Friday, November 23, 2007

The curse of knowledge

"...Psychologists and behavioral economists have shown that when we know a lot about a field it becomes really tough for us to imagine what it’s like not to know what we know—that’s the curse of knowledge."

A good article from the McKinsey Quarterly on how to make a message 'sticky': Make it simple, concrete and storylike. | Crafting a message that sticks: An interview with Chip Heath |

"If you want to learn how to make your messages stick, the highest-return-on-investment advice is to be more concrete. Systematically go through your speech, your PowerPoint deck, or your memo and strike out every abstraction. Instead of saying 'outstanding customer service,' substitute an example."

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Jaipurean jaunt

The Delhi-Jaipur highway route is simply the best road-track I've driven on till date. Driving 3-4 hrs at a stretch at over a 100 kmph is a great experience. Halfway on the route, lies the RTDC Midway , providing a perfect "midway" refreshment point.

There are a couple of things Jaipur is awesome at: forts, good food, colorful clothes & handicrafts and a few at which it sucks: traffic in the old city for one - landed up just in time for the pre-diwali rush in the ramparts of the old city, just to be swarmed by the crazy crowd...

The city palace is certainly one of the most colorful forts I've ever seen till date, perhaps because the royal family still live there (Not as magnificent as the ones in Udaipur, but still a sight by itself). The Amer fort is , of course, impressive, particularly when you first come upon it…the sheer size and its location add to its gravitas. Nahargarh and Jaigarh, which adjoin Amer are worth a visit as well, and are a good uphill drive. The view from Jaigarh fort of the city is certainly worth catching.

Choki Dhani, which lies on the outskirts of Jaipur, is perhaps the best Indian theme park (if you can call it that) I've seen. The ambience at night is just awesome - the camel and elephant rides, the village carnival atmosphere, the amazing food - its just wonderful. A must visit.

We stayed at this really nice hotel called Pearl palace. Extremely good value for money, really neatly laid out and with impressive interior d├ęcor. Its seems to be the favorite haunt of foreign tourists, hardly saw any Indians there. But a definite night stop for any visiting backpacker.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Does a firm make its employees

... or do the employees define the firm?

About the NYTimes article on Goldman Sach's influence:

In many ways, Goldman Sachs is seen as the financial world’s equivalent of General Electric, the corporate powerhouse, or McKinsey & Company, the management consulting firm. It is a training ground — and finishing school —from which other companies, along with quite a few governments, have frequently plucked their own top leaders.

Goldman claims among its alumni Henry M. Paulson Jr., the current Treasury secretary; Robert E. Rubin, a Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton and now Citigroup’s chairman; and Mario Draghi, the Bank of Italy’s governor. Jon S. Corzine, New Jersey’s governor, led Goldman for several years. Joshua B. Bolten, the current White House chief of staff, is a Goldman alum.

To insiders, all this is a result of Goldman’s elite culture, a sense of close-knit partnership that has endured despite the firm’s decision in 1999 to turn itself into a publicly owned corporation. To detractors, the firm is alternately a cult or a secretive fraternity like Skull and Bones at Yale, one focused on profits and power.

The bottom line on Goldman is that it is stocked with bright people who practically mint money..."It’s a partnership culture that truly ruthlessly weeds out people,” said Brad Hintz...

Goldman can afford to lose some of its best people because it fosters a deep managerial bench and gives a heavy emphasis to personal coaching...Even those who leave the firm to run less managerial businesses ... were instilled with the notion that success comes from building a team.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Optimism is like red wine

From The Wall Street Journal's review of a JFE paper:

Optimists, the Duke finance scholars discovered, worked longer hours every week, expected to retire later in life, were less likely to smoke and, when they divorced, were more likely to remarry. They also saved more, had more of their wealth in liquid assets, invested more in individual stocks and paid credit-card bills more promptly.

Yet those who saw the future too brightly...behaved in just the opposite way...Rather than save, they squandered. They postponed bill-paying. Instead of taking the long view, they barely looked past tomorrow. Statistically, they were more likely to be day traders. "Optimism is a little like red wine," said Duke finance professor and study co-author Manju Puri. "In moderation, it is good for you; but no one would suggest you drink two bottles a day."

(via FinanceProfessor)

From integrated firms to orchestrated networks

... how value chains and supply chain disintegrations are changing the structure of global industry: What Does It Take to Compete in a Flat World?

...when the prosperity in the developed markets, like America and Europe, led to a situation where a lot of the young people were unwilling to take up blue-collar jobs in labor-intensive industries ...rationalization of manufacturing led to a situation where we needed to create the kinds of supply chains that oversaw the manufacturing of these labor intensive goods and eventually to bring them back to the markets of America and Western Europe, where they were consumed.

...Today we are responding to a very important consumer trend. There has been a tremendous fragmentation of consumer demand. Instead of serving one huge market that is basically uniform in demand, you are seeing pockets of niche markets...

...for a country to be participating in a global economy it no longer has to have vertical integration of the whole industry...They can actually be in a particular niche in a vertical. And indeed, they may be very specialized in a particular niche and then they can participate in different verticals.

This is an area where traditional trade statistics don't make any sense. If a product is manufactured in four countries, or six countries, what is the country of origin? I think this requires a fundamental change in the mental model that we have as to what is the country of origin because the original concept no longer makes sense...

Li & Fung is, today, one of the most powerful orchestrators in outsourced manufacturing & supply. Just ask any of India's apparel exporters to know how much. In this article, they exhibit a perspicuous understanding of changing global dynamics.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

'Twas a million twinkling lights

… that told me I was landing home on a Deepavali night. Courtesy of plans that changed at the last minute … how is one to know that Chennai celebrates Diwali one / two nights before Delhi does? Lucky though, I was, that I could at least make it home. Unlike forlorn brethren who slog away into the night, unable to dash to the tam land.

What is it about this land that steals the heart, I wonder… I always feel this sense of utmost joy when I come back here after a long absence. The eager (yet fleecing) auto-drivers who clamor as you land… the first sounds of tam fm… the old songs on radio… the chennai coffee … ah, this is bliss!

Just enjoying this moment. Thought I must record it for posterity.