Congratulating my daughter Phanisree and the entire team which made it to the Harvard 2018-19 Youth Advisory Board. The YAB represents a diverse group of young people who will work with Making Caring Common this academic year to make schools and communities more just, caring, and respectful places.
Recently I had a trip to India what I refer to as “Spiritual Tour”. Followed by that, while I have been contemplating on the title of the post to summarize some of my experiences from the tour, one title came up for consideration “Being a mindful leader in digital age”. I broke that into 3 words, Mindfulness – Leadership – Digital. Calling it “Spiritual Tour” primarily for a reason that it happened at a time when I was trying to reboot myself in many dimensions and trip covered inspiring places ( to name three Pushpagiri https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pushpagiri_Temple_Complex, Ahobilam http://www.ahobilamutt.org/us/information/visitingahobilam.asp , Chilukur http://www.chilkurbalaji.com/about.html), gave a chance to meet with intellectual gurus, and got an opportunity to try encountering authentic self for a clarity of mind and true purpose. Spiritual tour constituted 10 days of my 3 week India trip. To be candid, this 10 day tour is not a tourist camp or a guided tour but rather a self-directed tour with an intellectual curiosity and little guidance.
Day one started with an attempt to be truly myself. Disconnected from routine, no cell phone, no laptop and walking from one place to the other which included not very crowded old temples. As I got into a discipline to be myself, various thoughts started triggering in mind. Once I am on the go being myself, as a next step started realizing importance of bringing myself to the that day, to that minute and to that vey second or minutest part of possible time is important, though found it more challenging. That was kind of a psychological process of bringing my attention to experiences occurring in the present movement. It was a starting point to be Mindful. I started practicing three things with some external guidance.
- Accepting my thoughts, anxiety and feelings in an attempt to calming down
- Self-inquiry mountain meditation to better deal with thoughts and feelings of “me”
- Practicing “self-advocacy” promoting self-esteem inhibiting my true wills for compassion and lovingkindness
The people I encountered here and there were far off from gig economy mindset, but rather people of various walks of life and I have to self-reincarnate to have a true and engaging dialogue with them. And the days pass by and in tandem I started contemplating on “Leadership”. I will be adding more on “Mindfulness” in follow up posts.
The depth and breadth of subject on leadership is vast. My specific self-questioning focused on – what are the most important traits of new-age leadership? Realized that I got into a tricky topic and started navigating beyond leadership styles, decisiveness, awareness, focus, accountability, empathy, confidence, optimism, honesty, and inspiration. Boiled down to two, i) problem solving and ii) communication. In a one-on-one dialogue, a priest asked me two questions,
- What is a better way to lead life?
- How to communicate effectively?
After few hours I walked away with my interpretation of responses as follows. As an individual, as a student and particularly as a professional, I have been facing the world with one thing in constant. Progressing in life leading “everything that I come across movement by movement”. Which I call “problem solving”. As a child I developed solving known/unknown problems with decently known or a guided criteria. In an attempt to sustain as a leader in the world, I progressed building an ability solving unknown problems with unknown criteria. Another way to interpret contemporary problem solving is “being a driver in driverless car – – sit tight and avoid the mis-happenings ensuring the success of untested or progressively tested situations”. That struck me as an important trait to be a “leader of lifetime”. What does it mean? That is finding one’s path of solving problems to continue with fulfillment of progress.
Dialogue on communication was very intriguing. I am parking in-person communication to a later discussion, and focus now on remote communication, i.e. communication between two persons not co-located. In late 80’s when I started in college, mode of communication with someone beyond college town was via a letter (a post card or an inland letter) or book a “trunk call” to speak to a person. Telegram was used for an emergency. That mode typically had one to two weeks of lead time to complete one cycle of communication. Later STD/ISD came to availability. Followed by mobile phones – first voice and then voice and data (profoundly email) leading to present era of social media and hyper connected world. Two things changed with this progression. Availability and responsiveness to communicate. Availability has become “round-the-clock” and responsiveness reached to “a near real time” phenomenon. Hence to be a better communicator, one has to figure out,
- How to be introspective and mindful being highly available (two weeks communication cycle in 80’s shrunk to real time today)?
- How to be efficient and effective in spontaneous responsiveness?
With respect to availability, I felt to define hours of “productive availability” and figure out a subtle way of deferring on unproductive availability. On responsiveness, I have to be incrementally efficient and effective. As communication becoming constant and spontaneous, I should have an ability to carry a big/holistic picture constantly connecting dots on “strings of communication”. That lead to an important question on, how many strings of communication in parallel and/or in tandem I could handle being productive and effective. Watch out on this! I will add more anecdotes as this dialogue on communication progresses to forthcoming blog posts. Next topic is how Mindfulness and Leadership ties to new digital age?
Towards the last few days of the tour, got into contemporary discussions on life in digital era. We started with a discussion on Indian metropolitan commute. In most of the metros, if one has OLA or UBER app, taxi/cab fare nearly matches to auto fare. So as technology penetrates further increasing adoption levels, people get a better and safer rides realizing a superior value of money. On the other hand, what will happen to Auto drivers? May be with time autos get replaced with cars. Further to this, what if driverless cars becomes reality? Drivers either find alternative ways or get reskilled to endure. In view of leading life in digital age, we touched on the following three topics
- Survival of the fittest – man (human) vs machine
- How far we can raise the bar on being insightful from data and information?
- What is the ultimate goal of digital world?
I need a separate post to touch enough on these topics and hold my thoughts to share in next post.
In a nutshell, my “spiritual tour” is very refreshing and I am planning to budget time and resources to repeat such tours periodically to “self-reboot” finding my path of solving problems attaining fulfilment of progress continuum.
Welcome your comments and thoughts.
In gig-economy there is a tremendous opportunity to leverage the full potential of digital disruption including AI, Gamification, and Automation paving path to next-gen educational methods and job reorientation. Firstly, finding ways on how AI technologies could aid education methods, augment human skills in professional jobs and there by the challenges posed by AI. We commonly hear news like – an artificially intelligent computer system built by Google has just beaten the world’s best human, Lee Sedol of South Korea, at an ancient strategy game called Go. The Google program Alpha Go, actually learned the game without much human help. It started by studying a database of about 100,000 human matches, and then continued by playing against itself millions of times. As it evolved, it reprogrammed itself and improved. This self-learning program is based on a neural network, and theories of how the human brain works. Another classic example is Pearson – the world’s leading Education Company tapping IBM’s Watson as a virtual tutor for college students. With continued impact of AI on education and gig-economy, analysts are estimating a net reductions in jobs/workforce between 4% and 7% across various industries. It is simultaneously creating demand for high skilled digital workforce. Likewise AI and advance machine learning is paving new paths to education methods and future focus areas to complement and supersede machines to take full advantage of AI.
Second focus area is Gamification that has become the frontier of training, capitalizing on a new generation born into a computerized world. The idea behind the concept is to take elements of game design and logic and apply it to a work situation. One of the biggest companies to utilize gamification is McDonald’s, which introduced a new till system using a simulation game. Employees were asked to engage customers and use the till while under time restraints. Air Cargo Netherlands also used gamification when they needed to train employees on a specific utility. They created a game version of a new logistic system called Smartgate. They used the game to develop employees’ “chain thinking” and help them realize the consequences of their decisions in a risk-free environment.
Lastly, driving the automation agenda leveraging advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning as machines match or outperform human performance in a range of work activities, including ones requiring cognitive capabilities. Examples include guiding customer service representatives to more quickly resolve customer problems and anticipate future purchases, quickly and securely reconciling mass overnight transactions for financial institutions, or giving time back to HR professionals by managing the time consuming on-boarding processes for new hires. Technical, economic, and social factors will determine the pace and extent of automation. Continued technical progress, for example in areas such as natural language processing, is a key factor. Beyond technical feasibility, the cost of technology, competition with labor including skills and supply and demand dynamics, performance benefits including and beyond labor cost savings, and social and regulatory acceptance will affect the pace and scope of automation. Hence the next-gen education should focus on learning futuristic competencies with an aim to complement realizing full potential of automation.