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!

Depthless Impulse Vs. Slow Mastery

What is one of the most common behavioral patterns of young startup founders?

Depthless impulse married with an action bias.

Action bias is good. Action bias with impulse is accident prone. Action bias with depthless impulse is disastrous.

Action bias=good. Action bias+impulse=accident prone. Action bias+depthless impulse=disaster.… Click To Tweet

Here’s a story of a young such startup founder and his mentor:

A young startup founder went to his newfound mentor and said passionately, “I am committed to learning your thinking process. How long will it take me to master it?”

The mentor’s reply was casual, “3 years.” Impatiently, the young startup founder answered, “But I want to learn it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice every day, 12 or more hours a day. How long will it take then?”

“5 years,” replied the mentor.

“But, if I really, really work hard at it and give my best shot. Maybe 16 or 18 hours a day if I have to. How long then?” asked young startup founder.

The mentor paused for a moment and said, “Well, 10 years.”

“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed young startup founder. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?”

Replied the mentor,” When you have one eye on mastering my thinking process, you have only one eye on the path that leads to learning my thinking process.”

Same is the case with many young startup founders. They get so much excited about the end result their idea might produce, they fail to give their 100% into walking the path that leads to the end result they had once imagined.

Depthless impulse is easy, getting into the verticle depth of the matter is not. It is painful. It is boring. It takes more time than what you think it should take. But above all, it is a surefire way to achieving your best potential. And, the whole notion of the startups is to achieve one’s best potential, isn’t it?

Startups who do not want to invest in verticle depth cease to exist sooner than later.

Not because they don’t figure out the different ideas to pursue, but because they don’t pursue the ideas differently.

Don’t let you startup cease. Only action bias won’t save your startup. Practice slow mastery over depthless impulse and experience it yourself.

Do Less AND Do Better

Had a chat with a young startup founder yesterday. She was  in her early twenties. Young blood with full of energy.

Her startup is about creating a fitness related solution using mobile-first approach.

The idea looked good. She was talented and confident. She was determined to make it happen.

Here’s a glimpse of our conversation:

"If I get funding of around US$25,000 then I'll hire the best mobile app developer and have them develop 10 BEST features from the competitor's apps," she said.
"Why do you want to build those 10 features?" was my question.
She: "Because I think all these features are super cool and offer the users with a lot of 
options and if users get more options then they might use more of my app and if they use 
more of my app then I'll make more money from the app."
Me: "What if you identify one or two EXTREMELY important features and leave every other 
feature out for upcoming releases?"
She: "But...but I know that all the 10 features are very good and my app should have it."
Me: "Why? Are those 10 features absolutely *essential* to the core of your solution? Or 
just good to have features?"
She: "Well, only one is core, but all others are really cool features. For example, I can 
provide sign in option via Twitter on top of email sign in option that I'm going to have 
as a default option."
Me: "Do you know how many people who are interested in your fitness niche are on Twitter? 
Are they active users? Do they really care if you have Twitter login option? Do you have 
any data which is unique to your niche that tells you that you must absolutely have 'Login via Twitter' feature in your fitness app?"
She: "Ugh, I don't have any specific data but I feel that it is a really good feature. I along with lot of my friends use Twitter so frequently. I think other users would also be using Twitter like ours ..."
Me: "What if you launch without Twitter login option and see if your users demand it?"
She: "I think I can do that but oh yes, I got the idea: rather than focusing on including 
every great feature that I can think of, you're suggesting that I quickly go to the market with the vital few features that are just better than my competitors?"
Me: "Absolutely. Do less AND do better!"

Observe the capital “AND” in the above statement. It is the key. The purpose of doing less is to do it better than everyone else including your previous implementations. Better is non-negotiable.

If you can’t make it better, “less” has no value. In fact, it deteriorates the value of your solution. More and better is often fool’s paradise.

Less and better is possible.

Less and better is loved by the users.

Sometimes, Less and better is hated too by a few … but that’s okay!

More is full of clutter. Less is full of what matters more. #quote Click To Tweet

More is full of clutter. Less is full of what matters more. Apple does it. Basecamp does it. Trello does it. They do less and they do it better.

Sure, doing less is scary; doing better is difficult. Still, doing less + doing better is what it takes.

The disease of copying superiors

Recently, Tom Peters shared this insightful article – The 15 Diseases of Leadership, According to Pope Francis – on his FB page and titled it as Wow & Wow & Wow!

It got Tom’s attention then who am I to ignore it?

It turned out to be a really insightful read and its author Gary Hamel has articulated it so aptly.

While all the pointers have a potential to be a wake-up call for many of us, point #10 struck the chord. Here it goes:

The disease of idolizing superiors:

This is the disease of those who court their superiors in the hope of gaining their favor. They are victims of careerism and opportunism; they honor persons [rather than the larger mission of the organization]. They think only of what they can get and not of what they should give; small-minded persons, unhappy and inspired only by their own lethal selfishness. Superiors themselves can be affected by this disease, when they try to obtain the submission, loyalty and psychological dependency of their subordinates, but the end result is unhealthy complicity.

I cannot agree more with this insight. Rather than learning from the superiors, many people in today’s workplace tend to blindly follow their superiors for different reasons.

However, I have observed that many middle managers at startups or smaller companies, often court their superiors because they want to become like them. While their objective is not always to gain the superior’s favor, they are absolutely impressed by their superiors than they should be and often commit a mistake of following their actions (and not their point of views) in similar situations.

These people are not small-minded, unhappy people who are inspired only by their own lethal selfishness. Instead, these people are mesmerized with the way their superior deals with different situations and think that they will also be able to lead similar situations if they will adapt to their superior’s style.

They get inspired by the heroic act of their superiors and tend to “copy” them.

They get psychologically dependent on their superiors and be loyal to the superior instead of being committed to the startup’s mission.

Often, such acts look innocent and give the superior a sense of personal fulfillment but it might bring negative consequences down the line.

Here is what is likely to happen when such a situation occurs

a) The superior starts feeling good about his subordinate’s act

b) The subordinate starts feeling good by keeping in the company of the superior

c) The subordinate starts simulating his superior’s actions in the majority of the tasks he undertakes – while hiring people; while delivering; while managing difficult situations with the clients; while doing their day-to-day work …

d) The superior starts noticing it and often tend to conclude that by following him, his people will also produce great results

e) This might result in missed focus on being as agile as possible, moving fast, failing small and failing fast, gathering as much data as possible and building an infrastructure upon which the startup or the small business organization can stand for the years to come

Four Ideas for Superiors to Deal With Subordinates Who Copy or Idolize Them

Such situations may plague the organization. Here are some of the ideas that might help the superior dealing with such situations:

  1. Be aware: Of your own act. Of your people’s act and identify matching patterns and see if those patterns indicate that your people are blindly following you, innocently or intentionally – and do something about it.
  2. Substance over smartness: Reward substance over smartness in each of the acts that your part of the business entertains. Even if the substance is not extremely good in style, reward it more over styled smartness which does not have equivalent substance.
  3. Communicate candidly: Talk to your subordinate and communicate what you have observed. Tell him that instead of being an inferior version of yourself, he should choose to become the BEST version of himself. Sure, he can choose to look at the situations from your point of view but he must understand and accept that merely copying your act won’t give him desired success.
  4. Lead thyself better: Now this has more to do with yourself rather than your subordinate. Empower your people such that they are inspired by the beauty of what they intend to create and not your heroic style. This is easier said than done but absolutely necessary if you want to create a mission-driven organization that gets things done!

In closing, copying superiors is indeed a disease and it must be dealt up front and as fast as possible. The key is to accept that it is a disease and then take corrective measures.

Question: Have you observed any such situation? What are your views about it?

Do Things That Might Not Work

Huh? Are you insane?

Certainly everyone wants this … assurance.

do-things-that-might-not-work

  • When a wedding event is planned then the head of the family wants the assurance that the event will go well.
  • When a new project is about to begin, the sponsor wants the assurance that it will be successful.
  • When a new product line is launched, the Executives, VPs and Sr. Managers need assurance that it will work.
  • When a startup is hiring a freelancer, they want certainty that the work freelancer would carry out will be extremely useful  to them (and since the freelancer is supposed to be needing the work, she should offer the money-back guarantee too!).

Assurance.

Everyone wants assurance.

The problem with assurance is that we get to know about it when the exact same experience has happened.

Whatever has happened once can be predicted. Whatever has happened once can be estimated. Whatever has happened once can contribute in giving assurance.

Creation is different kind of path. It is based on the ambit of “not sure.”

If the creator is asked, “Can you show me a case study about how you’d go from A to B,” he might not have a definite answer.

The world gets better by the stuff that comes from doing the things that might not work.

Are you doing anything that might not work?