“Kindle”ing Nostalgia – finding precious treasures in the digital aisle

Yesterday, while browsing our endless digital aisle (also called amazon.com), I came across two priceless items – they make me so happy (and nostalgic) that this will be the topic of today’s post.

First up, I discovered several versions of Peter Cheyneybooks in the kindle bookstore. Peter Cheyney for those who are not aware was a very popular “thriller/detective story’ writer in the early 40s. It was my father who introduced me to Cheyney’s books while we were strolling one lazy summer holiday through Mumbai’s old lanes browsing through used-book stores – the only ones that stocked such items. I loved the book – a racy thriller with catchy dialogues and super heroes on par with James Bond – minus of course the blood and the gadgets, but awesome page-turners. Over the years, I have popped into several libraries and book stores in search of cheyney’s books (they are that good believe me!) – but for a library in Norwich, UK and an obscure library in chennai, India – havent been very successful. To find several of his books (and kindle versions meant I could download them right away) was a treat – and also brought back pleasant memories of a precious childhood moment. Thank you kindle team!

That got me greedy and I started looking for other favourites. Would they have asterix and oblelix comics online too? They didnt have that – but had something equally attractive. MAD Comics are online now as well. MAD comics represent humour, satire and artistic fervour at their very best – as anybody who would have read them in their childhood would attest – and to find them in all their glory was the equivalent of a “home run” in a World Series game…. For starters, I picked up “MAD about OSCARS” which featured parodies on lots of movies (The godfather became The Oddfather, A beautiful mind became A booty-full mind(!), The sixth sense became The Sick sense(!!) and of course The Lord of the rings became Bored of the rings). And the credits belonged of course to MAD’s famed “usual gang of idiots” and featured Alfred. If you haven’t read any of MADs works before – pease do get started with either the ‘MAD about Oscars” or their parodies on Super heroes – they are guaranteed to have you in splits.

All this goes to prove that Chris Anderson was right – the digital world does have a long tail (aka an endless shopping aisle) which allows us to pick items not just on today’s blockbuster list, but on our evergreen favourites list. And to this long tail, here’s a salute – thanks guys.

Employability and context – deeply connected today

As we made our way slowly through one of chennai’s traffic-infested “Information Technology” zones, a friend observed that IT was probably the one industry where experience was more of a handicap than a boon. Companies increasingly wanted smart programmers at lowered costs, and middle managers were losing out.

On reflection, I think we ought to amend this statement a bit – today experience is no longer the USP it was and skills and attributes are what will decide who is coveted and who’s job is at risk. Relevance and currency of experience are more critical today.

This trend seems to be getting more pronounced as we serve younger customers across the globe.

A programmer who does not intuitively understand the social and mobile propensities of his customer can just not make a great product, no matter how good his programming skills may be.

And managing a team of millennials does need some insight into their value systems and the willingness to accept them without passing judgement. Pass judgement and you’ll find your job relegated to history – no matter how many management degrees or books you acquire.

Whenever we head into such discussion, we hit a wall – the naysayers believe it to be but a mitigation that will ensure we are employable for a little longer. “The situation is loaded against the senior folks” they voice again. I truly believe they’ve got it wrong – when managers and programmers get into the skin of their customers/business (ie get the context right), they thrive (not just “survive”). Of course it does require some childlike curiosity (or beginners mind as the zen folks say!).

It seems to have succeeded for many. Bill Gates seems to have made the transition from an uber-competitive corporate to a globally compassionate NGO pretty seamlessly – and as his annual letter indicates his earlier experience is helping him bring in some cool insights.

Nicholas Negroponte and Ward Cunningham aren’t getting any younger, but they continue to lead technology vision with flair.

Steve jobs (do look at his Stanford address) wasn’t a teenager by any means when he led Apple through several iconic products that changed The company’s fortunes and in many ways the world for ever.

True Gates, Negroponte, Cunningham and Jobs are superstars – what about the rest of us? We too can perhaps make the shift in our little (if not their earth changing) ways. Contribute to a kickstarter or wikipedia project/topic of your choice and experience the power of virtual crowds. Or get onto twitter and discover the immense power of 140 or so characters – brevity and wisdom at the same time. Or take a course at udemy on a new project management model (say the lean startup) and discover the magic of agility. Or join your team on their Facebook page and just soak in the fun.

I guess that’s my thought for the day. If I were to tweet this, it would read “be irreverent, not irrelevant. Focus on context, skills and behaviours. And enjoy change!”….. Or some such thing……..