Turning Back or Moving Forward?


The corner office can be an intimidating place. Especially if you are not the occupant. That said, if things have to move, you have to move.


You can gather courage and confidence and walk towards your CEOs office to discuss the idea in your head that you have been carrying around for weeks or you can walk away and become inconspicuous in your little cubicle hoping that she will not notice you.


An agitated customer is trying to track you down and you see the opportunity to go towards him and do your best to resolve the problem he is facing. Or you can walk away from it, ignore the multiple voice note messages and hope that the problem will wither away.


You can be fully enrolled in class, be up, front and centre, raise your hand and express yourself(get some airtime as they say) or you can move away to the back of the class and hope that the professor doesn’t pay attention.


This movement is about movement. You can move toward what you seek, what you want to change, what you want to create, what you want to impact. Alternately, you can move away from all of it and wish impasse wins the day.


It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform. We are here to learn about fear, not how to escape from it. Running away will never make you free.


So where are you headed? Towards or Away?


New thinking accompanies new possibilities! Ready?



Brand Leadership: An Easy Act To Follow!


If I am sounding audacious, it is because I want to. Sorry, if I am not apologetic about it.


Branding and Leadership are Siamese twins. The Brand Promise is a vibrant, living, changing saga called…Things We Care About. It requires Passion(ideally in all caps!)- the variety that only Inspired Leaders can project.


Franklin Roosevelt, America’s Brand Manager of Dignity and Freedom during the Great Depression( remember ” The Only Thing We Have To Fear is Fear Itself “) and World War II( “December 7, a date which will live forever in infamy”), said, ” it is necessary for the President to be the nation’s number one actor. “


That said, in fact all of leadership is an Act. It is an act called conveying the Brand Promise via demonstrated High Conviction in pursuit of Great Purpose.


That Great Purpose can be Democracy, Peace and Prosperity or it can come in various hues- be it the provision of the finest Indian cuisine in Dubai, the coolest business processes in the mortgage-banking industry in the US, or the Best-Ever Employee Independence Day picnic at your local organisation.


In any event, to carry it off, leaders of all descriptions must live and look the part. Some years ago, John Peers who was CEO of Technology Inc had said ” You can’t lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse “. In fact, Roosevelt, no horseman as a result of his polio incapacitation, was careful never to be seen as incapacitated, what people saw about him was a consistent air of tenacity and confidence( like Churchill’s cigar, Roosevelt’s cigarette holder was an Oscar quality prop) during a time of mortal trial.


However, the Oscar goes to a certain Mohandas Gandhi(Father Of The Nation as he is remembered in India) who dressed brilliantly for the part of non-violent nation builder and chose his prop, the humble spinning wheel, with care. Mr G: ” You Must Be The Change That You Want To See In The World “.


Brand Leadership: A Great Story To Tell. Harvard Leadership Guru Howard Gardener writes in his fascinating book Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership “Stories have identity. They are narratives that help individuals think about and feel who they are, where they come from, and where they are headed. They constitute the single most powerful in the leader’s arsenal.”

Great Leadership is Great Storytelling. Stories create the emotional context people need to locate themselves in a larger experience. Great enterprise leaders take on the ‘role'(read: the brand) of their company or product. Thus:

Steve Jobs is Apple, Bill Gates is Microsoft, Larry Ellison is Oracle, Andy Grove..is Intel, Sam Walton is(was)..Walmart, Richard Branson is Virgin Group, Anita Roddick is Body Shop, Giorgio Armani is Armani, Charles Schwab is …Charles Schwab, Oprah is..Oprah.


Real competition no longer revolves around market share. We are competing for attention…mind share, heart share, gut share.



Once V Ever


Experience takes dreadfully high school-wages, but he teaches like no other- Thomas Carlyle


Recently I was in India for a surgery. With no skill, competence or experience in that area or any form of medicine, I was totally at sea and succumbed completely to the experience(and of course competence) of the specialist at the hospital. Not that I could have done anything else.


There are many such situations in life wherein the imbalance or asymmetry in the experience is  stark. And the person on the other side is aware of it. That you are going to do it only once. You are going to book a caterer for your wedding only once(hopefully!!). As a student, you are going to apply to university only once. Pick up funds for your start up from an angel investor only once. Go snorkelling in the Andamans with an expert once.


In all of these situations, the individuals or organisations that you are dealing with are fully aware that you will soon be gone while they would still be around. Subliminal power dynamics.


In such David V Golitath situations where the asymmetry is yawning, it is better to get a local guide who knows as much as the other expert but, is on your side, as your ally, your support, your navigator.


Little wonder it is said that students come and go while deans last for generations.


That said, being at ease with not knowing is crucial for answers to come to you.






Is ‘Big Social’ facing a mid-life crisis?


2024 marks the Silver Jubilee anniversary of Alan Donald getting run out in the 1999 World Cup Cricket semi-final against Australia and South Africa going out of the World Cup. And it is said that South Africa has never recovered from the ‘chokers ‘ tag after that in big ticket ICC tournaments.


For those who would like to see that disheartening or exuberant moment(depending on which side of the fence you are) unfold, here is the link to the video https://www.facebook.com/cricketworldcup/videos/401458807129583/


That moment in time was a well-documented cluster bomb in culture, exploding across traditional media. Imagine social and memes were available at scale back then as they are now.


Fast-forward to today. Culture is less top-down. Social has enabled a more bottom-up, bubble-up, decentralized way for culture to emerge. And the energy, velocity and amplification power of social is reshaping our world, enabling subcultures and shifting power to consumers and communities.


In a few days from now, Facebook will turn 20( launched on Feb 4, 2004). And introspect on what was and what is. Upending is an understatement. And it is an incredible time to be alive. Two of the world’s biggest democracies( India & the USA) will have an election year. Two wars that should have never started in the first place show no signs of ending. Is it time to go all guns blazing?


The need for brands to embed cultural integration has never been greater. To win attention and connect in this new environment, brands need to understand nuances and show empathy like never before. Because, this is a new context where there is not one easy-to-understand mainstream popular culture.


As people crave for new individuality, as the chorus gets more hoarse on climate crisis and the deafening silence amidst geo-political conflicts continues unabated, all of this while platforms struggle with attention scarcity, differentiation needs, AI disruption and advertising under pressure. But hey, it’s the new normal. Big social is having sort of a midlife crisis.


If we look into the future, through the lens of culture, nothing is more certain in the times to come than, uncertainty.


It is indeed time for a culture reset.


The slip between ” what you hope to hear and what you need to hear “


It is tempting. And not unnatural to be doing so. In our privileged roles as parents, mentors, coaches, counsellors, captains etc, we have the opportunity to be courageous, generous, mindful and progressive. The person at the other end values you for what you can bring to the equation that takes her forward on the journey to better. And if you are expecting that you get to hear what you hope to hear as against what you need to hear, you are on the wrong train.


Your lawyer has to tell you where you are headed with your case based on ground reality and not driven by simply appeasing you. Your chartered accountant may tell you that your books of accounts are in shambles and they need to be fixed on the double. What you need to hear from your counsellor at high school is the right University to apply to based on your aptitude, goals, test scores and past performance and not build castles in the air. Imagine your doctor sugar coating his diagnosis in an effort to keep you away from anxiety and the real need of the hour.


The givers of this ” what you need to hear ” are playing their part responsibly. And in a lot of cases, it goes unappreciated. But, for them, the quest is for meaningful connection, to care enough and to make things better.


When you offer the ” what she needs to hear ” drill, you are potentially passing the baton and the accompanying energy to another person or cause bringing about a knock-on effect.


So, what are you saying that needs to be heard?




Learning from the ” wave “- harnessing your ecosystem


There can be no better example of spontaneous collective action than what we see as a ” wave ” in sports stadiums around the world. It began to be called by commentators as  ‘ the Mexican Wave ‘ after they saw it during the Soccer World Cup in Mexico in 1986. Though, in reality the wave became a wave and originated in the state of Washington in the United States of America.


It is a curious social trend and for those unfamiliar with the concept- it entails one person( lets define this person as a ‘ provocateur ‘)- or at best a small group of people – standing up spontaneously in the middle of a huge audience, throwing their hands in the air and yodel-shouting some sort of noise. If it goes well, their neighbours catch on and do the same with a knock-on effect to other neighbours down the line until the controller of the jumbotron( commonly understood as a very large video display screen of a type used in venues such as sports stadiums) sees what’s happening  and trains the camera on the activity. At this point, the movement can take on a life of its own, gradually enveloping the entire stadium audience in a style until it collapses under its own weight.


That’s when it goes well. When it goes badly, the aspiring provocateur is left standing with arms in the air as he turns beet red and whimpers out a few feeble ” who’s with me’s ” before sitting down in shame to drown his sorrows. 


It comes as a relief that to activate social movements or spur economic growth, it rarely requires exposing yourself to the boos and laughs of tens of thousands of spectators. Thankfully!

The provocation activated requires us to work with and through an ecosystem to get things done. While the provocateur might see it as a very straightforward path to a desired outcome, they have very little ability to directly influence – except at the very outset- whether it is achieved. The intent is to create a knock-on effect that, once set in motion, you just have to hope that it is seen all the way through. That said, it begins with showing up and shipping out!


Are you making waves? Are you activating your ecosystem?


Before I conclude, I would urge you to read these books(if you have not already) to understand more about ecosystems, network effect and ubiquity:

The Interaction Field by Erich Joachimsthaler and The Platform Paradox by Mauro F Guillen








What are you waiting for? Jump right in


There is a preamble and a constitution. That is the linear sequence. Every sovereign nation has it and that which is considered the highest law of the land. The preamble sets the stage for the constitution . It clearly communicates the intentions of the framers and the purpose of the document. The preamble is an introduction to the highest law of the land; it is not the law.


So, what am i getting at? Yours truly is guilty of beginning emails or any communication with courtesy lines like asking ” hope all well ” and a ” good morning ” wish. Before I get to the core of my agenda, I am looking at building a base. I realised that cutting to the chase is a better option.


You are making a presentation and begin with reading the room, exchanging pleasantries, clearing your throat, trying to get people’s attention and all of that. Time and attention starved people are not wanting any of that. They are there to hear or see your best part. So, get to the meat of the matter. Let the rubber hit the road.


In a day and age where everyone knows about everyone(atleast in the digital realm), your link or story or note or preamble has reached your potential audience well before you have. So, standing on ceremonies is passe. Wield your microphone and let it all out, and delight the daylights out of your audience.

Swimming is best learned and done at the deep end. The shallow end where your feet is already touching the floor offers you only a false sense of bravado.


Don’t let preparation be a place to hide. Make the things you want to make. Do the things that you want to do. You don’t need to feel ‘ready’- you will figure it along the way.



What are you buying?


This rant is not about conspicuous consumption and the increasing stuffocation that we add to our already overwhelmed lives. That said, it is fair to co relate buying with adding more.


When you go to a hardware store to get a hammer and a set of nails, what you are buying is far bigger than the tools. You are buying the feeling of admiring that portrait painting once it is hung on your living room wall. And that too again and again.


The book that you buy will yes of course find space in your book shelf or home library. That is stating the obvious. Then, what you are buying is the quest for broadening your knowledge, the thirst for understanding another person’s perspective and the possibility of acting on some of those pearls of wisdom.


It might seem trivial or superfluous. But, when you are making an investment in a pair of weights, a squat rack, a bench and a pair of running shoes, you are actually buying piece of mind, not just gym equipment. Because potentially, you are buying into a better lifestyle and a healthy body.


“Dreams shouldn’t be about what you can buy–they should be about what mark you leave in the world.” Claire Cross.


When you wear a new lens and begin to re-imagine, in a lot of cases, you are offered perspectives that are better, richer and game changing. Watch video here..


The sum is greater than the parts…



“Winitiative ” is a limitless resource


Do pardon the messy spelling in the caption. Yes, you guessed right- I am talking about initiative, a place from where progress, possibilities, connections and inventions take off. If you want to win the race you are running, initiative is a great starting point.


Being limitless is being talked about regularly in all self-help ecosystems. The realisation of potential(obvious or hidden) stems from taking the initiative. There is no capex involved in this. Nor is initiative a scarce resource that you have to worry about it running out. And it ticks the box on ‘ sustainability ‘ too as it is a self-renewing resource, albeit hugely under tapped.


So, it might be things as basic as making your bed, ironing your clothes, calling someone(instead of waiting), learning a new language, putting your hand up to volunteer for a good cause or something more significant like starting to write the book that you have been procrastinating on for years, put in the hard yards to bring your business idea into the real world, the engine chugs off from a station called initiative. Things begin to gather steam(pardon the pun).

Naysayers will have plenty to say. After all there is no unemployment in this world where most seem fully employed in an ‘easy to pursue profession called judging‘. That should not stop me or you from showing up and shipping out. Standing up for those whom you seek to serve.


Buffet or a la carte. There is plenty going around for everyone. Keep withdrawing from your bank of initiative. Soon, you will have some of them becoming winitiatives.



Who Will Bridge The Chasm? Who Takes The Hit?


Crossing the Chasm (1991, revised 1999 and 2014), is a marketing book by Geoffrey A. Moore that examines the market dynamics faced by innovative new products, with a particular focus on the “chasm” or adoption gap that lies between early and mainstream markets.


Crossing the Chasm is an adaptation of an innovation-adoption model called diffusion of innovations theory created by Everett Rogers, The author argues there is a chasm between the early adopters of the product (the technology enthusiasts and visionaries) and the early majority (the pragmatists). Moore believes visionaries and pragmatists have very different expectations, and he attempts to explore those differences and suggest techniques to successfully cross the “chasm,” including choosing a target market, understanding the whole product concept, positioning the product, building a marketing strategy, choosing the most appropriate distribution channel and pricing.


That said, this post is about something slightly different. It is about those multitudes who are taking moonshots to give the rest of the world better food, cleaner mobility, rugged technology and a greener planet. The passion and fervour they bring to the equation is admirable. May their tribe grow.


All of them are punting on the fact that they will first acquire a minimum viable audience, who in turn will bring in some more and so on and on. The expectation is that a vast majority of us would make the switch to green and clean. The real world plays out something very different. Critical mass is a distant reality and the new|early adopters are expected to take the load of pricing inefficiencies simply because of the demand and supply play out.


When sometime back car rental brand Hertz made a bet by investing in green with their having a large inventory of Tesla cars, it was thought to be game changing. Something that should inspire a lot more organisations to walk the talk on purpose, people, planet. Well, the collaboration did not go as envisaged. Hertz a few days back announced they were liquidating more than 20% of their Tesla fleet because of insufficient demand(because of higher pricing).


The unfair equation here is that we expect the new users|early adopters to bear the brunt of the higher pricing( even though all of us benefit) till such time the market attains enough threshold levels to sustain the product or service on offer. Unless you have sufficient staying power this bottoms out to the detriment of the provider.

Just like hope, the future is a ‘ collective responsibility ‘. The quest for a greener planet, better mobility, effective healthcare, organic food, quality education and all of that is justified when we play a greater, deeper role in the adoption and consumption.


For bridging the gap between now and later is to move the needle from ‘I’ to ‘We’.