A portion of The Vitruvian Man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian polymath, in about 1490.
A portion of The Vitruvian Man drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian polymath, in about 1490.
Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci (Modified by Horrogame — Creative Commons)

“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”

Leonardo da Vinci, an Italian polymath

The Phoenix Project and The Goal

Earlier this year, I read the book, “The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win” by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford. I actually listened to it over Audible. In the novel, the protagonist, Bill is an IT manager at Parts Unlimited. It’s Tuesday morning and on his drive into the office, Bill gets a call from the CEO. The novel’s plot revolves around the company’s new IT initiative, code named Phoenix Project, which is critical to the future of Parts Unlimited. …


The silhouette of a woman’s head with a light bulb on inside her head and three questions, Why, What If and How Might around.
The silhouette of a woman’s head with a light bulb on inside her head and three questions, Why, What If and How Might around.
Better questions lead to better ideas

“Innovation happens when people are given the freedom to ask questions and the resources and power to find the answers.“

— Richard Branson, an English business magnate

We begin with a premise: Innovation begins with questions.

In fact, in the story, “In search of the secret ingredient for innovation,” we discussed the entire innovation journey as a series of questions and our attempts to find answers to these questions. You can click on the story link above to read that story, but here I am reproducing the relevant portion verbatim.

“The innovation journey began with two questions for analysis, before we could proceed to synthesis…


An eye with iris colored in three colors, namely, blue, green and red.
An eye with iris colored in three colors, namely, blue, green and red.
Abstract Red, Green, Blue photo by Petr Kratochvil (Public Domain)

“Colors are the mother tongue of the subconscious.”

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, is quoted to have said this. Jung is most prominently associated with the pioneering stages of color psychology, which has since been used for marketing, design and more. I want to share with you what I believe to the three most important colors and three important lessons to bear in mind while designing financial applications for users.

Blue 🟦

Imagine that you have $10,000 to deposit. You have a choice between two banks, the Blue Bank and the Brown Bank as shown here.

A Blue Bank logo on the left and a Brown Bank logo on the right.
A Blue Bank logo on the left and a Brown Bank logo on the right.
Which one will you bank with?

Assume that there is no difference at all between the two banks, save for their logos. Use a card or just your palm to hide one logo and look at the other, one by one. Now close your eyes and decide. Which one will you bank with? …


User with problem, insight for an idea and persona with a storyboard leading up as steps to a prototype for validation.
User with problem, insight for an idea and persona with a storyboard leading up as steps to a prototype for validation.
The process to a prototype

Did the title puzzle you? Let me explain. Only in reel life, does anyone become an overnight success. In real life, it takes persistence. Just passion is not enough. So, we are faced with two scenarios —

We fail so slowly, that we think that we are succeeding.

We succeed so slowly, that we think that we are failing.

Think about the one more puff of cigarette that a smoker takes telling himself that just another puff makes no difference to his health. That’s an example of failing slowly but surely.

Now, think about one more day that you walked 10,000 steps. Or meditated for 10 minutes. Or read for 10 minutes. Did it change your life? You are succeeding, but so slowly that you can’t feel the difference. …


Depicts the artwork Landschafts-Kopf (Landscape Head) by Wenceslaus Hollar (born 1607 and died 1677).
Depicts the artwork Landschafts-Kopf (Landscape Head) by Wenceslaus Hollar (born 1607 and died 1677).
Landschafts-Kopf (Landscape Head) by Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677)

We had failed. Well, let me not hide behind the “we” when acknowledging failure. I was leading the venture. So, I must accept that I had failed. Why? Why had I (we) failed despite having a team of excellent product managers with deep business knowledge, product engineers with technology expertise and solution architects abreast of the latest?

We had been working on this telematics solution for a year and a half now, iterating our web-based solution and our mobile app. We had been meeting scores of clients to demonstrate our solution and receive feedback. We had tied up with device manufacturers and cloud hosting providers. Yet, for some reason, our innovation had failed to gain enough traction. In other words, we had failed to get clients beyond a couple.


Google Earth image of South China Sea
Google Earth image of South China Sea
Google Earth image of South China Sea

Strategy develops through an interaction among multiple decision-makers, each of whom is vying for an optimal outcome in their favor.

This is the third trait of strategy, which we referred to in our previous discussion on the traits of strategy. Earlier, we discussed the first two traits, using moves in chess, namely the Queen’s Gambit and the Indian Defense to illustrate through examples that—

  1. Strategy requires second-order thinking.
  2. Strategy is about being dynamic in response to developing ground realities.

(You may please refer to “Queen’s Gambit, Indian Defense and South China Sea — Part 1” in case you haven’t already read it.)


Black and white chess pieces on a chessboard
Black and white chess pieces on a chessboard
Waiting for a move

Strategy is often misunderstood. Not the least by people in the world of business. We have business strategy, marketing strategy, digital strategy, operations strategy and IT strategy to name just a few. It’s all very good to have all these different types of strategy, but what does it mean? Is strategy about picking out the most important things to go after? Is it about how we go after these things? Or is it about getting the desired outcomes? An oft-used word is oft-misunderstood.

I do not want to get into defining strategy. You can have all the definitions which you want and plenty more by looking up Wikipedia or an online dictionary. Do people still use physical dictionaries? I have a couple lying around in my home library. Lately, I have found a use for them. They serve well to prop up my daughter’s iPad when she attends her online classes since its cover lacks a stand. However, I am drifting. So, what I want to say is that I am not going to define what strategy is. What I will do instead is to provide three traits by which you may recognize this noun named “strategy” the next time that you meet it. …


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Since the last meeting with the Master, the Seeker had started applying the two principles learnt from the Master.

(Please refer to the previous article, “How to enjoy your ice cream float?”)

  1. Difference between the straw (others’ perception of your success) and the ice cream float (your own sense of fulfillment)
  2. Ingredients of success beginning with ICEIdentity, Choices and End goals

They were meeting again. The Master inquired —

Master“So, how has been the experience of applying the two principles which we discussed last time?”

Seeker “I feel more in control. Often, I have to remind myself that I cannot blame others or my circumstances if something goes wrong. That is not easy, you know, but gradually I feel more empowered.”


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Image for post

The Ice Cream Float

Seeker“ I am not sure. I have a good job. I enjoy what I do. Of course, not all of it, but most of it. I also have a loving family. A few good friends as well. I am happy. Kind of, but I am not sure that I am successful.”

Master“What do you mean?”

Seeker“I mean that I could get another job which can pay me a lot more. Alternatively, I could do something which makes me famous. I am not sure which path to take to be more successful.”

The Master looks keenly at the Seeker and asks. …


A laptop, a phone, a stack of sticky notes and a couple of pens.
A laptop, a phone, a stack of sticky notes and a couple of pens.
Tools for a Virtual Design Sprint

Anakin “A Virtual Design Sprint! What is that?”

(Please refer to “Can we reinvent design sprint for a remote working world?”)

Shreya “We can still conduct the design sprint. Just that, instead of a physical, shared workspace such as a conference room, we will need to work together and collaborate using a virtual, shared workspace. We have plenty of options to choose from such as Microsoft Teams, Facebook Workplace or Slack.”

Anakin“I think that since we already use Microsoft Office 365, with Outlook, SharePoint and OneNote, we can perhaps go with Teams.”

Shreya“I guess that makes sense.”

About

Soumya Ranjan Dash

Be Creative. Be Productive.

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