Pierce The Future Through The Present

There is no greater fear than the fear of the unknown. Strategic foresight and future thinking exist to help tame the imaginary line connecting now and thenCompetence alone is not enough; character and perspective are also required in equal doses. This means that working with the future needs a lot more than hype cycle analyses and predictions about the future of this and that from self-anointed guru-ninja-hackers without any proper training in foresight. Developing strong characters is fundamental to ensuring an ethos of good ancestry

Practising future-back management is critical to enabling breakthrough innovation and leapfrogs when the road ahead seems rather foggy.

Nurturing a sense of perspective becomes the antidote from getting stuck in antiquated ways of working, thinking and behaving. Marketing’s new research and developments can indeed be quite distracting given their high frequency and volume. In trying to make sense of the new and generate brand buzz from it, marketers end up missing out on rather transformational opportunities – those where the future can be more evenly distributed.

This is rather disconcerting since marketers are often some of the most well-rounded and best-informed professionals in their organisations, with a sharp sense of ‘what’s next’. Still, many get caught by the glitz of the novel, instead of putting their energy in the grittiness of the foresight process.

In fact, when it comes to crystalising the definition of the 21st century marketer, Google conducted an experiment that involved interviewing 30 board members from Fortune 1000 companies, having accumulated more than 1300 minutes of audio and over 100,000 words about the role of the CMO (Think with Google 2020), which was then summarised in one long, important paragraph:

“The 21st century CMO is expected to be a marketing miracle worker, an alchemist who combines classic art of branding with the latest advances in data and measurement. All this while you serve as the connective tissue of the C-suite and stay a step ahead of the rapidly changing landscape of digital technology, cultural trends and shifting consumer expectations – things becoming ever more important to the stock price. Customers matter more than ever and, since you’re responsible for them, your role should matter more than ever too. But board members do not seem to have one cohesive definition of the role. 

So, what are you to do?

Internally, steer expectations for your role by defining growth, you have some control over. And recognise that the talent of your team is half the battle to achieving that growth. Hire the best measurement people, because marketing will be held to some metric that is currently beyond reach, and you’ll need them to invent it. There are many ways you can impact revenue – but be prepared to show the ‘I’m indispensable’ maths. And do not forget the most visible CMOs also take big risks. Only three percent of board members interviewed were marketers. Likely, they do not hear you. Listen closely and find the overlap between what the board is interested in and your responsibilities. And, instead of building slides about everything you do, build one slide that puts you in a position to start a conversation around those common interests and goals.”

What is interesting to note is that futures thinking is all over in the paragraph above and yet, nowhere on it. As haiku-esque as a statement, this is the closest to the truth. Strategic foresight and futures thinking are not explicitly mentioned, but implicitly dominate the subtext, with clear emphasis on character, competence and perspective too. Therefore, the opportunity is to nurture the Phewturecast seed, and develop the gravitas required for marketers and their peers to encourage and normalise the allocation of foresight investment. If education is key to opening more doors for foresight, appropriate use of language is the red carpet welcoming the long-awaited guests that can help reshape the future for the better.

For the ambitious marketers out there, this is just the beginning of your futures literacy. Use it and pierce the future through the present. 

BEGINS

https://www.groupisd.com/story/

https://www.brandknewmag.com/

https://www.brandknew.groupisd.com/

https://hackcellencefest.com/

https://www.weeklileaks.com/

 

 

The future is plural, unpredictable and rarely a linear path from the present!

Vision: the ability to “think about or plan for the future, using intelligence and imagination”, an “idea or hope of how something should be done, or how it will be in the future” and simply the “ability to see”- MacMillan Dictionary.

The pandemic has taught that foreseeing can be more useful than forecasting. Hindsight is literally 2020 and as for 2021… Well, you have a choice to make: be a hapless passenger relinquishing responsibility for your emotions, feelings and outcomes to other people or choose to be a leader every single day, making a positive impact on those around you and taking accountability in every moment for your own beliefs and actions.

Easier said than done. Confusion and decision paralysis permeate most marketing departments, agencies and publishers – all carefully threading reality, with a little help from the past. But, as we now know, using the past to project the future is a fallacy. The psychological biases binding us to the present and blinding us from the future.

Bounded rationality: challenges the notion of human rationality as implied by the concept of homo economicus. Rationality is bounded because there are limits to our thinking capacity, available information and time.

Hyperbolic discounting: refers to the tendency for people to increasingly choose a smaller-sooner reward over a larger-later reward as the delay occurs sooner rather than later in time.

Availability bias: the human tendency to think that examples of things that come readily to mind are more representative than is actually the case, hampering critical thinking and, as a result, the validity of our decisions.

The present-forward fallacy: the seductive notion that an existing business can be extended out in time indefinitely by continuously making improvements to it. Read more in my post on this at https://www.sureshdinakaran.com/blog/?s=future+back

Tyranny of the urgent: an analysis of the calendars of 27 CEOs over a full quarter showed that, on average, they had 37 meetings per week, which took up to 72 percent of their time. Is it any wonder they have so little time to imagine a better future? 

The bridge linking ‘what is’ with ‘what could be’ is intention. Therefore, rather than strategizing on ‘how to better play today’s game’, the big question for brands and organizations becomes ‘what is the game we intend to play to prosper tomorrow?’ 

Ultimately, it is about having the courage to pave a way that others have not dared to take before. Into the future, and through the predicted challenges of the next few years, great leadership will be our only salvation. The good news is that we all have the ability to be great leaders if we allow true character to overtake the fear and insecurity that form the veneer of our professional personas.

‘What are you on the planet to do and what legacy will you leave?’ This direction comes from a firm belief that our industry influences the minds of every citizen of the planet, with the means to influence other people’s choices, decisions, beliefs and behaviours. It has the power to influence political outcomes, corporate success or failure, and galvanise people behind causes of any kind. Therefore, the talent within marketing, media and advertising are in the ‘leadership’ business with an unsurpassed privilege that is not to be underestimated. This kind of power has the potential to be harmful unless wielded with the ‘right’ moral intent, finely tuned capability, deep wisdom, and ethical awareness.

I firmly hold the belief that every person is born a potential leader, hardwired to rely both psychologically and physiologically on other human beings. Born sociable, no baby is a loner. We are not born haters – or racist, homophobic or misogynistic. No, we’re all born leaders – with the ability to influence those around us. Who doesn’t automatically smile at a smiling baby? Or laugh when you hear them giggle? That’s influence, right there.

Listen More, Listen Better.

The sheer volume of data and insight at marketers’ fingertips is a formidable thing. Marketers can hold a customer’s heartbeat in the palm of their hand and have the ability to foresee when their blood pressure is going up or down. But only if we listen. And who was ever taught how to listen ? Since the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press our ears have been replaced by our eyes, an oral culture of shared stories has been taken over by a visual culture of representative images.

We’re all really good at paying ‘ear service’ (the art of being seen to listen, while simultaneously reading an email, sending a text and thinking about next door’s cat) and then choosing to hear only the things that fit our own narrative (which we are extremely skilled at listening to). If you don’t seek to truly hear what is being said right now, then you’ll fill the gaps based on your own past experiences and patterns from which you’ll create future expectations predicated on your almost subconscious assumptions. This is the opposite of good leadership. 

Don’t focus on what you can get; Focus only on what you can give.

Well, here is the real truth. We can’t control what we get. We only have control over what we give. Great leaders are exhausted every day, not because of how hard they’ve worked but because of how much they’ve given.”

It sounds easy, and it is, but only if you consciously let go of the notion that you are in any way in control of what you get from others.

How many of us want to get more business from our clients, the next promotion, more discounts from our suppliers, more output from our teams, more love from our partners and more joy in our lives? We are apt to think about what we want to get and, if we don’t, we feel frustrated, disempowered, resentful… and then put the blame for those feelings directly on others.

Change the way you think to: what can I give my team to enable them to deliver their goals? How can I support my boss in a way that may make their job a little easier? What can I give to my clients to ensure that they can succeed? What can I do for my suppliers to make it easier for them to manage our relationship? What actions can I take to ensure those I love feel that love every single day? What can I give to the people around me to bring a little joy into their lives today? Because you have 100 percent control over what you give.

The key, therefore, is to learn to rejoice in being and leading uncomfortably. That’s when great leadership becomes the mechanism to transform countries, businesses and people.

Future back is a competence that can be developed by first crafting a vision and then threading it back to the present. 

Visioning, in a business context, is about having a clear worldview on the markets of the future and the role that your organisation can play in that new and different world. Having a really powerful vision can unleash the potential to transform whole industries. When we call a business leader a visionary, we mean they have a vivid understanding of their organisation’s best possible future – one that can potentially transform whole industries. Vision is the ‘what’ not the ‘how’. Vision is made actionable through strategy, which is the means to achieve it.

ENDS

 

 

 

The future is an asset, not a guess!

A crystal ball gazing into what marketers and marketing should/could be doing in the coming times!
 
The future is an asset, not a guess. As such, using it rather than predicting it, is the only way to create the conditions for a tomorrow that is better than today.
 
Few industries will have more predictions or “future of” reports than marketing. After all, it’s in our best interest to be a step ahead of the consumer. However, rather than prediction, intention is what has enabled the creation of strong global brands, remarkable campaigns, game changing products and services and thriving economies.
 
Marketing can no longer be taught, investigated, and practiced as confined to transactions between buyers and sellers, but needs to be reconsidered as deeply embedded within society and our living world.
 
Critically, though, this is perhaps the perfect stage and time – an open invitation for marketers to stop viewing themselves and their trade as economists do. As preached by ad legend Rory Sutherland, “My definition of marketing is simply the science of knowing what economists are wrong about. The human mind does not run on logic any more than a horse runs on petrol.” Perhaps, rather than chasing more universal laws of marketing, and what Sutherland calls ‘measurebation’, why not chase the exceptions that bring exponential success? And why not use that to help shift a business culture focused on short-term advantage, obsessed with money and uninterested on much else?
 
Particularly when, as explained by Sutherland in an exclusive master class for The Marketing Academy,“ “Marketing could be viewed as the most determining factor for social progress – not just in terms of changing our buying habits, but also in transforming our values system.”
 
Well… so what? A typical career lasts for 80,000 hours; so if you can make your career just one percent better, then in theory it would be worth spending up to 800 hours working out how to do just that. The past holds the patterns, the present is blurred, but the future is from where such exceptions can be seeded and harvested. Dr Toby Ord, a Philosophy Fellow at Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, frames the point in a rather compelling way: “Of all the people whose wellbeing we should care about, only a small fraction are alive today. The rest are members of future generations who are yet to exist. Whether they’ll be born into a world that is flourishing or disintegrating – and indeed, whether they will ever be born at all – is in large part up to us.”
 
This conclusion holds true regardless of whether your moral framework is based on common sense, consequences, rules of ethical conduct, cooperating with others, virtuousness, keeping options open or just a sense of wonder about the universe in which we find ourselves. Regardless of your personal stance, this is an opportunity for a sound investment of your time. Now and then.
 
“We know how marketing works, but do we know what we want it to work for? Profit is the default worldview. Prosperity is the renegade counterpart. Why not both?”
 
Why not embrace ambiguity, apply genuine foresight and rigorously imagine possible scenarios where marketing’s effectiveness can be considered in novel and holistic ways?
 
THE POST-COVID POSSIBLE SCENARIOS 
 
By all accounts, the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak was not an unpredictable ‘Black Swan’, since many working in the emerging infectious diseases field provided several indications of its possibility. What is hard to predict, yet possible to project, is what may happen after this. The challenge of a global response is that there are multiple world views operating, all with different interests. Thus, predicting what the future may hold is pointless. But projecting alternative scenarios, preparing for potential risks and setting a course of action that helps actualize a desired future is a valuable lesson that futures studies can provide.
 
We need to stop talking in terms of the ‘new normal’. Please!!! What we are currently facing is a set of circumstances that have changed our environment. To what extent and for how long is unknown. This will again depend on your industry, your target audience and your ability to pave the road forward as opposed to waiting a return. How? Marketing’s ‘4Ps’ can be a good indicator. Move on from planned obsolescence to products that last longer or, even better, regenerate. From a burnout workforce to one that better integrates life and work. From the cumbersome commute and costly square metres to ubiquitous mobility and commerce convenience. From low prices funded by cheap labour to competitive prices enabled by smarter supply chains and business models.
 
What we have seen more than anything else is incredible adaptability, agility and versatility, none more so than within our small business community. If you weren’t digital before, you certainly are now. Again, every marketer needs to arm themselves with skills and pivoting abilities, rather than grand strategies and we could all learn something from SMBs. In this (as in any time of change) we need to focus on what we need to learn, NOT on what we already know. How do we use data to learn more, improve outcomes and make sure we are resonating with our consumers?
 
This time has also given us the opportunity to press the reset button. Change is not new to marketing. COVID-induced change across industries and economies has forced simultaneous change for all marketers and tested their adaptability. It’s on a bigger scale but not totally new. We have been forced to forensically look at ourselves, our budgets, the environment in which we are operating and, ultimately, our consumer. This has forced optimisation through digital, collaboration, through necessity and working in a much more agile manner. We may now expect some positive outcomes, like grit to NOT return to a normal that only partially served us.
 
The strength of a society is based on how we treat the weakest, not how we glorify the strongest. Young people are no longer the future, but the present. 
 
This is the disruption that truly creates the fourth industrial revolution. Along with external innovation, there is inner innovation – a social revolution. Evidence-based science and technology inform public policy, not the whims of particular leaders. The insights from fighting COVID-19 are applied to climate change. There is a dramatic shift to plant-based diets. It is business transformed, social mutation, not back to usual. There are, however, concerns about privacy. COVID has accelerated tech adoption. Any brand that is still wrestling with ‘digital transformation’ will likely be struggling to keep up. It is wrong to think digital doesn’t incorporate creativity, just as it is wrong to think creativity has nothing to do with data. It’s both and, the sweet fruit of this marriage could mean the rise of sentient marketing. In this new reality, brands proactively take action to avoid errors, sensing adversity and remaining alert to micro-trends and opportunities in its environment. The sentient enterprise is frictionless and truly unified by its brand’s strategy – for real, not just as a model on the paper. Like many actions that the brain executes, the sentient enterprise listens to data and makes autonomous, real-time decisions without requiring a human’s conscious intervention.
 
Predictive marketing should absolutely be embraced but, as with all technology, success will be driven by more than just profit. Empathy, connection and responsibility, combined with value delivery, may become the new metrics assessed by brand trackers. Without delivering this, brands will quickly lose meaning and the ability to command price premiums and, ultimately, will commoditise.
 
For now, consumers are searching for brands that help them make good choices that support the well-being for all – planet, people and the economy. Brands able to demonstrably track progress across the triple bottom line will move away from niche indexes reporting on ‘green brands’ and become the new gold standard for the more mainstream ‘best brands’ reports.
 
Another (not so optimistic) scenario is that of a great despair looming large-  Not an apocalypse, not a depression, no magic- just a slow and marked decline of health and wealth. Walls appear everywhere. The World Health Organisation and others try to contain it, but the virus repeatedly slips in and infects the bodies, minds and hearts of all. We are back to the Middle Ages. The efforts to address fail. The least connected to globalisation fare the best. The vulnerable are forgotten. Intergenerational memory of past pandemics informs reality. 
 
As marketers, do we have enough influence to impact this scenario? This often depends so deeply on political and economic inputs that are beyond our control. However, as an industry we are overwhelmingly one of optimism, action and awareness. Adopting a Future Back strategy(something that we practice at ISD Global( https://bit.ly/3oCwAZD) is a manifestation of marketers’ ability to foresee this and disrupt inertia or apathy. There are many steps between here and there. Marketing doesn’t only have to be to ‘sell’ products and services. It can equally persuade and inform decisions about health choices, protecting the vulnerable, combating mental health deterioration and lessening the height of any ‘walls’. As a part of society, marketers would be part of the effort to resist the described decline. A few of us have already started.
 
A systemic view of what marketing effectiveness is, and can be, needs to be supported by data, insights, technology, media ecosystems and the power of brand. Proficiency is part of the solution and posturing part of the problem.
 
Above all, we have the unique opportunity to address the claim from the most important marketing theorist of the 20th century, Wroe Wilson, who said that, “What is needed is not an interpretation of the utility created by marketing, but a marketing interpretation of the whole process of creating utility.”
For the 21st century, all marketers can make an honest attempt at doing just that. If we succeed, we can expect to ignite a journey to a desired future.
If we fail…
 

Is there a case to revisit the Case Study Method? 

Is there a case to revisit the Case Study Method? 
 

Back in the 1920s, Harvard Business School(HBS) professors decided to develop and experiment with innovative and unique business instruction methods. As the first school in the world to design a signature, distinctive program in business, later to be called the MBA, there was a need for a teaching method that would benefit this novel approach.

Central to the case method is the idea that students are not provided the “answer” or resolution to the problem at hand. Instead, just like a board member, CEO, or manager, the student is forced to analyze a situation and find solutions without full knowledge of all methods and facts. Without excluding more traditional aspects, such as interaction with professors and textbooks, the case method provides the student with the opportunity to think and act like managers.

HBS professors selected and took a few pages to summarize recent events, momentous challenges, strategic planning, and important decisions undertaken by major companies and organizations. The idea was, and remains to this day, that through direct contact with a real-world case, students will think independently about those facts, discuss and compare their perspectives and findings with their peers, and eventually discover a new concept on their own.

So far, so good.

In lecture courses, claimed a Harvard professor, students ” are waiting for you to give the ‘answer ‘ “. There is a built-in bias against action. What we say with the case method is : ” Look, I know you don’t have enough information, but given the information you do have, what are you going to do? “.

Consider a typical scenario. James is the CEO of MegaCorp Inc. What should the company do now? The professor and almost 90 of James’ classmates anxiously await his response to the totally ‘ cold call ‘- designed to ensure that students have prepared the case. James did give it a long thought. After all, he was told that the case study method is intended to ” challenge conventional thinking “. He has also been reminded that good managers are decisive, good MBA students must take a stand. So James swallows hard and answers the question.

” How can I answer the question? “- James begins. ” I barely heard about MegaCorp Inc before yesterday. Yet today, you want me to pronounce on its strategy. As is typical at Harvard, James was working on two other case studies the previous night, so he barely had a couple of hours to prepare on the MegaCorp Inc case. He had never knowingly used any of the MegaCorp products. Until the previous day he did not even know that the rat poison that he used on his basement was made by the same MegaCorp Inc. He had never visited any of its factories nor has been anywhere close to ‘ You Never Know Where, Newfoundland ‘, where MegaCorp is headquartered. He has never spoken to any of the company’s customers(except of course himself). James says ” My previous experience(the little there was) took place in a furniture company. MegaCorp is a high-tech company and I am a very low tech guy. All I have to go by are these few pages. This is a superficial exercise. I refuse to answer your question “.

What happens to James? At the business school, I will let you hazard(?) a guess. But from there James moves back to the furniture business, where he immerses himself in the products, the process, the people. And with his courage to be decisive and with an appetite to challenge conventional thinking, James rises to the position of the CEO. There with hardly any ‘ industry analysts ‘ at all, James and his colleagues learn their way to a strategy that transforms the furniture business.

Meanwhile, John, who is sitting next to James in class jumps in. He too has never been to ‘ You Never Know Where, Newfoundland ‘. But that doesn’t stop him.He makes a clever point or two and gets that coveted Harvard MBA. This gets him into a ‘ prestigious consulting firm ‘, where as in those case study classes, he leaps from one situation to another, each time making a clever point or two, concerning issues he recently knew nothing about, always leaving the firm before implementation (action) begins.

As this kind of experience rolls in, John doesn’t take far too long in becoming the CEO of a major appliance company.(He never consulted for one but it does remind him of that MegaCorp case study). There, after downsizing( it’s fashionable you see) a few thousand unsuspecting Human Resources, he formulates a glitzy high-tech strategy, which is implemented, so to speak, through a dramatic program of acquisitions. What happens to that?? Guess again!

Readers (of the book ‘ What they Really Teach You At Harvard Business School ‘by Philip Delves Broughton) are probably asking , ‘ Read the case and do that analysis in two to four hours?’ Harvard’s answer is YES. Students need to prepare two to three cases each day..so (they) must work toward getting their analysis done fast as well done well.

Some years back, HBS ran an ad in The Economist for it’s executive education programs. It had a dapper, uber smart looking executive-woman saying, ” We studied four companies a day. This isn’t theory. This is experience.”

Sorry. This is nonsense.

There was a book released in 1990 called ‘ Inside the Harvard Business School ‘ by David Ewing, for long, an insider. The first line of the book makes a sweeping statement ” The Harvard Business School is probably the most powerful private institution in the world “.The book listed 19 Harvard alumni who had made it to the very top, the school’s superstars as of 1990. If you took a look at the post 1990 records of all 19, to see how they fared, there was only one word to describe it- BADLY. 10 of them clearly seem to have failed(meaning their company went bankrupt), they were forced out of the CEO chair or a major merger backfired, or the like. Performance of another four appeared to be very questionable. The other five seem to have done fine.

To conclude, most MBA students enter the prestigious HBS or similarly profiled hallowed Ivy Leagues smart, determined, aggressive. There, case studies teach them how to pronounce clearly on situations they know little about , while analytic techniques give them the impression that they can tackle any problem- no in-depth experience required. With graduation comes the confidence of having been to a proper business school, not to mention the ‘ old boys ‘ network that can boost them to the top. Then what??

Begs the question!! Case Study or Case Unsteady?

Ready. (Case) Study. Go!!

ENDS

 

 

 

Don’t Leave Home WIT(hout) it!

If I recall right, AMEX Credit Cards used to have this seminal tagline ‘ Don’t Leave Home Without It ‘ coined by advertising great David Ogilvy. But your visa to a perfect quip or comeback after it didn’t matter—a minute, hour, or day after one of your conversations has ended? Yes, you got it. The best master card up your sleeve – WIT.

No need for WIThdrawal symptoms. You’re not doomed to sit by as ‘clever’ companions exchange sharp banter. You can practice being wittier, improving your reaction times and ability to land a jab or joke at just the right moment. Jokes don’t warrant social distancing. That was CoWIT talking.

Unlike perceived, WIT isn’t just for some gifted linguists. Playing with language—elevating mundane communication from mere talk into a creative process—is a form of innovation that sheds new light on old ideas. Plus, vitally, it makes life less boring and more fun for you and others. So, in short, we can all get better at being ‘ clever ‘.

Just as those highly skilled auto drivers on Bombay roads, if you can turn around (just like they do on a 6 cm radius!) words and phrases in the mind and present new juxtapositions, one can change the way we and other people see. Yes, it’s the road less travelled. But worth taking. So, get on WIT(h) it!

The wittiest among us are simply people who make unusual connections between words and ideas. And never verse off for it. Observations- Refreshed. Surprised!

In cognitive terms, the brain of the wit is less inhibited than that of a linguistic dullard. In other words, fairly, well ventilated shall we say? Are you WIT(h) me? Unabashed, uncensored access to associations, conscious and unconscious, is essential to wit. Apologies, people with brain damage don’t qualify!

The caudate nucleus is one area( 2 kms south of Mira Road..just kidding) of the brain implicated in associative learning and control of inhibitions that may explain how wit is generated. Likewise, the frontotemporal region( east of Kandahar..by now you know!) influences personality, language, and emotional development. Knowing precisely how these areas of the brain interact and regulate thinking will lead to better ‘ scientific comprehension of wit ‘. That is if you really are bothered about all of this in the first place.

So, if you are looking at a guide to ‘ advanced banter ‘, don’t wait for a breakthrough in brain science to cultiWEIGHT wit. (W)It’s reasonably simple. Just knowing that wit is a kind of associative process already makes you better equipped to be a verbal gymnast. The variety of the play of wit manifests through—puns( tumhee pun na!!), rhyme, metaphor, slang, rap(chick), to name a few.

The encouraging thing to understand here is that being creative about language can be mastered with practice. It’s not all natural talent. If you make peace with history and take a piece of it, in analyzing how wit arises or why we might rely on it, the oldest and most revered texts in the world, from the Tao Te Ching(nothing to do with what Neena Gupta endorses) to the Bible to the plays of William Shakespeare are replete with language play. When all the world is a rage, wit has a role to play. Perhaps on centre stage?

With linguistic gymnastics, we can reach people who might not otherwise think they’re interested in certain ideas and break down barriers. Hip-hop and rap, for example, exposed generations of music listeners of all classes and races to black culture they didn’t encounter in their own lives. (And Shakira has taught us that hips don’t lie). Wit’s an efficient way to say more with less, as in the case of a metaphor, or to expose unexpected mean ink, alternately meaning.

Wit is the antidote for a culture being dulled by communication overload—it’s a kind of wisdom. In Aristotle’s words, it is a form of “ educated insolence. ” If we were cracking wise, rather than vice versa ie reacting angrily, and being wittier(or Twittier?) on Twitter, we might all have a much better time.The rate of exchange between strangers and acquaintances online has never been so high(BSE/NASDAQ/FTSE etc please take note). But internet chatter is often toxic and commonly resorts to vitriolic retorts( would have preferred witriolic), angry declarations, and unnecessary observations. Wish that closed minds came with closed mouths. Hence, so many of us feel we are at our wit’s end.

You too can be a master of verbal jousting. Take the WITness stand. It is time to unleash the power WIThin!
Be at home WIT(h) it. But, don’t leave home WIT(hout) it.
(WIT’s) END
WIT AL PART ILL
Dubai

Something is just not not WRITE!

One more of the (Jest)in beaver rants!
 
You can pretend to play the guitar. What one calls the Air Guitar– Sure, you can!
 
But, you can’t pretend to play the Air Guitar. Can you?
 
But this rant is coming with no strings attached. The IPL 2021 is upon us. Under six months of the curtains coming down on the previous edition. Yes, it has come thick and fast.
 
The sport light here in this ‘ peace de assistance ‘ is on ex India cricketer Mohammed Kaif. Now part of the Coaching staff of the team Delhi Capitals as Assistant Coach. All through the IPL 2020 campaign, i.e. around the 16 odd matches that Delhi Capitals played (including the finals against Mumbai Indians), he carried his customary spirited, committed, effervescent attitude. What we also noticed was he always carried a notebook with him. Every single match. Probably all 300 pages of it. After all, observations, insights, learnings etc have to be recorded. Competitive sport is as much about what happens outside the playing field as it is about what happens on it.
 
But, if you were to be Rajat ( or Sharma) or Scholar or Navneet or Apsara (or Pari) or any of the other stationery brands that make these notebooks, you would be very worried. They would be really struggling to read between the lines. Something was just not write. What prevented Kaif from putting pen (or pencil) to paper throughout the last IPL season that left a completely blank notebook at the end of almost a 2 month campaign. Let’s examine it in the write earnest:-
 
Kaif was only pretending to write (just like playing the Air Guitar)
 
– He was distracted by how Ricky Ponting(Head Coach of Delhi Capitals), who he sat next to always in the dugout could chew on two things at the same time: gum and nails.
 
( As we know, Ricky has been stretching his ‘ gum se rishta ‘ for far too long)
 
– He was using a special type of invisible ink, visible only to no one, never to be noted!
 
– Between picking up Ricky‘s Tasmanian accent and Vijay Dahiya‘s ( another s’pport’ staff of Delhi Capitals) Sonipat(Haryana) one, he was hard pressed to fit in his Kanpur dialect
 
( BTW, in Delhi, the letter ‘ u ‘ in support is not needed, so kept it at bay, please don’t treat it as typo- u get the point right?)
 
– He was only making mental notes. The notebook was willy nilly merely a non contributing involuntary ally
 
– He was worried that in case he wrote anything, ‘ COACH tho log kahenge
 
– He had Writers Block and he was waiting for a Block Buster to start writing. And during Covid, there were none releasing
 
– Someone had read out the Write Act to him, hence he did not want to write
 
– There were no lines in the notebook, it was all blank. So, to maintain sanctity, he retained the original look. And didn’t cross the line
 
– He was afraid of Lead poisoning. So, he refused to pencil anything
 
– Being a very private person, he did not want to make his notary public
 
– He missed out the ‘special orientation‘ that Brendon McCullum had conducted for all coaching staff on how to write, how much to write, what to write etc during the IPL matches
 
– He was aware that the impulse to write things down is a peculiarly compulsive one, inexplicable to those who do not share it, useful only accidentally, only secondarily, in the way that any compulsion tries to justify itself
 
Later this evening we get to see Kaif yet again as Delhi Capitals take on Chennai Super Kings. And hopefully the ‘ notebook ‘ too. Unless, he has decided ‘not(e) again!’
 
” Our notebooks give us away, for however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable ‘I.’” —Joan Didion, “On Keeping a Notebook “.
 
Post Scriptum: I have nothing more to write!

Name Place, is it an Animal Thing?

No, this has no reference to the Name-Place-Animal-Thing game that we as kids made our go to on dull nothing better to do afternoons. A game that our parents encouraged us to play in the hope that our grasp of geography, zoology, nouns etc will get an uplift. The days when we had ample monopoly on our time. Days prior to board games like Monopoly and aeons before games like Fortnite took over our days, weeks, fortnights and months. Yes, looking back, those were the daze.
Let me place this right. It’s not about geography. But, going by the names of some of these places, the worry is geography could become history. This rant is about names of some places and the impact (scar is more like it) that it leaves behind.
I am not sure how this place got its name but whosoever was involved in it was sure putting on an act – I am referring to DONGRI. There are strategic brand extensions of it as well like DONGRI Kabootar Wali Chaal(???) but we will leave that for another time. DONGRI? Common, get authentic!
If you think this place has heaps of hidden wealth and this is where the 21st Century gold rush is headed, banish the thought. BANDARWADA holds no such promise. Or premise. It was just Maharashtra’s idea of getting back at Coloma, California, where the first gold rush took place. And there ends the comparison.And the ecstacy.
This one will send a lot of us up shit creek. It’s a place called POO. Yes. POO. Don’t pooh pooh it. POO is a small town in Himachal Pradesh. Whoever hatched this sinister conspiracy, did it in POOr taste. Winnie the POO anyone?
SUAR: When I first heard about this place in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh, I wasn’t too suar..I mean sure. On verifying, it turns out there was actually a swine who named this place SUAR. He sure wasn’t too piggy about his selection. I had half a mind to call him porque but then (pig)let it be!
This place is no push over considering it’s actually Ferry Wharf. Sounds ferry good isn’t it? But try getting a bit verny and it gets called BHAUCHA DHAKKA. What aggression. Almost feels like a violation. Like Saddam’s Kuwait invasion. It’s still coming to terms with the DHOKKA.
This one is no middle of the road place. It’s direct and in your face or rather nostrils. A place called MIDDELFART. A small town in central Denmark. They had no clue the kind of stink that such a name will raise. But there you go, no s(h)itting on the fence! Probably, couldn’t smell beyond their own nose – Who knows?
Who on earth would name a place like this? HELL. Yes, that’s what it is. Heaven can wait. No way in hell should a place be named such, hell no, but because it is in Norway, they got away with it I guess. Would they have hell to pay? I have no clue. Imagine booking an Uber ride to HELL. And paying for it in cash!!! And then rating the ride…go to hell I say.
It’s getting increasingly juvenile from hereon. Time for some local anusthesia. That is what you will need when you discover there is a place called ANUS. As if one intrinsically appended to our anatomy was not enough. The French had to have their back door entry into a town called Burgundy. And anus was their only back up. If you are a tour guide and wielding the microphone, how would you react when you hear her say ‘ we are about to enter ANUS ? Since there is a lot to explore, the stop over here will be an hour, anyone wanting to use the rest rooms may… ‘
Seems nothing will make them change the name of this place. NOTHING. Yes, this uninhabited ghost town in Mohave Country, Arizona. Through the years, the dedicated (non) residents had faith in nothing, hoped for nothing, worked at nothing, for nothing. So much for nothing. About time to re-visit ‘ something is better than nothing ‘. Because nothing is!
We are criss crossing geographies here but closer home there is a one horse town called BHAINSA. Didn’t I predict it? It’s an animal thing. No, this place was NOT the inspiration for Bob Marley’s Buffalo Soldier. It is just Telangana’s retort to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris. So, try as you might till the cows come home, Bhainsa is not going grazing anywhere.
What’s in a name? Shakespeare had no clue and will definitely change his mind. Till the next rant..
 
Truly
 
NAMEsake!

Bagging Riots!

When Heavy Weight Brands Are Made to Do A Heavy Wait!

On a recent trip, had some (customary) waiting to do upon landing at the airport, so decided ( after the usual polite skirmish with sweat, suede and swear words) to be an inno scent bystander next to the baggage carousel as it aimlessly (and somewhat harmlessly) went around in circles. So here’s the 360 Degree on it, motivated, well, by bags of time!

The absolute nonchalance with each and every piece of baggage gets treated once it finds place on the carousel has convinced me that the carousel is the only place in the world that is completely agnostic to brands and their status in the pecking order. All of them are treated like true ‘ pile ons ‘. Tumi, Louis Vitton, Delsey, Samsonite, American Tourister, VIP, BOSS, Echolac, China Mall…all came (and went) alike. The message going was loud and clear. Rest in Piece…till such time your owner gets a handle on you!

Nowhere will you see a better study in contrast. The bags taking its own sweet time to get to where it ought to, unabashedly relaxed, clinically unrepentant, approaching arrogance ( I am the BOSS here, you better give me the VIP treatment), do not intrude on my hammock style existence…..On the other side, the owners: anxious, impatient, irritated, hopeful, worried, chaos personified.

The bags I tell you love drama (and some gymnastics as well). Every now and then they bring you to the edge as they salsa, spin and swirl but manage to stay on top of the carousel. That in the process they knock off a few socks from ankles and uncles is a different story. Really edge of the feat stuff!

As you take your monster off the carousel(with a little help from 8 people close to you , 4 of whom were standing on your toes unrepentantly), you just want the trolley to glide through the sea of humanity only to realize that this piece of convenience(supposedly) is a bit like me- it has no sense of direction. As you push North, it heads East. So much for where there’s a wheel, there’s a way! No wayAnd in any case, SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) are meant to function only in Governments!

The area surrounding the carousel is actually a medical practitioner’s delight. The ideal place to easily diagnose the following including but not restricted to: Colour blindness, Slip disc, Parkinsons, Blood Pressure, Extreme Body Odour…is it blue or green? And the real owner sees red in the bargain. If you don’t mind, could you please help me offload my bag?(I travelled light this time)-it’s just 87 kgs( any more and she would have had to hire a cargo plane).

Do you think the carousel is an ideal candidate for acute nausea? Imagine going around in circles, hour after hour, day after day- 360 Degrees and the emergence of the Circular Economy is all very fine but doing it 365 days a year?? Where does it begin? And where does it end? Methinks it’s happy to be a spin doctor! Or should we call it an innocent victim of circum stance?

So the next time you travel, carry XS baggage(Armani, A R Mani, Mr Moneybags etc pl note). Xtra Small. Don’t break the carousel.Give the carousel a break…unless of course you want to see some Delsey, all at sea! Boss, it makes no sense Tumi!

ENDS

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Cheap Signaling, Power Dynamics..

Cheap Signaling, Power Dynamics..
Courtesy: The dictionary meaning may seem a bit out of place in this context but here it is nonetheless: ” the showing of politeness in one’s attitude and behaviour towards others “.
 
For all the education and training providers in the market, there is a great opportunity. Offering specialised courses in Professional Courtesy 101. Get ready to laugh your way to the bank. The market is dying for something so fundamental.
 
A bit of a back narrative if you permit me. 
 
Let me circle back to an era(read Pre Covid) where travel was a breeze. When geography was truly history. Early in the year, I had set up a meeting in another country with the Founder/CEO of a leading premium real estate experience entity. He had inherited the business from his self made father who had built a mega infrastructure building corporation over the years. The meeting was to showcase a strategic roadmap for his organisation and share creative communication templates that are in sync with the strategy. Our team put in the emotional labour, ran the hard yards and created something truly magnificent. After all, we were meeting the scion, a decision maker, a business leader and as is our wont, we were prepared to deliver the best. The meeting was fixed almost a month ahead and I had planned my booking and travel accordingly. On the appointed day, yours truly set out, full of belief, confidence and exuberance to meet the revered appointee. The drive was a good hour and twenty minutes away and factoring in traffic bottlenecks, the lead time to reach destination was a good two hours. I must confess that other than optimism, hope and high enrolment, I had no premonition of what was to come. Reaching well ahead of the appointed time, imagine my plight when I was told by his hapless secretary that he will not be in office today as some other meeting had come up and he would not have the time to meet me. I reconciled to the situation as quickly as I could(after all I had flown in from a different country to meet) and offered the secretary that I wouldn’t mind the meeting being rescheduled. That is when I realised she was helpless too. Prompting me to take things into my own hands. During the rest of the day, I tried reaching my ‘ appointee ‘ on 9 different occasions on his phone, sent messages separately  by Email and Whats App, but to no avail.
 
It’s been ten months since that date and I am still to hear from him. Forget an apology or regret, absolutely NOTHING. Now you know why I suggest the huge potential of Professional Courtesy 101.
 
The next messperience is closer home. Well within our geography. But this meeting made the very concept of courtesy, history. The client in question here is an uber premium automobile brand. So, not unreasonably, we had high expectations. Well before the appointed hour, me and two of my senior leadership team members of ISD Global arrived with our usual appendage: professionalism, confidence and complete preparedness. Projection screens were set, rest of the AV equipment along with our team members were raring to go as well. The buzz in the room was palpable. That was the end of it though. The three executives on the other side of the table were completely oblivious to the fact that there was a meeting by appointment, there was a presentation being made and there was an agenda that was mutually set prior to the meeting. They were all focused on their laptop and mobile screens with so much intensity that they couldn’t care less there were other people in the room seeking their attention and presenting something that they had asked us to. In such a situation, there was no way that the rubber could hit the road. That was my neutral observation.
 
They did not even know we left the room and the meeting. They ghost walked into the meeting and ghost walked out I guess. Now you know why I suggest the huge potential of Professional Courtesy 101.
Pardon me for going on and on, but here is another one, I promise, this is the last. This meeting is with the Director of a leading Furniture brand. Here again, history repeats itself. In the sense, that this gentleman has inherited the business empire from his father who had built it from scratch. The meeting also included a very professional and enthusiastic marketing head, a recent appointment at the brand. Her energy and commitment was total to give credit where it’s due. That set the hopes high. At the appointed hour, the meeting begins. It was scheduled to be a one hour meeting and the first thing we hear from the Director is that ‘ I have only 20 minutes ‘. Being agile and aware, our team was on the ball to recalibrate and pivot to the new time starved reality. We instantly realised there was a north south divide. Or a church and state relationship. If the projection screen where the presentation was happening was in the north, our 20 minute hand me downer was looking exactly the other way to the south buried deep into his mobile phone. Probably at last count, he had looked at his mobile about 40 times during the course of that ‘ 20 minutes ‘. I can promise you, at the end of it, he certainly was NOT the ‘ Apple of our eye ‘!
 
I am always wonder struck as to where all this stems from- is it a serious inferiority complex? Is it insecurity? Is it clanning? Is it power dynamics aided by cheap signaling? You bet the jury is out on this! But what I am certain about is the tremendous potential of Professional Courtesy 101.
Providers anyone? There is a big market out there waiting to be served!
 
 
ENDS
 
 
 

In the Fitness of Things: a Gym Carry version

We seem to be in an era where ‘wellth‘ is the new health, where a well honed tricep is far more desirable than a heart to heart with a near one and a lot of us mortals are literally dying to get fit. Toss a coin and you are oscillating between orthorexia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. It’s a so-called world of ‘ fitspo ‘.
The concurrent rise of “wellness” and self-tracking technology has ushered in a sort of socially sanctioned “technorexia”. We live in an age where you can never be too rich or too fit. Calorie-counting, which was once considered Bridget Jones-style silly at best and neurotic at worst (largely because it was coded female), is now celebrated as a data-driven route to self-improvement (largely because Silicon Valley has coded it male).
Amidst the din and frenzy that is conveniently ‘ cold pressed ‘ between buycep and a trycep, here’s a suite of everyday observations(which most of you would already be privy to), with tongue firmly in (Instagram) cheek. So, if you like it slow, ‘ jog on ‘.
HUM PAUNCH : These are the 5 Pandavas that occupy the entire walking track laterally(and literally), with familiarity breeding no contempt. The primary motto(no pun intended) and waisted interest here is to respect the status quo(te) of the 46 inch waistlines. Another work of friction that you get to see is their Vaastu compliant (East West sagging) cheeks having the cheek to tickle one another as they pound the streets, as brothers, firmly in arms. PAUNCHo unglee, ghee mein..no surprises!
WALK THE TALK: A big concern for this tribe is ‘ will the miles run out before my talk does ‘ ? As if just coming out of a 8 year gag order. For all the army of RJs suffering from acute verbal diarrhoea, listen in. No ad breaks here. Move over marathon.It’s like a talkathon in (the) flesh.
INSTA(NT) KARMA: These are the direct disciples of Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger (original Co Founders of Instagram). Just like being Vaastu compliant or Euro II Emission compliant, their summer of content revolves around being Instagram Compliant. If it’s FIT for Insta, it’s FIT for me! And you are still left wondering, what comes first..the chicken or the egg..how remiss of you?
COACH COACH HOTHA HAIN : The community of people who are purely and solely moti weighted by a Coach. The ones who go ‘ Coach tho log kahenge ‘ in case they don’t use one. Their engine and loco moti (ve) firmly in the well TRAINed hands of a Coach. So, COACH na kaho and just chug along! Mr Burberry, watch out, Coach is getting all the b(r)agging rights!
SURF BOARD ABS: Don’t know what to call it. ABSurdity or audacity. These are the die hard optimists whose hopes have been severely washed away. The ones who kept washing their abs with Surf till eventually they got absolutely bored. And had nothing to show for it. It will take some time for them to TIDE over the shock. Last heard, they seem to be filing a plaint against Unilever! And the Power Point said: ‘ Mr Surf, you didn’t Excel ‘!
APP THO AISEY NA THEY: It must be apparent what I am referring to. APP jaisa koi meri…A plethora of Apps that have taken over our lives. If memory doesn’t serve it right, some of them hang out of the smartphones by the skin of their pixel as hard to let go APPendages. Shapa, YouAte, YouFood, Fitbit, Myfitnesspal, Strava, Runkeeper,Tim Ferris...even though some of it may be even recommending to weigh your lettuce before eating it.. Data Saman(t)..you there?
THE STORE : This is the individual who has taken the onus of being the brand store on the beach. Old Balance(yet to be settled), Nikey, Over Armour, DontGoPro, Adhi Das(no relation to Vasundhara BTW), Feelips – a walking talking Footlocker without QR Codes. The prep time (for this over equipped first of its kind physical HE Commerce store in true protein form) to get ready for the workout would be nothing less than a couple of hours. Wait till you hear about the workout..after a gruelling, punishing 3.8 Metres run(to and fro, non stop mind you), it’s time to break out into a sweat(bring out the water spray can…simulate sweat beads..time for a selfie).
Are we getting collectively fatter and more sedentary? Is fat and furious going hand in hand?
Do you believe “ Pain is Weakness Leaving The Body” and “Sweat Is Your Fat Crying”? Well, “You Win Some Or You Win Some”!
Time for a workout. And hand sanitisation(Never in my life would I have imagined my hands consuming more alcohol than my mouth). And test my bore strength. To all the BELLYrinas, jog jog jeeyo!
BENDS