Most casual but serious mistake we commit – confusing Seriousness as Sincerity!

Reflection of sincerity! Source: http://www.flickr.com/

It is normally difficult to comprehend colossal difference it can make, when one is serious as opposed to being sincere, though dividing line between the two is very fine even by dictionary meaning!

I had a colleague in a German multinational company in which I had worked, who specialized in X-ray spectrometry. He was too passionate about his work. He showed highest degree of sensitiveness to customers. He would sit late in office and come early in the morning to make sure that he replied to each and every letter and enquiries from his regional sales office counterparts and customers. If anyone pointed out shortcoming in his replies or work, he would be hyperactive and take great deal of time to prove that he had not committed a flaw. He used to be right most of the times. During appraisals year after years, his boss used to give him always highest marks for his sincerity. One morning he reported sick and did not come for few weeks. He was diagnosed for having had high blood pressure, which he neglected for too long and that had affected his heart.

Few years down the line, I figured out real difference between seriousness and sincerity and I felt in retrospect that boss of my above colleague should have appraised him for being too serious, rather than being very sincere and issued him warning about long term impact on his health! Unfortunately like this boss, most of us in professional and personal lives hardly care to understand fine dividing lines, which eventually turn fatal or cause our failures!

I can now identify hundreds of employees in organizations I have served, who failed to grow commensurate with their efforts since their focus was on being serious and not sincere!

Drawing a distinction between Seriousness and Sincerity

Reflection of seriousness! Source: http://www.flickr.com/

Earnestness is the only attribute, which is common for seriousness and sincerity. Following would clarify how these 2 words make a world of difference:

  1. Seriousness makes you sensitive; whereas sincerity makes you savvy!
  2. Seriousness brings worries; on other hand, sincerity banks on wisdom!
  3. Former makes you prone to errors; but latter promotes accuracy.
  4. Former has shades of obsession; but latter swears by ownership.
  5. When you are serious, you tend to work to please others; whereas you work because it pleases you, if you are sincere!
    Therefore, serious people are serious to show off their work and talk a lot about it!!
  6. Seriousness elicits emotions; but sincerity evokes inspiration!
    It is for this reason that seriousness prompts people to make their fascination or frustration, pleasure or displeasure very explicit!!
  7. Seriousness makes you anxious; whereas sincerity makes you conscious or aware!
  8. Although serious people are intense in their work, it is sincerity that accentuates innovativeness!
  9. Seriousness makes you restless; sincerity, instead, molds you to be relaxed!

Above makes it amply clear that seriousness and sincerity are look-alike but their outlook is nearly opposite. Paradox is that both kinds of people, who are serious or sincere, appear to be fully evolved and engage in their work or duties. As a matter of fact, serious people are seen vociferously dedicated. Real challenge for serious people is that they believe they are doing it right and refuse to accept there is something missing in their approach. They keep wondering why they are less productive and often fail to get good results. On other hand, sincere people appear sober and always score high!

Sincerity signifies balanced state of mind!

There is very subtle difference in doing same thing in 2 or more alternative ways, which we term as fine dividing line. It this difference or dividing line, which separates winning and losing, blessing and bane, effective and defective!

Let us understand how such subtlety comes.

We start to do it right and we don’t notice or sometimes don’t even comprehend how wrong creeps in. To cite some examples:

  • You have a close relative ailing and it is right to attend to her/him. But, when you start taking care of the relative, ignoring your health and other duties, it starts hurting you.
  • Your loyalty to your employer and customers is strong to an extent that skews your work-life balance.
  • You are humble and hence, hesitate to tell your boss where it hurts you, even when you are ill-treated or ill-rewarded for your efforts!
  • You are eagerly waiting for your spouse to return home in evening, which is a good sign; but beyond a time you become anxious and even frustrated. When he finally arrives, you would not like to hear him why he got delayed but would like to be heard how you have been hassled!

It is also a fact that sincerity is a highly misunderstood quality, though it is one among the most significant ones! Sincerity symbolizes balanced state of your mind – neither right nor left; just the center. When you are sincere, you are genuine. You start to do things, because that is obvious, not an option. You don’t do it for anyone’s sake. You do not see any other alternative but to do it. You don’t get obsessed to single thing or thought but view all aspects with same genuine feeling. This is when your efforts fructify and you start to reap rewards.

So, it solidly pays to be sincere, but not being serious!

What to do when you want to break free from all barriers!

Beyond all barriers! Source: http://www.flickr.com/

There are occasions, when you just want to break free; you want to rebel against all practices and polity, reject rules and rituals; dump duties and discipline; you are so agitated that nothing seems to satisfy you! Have you faced this kind of situation or state of your mind? I have witnessed in many people from time to time, including myself during my earlier years. It is not that these people and I actually break rules or duties; but there is intense urge to do the same or question why this is for me! People even exhort God – where are you; can’t you see what is happening to me for no rhyme or reasons!!

Your dear ones would call it mood swings; psychologists would call it withdrawal or depressive syndromes and biologists would call it hormonal changes in your body!

Why rebellion and not reasoning rules the mind!

There are variety of reasons in layman’s language, which govern such a state:

  1. When you actually don’t enjoy, what you are doing at work or in private life; but you end up doing for compelling reasons.
  2. When your frustration or fear crosses a threshold.
  3. When you give up on your health and in turn patience.
  4. When your feelings or emotions are suppressed.
  5. When you don’t get what you want or have got everything you wanted.
  6. When you have slept too less or too much!
  7. When you are mentally and/or physically fatigued for too long but not getting respite.
  8. When you feel let down by your own sincerity and honesty.
  9. When you are put down by others in public.
  10. When you have worked too hard, but without rewards.
  11. When you have had exceedingly good time.
  12. When you detach yourself from everything, including your eventual goals; albeit such detachment may only be temporary.

So, having too good or too bad a time or having nothing to do are bad in every case! Everyone usually feels justified while in rebellion mode. Most think that such cycles are part of human nature, though end result of such state is never good.

It is nothing but a buildup of negative thoughts or emotions, impulse of which is too strong to allow any rationale to percolate or prevail!

Dealing with desire to break free!

There are 2 ways to cope with this state:

  • Emotional
  • Rational

You are tempted to adopt emotional method, since you are already in emotional mode and psychologically, you tend to believe that only iron can cut iron. So, you allow yourself to get soaked and swept by your emotions – do whatever you want to break free! You don’t want to go for work, don’t go; you want to shout, shout; you want to cry, cry; you want to break traffic rules, do it and get punished. It is alright as long as you don’t physically hurt or harm self or others; but danger is under emotions, you may not know, when you cross the limits. These emotional outbursts give you immediate relief and satisfy your ego immensely; but soon you have to run for damage control, when you see adverse consequences of same. Worse still is when you start to justify your actions or seek pity on pretext of human weakness. We can watch lot of people doing this on political, private, corporate or social fora.

Emotional outbursts, no doubt, turn you around – from reactions to remorse or repentance, which calms you down and that actually becomes a cause of your relief! However, it comes at a price – often leaves a bad taste and trail.

But, there is a priceless alternative – Rational approach. It aims at creating true understanding of why things happen, why state of equilibrium disturbs, emotions build up, possibilities and limitations that everyone needs to live with. There are lot of interpretations floating around to explain rational approach. However, a right one has to focus on 3 aspects:

  1. Everything happens for a reason!
    There is always a cause and its effects. Nothing comes from blue. It is a different reason that we may be ignorant of a cause and experience only its effect.
  2. Everything creates its opposite mirror image!
    Pleasure prompts pain, shine sows shadow, cruelty kindles kindness, successes spark setbacks and vice versa.
    Life is all about experiencing the opposites and excelling by managing both. So good and bad, right and wrong are 2 sides of 1 coin. You can’t see both sides of a coin at the same time. There is only thing, that can make you to view both at the same time (strictly speaking in quick succession), which is our mind. All of our problems and prejudices arise, when we pair 2 opposites and view.
    Secret of managing 2 opposites lies in dealing with same individually – one at a time!
  3. Eventually only good survives!
    However difficult, frustrating, bitter or crazy “good, right or positive” may sound to be, it is the ultimate winner.
    In real life, most don’t believe it, they keep on swinging between 2 opposites, test emotional waters and eventually swim to the right, when senses prevail.

Rationale of this article is barriers are a necessity, which when overcome gives you the feeling of freedom! More you accept this fact through rational approach, easier would it be to break free!!

Can Artificial Intelligence ever match Human Intelligence?

Applying Artificial Intelligence! Source: http://www.flickr.com/

You can no longer brush aside subject of artificial intelligence (AI), since you might already be a heavy user of the same routinely through mobile phones, computers, internet search engines, digital calculators and GPS. It is extremely important for you to understand relevance of your own intelligence versus what future gadgets are going to provide or pinch from you.

Researchers, developers and protagonists of AI believe that one day, they would not only replicate human intelligence but exceed it to create super intelligence! You can find applications of AI beyond human calculations and comprehensions in areas like aircraft flight monitoring and control system, unmanned satellites, unmanned military aircrafts like Drone, factory robots and sophisticated medical diagnostic systems.

One of the latest advancements in AI is artificial neural networks (ANN), inspired by the hypothesis that human/animal brain or central nervous system is essentially biological neural networks. ANNs are essentially a family of statistical learning algorithms. We can say that AI is superb combination of computational and cognitive sciences, along with host of sensing devices, massive data processing and storage.

Debate whether AI can beat eventually human intelligence has been raging for decades among scientists, researchers, developers, philosophers and faith leaders with no clear conclusion or direction as yet.

How do you define human intelligence?

If you google “Intelligence”, you would find plethora of information. Read 1st few paras of Wikipedia on “Intelligence”. It talks of at least 11 parameters from logic to problem solving, which constitute intelligence. If you would look at Wikipedia on “Human intelligence”, you would discover that intelligence is directly proportional to birth weight but inversely proportional to sexual frequency! As per Howard Gardner, there are 7 types of intelligences – from linguistic to intrapersonal intelligence!! There is no unanimity of views on definition of intelligence!!!

Now, you can try your bit from the following:

  1. Is Intelligence your ability to answer a question?
  2. Is it your capability to comprehend and respond?
  3. Is it your power to sense dangers and save yourself (or others)?
  4. Is it your skill to analyze, memorize and recall at will?
  5. Is it your emotional expression?

Probability is high that you would never get a good definition or end up pumping too many words and versions into a single word “Intelligence”!

Do not be disappointed! Intelligence is nothing but “Our ability to exactly (it implies speed and accuracy) do what we chose to do”!! So, if we are given a question and we chose to answer, then we should be able to answer; if we have a problem, we should be able to find a solution and so forth. If you are able to do it accurately and/or quicker than others, then you are supposed to be more intelligent. Fact is whatever you do in your life is part of “Intelligence” and is borne out of your “Consciousness”! This is also what “Freewill” is all about!!

Barriers and boundaries of AI

Now, key question is – are researchers and developers of AI working towards above definition of human intelligence? Most likely answer is “no”, because you can clearly observe that understanding of human intelligence (HI) has been so far vague. HI is actually linked to what we are able to do in our life time – eat, evolve, indulge, imagine, innovate, sleep, smile, succeed, fail, cry, redeem and regenerate!

If we talk of specific ability, then lot of non-humans would surpass HI. For example, birds from Siberia migrate to exactly same far off places in particular season of the year without any navigation system which humans can never do on their own! Dogs’ smelling sense can catch missing culprits, which no other living being is able to do!!

Eventual run of AI is likely to face following barriers and boundaries:

  1. Capabilities of AI would be limited by limits of what researchers and developers together can think and program.
    They are humans and hence AI would always end below HI.
  2. Some scientists of AI have advanced hypothesis that there is possibility of reaching Singularity situation, which means that AI can refine and improve by itself to a level beyond definition.
    Firstly, Singularities spell end of the game, whether it is boom or doom. Nothing exists beyond a Singularity.
    Secondly much before possibility of such development, Government authorities would take control because of social, moral and ethical issues.
  3. To match human intelligence, AI would need to simulate all abilities of humans in one body or system, not distributed over several bodies! It is then nothing but a kind of human cloning, which is already banned in most countries.
    The most catastrophic thing is to artificially create “Freewill”. Imagine its use and misuse!
  4. History shows that scientific and technological advancements would always be limited by “Regional, religious, political, social and economic biases”. Beyond that would only be in Hollywood or Bollywood fiction movies.
  5. Last but not the least, if we were to get right grip on human mind and its intelligence, we would drop any thought of matching it artificially!

Great promise and potential of AI are in fields of diagnostics, computing and specific cognitive functions to improve quality of our lives. This is where we also see tremendous progress.

So friends, rejoice; your intelligence would remain insurmountable!

Why bosses need to believe in balancing!

I need balancing! Source: http://www.flickr.com/

How often do you come across bosses or top management, whose approach is highly balanced? I am afraid that answer would most probably be – “Seldom”!

Whole environment, in which bosses or managers evolve, develop and operate, is highly skewed towards running year’s business figures. It is almost like a doctrine drilled in their mind that success has to come at any cost, business slowdown is a shame and cost has to be ruthlessly controlled to secure healthy bottom line. Yet, some years are exciting by performance and bosses get rewarded; some are disappointing and employees get reprimanded! Do cycles of good and bad years teach a lesson? Rarely, since there are standard explanations available to them from leadership discourses!

Coming to management or leadership development programs, comprehensive or concise, all are structured around single sided stories. These glamorize failures and then, swear by successes! These programs do serve a good purpose albeit limited, as the same do not bring out why successful persons and businesses fail, and how to prevent or delay that. These simply pass on advisories – be a visionary, be in driver’s seat, lead from front, be focused, be strategist and analytical, have managerial courage….; but do not stipulate how to be. It presupposes that everyone can and will get there. This is what a gross gaffe is!

Both managers and management programs need to consider one very vital aspect – when you are focused on one side of the story, you would also commit flaw to comprehend other side of the same. This is where balancing acts or views acquire substantial significance.

Biases of bosses!

Bane of too much focus is the bias! You can see how problems creep in corporate life, if more focus is directed at left part of following points:

  1. Higher quantity can only come at the cost of quality!
  2. Increased speed decreases accuracy.
  3. Higher throughput or output would lower productivity.
    Often, it goes unnoticed and managers then cry for more man power for more output.
  4. If you chase figures, you would compromise values.
  5. High business growth is often accompanied with lower time and money available for personnel development.
  6. Put more structure and material to measure performances of personnel, you would spoil the beauty behind spirit!
  7. Hold hands of strong performers, lose helping hands of majority and middle order.
  8. Set stretched targets, upset work-life balance!
  9. Banking on long hours of working, beating down smart way of working!

Above clearly indicates adverse implications of one sided view or approach, which is widely practiced in corporates. This is one of the main reasons, why you witness cycles of ups and downs.

Bet not on brilliant but on balanced bosses!

This may not go down easily in the brains of many; but then brainy things are always simple but difficult to believe!

Are you not witnessing sudden spurt in articles on social and print media on how to hire, hire the best, spotting the talent and so on. It sounds as a very sound idea! But, hold on a bit.

A boss or a future leader has to be fair, flexible, forthright, punctual, healthy, communicative, sincere, honest, kind, courageous, generous and more! This elevates her/him next to the God!! Is not it? How do you develop leadership pipeline aligned to the God? I do not believe that current business schools, management development programs or leadership coaching is geared up handle this. These all narrow down to hire or develop the most brilliant or intelligent. How many most brilliant people do you think you can get in the market place? And to spot such talent, you need more talented people on panel! Do you have such people on board?

Few would admit it, but blatant fact is that popularity of a program is directly proportional to its ability to create dreams that are difficult to achieve! 

Most organizations or managements commit blunder in putting too much faith on –

  1. Strong personalities
    Bosses or managers having strong personalities would polarize company environments – a divide between right and wrong, strong and weak and wreak havoc in longer term.
  2. Intelligent class
    2 or more intelligent people put together can only give birth to insanity!

My advice would be to encourage balanced personalities. Mentor, harness and cultivate center of each qualitative attribute in employees. That alone can bring fairness, flexibility, sincerity and all what is needed for long term sound health of an organization.

In above, we would create bosses, who are more of buddies than bête noire, more rational than emotional!

Greatest management technique is in mastering Murphy’s Law!

Toast more likely to fall on side of jam, if carpet is more expensive! Source: http://www.flickr.com/

Ever since I released my 1st article about Murphy’s Law on 08-Aug-2013, I have been experimenting with this law and collecting data to establish its truths and myths and the way it impacts what we do.

I wish to emphasize the law has very significant influence on our professional and personal lives, because a microscopic view of same helps to understand how to come to the grip of realities and how to influence events that have still not become realities!

To recap, Murphy’s Law is a simple statement “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong!” Popularity of this law is vindicated by fact that several books have been authored after converting it into innumerable corollaries and quotes, which indeed applies in our day to day life. Irony is that this law or its interpretations do not talk of “Anything that can go right, will go right”, which is absolutely correct and valid for all of us! It is a clear case of negative statements catching fancy of everyone, whereas positive ones should be firing our imagination! Great paradox is none of us want problems; but we always get stuck with what we want to strike-out!!

Murphy’s Law proves that humans are error prone. If we can reach to roots of how this law works, we would be armed with formidable technique of avoiding wrong decisions and actions, rightly managing business and people.

Mystery behind Murphy’s Law

My research for past 18 months shows:

  1. When I was desperate that my vendors supply on time, they delivered late on 16 out of 19 instances (84%)!
  2. Whenever I was cool, 13 out of 15 times (87%) vendors delivered on time!
  3. When I was confident that things would now not go wrong, 51 out of 80 times (64%) things did go wrong. When I analyzed in retrospect, I found that I was overconfident!!
  4. I decided to investigate why I commit mistakes while filling in a payment cheque, which I wanted it to least happen.
    I found that 18 out of 20 instances (90%), I was conscious (rather over-conscious) that I must not commit mistake while filling the cheques.
  5. I received 9 pieces of disturbing information in last 18 months and 6 of those were followed by more distressful issues (67%) within hours!
    It then occurred to me that whenever there is headline news in print media about harassment or intolerance, similar news from other places keep getting reported for few more days. Not that such subsequent incidences were fresh; those had already occurred but reported now. It clearly confirms that people quickly relate negative news to other negative ones and relay same promptly!
  6. Whenever I was determined not to get disturbed by anyone, more than 80% of time I was disrupted by unexpected visit of someone or phone calls.
  7. I had woken up in morning very irritated on 11 occasions due to body aches. I purposely decided not to take pain killer. On those days (100%), more irrational things happened, infuriating me; but those incidences stopped, when I took pain killer and got physically relieved.
  8. One weekend, I prepared tea for my wife with all good thoughts and care. No sooner she took first sip, she banged – what a bad taste! I started to wonder why my positive state of mind provoked her negatively; but soon realized that while being lost in that state, I had put extra spoon of sugar.
    I then learnt my lesson that getting obsessed with ovations or overwhelmed with emotions is actually not positive!!
  9. Once I started my day on high energy; but completely got drained by series of bad incidences. I started to wonder what’s happening. Oh; it was Friday 13th Feb, 2015! But, I never believed in such day/numbers!!
    So, I decided to check whether I would have bad patches on the next similar occasion. On Friday, 13th March this month, I decided to welcome worse but it never showed up!
    So, it was my negativity of 13th Feb, which took the toll and not number 13 and Friday! 

It is negativity, which nags us all the way!

Above real life examples are akin to Murphy’s Law. Incidences under point 1, 3 to 6, 8 and 9 show how negativity makes things go wrong. 2 shows when you are positive, things go right and 7 shows how when you become positive even with help of medicine, wrong changes to right!

Following would demystify Murphy’s Law:

  1. “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” is just a statement of negative reality. Opposite is equally true!
  2. Since we are prone to negativity, we notice, worry and count it far more often than positives. We consider counting positive is no brainer; so lose its count.
  3. People relate and relay negative information far too promptly than positive ones.
  4. Negative happenings make us too conscious and hence vulnerable to commit mistakes. That’s why we experience negativity bringing more negativity. 
  5. Notion that negativity can counter negativity is bunk; yet we believe in it. That’s the reason we are tempted to handle rude person with rudeness or reciprocate abuses with abusiveness.
  6. Negativity highly satisfies our ego!
  7. Negativity comes easy and takes innumerable forms – worry, wishful, fear, fury, obsession or depression. Therefore, most find glamor in negativity, whereas glory comes from positivity.
  8. It is an illusion that while being negative, you can ever be positive! These are mutually exclusive!!

If you can manage or manipulate Murphy’s Law as above to stay positive, you would be the most effective manager at your work as well as life!