Lessons that we can learn from inventor Marconi’s journey

Lessons that we can learn from inventor Marconi’s journey

This post is about the lessons that we can learn from inventor G. Marconi’s journey of inventing radio. This style of writing is relatively new for me, and you can say that this is an experiment that I am running. Let’s see what feedback I get and what lessons I learn from that.)

There is one invention that we can’t live without.

And its inventor was a 20 years old homeschooled kid.

Without this invention, we would not have the advancement that we have in the world.

Looks like schools are overrated!

This inventor was G. Marconi and his invention was the radio.

Or, correctly put “radio-wave based wireless telegraph system”.

If you are a founder, product person or innovator, read on! 

There are many lessons in this post.

Marconi was born in a rich family. 

He did not attend formal school, and learned Maths, Physics and Chemistry at home through private tutors.

He was privileged, but he was also passionate.

You can’t excel in anything without passion, let alone invent new things.

Marconi was inquisitive.

He learned the theories of electricity from a high school Physics teacher, who became his mentor.

His curiosity led him to renowned Physicist, Augusto Righi who was a pioneer of electromagnetism and the first one (with J.C. Bose) to generate microwaves.

Marconi was bold.

He asked permission for attending Righi’s lectures, use his library and his lab at the University.

Did he get all? Yes.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

As I noted above, Marconi was resourceful. He utilized whatever was accessible to him.

Through Righi, he came across Hertz’s work on electromagnetic radiation. This was something that interested Marconi and motivated him to explore more.

In Hertz’s work, Marconi found something that other inventors weren’t focusing on. 

He might have found his niche.

And he was not even 20 years old. Plus, Internet or wifi were not invented yet.

Even as a child, he ran a lot of experiments.

That’s what inventors, startup founders and people in product do.

Experiments teach us a lot, and when they fail then failure teaches us a lot.

Experiments also help us validate our hypotheses.

It took Marconi a few years, but his experiments on radio waves finally became fruitful.

In 1894, he successfully tested a radio transmitter.

We know Marconi as the inventor of the radio, but he clearly had an entrepreneurial spirit.

What did we learn here:

Success can take time, but nothing can beat passion, curiosity, courage, resourcefulness, and hard work.

I am sure that inventing the radio was not all smooth sailing for Marconi, but who said that life of an entrepreneur or inventor is easy?

 

How to manage multiple projects: a few tips

How to manage multiple projects: a few tips

Managing timelines for multiple projects can be challenging, but with the right strategies and tools, it becomes more manageable. I have been managing multiple projects for a while and it can become chaotic if you are not in control. The idea is to stay on top of things smartly by employing systems. Any process you use must work for you and not the other way round.

Managing multiple projects means managing stakeholders, customers, team members, products, timelines, roadmaps etc. At times, it does feel like herding cats, but it also brings a sense of achievement once you deliver outcomes. 

Things don’t always go as planned, but that’s part of the game. It is about learning, practicing and adapting. You want to create visibility for yourself and others so that things do not fall through the cracks.

Secondly, your relationship with people will pay you more than behaving like a tyrant. For that, communication and respect an important role. Don’t be a jerk!

Here are ten effective tips to help you handle timelines on multiple projects simultaneously:

Tip Description Tools/How
Prioritize Projects Identify and rank projects based on importance to your organization’s goals. Allocate resources accordingly. Use a prioritization matrix or a simple ranking system. Business value based prioritisation is often useful.
Create a Master Schedule Develop a comprehensive schedule with all project timelines and milestones. Utilize project management software or a spreadsheet. A visual representation will help you stay on top of things.
Break Down Tasks Divide projects into smaller, manageable tasks or phases (batches) for better tracking and resource allocation. Create a breakdown structure for each project.
Set Realistic Deadlines Establish achievable deadlines for tasks and projects, considering potential delays and unforeseen issues. Estimation is almost always wrong, but it can be useful if used as a guideline. Secondly, estimation done by people who will do the work is more reliable.
Use a Project Management Tool Employ software like Asana, Trello, or Microsoft Project for task and resource tracking, and collaboration. Train your team on the chosen tool for effective use.

 

Drive the tool, and don’t let the tool drive you.

Delegate Responsibility Assign specific responsibilities to team members and communicate expectations and deadlines clearly. Implement a responsibility assignment matrix (RAM). Again, use that to guide the delivery, and not to performance manage people.
Regularly Review and Adjust Hold regular project meetings to review progress, identify issues, and make necessary timeline adjustments. But don’t create a meeting tsunami. Create a meeting schedule and stick to it. Have a clear agenda to keep the meetings short and on topic.
Resource Allocation Monitor and allocate resources, including personnel, budget, and equipment, based on project priorities. Use tools that work for you.
Time Blocking Dedicate specific blocks of time in your calendar for each project to improve focus and reduce multitasking. Use calendar or time management apps to schedule blocks.
Risk Management Identify potential project risks and develop contingency plans to mitigate their impact on timelines. Conduct risk assessments and document mitigation strategies.

Remember that effective communication and collaboration with your team are crucial for successful delivery/project management. Keep stakeholders informed of progress, challenges, and changes to timelines. Make things visible as much as you can. Additionally, flexibility and adaptability are key as project priorities and requirements may unfold and evolve over time.

Leadership lessons from the story of Frappuccino

Leadership lessons from the story of Frappuccino

I read the autobiography of Starbucks’ CEO Howard Shultz recently. Even though the book was published in 1997, it was clear to me that Shultz was ahead of his time in his management thinking.

I learned and gathered many lessons from the book, but the story of Frappuccino intrigued me. Sharing what I learned about it.

It is one of the Starbucks’ most popular and iconic drinks. It contributes almost $2 billion to Starbucks revenue.

Yet, it almost got rejected by the company.

Starbucks had previously declined requests for blended cold drinks. CEO and Chairman Howard Schultz was hesitant to introduce a blended drink that didn’t involve traditional espresso shots. He was worried it would dilute the company’s coffee-focused brand image. The initial recipe for the Frappuccino was a simple blend of coffee, milk, and sugar. Shultz found this blend awful, as it had a chalky, pasty taste.
Obviously, he opposed it.

Yet, as a good leader he was open for ideas and agreed to let the team test it with customers. After few experiments Frappuccino was launched in the summer of 1995 as a seasonal item in Starbucks stores in California. The drink became an instant hit and was soon offered year-round at all Starbucks locations across the US and later to be distributed bottled by PepsiCo.

Leadership lessons:

1. Brand and quality matters:
Shultz was right to be apprehensive.

His apprehension about the drink reflects his commitment to maintaining Starbucks’ brand identity and upholding the company’s high standards for coffee quality.

2. Trust:
Shultz trusted his team, and the employees trusted the management team.

This trust was the reason that a barista thought of creating a new drink and cared for what customers were asking for.

He could have done his 9-5 job.

3. A culture of safety:
A few store employees had started experimenting with the drink long before they reached out to Shultz with the new drink idea.

They did not ask for permission.

Employees knew that it was okay to make mistakes.

4. A culture of innovation:
Customers asked for a cold drink.

Employees listened to them, tried a new blend, and management supported.

Frappuccino’s success shows the innovation and adapting to changing consumer preferences.

In his book “Pour Your Heart into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time” Shultz wrote:
The drink’s success is a testament to the collaborative efforts of the company’s employees and their dedication to creating new and innovative products.

Their culture has been a key factor in Starbucks’ growth and success over the years.

This post is still a work in progress. I need to refine it further. So don’t get annoyed that it has come to an abrupt end. 🙂

How a neighbour taught me a quick lesson in divergent mindset, and gifted me 12 books too

How a neighbour taught me a quick lesson in divergent mindset, and gifted me 12 books too

I learned a great lesson from my neighbour (and got these books as gift).

You will enjoy this story. Read on!

Last night on my evening walk I stopped by to say hello to a retired, wealthy neighbor.

As we chatted, he asked me if I read books. He seemed quite pleased when I said that I read a lot. He then invited me to come inside and see his library, which he seemed very proud of.

It was a big library. He showed me some of his favorite books and as we talked more, I noticed that he was happy to talk to someone who had the same thought process. He ended up giving me a gift of 12 books, some of which were on Donald Trump.  And that is what I found interesting!

Curious, I asked him if he was a Trump supporter, to which he said that he was not. Obviously, I asked him then why he read books on Trump.

Then came a good advice…

He said that to understand someone’s mindset and to form an opinion about them, you must learn about them first. He then went on to explain that while he did not agree with everything that Trump did or said, he felt that it was important to read about him and his ideas before he placed a judgement on him.

As I left my neighbor’s house with my stack of books, I felt grateful for his generosity and the lesson he had imparted. This conversation made me realize that it is easy to form opinions and judgments about people without really understanding them or where they are coming from.

Reading books on a variety of topics and perspectives can broaden our minds and help us to see the world in a more nuanced way.

I might take long time to read these books, or might not read some of them at all, but I am grateful for the reminder that it is important to keep an open mind and to approach things with curiosity and a willingness to learn. Although, I am excited to dive into the books especially the ones on Trump, to learn more about the former president, what his thought process was and how he formed his policies.

You never know what you might discover when you take the time to truly understand someone else’s perspective.

I wrote a post about perspective and perception recently. Have a look if you wish to learn more about what these terms mean.

If you liked this post, then don’t forget follow me and share it.

Perception and Perspective

Perception and Perspective

“Hey Rajesh, there is a perception that you don’t do <X>!”

The consultant that the company had hired told me.

“Oh! Who in the team think that I don’t do <X>?

“Mate, I can’t tell you that. But perception is reality.”

Only after few years of leaving that place I found out that it was him who created a perception. He wanted more influence (and more business) and I used to question things. Well!

In that case, I did not receive any useful and actionable feedback. This is unfortunate that such scenarios are far too common where people receive vague comments instead of actionable feedback.

At Microsoft, we use the word “Perspective” to get our colleague’s point of view about how one is performing, what they are doing well and where they can improve. This mechanism allows people to receive all-round feedback and not just someone’s perception.

So, what’s the difference between perception and perspective?

Can you define each of those clearly? Most people find it hard to explain what they mean by perception and perspective.

Yet, both of these things are important for us to understand the world around us, assign meaning to what we observe and then decide whether to act or not.

You may hear some people saying that perception is reality, but I find that unintelligent. Saying that is only an excuse for not thinking clearly and critically.

What is perception and perspective?

Perception is the interpretation of things that we see, hear, smell or feel. It is what we ‘believe’ we understand after receiving a sensory input and then define a meaning that we apply to a situation, person or a thing.

For example, look at the cartoon above. Depending on how you look at it, you can easily perceive number six (6) to be number nine (9). You may even fight with someone about being right.

Perspective comes via and after perception. In other words, perception leads to perspective. It is our point of view that we build based on our perception.

If you are thinking that both perception and perspective will together in determining how we interpret things and build a point of view, then you are right.

This cartoon that I found on internet is also a good example of how perception of a given situation creates a point of view (perspective).

The image below is a good and powerful example of how perception and perspective play an important role in building our PoV.

  • What will you perceive if you only look at the first part of the image?
  • What will you think if you only see the last part of the image?
  • What is your point of view about the situation?
  • After seeing the full image, did your perspective change?

Note: The above image was created by Ursula Dahmen. Find the details here: https://www.spiegel.de/fotostrecke/manipulierte-bilder-fotostrecke-107186.html

What was surprising for my own interpretation of the above image was to discover that the soldier on the left wasn’t pointing the gun at the other soldier’s head. It was strapped to the soldier’s back.

Even that interpretation might not be correct until we hear the truth from the horse’s mouth.

Perception and perspective in work scenarios:

Passionately debating is quite common in some cultures.

It is also natural to have debates and discussions at work. A person who is only an observer and noticing the arguments, all the back and forth from both sides and sometimes the treated voices out of passion might perceive the debate as a fight.

This observer might build a point of view that the people debating are causing trouble at the workplace and might decide to complain about them to their seniors.

Based on this observer’s complaint, the senior folks might build a perception too and decide to take punitive action against the people who were merely debating a topic related to their work.

So, while perception is not reality, it may manipulate the reality. Unless one seriously pays attention, find all facts about a situation and critically examine them, perception may turn into a belief.

As managers, leaders, parents or friends, it is our responsibility that we learn about our perceptions and do not let them affect our perspective merely through quick judgement.

That is not easy, but at least we can try.