Tips from the Lunch Box movie for a Healthy relationship

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Lunch Box Movie                                             Last weekend, I was trying to find some movie DVDs to watch at my home and one of my friends suggested me the Hindi movie – “Lunchbox”. I generally pick my movies after carefully reading the reviews on the internet and while checking on this, I was surprised with the overwhelmingly positive reviews and also learned that it represented India in many International film events such as The Oscars, BAFTA, Cannes and Toronto Festival. Without any hesitation, I bought the DVD and what to say, it became one of the best movies I had watched in a long time.

                         “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach

                                            The movie starts off with this note and if you are already thinking (just like me) that this is another story of a married woman trying to woo her husband through her culinary skills, you are in for a surprise as you start realizing the slight twist to the storyline once it starts unfolding. The movie is about an unhappy housewife, Ila, trying to get her husband’s love by cooking tasty food. She cooks with the utmost care but it gets delivered to a wrong person, Saajan (played brilliantly by Irfaan Khan) by the Mumbai Dabbawallahs. This chance encounter results in both Ila and Saajan sharing their hopes, dreams, experiences about life and their daily activities through letters in the lunch box. The rest of the movie flows like a poem and poignantly portrays as to how this delivery mistake changes the life of Ila and Saajan forever. The movie leaves you with long lasting impressions about personal life and also offers plenty of takeaways on a professional level as well, especially for managers who would like to establish a better relationship with their employees. I have mentioned a few of them below:

Talk, Talk, Talk
The biggest learning from the movie has to be the importance of communication, be it between husband-wife or managers-employees as a failure here could have far-reaching consequences ultimately leading to break in the relationship. Right from the start, Ila’s husband (Rajiv) refrains from talking to Ila and even though Ila tries to be positive about this, at one point in time, she couldn’t just take this forward. So, she decides to leave her husband once for all. Rajiv could have averted this if in case he had found time to communicate with Ila. This is the same with managers who are always so busy that they don’t even find time to be with their employees and forget one of their core objectives – managing their employees. This is one of the major reasons why employees don’t trust their managers and ultimately decide to leave them. So managers need to ensure that they take some time to communicate with their employees on a regular basis.

Care about your Feedbacks
As like communication, the managers also have to be frequent in giving genuine feedbacks to employees about their performance. While Ila asks about the food to Rajiv, he just gives a one-word answer – Good, which doesn’t really motivate Ila even though he didn’t say anything negative. If he had explained a little about the food like “the chapatti was soft to eat and the spices in the sabzi had blended well and complemented the chapatti really well”, it would have inspired Ila to cook with interest even though it’s her daily boring routine. So, managers should understand that there are employees like Ila who do their daily work with passion and would require some motivation to carry on their good work in the future. So next time when your employee asks for feedback, stop giving one-word answers and be descriptive so that employees get a real picture of the work they do.

Get into details

Another problem with today’s managers is they give generic comments during project-related discussion with the employees that nobody understands what he/she means, resulting in loss of time and effort for both. While Ila asks about the lunch, Rajiv just talks about the food but if he had gone into details of the food like the roti and sabzi, the problem of wrong lunch box being delivered would have been found and stopped at the first instant itself.

Choose a medium to connect with your employees
In the movie, food acts as the connecting link between Ila and Saajan and its aroma and taste is used by Ila to express her feelings to Saajan – be it her anger through the spicy vegetables or the aubergine fry to express her love. Also, they use letters which are short and crisp for communicating with each other. Similarly, managers need to choose their own medium to communicate with their employees. Some of the examples could be using personalized gifts, letters of appreciation or sending colorful emails to communicate with the employees.

Take Genuine Interest with your employees
Both Ila and Saajan don’t know each other (not even their age) but still they enjoy each other’s company, be it Ila cooking good food for Saajan or Sajaan writing letters to thank for her food and in return giving Ila worldly advice to deal with her fears and problems in life. Even though as managers we are supposed to be professional, but connecting at times on a personal level would do a world of good for the relationship. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey explains about a simple yet powerful concept known as “Relationship Bank Account”- that involves random but regular acts of kindness towards a person leading to a healthier relationship. So, small gestures like wishing a good day, saying hello/ thanks/ sorry, checking when someone is not well, keeping your promises become your deposits in the relationship bank account with your employees that increase the emotional bonding leading to greater productivity.

Relationship Bank Account

Don’t cheat and be Open
Rajiv doesn’t have any love for Ila and has an illegal relationship with another girl. He thinks that Ila wouldn’t find this as she mostly stays at home. She somehow gets to know this through the lipstick stains on Rajiv’s shirt. Some managers are like Rajiv who feel bad about working with an employee but don’t have the guts to address it with them. Instead of talking at the back of your employees’ about his/ her performance, have an open chat with them and be frank about your expectations and reality. If it still doesn’t work, it’s better for both the parties to part ways happily rather raging a cold war within the office premises.

Next time, when you open your lunch box, remember these lessons and don’t forget to thank your wife/ mom who prepares the lunch with not just the vegetables/spices but with lots of love as well. So, what you’re waiting for, grab a lunch box, am sorry, a tub of popcorn and enjoy this movie.

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Live and Let Live – New Learning From An Animation Movie

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Me and Venbha

Me with My daughter @ Marina Beach

I recently happened to visit the Marina beach with my one and half years old daughter and was in a dilemma as to whether to make her stand in the beach water. I was so protective that I almost stood frozen mentally near the beach for 10 minutes battling in my mind to make this decision. Finally, I decided to let go of my fear and made her stand in the beach water. Initially, she was afraid to go near the water but gradually started to enjoy and finally, when we decided to leave after nearly playing for 2 hours, she started crying and didn’t want to leave the beach. I understood that she enjoyed playing on the beach and felt good about myself for making the right choice.

A crucial aspect that helped me in making this decision is the popular animation movie – Finding Nemo. Anyone who has watched the movie could easily relate to what I said but for the others, here’s a short version of the movie to clear things. The movie is based on the relationship between a meek fish named Marlin and his son – Nemo. Marlin is very protective about Nemo due to a smaller fin that limits his swimming ability and thereby restrains him from going into the deep sea. Often humiliated by friends, he decides to show his mettle by venturing into the deep sea alone but, in turn, gets abducted by a group of travelers and taken to Sydney. Marlin sets on an adventure through the deepest parts of the ocean (beautifully filmed, especially loved the scenes involving the Eastern Australian current – kind of an underwater superhighway used by fish and sea turtles to travel down the east coast of Australia) to find his lost son. During this quest, Marlin discovers himself and starts to nurture a healthy relationship with his son after successfully rescuing him amidst great ordeal.

This experience changed my attitude towards my daughter as like Nemo’s father in the movie. Earlier, I was afraid of letting my daughter play on the rooftop or walk on the streets (she liked it very much) and mostly carried her on my shoulders, but now I let her go play on the street/ rooftop and ensure that I keep a watch on her.Live and let live_Mahatma

Similarly, a close friend of mine had to make a risky choice in his professional career. He requested advice from his manager about the decision and instead of guiding him; the manager (like Nemo’s father) instilled fear in his mind and told him not to take risks. On the contrary, my friend made the hard choice and despite initial struggles, was able to grow in his career after the change. This is a common scenario in the corporate world, wherein the so-called experienced old-fashioned managers misguide their employees and stop them from taking the necessary risks. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen covey, one of the best-selling business books, elucidates the need for each of us to move out of our comfort zone often and take up tasks that would fall in our courage zone.

3rd Habit_Stephen Covey

The 3rd Habit from the book – “The 7 Habits of Highly effective People

Also, just like the deep unexplored abyss in the film, every organization has its own secret information vault that is mostly unavailable to the employees but rests only with the top management. This information gap is called as informational asymmetry by the economists. It’s not that all business related information had to be shared with the employees but the corporate world would be a far better place if the right information is shared to the right people (employees), at the right time, for the right purpose and also in the right way. This would help the employees to get a big picture of the organization’s current performance and future plans that could result in them being more contributive towards the organization’s goals. Frontline and mid-level managers shouldn’t just instill fear in their employee’s mind by hiding key organizational information as like Nemo’s father but should  guide their Nemos’ through the unexplored abyss of the corporate world using the very same hidden information and their rich experience.

If you’re playing the role of Nemo’s father right now either in your personal or professional life, then it’s time to let go of your fear and undergo a metamorphosis as shown in the movie.  Do watch the “Finding Nemo” movie for more courage and inspiration. I bet you wouldn’t regret making this change.

Back To The Future

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Blog Picture Final

I was watching the animation movie, Wall-E few days back and it seriously made me think about the life mankind would have in the future in case the current abuse of nature and earth goes on. For people who think that such a situation for earth and mankind is remote, think again. The recent floods in Chennai and Tamil Nadu should be a wake-up call for each of us to tread a new path and shun our existing ways of destroying nature.

The title that came to my mind when I thought about this topic is the time-old classic movie – Back to the Future that fascinated us with the concept of time travel. I realized that time travel is the need of the hour in case we need to save the earth from further destruction but a different version of traveling back in time, called Precycling. With the public voice getting louder in support of the 3 R’s – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle for saving nature, the one that could be more effective compared to 3 R’s is Precycle.

So what is Precycling? According to Wikipedia, “Precycling is the practice of reducing waste by attempting to avoid bringing items which will generate waste into home or business”. To better understand the concept of Precycling, I would like to take you back (20 years before) in time. I still remember taking a wired basket containing empty bottle, empty egg tray while going to a grocery shop and the shop keeper would fill in the empty bottle with oil, egg tray with eggs and pack pulses/cereals/masala items in a paper. I would also carry a separate bowl and gunny bag to get milk from my milk vendor and rice from ration shops. Except paper (which is bio-degradable), nothing else is wasted as I could reuse it again until they get damaged. Today, when I go to a supermarket, I get everything in a packed form that I end up bringing a lot of waste in the form of plastic bags, bottles, covers, and pouches. Even though I sell it to a recycler and the materials are recycled, still a portion of non-recyclables end in the dust bins, finally making its way to the landfills. So precycling eliminates the need for a particular product (like plastic covers/ bottles in the above example) so that you don’t need the 3 R’s – reduced usage/ reuse/ recycle of the product.

After some serious thinking, I decided to bring back this old habit to mine to life. During my recent visit to the supermarket, I found that there were options to buy pulses/cereals/rice in unpackaged form (colloquially known as loose) and so carried my own bags to buy these separately. I know this is not possible with all the products that you buy from the shops, but a simple change with the easier products could help us to find a solution for the difficult ones in the future.

As I was thinking about Precycling, I came across a website which promotes a similar concept known as Refilling. Again traveling back in time, the word refill brought back memories of drinking Goli soda in refillable glass bottles. I know that we still get soft drinks and soda in refill bottles, but their usage is coming down, thanks to the popularity of PET bottles. Even though the concept of refilling raises questions about hygiene and cleanliness, a lot of startups and big corporations in India have taken a liking to solve this problem. While traveling to my office, I noticed coke refill machines installed in front of various places such as supermarkets and petrol bunks, but the sad part is that not many seem to use it. I got to know about a company called Amruth Dhara, based in Pondicherry, which is working on installing water refill machines in public places to tackle the problem of bottled water pollution. It is important that the public support such initiatives so that this concept soon catches on.

Another product that I found interesting and innovative is the Mitti cool fridge which is made of clay and used to store fruits, vegetables, and water. Do you remember that before electric fridges became popular, people used to store water and edible items in earthen pots to keep them fresh and chill? Well, the Mitti cool fridge works on the same principle and has found many takers for it. I still see people in villages and few in cities use earthen pots for storage and cooking purposes, but their growth seems to be on a downward trend. I haven’t seen/ used the Mitti cool fridge yet but would like to try it in the near future.

I know a change like this (going back to our old ways of living) might not be easy but the best thing is to experience it firsthand and later share your experience with your friends and family so that such concepts like Precycle, Refill catches up with people and gets imbibed into their everyday life. In case you are wondering whether a change like this could help in combating climate change, think again, because I have read somewhere that “small things make a BIG difference”. Pray to god this happens.

The Nobel Prize Decoded

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Nobel_medal

“Nobel medal” by Design of the medal: The Nobel Foundation. Sculptor and engraver: Erik Lindberg (1902). – Source of this work. Photographer: David Monniaux (2005, 2006, 2007)Edited by: hidro 21:17, 28 July 2008 (UTC)Design of the medal: The Nobel Foundation. Sculptor and engraver: Erik Lindberg (1902). Licensed under PD-US via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nobel_medal.png#/media/File:Nobel_medal.png

I am a big fan of the Pawn Stars show aired on History TV channel and happened to witness an interesting (or rather shocking) question that was asked during one of their shows – Pawnography. The question under scanner is – Who amongst these famous personalities were NOT nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize:

  1. Oskar Schindler
  2. Benito Mussolini
  3. Adolf Hitler
  4. Yassar Arafat

In case you are a history buff who knows about these 4 personalities, then chances are that you will end up making a wrong guess to the above question. Barring Oskar Schindler (well-known industrialist during World War II who is credited with saving 1200 Jews from the Nazi Holocaust and became popular via the oscar winning movie – Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg), the other personalities’ history don’t stand in good taste to be considered for a Nobel prize. While Hitler and Mussolini are well known for causing huge damage to human life during World War II, Arafat is considered a hero by the Palestinians but a terrorist by the Israelis. Ironically, the answer to the question is Oskar Schindler (I could understand your disbelief). But hold on, the surprise doesn’t end with this.

The biggest surprise is that the most likely deserving person for the Nobel Prize – Mahatma Gandhi never received the prize. Even though he was nominated five times for the award, he failed to bag the award even once. This strong advocator of Non-violence came close to winning the award in 1948 but was assassinated just two days before the nomination due date. Since the prize could be awarded only to a living person, the Mahatma’s nomination couldn’t be accepted. The Nobel committee even decided to go against the rules and confer the award to Gandhi but later decided to withhold the award and instead declared that there was no deserving living candidate for the award during that year. Joining the Mahatma on this list of Non-Nobel Laureates are some of the well-known personalities on the planet such as Leo Tolstoy, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, Mark Twain, Neville Chamberlain, Clement Attlee, Ramsay MacDonald, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Charles Hughes, Jawaharlal Nehru, Henrik Ibsen and Thomas Edison.

The story behind the nomination of the least likely candidate for the award – Hitler is an interesting one indeed. A member of the Swedish parliament, E.G.C. Brandt nominated Adolf Hitler in 1939 with satirical intentions (to mock Hitler’s discrimination towards Jews) but had to withdraw the nomination after protests from other parliament members in Sweden.

As I began scouring over the internet to find more information on the most valuable award on Earth, I stumbled upon these interesting historical facts:

  • An interesting statute about the award is that a candidate who dies after the nomination closing date still gets to receive the award. This has happened only thrice in Nobel Prize’s history, the latest being Ralph Steinman, who was awarded the prize three days before his death in 2012.
  • The wife of Robert Lucas, winner of 1995 Nobel Prize in Economics, had the forecasting brain of Nostradamus that she had introduced a clause in their divorce settlement 7 years ago by which she was entitled to receive 50 percent of her husband’s Nobel Prize. So the economist had to share his $1 million prize with his wife as per the settlement. Interestingly, the divorce clause expired on October 31, 1995 and so if he had won the award a year later, his wife would have received nothing. Well, someone rightly said – “wherever women are concerned, the unexpected always happens”. Seems to be right in this case.
  • One of the terms of the award is that it cannot be given to more than 3 persons for a single field, irrespective of what the situation may be. The Nobel Prize has been given to 2 or 3 persons in a single field several times, whenever the selection committee found that the nominated works were equally meritorious.
  • All the Nobel prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, except the Peace prize which is awarded on the same date and time in Norway. Until now, it remains a mystery as to why Alfred Nobel chose Norway to award the Peace prize.
  • There were few instances wherein inventions that were awarded the Nobel Prize were later found to be wrong/ untrue. Johannes Fibiger in 1926 was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology/medicine for his hypothesis about parasites causing cancer which was found later to be incorrect. A year later, Julius Wagner Von Jauregg won the Nobel Prize in medicine for his work on the discovery of a cure for Syphilis by injecting fever causing malaria. Antonio Moniz was awarded the Nobel prize in 1949 for Medicine for developing prefrontal lobotomy as a treatment for schizophrenia which was discontinued in the 1960s.
  • Every year, Thomson Reuters, the largest information service provider company, publishes a list of candidates who are likely to win the Nobel Prize in their respective field based on the citation impact of their published research. Until now, the company has correctly predicted 37 Nobel prize winners since 2002.
  • The well-known Yoga guru, Baba Ramdev recently claimed that he should have been awarded the Nobel prize for his work on Yoga but was denied because he is black. As expected, the controversial yogi received lot of flak for his controversial comments.

Being a big fan of the Freakonomics book, I found this interesting podcast on “How to win a Nobel Prize: A New Freakonomics Radio Episode” in their blog. Do listen to this in case you would like to lay your hands on this coveted prize.

Even though this prestigious award’s history has been marred in controversy over the selection process and the past winners, we should accept the fact that the award has contributed enormously in improving the standard of research and development on the planet. As like the inscription found on the medal – Inventas Vitam juvat excoluisse per artes (translates as “And they who bettered life on earth by new found mastery”) and Pro pace et fraternitate gentium (translates as “for the peace and brotherhood of men“), this award has acknowledged some of the greatest inventions/ inventors which/who have made our life easy on Earth.

Real life lessons from Reel world – The Best Movies on Management (Part III)

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Continued From the Previous Post: Real life lessons from Reel world – The Best Movies on Management (Part II)

The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)the-pursuit-of-happyness

Generally movies show the protagonist getting rich in a short span of time through smart work but very few films showcase the suffering that someone goes through to become rich. This film portrays the real life struggle of Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith) to become a stock broker, while managing fatherhood and homelessness. Anyone who is facing an adverse situation in their life could take a lot of inspiration from this movie and attain success, if they are determined to push forward relentlessly, no matter what obstacles get in their way. I remember reading the importance of failures (as like this movie) in a book called “Before you quit your job”. The book encourages entrepreneurs to make failures and also reinforces the point – “the greater the fall/failure is, the higher one will rise/succeed”.

One of my favourite scene (emotional and moving) is the climax scene in which the directors announce that Will Smith has passed his internship and been given a real paid job.

Captain Phillips (2013)

Captain-Phillips-Movie-2013                                      It is based on a true story about Captain Richard Phillips (played by tom Hanks) and the hijacking of US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama cargo ship by Somali pirates in 2009. It teaches the importance of team unity, effective planning, preparing for the worst times and the role of a leader during the rough times. Tom hanks beautifully (as always) brings out the qualities of a successful leader: Cool & calm, Calculative, Communicative, Diplomatic and Strategic, particularly in times of greater crisis. In one scene, when Hanks is faced with the predicament of his crew members being attacked by pirates, he sacrifices himself in order to save them. There are a lot of scenes involving Hanks and the Pirates which neatly portrays the importance of negotiation skills. Even if you aren’t in the mood to learn the lessons that the film has to offer, still watch it for Tom Hanks performance and the brilliant acting by some first time actors (who play as pirates).

Chak De! India (2007)chak-de-india-poster                                    It is based on the very old classical movie theme – the underdogs, defying all odds to become the ultimate winners. A once successful hockey player (played by Shah Rukh Khan) of the Indian team is blamed and shamed by the people for his only mistake in a World cup final. He returns to the game as a coach after a span of 7 years to redeem his past. He transforms the struggling and not so well-known Indian women’s hockey team into a world cup winning side. Even though the team consists of some of the best players in the country, their performance have been more than disappointing. Then enters the coach, who unites these players and makes them play as a team, forgetting their regional differences. The movie sketches out a leadership model involving talent spotting, delegation, team & trust building, preparing the team both physically and emotionally with the right dosage of humour, encouragement and force. The climax scene wherein the coach gives a brief inspirational speech to the team ahead of the big final game is a classic.

A few other movies which treads on a similar line are Remember the Titans (2000) and Lagaan (2001).

Ratatouille (2007)

RatatouillePoster                       This might be a surprise addition to this list but it offers one of the powerful lessons in business – “It’s not about who you are, it’s about what you want to achieve and how you go about doing it”. The movie’s story line is an interesting one – A rat has the passion to become a chef (not the likeliest of choice for rats which are the most unwelcome guests in a human kitchen) and sets on to achieve its dream after finding that it has been living in Paris – the food capital of the world. In spite of several hurdles, the rat does finally become a chef and how it does it, forms the rest of the story. Managers who constantly feel bad about having misfits on their team could take a leaf out of the movie to find & develop their hidden talents and coach them to achieve greatness. They could also use the movie as a tool to show to such team members about the untapped potential waiting to be unleashed within each of them.

To end, this quote of Tim Burton rightly summarizes the importance of movies in our life as like the valuable management lessons it had taught me – “Certain things leave you in your life and certain things stay with you. And that’s why we’re all interested in movies those ones that make you feel, you still think about. Because it gave you such an emotional response, it’s actually part of your emotional make-up, in a way.”

THE END

Real life lessons from Reel world – The Best Movies on Management (Part II)

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Continued From the Previous Post – Real life lessons from Reel world – The Best Movies on Management (Part I)...

300 (2006)

300-movie-poster                              This might seem like an another bloody, gory action movie but is still filled with lots of teachings about Leadership, Team work, Facing challenges, building great teams and training. The main character’s (King Leonidas) portrayal in the movie aptly describes the characteristics of a great leader – calm and composed even when facing the huge Persian army; motivates, inspires and coaches the team to face the challenge with confidence and fearlessness; fights and dies for the goal along with the team. The Spartans shown in the movie show a lot of grit, fearlessness and never die attitude even during their dying moments, which has got to do a lot with the way they are trained and brought up in the Spartan world. This has a valuable lesson for managers looking to build great teams – the importance of investing time in training so that their teams could handle challenging projects with ease, just like this age-old adage teaches us “The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in war“. Another enjoyable aspect of the movie is that the way the 300 soldiers go about handling the challenge of battling the huge Persian army. They have great fun (example scene, a Spartan says that they are fighting under the shade when a flurry of Persian arrows almost blocks the sun rays, watch the movie for more examples) while battling with the Persians, explains the importance of having fun (without losing focus) while facing greater challenges.

 Rush (2013)

rush_ver9_xlgBeing an avid F1 racing fanatic, I couldn’t resist but enjoy the thrills and frills of racing captured beautifully through some picturesque and breathtaking visuals in this film. Based on a true story which involves the well-known rivalry between the Formula 1 drivers, James Hunt and Niki Lauda, in the 1970s, it teaches the art of risk management and managing competition.
Both the drivers were like the opposite poles in terms of their personalities – Lauda was an introvert, calculative & focused person whereas Hunt being sociable, instinctive and fun-loving. Even though both were fierce competitors on the field, they had mutual respect for each other off the field, which teaches us the value of respecting our colleagues and not to purely look at them as competitors always. Both drivers never employed negative tactics to bring down the other and raised their game to the next level to outwit each other by learning from the mistakes of each other- the key lesson being that there are no short cuts to success.
Lauda was disciplined and calculative in his approach when participating in the race whereas Hunt was quite an aggressive type and was willing to do anything to win the race. Even though aggressive Hunt was able to win the races and one world championship in the short-term but the well-balanced Lauda was able to better his competitor and win more races and three world championship during his racing career. Aggressiveness could get you success in the short-term but a disciplined and well-balanced approach leads you to long-term success.
There is a scene in the film which has beautifully captured the value of weighing the risks versus the rewards while doing a project or task. In the scene, Lauda is travelling on the outskirts of a town in a car along with a girl, when she asks him to drive fast like a race driver to which he responds – “There is no need to drive fast. It increases the percentage of risk. We are not in a hurry and I am not being paid. With zero incentive or reward, why should I drive fast?”
During the latter half of the film, Lauda meets with an accident and ends up in coma staring at death, but returns to racing after 6 weeks with a disfigured face and ends up winning two more world championships by wearing a special helmet designed to cushion his injured head. This is a great inspiration for people to overcome their disabilities to achieve success.

Jerry Maguire (1996)

Jerry_Maguire-247382754-large                                           The movie tries to break the general stereotype – business ethics is an oxymoron. A successful sports agent (Tom cruise) at the top of his career, loses his job and his prestigious clients for expressing his thoughts about the prevailing dishonesty in the sports management business. Dejected by the company’s treatment, he puts his philosophy to work with the only client (Cuba Gooding Jr.) who decides to stay with him and succeeds as well.

This movie teaches the importance of sticking to your values/mission in-spite of changing business conditions and building a business not just for the sake of earning money. It also sends a very powerful message for people who constantly complain about their work “You don’t like your job, just quit and do what you love” (Warning: Be prepared for rough weather ahead). Leaders/Managers who want to prepare a clear mission statement, watch out for this detailed and razor-sharp vision proposed by Tom cruise to his client: “I will not rest until I have you holding a Coke, wearing your own shoe, playing a Sega game featuring you, while singing your own song in a new commercial, starring you, broadcast during the Super Bowl, in a game that you are winning, and I will not sleep until that happens.”

P.S.: If you’re watching this movie for the first time, don’t miss the scene in which Tom cruise shouts this famous dialogue “show me the money” (well how many times, count it for yourself).

To be continued in the next post

Real life lessons from Reel world – The Best Movies on Management (Part I)

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top 10 movies                                                        Recently, while travelling in a bus, I couldn’t avoid but overhear a conversation between two people on how movies have transformed their lives. As I pondered over the conversation during my travel, I began to start scribbling on a piece of paper, the list of best movies I had watched so far and the valuable management lessons it had taught me. I have read somewhere that “People who LIKE movies have a favorite but people who LOVE movies couldn’t possibly choose” and being a die-hard movie fan, it was really difficult for me to pick the best (top 10) movies for the article from this huge list. Please feel free to add your favorites to the list and the lesson you have learnt out of it.

The Godfather (1972)

tupac-the-godfather-125638-1366x768                                                 This classic, which needs no introduction, traces the life of a humble Italian immigrant and his meteoric rise to power as the head of a powerful Mafia. He builds a business empire from nothing and uses his leadership & negotiation skills to safeguard & grow his empire. Although, widely known for its violence and protagonization of the Mafia world, the film offers valuable lessons for people who are ambitious but lack the business knowledge or financial support required to build a successful business.

The main character in the movie builds his business based on his reputation of being honest, respectful and true to his ideals. In spite of having the power and money, he earns the respect of others through his deeds and not by persuasion. He maintains calm and cool character both during the happier and troubled times, perfectly epitomizing the importance of maintaining one’s emotional integrity when in position of power. There are plenty of dialogues (real gems) in the movie which offer powerful lessons on management. One of my favorite and which was also voted as the second most memorable line in cinema history by American film institute is “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” (teaches the art of getting things done through proper incentives). Even though it’s an old movie, it offers loads of fresh and brilliant lessons on Business/ People Management, Leadership, Motivation, Negotiation and it goes on…(check it for yourself)

12 Angry Men (1957)

12angrymen                                           Another old-time classic that offers interesting insights on Group behavior, Consensus building, Persuasion, Clear thinking and Personality conflicts. In this court drama shot entirely in a single room, eleven jurors are convinced that the defendant, a teenager accused of murdering his father is guilty but the twelfth juror (The hero) thinks otherwise. The plot involves the approach taken by this one man to convince the other eleven jurors (with varied personalities) on the teenager’s innocence in spite of multiple evidences stacked against him. The hero slowly and progressively makes each juror to change their decision by asking them to examine the veracity of evidence given to them and decide based on facts and not just hearsay.

The movie teaches the importance of looking into facts and making a careful evaluation of the case (for example, a business proposal) before making big decisions (just like the teenager’s future here in the movie). Any manager wanting to convince his/her team about a potential yet unpopular plan/ idea should watch this movie before they step into the discussion room.

MoneyBall (2011)

moneyball                                       This sport based movie (based on a true story) clearly illustrates the need for organizations to challenge the old assumptions and make headway for more innovation to gain competitive advantage. With the support of a geeky young economics graduate, the baseball team manager of a struggling Oakland Athletics baseball team uses a sophisticated sabermetric (statistical) approach to analyze player’s value in building a winning team rather than the old and time tested method of signing up expensive star players. The team, in spite of lacking star players goes on to win a record 20 matches on the trot.

This movie also teaches the art of talent scouting and the importance of looking for creative ways to hire great talent. For example, organizations could use social sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to better understand the applicant’s value than the conventional approaches such as written tests, interviews, which might not be valuable always.

To be continued in the next post...

10th Man Rule – How Could It Help You???

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                       “The one who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The one who walks alone is likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been”. – Albert Einstein.

I was watching the movie World War Z yesterday and stumbled across an interesting phenomenon known as “The Tenth Man Rule”. In the movie, as Brad Pitt (Hero) tries to stop the world being taken over by a zombie apocalypse, he comes across an Israeli secret agent who explains how his country was far more prepared than the rest of the world against the zombie invasion. He further adds that their secret agency had overheard a communication mentioning the word – zombie from an Indian intelligence agency 10 days before the apocalypse. The Israel’s Security Council which had 10 advisors that looked into big picture issues brushed aside this communication as trivial, except for one who felt there is a possibility of a potential danger.
He gathers Intel and presents his case to the group. Looking at the credibility of his data, the group decides to build a gigantic wall along its borders to protect people from the zombie outbreak.

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This was all possible due to the 10th man rule which forces the 10th man in a group to overrule the decision taken by the majority and look into the issue from a different angle, no matter how trivial it may be. This doesn’t mean that the 10th man needs to be right always or his/her decision is final but he/she simply ensures that all the possibilities are taken into account before coming to a conclusion.

Historical references of the 10th Man rule:

In fact, as mentioned in the movie, Israel has a council known as the Devil’s advocate Office that uses this 10th man rule. This unit was created immediately after the Yom Kippur war in 1973 that involved a surprise attack by the Egyptian and Syrian forces on Israeli territory. To avoid such incidents in the future, this think tank group was created to challenge conventional wisdom in group decisions and to seek diverse and opposing opinions. Surprisingly, this rule has its roots (2000 years back) in the Talmud and Jewish culture, referred as “Ipcha Mistabra” which means “On the contrary, the reality appears otherwise”. There is also a practice within the Vatican wherein a church official is chosen to play Devil’s advocate during Canonisation, which involves the selection of a candidate for elevation to sainthood. The official’s responsibility is to take a contrary position for the sake of argument to cast a doubt on the candidate’s character.

How to Apply the Rule:

In case you are wondering as to how this rule would help in real life, watch this old classic court room drama – 12 Angry Men. This movie offers a fantastic explanation on how the rule could be enforced in real life situation and also the criticality behind such thinking. 11 out of 12 members of a Jury feel that a teenager is responsible for murdering his father but the 12th juror (Hero) thinks otherwise. He convinces the others of the teenager’s innocence inspite of multiple evidences stacked against him. He slowly and progressively makes each juror to change their decision by asking them to examine the veracity of evidence given to them and decide based on facts and not just hearsay. It clearly outlines the importance of looking into facts and making a 360 degrees evaluation of the issue in hand before making big decisions, just like the teenager’s future here in the movie.

 The Value Behind the Rule:

A situation contrary to the 10th man rule is very much evident in today’s corporate world wherein employees say yes to what their big bosses have to say without raising an iota of disapproval. Also, employees who play the role of a tenth man are often discouraged or shown the way out. If organizations would like to grow, it is high time that they motivate employees to disapprove ideas proposed by the top management and have a healthy debate on the pros and cons of the decision. Also, employees who play the role of a Devil’s advocate could be rewarded with promotions or appreciations so that a culture of creative thinking could be established.

It is also worth to mention about a similar phenomenon known as “Informational Asymmetry”, well used in the economics circle. According to Wikipedia, informational symmetry “deals with the study of decisions in transactions where one party has more or better information that the other”. To put it in simple terms, the so-called experts in each field have information regarding their field which the common man doesn’t have and use or misuse it to earn money. The book – Freakonomics offers some fantastic insights about this concept and is worth every penny for reading.

Michael Shermer in his book The Believing Brain calls the human brain a belief engine which forms the belief first and then finds confirmatory evidence to support the belief. Tools like the 10th man rule and informational asymmetry could help us overcome the limitations of our brain. It’s important that we think out of the box while making critical decisions in life and not to go with the conventional wisdom or more importantly, not to have blind-faith in the so-called experts.

Next time, when a doctor suggests that you need to have a surgery for a simple stomach pain, it is better to check the facts (like check on the internet, get opinion from other doctors) before taking a decision.

To put it simply, whenever you need to make a big decision, remember these words of Mark twain – “When you find yourself on the side of the majority, you should pause and reflect”.

What a shame – “Paddy Fields” as a landmark on Google Map

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Paddy fields Google map location

While doing a Google search for a location in Porur (Outskirts of Chennai city), I came across a landmark named “paddy fields” near to my destination. This took me by surprise as I asked myself the question – “how could something which is commonly found be considered a landmark”? As I came to my senses, I realized the deteriorating state of farmlands in India, especially in the cities. Since a lot has been written and talked about in the media on farmer suicides, decreasing farm acreage due to real estate boom, fair price for farmers’ produce etc., I felt that I would write something different – my childhood memories working on the paddy fields.

Whenever I tell people that I come from a village, they generally express their liking for the villages owing to its lush green fields amidst coconut and mango trees, water filled lakes, huge temple on picturesque hill etc., (can’t help, it’s the filmy effect). I tell them that the way the villages are portrayed in films is not 100% real and a lot of credit should go to the filmmakers’ creativity for adding that extra beauty to the villages. Rewind to my childhood, I remember starting early in the morning (4 or 5 o’clock village time, I suppose it’s still bedtime in cities) towards the fields, situated at about 3-4 Kms away from my home. The fellow villagers who had already signed up to work in our fields joined us along the way and in case it’s your lucky day, you could get a ride on a bullock cart passing by to the fields (for free). They were always a cheerful, enthusiastic, happy, fun-filled unit and chit chatted loudly about the day-today happenings in the village/ outside world amidst the silent early hours of the morning. This is in stark contrast to the tired and sober faces that I had witnessed on the city roads on Monday mornings.

On reaching the fields and after offering their prayers to god, each one takes a particular patch of field and start with their work (and guess what? nobody tells them what to do). They happily sing songs/ talk and they don’t mind about the hot sun or heavy rains while they go about their work. They make sure that the work that was planned for the day is completed either on the same day or the next day in case there is a stoppage in between due to inclement weather. Surprisingly, I have witnessed neighbours, who had quarrelled the previous day in the village, forgetting their differences and working together on the fields to complete the work. Buttermilk is served in between during the break and for breakfast, it is generally Idli-Sambar/ Kambu Koozh (a traditional Tamil drink) followed by the spicy combination of rice/ Karuvattu kuzhambhu (dry fish) for lunch. People, sometimes manage to get mangoes from nearby fields and have it coated with green chilli paste as a side dish for the Kambu Koozh drink. Rat killing was a popular hobby amongst village men during the breaks, while women did it in their own style – spending time in gossips or playing Pallanghuzi (a traditional game).

Inspite of a hard gruelling day at work, the villagers had the same happy, cheerful faces as like in the morning and I find it difficult to even fake something like this at the end of my day at office. Even though, it seems like a heaven working on the fields (as per my description), I always hated going to the fields as it involved working under the hot sun, getting your hands dirty in the mud, carrying heavy loads, no TV/ playing games etc.,. Farming is definitely not for the weak-hearted and I have always admired the farmers for doing this 24*7*365 without much fuss. There is an age-old adage – “True happiness comes after real pain” and I experienced the same when I got to take a bath in the well after a day’s hard work. Bathing would feel like heaven (just like shown in the modern bath accessories advertisements today), jumping in different postures into the wells was the best adventure sport you could experience as a child and the water gushing from the pipes offered the best massage for the aching body.

At times, I have felt that I should quit my job and take up farming but the enthusiasm just fades away with the passage of time. May be one day I would get back to farming and share my experience in a separate blog post (pray to god this happens).

Who Am I ????? A Manager’s Dilemma

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devil and deep blue sea image-001                                    Recently, one of my friends who is working with a top IT organization, shared the predicament faced by him and some of his colleagues, who got recently promoted as front line managers (read as FLMs). He used the phrase “caught between the devil and the deep blue sea” to describe his confused state as a manager, trying to satisfy two diverse species – the top management and the first level employees. He asked me the best approach to gain the trust of the employees. I shared with him the synopsis of the regional Tamil movie – “Jigarthanda” and left for him to decide as to which is the best way to get things done from his employees. A budding film maker gets associated with a famous Don to make a gangster movie based on the don’s real life incidents. When he decides to make the movie after finalizing the story, the don drops a bomb shell that he wants to reprise the Don’s role in the movie. Having known about his notoriety for murdering people who go against him, the film maker accepts his proposal out of fear. After repeated training, the Don couldn’t portray his real fearful image on the screen and so the film maker, without the Don’s knowledge, shoots the movie as a comedy. The Don, high on expectations, goes to watch the movie but finds that the director has betrayed him by portraying him in a wrong light. He then sets out to kill the director but finds that the general public who used to fear and resent him as a gangster have now started to respect and love him as a comical gangster (on-screen). He realizes his mistake and chooses the path of respect to gain people’s trust.

I have heard time and again that the FLMs are the critical link in an organizational hierarchical set up and there are plenty of reports/ studies on the internet which points to a single conclusion that the company which had efficient FLMs showed increased performance and sales. If you wonder why it is so, it is quite obvious that these people directly interact with the most critical asset of any organization – the employees who really make things happen on the ground and typically define the growth/success of an organization. According to a new study conducted in May 2014 by the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services (based on a survey of more than 600 global executives), there seems to be a huge gap in the front line manager performance as against the expectations of the top management and this has negatively impacted the organizational growth. The report also mentions that the major reason for this failure is the lack of leadership development training and tools to support these managers.

Adding to the report findings, these managers have been found to have limited flexibility in decision-making and are downgraded to perform just a supervisory role. In most of the companies, the FLMs role is to oversee a span of direct reports and communicate the top management’s decision to the employees and vice-versa. They mainly keep an eye on people & projects, prepare reports, implement plans and policies, and escalate issues. To put in a nut shell, a FLM is meant to communicate decisions, not to make them; to ensure compliance of policies, not to use judgment (and certainly not to develop policies); and to monitor the execution of improvements, not to prepare plans or carry out improvements (workers do that).

The recent incident that involved the sacking of thousands of employees, mostly in the managerial role, working in top Indian IT companies is a testimony of the gross mismanagement of the managers in an organization. This is a clear wake up call for managers who merely act like humanoids/human robots, taking directions from the top management and getting work done through control & fear. Just like Jackie Chan tries to find his true identity in the movie – “Who Am I”, managers need to do a thorough introspection and put their thinking caps on to make decisions on their own so as to gain the employee and the management’s respect. This might be really hard as it would involve being perceived as a lighthearted person and shedding the fearful image (just like the Don mentioned above). And when people tell me this is a risky option, I convince myself reliving these beautiful words of Robert Frost, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference”.