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.

Respect time.

Though many say “time is money”, time in organisations is not actually treated in the way we treat money.

Organisations in meeting rooms waste hundreds or hours in few hours.

I was recently at a meeting with 25 people for 2 hours. That is 50 man hours. What we achieved ? – confusion and boredom. Only one decision was taken. That could have easily achieved through one email.

Many want consensus in decision making. It’s all good. But we simply forget how difficult to get consensus even between 2 people. Try deciding what movie to watch with your spouse, if you think consensus is easy.

Rather, focus on what people want. Ask questions, and be ready to accept answers as they are. Be bold to be surprised and vulnerable. Think “there’s always a better way to do things, even routine activities”. Then act differently. Courage to act after getting that feedback is the loop that keeps you improving.

To get feedback, you don’t need meetings. Feedback can happen in your way to the water dispenser, with the right question. Sometimes humans are relaxed and more responsive when they are standing on their feet. You don’t need to have an answer. But you need to have the mind space to accept the response to your question.

Save meetings. Save time.

The other side of ratings

I was waiting for my ride on Uber when I saw on app that the driver had a 3.5 rating.

Only 3.5 ?

A sudden irritation crept inside me. What could this 3.5 number mean?

Is he a reckless driver? Is he bad with using maps? is he mean? may be his car is in bad shape?

These thoughts circled my mind for the 5 minutes he took to arrive.

Reflecting on my mind state, I questioned my self “what if I had not seen the rating?”

I decided to act like I hadn’t seen his rating. I got in.

I was welcomed to a wide smile of a young man in his mid twenties.

To my surprise he drove exceptionally well. No crazy changing of lanes, no abrupt brakes, and he was very courteous.

He had been driving for 6 days on Uber. There can be many reasons for his 3.5 rating.

I judged him on his rating alone.

We already have enough criteria to be judgmental: monthly income, size of home, car, brand of clothes, number of degrees/MBA’s.

Now, with social media and apps: how many likes you get to your selfie? how many friends, followers, Shares ?

Ratings throw beauty of randomness out of human equation.

We judge people like they are things, not as humans who are capable of random acts of goodness.

These random, ad hoc characteristics of humans are been standardised to make humans palpable for big data. Then humans can be classified to include them in to target groups. Very interesting times.

Asking questions and fear of failure

I find audiences very peculiar. They don’t ask questions after a session is over.

When I go to a session, an event, a meeting or to a talk,  there’s a good reason why I am spending my time there. Otherwise I don’t go.

So when I am there, I want to ask questions to clarify and clear doubts. I want to learn new things.

I am not afraid if I look stupid in front of others, because my biggest resource is time, and it needs better care.

From experience I found, it is only my questions that can make my time spent worthwhile in many occasions. Here’s an example.

Extra tip: I am an avid google maps user, but I stop by and ask from people about the place I am going. I am pleasantly surprised by the knowledge I get.

I found most of the time, the reason I do not want to ask questions is the fear of rejection.

Steve Jobs explains this in less than 2 minutes:

How can I help you ?


At events, especially after completing a talk, number of people who network with me is high. It’s all good.

But time is limited. At one instance there were 3 persons from different organisations around me. All want to talk about their work, but all want to leave soon as well, because it was already past 530 pm. Traffic is insane in Colombo.

So this is what I did.

” How can I help you?”

The conversation moved from what we do to why we should connect. We all were questioning each other with specific questions and sooner we understood each other. It took 10 minutes and we knew how we can help each other.

Wonderful thing was with one person I  found he could help me more than I could help him.

So, ” How can I help you?”