The lesson my child’s storybook taught me…

I recently bought a book on ‘Aesops Fables’ to read to my kiddo at night. He is big time bedtime story fan. In seven years of his amazing companionship I must have told some 1,000 odd original stories that I make up on the fly so that he could sleep fast. A few months back, I started amping my story armor with outside help from books J and this ‘Aesop’ book was one such buy. Long story short- amazing book with some amazing lessons that grown-ups can heed just as much. Here is one that I read to my son last night and ended up reading to myself more… you’ll know why when you read it too. So here it goes:

A Fox once saw a Crow fly off with a piece of cheese in its beak and settle on a branch of a tree.

“That’s for me, as I am a Fox,” said Master Reynard, and he walked up to the foot of the tree.

“Good day, Mistress Crow,” he cried. “How well you are looking today: how glossy your feathers; how bright your eye. I feel sure your voice must surpass that of other birds, just as your figure does; let me hear but one song from you that I may greet you as the Queen of Birds.”

The Crow lifted up her head and began to caw her best, but the moment she opened her mouth the piece of cheese fell to the ground, only to be snapped up by Master Fox.

“That will do,” said he. “That was all I wanted. In exchange for your cheese I will give you a piece of advice for the future: “Do not trust flatterers.”

Enough said.

 

World’s best minds want these ideas dead NOW!

this ideaA friend recently recommended reading the book “This Idea Must Die: Scientific theories that are blocking progress” which brings together 175 of the world’s most brilliant minds to tackle the question: What scientific idea has become a relic blocking human progress? I am yet to read the book instituted by Edge.org, but am captivated by the bold intent of the compilation as I’ve always believed that one of the most important signs of a living society, or for that matter, a group or a company or business is its ability to fairly-and-squarely question/asses even its most sacred “truths”.

Here are some ideas from this compilation that the maestros voted out:

  • Steven Pinker dismantled the working theory of human behavior
  • Richard Dawkins renounced essentialism
  • Sherry Turkle reevaluated our expectations of artificial intelligence
  • Geoffrey West challenged the concept of a “Theory of Everything”
  • Andrei Linde suggested that our universe and its laws may not be as unique as we think
  • Martin Rees explained why scientific understanding is a limitless goal
  • Nina Jablonski argued to rid ourselves of the concept of race
  • Alan Guth rethought the origins of the universe
  • Hans Ulrich Obrist warned against glorifying unlimited economic growth

This year for its 20th anniversary special the question Edge.org is asking is “WHAT SCIENTIFIC TERM OR CONCEPT OUGHT TO BE MORE WIDELY KNOWN?” – can’t wait to read the compilation!

Related food for thought – which popular “idea” do you think must die in 2017?

P.S. Trump is not an idea. He is a human unfortunately! 😉

A botox shot for your mind?!

One of my mentors and celebrated management guru Vineet Nayar always used to say, “asking the right question is more important than finding the right answers”. There is a lifetime of wisdom in this single line which has also seeded a lifetime of love in me to serenade questions that force one to think outside the box, think beyond the obvious and think un-tethered. If you are a philosophical kinda fellow than my post today provides 9 questions that are sure to open your mind wider, exercise your mental muscles a bit and make you pirouette vicariously on your rational canvas… Consider this a botox shot for your mind today –

  1. If Buddha was alive what would he tweet?
  2. Why do human beings smile (one of the few species who does so)?
  3. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
  4. Why hasn’t a psychic won the lottery?
  5. How many birds do you think you have seen twice?
  6. if you didn’t know a language how would you think?
  7. What is at the very edge of the Universe?
  8. How are we able to we wake up every day?
  9. How long is a moment?

P.S. if you have convincing answers to any of these questions, then drop me a mail at zulfia@zulfianafees.com and i’ll feature your thoughts as a follow-up post!

The 10-minute rule of a super successful IT leader

A colleague recently told me that his ex-boss, a (CEO minus one) leader at one of the largest global IT MNCs has a 10-minute meeting rule. He gives only 10-minute meeting slots to people and the structure of those 10 minutes is also pre-ordained: 2 minutes to define the issue, 8 minute to discuss the issue and remaining 2 minutes to agree on actions. “Does it always work out in 10 minutes?”, I asked him amazed. “At first we fumbled and made a mess of our 10 minutes, but the fact that he didn’t show any leniency with time ensured that we quickly cleaned-up our acts. Now before a meeting with him everyone ensures that they are very well prepared, well-rehearsed and always ready with necessary documentation and crisp pitches. It’s provided tremendous agility and efficiency to our team”.

Reminded me of British musician Christine McVie’s famous words: ‘the best songs are always written in 10 minutes’!

Buffet looks for these 3 things in potential hires…

WarrenWarren Buffett has a sixth sense for a person’s character (he’s closed deals in just five minutes with a handshake), so when he talks about his non-negotiables in potential hires, its wise to listen & heed:

“In looking for people to hire, I look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if the candidate doesn’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”

Are you a “corkscrew thinker”?

Winston Churchill had a lot of leadership aces up his sleeve but the one that I’ve always admired is his insistence on finding and nourishing “corkscrew thinkers” – “people with the ability to break away from the traditional linear way of thinking”. During WW2, Churchill believed that neither side would win the war without these individuals because everyone was thinking in the same way: the enemy’s next move would always be predictable. His focus on “corkscrew thinkers” led to the creation of some interesting teams who gave him vital advantage like the cracking of the enigma code. War was the stimuli then, but I guess the idea is relevant just as much in business today – what we need are individuals who are able to look at problems in the world and see innovative solutions, individuals who are tangential and yet context-aligned, individuals who are transformation catalysts; for these individuals are the ones who change the game!

I hope you count yourself as one. Do you?

The ‘MPT’ Rule of Communication

Speech-Bubble-PNG-Image.pngI was at an FT125 conference earlier this week where I had a fascinating discussion with the CEO of a medium-sized cosmetics brand company. I told him about my background in Communications and was surprised to hear that he too started his career in a somewhat similar role. “So how has the meaning of the word changed for you now?”, I asked him. “A lot”, he said, “what I value most in communication today is brevity. Today – whether it’s an email, a call, or a meeting – I insist that the writer/presenter tell me in the first sentence what he/she would have told me in the last sentence. That simple rule helps remind everyone what is the most important point of the conversation!”. Brilliant; reminded me of Donald Coduto’s famous MPT rule, “The most important thing (MPT) is to keep the most important thing the most important thing” … Would you agree?