What does meaning mean to us?

We humans are a social animal. The structure of our needs has been shown by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs… from Biological up to Security, to Belonging, to Recognition, and finally of Self-Actualization.

Each one of these needs beyond the first two, from Belonging upwards, depends a lot on the meaning we build as our own from our community(ies), the recognition (appreciation) we gather, and the new (personal/original) meaning we are able to convey (add) to our community (the world we understand). What does meaning mean to us?

The book, “The Three Laws of Performance” makes the point so emphatically – “How things occur to us depends on the language we use”. What does this mean? Does language lead to meaning, or is it the other way around? Is its meaning important for us? And therefore to us?

Of course, language is a natural form of communication, and as such there will be varying degrees of ‘language’ used by different people, all of which we need to be accommodated in our understanding. That notwithstanding, does the widespread adoption of a wide vocabulary, clear, consistent, correct, and precise language have a direct correspondence with the growth and evolution of a community?

This is an invitation to a conversation on the meaning of language, and what it means to us, building from what it means to each one of us. You’re invited to be a part of this conversation right hereClick and post your thoughts and read what others are saying as well.

What does meaning mean to us?

What role does the (correctness of) language mean for all of us?

— O —

Trainers Don’t Need To Be Trained!

Do Trainers need training?  Yes of course they need training, but they do not need to be trained.  This is what makes them Trainers at the cutting edge. 

Obviously, if they need to be trained, then they are the learner.  If a trainer believes they have outgrown the learning stage, they are actually doomed as a trainer.  All trainers worth their salt accept that they need to keep learning constantly, just to keep pace with the rapidly learning youngsters who will ask them questions during their training sessions.  The better trainers learn faster than anyone else.  It’s just that simple.

So how do Trainers learn so quickly?  What do Trainers do to learn without being trained?

Trainers are experts at focusing on learning objectives and asking questions, assimilating answers, and practicing without inertia.  This expertise of asking questions is the expertise knowing which questions to ask, how to ask which question, who or what to tap for the answers, and what questions need to be answered first.  This expertise naturally gets them the answers before anyone else, and that is what creates the opportunity for them to be Trainers.

Trainers develop the ability to assess the purpose for every piece of information.  While good learners need to know how to answer all the questions they are presented with, good teachers need to be able to reverse-engineer the questions from looking at all the information (‘answers’) that they perceive.  Trainers have to be able to determine the objective from the response.  And, the best trainers are able to ask new questions, questions they have never been faced with.

— O —

Read, as if your life depends on it…

… for most likely, it does!

One of the most significant changes that people are dealing with is the fact that in the lockdown stages they don’t have people in front of them telling them what they have to do, but rather they need to read instructions (most likely in a chat message or an email) telling them what they what they need to do.

Don’t underestimate the magnitude of this change. This is a sea change for most people. Where people didn’t need to read words spelt out, they didn’t need to understand the written language because they could always depend on the person in front of them explaining to them, could depend on them to infer the particular confusion that they chose to have at that point. From that point they need to actually change to make sense of a few words written in front of them. Many people don’t even realize the handicap they give to themselves by refusing to read.

Over the last few years. I realized that most people who are so-called literates are effectively illiterates. They’re only people who can write somehow. And I say this because most people don’t read. They may have the ability to read. But that doesn’t make them literate. Because they choose not to read, and behave like illiterates. What do you say?

Why do I say this?  Lets take the example of sign-posts.  Or that of emails people receive.  Even signages that point out dangers are glossed over as if they never existed.  They probably don’t exist for the masses.  This phenomenon is even more striking for me because I work in a profession that lays the highest importance on Safety, which in turn means that paying attention to signages is the foremost responsibility of every worker and officer.  Even so, the literacy of people is evinced to the same extent as in the rest of the region of South Asia. Most people depend on being told by someone, rather than having to read anything.

This aversion to reading, even the one or two words of a sign-post, has always remained a mystery to me, when I know the person can read.  It is the ultimate disrespect to the person who wrote it, and also to one’s own intellect and ability, to not use it.  Our life certainly doesn’t seem to depend on it.

Notice that Kerala has had the best response to the pandemic in recent times, and is it a coincidence that it is the state in India with the highest literacy rate?  Thank God at least some of those people (if not many) actually must have read the advisories, the analyses, the way forward, and communicated with many others as civilized thinkers.  Reading and writing polishes thinking.

Ultimately, reading and writing help us develop the discernment that comes from being well-read, and being sorted in our thinking. Our life depends on it…

— O —

Requirements?

Understanding & Developing Project Requirements

Requirements –> Strategy –> Plan –> Execute –> Evaluate

These are the five keys for successful project execution. Understanding requirements is probably the most important key because if requirements are not understood correctly right from the beginning, the entire project can lead to a solution way off target. Apart from wasted time, resource, and money, this leads to a dissatisfied and frustrated customer.

The most common trap in understanding requirements is to stay with what we already know, what we have experienced in the past, and look for the most easily apparent solution, rather than the problem which the customer is experiencing. In this case it seems we would be looking for a lock when we already have a key, or simply putting the cart before the horse.

Understanding requirements from the customer’s point of view requires empathizing with the customer, their situation, their needs and wants, their challenges and their aspirations for success. Reading and re-reading their problem statement is something we need to do often, even after we have started developing the solution strategy. Staying with the problem and thinking about it long enough is key.

As we begin developing the requirements, the simplest proof of whether we have understood the problem correctly is to paraphrase it and see if the customer still resonates with our description of it. We progressively detail the problem articulation and successively involve the customer in responding to potential solution strategies with their pros and cons. If the resonance sustains through the design stage, we have the problem(s) identified and isolated.

Re-statement of the problem and getting concurrence from the customer on what it is, as well as what it is not, gives us the clear starting point from where we can start strategizing on the possible solution sets, and paths to them.

— O —

Discernment-Demands-Growth!

Meeting requirements does not grow an organization, meeting discerning demands does.  As customers, we must have discerning demands.  This is what causes our supplier organizations to grow.  So many of us will be able to relate with the growth that our own organizations had, because we had some discerning, demanding customers.  These are Premium customers to have, and every supplier is blessed when they have one.

“It’s not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It’s the customer who pays the wages.” – Henry Ford

Customers who have discerning standards, and demand their standards be met are the reason for learning and growth for their suppliers who (go through the ‘good’) struggle if they are committed to deliver quality.  Unless there is something more and better being delivered, it isn’t growth for anyone – neither the individual, nor the supplier, nor the customer.  As long as there is something good and better, the ‘more’ makes sense.  If the quality isn’t what it could have been, more just means more of the same.  This isn’t growth.  So what is Quality then?

We’ve heard promotional claims from sales pitches about the quality of products and services that will be offered by a particular supplier – “the world’s best”, “most economical”, “in the shortest possible time”, “easy to work with”, “better than the competition”, “most comfortable”, etc.  Of course there’s an asterisk(*) in every case, pointing to the fine print of the T&C (terms & conditions) that apply.  In most cases however, we, the consumers (or the customers) convince ourselves to decide to buy those products and services despite some loopholes or risks we may observe in the promises.  We take a chance.  The suppliers depend on our gullibility to swallow that impossible promise along with the compromises and discounts we may make with our own values or standards.  In a sellers’ market, goods are scarce and sellers can keep prices high.  And there are enough of us customers in this world.

“Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.” – Ayn Rand

What do we do as consumers when we go through and experience the purchase?  We cloak our disappointments in the rationalization we do to let the supplier go scot free, without even them knowing that they fell short.  Suppliers couldn’t be happier.  We’re lapping up whatever is meted out, maybe happy in the retail therapy it provides us.  We compromise our demands for quality.

“I don’t pay good wages because I have a lot of money; I have a lot of money because I pay good wages.” – Robert Bosch

There’s always the balance between quality and price to think about.  What people may be able to afford, may not be good enough in their opinion.  In a buyers’ market, goods are plentiful and buyers can keep prices down.  Both, the suppliers or the customers could make compromises in quality, and in their demands.  Their wisdom and discernment defines the quality of their compromise at any given point in time.

“Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shuts down for ten years.” – Warren Buffett

This compromise is the beginning of the end, as far as economic growth goes, if it isn’t made with discernment.  Quality Professionals will jump up to say, “But Quality is meeting the Customers’ Requirements!”.  They will not take responsibility for the requirements being laissez-faire or their implied promise not being kept (they are covered by the T&C, you see, even if they started with the best intentions).

“Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

So we seem to be faced with the question – Does the replication and scaling up of laissez-faire goods in larger volumes have a positive impact on the economic growth?  Or does the discerning refinement of product features and value propositions, and then each scaling up (albeit to a lower scale) have a bigger positive impact on economic growth.

“If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience, and ability.” – Henry Ford

My own take is that as we go up the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our discernment must increase, we must demand of ourselves to be more discerning, whether we are the customer or the supplier.  The higher up we are in Maslow’s Hierarchy, the more discerning we must be.  We must develop our own discernment to match the responsibility that we take at our position in life.

A mentor once told me that our wealth is defined not by how much money we have, but by how we spend it!!

— O —

What’s In a Name?

Why is a Name important… and why is it’s spelling equally so!

Because you need to find it again…

…And you will later look for (or refer to) it by the name you remember.  You will find the item only if it is tagged and stored in the system with the same name, spelt exactly the way you remember. The ‘system’ will not be able to help you find what you are looking for, if even one character is different.  The system could be another person or a computer file storage system.  And remember, even a blank space is a character for a computer system.

Unclear or uncertain names are the single most common cause for miscommunication between people – resulting in waste of time, conflicts, costly mistakes, and loss of brand value.

Which aspects of a Name make its use elegant and effective?

Brevity Not a mouthful, easy to pinpoint in a jiffy
Ease in spell Phonetic, commonly known spelling, distinct and easy even to tell someone else on the phone
Relevance Relevance to entity and its contents, indicative of meaning, associative, intuitive to search, easy to recall
Uniqueness Makes it possible to identify accurately and precisely, usually forced if used on a computer system
Sort-ability Gives the natural sequence in a list we might hold conceptually, easier to find and analyze
Structure Indicates ontology, hierarchy (and therefore context), sets and subsets

Which name-aspects can be most significant for various kinds of ‘things’?

  • For an email id – Brevity, Ease in spelling, Relevance
  • For a person’s name – Ease in spelling, Uniqueness
  • For a Brand – Relevance,  Uniqueness
  • For a computer file/folder name – Brevity, Relevance, Uniqueness, Sortability, Structure
  • For a Concept – Relevance, Uniqueness
  • … and the list could go on.

 

Names have a purpose.  Use them effectively as you engineer knowledge.

Happy Naming! 🙂

The Law of Sailing… and of Life!

There’s a law of sailing in the high seas.

“When the paths of a big ship and a small ship cross at sea, it is always the smaller, more maneuverable ship that gives way.”

And the same is true of Life!

I read this many years ago.  And as I read it and thought about it, I realized it applied to our relationships, our professions, most everything over time.  But I also realized that giving in doesn’t always mean giving up or losing. It just means that you have to find a different route to where you wanted to reach, maybe at a different time which is more opportune.

It led me to a corollary of the law…

“Also, it is the smaller, more powerful, more aware pilot ship that tugs the big one safely into harbor.”

Sail happy, sail free!

Learn Faster, Bigger, Better

We see so many people around us waiting to be told what they have to do, to be trained, to be educated, to be taught,… to be spoon-fed what they need to know.  “If you tell me, I will know,” they say.  Even for what they want to know they are waiting, expecting someone to feed them.  But if everyone is waiting to be spoon-fed, who is going to feed them?  There will have to be some people who learn by themselves!!

It is Trainers who learn by themselves, more, faster, and better than anyone else.  By doing so, and only by doing so, they become trainers valued by learners.