Archive for the ‘Startup’ Category

Doers vs.Thinkers or Doer-Thinker or Thinker-Doer

In Education, Research and Development, Startup on July 14, 2013 at 7:09 PM

Have you ever found yourself thinking about the topic of this post? Quite likely. And it is all the more likely that you tried to classify yourself as a doer or a thinker. Being human beings, we love to take sides most of the time. We (or others) are either this or that; we work this way or that way etc. Doers take pride in doing things while thinkers take pride in their ability to think deeply and profoundly. Many doers challenge thinkers by saying that they “only think” and do very little on the ground while many thinkers hold the ability to think and come up with ideas in the highest regard. A classic case is the question about work experience versus research experience which I discussed here.

If we stop for a moment and decide not to analyze these two traits from a usability perspective and detach them from their economic outcomes, what do you think will win the doer vs. thinker debate? I guess it will still remain open because in their absolute existence, these two traits offer two different kinds of results. While the former generally gives birth to something tangible, something that our sensory perceptions can respond to, the latter gives birth to something that our minds can (or cannot) comprehend. For instance, a carpenter can produce chairs, tables etc. while someone who studies trees and plants can propose a theory on growth of trees. These two guys can exist in isolation without any problems. Problems arise when we try to assign a monetary value to their efforts and it is then that the debate starts. Since the aim of practically all economic exercises is to maximize the return on money and time invested, whether a doer is more important or a thinker, depends on who brings more value in a given context.

However, instead of identifying yourself with one of these, you can as well be both of these: doer-thinker or thinker-doer. You are one of these two depending on the ratio of these two traits in your character. The good thing about being both is that you appreciate both. You do not become dogmatic and you understand the effort and the skills required for each of them. You can appreciate both kinds of people (who exist in the either or world). Your attitude, character and style of functioning becomes more fluid and you probably gain the knowledge to get  the best out of not only yourself but also out of those who exist in silos. All this becomes really helpful when you are in an organization or you are leading a team. Thinkers can inject new and fresh ideas while doers can execute them. But as you are both, you know very well that an interaction between these two may lead to even better results than the sum of their individual results.

On Diffusion of Innovations

In Education, Interdisciplinary Science, Research and Development, Startup on May 10, 2013 at 1:57 AM

Diffusion of Innovations is a remarkable book by Everett M. Rogers. It is also a field of study and research where questions related to the diffusion of innovations through different groups of people and cultures are studied. This theory seeks to explain how innovations spread, how they are adopted or rejected, their social impact and the rate at which these processes occur over a period of time. This book has plenty of examples of innovations that diffused and those that did not. Notable examples include the idea of water boiling that the public health service in Peru wanted to promote in a Peruvian village and failed in doing so; non-diffusion of the Dvorak keyboard; the relatively successful STOP AIDS campaign in San Francisco in the mid-1980s etc. Note that the use of the term innovation  is not restricted to technological innovations only. According to Rogers, “An  innovation is an idea, practice, or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption“.

Technologists and engineers generally think that a new idea will sell itself, that advantageous innovations will be quickly adopted. However, this is seldom the case and the adoption, in general, is slow. This is a fact that is of relevance to many start ups. There are social and cultural aspects of innovation that have a big influence on its adoption. Influencing the adopters involves not only relevant marketing but also addressing social, cultural and economic issues. Of course the range of issues to be addressed depends on the innovation that we are trying to sell or promote.

It would come as a surprise to many that Everett M. Rogers was not from business or engineering background. He was a scholar in  communications and sociology!

When Ugly is Beautiful

In Education, Startup on April 21, 2013 at 11:53 PM

Those of us who follow the startup scene would have come across statements that range from crazy to wild. I concede that passion is very important to succeed in that space and I am myself passionate about quite a few things. However, when I hear statements like “Oh, we were working in a room infested with all sorts of bugs”, “we started out in a cramped room with cobwebs and ants giving us company”, I cringe in my seat. Not long ago, our parents would have disciplined us for not keeping our workplaces, study tables and rooms clean. Cleanliness has been equated with godliness and it is heavily emphasized upon in school education. So, when I hear such statements, which are invariably made with a sense of pride and gusto, I say to myself that probably these guys never bothered to clean up the place. The audience seems to enjoy such statements and they are now referred to as “occupational hazards” when talking to wannabe entrepreneurs. I can’t stop wondering how such statements came to be the “in-thing”. I fully understand and appreciate the limited resources, aggressive timelines and all other pressures associated with running a start-up. However, I find it amusing to see people talking about such things with so much enthusiasm. Bootstrapping, cutting down unnecessary expenses etc. are all part and parcel of startup life. But one does not need a lot of money to keep the workplace clean. It just needs some effort.