The ministry of utmost happiness

min of happiness

I saw a small boutique type M.D.Gunasena store in Fort, in front of the World Trade Centre. Been the book worm I am, made a mental note to visit it after the meeting.

They provided the same discounts they provide at the book fair. That tempted me to browse the books inside. ( At Book Fair, all I could do was to browse through a puddle of humans).

I came across “The ministry of utmost happiness” by Arundhati Roy. It was a wonderfully designed hard cover wrapped in a thin layer of polythene. I thought it would cost a lot, might as well get it on kindle. Yet to my surprise, it  was just Rs.1300 (with 15% discount). As of now the kindle price is $19 ( Rs.2900 +).

min of happiness 2

 

I read a lot on kindle, multiple books at a time. Mostly management, technology, and leadership genre. Yet this book, with its’ exquisite hard cover design, shiny papers with a nostalgic aroma, and eye soothing blend of multiple fonts – got me to throw away all other books, kindle and distractions- to sit down, to switch fan on, to sip water,  and read it like nothing else mattered in this world. Every sentence in the book feels like hand made and mind crafted. sometimes I read a sentence twice or thrice to capture the beauty of words creating a magical landscape of characters and their surroundings.

This is the first time in , may be , I don’t know like in 5 years, that I’ve sat down, completely ready to immerse in a novel. Funny thing is, been an avid kindle reader, I go to the reviews and comments section of books. I could remember there were many negative comments for this book by readers and reviewers. That’s why even with the heavy discount, I hesitated for a moment to purchase it. I realised how much I am now conditioned by the internet comments.

Back to my old ways. Reading a book completely.

Back then, I used to read a book or an article, underline all the words I don’t know, jot down all those unknown words in an exercise book one after another. Then I’ll take Malalsekara dictionary and find the meaning of each word, write it on the exercise book. Rather than memorising (COPY PASTE), I would read the book again, pausing at each underlined ( unknown) words. I would pause because I wanted to check if my mind can come up with the meaning. If I could not, I’ll look at my word book and would INSTALL that new word in my mind.

Here I am after 15 years, doing the same – learning new words and new rhythms of story telling – sharpening my linguistic saw.

Outsourcing everything

There are things you cannot outsource. There are things that cannot be ‘Uber of this’ or ‘AirBnB of that’. As much as there are trends, we should not be enslaved to think that everything can be outsourced to cut cost or look sexy launching an app. There are many failure stories, that does not get your attention.

There’s so much of human touch needed in serving the customer now. Never been a time like this where products and services are sold in abundance, but customers want personal attention. This is a conundrum. Growth does not mean just achieving new numbers. Growth requires the expansion of your existing relationships with customers. When organizations outsource their core value areas for the sake of sanity and cost, brutal outcomes may happen.

For example: I was rudely surprised when I was treated badly by an insurance agent, when I needed their service the most. After 2 and half years of paying monthly premiums, here I was looking for the first service from them. The person had no regard for this. He treated me as one of those ( I understand there are bad customers ) crooked ones. I immediately got back to the sales person who sold me the policy. He understood. Patched things up. In insurance, what matters is that interaction the customer have once in a while. Those precious moments decide whether the customer would stay or not.

How to innovate over and over.

Most of us, when we hear about “innovation” tend to visualise staff retreats, having fun and been creative by expressing ideas. Then come up with that ‘aha’ moment, and go and work on it. Once in a year routine, may be twice a year.

Far from it. Innovation in reality is loads of hard work, an emotional drainage, and a creator of many awkward and uncomfortable moments. If not driven well, it can derail even the most honest intentions.

Right now, in this age, if the head of organization is not leading innovation process, nothing will happen differently. Discussions may happen, but changes won’t be there. From next week, it will be back to old stuff.

So, then what is the role of the leader? Instead of thinking I have to give the grand vision and inspire people to follow, a leader must co-create space that people on their own generate new ideas, test, get it right, fail, generate ideas again, repeat.

Renew protection.

Having a good insurance policy might be a subtle encouragement to eat junk food and not exercise. ( “I am protected by hospital cover, might as well I should use my insurance”)

Having a good job now might be an excuse to not to learn new skills. ( “I made it, I can now settle”)

Having a few years of success can make one trust his/her instincts more, and not to listen to others.

Protection makes us stable in the short term, vulnerable on the long run. We should renew our protection.

Is giving tabs/smartphones an answer ?

Someone asked me “Do you think giving smartphones and tabs to school teachers , students and government officials, a good answer ?”

My answer was ” It depends on the answer you are seeking ”

Yes, you may solve the accessibility problem. May be that will help the receiver be more connected. But with out training on content and tools ( let’s say apps) most of them will drift off to the vast ocean of interesting stuff like social media. Desired things like productivity and creativity doesn’t come easy. Internet is full of easy stuff.

Judgment and knowledge on hygiene while on internet are crucial. May be we all need it.