Settling for less though one can achieve more

My next few blogs would be on a variety of perspectives which one can look at becoming successful in life.

The current post is about – how people in spite of having the potential in them still hold themselves from getting in to too many things and prefer to stay focused on the one thing which they are very good at.

The beautiful article by HBR “The Disciplined Pursuit for Less” sets one to actually think whether one wants to be known as by the longest career pole in his career or would one like to be in a state where one ends as the “Jack of all & master on none”.

The question again comes back of how one becomes successful in life, which is aptly elucidated in a step wise manner in the article where there are the below steps:

  • Keeps practicing and becomes specialized in an area and becomes successful
  • Success gets more opportunities and areas on to the way.
  • One starts putting in efforts in the plethora of opportunities which have come his way through success.
  • Distributed efforts going in to all these activities finally starts getting down where you are no longer successful.Highest Point of Contribution

We are now on an issue which has much to be contributed from the either sides.

Greg McKeown very beautifully explains how one should prioritize the various things one is capable of doing, then comes the point of self audit/self check where one needs to decide which of the available options is the one which describes him/her and which is the one is passionate about.

A deeper thought process would tell you that the entire process is about discovering your highest point of contribution from among the various parallel opportunities available and there by dedicating oneself to it.

The below post from linkedin also reiterates the search for the highest contribution point and continuing with the same.

There would be a number of examples in the current scenario which are all in the similar fashion whether it be drop in Sachin’s performance once he takes over the Captainship of the team.

Just a few thoughts to mull over…


Sunil Vadlamani

The #1 Career Mistake Capable People Make

Greg McKeown

December 06, 2012

I recently reviewed a resume for a colleague who was trying to define a clearer career strategy. She has terrific experience. And yet, as I looked through it I could see the problem she was concerned about: she had done so many good things in so many different fields it was hard to know what was distinctive about her.

As we talked it became clear the resume was only the symptom of a deeper issue. In an attempt to be useful and adaptable she has said yes to too many good projects and opportunities. She has ended up feeling overworked and underutilized. It is easy to see how people end up in her situation:

Step 1: Capable people are driven to achieve.

Step 2: Other people see they are capable and give them assignments.

Step 3: Capable people gain a reputation as “go to” people. They become “good old [insert name] who is always there when you need him.” There is lots right with this, unless or until…

Step 4: Capable people end up doing lots of projects well but are distracted from what would otherwise be their highest point of contribution which I define as the intersection of talent, passion and market (see more on this in the Harvard Business Review article The Disciplined Pursuit of Less). Then, both the company and the employee lose out.

When this happens, some of the responsibility lies with out-of-touch managers who are too busy or distracted to notice the very best use of their people. But some of the responsibility lies with us. Perhaps we need to be more deliberate and discerning in navigating our own careers.

In the conversation above, we spent some time to identify my colleague’s Highest Point of Contribution and develop a plan of action for a more focused career strategy.

We followed a simple process similar to one I write about here: If You Don’t Design Your Career, Someone Else Will. My friend is not alone. Indeed, in coaching and teaching managers and executives around the world it strikes me that failure to be conscientious about this represents the #1 mistake, in frequency, I see capable people make in their careers.

Using a camping metaphor, capable people often add additional poles of the same height to their career tent. We end up with 10, 20 or 30 poles of the same height, somehow hoping the tent will go higher. I don’t just mean higher on the career ladder either. I mean higher in terms of our ability to contribute.

The slightly painful truth is, at any one time there is only one piece of real estate we can “own” in another person’s mind. People can’t think of us as a project manager, professor, attorney, insurance agent, editor and entrepreneur all at exactly the same time. They may all be true about us but people can only think of us as one thing first. At any one time there is only one phrase that can follow our name. Might we be better served by asking, at least occasionally, whether the various projects we have add up to a longer pole?

I saw this illustrated some time ago in one of the more distinctive resumes I have seen. It belonged to a Stanford Law School Professor [there it is: the single phrase that follows his name, the longest pole in his career tent]. His resume was clean and concise. For each entry there was one impressive title/role/school and a succinct description of what he had achieved. Each sentence seemed to say more than ten typical bullet points in many resumes I have seen. When he was at university he had been the student body president, under “teaching” he was teacher of the year and so on.

Being able to do many things is important in many jobs today. Broad understanding also is amust. But developing greater discernment about what is distinctive about us can be a great advantage. Instead of simply doing more things we need to find, at every phase in our careers, our highest point of contribution.

Executive Education in India

Education the quintessential thing now a day’s….Not far away from the fact is India which is also leaving behind the old die-hard habits and is racing up to.

Literacy rate and the rate of employability would be very much impacting the GDP of a country among the various other factors contributing to it.

The myths about the formal complete full-time education to the highest level leads to the hiring of an individual now seem to be fading away. The growth among the industries is now forcing the corporate to reconsider the decisions of hiring fully trained students to the jobs or taking fairly educated students with a good trainability index and moulding them to their own requirements.

Also the continuous need for executives to get ready and going to occupy the various levels across the organizations also requires them to continuously re access themselves and keep abreast.

Some of the programmes by the various corporate to train and then induct fresh blood in to their systems are as below:

  • LEAD & LEAP by Aditya Birla Group(Link)
  • EPIC programme by PWC(Link)
  • Reliance Accelerated Leadership Programme(Link)

The list is only indicative and by no means exhaustive since every day we see more and more incumbents joining the list and making the choice either by setting up their own corporate universities or increasingly approaching the likes in the academic field to act as their knowledge partners which is also reflected across the trends of executive education in India.

Not to mention the various IT/ITES companies resorting to the increasingly demanding e-learning modules from various institutions which enables them to train their work force in-house only there by mitigating the various costs of travel/facilitator/other administrative arrangements and the loss in the employee work hours effecting productivity as well.

The higher education in India is still evolving and the need for the trained man power is dictating the same. The impact of the same is so humongous that the education institutes which in the past were just student churning machines now are forced to re assess at their own models and there by adapt to the changing scenario of executive education.

The growing complexities in the global business scenario also call for the executives tobe well adapted to the fast paced world where each of them are expected to evolve across levels.

The below model from Ram Charan’s book sums up the need for evolving in the global scenario playing across various levels.

Ram Charan's Leadership Pipeline

Ram Charan’s Leadership Pipeline

Though the book goes much in-depth where in the requisite competencies for  the layers are identified and their evolution across various levels. The book also addresses the need for the organizations to consider at keeping their leadership pipelines rejuvenated where in a changeover across levels does not actually affect the business.

A good example of this would be Apple where Steve Jobs groomed Tim Cook for almost 3 years and with Steve Jobs gone, Apple is still future ready with its next set of leaders in place.


Sunil Vadlamani

Unlearning!!! The need of the hour

           The days when a mere qualification of MBA and you were hired, paid-off well and looked upon , when MBA was considered to be highest gift of knowledge achievable or may be was well sought for by the youth are past.

 The need for the hour is a combination to absorb the teaching of MBA in the B-Schools, to unlearn it and then in the real means applying the knowledge in to business. It certainly needs a conjugated relation between the latest technologies and the gist of the MBA.

In my days at XLRI, it was the initial period which taught me that segmentation in marketing was rather important in real life where you see the client behavior and rather the theoretical aspect where you only know what is basis, types etc. What really lasts is the learning which one develops by working on ground, its then you realize that all the long lasting classes actually were actually meant for.

As rightly brought by Uday it is not the MBA alone that is being sought today, what most employers now look for is a techno –MBA who atleast has an idea of the innovative techniques, their  present technology, strengths, weaknesses etc and how to modify the existing practices to maximise the benefits ,keeping the overheads under control.


Sunil Vadlamani


Techno-MBAs – need of the hour

Design, innovation and technology will be the mantra for change in businesses of the future and are essential for meaningful career opportunities

   The existing compartmentalized approach to management educa tion has inherent limitations to be able to walk hand-in-hand with the fast changing global business scenario.
   Today’s technological civilisation needs rapid and radical changes to tackle issues. Hence business management programmes that connect with technology, design and innovation are indeed critical.
   Survival as a manager in today’s techno savvy work environment depends largely on your ability to innovate – and technology provides tremendous opportunities to innovate and differentiate.
   The MBA of tomorrow therefore needs a strong foundation in technology.
   Does this mean that one has to learn programming or be an engineer? – No. What is required is an understanding of the available technologies, their strengths and weaknesses, possible applications of these technologies to real life business situations and the ability to visualise newer solutions as an integral part of business planning. Equally the MBA needs to be able to harness this technology effectively and therefore must have good project, process and change management capabilities.
   We are slowly but surely moving to an era where all business is becoming e-Business.
   Recognizing this need many B-schools started adding a few subjects such as e-commerce, MIS and IT for Management into their MBA syllabus. These subjects are usually handled as very elementary courses on technology and the management aspects of technology.
   With the growth of IT and ITES businesses, the need for techno-MBAs is increasing by leaps and bounds.
   From my recent years in helping students in placements I find that company’s, both IT service providers as well as user industries looking for MBAs for traditional business roles seem to prefer MBAs who have some knowledge of technology.
   Some B-schools, apart from having systems as specialisation, which is more suited for roles in the technology domain, provide the possibility of dual specialization or a major/minor combination between functional and systems. This is an interesting way of addressing needs. Students who take finance or marketing for eg. can take these as their major and take a few subjects such as CRM or ERP or E-commerce as part of the Systems Minor.
   Since many of these industry relevant courses and indeed the manner in which they are offered do not fit into the sometimes rigid framework of traditional ed ucational systems such as Universities etc, the MBA aspirant must remember that the industry today evaluates based on the students’ demonstrated talent and content of the courses and not merely affiliations to universities or government agencies. It is relevance which matters most.
   Design and Innovation Management – imperative for future.
   In this era of uncontrolled growth, not only of population but also products, services, scientific and technical information, how does one make sense of human needs and aspirations?
   Emerging unarticulated needs and realities need new approaches. We feel management education can play a very crucial role in creating a new genre of managers who are attuned to these realities.
   All forward thinking business leaders agree that innovation is the only way forward. Design that delivers sustainable solutions will play a significant role in business transformation.
   We need a separate genre of managers who are trained not only to manage but also innovate, looking at the human, social and psychological needs of the users of their products and services, to make better profits in their line of business.
   There are several organisations that have innovation centers/innovation hubs that focus on internalising design and innovation at all levels in the organisation. Some of the roles one can expect to play as persons with business and design knowledge are:
   Design Strategists / Design Interface Managers
   Business Analysts / Solution Architects / Information Architects
   Business and Organisational Architects
   Certainly new output needs new input and therefore the pedagogy used while inculcating design and innovation thinking include unlearning workshops, integrated teaching and handson learning.
   Your future success lies in selecting institutes and courses which have demonstrated their ability to deliver such as a blend of management, technology, design and innovation.
   (Uday Salunkhe is Group
   Director and Pradeep
   Pendse, Dean IT and Business Design,Welingkar
   Institute of Management)

From Three Idiots to a College of Idiots

 Mixing Education with Entertainment is a heady cocktail. Sagarika Ghosh in the blog beneath has hit the bulls eye and the right nerve.. In the 3 hours of cinema with whatever gripping humor is to make a mockery of the teachers and the education system that leads to more reinforcement to replicate in real life also. That is a lot of damage to the impressionistic age in the higher education where the learning has to be internalized. Just a simple reality check are when the Event Management companies bring the Rock Music festival who are fake duplicates of Bon Jovi types sponsored by Liquor barons . The Parents too are to be blamed for paying donations for admission for sort of education who when could not make it IIT. After all the coaching one lands to learn the “Idiotic” way. It does not end there; they keep on becoming the victim of all through the Education cycle beyond Engineering and MBA etc. There is a massive disconnect of Industry requirement and the Education delivery. The solutions are simple and can be implemented. It just requires a vision to translate in making assets for a better tomorrow for both the College campus and the Students also.

With best wishes only to those who do not wish to remain ” Idiot”


Sunil Vadlamani

From Three Idiots to a Nation Of Idiots Before I went to see Three Idiots watching the film had become something of a sacred duty. Friends telephoned from Mumbai and hissed furiously, “You mean you haven’t seen Three Idiots? Why? It’s the best movie ever.” Cousins cornered me at family gatherings and shouted, “When are you seeing Three Idiots? Its brilliant, its excellent, it’s the best.” With a chorus of “excellent”, “brilliant”, “fantastic”, “the best” ringing in my ears, jet propelled by the force of family pressure I dutifully lined up on a freezing January afternoon in Delhi, and accompanied by a glassy-eyed horde who had no doubt also been dragooned into the theatre by armies of friends and relatives, we all surged in, breathless with anticipation, to watch Three Idiots. And did Three Idiots the film live up to the hosannahs and eulogies that I heard chanted? Did the film deserve the tidal wave of frenzied applause that broke over my head every time its name was mentioned in any gathering? In my very humble opinion, no. Three Idiots is, for all its fine comic moments, a dangerous film as it legitimizes a scorn and hatred of education, sanctions wilful dumbing down and if cinema harnesses its immense power to such films, then very soon we will become a nation of idiots, and will have to hire foreigners to do our thinking for us. The fact that the film is so enormously popular shows how eager we are to embrace mindlessness and how keen we are to promote a culture where education and thoughtfulness are seen as obstacles to enjoying the good life. Is it any wonder that an Indian Express Indicus Analyticus study gives us the bad news that by 2020 those holding medical degrees/diplomas will go up from a shockingly low 1.3 million to only 2.1 million in the next ten years. As a nation we are in no mood to study, and Three Idiots encourages us to throw away our books because today we are chanting the mantra, “the-system-sucks-and teachers-are-pathetic-and-who-cares-about-grades-and-the-rat-race-is- foolish.” Before I proceed any further, I must say at the outset that am a great admirer of Aamir Khan and Rajkumar Hirani. Aamir is a wonderfully talented actor, whose every performance is a joy for sheer energy and versatility. And Hirani’s Munnabhai, was a work of pure genius, Gandhigiri and jadoo ki jhappi entered our everyday lexicon as words and concepts and the Mahatma was more successfully marketed than the Congress party has ever managed to in its 125 years of existence. `Three Idiots’ too is a slickly made, fast moving film. Purely, as a cinematic adventure, Hirani holds the film together perfectly. Chetan Bhagat’s books are justifiably popular and notwithstanding the controversy over credits of Three Idiots and whether or not it was based on Bhagat’s book Five Point Someone, the slice of Indian undergraduate life that both book and film captures is a reality familiar and well loved by so many of us. Yet I found Three Idiots far too preachy, far too sanctimonious and far too much of a caricature. It lampoons and trivializes our higher education system as an unrelieved arena of bad teachers, suicidally pressurized students, manic success-oriented parents and evil money seekers who care nothing for learning but only want grades so they can get big jobs and Lamborghinis. Such a caricature is, as we all know, far from the truth. Although a liberal arts degree doesn’t compare to an engineering degree, my own experience of higher education at St Stephen’s College and Oxford University, is that it is an immensely enriching experience, consisting of many idealistic teachers and the excitement of new ideas is something for which there is no substitute. Yet a film whose central message is “the education system sucks”, “we learn nothing at our centres of excellence” and “teachers are unable to teach and only want to ruin students lives,” is a rather dangerous film. Three Idiots disdains the rigour of study, pours scorn on wanting to better oneself through the sadhna of learning and instead seems to suggest that to be happy in life we all need to drop out, sing songs under the night sky and not bother with studying hard because studying hard is a waste of time. As a former IITian has pointed out Rancho, in the film mocks Laplace Transform, the equation written on the blackboard, as an example of rote learning. Yet without Laplace Transform, Hirani’s computer would not boot up! This former IITian says he has never come across a teacher like Prof Virus, and believes that in its fashionable disdain for education, the film is dangerously juvenile. Yes, our education system needs urgent reform. Yes, we need to relook at our exam system. Yes, we need to ensure that parents do not pressurize children. But in the pursuit of educational reform, we cannot allow standards of excellence to be lowered. India’s IITs and IIMs must be applauded for the world-class minds they have thrown up, these are institutions that are respected the world over. Lets not start lampooning Indian engineers by showing them as students who deliver babies with vacuum cleaners. Let’s get real about higher education, not engage in an escapist fantasy and convince ourselves that education does not matter. After all, Rancho could be a subversive because he was a genius student. For those who are not geniuses, alas, there are no short cuts.

3D Printing: An emerging innovation

Ever heard of 3D printing, no i am not referring to the typical 3D movies that people watch. Ever saw the science fiction movies or probably the pokeman cartoon show, where anything drawn on a paper comes to the object exactly eg dram a cycle on paper and by 3 D printing you get a cycle in the 3Dimensional planes.

Well coming to the question

What is 3D printing? A 3D printer is a device which can convert a blue print in to a physical object. Feed to it the design of a wrench and what it will give you is a physical working wrench.

A 3D printer actually builds a object by adding on layer by layer.And since they built it layer by layer the objects are movable also.

When linked with the on demand circuit printer the 3D printers can produce basic house hold electric items too.

Feed the design of a coffee mug and it can produce numerous identical mugs without any error.

Advantages being:

Instead of a person assembling the individual parts the printer itself gives the readily assembled object.

Now the question that comes up is , all this is exciting but can this really be useful but it would be the same question which popped up on the first personal computer made.

A look at this link would elucidate it further.

Probably now we can correlate it to What pranav mistry says about the sixth sense device, an amulgamation of these technologies would beget wonders.

A few thoughts to tickle and let us think some apart from our routine lives.


Sunil Vadlamani

“Sink or Swim” The Blue Ocean Strategy

To “Sink or Swim” is the options available to the present day industries, either they learn the means to swim across the oceans or they sink and perish. The changing trends continuously requires companies to come up with new innovations, well new strategies or new innovations need not be always fresh ideas. An ability to distance you and see from a distant view of the present scenario would uncover undiscovered virgin territories which emerge from the existing verticals and they are waiting to be tapped.

The present day market situations include companies

3 tier noncustomers

competing amongst themselves to get the largest share of the pie. Ever had been in to a board room where a new strategy presentation is being given, the entire energy revolves around creating strategies to out beat the competitor.

Well its good to compete but won’t it be better to be in a place even before the competition arrives, well you might be thinking I would be speaking on innovation or new technology development but believe me , shelling out dollars won’t get you the profits which you would get by searching your own blue ocean.

 A blue ocean strategy as it sounds is not a new management jargon but it is one of the most primitive existing strategies which we over our journey have started forgetting. While going through the web I came across interesting things by Kim & Mauborgne.

A market which has many players competing for the same piece of pie, such one is a “Red Ocean” which now has most of the businesses. A blue ocean is a place where you are in an uncontested market space, making the competition irrelevant.

 Well you might be thinking that I might be out of my mind, but here are some examples which would trigger you to think of a blue ocean strategy. It’s high time for our industries to start pursuing the loyal/non – loyal customers but now they need to look at the customers who are still untouched.

To get more insights on your blue ocean strategy, feel free to anytime drop in a comment or a mail.

 Some examples to trigger thoughts:—Example-1&id=1031603

Just a few thoughts which I am trying to catch up being held up from months.



Leadership Lessons From Alexander the Great

Leadership in the modern times happens to be one of the most loosely coined terms. Many institutions, coaches, personal trainers, CEO’s, senior executives constantly keep talking about it. But honestly I feel leadership can never be taught, it can only be learned. I strongly believe in the phrase that “Wise people are wise because they committed more number of mistakes and learnt from them”. My next few blogs would be a few endeavors to show case the various leadership lessons that we can learn from the great leaders of the past.

A look at the Greek history would show you numerous famous names emerging but the most prominent one which comes up is of Alexander the great, born in 346 B.C in Macedonia.  The Greek history has many shades of Alexander portrayed as a conqueror, emperor, one of the greatest  cavalry generals, a mass murderer, a tyrant etc but for the present context we will only consider the leadership abilities of Alexander the Great. Post drawing these leadership abilities we will try to compare them with the present day leadership crisis existing in the corporate world.

Re frame Problems:

One of the strongest ability that all the great leaders possess is their ability to perceive a problem in an entirely different manner and the ability to make people look in their way. This can be called as Problem Displacement/Problem Replacing. The greatest leaders do not try to tackle the impossible problems directly but they try to create a different problem, solving which will automatically solve the prior unsolvable problem. This phenomenon is known as “Problem Displacement”, and it is also questioned by many a wise men.

Example 1:

Alexander’s battle with Darius III, the Achaemenid king whose dynasty had controlled Persia for more than a thousand years,commanded


a formidable navy of about 200veteran warships is a remarkable example. In contrast, Alexander had only a small coastal fleet and food-carrying b

arges. The problem was obvious: How could Alexander protect his food supply when the Persian navy could so blithely intercept the coastal barges?

The most obvious answer was by building a fleet. His tenuous control of his army and homeland precluded the luxury of spending a year or two to locate resources and build a fleet. He would have needed trees cut down and cut up, mines mined, ores smelted, fittings manufactured, sails sewn,


ropes made, and so on. He would have needed to captain and man 200 warships, train their crews, and provoke the Persians to confront him in a pitched battle. Then, he would have had to win that battle against a fleet of seasoned commanders. This direct approach to solving the problem

was not a reasonable option. But what else could he do? Alexander carefully gathered information about his enemy and found out thei

r weakness for fresh water.

Alexander soon got control over all the fresh water sources

 and poisoned those which he didn’t want to control. The enemy lost due to their limited ability to carry fresh water for limited period. His ability to restructure made him becoming the first successful general for defeating a navy on land.

Example 2: The battle at River Hydpases:

Once again his ability of problem displacement surfaces in his battle with Indian king Porus whose army was four times the size of his army, adding to that were the 200 huge Indian war elephants. Alexander being a cavalry general won most of his battles with his core on cavalry

, however in this case the problems existing were identified to be:

Horses are very much afraid to elephants and smelling them, they would run wildly loosing control of the rider, only when they are acclimatized to elephants from early birth they would not be able to sustai

n elephant presence (while Indian horses were acclimatized from birth).

200 war elephants can crush the Greek army and were hence placed at important strategic points interspersed in front lines between soldiers by Porus.

Without his cavalry, Alexander’s army would be quite vulnerable to Indian cavalry.

Now Alexander re framed his problem and came up with som

e of the most surprising solutions.

He divided his cavalry in to 2 parts, one feigned and attracted Indian cavalry to a long distance while the other part attacked from behind there by butchering Porus’s cavalry.


He spread out his army in to ranks of 8 i.e. thinning so that the entire width of enemy could be covered.

Usage of Sarissa, a special weapon(A long spear like weapon distancing them from Indian soldiers sword) to keep his soldiers out of the reach of Indian soldiers while killing them.

His tactful usage of highly skilled mounted Sogdian archers (a

kin to sharp shooters) to kill the mahaouts controlling the elephants. After killing the mahaouts (Each elephant develops a special bond with a mahaout since its childhood and cannot be controlled by anyone else), they blind the elephants, which by pain and rage would crush the interspersed Indian soldiers.

The battle was won by Alexander 220 cavalry men, ten archers and few infantry soldiers where as Porus lost 4000 cavalry and 21000 infantry (9000 killed outright by elephants and other 12000 injured).
The ability to analyze problems from a very different angle starts the mark of awakening leadership.

Find below some interesting links which reiterate the facts:

A link from the movie Gandhi where he actually transforms the anger of the Indians to stand unitedly in the way of non-violence.

Al Pachino’s excellent speech from “The Scent of awomen” where he elevates the case against a student to the institutional level, there by solving the smaller problem automatically.