Monday, October 2, 2017

Ship of Theseus: After-thoughts

Ship of Theseus is one of the finest films of our times. As an audience, it moved me like very few films have. I feel it would be unfair to break the film's greatness down by various components - acting, direction, story, etc. It's the interplay of all these components that makes for the superior cinematic experience. And for many viewers it may transcend beyond just cinematic experience.    

Like all great pieces of art, the film raises some pertinent questions and invites the viewer to come up with their own understanding of the question and their personal answers, if any. The film 'Ship of Theseus' explores its namesake paradox. Here's a version of the paradox the move starts with:

As the Plank of Theseus' ship needed repair, it was replaced part by part, up to a point where not a single part from the original ship remained in it. Is it, then, still the same ship? 
If all the discarded parts were used to build another ship, which of the two, if either, is the real Ship of Theseus?

I found this question very intriguing and could see the relevance of it. When members of a team quit, is it still the same team? When employees of a company change, for example companies like HP and Tata which are pretty old that none of the initial employees work in the company. Is it, then, still the same company? And this prompted me to ask this question - how do we define 'same'? And, to take this to a more relatable example from the film itself, over a period of a few years, all the cells of our body regenerate. Are we, then, the same person as before?

My quest was to find not 'the solution' to this question, but a working framework that can be applied when dealing with such questions. Let's start by exploring what is 'the same'? Let's consider HP as an example and ask what is 'same'. To a supplier who was supplying vacuum tubes to HP, HP changed when it moved towards silicon ICs whereas to another supplier who changed their business from producing vacuum tubes to silicon, not a lot seem to have changed. For a lay investor, who was used to seeing HP as an high ROI company, things have changed quite a lot in the last several decades. To a customer who thought HP to be a mini computer manufacturer a lot has changed whereas another customer looking at HP as making computing devices little has changed.

This brings us to the concept of 'relative identity'. What is the identify of HP to you? Is it a high performing stock? A printer company? Or a great employer? As long as that identify remains the same, the company hasn't really changed even though each individual parts may have changed.

Let's apply this concept to interpersonal relationships. Is your girlfriend the same as she is when you started dating her to now when she is your wife? Or has she changed? This needs awareness of what to you her identify was - say, 'a carrying person who shared your passion for sci-fi movies'.  And we all have developed a multi dimensional identity of things we perceive - our grocery store, our friends, our employer, or team. Now flip it the other way round, and one needs to determine her identify relative to the observer - and that identity may be different for different person. For her son, her identify may be different than what it is for her colleagues.

So, if you are highly successful in what you are doing to a particular stakeholder and would like to sustain the success, you would want to determine your relative identity to that stakeholder. For example, if you are a manager of a high performing team and want to determine how do you sustain (and perhaps excel) this high performance which so many things change - team members,  technology, scope. It's worthwhile to develop an awareness of what identity does this 'highly successful' team translate to your various stakeholders - to the leadership team, to your business partners, to the end customers, to your friends and families, to your competitors, etc. And then embrace any change (through attrition, change in technology, supplier, etc.) by focusing your energy to excel in these dimensions that determine your relative identity of success.

And to do this one needs 'awareness' - awareness about what value are the stakeholders really getting out of interacting with you/your team and how do they determine your identify. If it is an internal stakeholder, having a  conversation with them helps to determine what identity is relative to them and then try to improve upon it or sustain it.  The same approach can be applied in interpersonal relationship. Sometimes, it is awkward to have a conversation for example asking your daughter what value you add to her life.  In such cases, awareness needs to be developed from synthesizing the various interactions.

Once one has developed the awareness of relative identity, it is easier to answer the question - 'is it still the same'? So, in case of the 'Ship of Theseus', if the ship is transporting the cargo (assuming that's what it does) as efficiently and in the same condition then it's the same ship for its customer. If it is as easy to steer the ship and maintain it, then it's the same ship for the crew.

Hence, the 'Ship of Theseus' paradox implores us to explore ways to sustain (and improve upon!) success even when its various parts change.  'Relative identify' is a tool to take charge of the changing situation and to continue to provide superlative experience to your folks.

I believe a true 'zen' state can be achieved when all the relative identify of that entity are exactly the same... but that's a topic for a different day.

Monday, July 21, 2014

5 Similarities Between Krishna/Karna And The Consulting Industry

Comparison between two people or events is done if they are similar on certain basic parameters. In Mahabharat, there are very few characters that have been compared as much as Karna and Arjun. The comparison is primarily done because of their similarity on two parameters – skills in archery and parentage. I believe, Karna is one of the most interesting characters in the epic and interesting comparisons can be drawn between him and Krishna. Both these characters were, in some sense, ‘outsiders’. They were neither Kauravs nor Pandavs. Except for a handful of people, nobody knew that Karna was Kunti’s son. And both Karna and Krishna could have stayed out of the war. Krishna’s brother Balram, in fact, chose to not participate in the war and Krishna could have chosen the same.

Krisha/Karna as consultants: Picture this. There are two groups fighting. And two ‘outsiders’ (viz, Karna and Krishna) join the groups to help them fight. Doesn’t this sound similar to business consultants in the corporate world? Business consultants ‘engage’ with the corporates to help them be successful. So, in that sense, Karna and Krishna are consultants to the Kaurav group and the Pandav group respectively.

Strategy Consultant Vs Tactical/Analytical Consutlant: Karna and Krishna represent two very different types of business consultants. Krishna represents strategy consultant like someone from the big 3 consulting firms whereas Karna represent tactical consultant (also known as analytics consultant, decision science consultant, data science consultant, etc.). This similarity is based on comparison on the following 5 dimensions.

Sales Process:  Big 3 firms maintain a strong position in the industry as a though-leader. They network with execs even when they are not actively consulting with them. So, when there is a need, often the exec seeks out Big 3’s help. In Mahabharat, Krishna was known to be a thought-leader and had been pals with the Pandavs and the Kauravs. When it was certain that the ‘dharm yudh’ was inevitable, Arjun (the CXO of Pandav group) brought Krishna on board.
Karna, on the other hand pitched hard to get in. At all points there was opposition within the camp for Karna to join. In fact, while Bheeshma was the commander-in-chief, he couldn’t sell his service. Bheeshma obviously had good reasons for not letting him join. But from Karna’s perspective he had to be relentless in knocking doors, be pally with one of the key persons so that when the opportunity comes, he can be hired. Same is the condition with the tactical consulting companies. Cold calls after cold calls, multiple proposal meetings and a few wine-and-dine meetings later the company, if lucky, may get a foot-in-the-door.

Engagement Level: Big 3 consulting firms have sponsorship from the top execs. Similarly, Krishna had sponsorship from the CXO group. Karna, on the other had sponsorship from only 1 person (Duryodhana) who was more of a troubled child than a ‘true’ CXO.

Gyan Vs Execution: Krishna was a strategy consultant. He advised Arjun and group on war strategy. He didn’t 'use' a single weapon throughout the war. This is similar to a big 3 consultant who advices CXOs on high level strategy but doesn’t execute it for them. Karna, on the other hand, didn’t give any gyan but was focused on executing his client’s (Duryodhana’s) vision – very similar to the tactical/analytics consulting companies

Frameworks: Big three firms are known to come up with fancy frameworks e.g. 7S Framework, 9 box matrix, etc. Similarly, Krishna came up with arguably the finest frameworks ever which we know by the name of Bhagwad Gita. Framework of Effort-Outcome Disconnection (Karmanye vadhikaraste mafaleshu kadachana) is one of the most popular one.
No known framework from Karna have survived. Neither are frameworks from the tactical/analytics consulting company are as popular among the outsiders.

Perceptions: Krishna, like big 3 consultants, commands respect from Pandavs (his clients). Karna of low caste upbringing, like tactical consulting companies, throughout the story is seen to struggle to get acceptance from his clients even though in skills he is the best and comparable only to Arjun.

I am sure there are similarities between Karna and some random character in Mahabharat or Avengers and with some random industry. But I thought these were interesting similarities to highlight. Do let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Similarities between How I Met Your Mother and Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai

In Barney's style - Haaaaaaaaaaaave you met Ted!

HIMYM ended today. And while I thoroughly enjoyed the series, I want to make a different point here.

Top line - HIMYM is so hugely inspired from Kuchh Kuchh Hota hai in its storyline. Or, if I remove my biases, let's say there is significant correlation between the two.
First, the characters:

I should have gotten an indication of this similarity when robin was shown as more 'guyish' - had mostly male friends and played hockey! Now, isn't it similar to the character of Kajol? And both Kajol and Robin didn't look their usual great in their wedding scenes.

Then comes Ted. The chocolate boy (SRK) who marries his miss perfect Tracy.

Tracy's character was similar to Rani Mukherji's. An 'external' person who comes in. Is classy. And, Ted gets bowled over by her.

However, there are times when Ted becomes kajol-ish and Barney SRKish and we'll come to those.
Next comes the scenes:

The first time I got the idea that HIMYM is similar to KKHH was the scene between Barney and Ted during Barney's wedding weekend where he learns that Ted was leaving for Chicago. This scene, in its feel and emotion, was very similar to the 'train scene' in KKHH where Kajol(Ted) figures that SRK(Barney) and Rani(Robin) are in love and decides to leave the town. Ted makes up some story around why he needs to go to Chicago and Barney figures that he is trying to get away from his and Robin's lives.

The nail on the coffin was the ending. Towards then end, you have Tracy(Rani) long been dead. Ted(SRK) is nostalgic. And his kids(little Anjali) insist that he gets married to Robin (Kajol).

Isn't the parallel too obvious? Nonetheless, I really liked both the show and the movie.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Krishna and Man of Steel

Before getting into Man of Steel, let's revisit the story of Krishna.

Kansa (the bad guy) was creating havoc in the city of Mathura. He arrested Vasudev and Devki and wanted to kill Krishna.Vasudev saves Krishna from the tyranny and took him to Nandgaon where he was raised by Nand and Yashoda.

While at Nandgaon, Krishna did a lot of 'small acts of greatness'. A lake in the village was poisoned by Kaliya Naag. Cows and cattles who drank water from the lake were dying. Krishna went into the lake and 'tamed' the Kaliya Nag with his 'super-human' powers and saved the people of Nandgaon. Then again, when Indra Dev was angry and showered torrential rain on the village, Krishna with his 'super-human' strength lifted Goverdhan Parvat with his little finger and used it as an umbrella for the entire village.

At last, Kansa learned that Krishna was in Nandgaon. There was a dramatic fight between Krishna and Kansa and finally Krishna won and saved the entire Braj Pradesh!

Story of Man of Steel is somewhat similar to the story of Krishna.

Krypton had become too unstable both environmentally and politically. General Zod (the bad guy) wanted the genetic codex hidden within Kal-El. Kal-El's father sent him in a spaceship to earth. Kal-El was raised by Jonathan and Martha Kent as Clark.

While on earth, Clark realizes he has 'super-human' powers and does a lot of 'small acts of greatness'. He rescued kids in his school bus which met with an accident and was drowned. He also saved a crew stuck in a burning oil rig.

At last, General Zod learned that Clark/Kal-El was on earth. There was a dramatic fight between Clark/Kal-El and General Zod and finally 'superman' won and saved the world!

I was amazed at the similarity between Man of Steel and Krishna. Sometimes I wonder how great an epic Mahabharata is! A lot of movies/novels have plots which have been inspired/inherited by one or more episodes of Mahabharata.

Do share in case you came across any movie/story which had resemblance to some episodes of Mahabharata

Monday, June 18, 2012

SAGN: Photo Contest

What: A photo contest with theme - "Good News!"

How:  Mail the picture to and we'll upload it to the official Facebook Page (

Winner: Winner will be selected based on the number of people sharing and liking the picture that we'll upload on the Facebook page (

Deadline: 'Votes' (i.e., linking and sharing) will be calculated till 1st July 2012, 23:59 Indian Standard Time. So, it makes sense to upload your pictures as early as possible to get more votes.

Prize: South Asian Good News Channel merchandize!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The 'Best' Cricketer

Rahul entered his home and tried hard so that he is not noticed by his mother and brother. He went to his room, opened a book and pretended to study. In his book he could see himself a few hours ago when he was playing cricket with his friends in the gully near his home.

Sachin: Khelna nahi aata toh cheating toh mat karo
Rahul: Hey, mujhe cheater mat bulao, ha
Saurabh: That's what you are. Cheater. Cheater, Cheater
Rahul: Saurabh, mujhe cheater mat bulao
Sachin, Saurabh and the other kids started in chorus: Rahul is a cheater. He is a cheater. He is a cheater.
Rahul: Cheater nahi
Sachin:  Cheater (Screamed so loud that other voices couldn't be heard)

His brother came to his room. Rahul got back to the present. Rahul's heart started beating faster. His mind started racing with thoughts. He was wondering why was it necessary to score runs in cricket? Why was it necessary to take wickets? According to him cricket was a game. And like any game, it was a game to have fun. Just then his brother interrupted him.

Brother: Rahul, when did you come back?
Rahul: Just a few minutes back.

His brother started searching for something in his cupboard. Rahul's mind started wandering again. He started questioning, should the team scoring the highest run be winner? If the purpose of the game is to have fun, shouldn't the team enjoying the game the most be the winner? The team which plays with what's called the sportsmanship, with integrity and having the most fun be the winner? Suddenly his heard his brother's

Brother: Have you seen my The God of Small Things?
Rahul: No.

His brother continued his search. Rahul thought, perhaps the game is designed to keep the players fit. Then, shouldn't the team which exercises their muscles the most be the winner? Perhaps the objective of the game is to instill team spirit among the players. Shouldn't then, the team with the best team coordination win? Rahul considered 11 years as too young an age to answer such questions. He was still not sure what was the purpose of the game. Was it having fun, exercising or instilling team-spirit? Or a combination of these factors. If so, how does the run scored or  wickets taken indicate how well the purpose of the game is fulfilled.

He got out without making any runs today also. Despite knowing that he got out, he didn't agree. He stood on the crease until his friends Sachin, Saurabh and others started calling him a cheater. He left the game and came up. He was feeling bad. Today was not a one off case. He generally gets out for lesser runs and feels bad about it. He dreads his brother and other family members asking him - 'how many runs you scored today'? or 'how many wickets did you take?' He wondered why they never asked him - 'did you enjoy the game today? or 'was today's game exercising enough?' or 'What did you learn about team spirit from today's game?'

His brother shut the cupboard with a bang. He had 'The God of Small Things' in his hand.He turned around and asked Rahul

Brother: So, how many runs did you make today? How many wickets did you take? Did you make the highest run of did that Sachin made the highest run today also? I think he was on his 99th century in the gully. Could he make his 100th today or did you take his wicket before that?


Raj was a little sad today. He had not be able to get that dance step correctly. He had not been selected in the dance troupe. Raj loved music and dancing. However, he wasn't a good dancer. He had been trying to hide this news from him mother. He tried to keep himself busy. He was searching for 'The God of Small Things', the book he had started reading when he was in 10th standard but couldn't complete it till now when he's is the final year of his under graduation. He found the book in his cupboard, had a casual chat with his younger brother and went towards his study room silently.

He wondered, if the purpose of dancing is to have fun then why isn't the person who enjoys the dance the most considered the best dancer? Why is knowing difficult steps considered important?

On the way to his study, he heard his mother's voice:

Mother: So, did you get selected in your college's dance troupe?

Monday, March 5, 2012

South Asian Good News Contest

The objective of South Asian Good News Channel is to spread happiness – to spread the news about good things that are happening in the SAARC region.  South Asia is a beautiful region where each country can get inspiration from other South Asian country. We want to spread this message in a play-way though a contest.

[For those who don't know, SAGNC is a social media channel which shares 'good' news from the SA region. Check out the Facebook like to get an idea about the channel -]

Objective: To post an article on the SAGNC wall about good things happening in the SAARC region

1.       The post should be a link to a news article or a blog post or a website
2.       The news should be ‘good news'
'Good News' are news about:
a.        Grass-root development and innovation
b.       Citizen’s initiative
c.        Acts of kindness
d.       Inter-community harmony
e.       International peace initiatives
f.         Green initiatives
g.        People welfare

'Good News' shouldn’t be about
a.        Criticizing other nation, community, religion
b.       Calamity, Accidents, Death, Riots, terrorist attacks
c.        Corruption
d.       Anything that is offensive
e.       A film star dating another one.
3.       Go through the SAGN Facebook Page to get an idea of what constitutes ‘good news’. An example of a good news post:

SA GOOD NEWS CONTEST: Dhanam, like millions of rural women across India, is a housewife first and bread-earner second. And just like those other women, making some extra money after finishing the housework would greatly improve her family’s lifestyle.
For this 38-year-old living in the outskirts of Coimbatore, the low-cost sanitary napkin maker designed by A Muruganantham is a boon. Working for a comfortable 6-7 hours daily, Dhanam makes close to 400 pads, supplementing her family income by Rs 3,000 per month, which is going towards her daughter’s college fees.
4.       We understand that there is a lot of subjectivity involved and there is a huge ‘grey’ area – in the definition of ‘good news’. But there, definitely, are clear ‘white’ areas – news that are definitely good. We are looking for those news items only
5.       You may write explanatory text giving a brief about the news article in the post
6.       The post should start with the following phrase - ‘SA GOOD NEWS CONTEST:”
7.       The news posted will be moderated. Links that are not ‘good news’ articles will be deleted by the moderators without any intimation
8.       The decision of the moderators will be final
9.       You can post more than one good news article. There is no upper limit.

Go to and like the page. Only participants who ‘like’ the page will be considered for the contest 

Selection Process:
1.       For each participant a ‘score’ will be computed as the sum of ‘shares’ of all the posts posted by that person
2.       Person with the highest score will be the winner.
3.       For e.g., if you posted 2 articles through two different posts such that the first article was shared by 20 people and the second was shared by 36 people, then your total score is 20+36 = 56. 

1.       The contest is open from 5th March till 20th March 2012 23:59:59 IST
2.       The score for each participant will be computed for his activities till 15th March 23:59:59 IST
3.       It is advisable that you post the link to the good news articles as early as possible to let your friends and theirs and theirs enough time to share the news.
1.       The person to win the contest would win so because his posts have been shared (and possibly read) by the highest number of people. This spreading of happiness in the form of good news is the biggest reward.
2.       A customized goodie! (Only if the winner is based out of India)

In case you need any other information please feel free to contact us at
Let’s show the world and more importantly start believing ourselves that our SAARC region is amazing and there are a lot of good things happening!

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