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In other words, their leadership SUCKS…

Tracing the origins of business survival true statistics by Bloomberg revealed that 8 out of 10 businesses ‘fail’ within the first 18 months of inception.

The question is – who is the real culprit for this colossal amount of failures?

Most businesses fail because the leaders running them did not succeed in creating a culture of awesomeness. This deficit further resulted in crippling everything else that they did.

Business culture is a curious thing. You have one whether you’re oblivious and ignorant to its presence or not. And if you’re not focused and clear about the culture you are working to cultivate in your business, you’re going to end up fostering an environment which talented high performers would not want to get associated with.

The unfortunate reality is that many leaders wake up to this realization only when sums of money are involved. Whether you’re incurring losses or not making enough profits or looking at growing exponentially – are the only circumstances where business leaders pause and think about organizational culture. And in this instance, it’s usually too late to drive the immediate change leaders seek.

Just because you need to scale up or expand right now doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to bend the laws of nature to your will. That’s not how culture works. Frankly, you’ll never drive massive amounts of new revenue if you’re not focused on creating a sustainable high-impact, inspired workplace.

It really boils down consistently and persistently adheres to the following leadership norms

•  Invest time not just on doing better but on being better.

•  Get rid of negative people and destroy passive aggressive activity wherever you spot it in your organization.

•  Never shy away to apologize and own up when you do something wrong

•  Set real and clear expectations with everyone around you.

Practice these things every day: Preach them! Teach them! Reward them! Protect them!

Don’t expect anything to change overnight. But stay at it.

Make your growth an outcome of a sustained and congenial culture and not a random act of hiring new talent or technology.

“Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.” —Brian Tracy

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How to Spot The Real Data Scientist?

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Some four years back, when data stream was picking the pace, many professionals began changing their titles to Data scientist; though the exact qualifications of a ‘Data Scientist’ was slackly defined. This resulted in perplexity in the hiring market due to an overstatement of skills in resumes.

A couple of years later, ‘Data Scientist’ became ‘The dream profile’ for ambitious job-seekers who wanted a high paying and an alluring job.

But there is a mounting apprehension among business leaders and employers that applicants are just getting tempted by the ‘title’ of a Data scientist without actually possessing a proper skill set and mindset required to succeed the job.

So, genuine as well as fake candidates appear with tremendous enthusiasm and optimism at the job interviews.

Structuring an interview for a Data Scientist position and knowing if the candidate is really suitable for the job profile is pretty hard. Usually in data science interviews, candidates are asked to solve brainteasers (related to probability) which are easily solvable if they have memorized the formulas. But it doesn’t signify if they will be able to work on, visualize and give meaningful insights from raw, unstructured and messy data.

So how to be sure of a worthy Data Scientist-

A real data scientist has:

  • Good experience with unstructured data and statistical analysis: If the resume reads experience in tools such as Google Analytics, SPSS, Hadoop, AWS, Omniture, and Python, ensure that they are accompanied by projects that showcase the skills put to use. If there is a vague mention of the experience or the projects, then they are probably not a data scientist.
  • Business Acumen: It’s not that a person with research background will not back a good data scientist, but the key responsibility of a corporate data scientist is to understand ‘how data affects the business goals’ and ‘to give critical insights in risk mitigation and overall solution.’ Exceptional data skills combined with business savoir-faire are the real determinants of corporate data scientists.
  • An eye for logical and visual interpretations: With strong analytical skills and ability to spot patterns, a good data scientist is one who understands visual representation of data and is able to interpret and represent a story around it that adds value to any organization.
  • Multidisciplinary: Many organizations narrow down their recruiting on candidates with Ph.D. in statistics or mathematics. But the truth is, a good data scientist can come from many backgrounds with no advanced degree in any of them.

  ‘Person who is better at statistics than any software engineer and better at software engineering than any statistician’ -Josh Wills

  •  Curious and Creative: A data scientist should be able to look beyond numbers, even beyond an organization’s data sets to find answers to problems or may be pose new dimensions and insights to an existing scenario.
  • Able to handle noise in data: Any data model draws a fine line between the sample set being too simple to be meaningful and too complex to be trusted. No matter how ‘big the data is, its finite sample is pierced with potential bias. A promising data scientist actually develops a healthy skepticism of their data, techniques, and conclusions.

A data scientist not only helps in providing data-driven insights to propel faster decision making but are recognized as strategic assets which drive business growth and profitability.

If one can find a candidate with most of these traits accompanied with the ability and desire to grow, then you have found someone who can deliver incredible value to your system, your business and your organization at large.

“A data aspirant leverages data that everybody sees; a data scientist leverages data that nobody sees.”

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Why do you feel happy when others fail?

Have you ever sat across a colleague at a workplace who is discussing and enjoying someone’s misfortune instead of empathizing? Well, this colleague of yours may be experiencing ‘schadenfreude’ (pronounced shaaden-froyda). It stems from the feeling when an individual gets a sense of satisfaction if misfortune befalls someone.

Wikipedia explains ‘Schadenfreude’ as “the experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another.”

Certainly, they feel an envious resentment of someone’s achievements deep inside their brain that constantly manifests in a negative behavior towards other people at a workplace, either in private or public.

In today’s competitive organizational culture there is no escaping from office politics, back-biting, and annoying envious subordinates. In most companies, you will easily find group of people who are fundamentally pleasure-seeking creatures.

Observing the misfortune of their competitors brings a subsequent sense of satisfaction to this population. They are born with a tendency to dominate productive resources of the company in sheer frustration of not being able to achieve success for themselves.

Many kinds of research and studies revealed that schadenfreude stems from a deeper level primarily in terms of self-esteem, self-control, belongingness, and meaningful existence. Such individuals are by-and-large poor or underperformers’ yet highly competitive and it is this paradox that ignites an objectionable form of pleasure called schadenfreude.

It is well explained by psychologist Professor Richard H. Smith in his popular book ‘The Joy of Pain’ that, comparisons with others and the conclusions we make about ourselves based on them, and the resulting emotions pervade most of our lives.

As much as inferiority makes us feel bad, superiority makes us feel good. The simple truth is that misfortunes happening to others are one path to the joys of superiority and help explain many instances of schadenfreude.

“Social comparisons are a way of life”

Generally, there are 3 major reasons why people feel pleased with the misfortune of another person:

(a) The other person is perceived to deserve the misfortune – This is purely an act of victim-blaming that occurs when a person is experiencing emotional outbursts and not able to accept his failures. As a defense mechanism, the protagonist feels pleasure-in-others’-misfortune with a strong belief the other person is destined to sufferings and his malicious joy is justified.

(b) They are passive in generating the other’s misfortune – It has a lot to do with the theory of karma. According to a person who is experiencing schadenfreude, his rival sufferings are well deserved and the distress seems like moral causation to him.

(c) The personal comparative behavior syndrome – This happens with people constantly battling for attention. When the focus of attention shifts to someone else these people start feeling an overwhelming sense of jealously.

Organizations and employers of today must understand that employees are extremely sensitive stakeholders who are a collective reservoir of emotions and feelings. Therefore, investments should be made to address the issues and concerns of every employee at a primitive level, to create a positive working environment within the organization.

“Nothing is more important than empathy for another human being’s suffering. Not a career. Not wealth. Not intelligence. Certainly not status. We have to feel for one another if we’re going to survive with dignity” – Audrey Hepburn

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Make Every Work Day a FRIDAY!

There’s something compulsive about the adrenaline rush that flounce the workplaces on a Friday!

Something that marks a sense of relaxation, respite, repose and ‘just me-time’ On the contrary, every new week talks about ‘Monday Blues’ and how desperately we all wait for the day to end. For four days – starting Sunday evening till Thursday evening, we look forward to Friday because it’s when pleasure is allowed to ensue again and we can overlook the work weight. But regrettably, this mindset can do more harm than good.

When was the last time you had a wonderful Monday… I am sure you would have never heard of anything like wonderful Monday?

But let me tell you five shortcuts that will uphold your Friday mood all week long-

1)   Anticipate the Best: Our perceptions stalk our practice. When we expect something to be bad, in 99% cases it turns out to be bad. Do you know why? Because we set them to be a disaster. Our expectations stem our experiences. The same happens on every Sunday night. But if we promise ourselves to anticipate the best on every work day, you’ll notice that every day becomes enlightening and enriching.

2)   Start your day on a high note: It’s very essential to add up your adrenaline weight before your morning commute. Indulge yourself in for a sunrise jog, a walk with a friend or just a good wholesome breakfast. Addressing your health and wellbeing can make your work life more fulfilling.

3)   Plan a Cocktail approach during your other weekdays: Fill your weekdays with a mix of activities. Switching between tasks keeps you going and makes the day interesting. Do not overload yourself and take small breaks at regular intervals.

4)   Tune Out: Keep distance from digital distractions. Don’t check your social media updates every hour. Tuning out these distractions will surely allow you to work more efficiently.

5)   Chop off a few tasks: Many a times we over estimate our caliber to complete tasks. We schedule too much for the workday that we start our day stressed with responsibilities. Moreover, starting the day behind just stacks the added pressure. So, chop off some tasks, this won’t hurt your productivity but will help you to end the day on a positive note!

Let’s benefit from a little softening of the hard edges that we’ve grown accustomed to in this competitive business world. Mindfulness, Pragmatic outlook and a positive approach to work can actually help us become more prolific.

Welcome those Wearisome…..Wondrous Work days with a Smile!

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8 Strategies to Fast Forward your Business Growth!

Abraham Lincoln once said,

“ If I had nine hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six sharpening my axe”.

The same rule applies to any Business growth today. With competitors striving to create an edge and with a phenomenal rise in entrepreneurship, one needs to put that right growth strategy at the right time in the right place to conquer the hardships. And when a match is accomplished, accelerated business growth occurs.

Although there can be various growth strategies but one may want to select that matches best with his business vision and product/service.

Here are 8 key strategies for your consideration to help maximize RoI and traction in your marketplace and to ensure fast forward growth of your business –

1)   Expand your reach: Launching new products in unproven markets may hold a higher risk at times. Prefer expanding your reach in an established market by providing something new in the existing product range. By building innovation as your business worth, you may want to give a shot to the risk involved provided you understand all that is at stake.

2)   Twist what exists: Sometimes a slight modification in the product or its packaging may open new markets. Understanding the needs and interests of your target audience and tweaking your product /services may serve as that little push to take the lead.

3)   Focus on Less: It may sound like a crazy strategy for growth, but we often get distracted by more and more in our lives. More marketing campaigns, more promotions, more mailers – it not only consumes our efforts, time and investments but stalls us at the junction of nowhere. So, it’s important to streamline the process and lessen things that deliver mediocre outputs.

4)   Retain and not refrain those Referrals: Customer Experience is everything. You may initiate the best marketing campaigns in the world, but if your customer experience sucks, you are sure to see your growth numbers falling. Putting a percentage of your revenue for customer retention and experience – be it a simple card, a feedback form or just delivering what you commit can set the pace and leave an ever-lasting impression on your clients. Focusing on customer experience is a must if you are focused on business growth.

5)   Adapt Agility: Business blueprints change with the changing technology and offered choices. To lead the game, it’s important to be flexible to accept changes and to stay up-to-date with the latest trends of markets and consumers.

6)   DiversificationEntering into new markets with new initiatives always a riskier strategy, but if innovation is your business asset, the risk is worth taking. Yes, diversifying your offerings is definitely a crucial growth strategy to expand your horizons of success by opening multiple streams of income, increasing sales and profit margins.

7)   Geographical Expansion: With the globalization of markets at hand, business leaders must become far more strategic and make wider use of markets to expand geographically. Also, they should be open to harness the latest technologies, manage links to the global economy and strengthen their existing decision-making processes to increase the business sustainability.

8)   Form An AllianceIn the war to ‘thrive and survive’ with a competitive edge, it is quite imperative for businesses to align themselves with a similar type of companies. Joining forces is definitely the most welcoming step for two companies as their synergistic strengths get combined with the wider customer base, greater access to new technologies, and a better market share. Yes, it’s the fastest route to achieve success.

Business growth is much more than wishful thinking. The long term success of your business will depend on the right development and right implementation of your strategy.

“ Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.” – Andy Rooney

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Staying Agile Vs Scaling up: The Fragile Dichotomy

A business is agile when it acts, adapts and amends re-actively without losing its vision. Adopting an agile strategy is important for the momentum and growth of a business to counter its competitors in the growing market. It could be launching new products quicker than your opponents or implementing a new marketing strategy that gives an edge to your business.

On the other hand, scaling up can be different for every business. It could be more employees, more equipment, more facilities, new geographies, more followers etc.

Today everybody talks about startups as businesses that pick up millions from investors and strive to conquer the world very quickly to become ” unicorns“.

But a startup’s dilemma is to handle ‘agility at scale’ or ‘scaling agile’!

Startups inherit the tradition of agility – something most companies desire for, in this constantly disruptive market. But replicating the same agile nature is not easy as the business begins to grow. Why?

Because it’s easy to take decisions in a startup as they need to go only through the founder’s table. But as a company grows and hierarchy sets in, the ground rules of agility starts colliding.

Staying agile is imperative for any entrepreneurial setup, so that they can evolve step by step with the shifting requirements of the clients and the market. But very few start ups are able to maintain that agility once the scale of business grows.

The focus of a growing business often shifts on fixing the structure and procedures of scaling rather than the agile audacity. Ironically, the lack of corporate structure within start-ups is what makes them stand apart from the fleet of big organizations.

When the team size grows more than ten, it’s the responsibility of a leader to guide the growing team and shape it to a point, where it can uphold its agility while working on future goals and plans.

A startup’s need to stay agile is not only for development or growth perspectives but is the only way forward.

Let’s take a look on the three basic principles to boost a startup to scale effectively:

1)   Aim small, miss small and adapt quicklyIt is all about minimizing the risk while maximizing the growth. To get that toehold for a upcoming product with a small price, it is definitely risky, costly and time-consuming especially when your revenue stream hasn’t gain momentum.

One blooper and you are out of the league before even getting started. Incorporating agile development strategy is the only way to minimize the risk and nimble your business models. Limit your scope. Build these pockets of agility and focus on milestone successes.

Fail fast, recover fast” should be the motto.

Focus like a hawk on few things for 30-50 days than on numerous things for 4 quarters.

2)   CollaborateWhether in B2B or B2C environment, partnerships are very effective when it comes to building up the business. Whether you are a product or a service based startup, partnerships with other businesses, does offer specializations wherein all parties benefit from each other. To make these relationships stay active, one needs to manage, develop and nurture the collaborations over time.

Leveraging on partnerships is a great way to reduce risk and overhead cost of new employees till a project makes profit.

3)   Be your customer first and sales person later: Know the loopholes of your products, the restrictions of your services before selling it to your customers. Try your products so you know everything about the client experience – how to push, when to turn, and from where to continue and grow a business with highest pace. For every complaint from your customer, you should “have been there, done that.

Lastly, A startup is not about executing a series of known. Almost all of them face a series of unknowns -unknown customer segments, unknown product features, unknown market challenges, etc. So accept the challenge and deal with it quickly and in a way that will make a difference.

“Leaders need to be tough! They don’t have light shoulders, there are heavy burdens to bear”

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Multi-taskers’- stop being a Swiss Knife army

Dear Multitaskers,

Stop being a Swiss Knife Army and become a sniper.

Most people, especially those in the business world, see multitasking as the most sought-after business skill. In the age that we live in, it is believed that smart multitasking enables business leaders to balance competing demands for their time and multiple priorities effectively.

Many people equate an ineptitude to not do multitasking to lower productivity levels since people are expected to juggle many tasks at the same time without dropping the ball.

But the question at hand remains :

“Is multitasking overrated?”

Multitasking is over hyped because the human brain can’t multitask without a drop in focus. When our attention splits between tasks, the prefrontal cortex gets affected badly. The act of splitting our focus leads to mistakes and that makes you less efficient.

Our human minds and bodies are not wired like Artificial Intelligence (AIs) who are programmed to perform multiple commands in a fraction. The human brain has its own limits. We’re not built to perform five things at the same time with equal focus, concentration, and effectiveness.

Switch-tasking can have a huge impact on productivity and capability to complete the tasks at hand with 100% accuracy. Because each time you switch to do multitasking, no matter how quickly and efficiently, your brain demands a minimum time to switch. Trust me, this time cost of switching is quite high.

Multitasking behavior has a multitude of undeniable pitfalls:

  • Multitasking hurts accuracy:

Any attempt to proactively manage more than one task at a single point of time triples the error rate. The reason is simple – every time you have to switch to another task, you are shifting your attention with lots of momentary interruptions.

Your brain keeps on toggling back and forth from one task to another that are aligned with the work schedule. You’re just playing with an index of brain potential and you end up making more mistakes, which means you’ve to waste more time in undoing the mistakes hence caused.

  • Multitasking murders productivity :

“They are not being more productive — they just feel more emotionally satisfied from their work.” Multitasking takes a toll on your work efficiency and makes you less productive. It burns up the energy and you feel mentally more exhausted at the end of the day while your cognitive goals still remain unaddressed.

The regret of not accomplishing your targets builds up anxiety. Even studies show that you can increase your productivity by actually sustaining focus on one thing at a time.

  • Multitasking destroys creativity :

Creativity demands undivided focus and uninterrupted concentration. Attempts to shift focus intensely from one project to other leads can damage your creativity by 50-percent if not more. Inability to be your creative best can leave you feeling anxious, frustrated and even overwhelmed when many tasks remain half-done.

  •  Multitasking kills collaboration :

Multitasking creates a lack of clarity which results in confusion and then, this confusion get translated into interpersonal conflicts, team coordination challenges, and lack of motivation in an organizational context.

The human brain cannot truly multitask like an expert juggler.

The key to getting most productivity out of a day is prioritizing. Complete one task with single mindedness at your mental physical best and then, switch to other.

Greg McKeown said this very correctly in his book “Essentialism”.

Leaders must know how to differentiate between priority and urgency. Instead of trying to multitask and risk hurting the productivity, entrepreneurs must find their anchor task and try to complete that one thing at their best with full FOCUS.

Their tendency to multitask compels the brain to restart and refocus again when forced to perform a myriad of tasks simultaneously (as effectively as one) in a limited time period. The power of selecting one priority escapes you from that trap of busyness and overwork.

“Concentrate on the few things that will produce the greatest results. Force yourself to set priorities. Do first things first – and second things not at all. ” – Peter F. Drucker

Starve your distractions, feed your focus.

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Startup Hiring – Choosing Passion over Pedigree!

Is ‘Team Theme’- the mantra for Startup Hiring overrated? Cliché? Certainly not. Team is the only thing that matters for a startup because,

“Individuals don’t build great companies, teams do”

One of the trickiest things about identifying and hiring the right talent for a startup is determining whether someone with a refined resume and radiant interview skills will be able to deliver in the long haul.

In today’s globally connected world, products and product leads disappear in nano-seconds until and unless there is a rapid innovation. For this to happen, should a startup hire a startup talent, or top-notch executives and some grey hair guy with lots of corporate experience?

True to the core, the startups feel that the only way to survive in this competitive market is to depend on pedigree hiring, thinking these people have the experience to take the business to the next level.

Harvard. Oxford. Cambridge. MIT. IIT. IIM – these sound ‘Impressive but not Imperative.’

For a person who has ‘done it all’, there’s little left to visionate in the new job. People who have ‘experienced that, done that, been there’ do have an entitlement but they expect smooth sailing in the startup world.

On the contrary, startup world is all about ravenous fighters who have the skills and experience to step up their new job. No doubt, having experience and track record is always admired but hiring someone with exceptional skills, inner drive to face challenges – is all the more important!

Remember two ground rules while hiring for your early stage team –

▪    A startup’s early stage team should be as passionate about the product and services as the founders. If these early hires are not sold on the product/service and the overall vision, chances are they will swerve from the startup goals very often.

▪    Hire specialists and not generalists. Though it may sound tempting to find that elusive evangelist who can multi-task but these all-round stars may not be best when you have deadlines around. Lookout for experts in various areas who can build a strong team by complimenting each other’s skill sets.

The invasion of C-suites is inevitable in any business, it could happen at 500+ or 1000+ employees, when the startup is about to implement some management structure for the first time. But it should certainly not happen at the 1-100 level because someone who does not match your vision may slip through the cracks and the results can be devastating.

Rightly said, “Choose your first 10 employees very carefully, as they determine the next 100”

At the end of it – never run after hiring a Seth Godin, hire the next Seth Godin.!

business strategy, growth strategy, Uncategorized

Stop being defensive! An Offensive Mindset is paramount to Growth

“The best defense is a good offense.”

Many entrepreneurs strongly believe that in this ‘age of entrepreneurialism’ a mindset and determination is what carries them to the finish line and distinguishes them from the crowd of hundreds (if not thousands) of other business providers in an  industry.

Difference in mindset of two entrepreneurs plays a major role in their entrepreneurial success. Some people believe to be defensive on their part and struggle to get the attention whereas many leaders proceed with an offensive mindset to create a momentum and determine the operational performance of their business.

Getting offensive in their strategy-execution process brings them increased visibility, more engagement and eventually, higher revenue. Also, business leaders who take a reactive posture under those unfavorable circumstances when time is tough get better market share as well. They’re able to navigate this potential competitive landscape with the minimum self-inflicted wounds.

I strongly believe that entrepreneurship is not about being offensive or defensive. In today’s dynamic business world, business leaders must behave in a proactive way to every uncertainty.

By adopting a more collaborative and transformational mindset, leaders add value to their business objectives and achieve the best outcomes. Proactive mindset makes entrepreneurs to anticipate the disruptive changes without any knee-jerks reactions.

The choice to be proactive or reactive is all yours.