Full Featured Learning Experiences for Schools, Not Video Meetings

Should educational institutions be using a video calling and meeting solution or a solution that helps get the task of educating children efficiently? Difficult circumstanced necessitated the adoption of Zoom. It nevertheless opens up a range of security and learning efficacy challenges.

I recently wrote on the safety challenges that Zoom need to address. Large organisations like Apple, Nasa, SpaceX have also told employees to avoid using this particular application. Zoom itself has prioritised working on privacy and safety enhancements over the next 90 days.

Should your organisation wait? The question is, does this or any other video calling solution serve the needs of an educational institution?

Continue reading

Science, Creativity and Imagination

I was 15 when I read Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C Clarke and discovered space fiction! What a story that was even though some concepts were beyond me. Recently, I was reminded of the key aspects of the book when I read about the interstellar object that passed through our solar system.

At that time, Star Trek and Cosmos were broadcast on our television screens. Carl Sagan talking about the wonders of space. Every episode left you with a sense a awe and inspiration. I came to know about Voyager spacecrafts journey across our solar system at that time and have kept abreast of the latest till their last recorded moments in our solar system. The technical feats achieved with such early-stage technology fill me with a sense of awe. The real merged with the reel with Captain Kirk seemingly continuing the mission of the scientists of that time.

Rakesh Sharma became the first Indian cosmonaut in space. He and Ravish Malhotra were household names. I remember the Insat-1B and the SLV3 missions and followed them with as keen an interest as the information of that time allowed. So the world of space in the form of Cosmos, Star Trek had an Indian connection.

The idea that the rockets that carried humans to the moon were outdated and soon to be replaced with the space shuttle was quite exciting then. The shuttle went up like a rocket but landed like an aircraft and in that year the space shuttle Challenger seemed to indicate it was safe too. It went into space multiple times that year. There were also the Soviet Soyuz T11 and Salyut 7 to dream and discuss.

In that year, I re-discovered the 1977 edition of the Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft. This was found in an old bookshop by my father and it had been there in our collection. It had a lot of pages, very heavy to lift but it was fascinating. Every single aircraft by a country was listed there. I remember reading about the Marut. Comparing features of some of the world’s best aircraft was a good past time. It had photographs, illustrations, specifications and so much more. I felt rather grown up! This was also the year the Indian Light Combat aircraft was announced or at least came into my field of exploration. It felt good that India would develop an aircraft for our own use!

And then there were ads! How could you not like the ads? They were better than the programmes that one got to see on TV. I longed to somehow record those ads in my collection but I did not have the means to do, till much later in my schooling. It certainly sparked an interest in marketing and brands!

We’d won the world cup a year earlier and the Indian cricket team had visited our school. I remember recording the anecdotes on a dictaphone and sharing with colony friends. It had a micro-cassette and that was very interesting to me. A neighbour wanted me to test it. He worked for Indian Airlines and was part of the programme that would induct one of the first Airbus planes in India. I still remember the Airbus stickers on his bags!

While I read a lot it was mostly Soviet classics and comics. But I was introduced to computers in a magazine called Computers Today. It seemed to discuss things that sailed over my head. It would leave a lasting impression despite not understanding mainframes etc. Here’s an example of the tech coverage of that time.

I signed up for the after-school computer programme based on the BBC Micro. It was basic but it was thrilling to hear sounds, see some of the text art as graphics on those screens. Went on to learn Basic and felt like a genius!

There was awe and I wanted to explore more. So the books at the British Council and American Center libraries came in handy. Even though most of the concepts were way about my level.

Oh and music! It was still the era of records and one made sure that the record was not scratched. Cartridges required special care as well. It was fun to find a way to take the line-out of the record player into another music system. Primarily to create mixtapes. It was an early stage experiment that would continue to grow. Mixtapes would grow on to become a big interest for me. Another thing that I learnt was to open the music system and figure out its belts and gadgetry etc. There was the soldering iron to explore with. Some of it known to the family and some not. But frugal mix and match was the order of the day.

All in all, a time of inspirational moments in space, mind opening science fiction, first steps in technology that would become central in my life. The idea of recording mix tapes, recording events would come back later. It allowed me to get comfortable with my interests and not just scholastic activities.

There was a curiosity to learn then and it has only grown bigger. Some of the curiosity gets transferred into work solutions but there is still the same core foundation of interests that form a part of my conversations and exploration.

Now imagine a child who is going to be 15 in about another 9 to 10 years. It is fascinating to think about what she is going to experience . What will inspire her and what will become a lifelong interest-

In a world filling up with technology where anything can be 3D/4D printed, will she turn to handcrafted experiences?
Will the first generation of humans have already settled on Moon or another planetary outpost? What will be the stories from there?
What will serendipity bring to her musical or creative interests?
Will she learn with holographic images much the same way that the holodeck offered in the Star Trek?
Will humans have overcome the more significant issues of the current time?
Will she have any aspiration to drive a car in a world of seemingly autonomous vehicles?
What will she want to tinker and will the machine be her connected assistant?

Writing this was good nostalgia but imagining the next 15 year old’s inspiration, one thing is certain the Future is not more of the past.

Also available here as part of the Linkedin #WhenIWas15 series

Cardboard People, Photoshopped Beauty and Real Brands

This is supposed to be the age of transparency, empathy and connectedness. Can we please agree on what the real brand is?
Advertising is photo enhanced. Situations are all about perfect locations, beautiful happy moments or scary ones depending on product category. Advertising success invariably is shown as looking down upon someone else. Deviousness instead of playfulness gets you to the perfect family plan. All in the name of creative license. Fair enough.
You are after all an informed customer, making informed choices about your favourite brands. Yet you wonder about the intent of the brand?
Brand celebrities ask people to trust them. It’s known they don’t use the products they promote. They just hold them in their hands. So what if the customers lose health, money, feel vulnerable due to the dubious benefits of the product. There is always the exclamation mark in small print or spoken in faster language that saves everyone. Due diligence by the celebrity is rarely important. You are told customers understand that the celeb is play acting and it helps in sales. The big tick in sales is all that matters. Not what happens later. The mis-sold house, insurance or health product, the bad service is not something that concerns the celebrity. The marketing game is on.
You are told that the reputation management tools take care of customer concerns and everything is fine.
Shaving brands tell you how to treat women by shaving more. Yet are conspicuously silent on the biggest issues of the day. There is a perfectly better way to talk family products and plans. Devious methods is not one of them.
You are told that privacy is gone and that if you did not pay for the product you are the product.
You wonder about your data and your favourite brands desperate attempts to monetize your transactions even further. And even more desperate attempts to protect their corporate data. You wonder, did you have a choice. Would you like a choice? Then you wonder about products that you purchased, the price that you paid was it worth it.
According to the paradox of choice the customer will always be dissatisfied. Because of you see.. Choices!
You know that answer and yet you don’t want to say it. The choices are not that many.
Why are we focused on dystopian means and methods? Link baits, deviousness, hacking and so on. Where is the leadership that is focused on positive means and directions. Increasingly brands will need to engage with society, discuss policy with stakeholders and customers. If the brand wants people to trust them, then some methods need to change, because you see, trust means BEING REAL.
So, what’s the real brand? What does it really stand for?

Instinctive Responses in a 2 Second World Need a Sense of Reality.

Hopefully empathy will not become just a term in management literature or a corporate asset that needs to be measured/quantified.
An organisation needs a sense of being real. In these times, we simply cannot allow ourselves to be carried away by our past successes or think what worked upto now will also work later.
The organisation needs to have real interactions between people. What will work and what needs to be done is an iterative process. You need people to talk, to understand each other’s point of view, to take decisions, to accept failure and learn and equally not get carried away by success. Learn and iterate at all times.
If you look for inspiration in team sport, superstars may win you a match here or there but long term success is all about combining skills and experience and to align together in joy and sorrow.
Is this empathy? or is it just being human and real?
Success can be misinterpreted. One can believe that the method that helped reach a goal once will also provide similar results the next time. We seek to drive that as a best practice or create rules. Somewhere in this need to scale success we lose the ability to listen and collaborate.
While digital tools have created opportunities to connect with other colleagues, processes, culture and hierarchy changes have not kept pace. Mr Vivek Ranadive, CEO Tibco, talks about the 2 second advantage and success. While technology can likely deliver on the 2 second advantage it is the cultural aspect of these changes that need to be understood by leaders in the company.
There is an old saying, you can train a person for knowledge and skill but attitude is what one brings to the table each work day. The atmosphere that is conducive to the being real mantra of a leader must be created by starting with hiring the right people.
I think it is important to always be in conversation with the team. Does being in conversation constitute internal branding? Perhaps it does. Internal branding is not about a bunch of posters one puts on the walls or monthly campaigns on email. I think it is about a team feeling they are a one unit.
A team that feels no fear. A team that is willing to experiment.
Internal branding then is not just what you say on posters but a lot of it is articulated in your actions.
If someone draws a line in the sand or in the marketplace, the immediate response of the organisation should be to not try and erase another’s line but to align effort and services that help create a bigger market/opportunity.. i.e. another line. This needs to be an instinct with everyone contributing together to make it happen.
Instinctive responses in a 2 second world need a sense of reality.