Sunday, February 24, 2013

Experiencing, Partitioning, Ideating and Engaging (XPIE): A Philosophical Approach for Effective Time Management

In human life, time is the most important resource that is non-controllable, non-renewable, non-substitutable and non-recoverable. It is also one resource whose march in terms of units of time (say, seconds to days) is pre-determined (and, to that extent predictable) and whose total availability in one’s life (in terms of one’s lifespan) is unknown (except as a trend, expectation or hope). This is probably the reason for the emergence of disparate philosophies as to how one should live one’s life, from completely materialistic and opportunistic to completely philosophical and religious. Most, however, are subject to multiple combinations of approaches that vary with the age and phase of life. Some want to learn more and some others want to earn more, each in the shortest period of time. Most want to save more and a few want to share more, each in the shortest period of time. The underlying principle in any approach to utilizing time should be to make an optimal and effective use of time one is blessed with. Effective management of time is, verily, the only way to a fulfilled life.

 Human ingenuity in technology has enabled the human race dramatically shrink the times taken to perform any task, be it travel, communication or any development activity. Be that may, the paradox of spending each unit of time effectively at an individual or team level continues unresolved. Hours and hours, for example, are spent (wasted, according to elders) by the young generation on the digital social media which connects the world of known and unknown in nanoseconds! Despite real time telecommunication connectivity cross-border agreements take far longer nowadays than they took in the telegram and telefax days, decades ago. Computerized designing and computer simulation of prototypes has not dramatically impacted the way automobiles are refreshed each year. In summary, more iterations are performed and more choices are evaluated in lesser units of time per iteration or evaluation, eventually resulting in the same, if not higher, amount of overall transaction time.
Perceptions on time
Individuals and corporations are faced with the timeless problem of effectively utilizing time. Competing and conflicting social and organizational pressures on time cause individuals to respond reactively rather than be in command of any particular facet. Competitive and volatile economic and business conditions cause companies to race desperately rather than be deliberative before being decisive. Individuals and corporations, however, are less than aligned how they could together utilize time as their synergistic competitive advantage, on an end to end basis. Some corporations and a few individuals understand that personal individual productivity could translate into corporate productivity. Yet, most corporations and most individuals tend to avoid any interlink between time management at work and time utilization outside. The fact, however, is that like safety and quality time management is a fundamental attitude and behavioral predisposition of an individual that could collectively impact a corporation’s own ability to be time-effective.
Like a healthy employee is a productive employee, a time-conscious individual would be a productive employee. In today’s world, in fact, an individual who manages his off-work time effectively would not only be developing varied capabilities and fulfilling multiple responsibilities but also achieving better professional and personal life balance. Typically, the same unit of time could be put by different individuals to different uses, from sports and hobbies to learning and development, and from family responsibilities to social service depending upon each individual’s professional and family ethos and value system. For a passionate sports lover, watching a cricket match over five days would be a fulfillment rather than a waste. For a workaholic, however, any time spent on activities not related either directly or indirectly to work would be a complete waste. Individuals perceive time in terms of their likes and dislikes rather than in terms of how effective or ineffective they are in terms of effectively utilizing it.  
Experiencing versus traversing
There are many books on effective time management, each with different tools and techniques of time management. The really effective management of time is really one of experiencing time in its entirety and not merely travelling through it. Reverting to the example of the passionate sports lover watching the five day cricket test match, he can spend all the five days only clapping and enjoying  (thus adding no value to himself) or spend the time in addition analyzing the batting, bowling and fielding nuances (thus honing his cricketing skills). Better still, if he is an amateur cricketer model himself after his favorite cricketing hero (and become a cricketing sensation himself!). A foodie may merely eat and enjoy an elaborate time consuming multi-course dinner or also observe the culinary art and science on the table, and add to his or her own culinary repository.  The principle of experiencing through time is focusing all of one’s sensory faculties in living through an activity.
The core of experiencing an activity is concentration on the activity. To be able to concentrate on an activity one must primarily be able to enjoy the activity. But enjoyment by itself does not lead to concentration. Concentration is a faculty that needs to be developed with dedicated effort. Rapid  learners learn fast by concentrating on the subject matter as they read through the matter. Negotiators sharpen their skills by not merely exchanging viewpoints but observing the body language of individual team members and their silent and vocal interactions. Effective speakers make impactful use of their time not merely by delivering a speech or relying on a powerpoint presentation but more by connecting with the audience and creating a communication experience with requisite pauses and triggers and selective amplitude. It is probably not as much important as to what has been the amount of time spent on any activity but how intensively one lives through it.
PIE as a mind option
Management of time is a matter of mind; that too, a trained mind. In times one is not into specific activities of life, should one relax without any activities or invite new activities that add joy into one’s life?  Whatever be the options available in today’s event and activity hyped world, emptiness is not an option. At one level, one could implement several options to be efficient and effective in whatever one is engaged in, including establishing an optimal work life-personal life balance. Effective time management would be a matter of competencies that ensure productivity and attitudes that abhor waste of time. A more practical approach would be to partition time on a daily, recurrent basis. One may consider the 24 hour day having non-exclusive and exclusive zones. The non-exclusive time zone is the larger part of the 24 hour daily life, say 22 or 23 hours per day, which is devoted to all the socially, economically and naturally required daily activities. The exclusive time zone comprises the balance 1 or 2 hours which one may use exclusively for avocations that are strictly personal and fulfilling. These could be exercising, painting, gardening, meditating, networking, social service or whatever. The idea of partitioning the day into two parts; the larger non-exclusive part known and dedicated for others, and the smaller exclusive part known and dedicated only for self-development and self-fulfillment is an approach that could lead to a significant uplift to one’s life.
There can, indeed, be no time in one’s life when one can simply do nothing valuable. From ideating to meditating, it is possible and necessary to engage a wandering mind into creating value. Apart from partitioning, and in the partitioned parts of the day, one can do two important activities of the mind that can be productive; one is ideating, and the other is engaging. Converting myriad thoughts into ideas, preferably focused ideas, would be the greatest help one can render to oneself for having been blessed with a thinking brain. A brain that is wired to be creative and innovative could be a genetic predisposition of really a blessed few but a brain that is disciplined to be thoughtful and ideating is within everyone’s capability. However, just being thoughtful, reflective and ideating is not enough. One needs to be engaged with oneself and one’s ideas. Being engaged means developing and sustaining interest in matters that are of relevance, and taking them to fruition over time, creating value for oneself, one’s family, one’s organization and the broader society.
XPIE, an integrated approach
The author’s XPIE model of Experiencing, Partitioning, Ideating and Engaging provides individuals with a superior ability to effectively manage time. Experiencing time, not merely wading through it, is the first requirement of any effective time management. Genuine and authentic experiencing creates value by itself from the each unit of time one spends. Partitioning of time into excusive and non-exclusive zones, being particularly thoughtful, reflective and ideating, and finally staying engaged would serve as an effective time management paradigm. The ability to absorb each activity as a value-added experience and stay thoughtful and engaged on ideas that appeal to one’s life system is crucial to achieving the ultimate effectiveness of time in one’s life. 
Posted by Dr CB Rao on February 24, 2013             

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Synergy of Innovation and Perfection: Towards the Ultimate Competitive Advantage

Apple is reportedly working on a smart watch, called as iWatch by the media.  Will this be a successful product? Probably yes, if one were to consider Apple’s string of successful products such as iPod, iPhone and iPad; need not necessarily be, if one were to take into account its occasional failures such as its early generation gaming devices and portable computers.  Apple’s recent successes have, in large measure, been due to its ability to design, manufacture and deliver an innovatively perfect product for the market. From the looks and objectives, iWatch seems to have the innovative specifications and the perfect form factor that are in keeping with Apple’s core competence of innovation coupled with perfection. Apple’s track record does suggest that the combination of innovation and perfection is a pathway to success.

A study of several successful firms suggests that introduction of new products or services on a systematic basis is a key factor of success, but only if such products and services are delivered with perfection, that is, without any faults or weaknesses, and in a completely correct and exact manner. The relative importance of innovation and perfection in the combination has, however, been a matter of subjectivity. Companies that sparkle with innovation but fail to deliver it with panache have been far less successful than companies which have been merely followers but delivered products and services of impeccable quality. It would, therefore, appear that companies need to not only ensure both innovation and perfection but also get the right balance of innovation and perfection that makes economic sense.
Innovation has no end. What appears to be an innovative product at the time of innovation or commercialization is soon rendered obsolete by a more innovative product or by a clone that is designed and manufactured more perfectly. Smart phones, for example, led a wave of innovation in mobile phones and convergence devices. The current experimental trend of iWatch and Google Glasses indicates that certain products, be they computers, smart phones or cameras, can be rendered obsolete by the trend of wearable or communicable computers that these smart watches and smart goggles signify. Companies which recognized the cycle of innovation and obsolescence, and have in addition made their own products obsolete by more innovative products have enjoyed consistent success. 
Innovation has no limits. What appears to be beyond the reach of a first innovation becomes a facile task for the subsequent innovations.  Having 256 MB RAM was once a design feat for computers. Today, a smart phone is designed with 2 GB RAM and quad-core processors. HD screen was unthinkable in a cellular phone not too long ago. HD screen capability of 1080p is now passé in contemporary mobile phones. iWatch with Bluetooth and wireless connectivity could lead to remote connectivity between the wearer and his or her devices easy. With development of needleless diagnostics, Apple may develop its iWatch into an iDoctor next. The more innovatively hardware and software are designed, and more importantly they are integrated, the more innovative a product would be.
Innovation has no boundaries. What appears to be a partial innovation in a component of a product can be a dominant driver of total product innovation. Samsung may be a follower in smart phones but its innovative edge in touch screens, ranging up to the latest large format Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) screens as well as bendable and extendable OLED screens has driven innovation in its smart phones. Ordinary components can be assembled into an extraordinary product through software innovation as Apple has demonstrated. As firms systematically specialize in innovation, they also acquire core competence in certain categories of innovation, as exemplified by Toyota in hybrid vehicles, Intel in computer chips, Qualcomm in mobile chips, Nintendo in gaming devices, BD in needles and so on. Continuous and systematic innovation leads to product specialization on one hand and erects entry barriers on the other.
Like innovation, perfection has no end. As nano measurement technologies emerge, tolerances can be defined more tightly, for example. Perfection, however, tends to be comparative and contextual. Perfection is measured against the specifications set by the designer. Companies committed to high quality go in for high specifications to set the design tone for perfection. Each successive generation of products sets higher standards for perfection. In an automobile engine, spark plugs, for example, have become 30 percent thinner while moving parts like pistons, connecting rods and crankshafts have seen reductions in weights ranging from 30 to 50 percent. Perfection in measurement technologies has enabled such improvements.
Unlike innovation, perfection has a limit, a limit that is Zero in defects of manufacture and another limit that is infinity in “meantime between failures (MTBF)” of a product in service.  These limits are not easy to achieve, though. They are dependent on the sophistication, consistency and reliability of the manufacturing equipment and the manufacturing process as well as the quality of materials of manufacture on the other.  Continuous improvements have led automobile component makers to specifying defects from defective parts per  thousand that was in vogue years ago to defective parts per million that is the standard more recently. Six Sigma is another approach that tightens the limits for process variability. The term Six Sigma originated from statistical modeling of manufacturing processes and denotes 99.99966% of the products manufactured are statistically expected to be free of defects (3.4 defects per million).

Like innovation, perfection has no boundaries. It is not confined to products and services or product and process technologies. It is equally related to people and processes. Quality and avoidance of defects needs to be a credo, right from construction of language to manufacture of products, and from understanding consumer needs to fulfilling them. This assumes great importance given that consumers are more demanding, regulators are more watchful and competition is unrelenting. Over the last few years, millions of cars have been recalled by marquee companies such as Toyota, BMW and a few others, indicating that not being perfect has a significant cost attached to it. Perfection does not necessarily mean getting things right first time. There are enough practices in the design and manufacturing processes such as simulation and piloting to ensure that all defect-prone systems, causes and interventions are identified and addressed.
If innovation drives the boundary of user experience, perfection establishes the quality of user experience. Innovation has onetime design costs while perfection has recurring manufacturing costs. The combination of innovation and perfection thus determines the lifecycle costs for the company and the lifecycle value for the company. Depending upon their strategies, individual companies choose that combination which best suits their business position and market standing. The synergy of innovation and perfection comes from a combination of technology and people, a competitive and proactive mindset being the underlying behavioral foundation. Without innovation, perfection has little space while without perfection, innovation can go awry. This is best illustrated by the story of the modern day spark plug (first engineered in 1860  with the engineering of the internal combustion engine) which demonstrates how innovation and perfection are synergistic.
Spark plug is the heart of the internal combustion engine which in turn is the core of the petrol-powered automobile.  Spark plugs have seen a leapfrog in sparking efficiency and maintainability over the last several decades due to a combination of the use of more advanced materials (innovation in materials sciences) and the deployment of tighter tolerances in each of the components, not limited to the electrodes (perfection in design and manufacture). Use of exotic iridium and platinum materials for central electrode and ground electrode respectively, and tight ultra-fine tapering and gap setting promote not only high efficiency sparking but also long life and more effective self-cleaning characteristics. The synergy of materials innovation and manufacturing perfection that the modern day spark plug represents is also illustrative of how innovation and perfection can be synergistic to achieve ultimate competitive advantage for firms.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on February 17, 2013



Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Spectrum of Success and Failure, and the Nirvana of Performance

Every act has an outcome that is noted as success or failure. Act, in this context, is considered to include a plan or strategy that is intended to be implemented.  Human beings and organizational entities are increasingly concerned and preoccupied with the results or outcomes of their acts. The more the investment of resources in an act, be it time, effort or money, the greater is the expectation of success. The resources can be tangible ones as above or intangible ones such as encouragement, environment and ecosystem. The student who invests a lot in seeking admission to a premier course in a premium institute as well as his or her family that provides the resources, tangible and intangible, both aim for success and are deeply affected by failure. Organizational entities which are backed by founders, investors and other share holders with investments of resources are also severally and collectively impacted by successes and failures.    

Hindu philosophy, probably and other philosophies too, consider successes and failures as events in the wheel of life, scripted and written by Destiny. While the Hindu philosophy exhorts the individual to perform his ’dharma’ or duty, it expects the individual to perform the duty without expectations. It also postulates “nirvana’ as the ultimate life’s goal. Practically, however, in the day to day life individuals and organizations live to succeed while performing their duties, with the objective of success casting an overwhelming hue on the call of duty. Premier education thus becomes a lever for social recognition and financial prosperity for the student and the family. Growth and profitability become the platform for global competitiveness and economic dominance for the entities and investors. Various individual and corporate acts, including adoption of technologies and management processes, are designed and practiced by individuals and entities to achieve success and avoid failure.
Success and failure
Despite the fact that everyone sets up himself or his organization for success there tend to be successes and failures in the long run. There are two ways of looking at this; the statistical way and the karmic way. The statistical approach teaches us that in any universe or its representative large sample, the chosen dimension, be it an attribute or outcome, statistically follows a distribution, in most cases the normal distribution. There would be as many outperformers as underperformers around a statistically determined median, with the shape of the bell curve in terms of the peak and spread depending upon the characteristics of the universe. The extreme outperformers as well as the extreme underperformers have low probability while the mid-rangers have the maximum probability of occurrence. Extending the statistical approach, success and failure, in the long term, are seen as resultants of an environmental and a competitive landscape rather than as something that is completely determined by the performer.
The Hindu karmic approach, on the other hand, postulates as in Christianity that one reaps as one sows. The more good efforts one puts in, the more successful would one be. That said, what constitutes good and what constitutes bad is an individualistic determination. Going through a coaching institution would be good for one class of students while studying and stretching on one’s own would be good for another class. While a strategy of product specialization would be appropriate for one class of firms a strategy of product diversification could be appropriate for another class of firms. Even within the karmic approach, therefore, the choice of right seed could be of importance. While statistical approach focuses on the distribution of a range of outcomes, the karmic approach teaches us to choose the right ingredients. Yet, many individuals and entities fail to be circumspect and objective in their choices. The cloudiness is due to the spectral effects of success and failure on the psyche of individuals and organizations.
Spectral effects of success and failure
The outcomes of success and failure have three effects each on the psychology of an individual or entity. These six shades of success and failure together with the central disposition of being unmoved by success or failure together constitute the spectrum of success and failure. As is said, nothing succeeds like success, and nothing fails like failure too. As an individual or organization goes through repeated successes or failures the psychological disposition with which such repeated successes and failures are absorbed and assimilated in the human or enterprise psychological system determines the future propensity to success or failure. At the core of individual as well as organizational mindset, the individual constitutes the core, the only difference perhaps being that in an organizational setting the collective disposition of individuals determines the predisposition.
The three effects of success could be increasingly intoxicating on an individual or entity, eroding the very platform of success. The first feeling of “confidence” that accompanies initial success is a much needed and well deserved index of success. Repeated successes, unless one is mindful, lead to “complacence” of success whereby success is taken to be granted leading to a lowering of guard. When successes follow one after the other, by design or default, even in a situation of complacence, one tends to slip into “arrogance” of success, whereby one fails to accept feedback or ignores to act on it. Each of the three states has a different influence on the psychological disposition. Confidence (a belief in one’s ability to be successful) is an essential ingredient of success; it leads to success and also gets reinforced by success. Complacency (a feeling of being too satisfied to recognize the need for change) is an outcome of ignorance of the factors that drove successes of the past. Arrogance (a feeling of excessive pride that rejects or alienates other people and other inputs) is an outcome of the false sense of infallibility that some acquire as a result of continued success.
The three effects of failure could be increasingly debilitating on an individual or entity, eroding the resilience to recover and succeed which is possible even after failure. The first feeling of “concern” that accompanies initial failure is a much needed and well advised introspection of failure. Repeated failures, unless one analyzes the root causes, lead to “helplessness” of failure whereby failure is taken to be inevitable, leading to lowered or misdirected efforts to succeed. When failures follow one after the other, by design or default, one tends to slip into a state of “despondency”, whereby one fails to recognize the residual strengths and opportunities. Concern (a feeling of responsibility to an unexpected outcome) is an essential first step to recognizing failure; it leads to introspection which, in turn, must help eliminate causes of failure. Helplessness (a feeling of inability to take care by oneself) is an outcome of an inability to introspect for root causes which, in turn, makes one rely on external miracles than internal strengths. Despondency (a feeling of sadness and hopelessness) is the sense of defeat that some slip into as a result of continued failures.     
“Equanimity” is a calm state of mind that does not respond with excessive emotions, positive or negative, to one’s successes and failures. If the six effects of success and failure described above, ranging from “despondency, helplessness and concern” of failure to “confidence, complacence and arrogance” of success, are a sequential part of a spectrum, the mid-point is the feeling of equanimity. Equanimity does not mean that a person or an entity is either unmindful of successes and failures or driven by extreme confidence or despondency. Rather, equanimity requires that one analyzes one’s successes and failures in terms of key drivers and root causes respectively and works on them for ensuring further successes and overcoming failures. Each success and failure requires prompt and considered attention as part of the equanimity approach.
Nirvana of performance
Nirvana, in Hinduism or Buddhism refers to the state of peace and happiness that a person achieves after giving up all personal desires. Performance in life’s context requires pursuit of advancement based on core competencies and core values until one believes that the end state of total peace and happiness without any further desires (or ‘nirvana’) is reached. This state is typically reached at the end of one’s career, capping a series of successes and failures, with successes hopefully being many more than failures. In the pursuit of nirvana, however, one needs to manage the spectral effects of successes and failures in such a manner that one is within the band of confidence and concern, letting equanimity determining how one manages successes and failures.
For entities, however, there can be no end-state as they are perpetual instruments for generating economic wealth and social equity. The key to enterprise equanimity lies in the elegant and effective manner in which the team members individually and collectively manage the spectral impact of successes and failures. The considerations in the blog post are powerful emotional or philosophical guides to understand and manage the drivers and impacts of successes and failures. To provide a practical platform one would need to see specific examples of how the spectral effects are evident in leaders and managers, and how they impact the management of the spectral effects of successes and failures in their own and their entities’ lives. These would be covered in a sequel to this blog post.      
Posted by Dr CB Rao on February 10, 2013  

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Awareness and Resilience Management (ARM): Arming for Success and Happiness in Life

Life is unpredictable in terms of the opportunities and challenges it brings in one’s life. Life, apart from the fundamental foundation of being a part of the family, is also being a part of an organization. Such an organization could be anything, from the informal friends’ circle one develops in the childhood to the educational institutions that prepare one for independent economic life. Once a person is fully qualified educationally or vocationally, the firm or the agency that the person joins to earn a livelihood by contributing his intellectual and physical capabilities becomes the organization.  Being successful and happy as a part of the internal family organization and external professional organization is a key objective of every person.

This blog post explores what could make a person successful and happy in organizations. In doing so, it does not consider, solely for the purpose of the post, the nexus between professional and family success, and happiness; nor does it consider one outcome as the trigger of the other. The author believes that both the aspects of life, family and professional, are interrelated and can be optimized as a whole for superior success and performance, provided certain basic triggers and drivers of success and happiness in life are understood. However, given that the formal professional organization is an established form of organization which runs on certain principles, such organization, and individual in organization, is taken up to explore the agenda of success and happiness in life.
Success and happiness
Success and happiness are highly contextual and individualistic, defying easy and common definition. Not all successful people are happy people and not all happy people are successful ones. Success is seen to be a materialistic happening and happiness is seen to be a philosophical experience; neither being wholly true. Success is seen to occur within and as a result of certain consensual acknowledgement in an organizational system while happiness is seen to spring from within the individual; either being only partially true. Success is considered to be a measurable and visible metric while happiness is understood to be an immeasurable, embedded emotion; neither is unassailable as metrics and measurements may be wrong as much as smiles and symbolism may be faked. Success takes time to build and is sustainable (even in the face of failures) while happiness could be ephemeral and transient (and unrelated to successes or failures). Clearly, there are many gross and subtle definitions of success and happiness.
As there is no easy and universal definition of success and happiness, a few baseline criteria would be relevant, combining the context and the individual as well as the organization. Success is often based on accomplishment against a set of organizational and individual goals, in a manner that they are visible and measurable. Success is materialistic to the extent of building value for the organization and influencing career for the individual. Happiness is a sense of fulfillment that a person or a group of persons experiences when the person or the group receives economic or non-economic recognition, directly or indirectly linked to the person’s or the group’s contributions. Happiness is individualistic, and is both materialistic and philosophical, to the extent that depending on the philosophical and emotional disposition of an individual he or she may choose to accentuate or attenuate the happiness quotient. Be that as it may, it is important for individuals in an organization to understand the means of deriving and sustaining success as well as happiness.
Convergence within divergence
Success and happiness, though correlated with success being independent variable and happiness being the dependent variable, are not necessarily convergent phenomena. A baby instantly derives happiness when the baby achieves the success of cuddle from the mother. A child derives success when he or she accomplishes a mechanistic activity, seen to be beyond reach, and in the process of performance also derives much happiness. However, as the child grows into a student and as a student becomes an employee, what determines success and how it influences happiness become divergent. The goal of progressive organizations, not unnaturally, is to set up people for success to make them happy and also to have happy people in the organization so that the firm can be positioned for success.
It is up to the individuals to recognize that it is important for their lives to seek convergence of success and happiness. It is up to the organizations to facilitate a nexus between happiness and success by celebrating success. However, it is important for both the individuals and the organizations to build a culture of an organization that facilitates the convergence of success and happiness even though divergent parameters define and drive each outcome of success and happiness. This would be possible when individuals and organizations understand two fundamental concepts of integrating success and happiness. These are awareness management and resilience management. These two concepts are grounded on the premise that neither success nor happiness is absolute and there exists a large latitude to achieve success even after failure and ensure happiness despite unhappiness.
Awareness management
When an individual or an organization is asked as to what determines success in an organization the answer is likely to be that a combination of competencies and attitudes determines the success. While this is true, it is awareness that makes a fundamental difference in influencing success or failure. Awareness itself has two facets, internal and external. Internal or self awareness enables one to appreciate one’s competencies and attitudes, delineating adequacies and inadequacies in each. In an organizational context, it is unusual for employees to have varied competencies and attitudes. Self-awareness enables an employee to play to his or her strengths rather than follow stereotypes of performance or just stick to assigned roles despite the alignment.  Self-examination is psychologically nuanced and requires that one honestly challenges one’s beliefs and marshals the courage to act on that information which may lead to fresh ways of thinking about one’s life, and what determines one’s successes and happiness.
The theory of Argyris and Schon (1978) points out to the value of learning through awareness approaches. When an error is detected and corrected but permits the organization to carry on its present policies or achieve its present objectives, then that error-and-correction process is single-loop learning. Single-loop learning is like a thermostat that learns when it is too hot or too cold and turns the heat on or off. The thermostat can perform this task because it can receive information (the temperature of the room) and take corrective action. Double-loop learning occurs when an error is detected and corrected in ways that involve the modification of an organization’s underlying norms, policies and objectives. Employees who follow the double-loop learning process are able to appreciate where and how their competencies and attitudes align with organizational roles and responsibilities. Organizations which follow double-loop learning are able to induct and develop talent that meets higher aspirations. Clearly, organizations must also deploy double loop learning, which together with employees’ own approach leads to synergistic results.
External awareness deploys double loop learning with an additional strategic context. An individual should not be content with one’s own awareness but should seek 360 degree feedback on what others perceive of him or her. He or she also should resort to established psychological analytical tools to understand one’s own self better. An organization must similarly look at successful organizations and try to understand what makes them more successful or less successful and more or less vibrant than itself; vibrancy setting the organizational tone of happiness. While awareness of an individual is hampered by one’s relative ego state or closed state of mind, awareness of an organization is limited by the relative bureaucracy and ossification in its management. Managing for awareness, both internal and external, is a key facet of an individual’s and organization’s success factors. A cognitive approach that questions every aspect of competencies and attitudes in relation to internal culture and external environment is helpful for both individuals and organizations.
Resilience management
Resilience in terms of physics is the ability of a substance to return to its original shape after it has been bent, stretched or pressed. In a people sense, it is the ability of people or organizations to feel better quickly and recover appropriately after anything unpleasant or unexpected, such as shock, injury etc.  Resilience is also an age related phenomenon. As we know, toddlers, infants and youngsters have tremendous resilience in their skeletal and muscular systems that inevitably decline over age. Gymnasts and sports persons sustain or even improve resilience by exacting training and skilful techniques, along with an openness to take risks. Organizations also tend to display a lowering resilience with age. Startups and young firms typically are able to have flexibility, adaptability and agility and return to growth path despite setbacks quickly. Mature firms, in contrast, tend to be resilient.  
Resilience in an individual and organizational context has deeper import. Given the unpredictable external environment and heightened competition on one hand and periodical assessment of performance of employees by the managements and quarterly evaluation of firm performance by investors on the other, performance shocks and unpleasant feedback is commonplace. In respect of individuals, resilience is the ability of an individual not to be put down by shocks, stabilize one’s mind and heart, and reevaluate one’s competencies and attitudes in the perspective of a long career of four decades. In respect of organizations, resilience is the ability of a firm to take performance and competitive setbacks in its stride, update strategy and tactics, reinforce and motivate the talent base and create a new energy. Firms will do well to remember that unlike individuals they can be ageless if only they are resilient (apart from being aware).  
Importantly, being resilient is different from being fatalistic. The outstanding example of resilience is that of Japan, a country that has virtually risen from ashes after the World War II to become the world’s leading technological and economic power. The resilience of Japan has been a resultant of the brain power and work ethic of the people. Individuals and firms need to marshal the hidden brain power and ignored work ethic to develop customized hypothesis of resilience. For individuals as much as for corporations, kneejerk or ad-hoc responses hamper rather than reinforce resilience.  Individuals may have different response mechanisms and abilities to reinforce resilience; for example, silence and pause could give mind and heart the chance to recoup innate optimism and energy. Organizations may also have different response mechanisms and abilities to reinforce resilience; for example, reviews, collaboration and networking may help the firm to emerge stronger.   
Arming with ARM
The foregoing brings out that awareness management and resilience management have a major role to play in ensuring success and happiness of individuals as of organizations. Certainly, talent and dedication (as well as luck) play crucial roles in success but one needs to be aware of one’s own competencies and attitudes in relation to what is required in the context of internal and external requirements. Despite the right talent and attitudes, individuals and organizations do face setbacks due to several internal and external factors.  Resilience with persistence marks the difference between leaders and followers. Awareness and Resilience Management (ARM) typically arms individuals and organizations to derive sustained success and happiness, despite there being no universally applicable benchmarks of success and happiness.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on February 3, 2013