are you a leader ?

Leadership to me is defined by three most important attributes:

    A leader has to be authentic in their approach towards people, matters and situations. It is imperative to command respect that you have original ideas and thoughts but most importantly you also have a style of your own. Many folks may or may not like it but I believe it is imperative to have a style that you can call your own.
    Leadership is as much about inspiration as it is about expertise. A true leader stands for something, they should lead from the point of expertise and not necessarily general best practices. Expertise is the only way in which you can lead smarter folks (in many cases smarter than you), you can probably understand their POV and most likely add value to their thoughts and ideas. Expertise could also be a connecting the dots expertise, where in you can bring together a bunch of different expert skills together provide it a specific direction and turn the sum total into a beautiful piece of product/service/art.
    Risk taking ability:
    True test of leadership is when you have to stand up for your people, your values and your preachings. A leader would put his neck on the line in making the decisions that needs to be made, but would not vouch for the credit undue. In my experience, leadership can be earned just by exemplifying this one characteristic in situations where team looks up to decision making, decisive outcomes and predicting success and glory in the face of uncertainties.

break boundaries, you are born to

Breaking boundaries; come to hear of it in all parks of life. For argument sake lets agree on one common definition – in any discipline an individual goes beyond their current capacity, he/she has broken a personal boundary. e.g. an athlete may break a personal record or a benchmark record but both are breaking boundaries in my book.

Let’s look at some great examples of our history that fueled the evolution of human race (truly). Invention of fire and wheel were two big inventions of past. Transportation and Press were two greatest vehicles for information and people exchange that transformed societies. Internet and Telecommunication just shrunk the world in terms of Space and Time (very very crucial to where we find ourselves in todays world). In between there have been events of huge importance like race to moon – in 60s human race broke a huge boundary of reaching an intergalactic body (Moon) and since than we have been exploring other planets, satellites and galaxies (far far away in our universe).

Like you, i also believe that we will outdo ourselves in coming times in every possible way. My conviction in human races ability comes from my belief in how we are wired (genetically). Nature has built us like an open hardware and software – so that we can plug extensions, enhance our firmware and possibly create a new human species (be in-charge of our evolution). If you dont believe me ask yourselves following questions:

– why are kids of next generation smarter?

– when you look into the starry sky, why do you feel inquisite?

– why does status-quo feel boring?

You could argue that since nature created us with a bunch of limitations – our sense of color, our ability to distinguish frequencies (audible) and our ability to sense a certain spectrum limited by the five senses and than further limited by the limitation of these senses. One of the important part of our body that has not been proven to have any limitations is what we have between the ears – Brain. Its a fantastic computer, it is designed such a way that it can accept data from any source and make sense out of it. (various experiments around the world vis a vis extending, substituting senses have proven).

here is a great Ted talk on Next Species:
and here is one from MIT on practical technology evolution:

I think we were born to believe that we can outdo ourselves, nature designed us in a way that we continue to look for “Upgrades” … and i think its time that we believe it and live it in day to day life.

Real – Virtual – Emotional | connections – impact on our life

Everyday we wake up with a preoccupied set of thoughts that are connected to an outcome for the day, through the day. That set of thoughts continue to get complicated as we live through the day and the connections keep getting complex and complex; but somehow we live through it, make sense out of it.

IOT (the next wave of Digital era) isn’t really different, if you re analyze your day – you would realise that bunch of those thoughts and connections are now being made across “Digital” and “Physical” (Social Networks, Messaging, Emails, Voice, Websites, Mobile phones and so on). And if you were to expand this idea to everyday objects in your life (your watch, shoes, shirt, belt, bag, kitchen appliances, cars and so on) you would be able to wrap your head around the notion of “Highly Connected World” – Internet of Everything – IOT/IOE.

Simple truth about IOT is that there are going to be “n” number of connections that will be made either with your involvement or without your involvement but in the context of YOU (who you are, what you do, wherever you are and so on). All of these connections will help in creating an understanding of your life, events, activities, behaviors as has been the case in non-digital world. (before digital arrived) You were making all these connections by using an organic matter (your Brain) that internally leveraged millions of neurons in your brain (which is an interesting connections of senses) to sketch out the meanings that helped you take next course of action.

Think about –  your observation of your friend’s behaviour and suddenly you felt concerned about him. Series of events that you noticed about how your friend were missing classes, or hadn’t met you for multiple days or hasn’t been reachable / communicable – from these observations you derived insights that led you to reach out to him to check in on him.

Similarly, in new era – machines check on your routine, share observations, and derive insights (all automated – AI) that helps you always be in know how about your friends/family.

As the marketers learn to truly leverage Digital, it will become evidently clear that every single “Micro” moment that gets created between Brand and the Consumer lives in our brain somewhere. So, every time a new message or new “Micro” moment that gets thrown at us if doesn’t connect back to the previous one – the impact becomes lesser as our brain can not make the connection. And if there aren’t enough connections about the same object and the messaging it never really becomes an embedded experience for the consumer. So “Connections” in itself is an important pattern to explore and implement when Marketers are trying to develop consumers and keep them loyal to their brand.

That’s the real true purpose of all this – how do we use the technology to impact (Truly) the way we live, help us become better human beings. That is the true impact of “Connections” – Assembly of events that turn something into a memorable experience that helps me truly stay connected (human 2 human).

signal and the noise a Data Science problem – not very different from our everyday problems?

Data, Big Data, Small Data and Science to find meaning, knowledge nuggets from this massive amount of information is the sexiest job of 21st century according to a leading publication.  Circa 2005, web 2.0 bustling with energy and ideas gets a massive thumbs up from millions and millions of people by joining the bandwagon. As the Social media took center stage by 2007 and Modern mobile devices became a rage, user generated content took center stage. Internet Content created by people dwarfed the Content that was created by centralized entities (corporates, governments and institutes).

Circa 2010, machines joined internet revolution – now the machines (IOT surge would mean the machines will continue to rise in numbers)  that connected to internet outnumbered the people that were online. A new kind of data, content and knowledge is being created. But more importantly, a lot more of data is being created. This led to a new web paradigm – web 3.0 – semantic web, an internet that could contextualise, personalize and filter through the noise and provide people with what they wanted.

Fundamentally, new generation that leaves their valuable data online, with their favorite brands  expects  that this data would be used to create meaningful experiences for them. Experiences, that are personalized to individual needs, contextualized to their environment, and suited to their needs and wants.

Thankfully, the internet giants haven’t been busy just gathering your and mine data but has also been developing technologies and solutions to solve our problems. One such advancement has been through “Big Data” platforms. There has been a surge in new and reinvigorated interest in Databases, Processing technologies, Distributed computing platforms, Data Science and Machine learning algorithms in helping solve the problem of mining the “intelligence” from this massive data that we create and consume on everyday basis.

Data Science helps us find answers, look through the signals to cut out the noise to get to meaningful events, intelligence that could give us beautiful insights, knowledge nuggets about the world, our interactions with the wold an insight into our behaviour that (even) we might be unaware of (consciously). We are at a tipping point in information revolution, now we move from “discovering the intelligence” to “mastering the intelligence”.  You can see the glimpses of that future in science fiction movies – minority report, HER (one of my favorite future prediction).

Have you ever been asked: “What is your passion?” 

I am sure that question has been posed to you at every step of the life – when you were a student, professional or whenever you found life and career started to stagnate. As a student – i had so many things going for me, so many things that excited me and yet i didnt really know what is it that i was passionate about ? what interested me the most? I would think that i am yet to find my passion – not everyone is lucky to find it early enough in life. Interestingly (but not surprisingly), these problems are similar to data problems – we always learn and derive from our life experiences. A student has to rely on his “Data Science” skills to cut the noise – his model of making sense is very different from the model that a professional builds for himself when he is looking for the right Job. But we all are using “Data Science” to walk through a maze – all the time, trying to derive from all that we have gathered (data as experiences) right through our lives.

There are so many examples in dailylife that we play data scientist – a parent goes through barrage of data to select a right school for their kid, we are always analysing our friends behaviour – in fact many a times predicting their reactions to situations. In short we are all always using some form of Maths, Stats and Algorithms to solve our every day lives – but fail to recognise that, in many ways thats a fault in the way we have been or are being taught these subjects (dont want to even start on this).

My humble submission here is that “Data” problem is not for selected few, it is for all of us – like Technology became essential way of life, professional life – data would becomes significantly more important, so we all need to recognize that and make peace with it. Adopt Data and the Data Scientist with in, use it for your advantage.

stories and artificial intelligence

As a young soul I was always fascinated by stories, stories of Rama and Arjuna, stories of freedom fighters and stories of superheroes (guess we all have been fans of larger than life heroes). It was always fascinating to hear about the superpowers that these heroes possessed, how they were able to overcome the odds and how they had a personal story – a wonderful journeys of their own ups and downs. As a kid it was almost as if I wanted to live their lives, always felt connected to their emotions.

As I grew up, to my surprise, I had my own stories to narrate – about my own journey – about my life at school, college with friends and now at various workplaces. It is fascinating that as human beings we have the power to build and narrate incidents, draw conclusions, share experiences and in the process emotionally involve the listener in our own world.

Stories are a wonderful tool, but when the same tool is to be used in a professional setup – advertisements, campaign ideas or business presentations – it becomes a difficult skill to master. It sounds ironical but true. The fundamental reason (to me) lies in the fact that stories are supposed to have souls and as professionals our decisions are driven by logic and rationale. It becomes difficult to turn a logical, rationale conversation into a story system – I have been challenged (and continue to be).

To overcome the challenge is possible. You could learn from inspirational leaders like Steve Jobs who had mastered the art of Story telling in a professional context, all the greats from advertising have been telling beautiful stories about the brands they work with.  Here is a great example:

This campaign completely nails the point – I personally love it for the fact that this is very bollywoodish in its over the top communication.

The reason we struggle with storytelling is the same as that of mastering intelligence. In other words, we have built machines with artificial intelligence. We have been able to teach computers how to make reason based decisions, in fact, we have been doing that for decades. However, we are not able to teach a computer non-rationale thinking? the reaction/emotion that humans have to situations without real rules, reasons or thinking.

I believe the day we would be able to create a machine that can narrate stories, conceive new worlds, imagine conditions that influence Human experiences – we would truly master intelligence.

Computing has seen advancement, we are marching towards a more complex neural network of data based machine learning and intelligence – sample IBM Watson, Wolfram knowledge engine and so on, these systems are bringing immense power of decision making to machines. IBM Watson can respond to a question in the same way a human would i.e. it knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. However, none of these systems are close to or close enough to a point when these machine could create Stories!

While we are some time away from creating artificially intelligent story telling system – there are ways in which machines are (already) becoming important part of our stories.

Here is a great example:

I am sure as we learn to master the art of story telling ourselves, we will be able to create machines that are truly human. I am an optimist, am exploring that everyday in the work that I do, experiences that I create and experiments that I build.

cave walls to facebook walls, why share?

When you have focus problems and need continuous distractions as a means to focus back on your mainstream work – you end up answering a lot of questions for yourself. Let’s say that I am able to do that for myself.

I have always asked myself a question – why would anyone have the need to leave their footprints (not literally) on this world? I have been fascinated by sumerian tablets, to cave wall paintings to ancient writings (scribblings mostly) and now facebook walls (check-ins, broadcasted messages in form of status updates and so on). As a society why do we do so ? share moments?  why have we tried to tell stories, leave hints (whichever way like it?)

Few weeks back i happened to watch “Lucy” the movie while i loved the imagination and the concept i didn’t fall in love with the movie (it was an average overall watch in my opinion).  I carried a couple of interesting imaginative scenes from the movie though and i kind of think about the possibility of bringing those solutions to life. here is one such concept (as shown in movie):
lucy – movie

(what you see in this picture are connections between mobile devices and satellites – in other words visualised data streams – isn’t this beautiful?)

However, that movie helped me find the connection and answer the question for myself – that entire universe and all organic life came to be because it wanted to spread (big bang,  evolution of complex organisms from single cell organisms and so on), transfer the knowledge that it has (gene transfer mechanism) — that idea (if you come to terms with it) to me is such a fundamental truth to our existence (if we believe in it, that is). More i think about it, its a good hypothesis – most importantly helps me answers the question for me. It has also helped me answer other corollary questions like : why do we believe in stories ? why have we always told stories (to pass on the knowledge?)

You could argue that in computing field why would i care?, why would this bother me? The answer to that is that it is important to answer (may not be an accurate answer) simple questions to move on – human brain is complex (lets just leave it at that). However, there is a logical reasonable answer as well – today, you don’t look to solve the problem by boxing it as a “computing” or “economic” or “health related” problem. Think about it – you would ask, whats the problem ? how do we solve for it would be decided based on what it takes the problem to be solved (that most likely means a combination of multiple domains – multiple disciples coming together). So, knowing more about our social structures, human behaviours enables us to solve complex problems that we want to solve today.