Being curious – about everything!


An inspiration like no other… discern patterns where you never expect…

Having read many biographies and memoirs of successful business leaders, I started to feel that even though each journey was unique and distinct, their experiences, learning and even their approaches were often very similar… but the story of Leonardo da Vinci is an experience on a different plane… and its an experience worth going through.

Of-course I may be biased – with my own interest in seemingly disjoint disciplines (e.g. technology, neuroscience, psychology, design etc.), and my firm belief that bringing together ideas from different spheres not just adds a different perspective to thinking but also allows for innovation in unforeseen areas, I see here a perfect example… an example beyond my wildest imagination.

I have always known that Leonardo da Vinci was not just a painter but his interests and explorations spanned many areas beyond painting and sculpture and included interesting explorations in science and engineering (having earlier read about his flying machine and his (failed) attempts of flying like a bird, his many drawings of machines, etc.)… but I wasn’t much aware of his vast experiments in anatomy, geometry, hydraulics, geology, botany, fossils and fossil traces, birds, weaponry, waterways, bridges, architecture or theatre (there seems hardly a subject he did not study)… nor did I ever appreciate the extent of his study of nature and science…

But what intrigued me the most is that it’s not superhuman powers or divine endowments that make him so special, but his unquenchable curiosity and his obsessive passion, often coupled with inventive imaginationsimple skills that all of us have access to – if only we make an effort

What sets him apart is his ability to discern patterns not just from nature and apply them to science, but also to take his findings from experiments in science and applying them to arts… there are so many examples – from using the observations from water and fluid dynamics and applying them to figure out how the heart valve works or the blood flows in our bodies… from understanding the optics of light and reflections to functioning of the human eye to bring realism in his paintings…. from observing the structure of the wings of birds to design machines for flying… from using perspectives in landscapes to bring flat images to life… and many many-others… each of these correlations were arrived at only after hours and hours of obsessive study and often wild experimentation – an inspiration to all of us to pursue our interests with obsessive passion… his approach reflects his thinking of not accepting received wisdom but supplementing it by his own studies and carefully designed experiences – a lesson that we can all learn from.

I will admit that I have occasionally prided myself on being a successful proponent of driving innovation by bringing together ideas from different disciplines, but I now realise that my many attempts have not even scratched the surface – I cannot even fathom going to the extent that Leonardo da Vinci did – using anatomical studies and hours of hands on dissection to observe the muscles that move the lips and applying that learning to paint the memorable Mona Lisa smile! Not just unbelievable but amazing… I wish I could develop such a level of acute observation, obsessive study and experimentation, indefatigable curiosity and an unnatural degree of imagination

And if I can take one thing away from reading about his life, his pursuits, his passions and his approach, then I would like to slow down, and start looking at everything around me with new eyes, and maybe even stop awhile to cherish the infinite wonders around me – for if I do that I will also start seeing many more patterns and correlations that I overlook today…

I would highly recommend reading his biography, for it is not just an insight into Leonardo da Vinci, but his life is an inspiration like no otherit opens the mind to possibilities that most of us have long forgotten in our single-minded quest for ‘getting it done’

This note is a page from my diary – UnLearning, which records all those random thoughts (ideas and fears…) that make me live day-by-day.

This article was first published @LinkedIn on March 6, 2018.


How are changing behaviour is weakening our memory…


Our brain is simply adapting… is it for our good?

My fascination with the mysteries of the brain is nothing new… but my recent exposure to evolutionary psychology has added a new dimension to this study… I learnt that while human behaviour is definitely driven by our biological makeup, in recent history it is our environment, our social structure and changing tools that are influencing our evolution more rapidly. We are no longer waiting for our genes to mutate, but our constantly changing environments are pushing us to adapt quickly – often with radical implications.

It may sound farfetched, but here’s an example that we can all relate to. Google (and internet) has changed our approach to information – now with any-and-all information being just-a-click away, it seems pointless to try to remember the actual information – all that is needed is to know what-and-how to access the information, and it can easily be referred to when needed.

We are already living this new behavior… we are slowly collecting more links and references than facts and figures!

At least I am. I remember telling a friend recently that while I still remember all the nuances of early programming languages I coded in (including some of the assembly languages), I hardly recall even the basic syntax of any of the newer languages – because I don’t need to – and whenever I have had to write some code, I quickly look up a link and apply that as needed. It’s definitely different from how I worked earlier. Good or bad – I don’t know. It makes my life simpler today – and gives me more flexibility to operate in diverse environments, that too with relative ease.

If I stop and think, then I accept that I am fully cognizant of this change in my approach – and probably even consider it natural – to me it is as if we are adding external memory and expanding the capacity of our brain.

So it was quite a shock to learn that, however unknowingly, our changing behaviour has started to train our brain differently. For better or worse – I can’t say.

We are becoming more and more dependent on our recognition memory, or the ability to recognize previously encountered events, objects or people, and uses the stimuli as a reminder that the information has been seen before and provides a cue to access the information. As this information is being accessed externally (over the internet and other media), the other dimension of our memory – the recall memory – that looks up our long-term memory and retrieves the information from the past is slowing being relegated to the sidelines. The result is that our ability to remember and recall information (from our long term memory) is weakening day-by-day.

Our changing behaviour has already started to bring in a change in the functioning of the brain. Even though, today our brain still has the ability to remember and recall information – it is quite possible that over time humans may evolve to lose this capability. Or maybe I am just over reacting. But I for one do not like the idea of being dependent on machines – completely – and I think it is in our interest to slow down and nurture our ability to learn and remember

(and for that all that it requires is for us to realize that our brain tends to forget what it learns – and this forgetting curve is steepest in the first 24 hours – and the answer lies in spaced learning, i.e. learning and refreshing over increasing intervals of time, that helps us to learn quicker and better.)

This note is a page from my diary – UnLearning, which records all those random thoughts (ideas and fears…) that make me live day-by-day.

[This article was first published @LinkedIn on Feb 4, 2018.]

[Unlearning] Elevating the positives gives more value than eliminating the negatives…

Eliminating the negatives is what we are all good at… our focus is to create a complaint-free service… our energy is spent in filling the gaps, removing the nuances… but then we are rarely left with time to even aspire for the extraordinary?

elevate the positives

Inspired by Jamsetji Tata’s approach to lift up the best and the most gifted and not just prop up the weakest, I started to look for its application in business. I did not expect to find an immediate validation, but imagine my surprise (and excitement) when I found an interesting narrative in a book I was reading over Christmas (The Power of Moments by Chip Heath & Dan Heath).

In the book, the authors introduce a study undertaken with thousands of executives from consumer experience, which shows that on an average most companies spend 80% of their resources trying to improve the experience of severely unhappy customers. This is hardly surprising – after all when a customer has a satisfaction level of 5 or 6, they are reasonably happy and our natural response is to eliminate the worst customer problems and fix the issues of the unhappy customers who are at satisfaction levels 1 or 2.

The interesting aspect of the study was to map the data to a financial value of the customer. They referred to model on financial value of customer that has been developed by Forrester and suggests that the happiest people in the industry tend to spend more. The data from the model suggests that moving a customer from a satisfaction level of 4 to 7 generates more additional spending than moving from a level of 1 to 4. The results are illuminating – if you elevate the positives, you earn nine times more revenue than if you eliminate the negatives.

The thought on the table is to channelize the energy to nudge the neutrals (satisfaction levels 4-6) to positives (level 7 and above), rather than invest in moving the unhappy customers (satisfaction level 1-3) to neutral.

This maps to adding features and services that delight customers and to explicitly focus on creating such positive moments (there can be many definitions of positive moments but we can just start with the elements of elevation, insight, pride and connection that Chip & Dan introduce in their book).

Of-course I am not advocating abandoning the unhappy customers or ignoring basic problems – instead I am highlighting the need to reorient ourselves – to review our priorities, to move beyond fixing problems, to allow resources for building extraordinary experiences… I am simply reminding ourselves of the missed opportunity… the opportunity to create experiences that stays with us…

This note is a page from my diary – UnLearning, which records all those random thoughts (ideas and fears…) that make me live day-by-day.

[This article was first published @LinkedIn on 28 December, 2017.]

[Unlearning] When Social Entrepreneurship took a new meaning for me…


social entrepreneurship - new meaning

Early in the year, I read a book that chronicled the journey of the Tatas and while the many stories bring out practical business insights, I was particularly fascinated by Jamsetji Tata’s perspective on serving the interests of the country…

I have personally always been fascinated by what Jamsetji Tata (regarded by many as the father of Indian Industry) transpired to achieve (back in the 19th century, in 1868) and it’s amazing to see the disruptions he created… here we struggle to bring small changes whereas he opened up new worlds – in areas that were varied but still key to the growth of modern India – from industrial development (steal and hydro-electric power) to research (and technical education) to social welfare… he’s an inspiration… not just to lead in ideas and action but even more so to have the courage and conviction to take with you those who do not yet share your vision…

What stands out for me is his guiding principle that no success or achievement is worthwhile unless it serves the interests or needs of the country and its people… and the endeavour to create wealth for the nation! And it’s amazing to see how the foundation laid by Jamsetji Tata has stood the test of time and allowed the group to grow, maintaining its values and continuing to diversify to meet emerging India’s needs…

Everyone dreams of creating wealth for themselves but sustaining the passion to look beyond and striving to take the country forward is an inspiration… and Jamsetji’s journey is a reminder that one man’s vision can change not just a few lives, but a country!

As I started to accept that each one of us has the power to achieve more than we think, I was even more intrigued by Jamsetji’s approach to serving the needs of the country. His belief – that what advances a nation or a community is not so much to prop up its weakest and the most helpless members, but to lift up the best and the most gifted, so as to make them of the greatest service to the country – is so different from common thinking and most philanthropic initiatives of feeding the poor and healing the sick – and probably why he has left an indelible mark on India and its people – not just over a few years but across centuries.
This is a new way of looking at social entrepreneurship for me. While my passion has been to apply technology advancements for social impact – I cannot deny that my focus has been to look at selective pockets of social and economic change – and now it seems that I may be missing countless opportunities for a bigger impact.

I have something to think about as I start the new year – and as a first step maybe to evolve the infrastructure, services or ecosystems – not just to meet the basic needs of the moderate or the ordinary – but to relook from a different angle and extend the platforms with new capabilities to support the best and drive them towards their potential… yes, I really believe that this approach has far reaching possibilities – beyond social impact to also business impact!

This note is a page from my diary – UnLearning, which records all those random thoughts (ideas and fears…) that make me live day-by-day.

[Unlearning] Let the act become the destination…

let act be the destination

Earlier in the year I read Phil Knight’s ‘Shoe Dog: A memoir by the Creator of Nike’… it could not have been better timing for me… it inspired me to live the journey, to continue to believe in my dreams (and of-course believe in me!).

I have always been running after goals – one goal to the next and the next! In the rush to reach the destination, I have sometimes been irritated and often frustrated when faced with a challenge or just about any event that delays the goal – not just missing out on countless opportunities to explore but more simply the pure joy of doing what I started to…

Phil Knight’s journey that led to Nike may not be as well known as Steve Jobs story of Apple but it’s no less an inspiration… Shy, introvert, often insecure – Phil is far off from the bold dashing image of a typical entrepreneur… giving hope to many of us…

The memoir is surprisingly honest… he is so humble… underplays the successes and presents many choices to be accidental – be it the design of the iconic swoosh logo, coining of the name Nike (inspired from the Greek goddess Athena Nike thought to be the bringer of ‘nike’ or victory) or introduction of the innovative air technology…

An amazing story, it’s an honest reminder of what it takes to live your dream… to build a successful business – contrary to perceptions it’s no glamorous journey but years of endless struggles, terrifying risks, crushing setbacks and heartbreaking sacrifices… rewards are few and far from guaranteed… you realise the harsh reality that often just hard work and determination is not enough and luck may decide the outcome… you often wonder why you are doing it but despite all handicaps you still do (!) and its the act that becomes the destination… and it’s only faith – faith in yourself and faith in faith – that in the end matters!

For us who have grown up loving and admiring Nike, it is unimaginable to believe that a major part of the journey saw them living with the daily fear of failure… it makes it all the more admirable that they emerged into such a strong brand despite the humble beginnings and decades of struggles… but it’s a real example of the power of shared dreams… and what can be achieved if you keep going… if you don’t give up… if you live every moment of the journey fully… it’s a reminder to us all to live our dream, for the alternative is ‘not-to-live’!

This article is a page from my diary – UnLearning, which records all those random thoughts (ideas and fears…) that make me live day-by-day.

Shifting gears… driving all efforts to maximise every client interaction…


Be it optimising processes or driving revenue growth, the key is focus on the client conversation!

It all started – many years back – with sales force automation which laid the foundation for companies to drive their sales processes. The challenge was daunting – managing opportunities, accounts, contacts and pipelines for sales forecasting, and the goal of sales force automation was to improve operational efficiencies. Over time, many peripheral sales processes such as lead management, quote management, territory management, strategic account management and partner relationship management were also integrated to build a single platform for managing the entire client journey. Recent innovation is looking to add predictive analytics for opportunities, business process modeling, sales-methodology overlay and vertical specific products to further optimize workflows.

But removing operating inefficiencies can rarely – on its own – deliver revenue growth; and this realisation shifted focus to sales efficiency (mostly under the head of performance or productivity) and brought in initiatives to develop sales capability. It led to the emergence of new tools and processes – all within the SFA environment – starting with sales content management (creation, curation, and analytics for usage and influence), feeding it into onboarding, coaching, role-play, training and slowly extending to applying this knowledge to specific sales situations with curated account intelligence, just-in-time training, recommended sales content and many similar functions. Increased experimentation with such tools can be seen under broad initiatives of sales enablement or sales excellence (or even the not so fancy old-but-still-relevant sales training).

It’s quite fascinating to watch these innovations. It sounds so cool, so intelligent – a system that can dynamically deliver contextual content to me, that too just when I need it. However there is one big catch. The efficacy of these targeted push solutions is highly dependent on the quality of data that exists in the system – the data needs to be accurate and timely to build the contexts and identify the co-relations, else it will end up delivering static set of pre-defined resources or running predictive analytics on an incomplete or even worse irrelevant data set. And this is where most of the current systems start to fail to deliver on the promise.

In this scenario, I am reminded of a lesson I learnt (as always the hard way) in the early days of my career – a lesson I have never been able to forget – that you can be highly efficient but continue to do the wrong thing (!) and that the measure can never be actions but has to be only-and-only outcomes.

The focus really needs to shift from efficiency to effectiveness… You can argue that many of the sales enablement solutions are designed to improve effectiveness as well… and it may even be true for simple out-of-the-box solutions where you need to deliver consistent messaging about what you do and what you offer and deal with a set of known objections. However, my experience has been that in today’s complex business scenarios, selling is not about talking of what you can offer but instead understanding the client’s pain points and challenges and often extrapolating the implicit needs from those conversations. Solutions are not static and a solution that fits one set of conditions may not be effective in another.

The key to effectiveness is to understand the situation and ask the right set of questions at the right time. It’s a challenge not just to know what to ask but to figure out what is more important and relevant in the current context.

With growing sales cycles and increased cost-of-sales, the need is to maximise every client interaction. But there is little support from the environment, which continues to be weak on managing and driving client conversations as also extracting actionable intelligence from sales interactions.

It is not hard to understand the real problem – all these systems are designed for management and there is very little for the person in the field to gain – a person whose life revolves around clients – he meets new clients and stays in touch with old clients, building relationships, understanding their needs, finding about their pain points, talking about solutions, understanding other options and in the process collecting so much of data and bits-and-pieces of market action, competition strategy and emerging innovative alternatives. All this real intelligence just sits in people’s heads and never gets shared into the systems. If it did – it would open up a plethora of options on which to respond and stimulate business decisions that can transform the win cycles.

The crux then is to capture the client conversations – accurately and in-time. This will bring the larger organization into the decision making circle and also drive these next-gen intelligent systems to drive the cycle of contextual discoveries.

Accurate and timely capture drives contextual discovery, which in turn drives dynamic responses and maximises client conversations.

But the big question – how? Hardly anyone has been able to drive client conversations into the CRM.

Arti is the co-founder of humanLearning – a fast growing UK-based technology startup – setup with an earnest desire to make the life of busy professionals simpler and more effective. hL is disrupting business workflows thru short structured and searchable videos and event-driven SaaS. Arti can be reached at Arti has spent a major part of her working life in the field trying to create new opportunities in the leading edge high-technology complex solution space and used this experience to design their new platform vyn.

vyn, a new tool, tries to address the challenge of feeding client conversations into CRM by embedding the way of selling into daily action. Centered on client conversations, it asks the right people, the right questions at the right time. Structured storyboards ensure that no important aspect is missed out and by making sure that one speaks for less than a minute, it keeps it just to the point. With short, storyboarded videos, it is now easy to capture updates, insights or any other information directly into the CRM – wherever one may be – and allow all stakeholders to participate and contribute to moving the conversation forward.

But where the tool really scores is that it slowly starts to assist the sales person in daily chores… its like a super efficient virtual assistant – that mostly leaves you alone but in between sends a few prompts – triggered on key events in the client journey – these provide timely reminders for urgent actions and make sure that you don’t miss anything. Even better, when you need it most, it guides you with simple storyboards at every step and ensures that you are fully prepared with the right set of questions and answers at the right time, and can maximise every client conversation. And of-course it makes life simpler…

[This article was first published @LinkedIn on 03 March 2017.]

Past Trends rarely lead to a new idea…

From Observing to Wondering… Design Thinking opens up a new way of looking at things!

from observing to wondering

I trained as an engineer. My experience (working with some cool designers – a few of them from frog design) quickly taught me to unlearn a few fundamental tenets of engineering practices, and instead embrace some contrasting methods from the radically different approach of design thinking. The first shift in my approach occurred in the mid-2000’s when I learnt the power of moving from a vertical (first) thinking to horizontal (first) thinking. The second shift started a few years thereafter, and it has taken me beyond the realm of conventional reasoning.

Over the years (in part due to my scientific training), I have learnt to combine deductive (top-down) reasoning i.e. applying theories and premises to specific instances, with inductive (bottom-up) reasoning, using observations to build hypothesis and theories. The focus has always been conformance to theories or hypothesis, and the goal is to discern patterns, connect dots and build correlations.

But, I have grown to believe that at times we have to go against the rational extrapolations of data and rely on anecdotal observations and instincts. Many-a-times I find that both deductive and inductive reasoning fail miserably.

In today’s era of data explosion, where we are constantly looking for past trends and data patterns, I have started to question the very goal of looking for conformance and patterns. I have started – instead – to search for those samples of data that break the pattern and wonder why? I know it disrupts conventional wisdom – but I find that it gives me space to think beyond accepted norms, anticipate new circumstances and look for new possibilities. It is quite possible that my interactions with designers has reinforced my own rebellious and contrarian attitude… and given me the confidence to break tradition and opt for design approach of ‘what if…?’ So what if I am currently starting with an incomplete set of observations… I can come up with not just one but several possible explanations. Of-course these are limited by the available information and are often based on conjecture and designed by my imaginative faculties. But it may be the starting point for a very different hypothesis, which can (of-course) be tested over time.

If I had any initial doubts, they soon eroded when I found support from a credible source – an American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce (sometimes known as the father of pragmatism) has argued that no new idea could be proved deductively or inductively using past data and in his writings he introduces abductive reasoning, characterised as guessing and an inference to an explanatory hypothesis. He compares the different modes of inference and explains that deduction proves that something must be; induction shows that something actually is operative (it never proposes a new idea for its conclusion); abduction merely suggests that something may be (and seeks a new hypothesis to account for facts).

We have seen ourselves that we can hardly ever explain a new idea using past trends and data patterns… a new idea usually takes form when an observation does not fit into an existing model and we try to make sense of the ‘surprising’ observation by coming up with one or more explanations and slowly arriving at the best explanation.

We tend to forget that data is about past, emerging trends are about the future? And that’s where the problem with conventional thinking lies. Design thinking has extended my outlook with the what-if approach and trained me to move beyond simply observing to start imagining, wondering…

I love thinking about ideas freely… and observing them take shape!

This article is a page from my diary: UnLearning, more specifically an interesting section on ‘Embracing elements of Design Thinking’.

This article was first published at @LinkedIn on September 04, 2016.


What if sales transformation could become just another every-day project and not be a big managed initiative…?

Is this just a dream…? What if a CRM system automatically prompts me at the right time and guides me with a simple (not more than 2-3 lines) template, telling me what to do… I will always on top of the client journey! I will always know what to do, how to do and when to do…

on top of the client journey

Sales Transformation is more than deploying of new sales methodologies… its really about changing sales behaviour… and driving sustainable change… far bigger a challenge than most realise!

In recent client interactions, I have found many clients investing in expensive sales methodology trainings, setting up new workflows, building checks and balances… driving their teams to comply to newly deployed systems or processes…

There are many different sales methodologies in use – from the more widely known ones like Miller- Heiman’s Strategic Selling, SPIN Selling, Target Account Selling (TAS) etc., to a few that have their own niche following such as MEDDIC, The Challenger Sale (TCS, a successor to SPIN), Value Selling Framework, Solution Selling, SNAP Selling, Sandler, CustomerCentric Selling etc. All of these require the sales teams to adopt a structured approach to the sales cycle… expect them to get acquainted with complex decision matrices, question checklists and develop the capability to select from a vast suite of alternative scenarios…

Lots of investment in time, resources and processes is done by organisations (big and small), and yet the returns fail to match the expectations or the potential – and it always takes longer than projected! This is not from lack of commitment or motivation from the management, nor from selection of incomplete or ineffective methodologies – for each methodology has years of study, research and results that have led to its formulation and evolution. While, some methodologies focus on communication and messaging, others give more attention to important aspects of the sales process like discovery, qualification, decision criterion, decision process, and a few also cover account mapping, identifying champions and developing effective relationship maps.

The biggest stumbling block in effectively embedding these methodologies (or for that matter any new process or workflow) is the standard deployment approach – a few days of targeted intense workshop training (with tons of reference documentation to read and refer), followed by managed introduction of the new process, and setting up internal programs to drive adoption and compliance of the workflow through monitoring, tracking and regulating actions.

The reality is that however good the methodology and the supporting frameworks or worksheets, it is one thing to know what is required, a completely different thing to overcome inertia and an even a bigger ask to develop the capability to select from a vast range of options to put that into action. It is very natural to unintentionally fall back into the comfortable and tested mode of operation… and even the most effective of all monitoring and tracking is limited in effectiveness to simply managing and rewarding activity and very rarely get further down into quality or tangible results.

My personal experience has shown that the key to success is to try to embed the new methodologies into every day action. Do not simply rely on the quarterly, monthly or weekly reviews of plans, strategy or approach – big scary excel sheets, fancy blue sheets or other frameworks – as these are offline snapshot activities (and after all reviews!)… Instead enable every update, every action to automatically answer the questions and capture the information relevant to the stage of the client journey… Of-course this is easier said than done… but is achievable by supporting human intelligence with elements of collaborative intelligence and machine intelligence… support the user by giving him prompts – at the right time of the client journey – that guide him to the relevant questions… (Believe me – all sales users will love the fact that there is no need to remember the questions or the criterion or the complex matrices, or refer to offline reference tutorial to understand the definitions of confusing terminology or fill up documentation and worksheets!).

Remember that these prompts and questions cannot be big word documents or excel worksheets – that will turn off all of us… given our attention span 2-3 lines describing the question will work best… what if don’t even have to write down the answers and can instead capture the response as a short video? Well! We have our new template or worksheet – a short structured video! Where every question is just a segment in the video, and as the question is prompted we answer the question on video and move on to the next question… so a series of 3-4 questions gets recorded as a short structured video… just imagine the simplicity over all the documentation!

Is this doable? What does this require?

  • Take the client journey and map it to our own definitive stages – stages that we have identified for our custom workflow (say discovery, definition and scoping, qualification, positioning and validation, negotiation, closure etc.)
  • For each stage, building upon the methodology in use, list down the applicable questions and qualifiers (e.g. Is this an opportunity? Can we compete? Can we win? Is it worth winning?)
  • Map the questions into templates. [Each template is a set of 3-4 questions (2-3 lines max) which get encoded as segment descriptors for a structured video]
  • Identify triggers that mark the start or end of different stages and associate the templates with the triggers.
  • Integrate the triggers into the sales workflow (as simple service extensions on the CRM)
  • The occurrence of an event or a trigger will result in an automatic notification to the user, feeding him with the prompt and appropriate template

So, what does it deliver? As a user, I don’t need to refer to offline documentation or associations or supporting apps and toolkits, I simply engage with the defined process of updating client interactions in the CRM system. The process automatically activates on changed triggers or new events and notifies me (the user) on specific action, prompting me with the appropriate template to ensure full coverage of the questions to progress the opportunity or reduce the risk.

The notification acts as a natural check and reminder to engage with the process and the prompts drive the quality of client conversations… The methodology gets embedded as a way of working and requires no offline effort from the user. The underlying goal of building sales capability and moving the organisation towards consultative selling gets gradually into the social fabric of the organisation.

The improved effectiveness of sales and better understanding of client needs opens up new opportunities for accelerating business.

This is not just a concept today but tested in the field through SmartVideoNotesshort, structured and searchable video bites that are embedded into client CRM systems.

SmartVideoNotes (from humanLearning) are being used by global organisations today to drive sales transformation and embed new sales behaviour through use of customized client journey templates and associations. It is also being used for digital transformation to embed technology and innovation into everyday actions.

This article was published @LinkedIn on August 05, 2016.

Watching someone do something can make you experience it as if you are doing it yourself… hard to believe?

Sounds far-fetched! But, believe me it’s not a figment drawn from science fiction but grounded in neuroscience studies…

mirror neurons

I recently came across a reference to mirror neurons in neuroscience studies and the more I read about them the more I got intrigued…

A simple explanation suggests that there are specialised neurons (named the mirror neurons) that are seen to fire both when a person acts and when the person observes the same action performed by another – thus mirroring the behaviour of the actor, as though the observer was himself performing the action.

If this is true, then its almost as if the mirror neuron is performing a virtual reality simulation of the other person’s action… just think about the possibilities – it can start to explain simple behavioural and complex social responses… I have often wondered why most of us get so engaged and emotionally charged when we watch our favourite sports… it’s almost as if we are playing ourselves! Could it be the mirror neurons in play?

As with any new discovery it’s a subject of speculation and intense debate and while its premature for us to draw conclusions, I am personally biased by my passion for understanding how our brain adapts and using that to simplify every day activities.

The potential of the discovery in itself is enough motivation (for me) to delve deeper into the subject and the initial opinions that I have found have not yet disappointed me. (Ref. A good introduction to the subject is a TED talk  by neuroscientist Vilayanur Ramachandran where he describes his research on mirror neurons).

Most of the discussions talk about the potential role and importance of mirror neurons in two different areas – from understanding the actions of other people or empathy (where we could literally experience what others are experiencing and adopt the other’s point of view) to learning new skills by imitation (where the mirror systems simulate observed actions). The experiments show that while we can empathise and imitate other person’s action, we are still able to distinguish, eventually, that the action is not done by us since we do not get the same feedback from the sensory receptors in the skin (touch, pain etc.)

The importance of empathy and imitation is not hard to imagine in any context – from broad social and cultural contexts to dynamic business environments. As our environments become more global and we work in geographically distributed teams, our primary business interactions are centered on email, conference calls, social and collaboration tools, etc. As the opportunity to watch someone in action has notably gone down, it has inadvertently restricted the use of our natural ability of imitation and empathy in everyday interactions.

It is believed that video can fill this void – it provides an opportunity for people to observe and watch others as they speak and act… it is becoming increasingly apparent that embedding video in our interactions and work-flows in product design not just drives simplicity of action, but influences user behaviour through an increased ability to understand and empathise with others and to co-relate more effectively by imitating behaviour and skills.

I genuinely believe that by understanding what makes people act the way they do, we can design more intuitive and engaging products and interactions that match their natural way…

ps. Of-course I cannot deny that my excitement extends beyond every day social and behavioural application and I am equally fascinated by the possibility of a scientific explanation to the Indian philosophy (that I have grown up with,) that is based on the belief that there is no real independent self and we are all part of the same consciousness)… after all who knows we are all connected by neurons and we just need to dissolve the barrier of the physical self to communicate and interact – far more effectively than the current digital plane of the internet!

This article was first published @LinkedIn on May 07, 2016. 


When products are designed to fall apart…?


A couple of days back, the home button of my iPhone stopped responding… this is the second iPhone I have owned that has ended up in this state in the last 3 years… and it got me to think…

As I started to reflect on it, I started to become more and more convinced that this is by design – a clear strategy to deliberately restrict the lifespan of a product… clearly to drive the replacement cycle.

But what intrigued me the most is that this is not a new radical approach conceived by Apple, but has been successfully deployed by product manufacturers and producers for decades.

I came across an interesting story from the 1920’s where it is said that Henry Ford started to buy back scrapped Ford cars and asked his engineering team to disassemble them. Almost everyone believed that the goal was to find the parts that had failed and identify ways of making them better. On the contrary, Henry Ford asked the team to identify the parts that were still working and explore ways of re-designing these parts to cut down their life and have them fail at the same time as the others – a smart business intent to cut down the cost of design and manufacturing and avoid over-designing!

Its an out-of-the-box way of looking at things… and seems to make perfect strategy. Introducing the product lifespan as product parameter adds flexibility to the product development cycle by opening up options for exploring other constraints – not just time, cost or quality, but also technology selection, material properties, user experience, performance, processes, regulations etc.

I got so fascinated with the idea that I continued to look further and found a term planned obsolescence, that has indeed been used in the context of product design and economics… it talks of the approach that attempts to design a product with an artificially limited useful life such that it becomes obsolete or no longer functional after a certain period of time, where the driver is primarily to reduce the repeat purchase time interval i.e. shorten the replacement cycle. It appears that the light bulb was an early target for planned obsolescence when the companies standardised the life of a light bulb to 1000 hours and even went to the extent of fining producers if the light bulbs lasted longer! The strategy has found support from governments in the past and it has been used to stimulate consumption and fuel economy… but over the years it has resulted in divided camps, and in recent times there have been movements against this strategy with some countries now requiring manufacturers to declare the intended product lifespans.

As I thought about it further, it dawned on me that I was practically guilty of following the same strategy… and hence had lost the moral right to be judgemental … I realised that it can easily be argued that we (software providers) are no different and have enforced users to upgrade to new products by stopping support for older technologies, using incompatible interfaces, restricting hardware or OS support and building vendor lock-in… the intellectual production has fallen prey to the same pattern (as industrial and consumer production) of generating constant (renewed) demand for their products… creating a society that lives under the illusion of perpetually new.

In this state of mixed emotions, my view got biased by my own experience and actions… while many people argue that this belief that products are designed to fall apart is a fallacy, I have (albeit reluctantly) to disagree.

My experience of product design and development has taught me that every product design cycle involves a complex interplay between many business, technology and operational factors – from time-to-market, price points and product positioning to technology readiness, user experience, performance or resources, processes etc… and it is a reality that I have designed products with a clear view of a restricted life-span – simply using them as first generation products for early adoption and then replacing them (over time) with new product releases… which is an example in itself of designing products to fall apart (after a time)… or maybe it begins to sound more reasonable when we rephrase it and say that products are designed to work successfully for the defined lifespan and specified business goals…

Of-course, the answer is not what I wanted to hear as it means that I have to start looking for a new phone – even when I did not have the need for any new functionality… but then maybe I do not know what I am missing and may be pleasantly surprised by the ‘new’ product…

Arti is the co-founder of humanLearning ( – a fast growing UK-based technology startup – setup with an earnest desire to make the life of busy professionals simpler and more effective. hL is disrupting business workflows thru WinSight – a mobile-video based platform – that is changing the way businesses drive innovation and quality in sales and service. Arti can be reached at

[This article was first published on @LinkedIn on April 16, 2016]