What do you when asked ” What Do You Do?”


Ever been in situations at an event or a conference wherein you are struggling to get your business card out from your inner sleeve in the jacket or your visiting card holder decides to rebel and refuses to open? The struggle gets amplified  not because the mechanics of taking a card out is more complex than quantum computing but we are(at least most of us) so busy getting ahead of ourselves preparing in our mind what to say after the card is handed out and the introduction perfunctory is dealt with. The flavour of the season of course is getting your contact details QR coded from the phone onto the other welcoming device ( sometimes non welcoming I dare add) and vice versa. It also helps you make a statement that you are take sorry…tech savvy. And you can keep up with the Janes and Jones’s.



The innocuous( or is it?) question that follows once the pleasantries are exchanged is what we are ranting about here. ” What Do You Do? ” and, in our quest to seek validation and create a lasting first impression go to town articulating the best of what you do, portray the best version of yourself and comply with the ‘ been there, done that narrative drill ‘ that we are expected to go shrill on. At the end of the 90 second spiel, you are either Elon Musk or Halloween‘s worst nightmare in disguise. Take your pick.



Compliance and complications overlap to a great degree, no pun intended here. As you echo your well practiced 60dB decibel of responding to ” What Do You Do? “, default memory and wanting to be alpha, dictates your conversation. And because it is so often used, heard, and in Red Ocean territory, you are on a platter offering an opportunity to the other person to ignore you or frame you as ‘un remarkable ‘, all of your own doing mind you. So stop wallowing in self pity!



What Do You Do? ” question is a trap that we fall into more often than not. The response is by rote, unimaginative, me too and also ran, all at the same time. The well rehearsed linear journey monologue which by now should have ideally met its obituary. Release yourself from the imprisonment of the default, the established, expected, elevator pitch.



The brain remembers what it least expects, so deliver the unexpected! We don’t have to be Alan Sorkin to rewrite our script to answer the ” What Do You Do ? ” question. How about trying something like this. ” I am on a journey of continuous unlearning and learning, trying to satiate (without much success) my perennial curiosity, always in an explore and discover mode with an open mind to create work or art that matters to me and hopefully which should matter to an MVA(Minimum Viable Audience) as well. Showing up and generously shipping out, day after day “.  At the end of it, you might get a few frowns but I bet you would leave the other side with a hard to ignore or forget narrative.



Ever been to a jazz concert- you would witness practiced, well rehearsed pieces combining beautifully with improvised, on the feet dynamism. Improv classes anyone? ” Whose Line Is It Anyway? “, the cult Reality TV show can teach us a few things.



Where are we headed? An objective for a pre-determined end or to remain open to limitless possibilities?



Let me know “What Do You Do“..sorry “What Will You Do? ”




Can We Take A New Staircase To The Elevator Pitch ?


A couple of weeks back, I was fortunate to be invited by a well respected University in the UAE to do a guest talk ( if it came across as ‘ guess talk ‘, my apologies) with their final year graduating students and some faculty members. Future engineers, management graduates, psychologists, economists, accountants, technologists etc constituted the diverse audience set. It was very gracious of them to invite me and I am grateful for the learning opportunity it provided.



Since a majority of the audience viz the students were on the cusp of going into industry after their graduation, one touchpoint of the engagement centered around what is conventionally called ‘ the elevator pitch ‘.



What is an elevator pitch?



Not that it maybe needed but outlining here what an elevator pitch is : An elevator pitch is a brief (think 30 seconds!) way of introducing yourself, getting across a key point or two, and making a connection with someone. It’s called an elevator pitch because it takes roughly the amount of time you’d spend riding an elevator with someone.



Psychology 101 would argue that the brain remembers what it least expects, so deliver the unexpected. So, the typical elevator pitch would be mostly about ‘ I, me, myself..blah blah blah…and more blah blah blah’. Hence, often times failing to get the acknowledgment, respect and setting the foundation for keeping the conversation going well after the elevator doors have closed, metaphorically speaking.



So, how do we disembark on the correct floor of onwards, upwards and progress? How about a dose of ‘ pattern interrupt‘ ?



What is a ‘ pattern interrupt? ‘



A pattern interrupt, put simply, is anything that surprises the person you’re talking to. Prospects expect certain things from salespeople. By breaking the mold, you’ll alter their apprehensive state and make them much more receptive to you.



Which is exactly what you are seeking to do in an elevator pitch. Except what you do here is focus on the person on the person that you are talking to and make it about her occupation, interests etc etc rather than be about you being the best, the tallest, the fattest…



Originating from neuro-linguistic programming, pattern interrupt involves recognizing an unwanted pattern, disrupting it, and leading someone to the desired behavior.



A study conducted at Harvard University’s Department of Psychology by Dr Ellen Langer is worth looking into. The study exposed a senior male group of participants to be away from routines at home and nursing facilities, to live for a week in an environment that was physically similar to where they had lived when they were younger. They discussed historical events as if they were current news( the power of active communication), took care of their own ADLs( Activities of Daily Living) and personal needs, and shared photos of their younger selves. A week later, they showed improvement in physical strength, manual dexterity, posture, perception, memory, cognition, taste sensitivity, hearing, and vision. They even showed improved scores on IQ testing. Visual cues within our environment serve as reminders of memories and functioning.



It is good to perennially question convention to make things better. Probably mandatory. Because the world is desperate for new thinking and therefore new possibilities.



Ready for some OTISm? And students, as you get ready to step into the real world, how about creating your anti-resume? And borrow richly from the idea of pattern interrupt in so doing!





Getting Hyper About Labeling!


Labeling is the nonchalant full time duty of the jury(read rest of the world) who are gainfully employed (unemployment is a myth) in judging and stereotyping other people. “He is a stick in the mud”. “She is such an extrovert”.  “He has a big chip on his shoulder”( would that be Pringles?).  “Her fashion sense is atrocious”. Look around and you can spot them from a mile.



That said, this is with malice towards none. We are not talking about people and their labeling.



The rant here is about the labels they use in hypermarkets(or modern trade for those at the comforting mercy of trade parlance). And being a slow learner and not qualified to be on the extremely agile list to spot the obvious from the discerning, it took a few not so pleasant experiences for the nickel to drop( because at the till, the price would rise).



Talking from personal experience. This is a large international hypermarket chain with thousands of outlets around the world. You will have the retail pundits(including the self appointed ones) crying hoarse about ‘ eye level is buy level ‘, so place your product in the ‘ eye of the buying storm ‘. And since birds of the same feather are meant to flock together, herd mentality in merchandise display is the flavour of the season (you might have heard that before). So, if there are 6 SKUs(variants for us, everyday people) of Almond Milk, they are all placed in one cluster, for easy viewability and retrieval.



With reasonable eyesight (not much of foresight I can assure you though) at my disposal(so far so good), I read the price label, fell hook, line & almond for it and added that Almond Milk to cart(if one were to echo the phrase ‘ add to cart ‘ of the e commerce space).



When it came to the crunch time i.e the business end of it and you are paying at the counter, you notice(without much notice because its so obvious) the price of the milk you have picked up on the LED and you see RED(though the LED display was in green). The price difference is a good 20% more than what the label signaled.



The next few minutes are worth a University Degree in itself. The hunt is on for the ‘ Customer Service ‘ department( yes the same guys who play antiquated recordings saying ‘ this call is monitored for quality and training purposes and also wear T Shirts saying “Why Should I Help You?” or is it “May I Help You?”) to address my ‘ grievance ‘ and the hapless lady (already over burdened and under paid, handling multiple things other than irate customers) is promising her best to resolve this at the soonest. Thank God she did not say ASAP, otherwise I would have gotten worried as ASAP comes in with an in built elasticity that no one yet has been able to fathom. I was also grateful that she did not use the well worn out script ‘ let me escalate this to my senior so that nothing gets resolved and we go on our continued merry way).



Long rant short, it so turns out( if one were to be believe the store associate) that I read the price label of a different variant of Almond Milk and hence the discrepancy. I am no visionary but I can do an Hippocratic Oath on my Presbyopia that I read the label right.



I have had similar experiences in other Modern Trade( sorry there I go again!) aka Supermarkets and Hypermarkets where the twain don’t meet i.e what the label says and what the actual price is when you get to the counter. So, moral of the story is that you need to be ‘ counter intuitive ‘.



Not meaning to throw a curve ball here- ever wondered why Customer Service has to be a separate department? Don’t you think the entire organisation should be accountable and responsible for that? It is almost as if palming off responsibility is best done officially and under the diktat of ‘visionary’ management( the HIPPOS-Highest Paid Person’s Opinion- in the room if you will) who appoints call centres, whose employees have never foot in your store ever and to make matters worse, maybe operating from a completely different country. Little wonder they have to escalate matters to their seniors who are in no position or interest to de escalate your apprehension or grievance.



And by the way, this rant is ‘ monitored for quality and training purposes ‘. So, hold your horses!



PS: Oops, how remiss of me- I forgot the preamble to the call centre constitution ‘ Your call is important to us…and you will be attended to( be short changed) !




Hey Story, Have Some Spine!


A few years back, I fell hook, line and sinker to the temptation of calling myself a storyteller. The aspiration became official and I got myself designated ( fortunately there was no push back from any quarter) as Chief Storyteller at our organisation ISD Global. Little realising the onerous responsibility that I was taking on.


Why Storytelling?


We have been telling stories for as long as we’ve been human

They are an absolutely essential part of our day-to-day communications.

Storytelling can do wonders for a business such as:-

turn a brand into a legacy,

create a robust marketing strategy,

generate profit and..

win the loyalty and affection of audiences

Storytelling conveys purpose, and..

brands with purpose are the ones that ultimately stand out

and capture consumer’s hearts and wallets.



Filmmaking and storytelling are tweedle dee and the tweedle dum. For years we have been exposed to what is called ” The Hollywood Paradigm ” which translated to films following a default journey of begining with a set up, moving onto conflict and then culminating in a resolution(climax).



At conferences and presentations a lot of us are keen to establish our identity, get our word out and then get onto the core of the matter(if at all)- but, the audience is not that keen to know how great you are but to understand what you can do for them. So, stop falling into the ‘ hero trap ‘.



Aesop’s Fables and our grandma stories were all about begining with ‘ Once upon a time ‘… and ‘ then one fine day ‘.. ‘ because of which ‘… ‘ till such time ‘..’ and ever since then ‘… You see the parallels here. This is what is called the Story Spine.



Storytelling connects us, helps us make sense of the world, and communicates our values and beliefs.


A good story makes us think and feel, and speaks to us in ways that numbers, data, and presentation slides simply can’t.


So, let’s stick our neck out for having some spine in our stories.



MVP(Maximum Viable Product) for the MVA(Minimum Viable Audience)


Normally MVP is denoting Minimum Viable Product. But, here by design the thought is for your Maximum Viable Product. As you show up and ship it out in the full knowledge that it is made for the smallest viz Minimum Viable Audience– lets call them the early adopters.


It was Geoffrey Moore who coined the term chasm.The term for the gap between the small part of the market populated with people who like to go first, and the larger group of people who want to get involved with something that’s proven, popular and effective.


The early adopters  are the ones who ask ‘is it new?’ , ‘ what is different? ‘. The early majority come in next(they are early followers) once they see it is effective and it is working.


The early adopters are the ones we need to delight. They then take on the mantle of being your unofficial brand ambassadors. They spread the word. They tell the others. They are the ones who help cross the chasm and bring in the next round of users | followers, the early majority.

The trap is in trying to be all things to all people at the same time. Resist the temptation. The early adopters will do the generous work of bringing the others on board.


Not everyone goes first. Almost no one does. Our culture changes when the early adopters tell the others. And it applies to almost everything,  be it rock bands, organic juice, movies, electric cars, books or online courses. What we have to show is the tenacity and persistence of showing up first, delight the daylights out of the early adopters, win their trust and then go on to win the hearts and minds of those who didn’t show up first. The chasm gets crossed and the community gets built.


It is not a linear sequence. You might be ready with your launch. But people show up when they are ready. Not when you are.


Find your mojo. The early adopters. And leave the rest to them.



All at sea with courtesy ?


Connections lead to possibilities. More conversations and discovery. Establishing a genuine two way street. Creating more possibilities. Keeping the door open. For the next. For the better. To be going forward. Onwards and upwards.



Connections do lead to asking favours. And receiving them. And when you take or receive a favour, there is no shame in expressing gratitude or a thank you. Make the favour giver feel special, so that she or he feels motivated to make it second nature. Courtesy takes less than a few seconds to get across. And inertia should never get in the way. For all those who hide behind the hustle culture inspired ‘ lack of time or need ‘ narrative. And when you don’t show that what gets established is that you don’t want to acknowledge the obligation or connection.

There is a reason why it’s called a two way street. Because not just the person receiving the favour but the person offering it benefit as well. Keeping the door ajar for more possibilities. Making the connections better. And the virtuous cycle of more and better.



A favour is not an entitlement. And so long as that is the noise in our heads, civility will get the nod. As it should.



Because it is not a faucet which can be switched on or off, courtesy should be a continuous action.



And just like ‘ please ‘, ‘ sorry ‘, ‘ excuse me ‘, ‘ thank you ‘ falls into the category of magic words. So, let’s not make that go out of fashion.



Spread the magic. It’s a courtesy call.





The Homogeneity Trap!


There is a saying which a lot of us have heard or read which goes like this ” birds of the same feather, flock together “.



Other interpretations of the same include ‘ Collective Bias ” or ” Wisdom of the Crowds “.



Some of these existing narratives are traps. Great minds think alike. They need not or should not. If all of us are thinking the same, then none of us are thinking.



Have you ever looked at the World Map upside down?  I strongly recommend you do. And urge you to look at this Knew Thinking. New Possibilities video 



Your nutritionist will recommend you have vegetables that have as many diverse colours as possible. A one vegetable salad would be boring. But a salad with lettuce and spinach, capsicum and tomato, carrot and raddish, olives and avocado, coriander and kale when mixed right with a dash of garlic and virgin olive oil will be a real treat. Each of the ingredients enhances the other significantly.



We humans are not very different. We feed best off each other. Conformity is a rabbit hole. The fault lines in our culture( and the education industrial complex still hanging onto the retrogressive  coat tails of the Industrial Age) might drive us towards being the same and to play it safe and to come across as complying and toeing the line. With that, you are headed into the already turbulent waters of the sea of sameness with no chance of you to stand out. It’s a Red Ocean with no lifeboats in sight.



Our difference, our heterogeneity is not an impediment or a problem to be fixed. It is a delight to learn from. Hiring managers or leaders would like to hire people like them. In relationships too, you are looking at whether she or he is an introvert or an extrovert like you. Sameness is toxic.



As a  tribe, heterogeneity can help us survive and prosper. Homogeneity keeps us vulnerable.



Civilization is a progress from an indefinite, incoherent homogeneity toward a definite, coherent heterogeneity.
— Herbert Spencer







Copycats: You Have Nerves of Steal !


Stealing other people’s ideas is now disguised as creativity ! I, me, EMMY to that!



Imitation might be considered as the best form of flattery. But, when ideas get stolen, used, monetised without attribution, acknowledgment, respect and royalty, it has to be considered daylight robbery. Worse, when the ‘ dubious claiming to be owners ‘(I have no compunction in calling them thieves) of the idea begin to flaunt it cockily all over social media, neither does it make for pleasant viewing or an easily digestable experience. If any of you have traveled in the same boat, it is time to rock it together. Let us not remain just chat bo(a)ts.



I am (almost) certain that iconic businesses are not made this way. Nor are iconic entrepreneurs or executives. Cons don’t become icons. They might savor the interim thrill of the non existing chase (because they got it on a platter from someone or somewhere else) of the new shiny object and bask in the after glow. One shallow does not make a summer. Or does it?



This malaise is not restricted to the non playing captains of zilch honor and high disrepute. It is systemic and has transcended like beg bugs and termites into the sanctum sanctorums of decision making in organisations and countries. Probably the culture (sleight of) handbook there is captioned ‘ With Nothing But Malaise Towards One and All ‘. With the preamble reading something like this ‘ Since we are totally incapable of doing anything original and worthwhile, the solemn promise we make to ourselves is to NOT do anything that remotely involves sincerity, authenticity, bonafide intent and commitment. That said, we reassure all our stakeholders that we will do everything in our might to steal, connive, manipulate, fraud , short change other people and organisations so that we can move around with our fed held high and head held low. In dignity, we mistrust ‘.



You and me might have heard of cheat days but there is a small community of people ( con artists) and organisations that have taken this art form and scaled it exponentially- they have redefined it as cheat weeks, cheat months, cheat years and have the despicable intent to make this into an established perennial money and reputation looting assembly line.



Still waters run deep. Steal waters remain shallow. How about this as a tagline:



To all the con artists on STEALettos:


I con, therefore I can ‘-option 1


The art of the cheat ‘-option 2



Welcome your thoughts please.
















Fast and Curious!


Curiosity skilled the cat!


Albert Einstein quoted that a mind that opens to a new idea never returns to its original size.
All research, come to think of it, is ‘ formalised curiosity
Doubt and inquiry are the two pillars of progress.

Curiosity is that strange human trait that got us out of the cave, across the globe, and onto the moon..a trait that has led to communication and collaboration


Whyhas the X factor! So don’t be shy to start with WHY !

It would be great if you develop an affinity towards moving fast and consistently asking ” What’s the real goal here and is there a better way to accomplish it? “- both will get us accomplishing far more in life.
Time runs independently of us, and we cannot comprehend the flow of time. Time doesn’t pause for us our creating mood or moving forward mindset. It doesn’t stand on ceremonies but it simply moves on. We can use time wisely but if we are without a compass or a goal, you might find time using you, rather than the other way.
We live in a world of instant gratification, the world of the quick fix. That said, the way to look at moving with speed is to treat the ‘present as a present ‘, a gift. So maximise the now. By showing up and shipping out.
The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.
Hanging onto the coat tails of curiosity and speed of action is a great place to start the journey from. If the intent is to go farther and better. Seize the day and then let go as Marty Rubin put it.

Life doesn’t come with an ‘ Instruction Manual ‘


Nor does the human brain. Or kids. Or how to deal with success. Or cope with failure. Nothing off the shelf here. You will not find an instruction manual on ‘How To Cope With A Debilitating Worldwide Pandemic ” on any book store shelf or on Amazon.


Any system with all the leverage at its command, cannot lead itself. So, no point in being a silent follower.


Yes, there are things that come with instruction manuals. For eg., a screenplay is really an instruction manual, and it can be interpreted in any number of ways. The casting, the choice of location, the costumes and make-up, the actors’ reading of a line or emphasis of a word, the choice of lens and the pace of the cutting, the background score, the advertising and promotion – these are all part of the translation.


That being said, the paradox is baffling. The machines and gadgets that have made our lives so much brighter, quicker, longer and healthier is that they cannot teach us how to make the best use of them; the information revolution came without an instruction manual .


So, what are we getting at here? Certainly not jumping out of a plane and then trying to assemble the parachute(if you have one) on the way down.


A worldwide calamity is not marginalising anyone or focusing more on someone. It’s even stevens for all stakeholders. How we respond and react is completely up to us, all of us, any of us, without any distinction. We can see that crisis as a possibility to take responsibility, to lead, be proactive, be generous, to help, to heal, to understand and look ahead towards a better tomorrow.

Why should it be the remit of only the frontline workers or doctors or nurses to be in the firing line? Some of us are better than the one of us.  And all of us are certainly much much much better than the some of us.


The Power of Now as Eckhart Tolle puts it is a great catalyst. Whether it is the climate war that all of us have to wage starting the day before yesterday or a looming food security crisis that we need to anticipate and prepare to blunt, it has to be all hands on deck. There are no instruction manuals on taking responsibility, being proactive, offering generosity and creating a culture of doing good.


In a ‘ business as unusual ‘ zeitgeist, pretending that it is business as usual will be a selfish pursuit. When situations like the one we talked about above are evenly distributed without any discrimination, collective survival and flourishing weighs far above the tyranny of individual profit.


It is a wonderful opportunity for all us. To lead, to care, to make the change.


Life is an equal opportunity employer. Time to take charge.