An evening in the capital – Washington DC

A nice time spent in the capital city of Washington DC. It was a fine evening in the relatively pleasant month of October in this part of the country. I usually do not click photographs with my mobile camera, and even if I do I rarely upload it online. And even if that rarity does happen, I have never ever blogged about it. This post changes that.

I did not carry my heavy full frame camera for a quick evening visit to the capital primarily to accommodate for the scarcity of the time we faced on this visit. But nonetheless, the mobile camera came in handy to capture some decent night images in the low light conditions – definitely not the forte of mobile cameras. Also, this time I did use the auto-enhance and editing features built-in the Google+ photo adjustment tools. The results were share-worthy.

This visit is to be soon followed by a visit to Shenandoah National Park and it is going to get much cooler, with some rain and snow forecasted for the weekend. I will post an update once I  am back from the trip.

Standardization

Standardization is antagonistic to excellence. It establishes minimal acceptable performance levels; whereas excellence goes well beyond it.

Standardization neutralizes the ups and downs of collective performance levels. The good thing about it is that it elevates the downs and forces it to meet the minimum acceptable baseline performance levels – from poor to acceptable. The bad thing about it is that it more often than not disincentivizes the ups of superior performance and allows it to slip down to the minimum acceptable baseline levels – from excellent to acceptable.

Standard defines the average of acceptability thresholds, which is an inappropriate benchmark for superior performance.

Standards, however, is a good measure for those want to do the bare minimum so as to just suffice and ‘do the job’. Read Herbert Simon’s Nobel prize winning Satisficing model. However, for those who want to excel and go beyond the minimum required levels, Standardization is actually a deterrent. It is detrimental to creativity. Once you meet the established standard levels, your brain is conditioned to be satisfied with the output and you are assigned on the next task. You never have the time or the hunger to look beyond the established baseline – the standard. Your quest for excellence is extinguished as you set out on another project.

Standards came into being when the senior management and the so called intellectual capital of the markets designed a framework and minimum acceptable levels of performance for their so called intellectually-deprived unskilled workers. The workers were unable to define an acceptable performance level and hence unable to produce outputs that met those levels. So, it was the senior management who defined it for them in their bid to sustain in the marketplace.

Thus, standards are often established by someone else, who doesn’t do the work themselves, but rather entrusts a collective group of people with different skill sets to perform the task. Usually, they are set by some analyst or statistician observing a large data set or performing some time and motion studies on a group of doers.

However, the group often has different skill levels, with some peaks who tend to excel and some troughs who tend to be the laggard. Standards averages all these levels into a smooth baseline. That is what a standard is – an average. If you live and work by the accepted standards, you are either elevating your performance troughs or lowering your performance peaks.

Your employer is happy with the standards. But are you? That depends on from where you approach the standards – troughs up towards the standard baseline or from peaks down towards the standard baseline.

Once you determine your approach to the standard performance levels, you will realize if you are growing or shrinking. If it is the former – you would be happy to find out that it is you and the likes who have kept the standard level low, well within the reach of your limited abilities and you are lucky to stay hired.

But if you discover that you are approaching it from the peaks, it is up to you to determine if you want to live by those standards or establish your own performance levels. If you chose to do it, then you can elevate the established standard levels to match your performance.

I would also like to draw an analogy of the above discourse to what we call as group think. Group think is nothing but arriving at a consensus by standards. In group think, a desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. It deteriorates individual peaks of excellence and creativity. It averages everything out. In the same way as standardization kills excellence, group think kills creativity.

Be passionate. Be real

I cannot overemphasize validity and effectiveness of the advice given by the some of the best recruiters and successful managers in the industry – Be passionate. Be real.

Over the last few days, I have been updating my resume in my bid to get a job in the industry of my choice. I went through a lot of career websites and advisory articles that claimed to offer the best practices to build and present your profile to your prospective employers. I read, and read, to the point of getting dizzy. I traced the records of my previous jobs and mined my previous experience, work done, accomplishments and all the keywords that I should include in my profile to improve my chances of getting hired. I spent a lot of time and effort on it, a lot!

However, after a lot of applications, (it’s just been three days), I got my first interview call for the interview. And, if there if anything that I must say, I am 100 per cent sure that none of the industry buzzword on my profile was the key in getting the interview call. Neither was it my academic and professional qualification, nor was the supposedly successful record that I presented on my resume.

The only reason and the most important one, that secured an interview call for me was the fact that I was really passionate about the job when I applied for it. I was real with my words and honest with my application. I really wanted to get hired for ‘that’ position and do ‘that work’, which was listed on the job description.

When we are passionate and real about our application, we often go beyond the standard templates and drafts of our cover letters and often express interest and enthusiasm, which goes beyond the mechanical application process that we otherwise adopt in our application spree.

I understand that we have the urge to go all out and apply for a lot of jobs that are posted on the career websites. But, do we apply for the sake of getting employed or do we apply for really doing the work that is expected of you in that particular position? The answer to this question matters a lot to the recruiter. In our applying spree, we cannot make out this difference, but when we apply to some openings with real passion and honesty, the application stands out by the little things that we say in your cover letter. The hiring managers have an eye for these subtle nuances. And I am sure that even we all know when that passion flows out in our applications.

Having experienced the benefits myself, if there is one advice that I want to give to everyone who is seeking a job out there, it would be to be passionate and be real.

And it is not that difficult do it. It’s actually very simple – Just don’t stop your search till you come across ‘that’ perfect position. Once you do, you can be nothing else but be passionate and real. And be sure to extend that passion and honesty in your interview and in your job once you get hired; and everything else you do in your life.

Cost of calculations

There is a cost for every thing. For every choice we make, something is left unchosen, and there are opportunity costs to it. For every thing we choose to do, there is a transaction cost to it. And similarly some more costs for some things that we often do, and even for the things we don’t do. Economists, financial analysts and accountants will help you to better elucidate these costs.

But, it is important to remember that our life is not a corporate mission. In life, there are some costs that are best left uncalculated. For in calculating these costs, you often end up spending considerable time and effort, eventually incurring more cost of calculations than the one you set out to calculate in the first place.

For example, I see a recent trend of reliance on task managers and productivity apps. While I am not a tech-averse person, I often wonder at the amount of time we spend researching and comparing the plethora of products out there before deciding to download and install one. Do these apps account for the time spend in researching and installing them in the first place?

Setting up calendars, scheduling weeks and months ahead of time only to reschedule it, creating to-do lists, reminders, and other such productive tasks are quite a paradox in my opinion. Although they claim to increase our productivity, I find that they are counter-productive instead.

Trying to control and align too much has its own costs. Trying to manage and squeeze out the maximum has its own costs. This is applicable in the present as well as the future. In fact all of us incur costs in the present to avoid potential future costs – this is how insurance industry thrives!

What is it about Twitter?

It is not 140 characters, but rather 140 opportunities to make an impact. It is about doing a favor to the current time impoverished world by being concise and precise. It is a good tool to practice and improve your  signal to noise ratio. It helps you cut the fluff and get to the core. It is about getting to the crux of the matter.

It follows Steve Krug’s ‘don’t make me think‘ principle transposed from design to content  – ‘don’t make me search and skim, make me read instead‘. It eliminates the need for Ctrl + F in your posts. It makes sure that the reader reads it and not just skim it. It gives the publisher two of the most scarce resources available today – time and attention.

More time to create less of more compelling content and more of 100 per cent attention from your audience. (Marketers, take note!)

However, while I say this it is very important to remember what Frank Lloyd Wright said, “Less is only more when more is no good.”