 5 actions of theirs that you remember without any efforts.
  3. You will have a list of 25 actions.
  4. Now classify those actions as “Greedy” vs. “Normal” actions.
  5. If you have got 3 or less greedy actions then Bravo! You don’t need to read further.
  6. But if you have got more than 3 greedy actions then drill further.
  7. Are those actions coming from a single person? Or different persons?

If those actions are coming from different persons it’s okay. Be alert but it’s not much of a problem.

But of those actions are coming from 1-2 persons then be conscious.

Your close circle has got a “bug” that needs to be fixed.

It is the time to feel the fear.

Fear.

Yes, feel the fear!

But take the necessary actions.

As Susan Jeffers famously says, “Feel the fear and do it anyway!”

A simple quote in an investment advice can teach this.

Notes:

  1. Link to the Ideapod article: https://goo.gl/xjue8E
  2. Susan Jeffers’ book: https://goo.gl/V3rkAM
  3. It is okay to feel the fear – but still do the right thing!
  4. I have zero investment in Bitcoins. Okay, people may call me “unwise” but I am proud of that unwiseness!

Learn to Love Networking

It’s been a few months since I’ve got a new interest: Networking.

I think that understanding Networking at depth will help me be better at what I do.

I had never consciously touched upon the subject of networking but better late than never.

In business, people invest in networking activities willingly or unwillingly.

The problem is, many executives, professionals, and entrepreneurs consider Networking as an inauthentic, and exploitative activity.

There is some truth to it too. People often invest in networking to gain some benefits out of the activity.

I am not done with my research yet and I have a little understanding about the subject but I think networking is a wonderful gift to a professional when done right.

Good networking provides more opportunities, deeper knowledge, and improved capacity to innovate and make things better.

I have started to believe when done right, Networking has a potential to improve one’s personal life as well.

While looking at Networking from business and opportunity perspective, I came across this interesting article from Harvard Business Review: Learn to Love Networking. The article is written by Tiziana Casciaro, Francesca Gino and Maryam Kouchaki.

Some of you might know that for last few months, thanks to my friend Tanmay Vora, I’ve been learning to take notes in the form of Sketch Notes. I did the same while reading this article on Networking. Here is the sketch note:

Learn to Love Networking Harvard Business Review

I think the four take home points from the article: focus on learning, identify common interests, think broadly what you can give and finding a higher purpose have a great potential to make you a better professional and better creator.

What do you think?

Startup India Standup India: Create Something Today

Has Indian startup eco-system seen a better initiative than this – Startup India Standup India?

With Government of India’s Startup India, Standup India initiative, which is intended to build a strong ecosystem for nurturing innovation and Startups in the country, I am seeing the Sun of new hopes for creating something on the face of an uncertain next.

Startup India Standup India

Since the thought of building the Startup ecosystem has got an attention from the Government, the economy is going to be benefited from it. You get better at what you focus on!

Highlights:

  1. A Rs. 10,000 crore fund for startups
  2. A single point of registration for startups
  3. A simplified regulatory regime based on self-certification
  4. A fast-track mechanism filing patent applications
  5. A credit guarantee fund for startups
  6. Tax exemption for three years, and capital gains
  7. A Startup India Hub for collaboration
  8. Relaxed norms of public-procurement
  9. Faster exits for startups
  10. Atal Innovation Mission to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation
  11. Innovation focused programs for students
  12. An annual incubator grand challenge

More Info on Startup India Standup India Initiative

With this initiative, I visualize that the Indian youth will get better at creating more rather than complying or consuming.

Still today, many smart grads think that since they’ve finished their degree education, they should get a highly paying job if they “comply” to the set standards and commonly accepted norms. Not an effective strategy in 2016. A better way is to create something that only you can create. Be a Linchpin!

Why it it a better way?

Because you will be the first in your own creation. Rather than worrying about getting chosen, you will be able to choose!

Is it a silver bullet?

No, it is not and I am sure this initiative will pass through iterations and improvements in its due course but this is the nature of any new creation … and guess what, effective startup founders are comfortable dealing with uncomfortable situations with ease. Be one.

Opportunity is to focus less on compliance and more on creation … create something today. Let us Start Up India!

3 Ingredients of Creating a Great App

Ah.. we’re in 2016. Creating an app has never been quicker + easier than now!

If you have about US$5k and access to a good app developer, you can create an app.

At the same time, creating just an app does not matter much: In 2008, just creating an app was enough but today it would be half-witted to expect that.

Now, people have enough experiences to differentiate between an ordinary app and a great app.

People have good options to get their things done. More than one option in most cases.

When people did not have options, creating an ordinary app worked well. Not anymore.

Imagine that you’re traveling in a desert and you’re extremely thirsty:

You are halfway and you do not have a drop of water in your water bottle. You have been 
searching for a water source but you haven't found one yet.

A group of villege-men passes by and you ask them if they can offer you a glass of water.

They want to charge $500 for a glass of non-purified water which has sand particles.

You pay them and drink water.

What if you're in your hometown with abundance of purifie water at your disposal?

You ignore villege-men's offer, don't you?

In the App World, users have an abundance of purified water :). They’ll ignore you if you offer them dirty water. An ordinary app is like dirty water; a great app is like purified!

Here are the 3 Ingredients of Creating a Great App

great app

I reiterate – the below 3 are the ingredients of creating a great app:

  1. Attention to UX: Attention to UX will make the app more relevant to the user.
  2. Continuous testing: Continuous testing will instill the right habits for your app success.
  3. Measuring the right metrics: Measuring the right metrics will tell you how you’re doing against your app success goals.

A great app is made with users in mind, tested continuously and measured against the right goals.

A great app also means that the life of people associated with creating or consuming the app will be great. Users want it so their needs are fulfilled. Since users use it more, founders make more $$$, and since startup and its founders make more money, the programmers get to spend a lot of time on the hacktivities that make them happy :).

Great App = Great Life: for Founders; for Programmers; for Users! #startups #ux Click To Tweet

If you learn to make an app great, you learn to better your life. This is no exaggeration!

How to Create a Great App

The process of making an app great is the process of making anything great: may it be a strategy, customer service, organization management, personal leadership, writing skill, or a relationship!

The reason it is so difficult to focus on these 3 important ingredients is that it requires you to acknowledge that your original execution was imperfect.

#Startup world is looking for ppl who continuously work(hard or smart or whatever)to make it work! Click To Tweet

Is unconditional commitment to continuous improvement a part of your startup vision?

If not, it is going to be more difficult. If yes, you have an edge. Leverage it!