Makers and shakers


Talent hits a target which no one else can hit. Genius hits a target which others can’t see- Schopenhauer

Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky were two twenty-something graduates of Rhode Island School of design based in San Francisco. They wanted to attend the Industrial Designers Society of America conference in San Fransico. When they checked the conference website, a message on it hit them: “Sorry, the hotels are sold out. There are no rooms in San Franciso”. An idea struck them. What if we can rent out the spare room in our apartment by fitting in an inflated bed? With the help of a geek friend they created a programme, reached out and the first customers walked in few days later. The idea was spun out into a business which is now valued at $25billion. The company is Airbnb (air bed n breakfast) and is valued higher than Hyatt.

Google, Facebook, Whatsapp, Pinterest, Uber, Under Armour, Theranos and other similar new brigade of multi-billion valued companies are changing the way we live, commute, think and share. What is it that drives these men and women (yes!) into doing things which conventional wisdom says no? Is there a secret formula which escapes the many but enriches the few among us?

David McClelland’s Human Motivation Theory states that there three things that 3 needs that drive humans – need for achievement(nAch), need for power(n-Pow) and need for affiliation (nAffil). nAch (Need for Achievement) better describes these makers of the new world. nAch people avoid both low and high risk approaches – low risk bores them, high risk is matter of chance and luck, hence not their choice. They seek a 50% probability environments. If they don’t get one, they create one.

What is that one element that sets them apart from other entrepreneurs and common man? Money.

In the summer of 2006, Yahoo offered to buy Facebook for $1billion. Famously Mark Zuckerberg walked into the board meeting called to discuss this offer and said, “this should not take more than few minutes. We are not selling”. (Then)22 year old Mark Zuckerberg didn’t want $1billion? Nah. Did he know that Facebook will be worth $250billion in 2015? Nah. He wanted to achieve and build something new, different and of his own. nAch the spirit!

Their businesses do not follow any theory or models taught in business schools. Today their business models have become the theory in business schools. No wonder many of them are drop-outs of niche colleges as there is no college for a genius (caution: not all college drop-outs are geniuses!). They are driven by what I would like to call BumbleBee Syndrome.

Scientists have established that the size and capacity of the wings of a bumble bee are disproportionate to its body weight and technically the bumble bee should not fly. But it does. Why? Because the bumble bee does not know that its wings and body are mismatched. Similarly these new makers and shakers of the world do not know about the conventional wisdom and hence go out to make a new world out of sheer curiosity and passion. That’s the secret formula of their success. Failure is just a milestone.

We always ask our children “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The answers lead them up the traditional paths. Instead ask “what problem you want to solve?” They will create their own path and make the world a different or a better place.

It’s a time to reflect upon ourselves. It’s time to step out of the comfort zones and cocoons of safety hidebound by traditions, theories and formulas. What our minds are capable of we are not aware. We are bumble bees, unfortunately educated to fit but not to create.

What’s your idea?



The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.- George Bernard Shaw


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Goodness viral


So many gods, so many creeds, So many paths that wind and wind,

While just the art of being kind, Is all the sad world needs.

– Ella Wheeler Wilcox

 In December in 2012, a drive-through customer at a coffee shop in Winnipeg in US collected her order and drove away. When the next car pulled up the coffee shop clerk told the driver that your order has been paid for by the earlier customer. It created a ripple effect. Next 226 cars paid for the order of the stranger behind them. A similar thing happened in 2013 at another restaurant when 67 cars drivers paid for the strangers behind them.

Recently rain-shadow city Chennai came into the limelight for of all things for rain! Heavens opened up and inundated the city. Anger on the government and civic apathy quickly sublimated with compassion and generosity. Thousands stepped up to the plate to support, share, care and deliver succor to the needy. The generosity level reached its peak when one observed that those willing to help are more than those who need help! A true triumph of human spirit. Kudos Chennai, thanks for restoring faith in human goodness. Hope Chennai will come back stronger that too fast.

What is it that drives the human spirit of goodness? The very same good Samaritans, were few days before the rains, were probably driven by power struggles, anger and greed, but put them aside to come together to help one another. Similar stories of generosity have been reported from Europe when the flood of refugees knocked on the doors of these countries. In few days, as the rigmarole of life returns, many in Chennai might get back to their anger, greed and egos. Is there then a “sweet spot” within us? Untouched, untapped and unused?

Reciprocity is a key influencer in our psychological make-up as Robert Cialdini established through his social psychology research. We reciprocate to every act, kind or otherwise, in equal measure. Social proofing is another key influencer. We do not wish to be one to be left out. A donation box with a few notes already in it is a trigger for you to do your bit. Marketers use these to influencers to great effect. One million downloads, 10,000 installations trigger our response to products and services.  The car drivers reciprocated to the act of the other drivers and bought for the stranger behind them. Social proofing must have played its part in bringing out the social service spirit in people of Chennai. However, we need someone to start the ripple effect. Will you be the one?

Goodness is then viral. We are inherently good by nature. We can, if we want to. What stops us from making the world a better place? Reverse animal instinct. A hungry lion hunts; a satiated lion does not harm you. Humans when weak (for food, money, power, job etc) are supplicate. Once our needs are fulfilled, we want more and will go to any length to aggrandize. Man then is the only animal which gets hungrier as his needs get fulfilled.

Commerce, money, power, comforts and goods undo our spirit of kindness. Help becomes a commercial transaction, service becomes differentiator and kindness becomes customer satisfaction index. Human essence gets priced, measured and eventually gets withered in the commercial world. Transient commercial profits subsume everlasting peace and goodness. It’s time to pause, reflect and act. Never let the fountain of human goodness run dry.

Touch the sweet spot of goodness in you. Don’t wait for a flood or a crisis. Every act of kindness makes the world a better place.





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