How A Simple ‘Sensemaking’ Made Federer Self-confident

This is a brief article in which I want to show how sensemaking can help one know one’s own personality better, and build one’s self-confidence. No one expected Federer to become such a great player. Although he qualified as an early talent, he was never considered one who could ever dominate the sport. He may … Read more

The Concept Of Answerlessness

Context Einstein once remarked: “I keep the subject of my inquiry constantly before me, and wait till the first dawning opens gradually, by little and little, into a full and clear light.” Well, just like Physics, life is a subject of inquiry too. But, most of us are uncomfortable in handling complex questions about life.  A … Read more

The Consequences Of Shutting Yourself Off

Context Most of us simplify the world around us not only by forming mental models, but also by choosing which information to ignore. A certain kind of information (e.g. criticisms, signals, feedback) can get challenging for our minds–and so we get in the habit of ignoring it. Even great sporting legends such as Tendulkar develop … Read more

How Alan Mulally Turned Ford Around

When Mulally took over as Ford’s CEO in September 2006, the company was in a very bad shape. Its stock price had fallen sharply, its debt was at “junk” status, and it was about to record its worst loss in its entire history (of $12.7 billion). It was widely expected that Ford would eventually file … Read more

Why Intelligent People Often Doubt Their Strengths

Context Confidence and Wisdom have a very interesting correlation: Foolish people are often very confident. Above-averagely-wise people are often under-confident. Very wise people are often very confident.  In fact, this is a well known cognitive bias and is known as the Dunning–Kruger effect.  This bias is due to a meta-cognitive inability of low-ability people to recognize their ineptitude and evaluate their ability … Read more

Xiaomi’s Fall In China

Xiaomi sold over 61 million phones in 2014, beating Samsung and Apple to become the biggest smartphone vendor in China. But, in Q1of 2016, Xiaomi is behind 5 companies: Apple, Samsung, Huawei, Oppo and Vivo. Why? Well, one of the reasons being its distribution model. While Xiaomi was focusing on selling online, its competitors were … Read more

Why Yahoo Could Not Be ‘Great’

The nature of the issue Successful businesses are of 2 types: Good and Great. Good businesses generate good results. Great businesses generate excellent results. But, what separates the Good from the Great? I think it is: The ability to sacrifice smaller short-term gains for a bigger long-term gain. An example of ‘Great’ Zuckerberg was able to take the … Read more

How Google Got Social Networking All Wrong

This article at Inc.com captures an insight about Google that I have been also having in mind for some time now: Google’s biggest problem is its very Googlieness. The place is run by engineers–not by product managers. Engineering-driven organizations can make good technical products (e.g. search), but not social products.   This is the reason that Google+ is  complex to … Read more

How General Motors Lost Its Focus–And Its Way

There is no better example of just how important market focus is than the case of General Motors, which has been devastated because of a complete loss of market focus in their corporate portfolio. Managers and teams must make the tough choices of where to compete and to not compete. But, incredibly, in 2009 GM’s … Read more

How DuPont’s Board Failed Ellen Kullman

Boards, by their poor decisions, can often destroy great companies. Examples: Past boards of General Motors, American Express, Gap, Jet Blue, Apple, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola. Du Pont seems to a latest example of this psychological pathology. Its CEO Ellen Kullman had to step down after disagreements with the Boards and an activist Hedge Fund investor Nelson Peltz.  … Read more

Insights On Network Effects Using A 2 x 2 Matrix

Context A 2 by 2 matrix is a great problem-solving tool (Read this book to know more!). It uses 2 carefully-chosen parameters in order to segment a situation into 4 parts. Often this breaking down yields surprising results. Example: BCG’s Growth-Share matrix. Let us try this tool for analyzing Network Effects. What could be the 2 right parameters … Read more

What We Seem To Be Missing About Uber’s Hyped Network Effects

Context Cab aggregation business has Network Effects. We all know that. But, there is a very important and nuanced difference between the Network Effects in an Online Retail business and the Network Effect in the Cab Aggregation business. And that nuanced difference has significant implications for the future of Cab Aggregation business. Let us see. In both … Read more

The Habits That Made Darwin A Genius (From An Above-Average Guy)

Darwin is a classic example of an above average guy who became a genius. His IQ would have probably scored in the 130 range (i.e. an intelligence slightly above average) on a standard IQ test. And yet there he is, buried next to the calculus-inventing genius Isaac Newton (estimated IQ of 190!) in Westminster Abbey. (As Charlie … Read more

The Work Required To Have An Opinion

We all hold an opinion on almost everything. But, how many of us do the work required to have an opinion? The work is the hard part. You have to do the reading. You have to talk to anyone you can find and listen to their arguments. You have to think about the key variables … Read more

How Chasing A Wrong Growth Metric Almost Screwed Up Starbucks!

The metric was same-store sales growth. Starbucks used to track quarter-on-quarter same-store sales  comparisons (a.k.a. comps). Stock Analysts expected this metric to be reported publicly. The stock market expected the comps to be positive. Fortunately, the company had witnessed a consistent and long period of positive comps. Its stock price was high too. This was … Read more

E-commerce in India: Succeeding due to Business Model, Failing Due to Strategy

A Business Model is a higher-order concept than Strategy. It answers 3 basis questions on How to: Create value, Deliver value, and Capture a part of that value. E-commerce has gown phenomenally fast owing to its disruptive Business Model: First Inventory-based and then the Marketplace-based. The online/mobile shopping model has become successful because it did … Read more

Teach Your Kids What Jack Welch’s Mother Taught Him!

In 1981, during a review, the leadership team of GE’s nuclear power business presented a business plan to Jack Welch: A forecast of 3 new orders for nuclear reactors a year. Jack listened for a while and then said: “Guys, you’re not going to get 3 orders a year. In my opinion, you’ll never get … Read more

How MBA-Style Leadership Killed Sony

Sony was once a company to watch. Under Akio Morita, the company kept looking for advances in technology–and hence was able to create new markets and dominate “consumer electronics”. Stories about Sony management meetings revealed a company where executives spent 85% of their time on technology, products and new applications/markets, 10% on human resource issues … Read more

A Tale Of GE vs. Apple

Have you ever seen 2 badminton players focus so much on aggressively hitting that shuttle back towards each other, that they often fail to notice the gaps in the court? Competing is emotionally intensive. Competing is ego-boosting. Male ego likes competing. But, we often confuse what is intensive and ego-boosting with what is valuable. GE … Read more