Sunday, November 24, 2013

A New Approach to Competitive Advantage: The Strategically Balanced Corporation

Corporations are established and developed based on a combination of vision, strategy and execution. Amongst these three, strategy sets the pathway to accomplish the vision through execution. Strategy differentiates one firm from the other, not necessarily in terms of performance but more in terms how it seeks to achieve its vision. Firms are commonly viewed as specialized, diversified, integrated, local, global, and so on. Strategy, in its core elements, has not altered much over the years but the environmental information and internal awareness that sets the tone for strategy has not only become more complex but also volatile. The number of players has also significantly increased in any industry. The corporations are finding it increasingly difficult to develop unique strategies. Strategy, in this context, is not about which industry or business to operate in but is about how to achieve competitive advantage in any chosen business or industry.

For good measure, we do have a few strategic templates from management gurus; the principal ones being the theory of generic competitive strategy by Michael Porter and the theory of core competence by C K Prahalad. There are also several theories for firms and organizations to become effective and competitive, for example, the model of balanced scorecard by Robert Kaplan and David Norton, the theory of constraints by Eliyahu Goldratt and the theory of reengineering by Michael Hammer. All these theories, developed in the 1980s and 1990s, do not take into account the perfect spread of information and options that is now available for strategists and firms. Every leader, for example, is aware of the generic strategies of cost leadership and differentiation, and even the sub-strategies to achieve them. What strategy officers must now focus is on developing an elegant balance amongst multiple strategic options. This blog post proposes a paradigm of strategically balanced corporation.
Strategic balance
An optimal strategy is one that is open to environmental opportunities but also one that hedges against environmental uncertainties. It also plans execution based on available resources or resources that can be acquired to execute the strategy. This requires that the strategy must always balance rewards and risks on one hand and aspiration and attainability on the other. Seeking this balance is a delicate and complex process; with strategists requiring to be both conservative and aggressive as the situation demands. The concept of strategic balance is relevant for mono-product firms as well as for multi-product and multi-business firms. The concept is also not necessarily limited to only products or services but covers all the essential parts of a firm’s value chain such as products and services that are delivered, the manufacturing or delivery process used, the customer outreach methods, the human resources deployed, and so on.   
Research has focused on firms adopting certain extreme strategies. For example, it has been well researched if market share and profitability are correlated. It has also been researched if specialized and conglomerated businesses have unique sustainability characteristics. There is, however, practically negligible research on what constitutes a strategic balance and whether strategic balance leads to superior performance. In this context, this blog post creates a fundamental platform to understand and analyze strategic balance. We may define strategic balance as a firm-specific balance that exists by design amongst various key components of a firm’s value chain and between strategic options that exist in respect of each component of the value chain. Strategic balance must not be misconstrued as striking a middle ground; rather it should be seen as a quest for optimality of a firm. The concept of strategic balance is amplified below.
Value balance
There is a concept, in some schools, that it is not important for a firm to operate across all segments of the value chain. This school of thought argues that a firm could just develop and stick to a core competence and stick to it. An analogy could be that a firm could be a design house but could manufacture and market products with external alliances as successfully as a fully integrated firm. Such outsourcing hypothesis could be true to an extent but not to a sustainable extent. Corporate history has enough chapters of firms which mimicked a full value chain operation on certain basic internal strengths and a large extent of external support but withered away when the alliance partners denied support or failed to respond to growth opportunity because of lack of internal capabilities. As a matter of fundamental principle, a firm which does not ensure value chain balance with appropriate attention to key components such as R&D, manufacturing, supply chain, marketing, human resources and information technology would be suboptimal and sub-sustainable in a competitive world. By no means, this is an all-inclusive listing of value chain components.    
Portfolio balance
Every firm exists and grows based on products and services in a particular business, be it hospitals or healthcare business and automobiles or transportation business. The notion that portfolio concepts are valid for only diversified businesses is archaic. Even a business of coffee chains can apply and benefit from portfolio balance concepts. Once a business is defined, and however narrowly the business is defined, there would be creative ways to in-build a portfolio into the products or services. A portfolio approach is based on the strategic truism that a service or a product offers more than the product or service functionality to the customer. A restaurant may serve only food but it can provide umpteen choices in terms of culinary streams to its customers. Even Starbucks, known for its pioneering coffee line of business, has multiple beverages, hot and cold, besides several eats and food accessories as its portfolio. The strategic challenge lies in developing the right balance between specialization and diversification. Any business provides the opportunity of strategic portfolio balance;  a company manufacturing only heavy trucks can offer a wide portfolio from bare chassis to fully built custom application vehicles on one hand and from civilian to defence vehicles. Strategic portfolio balance ensures an optimal exploitation of environmental opportunity and appropriate hedging against volatility.
 Manufacturing balance
Manufacturing represents a part of value chain which converts a proven design into a saleable product or service. Manufacturing can vary between complete integration and complete outsourcing. The former is highly resource intensive with high fixed overheads that could be highly catastrophic in the event of a precipitous demand downturn. The latter is certainly resource-lean with low overheads but could be highly vulnerable in the event of a sharp and sudden demand uptick. Each industry offers a paradigm of optimal manufacturing balance. A highly evolved industry where each component or material has also evolved into its own industrial structure provides several solutions for manufacturing optimality. On the other hand, a newly developing industry has fewer degrees of freedom to offer. The former implies an established quality and cost base that could afford higher outsourcing. The latter could have doubtful engineering and quality fundamentals that could demand greater control over manufacture through integration. An automobile manufacturer outsourcing differing components based on differentiated internal capabilities is an example of the former. On the other hand, a coffee chain seeking control over coffee plantations, roasting technologies and coffee making is an example of the latter. Strategic manufacturing balance ensures optimal quality, cost and delivery capabilities for a firm.
Marketing balance
The best of design and manufacturing optimality could come to naught with strategic marketing imbalance. Marketing balance is not about regional marketing effort allocations or domestic-export balance. It is about striking the right balance between the product and the sales channel, between different marketing channels and between sales and service.  Some of the technical marvels, Tata Nano car to quote an example, have failed to fulfill the potential of design and manufacturing brilliance due to marketing sub-optimality. Had Tata Nano been marketed through an exclusive car dealer network, with appropriate emphasis between different marketing approaches and a special after-sales package, potentially Nano would have caught the imagination of the target market segments. By way of another example, the best of marketing cannot make up for strategic imbalances in either design or manufacturing. Godrej Interio comes across as a prime example of lack of strategic portfolio balance (dependence on all-steel design and manufacture, as is Godrej wont) adversely influencing the final low-business outcome, despite some great strategic market balance. These examples also illustrate how a strategic balance amongst the various components of a value chain is also extremely important for a firm to achieve sustainable successful performance. 
Talent balance

Firms are a complex cascading network of leaders, managers and executives on one hand, and another equally complex network of organization, teams and individuals. Adding further complexity is the network of businesses, functions and processes. Across all this complexity, two components stand out:  individuals and teams. Organizations are often unable to comprehend and convey whether it is the individual performance or the team performance that determines performance. Talent management thought keeps swinging between the typical Western practice of individual superstar performance and the equally typical Oriental practice of consensual team performance. This leads to somewhat strange positions taken by leadership experts wholly deprecating either ‘we’ or ‘I’ in performance management. The concept of strategic talent balance requires that individual performance be treated as important as team performance. For organizations to be successful, meritocracy based on individual performance (and individual recognition) and organizational harmony based on team performance (and team recognition) must co-exist. Without overwhelming each other, ‘I’ as well as ‘We’ are equally important for strategic talent balance.
Strategically balanced corporation
The aspects discussed above are illustrative and not comprehensive. The value chain of a firm varies significantly, multi-functionally, depending on the industry. It is important for a firm to understand and map out its value chain in its entirety and then select the components that are critical for performance. The next step would be option mapping for each function and establishing the optimum strategic balance in each case. Exercises of long range planning which seek certain goals and develops strategies to execute towards the goals would not be effective unless they are set in the perspective of strategic balance. Strategists (whether they are chief executive officers, chief functional officers or chief strategic officers) must also be balanced professionals without any biases as to what constitutes the appropriate strategies; for example, some tend to seek diversification and some seek specialization preferentially as a pre-experienced panacea for success. Such biases limit the openness and effectiveness in developing true strategic balances.
A strategically balanced corporation is able to move through the economic and business cycles successfully while exploiting opportunities with agility. The journey of a small-cap startup through the phase of mid-cap company to the goal of a blue-chip company is based on strategic balance adding strength and resilience to exploit opportunities and withstand uncertainties. A strategically balanced mid-cap or blue chip firm leads to the evolution of a conglomerate. While a conglomerate provides much flexibility to define varied businesses under its fold (for example, salt to software and chips to ships), it is essential that each business or firm under the conglomerate umbrella is a strategically balanced corporation. The seeding, screening and weeding of individual businesses adopted by big conglomerates, from time to time, is proof enough of the need for the individual firms to be strategically balanced and sustainably effective. If research were to be undertaken on the performance of strategically balanced corporations, the results would surely support superior performance by, and superior competitive advantage for, such firms.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on November 24, 2013   


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Science and Sport: The Twin ‘Ratnas’ of Bharat

There tend to be only a few moments in a nation’s life when the entire population seems to root for one person. That level of admiration, adulation and followership from millions in India and abroad, reserved only for legends, has been showered on Sachin Tendulkar, India’s cricketing maestro. Sachin, who played his last test, his 200th at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium with a graceful 74 runs during the last week, had scored an aggregate of 50,192 runs in all formats in a ceaseless 24 year cricketing career that spanned 200 tests and 463 one-day’s. He stood out amongst other national and international cricketing stalwarts and won plaudits for his technique, grace, sportsmanship, diligence and commitment. He was also unique for an unblemished cricketing lifestyle that brought dignity to the national game. In a well timed move, the Government of India conferred India’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna on Sachin, within hours of his retirement test, making the living legend the first sportsperson to receive the nation’s highest civilian honour.  As the Government release said, Tendulkar’s achievements in cricket were unparalleled, the records set by him were unmatched, and the spirit of sportsmanship displayed by him was extraordinary.

Science, unlike sports, happens in closed laboratories and gets applauded in peer-evaluated scientific journals, conferences and congresses. Scientists tend to be individualistic and less than unanimous in recognizing the scientific achievements of others. That a rare level of scientific recognition came to ProfessorChintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao (CNR Rao) who is an international authority in solid state and materials chemistry proves his standing in the scientific community. He is particularly known for his research contributions in the fields of hybrid and nano-materials that promise to revolutionalise several fields, ranging from healthcare to defence. He has been prolific in scientific writing in a career of 50 years, publishing over 1,400 papers in top scientific journals and writing or editing close to 50 books. He is considered to be a great builder of institutions with a knack for spotting and developing talent. In a parallel move, the Government of India bestowed the highest civilian honour, Bharat Ratna on CNR Rao, making him the third eminent scientist after Sir CV Raman and Dr Abdul Kalam to receive this highest civilian honour.  The Government citation refers to the several memberships and fellowships conferred on CNR by major scientific academies of the world as an international recognition of his science.
The purpose of this blog post is not to detail the sportsmanship of Sachin or erudition of CNR as an enormous body of information is available in public domain (strangely but not unnaturally, more being available and written on Sachin than on CNR). The purpose of this post is to hypothesize that science and sports, unrelated as they may seem, are an essential combination for remaking of India as a superpower. In this post, sports include all kinds of sports and athletics while science includes all sciences, technology and engineering.
Science and Sport
In honouring Sachin and CNR simultaneously with the highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, the Government of India, either by deliberate thought or a serendipitous coincidence demonstrated that top-class sportsmanship that enthralls the people and world-class scientific accomplishment that secures the future are both deserving of the best recognition possible. As a matter of fact, science and sports ought to be the two incomparable ‘ratnas’ or diamonds of Bharat, that is India. Although science and sports look like distantly separated fields they have several factors in common. First and foremost, both are driven by five factors: knowledge, practice, commitment, diligence and above all, a healthy aspiration. Second, often less realized, both require a supportive ecosystem. Those who have listened to or read Sachin’s farewell speech would have realized that a virtuous ecosystem of family, friends, coaches, mentors, critics, managers, doctors, and physiotherapists, to name a few, have been instrumental  in making Sachin the ‘master blaster’ that he has been. Similarly, CNR’s association with some of the best teaching and research institutions and scientific commissions, and hundreds of illustrious students and research fellows brought out the best in him.
Equally important in these kinds of extraordinary achievements in sports and science is the existence of a larger purpose. It could be national fervor, institution building, ambassadorship, inspirational leadership or a combination of all of these. There are a few contrasts, with some convergence, as well. Sports require an athletic body and an agile mind. In some sports, the former is more important than the latter (for example, cricket and hockey) and in some others the latter more necessary than the former (for example, chess and billiards). Science requires a healthy body and a creative mind. There have been instances of brilliant science from individuals who were handicapped or furloughed by disabilities or poor health (for example, Einstein, Bell and Ramanujam).  The convergence in the contrasts is the passion and dedication, shared by both sportspersons and scientists, to make a mark. By recognizing and honouring outstanding sportsmanship and scientific accomplishment, the Government is honouring the sublime characteristics for which the legendary recipients are known for. However, the responsibilities of the Government and such worthy persons cannot, and should not, end there; rather they should mark a new beginning for institutionalizing their exemplary characteristics and capabilities.
Recognitions as enablers
Sachin has reached his peak recognition at the age of 40 years. CNR has received his peak recognition at the age of 80 years.  Though there is some irony in this, there is some inevitability too. Sports intrinsically needs shorter time to blossom and peak and has broad age and performance limits beyond which ability and performance plateau, with a new generation taking over (even in mind games as Carlsen versus Anand World Chess Championship match indicates). Sports accomplishments which are almost always demonstrated in open public contests attract universal attention and recognition. Science characteristically requires longer time to incubate and experiment and has, unlike sports, offers flexibility and expandability on both age and performance, with new generations supporting the mellowed scientists (even on sunrise discoveries such as God Particle). The challenge and opportunity, therefore, for the Government and the achievers are both ways.  Young achievers like Sachin must be utilized for several years and decades more to serve the cause of their domains. Great scientists like CNR must be recognized years and decades earlier so that they have a reasonably long time at hand to continue their science individually and institutionally.
Sports and science share a unique characteristic, in contrast with business. Entrepreneurs, businessmen and industrialists need to build institutions of growth and profit to gain recognition. Sportspersons and scientists can build institutions on the foundations of their individual accomplishments. The need to recognize sports and science at a relatively young age is therefore obvious. The recognitions, often, have a cascading effect. Apart from motivating the recipients they inspire others to follow their paths. The question to ponder is whether India has the right kind and sweep of recognition system that can make the vast educated numbers in India a really world-class talent pool. Doubtless, we have Arjuna awards for sportspersons and Bhatnagar awards for scientists but they come nowhere near the higher echelon civilian awards such as Padma Vibhushan and Bharat Ratna in terms of inspiring the larger population. There is a strong case for expanding the scope and number of these two highest awards to cover more domains and more accomplishments, and to be bestowed at younger age levels; probably one each for every domain be it arts, media, education, science, technology, sports, public service and governance, should be in good order. Additionally, national recognitions need not follow international awards; rather, we should be recognizing and honouring our world-class talent on our own home turf first.
The competitive capabilities of individuals in a nation become national comparative advantage when accomplished individuals are inspired, encouraged and facilitated to build entities and enterprises that institutionalize and disseminate their capabilities. A Sachin’s Academy of Cricketing Excellence or a CNR’s Institute of Nanotechnology would be a great way to institutionalize their unique capabilities. There have been a couple of such inspired efforts in the past as purely private initiatives, for example by the famous tennis player, Ramesh Krishnan in terms of his tennis training academy. There is a need to provide greater financial and leadership strength in public-private partnership to enterprise building initiatives from such sports and science stalwarts, not necessarily only the civilian award winners. Another important initiative would be to utilize such stalwarts to establish specialized institutions. If nanotechnology is a national technology mission, there is every justification to establish Indian Institutes of Nanotechnology.  From a different perspective, sports institutions may go beyond training in the sports to develop a holistic paradigm of sporting technique, human endurance, sports medicine, environmental contribution, brand ambassadorship and so on.
Institutionalization has another component as well. Recognition need not necessarily be only though public adulation or civilian recognition. India must have institutions of such world-class caliber that serving in such institutions should be considered an honour and recognition. Clearly, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have led such a revolution in the 1960s and 1970s in India. There is a need to reinforce the IITs and IIMs for global academic and research excellence further, and also facilitate establishment of specialized schools and chairs supported by the governments and businesses in such institutes. The greater the spread of such institutions, schools and chairs, the greater would be the wave of recognition and encouragement in India’s talent pool. Institutionalization should help commercialization, and vice versa. Creation of commercial channels for scientific intellectual property and rewarding sportsperson’s brand ambassadorship through equity support for institution building could provide long term sustainability to sports and science accomplishments.
Sports and science convergence
Several aspects that are common between science and sports have been covered in the earlier sections of this blog post. The aspects of interrelationship and interdependence are even deeper than that. But for the strides in television and transmission technologies, digital imaging and computer technologies, sports events would not have been universally projected, analyzed and popularized as in contemporary times. Without medical science understanding and developing aspects of endurance training, sports injuries, body reconstruction and human resilience better, sportspersons would not have been able to test the limits of performance. Sports can learn a few aspects from science too. Sportspersons feel supported and vindicated more by popular acclaim than by peer and coach review. Sportspersons, like scientists, should be willing and keen to welcome and accept stringent peer evaluation to improve themselves and their techniques. In fact, this has been one of the factors that made Sachin Tendulkar the cricketing great. He had, in his brother, Ajit a constant constructive critic and in his coach, Achrekar an unrelenting technique developer; and, importantly Sachin had the yearning and openness to debate and accept such inputs.
Science also has a few important things to emulate from sports. The first is to recognize the importance of speed. To keep the governments, businesses and investors engaged, science must come up with scientific accomplishments speedily and decisively. For this, just as cricketers adapted their technique and approach to suit one day internationals from five day test matches, scientists must also explore appropriate research and development platforms. Secondly, scientists need to move away from the reclusive laboratory approach and seek to connect with other functions and the general public more frequently and more empathetically. Thirdly, scientists should consider scientific development as a true sport where the winners and losers (read, successes and failures) are considered equally important and both successes and failures are received with sportsmanship and togetherness. Fourthly, every scientist should recognize that the creative mind is his or her greatest, and potentially ageless, asset, and like Professor CNR Rao continue scientific quest and institution building relentlessly. For India to glitter like a superpower in the comity of nations, Bharat should treat both science and sports as the twin ‘ratnas’ of futuristic development.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on November 17, 2013                          

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Management of Perceptions: The Essence of Human Dynamics

Life is a game of chance between perception and reality. Nature is reality but human nature is largely one of perception. Human beings struggle to discover the ‘real’ you or me, in the process, viewing perceptions as the realities. Reality is the true situation that actually exists in life while perception is the way one notices the true situation in life. The enlightened or the ‘jnani’, as defined in a Hindu philosophical sense, perceives reality as the reality and also is open in bringing out the real person. Given that most individuals fail to reach or do not wish to reach the state of enlightenment, perceptions are also different from realities. The conflict and contrast between the reality and perception underpins the challenges of day to day human dynamics and influences the course of organizational behavior. It is appropriate to, therefore, understand the implications of the reality-perception paradigm.

The discourse on perception and reality is carried out in two schools. One school holds that it is irrelevant to seek to discover what the reality is when an individual is a social and economic being, conditioned by several benchmarks and aspirations. This school maintains that in any organization, be it the family, educational institution or the employer, individuals are bound by certain common goals, the fulfillment of which is the responsibility and obligation of individuals, independent of their and their organizational realities. The other school believes that all human discontent and strife is because of the mismatch between reality and perception, both about oneself and the others. This school maintains that if only people understood the realities completely there would be greater equity and equanimity in human dynamics.    
Human life, though a creation of Nature, is not a natural life; it is a conditioned life. Social and economic conditioners modify behavior patterns to be externally perceived differently from the internal realities. They also blur the ability of individuals to at least note, if not analyze and improve upon, the realities. From an individual perspective, family and friends are the most significant conditioners that define one’s values, attitudes, aspirations and performance metrics. As a result, often individuals exist and live for the goals and aspirations set by the conditioners rather than those set by their hearts and souls. That said, it is neither wrong nor right to lead a conditioned life that looks after others’ interests rather than one’s own. As long as such living does not lead to major conflicts between perception and reality such conditioned life could be socially and economically fulfilling. To achieve that, individuals need to introspect for reality and adjust for perceptions.
Organizational life, a creation of human beings, on the other hand, is explicitly designed to fulfill the needs of the society and the economy. It is conditioned to perpetually grow. It does not matter if the team members are diverse in their educational and experience backgrounds and heterogeneous in their social and economic conditioning. Their objective is to fulfill organizational goals of serving the society and economy with appropriate products and services. Unlike in a purely individual life, a corporation must look after its interests by first and primarily serving the needs of the consumers. The individuals of an organization, ipso facto,  must serve the broader organizational goals. For that to happen, all organizational members must function harmoniously. Many times, organizations believe that salaries and incentives are the conditioners for such performance. However, the triggers are different.
Organizations would be successful when they collaborate internally and compete externally. A successful organization would require each of its team members to be competitive in his or her trade but the organization cannot afford to have team members who compete with each other. For team members to be internally collaborative, communication is the key. For communication between people to be effective, trust is essential. Trust develops when people are perceived to be open and collaborative. The closed loop of collaboration illustrates that perceptions of collaborative behavior are essential to ensure a reality of internal collaboration. For an organization to be an effective competitor, internal collaboration is critical amongst various functions and individuals of an organization. Companies which practice concurrent engineering and coordinated delivery, for example, are more successful than those that are prone to sequential or stage-gated development and delivery.
Perceptions are the key enablers of collaboration. People constantly make judgments of each other’s behavior while they also tend to straightjacket themselves into certain behavior patterns. These range from affable to aggressive, and consensual to assertive, for example. In addition, people are often perceived in terms of both positive perceptions (for example, helpful, selfless, knowledgeable and empathetic) and negative perceptions (for example, unhelpful, selfish, pedestrian and arrogant). It is important for individuals and team managers to identify and reinforce contextually relevant positive traits and eliminate contextually counterproductive negative traits. The organizational challenge is two-fold: first, select people who have real attributes that are as close as possible to the desired organizational benchmarks and second, develop people so that their perceived behaviors are aligned to the desired organizational benchmarks.
Perception grid
Like all management challenges, perception management requires a conceptual and analytical framework. The 2X2 perception grid, which this blog post proposes, enables such conceptualization and analysis. The grid has on the X-axis Positive and Negative Perceptions, and on the Y-axis Enablers and Disablers. The four sub-grids that are possible are Enablers of Positive Perceptions (EPP), Enablers of Negative Perceptions (ENP), Disablers of Positive Perceptions (DPP) and Disablers of Negative Perceptions (DNP). Clearly, an organizational ecosystem that maximizes the EPP and DNP grids and minimizes the DPP and ENP grids is an ideal goal. This goal is easier set than achieved, however. There are two major conditioners for the suboptimal ecosystem. Firstly, people embed and exhibit specific and time-ossified personality types. Secondly, different organizational situations require different personality dispositions and individuals as well as managers may lack maturity and flexibility to adapt and change.  
Positive perceptions of a person essentially arise from one’s knowledge, how productively one deploys it, and how positively one communicates it. The level of positivity tends to be adversely impacted if any of the three factors is compromised. Negative perceptions of a person essentially arise from lack of knowledge, inability to apply available knowledge and a resistant approach to disseminate knowledge. The level of negativity tends to be further worsened if any of the three factors is further compromised. In both the cases, communication plays a major part. People in EPP and DNP grids are likely to be highly positive communicators while individuals in the ENP and DPP grids are likely to be negative communicators. The three determinants of communication are content, style and empathy. The positivity of communication is enhanced by the strength of content, the coherence of delivery and the trust created by empathy. The pathway to a collaborative team lies in reinforcing positive perceptions through the three positive traits and enabling positive communication through the three components.  
Perceptive ability
As opposed to the common ‘perception’ that perception is a state that is different from reality, perceptive ability denotes an ability to see or understand things quickly and correctly, especially things that are not obvious. An individual must have a perceptive ability to understand how one is perceived. The real ‘one’ has to be subordinate to the desired perception of one in the team context. In the field of teaching and public speaking, introverts tend to don the mantle of extroverts to fulfill their responsibility. Individuals who stray off their careers of aptitude reshape themselves to match up to their accountabilities and responsibilities. While one need not be either artificial or affected, one must understand how one must carry oneself gracefully and in a positively influential manner, based on the strategic context.
A virtuous organization would have not only more individuals who have positive traits but also those who promote positivity in relationships. The organization would be knowledge based, task-focused, performance-driven, relationship-oriented, communication-savvy and apolitical. The leaders would be evangelists rather than enforcers and mentors rather than managers. The individual team members, rather than analyzing themselves and others in a quest for difficult-to-discover realties, would endeavor to develop and appreciate positive perceptions. This is not to suggest that a collaborative organization is based only on positive perceptions and positive communication. As the blog post discussed earlier, one has to be positively real in terms of knowledge and its deployment and its dissemination as well as in terms of content, style and empathy of communication. There can be no reality compromise on these six critical factors of positive perception.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on November 16, 2013  


Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Ten Principles of Optimality: Beyond Both the Obvious and the Paradox

Life’s greatest feature is that it requires individuals to execute things which are obvious on one hand and balance seemingly opposing points of view on the other. This is true for organizations as well. Some would characterize this as management of the obvious and the paradox in life. Obvious is something that is easy to see or understand. It is also something which most people would think of or agree to. The natural expectation, therefore, is that individuals and organizations would think of or do the obvious most of the times, if not always. Paradox is a statement or situation containing two opposite ideas that make it seem impossible or unlikely, although it is probably true. For example, ‘More haste, less speed’ and ‘Hasten slowly’ are two of the well-known paradoxes. The expectation here is that one should negotiate the paradoxes of life.

A little more distilled view of life would reveal that nothing is as obvious or paradoxical as it would seem. For example, healthy diet and rigorous exercise together constitute the key to good life. Few people, however, practice either of the two. Similarly, it is paradoxical that even the most educated tend to be most ill-informed about certain responsibilities or developments. Both obviously and paradoxically, therefore, there exist certain individual, familial, social, economic, demographic and cultural factors that make individuals and organizations deny the obvious and succumb to the paradox. As these macro aspects are neither a matter of choice nor amenable to modification, individuals and organizations must follow their own principles of deriving optimality in life, looking beyond the obvious and rising beyond the paradox. Here are such ten principles.
1. Productive safety, Safe productivity
Most inventions of the human race are intended to increase speed and productivity, and in that effort carry intrinsic safety issues. The pedal bicycle and the motorized two-wheeler are the two prime examples of the speedup options carrying inherent risks of accidents. Almost all sports, except mind games, involve the risk of injuries. Yet, the human race keeps pushing the envelope with Formula 1 races and such other events. Similarly, plant and equipment are constantly upgraded to turn out more parts per minute imposing more pressures on materials and men. Technology and practice fortunately provide several risk mitigating options to increased speed and productivity. Doing nothing or status quo will never be an answer in the path of progress. Embedding safety in product and process design, and accepting productive safety or safe productivity as an operational paradigm is an enabler of optimality. 
2. Purposeful Quality, Qualitative purpose
Quality is the ultimate governor of product design and operational excellence. Quality sets the limits of design excellence but quality has also to examine what is fit for purpose. For example, would it be sensible or viable to design an instant food product to last five years? Pursuit of perfectionist quality without regard to usage characteristics would be a profligate use of resources. The purpose must first be established to define the quality standard. A most exotic vaccine would be powerless in a rural market of emerging country compared to a normal vaccine that can tolerate the high temperature conditions. Quality has to be interpreted purposefully in terms of a larger ecosystem and there could be occasions when the entire product paradigm would need to be reconfigured. For example, if a frozen vaccine provides unmatched benefits, logistics need to be reworked to transport toddlers and kids to cold storage centers rather than transporting vaccines unreliably to diverse habitats. Qualitative purpose is as critical as purposeful quality.  
3. Creative conformity, Conformist creativity
Creativity and conformity are two sides of the life coin. Without creativity, there will be neither progress of achievement nor joy of fulfillment. Without conformity, there will only be disorder and anarchy in life. In most cases, there exist a number of familial, educational, social and organizational norms that reduce or constrain the creative instincts of individuals and in some cases the very same factors lead to unbridled and disruptive creativity. The essential thesis is that creativity has to be combined with conformity for success. A student, for example, has to be conformist in reading the entire syllabus but will also have to be creative in achieving the study modality that provides maximum absorption. Organizations may have to be conformist in catering to a common marketplace but need to be creative in developing segmental product-market fits. A recruiter has to be conformist in addressing the available talent pool but needs to be creative in offering distinctive value provisions.      
4. Innovative continuity, Continuous innovation  
Innovation is the lifeblood of human progress. As contrasted with creativity which is more in terms of ideation, innovation is more focused on bringing products and processes into fruition. Innovation springs from a foundation of knowledge and is opened up by one’s observation, openness, empathy and persistence. The best innovations tend to be breakthrough but the most helpful ones are likely to be continuous innovations. Societies are slow to accept breakthrough innovations (for example, the decades being taken to popularize electric cars, or even hybrid cars) and are rearing to accept incremental innovations (for example, the way incrementally innovated smart phones are bought every six months). Individuals and organizations need to anchor on a thematic product or process for innovative continuity while aiming for continuous innovation in anchor products and processes. Individuals and organizations need to make space for innovation as a daily routine (for example as an innovation hour in a day or an innovation day in a week). 
5. Expressive thinking, Thoughtful expression
Communication is the backbone of human network. Thoughts and expressions constitute the core of communication (listening being the other part). That is stating the obvious. However, there is a skill that is beyond the obvious in titrating thoughts and expressions against each other. The human mind is wired to think and express spontaneously but such ability is conditioned by a host of environmental factors. Life would be hollow if mind ceases thinking while it would be overwhelming if mind is excited by continuous thinking. Life would be static if thoughts are not converted into expressions while it would be draining if all thoughts are converted into expressions unfiltered. The purity and efficacy of thought that come with a focused and meditated mind results in expressive thinking while the clarity and coherence of expression that come with a logical and purposive mind provide the optimality of communication.   
6. Spontaneous deliberation, Deliberative spontaneity
Allied to the earlier principle is how prompt or affected one is in communication. Spontaneity in communication, both in terms of expression and response, is reflective of transparency and trust in communication. However, spontaneity should not be at the cost of deliberation. As a saying goes, before saying anything to others, one should evaluate how one would feel if one were to receive the same communication. Apart from time, the only thing in life that cannot really be taken back or made up is ‘word’, or in a broader sense spoken or written language, and body language. Being deliberate and spontaneous simultaneously reinforces one’s communication stature. What is not obvious is that it requires a trained mind tuned to quick thinking and high processing to achieve this capability. As one gains education and experience, one must balance the paradox of managing spontaneity and deliberation in response, whether in oral and written communication or in body language. Face, is the index of the mind; a calm and steady mind is reflected in a pleasant and reassuring face.       
7. Disciplined empowerment, Empowered discipline
All human beings seek empowerment. Some people tend to use power to control or throttle others, some to discipline others and some to lead others. Most people, however, consider it paradoxical to set limits for their empowerment and it is also an obvious phenomenon that most people are also reluctant to grant to others the same level of empowerment that they seek for themselves. Good parents and teachers realize that their power to lead comes from their role modeling while strong leaders in organizations derive their power from knowledge and experience well deployed rather than from reporting lines authoritatively imposed. Empowerment is an ultimate lever that is available in an organization to harness individual capabilities. It cannot be doled out to the undeserving, nor can it be used without discipline. Disciplined and directed empowerment needs to be responded with empowered discipline and dedication.     
8. Collaborative competition, Competitive collaboration
Many believe that collaboration must come obviously to individuals in a family or organizational system and would find it paradoxical to see competition in those ecosystems where collaboration must exist. Many also believe that collaboration cannot obviously exist where competition exists, say between the players of an industry and are surprised by how competition exists between team or family members  (for example, between siblings) and collaboration exists between competitors (for example, between Samsung and Apple, or between licensors and licensees in a competitive industry). It is the strength of competence and the viability of aspiration that determine whether collaborators and competitors stay as such or reverse the roles. An ability to collaborate and compete strategically provides optimality of resource deployment without losing competitive edge.
9. Dispassionate passion, Passionate dispassion
Passion, besides its other connotations, has emerged as an important, but often misused, concept in management lexicon. Passion denotes, from a leadership and management perspective, a very strong feeling of dedication and commitment to a domain or accomplishment. Renowned scientists, technologists, professionals, sportsmen, actors and public servants as well as all inventors have passion as their DNA of inspiration and accomplishment. At the same time, passion should not blind a person to seek preeminence beyond the expertise. Sachin Tendulkar would not have become the legend that he is today if he sought continuous captaincy as the recognition for his cricketing greatness. A dispassionate approach which signifies an unemotional and impartial view of one’s capabilities, contributions and relevance adds value to one’s passion. That said, it does not pay to be only dispassionate; one needs to have passionate dispassion to be professionally successful and socially relevant. This wonderful characteristic is akin to what Hinduism defines as Sthita Prajna, a hero whose soul is unmoved by circumstance, and who accepts pleasure and pain with equanimity. This esoteric principle, which is neither obvious nor paradoxical, differentiates superior organizations as much as individuals.  
10. Ingenious ingenuity, Ingenuous genius
Being ingenious is critical in today’s competitive world. But being ingenuous is also equally important. Knowledge, intellect and innovation, however desirable as characteristics they are, also somewhat distance the followers. Being ingenuous, that is being honest, trustworthy and approachable, adds the human touch to the genius of a person, and makes him or her an even more adored and followed manager or leader. Being friendly alone, on the other hand, is of little benefit in today’s world where followers need scientific, technical and professional mentoring to be able to enhance their competencies and solve their problems to become well set for their career progression. Contrary to the popular but misplaced notion that knowledge is power, knowledge with sharing and intellect with empathy enhance meaningful power of individuals and organizations.  
Maximal optimum, Optimal maximum

Optimum means the best possible or producing the best possible results. Maximum means the most that is possible or allowed. It is established in economic research as well as operations research that the most is not necessarily the best. It would appear beyond the obvious and paradoxical that optimum should have higher levels leading up to a maximum or a set of maximums would have an optimum. In matter of fact, it is possible to have more than one optimal solution and strive to make maximal outcomes optimal outcomes. The ten principles that look beyond both the obvious and the paradox help the processes of optimality in life.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on November 10, 2013



Sunday, November 3, 2013

Managing Environmental Unpredictability: Some Lessons of Recent Indian Macroeconomic Behavior

The recent months, especially from May 2013, have seen a rollercoaster ride of Indian economy. With the sharp reduction of GDP rate to below 5 percent, almost by 50 percent from the near double digit growth, and the free fall of the Indian Rupee by as much as 20 percent to Rs 68 to a Dollar, compared to a very stable foreign exchange regime for more than three years, experts have begun to suspect the tenability of the Indian economy as a sustainable global economic power. The various measures by the Indian Government and the Reserve Bank of India to control inflation, seemingly at the cost of growth, read liquidity of the banking system, have been ineffective in arresting the slide of the Rupee. With the movement of foreign institutional investors (FII) funds away from India, the stock markets also began experiencing decline and volatility. When economic behavior gets influenced by testy times, the common man and retail investor is distressed.

Macroeconomic behavior is governed by an as yet unexplained combination of three factors, namely, internal fundamentals of economy, linkages with external global economy and sentiment of national governance. On May 22, US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke first talked about tapering the USD 85 billion worth of bond buying every month (called Quantitative Easing, or QE). This announcement pushed global markets, especially the emerging ones, into a tailspin, leading to a depreciation of most currencies vis-à-vis the US Dollar. India was probably more sharply impacted than others.  Internally, the growth rates of various economic segments declined to recent historical lows while the current account deficit (CAD) moved up to a record high of USD 88 billion and the trade deficit also peaked to USD 92 billion. In terms of governance, the Reserve Bank and the Finance Ministry were perceived to be in dissonance.  That said, the unpredictability of economic behavior is illustrated by the more recent positive trends.
Green shoots
After the new Reserve Bank Governor, Dr Raghuram Rajan, took charge on September 4, 2013 there has been a significant improvement in the economic sentiment, accompanied by improvements in certain internal economic fundamentals and assurances of global macroeconomic stability. Dr Rajan was seen to be less hawkish in approach towards a tighter liquidity regime, principally. US Fed also helped matters by discounting any immediate possibility of tapering the QE. Simultaneously, India began to post healthier economic results with CAD down to USD 60 billion and trade deficit down to USD 80 billion. Foreign investments began to perk up to USD 13 billion while the banks started bringing in dollars to an expected level of USD 20 billion under the FCNR-B route.  A bountiful monsoon began pointing to bumper agricultural output in the coming months. As a result, stock market index, SENSEX, rallied to the record high of 21,207 points on November 1 while the Rupee recovered to hover around Rs 62 to US Dollar.  

The Finance Minister says that green shoots are here and there, everywhere. He states that the core industrial sector grew 8 percent in September with continued growth momentum, and stalled industrial and infrastructural projects worth several billion dollars are being unlocked to progress. He says also that the call money rates have been going down as a result of the rollback of tight liquidity measures. The Reserve Bank Governor also believes that things will only get better in India. He places his optimism on increased agricultural production, acceleration of projects and enhanced exports. It is remarkable that over a period of just six months, the sentiment on the Indian economy should worsen first and improve so dramatically. The developments point to the earlier thesis of the blog post that an unexplained mix of internal economic, external global and national governance factors influence the macroeconomic behavior.  There is a need to resolve the inter se influence proportion of the three factors and enabling a more sustainable macroeconomic framework that enables a stable investment and growth climate for industries and investors, retail and institutional.
Rajan’s theory
Dr Rajan, in a recent interview to Mint, has stated that India needs two transformations; one of more investment and less consumption, at least of certain things and the second of more savings, especially financial savings. The interview which has been preoccupied with the banking sector issues threw no further light on the way Rajan would detail out the two transformations. The author believes that the elemental proposition by Dr Rajan would need to be expanded further, in a perspective of the three factors discussed earlier. An economy would be robust when the internal fundamentals are strong and sustainble (weight, 60 percent), external linkages are pro-market and positive (weight, 20 percent) and the governance is fair and proactive (weight, 20 percent). The internal fundamentals and external linkages are self-supporting in the sense that external funds would flow into stronger than weaker economies. The governance of a nation sets a fair policy and execution framework that distribute pains and gains of growth equitably.
The two transformations outlined by Rajan are also interlocked.  More investments are supported by more financial savings while lower consumption provides for more productive uses of physical and financial assets. Speculative use of capital, be it in commodities or stocks, and speculative investments into assets, be it real estate or gold, lead to asset bubbles which eventually explode causing much damage to the economy. Similarly, excessive resort to borrowings without accountability to efficient use of funds and excessive lending to businesses or individuals without control over viability result in non-performing assets (NPAs), which is one of the major problems of the Indian economy today. That NPAs are at 10 percent of the total bank borrowings or that the prices of real estate exponentially jump up in a matter of two or three years indicate that the Rupee is being less efficiently used than ever.  The governments, central and state, and the banks need to find a way of better capital management by the users, including recapitalization of the banks. 
Un-stalling projects
Both the Reserve Bank and the Finance Ministry are aligned on the objective of moving forward the stalled projects. Unfinished projects, especially those in power, transport and other infrastructure sectors, not only lock up huge doses of capital but also lead to escalation in costs besides stalling core and peripheral industrial activity. The time span for an infrastructure project in India is upwards of 10 years, and in the case of some power and steel projects, is upwards of 20 years which is simply unacceptable. While the Government has set up a project management group to monitor large projects, it is important to de-risk the projects at the conceptualization stage itself. Timely execution of projects strengthens India’s internal economic fundamentals, which is one of the most important aspects of providing macroeconomic stability. In several cases, there tend to be only a few bottleneck areas that need to be resolved such as access to feedstock, provision of land or economic tariff that can be resolved by inter-ministerial groups.
The issue of projects in commercialization which have turned non-performing is more challenging. Despite all the disclosures that exist for public limited companies, the real causes of sickness are never understood and are rarely addressed by managements and lenders or investors squarely. While the Finance Minister has held that there are no sick promoters but only sick companies the issue may have to be restated as that there are neither sick promoters nor sick companies but only sick managements. The ability of the managements to stand up to their owners, be they private promoters or the ministries, in pursuance of orderly management of businesses is a key factor. Equally important would be the ability of the managements to benchmark their performance against contemporary management principles. The abundance of penny stocks in the Indian stock markets and the 20 to 30 percent decline in the benchmark indices of small and medium cap stocks is reflective of an endemic deficiency in management in Indian industry and business.
Enabling predictability
Clearly, there is so much development and growth potential in the Indian economy, the mere exploitation of which would help strengthen the fundamentals of the Indian economy. Reinforcement of domestic markets and industry with infrastructural support would enable both microeconomic and macroeconomic stability. Efficient use of capital on the back of generation of financial savings would help the country rein in deficit. The twin transformations suggested by the Governor of the Reserve Bank and the growth of green shoots anticipated by the Union Finance Minister would be ushered in only with an integrated economic policy that is executed in synchrony by the Reserve Bank of India and the Ministry of Finance.  The overall management efficiency in the country’s institutions and entities needs to be substantially upgraded, including making key managerial personnel accountable to the Boards and making the Boards themselves independent and erudite under the provisions of the new Companies Act 2013.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on November 3, 2013



Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sensor Measurement And Response Technology Devices (SMART Devices): The New Art and Science of Living

The cellular phone, first popularized around two decades ago has undergone a metamorphosis ‎that was unbelievable, even a decade ago. It is now more than just a phone that enables mobile connectivity and talking. It has become a camera, an organizer, a social media platform, an application provider and so much more. As a result, such a generation of cellular phones began to be called smart phones as contrasted with basic or feature phones. Each month, a new smart phone is announced which scales new dimensions in these features, as well as in terms of the visible display technologies and the embedded processing technologies. It is predicted that the smart phone would evolve into a personal assistant of sorts, and an integral part of one's personality. 

This blog post proposes a different take on the smart phones. The smart phone is no longer a phone plus a few other things. Neither is it a micro-computer‎  with speech supporting capabilities. The technologies deployed in the current smart phone designs have the potential to lead to generic and customized smart devices that can make human lives become smarter. The key to this transformational development would be the embedded smart technologies that have a very specific objective. The  future generation would be powered and managed by Sensor Measurement and Response Technologies, with a well deserved acronym of SMART. All devices of the future would be Smart Devices.
Measure and Respond 

The ‎key to human life is measurement and response. The body, for example, has a way of measuring the hunger level and triggering the hunger satisfying behavior. Once food is accessed and ingested, it has also a way of measuring the satisfaction level and controlling the eating cycle. There are innumerable, in fact infinite, ways of measurement and response that happen in any living being, let alone the more evolved human being. The biological features and capabilities of the body, genetically given and experientially developed, control the sharpness of the measurement and response mechanism in individuals. This innate capability differentiates people, more particularly in trades such as driving, piloting, constructing, designing, fabricating and so on. 

The measure and respond cycle essentially gets performed through the five basic sensory faculties of an individual, these being hearing, seeing, touching, tasting and smelling. All developments of nature and inventions of technology are pivoted on the five sensory aspects of human life. All aspects of market development and customer satisfaction are also pivoted on these five basic faculties. Even the qualitative emotional aspects are governed by the measurement and response cycle of human awareness. The hypothesis, therefore, is that the ability of an individual to have a fulfilling life can be substantially increased if a new generation of Smart Devices that can serve as the ultimate companions of human beings are developed.  

Existing and Emerging Examples 

The advent of electronics has revolutionized the measure and respond capabilities as well as the interface between the man and the machine on one hand and the man and the environment on the other.‎ Take the example of automobile: the man-machine measurement and response interface remained confined to accelerator and brake or the overall driving controls. With the advent of electronics, the measure and respond mechanism has extended to a whole series of activities ranging from the micro-mixing of fuel in the engine to the electronic management of driving. Similarly many other industrial activities have benefited from the finer measure and respond technologies, from automated assembly and inspection to computational design and  analytical instrumentation. 

The development of robots is another fine example of electronics creating a mechanical mimic of human measurement and response system. ‎Yet, it is only an example of a mimic, albeit faster, safer and sharper, of human movements. Robotics substitutes human endeavor and adds value to an industrial system rather than add value to the human being. Smart Devices, as envisaged in this blog post, would, on the other hand, would make the human being a better human being by virtue of aiding the measure and respond capabilities of the human being. A few examples of how Smart Devices can help enhance human life are considered below. 

Smart Vision 

Vision is one of the most important aspects of measure and respond cycle. Vision is prone to deterioration with age. Medical science has responded to this by providing glasses that compensate for the vision loss and by correcting, through lasix and other surgeries, the mechanisms of eye. A Smart Vision device can make a whole difference to this paradigm by continuously measuring the power required for an individual with reference to the objects that are to be seen or read, thus obviating the need for fixed corrections. A dynamic management of vision where by the  sensors set the tone for visual acuity can help the aged and disabled see and be aware of challenges and pathways in human mobility.

The ultimate Smart Vision Device would be an Artificial Eye. It would be path-breaking if the smart device can videograph on a continuous basis, size up the things it sees against the archived benchmarks and converts the interpretations into verbal advices through a speech assistant that is embedded in the device. The device should provide for adding new benchmarks by the caretakers. Such a device can be a boon for the blind and visually challenged people. From a lifestyle perspective, advancements in sensor technologies could help people see even beyond what the naked eye can see while from a healthcare perspective they could help targeted and precision surgery even more feasible than it is today. It remains to be seen whether the wearable computers like Google Glass would morph into artificial eyes of sorts. 

Smart Communication

A human being is in perpetual need of communication. The process of communication has been predominantly felt and experienced in terms of talking and hearing. The cell phone has been the medium of such modern communication. Even the so called smart phone has, however, probably seen only the beginning of a communication revolution. While it has, no doubt, brought about the era of anytime and anyplace communication between individuals what probably remains to be achieved is a more holistic communication between the man and the environment.‎ The incorporation of the measure and respond cycle in the smart phone capabilities would lead to the new generation of such smart holistic communication devices.  

Today's devices incorporate sensor recognition of gestures and choice of information through exercise of specific applications. Tomorrow's smart communication devices would help in communication with broader environment as a matter of continuous experience rather than as sporadic choice. The individual would set his or her expectations of the environment and his desired response, letting ‎the smart device guide him live through the times. An example would be a device system that would have a base station at home, an operating station in office and a mobile station on person. These three device units would be in constant communication with each other to a set calendar of events and activities for the individual. 

Smart Health

Smart devices, backed by the next generation of medical sensor and response, would be the next game changer for human life. Integrated with advancements in genetics and diagnostics, smart health devices would be a new generation of touch and diagnosis health care apparatus that could guide us to good health and responsible living; in fact, there are already some which measure calorie burn, heart rate and so on. Extending further, the recently introduced smart watches would evolve into pulse reading and blood pressure measuring instruments. Nanotechnology would help conduct several diagnostic tests that now require samples of blood in a simpler through cutaneous access. Together, there would offer potential to guide individuals, especially diabetic and hypertensive patients, to achieve more cautious and controlled living. 

Smart devices, like the pacemakers which set right an irregular heart rhythm, can help provide stability to the aged. The ability to judge time and motion gets impaired with age. Smart sensors can, much like the driver-less cars under test, can put the aged in an error-proof autopilot mode. Depending on which faculty is relatively less or more impaired for an individual, smart devices can cover up for the more impaired one and translate the corrective action to reinforce the better one. Smart devices can alert the others in the system if the individuals are so impaired that they cannot benefit by themselves with the suggestions from the devices. In several ways, the smart health devices can act as a daily support to safe conduct of people. 

Smart Others 

There could be several other applications for smart devices. With enhancements in analytical technology, they can guide the restaurants and guests alike on the nutrition content of the food items. ‎They can understand the moods of the individual owners and provide talk and music therapy sessions that can positively influence the psychological well-being of the individuals. They can interpret information from chosen applications and play real time alerts. For example, when natural calamities strike, rather than individuals seek alerts, the devices can beam out alerts, and advise on pathways, once the starting point and destination of a traveler are known. 

In the field of education, smart devices can be encyclopedias on the go. They can also be creators of crosswords, puzzles and teasers that are customized and calibrated for the intelligence quotient  ‎of an individual based on testing, a priori, of an individual. With appropriate tests, they can also serve as providers of psychological tests of individuals as they grapple with new situations. As each smart device will be typically owned by an individual, the consistency or variability of the individually can be evaluated longitudinally by the device and feedback provided to the individual. 

Smart Chips 

The real challenge in the Smart Device development as outlined above is the need to obviate the interface with the computer. While some of the functionalities mentioned above are getting established in devices, they would need to be networked to the computer for meaningful archival and trending. What would be transformational is a direct interface between the Smart Device and the individual. This would require development of Smart Chips for this kind of Smart Devices with several cores of very high storage and processing power each. Potentially, there would be the need for a Smart Bionic Chip that would communicate with the human brain, in interlock with the Smart Device. A decade into the future, all of these could be realities. 

The thesis of the blog post has been that in contrast to robotics which mimics human movements and efforts with much better capabilities in some cases, the new Smart Device saga must emphasize value adding and reinforcing normal human endeavors, with a special focus on safety, efficiency and health. That way, life would be more purposeful and fulfilling. The key would be development of bionic chips that could work in harmony with human life. These would be a natural extension of human life, programmed to spontaneous and continuous reinforcement and improvement. The chips that measure and respond on behalf of the individual would multiply his or her safe, healthy and productive behaviors manifold, helping him or her age gracefully with surety.  

Posted by Dr CB Rao on November 2, 2013