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Showing posts from September, 2009

Rethinking My Job Search Strategy: Hofstede and Talent Management in India

I am at it again, after a gap of almost five years, when I am actively searching for a job. This means all the things that come in the package, preparing a CV, posting it on job sites, keeping a watch on job alerts, firing off applications to those positions which remotely match my area of expertise and smarting off after reading through various rejection mails every morning. Despite the disappointments, it is an interesting exercise to do, to get a feel what I am really good at, to study the patterns of rejection letters and infer which one was written with some sympathy and which one was auto-generated, feeling the sense of hope and despair while waiting for some employers who did not say no, overall feeling young again. Also, the interesting thing here is that my heart is not in it, not yet. I am not sure whether I can get back the zeal of sending out 750 applications as I did in the first few weeks after landing in Britain, which earned me 743 straight rejections, 7 interviews and…

Britain & America: Age of Terrific Relationship

The news that overshadows any announcements made in the G20 this week is that Obama 'snubbed' Gordon Brown. The British media went on an overdrive on the leak that while Downing Street wanted an one-on-one with the President on the sidelines of the UN meet or the G20, no such meeting could be organized. Gordon Brown had to be satisfied with a walk and talk discussion with President Obama in the kitchen of the UN, though he had a 'substantial discussion', following the Downing Street communique. The British media obviously did not like this: President Obama failed to call Gordon Brown immediately after taking office, he landed up in London a few months later and gifted the Prime Minister a set of DVDs which did not run because of the wrong region coding and finally this! President Obama does not seem to have any time for the 'special relationship' that the British assume that they enjoy, and he is making it way too obvious for the British tastes. What is going o…

Social Learning: New Frontiers?

I had an interesting conversation on the scope of e-Learning and how much it will replace the traditional classroom training in the next five years. Obviously, there were many sceptics in the group, and they were pushing the opinion that e-Learning is not nearly as good or effective as someone standing up to teach. However, it was heartening to note that most people saw the argument for what it is - a passionate plea for horse-drawn cars when automobile has started coming to the market - and the fact that usually it is comparing some basic e-learning efforts with some very good teachers.

The general opinion, therefore, was that e-learning will continue to expand in scope and possibly replace most of what is done in classrooms today. The panel touched upon various media comparison studies, which proved, over a number of years [starting 1947, when such a study was first carried out, a comparison between video, paper-based and classroom training] that the learning outcomes do not vary sig…

A New New World?

Change is on the air. The old power alignments seem to be all changing. Consider this: The British Prime Minister requests for a private meeting with the American President, and does not get one. He has to do with a few minutes conversation around the Kitchen table at the UN, while the President holds meetings with the heads of states of Japan, Russia and China. Russia says that they may climb down from their opposition to a sanction against Iran. The President of Iran addresses the UN, as does Colonel Qaddafi of Libya. The President of Iran says that it will shake any hand that has been honestly extended to it. What is going on?

There seems to be a clear realignment of the United States Foreign Policy, and the shift is towards realism. Eight years of George Bush and a shaking up of the financial markets made it necessary to look at the foreign policy agenda with a fresh pair of eyes. That seems to be happening now. It is no longer the democracy in the middle east zeal; it comes from a…

Making An Organization Learn

Suddenly, Learning Organizations are back in the agenda. Or, is it?


Someone reminded me that training budgets were the first to go in recession, and obviously that does not mean the organizations are serious about learning. I do think that it is that straightforward, and current budget cuts may indeed have been prompted by real difficulties in the market place, but it gives out the wrong signal.


The point is, okay, that the organizations NEED to get more serious about learning. Because the world is changing again - from the way business is done, to the buyer-seller composition. New ideas and challenges will emerge now, as it always does in the aftermath of a bruising economic crisis. Deep recessions like this always keep claiming their victims long after they have lost prime time presence, possibly because of the panic button reactions sometimes stop organizations from learning and moving forward.


It will be interesting to study how successful organizations deal with deep recession. We …

The Curious Case of Helen Goddard

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Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair.

For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew.

There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen was gui…

How Organizational Learning May Change in the Post-Recession World

I am as optimistic as ever that we shall emerge out of this recession soon. Whoever I tell this reminds me that the party is not going to start anytime soon, though, they agree, that the worst may be behind us. But, as long as we look forward rather than back, new things will happen and new possibilities will emerge. And, besides, after all this pain of the Great Recession, who wants to return to partying as usual.

This recession, however, will have two long term impacts. While this crisis undermined the moral force of the theory that the market gets it right all the time, it has also severely undermined the governments' ability to bail us out of any future crisis. The pendulum seems to have run its full course, over thirty years, where we have moved from public spending to fiscal responsibility back to public spending again. So, in the coming years, we may go back to the old days of fighting inflation and high taxes and interest rates, as capital will become scarce in general. An…

Dim Sum wisdom

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Noticed on Holy Kaw and Guy Kawasaki's tweet. Source: Federal Place Restaurant in Hong Kong.

Foreign Universities in India

KapilSibal is in full swing and he has cleared the draft of Foreign Education Providers (Regulation) Bill to be placed before the Union Cabinet. Once the cabinet clears it, the Foreign Education providers will be able to offer degree programmes independently in India. This, in Mr. Sibal's view, will save millions of dollars as Indian students will be able to study in foreign universities while staying in India. This will also expand the Higher Education offering in India, which will supplement Government's efforts to ramp up the number of seats and the quality of learning.

This news was received well in India. This was always on the cards, but the previous drafts of the bill never saw light of the day because the previous education minister, Mr Arjun Singh, was never very keen on getting the foreign universities in. Instead, he allowed a corrupt License Raj to foster in Education, leading to rapid deterioration of quality of Higher Education in India.

The current Minister is kee…

Should We Bother About America's Healthcare Debate?

To someone who grew up in India, and knew what it meant to have below par healthcare and greedy doctors, and then lived in Britain and experienced NHS, world's greatest mystery is indeed why do Americans fear the idea of universal health care. The news have it that tens of thousands marched last week protesting against the government spending money on health care reforms, which will cover most people in America and possibly fix a broken system. But, truth be told - my wonderment did not start in the last few days; I have always found it baffling that Americans do not like the idea of government paying for health care, and label it 'socialism' for some unfathomable reason.

I would have tucked it away in my brain as another peculiarity of the strange country which is possibly the most religious in the world but holds the right to own a gun so dear to its heart. But, America's refusal to let its government spend money on health care is more serious than that and affect …

Calcutta: In Search of a Lost City

Let's start with a disclaimer. I am biased when I talk about Calcutta. I love the city. Wherever I am in the world, I belong to Calcutta. And, yes, some day, I shall go and live there. Some day soon!

I have stated the reasons before and I love repeating this. Because Calcutta is home. That's it, really. Not because I was born there, but because it is the city where I shall never feel lost. I know Calcutta the way one gets to know one's own home: its alleys and corners, its sounds and smells. And, therefore, there is no other city for me like that. One can only love one city in one lifetime.

But I don't live in Calcutta. That's a sad truth. I keep saying I love London too. I love its parks and benches, its narrow roads and drizzles, its red buses and black taxis, endless line of umbrellas on the rainy days, libraries, Museums and theatres. I enjoy living here, but you can get the sense - I love London in the image of Calcutta. Or, Calcutta the way I saw it, remember i…

Indian Business in 2010

2010 is going to be an interesting year. It seems that the current recession was bad, but much less worse than what it could have been, or was expected to be. Growth is returning now to Euro area, as well as in the United States. A course correction has happened in China, and by boosting the domestic demand, China has returned to growth. Indian economy is growing too, and it seems that they have also escaped the worst effects of recession. Recession forced a spectacular political change in Japan, and it may alter the course of politics in many East European nations, but otherwise, we may all emerge from this by middle 2010.

This is not to say that the party can begin any time soon. This recession caused many imbalances, which has to be corrected. The government has expanded its role in haste, and there is no clear plan underpinning it. Rather, the governments across the world intervened hoping, like a bad venture capitalist, that an exit strategy will arise. It is unlikely to happen. B…

Sri Lanka: Warning Signs

In a year full of bad news, the ending of war in SriLanka was a rare good news. While the end of the war was bloody and full of appalling atrocities, the rest of the world was wary of the vicious tactics of the Tamil leadership and saw no other alternative to end the long-standing conflict. I must admit that despite the agony of my many Tamil and SriLankan friends, it seemed the best way out of the crisis, as Mr. Prabhakaran, the Tamil leader, was exceptionally cruel and had demonstrated that he had no interest in pursuing a peaceful solution. Besides, SriLanka is a democratic country and despite the system's many faults, one always expect democracies to encourage moderation - and hence, almost everyone watched and waited for Prabhakan to finally surrender.

However, it is only now, after the death of Prabhakaran and the elimination of entire Tamil Eelam leadership, the true cost of the war is becoming apparent. It is not just the scale of human atrocities and the fact the SriLankan…

Diary: Moving Forward in India

Last week have been busy - crazy is the right word - as I was sorting out what we do, and don't do, in India. I am feeling happy now that the job is done, more or less. In fact, like in most other things in life, it eventually turned out to be better than expected - we should be working now with a country level partner who is on the same wavelength and has the professional governance standards that we have been looking for. It was indeed worth the trouble, though I am completely exhausted at this time - physically as well as emotionally - and will surely need a break some time soon.

One good thing that NIIT did to me is to attune me to this October/September cycle of the year. For me, 30th September is always the end of the year, and 1st October, a completely new cycle starts. This goes well with my Bengaliness, this is usually the festive time and time to meet people and recharge ourselves, and starting October with a new spirit was always good. The timing of this deal signals som…

Ditch Suits, Save Power

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This one brilliant idea from the Bangladesh Government recently caught my eye, though for a very personal reason.

I lived in Bangladesh before and my experience, a fairly common one for most visitors to the country, was that the officials, particularly Government officials and Ministers, were always very well dressed. Mostly in suits, that is. This was a big change for me coming from India, where one would not find a politician in suits normally and even most civil servants will usually wear half-sleeved shirts. Even businessmen in India would prefer Safari suits, with its half sleeves and more climate-friendly texture, over business suits. Bangladesh was odd, given that the tempertures will be close to 40 degree celsius in the summer and it will rain endlessly most of the time. However, I had to get used to wearing suits and as the word passed on, I remember one colleague coming over to Bangladesh with 11 pairs!

Recently, it seems that Government has suggested to all Civil Servants to…

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