Shiny tools don’t make a purpose

Recently, I bought a Fitbit. It’s a fantastic tool. Now, I can rave more about the features and go on and on. However, a friend and a colleague asked me an interesting question.

Has it changed you?
No, it did not.

Before I go on, I have to tell you that I am on the heavier side of the weighing scale. Those of you who know me personally would be surprised at the sudden interest in all things health. Yeah, I roll like that.

It’s not about the Fitbit

Like any other measurement tool, the Fitbit is doing a marvelous job at letting me know certain metrics that I need to care about.

They have even gamified the steps by putting in cute little badges and built in peer support (and also peer pressure) to keep me motivated. All this is good as it should be.

At the core of it, it’s a measurement tool. Just like any of the billion other tools we use in Analytics.

Targets and Measurements

On very similar lines, we as marketers or as businessmen often deploy shiny new tools because we think they will help us do more.

Unfortunately, like me in this case, how many of us forget on defining the purpose?

I implicitly assumed that the Fitbit would automatically by some magic give me the purpose of losing weight and leading a more healthy life. Without this purpose, here’s what would happen —

I will wear it to work, and dutifully report the steps taken and life would go on as usual. Some of the badges would come in as time goes by, and it would not really matter to me if I took 2000 steps a day (which is a walk in the park) or 10000 steps a day (I haven’t achieved this yet).

How would I change, if let’s say I choose to give myself a target of say, 10000 steps a day.

Without Purpose, there’s no Change

I would for one have to make time to walk those 10000 steps. I could try walking in the office or doing a much more rigorous transit than an Uber. However, I would have to commit to making the time for those steps.

Thus, this choice of making a change in my routine should be addressed. At the heart of it, the shiny new tool is not at the center. Yes, you have bought Google Analytics Premium and all of that is great … but that’s not really at the center.

At the center, is the purpose. Has this been defined? Has this been clarified and articulated so that the team knows about this?

A tool doesn’t give us Purpose

It does give us a sense of progress towards our purpose. A Measure of Success, if you will. The shiny new tool that we just acquired is useful, but only as long as we keep the purpose at the center.

As people who know how to use a tool, if we do not understand the purpose, the tool will end up regurgitating meaningless data.

TL;DR — When setting up measures, don’t keep the tool at the center. Keep the purpose at the center. The rest should follow.

A female Stanford labor economist urges graduates to avoid the trap of “trying to have it all” — Quartz

Graduation speeches are usually brimming with optimism and idealism. Be your best self. Lean in. Make your dream work. Myra Stober, a labor economist and professor emerita of education at Stanford University, took a different tack, offering Stanford’s graduate school of education students hard truths and pragmatic strategies for managing work-life balance. “You can harmonize…

via A female Stanford labor economist urges graduates to avoid the trap of “trying to have it all” — Quartz

Finally a person who sees things the way I do.

Work and Family are two institutions which require a full time commitment. Having a balanced way of life doesn’t really help maximize on either of the two fronts. Unless, your significant other and you work towards fulfilling each others’ career goals.

 

Inequality can still be fair

I know Mahul through CrazyEngineers (CE), and was in touch with him recently with regards to changing the link to my blog (was getting a fair amount of 404s!). During this time, I chanced upon one interesting post he had written on Inequality and Fairness.

In fact, to a certain degree, I agree with Ayn Rand’s theory of objectivism, and agree with the concept of the  free market in principle. I am the firmest believer that people should not be given anything for free, because it acts as a deterrent to motivation to work hard, which, at the end of the day, is what creates value in a society. In principle, everyone should have an equal opportunity to succeed in a free market, and whatever product holds the greatest value should be the one to succeed.

Here’s an excerpt from the post, I (go on, read the rest of his post in the link I provided, then come back and read this counter post!).

In real life, there are no ideals. There are no whites and blacks … there are 50 shades of grey :-)

People do not get equal opportunities, because those opportunities are the fruits of their predecessors. Mr. Anil Ambani is living in such an abode, because of the efforts of his father (who came from very humble beginnings). How he managed to get there is a different story … but lets not write-off those efforts which ensured that his children get better opportunities than the common man.

The beggar on the street is getting no opportunities not only because of his circumstances, but also because of his lineage.

In a real free market however, this is hardly the case. Because the humble 5 rupee lemon soda, though holds more value, is significantly less likely to succeed.

The humble 5 rupee lemon soda does not come with an international FDA approval. Pepsi, Coca-Cola and other pesticides do :-)

Sometimes, it’s the overheads which have to be set off. It might be true that the concentrate costs INR 1 to produce, however if you add the advertising, marketing, inventory and distribution costs on top of it … not to mention the corporate salaries … then INR 10 does not seem that high. What’s more important that people are willing to purchase it at that price point.

As a service/commodity provider, I would always go for value based pricing! Which is what a true real free market would behave like. However, we are in no real free market … there is a regulatory body and the price is capped at the Maximum Retail Price (MRP).

Life is not fair, people are not equal.

Your efforts will pay dividends for your descendants … and other people will say that they are lucky and life is not fair :-).

Move on

I still remember that day in 2007. It was the 17th of September. It was evening and I was stuck at the airport, waiting for my delayed flight at Hyderabad; making one of the biggest decisions of my life.

I had been offered a meaty role in a start-up firm, and internally had decided to take the jump. However, the lizard brain was nagging me and urging me to not go ahead.

I made two phone calls. The first was to my parents, to let them know about the switch in my life. They accepted my decision and told me that I was going to rock :)

The second was to the only man approachable and who had operated in several organizations in that role. He was and is a role model; Thomas Sir. I had not spoken to him in the past three years, yet he immediately recognized me and asked me what he could do for me. I told him my background and told him that I was thinking about joining a start-up. Pat comes his reply, if you want to work in Cleartrip, I can see … all said and done, the amygdala was quitened.

At the end of the conversation, he told me one thing –

After this, there is no looking back

I did not fully understand the depth of this. I think after 3 years, I am getting it. After that jump from the corporate wagon, I don’t think I will be going back to a large corporate. Ever.

However I am only human and when I go through a rough patch in my life, I make the mistake of looking back to the day I made this jump. The moment I do this, I remember that one piece of advice … I move on.

What’s your ideal?

I had written about Purpose and also how Perspective can be used to change the society, well … what does one do if one has neither? I did not have an answer for that now … if a person is devoid of both, then is his life a wasted time? Does he not achieve fulfillment??

Today, I get to throw one more term in this quagmire of confusion. If one has neither, then one need not worry … one simply needs to choose an ideal and uphold it. Simple. Pick an ideal of your choice, and live by it. I know its an axiomatic way of life, but imagine a world without living by any ideals.

Without an ideal, one may not know what is good or what is bad (think about this before you dismiss it). We talk about work-life balance … well, we choose work because we have career success as an ideal, we choose life because we choose being a good son as an ideal (or a good husband, a good father … the list goes on). \

The best part is that, there are no rules once you choose an ideal and live by it. Choice making is easier. I know a friend who lives by integrity as an ideal. Even if her job depends on it, she will choose to go take the path of integrity.

So what’s yours?