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The Complete Thinking Children August 27, 2011

Posted by aglakadam in Management, Motivation.
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The right mobile handset for me is not just a means for voice communication but also a tool to online check my emails. I am very conservative at gadget acquisition and showoff ( if at all). I had been using the same old handset since almost five years till now when my kids admonished me to upgrade myself with the latest talk tool. Though my old phone was still able to deliver the elementary services, I succumbed to their relentless requests and changed my phone.

The shift from a routine phone to a smart phone with a million features was like a trip in the wonderland. The exuberance got hijacked when I realized that there was everything which I could live without but the most vital element, all my existing contacts, was unavailable in the new phone. It was a challenge to get the contacts transferred from symbian to android technology.

There was a vendor who could help me do this for a few hundred rupees but I did not want to share my contacts with any outsider fearing data theft! I resorted for help from a very good friend of mine, Amarjeet Singh, whom I consider as my Mobile Technology Guru (MTG). He is a man for all occasions when it comes to the last unresolved bug out of technology. After brewing a lot of ideas he gave many suggestions which were all seemingly good but very complex. Suggestions easier to execute did not work for me easily. I was disappointed; almost 1500 contacts were now waiting for a manual re-entry into this new phone. Given the scarcity of time, I had in my life, this was a daunting task by all measures. I decided to continue the use of my old phone; I remembered the adage ‘old is gold’.

My daughter Mahima pointed at me with her eyes questioning the lack of shine on my face. I told her that it was some time when I could use the new phone because the contact data was yet to be transferred. Papa give me one chance, I have some ideas and I think I can transfer all the data from your old phone to the new one. Tick tick tick ..  It was just 15 minutes when Mahima came back and shared “You can now use this new phone Papa, all your contact data has been transferred”.

. I was shocked, surprised and amazed with her technological prowess. I now knew for sure that she is an engineer material. How you could do this Mahima in just a few minutes which we could not do it over 48 hours? “You are really great”, I appreciated her. Papa you are unnecessarily praising me, it’s very easy, just use the Bluetooth and transfer all the data, that’s it! Honestly in all the wilderness this idea of transferring contacts from one operating system to another in as it is form through Bluetooth did never strike me nor my MTG.  I had searched pages on google.com for support on this subject but nowhere did I get this simple idea of transferring data. When it comes to lateral thinking, children can outperform even googl.com because they think with the ignorance of convention!

We all need to re-learn the art to think from basics, I call this as “Complete Thinking”. With age what we lose is to look at life situations from a fresh perspective always. With experiences in life we lose the ability to “think completely”. When a child arrives at a solution for a difficult situation it is invariably because of her ability to “think completely”. We, the learned professionals, are more aware and hence more biased. What might not work or what will work in any particular situation gets thoroughly ingrained in our minds. We behave as per our pre conceived and biased frame of thoughts. We look for outside of the box and close our eyes to solutions lying within our reach.

Complete Thinking helps us to look at a situation with profound simplicity. There was this story of Russian astronauts, when they first where to venture into space. Since there is no gravity up there, a fountain pen won’t work, how do they take notes in that case? Without notes the mission would fail. After many rounds of high tech discussions when the scientists could not design a pen which would work against gravity, a small kid suggested the use of pencil in place of pen! A pencil works irrespective of the gravity. This idea spread an euphoria: Wow, we never thought it this way!

At the turn of the 20th century the Y2K bug or ‘the millennium problem’ had sent waves of terror amongst all those who were on computer based data storage technology. When all the latest software languages could not deliver a solution to address the rollover” from x99 to x00, it was someone in India who used the elementary & old (and also so called outdated) language Fortran  to get a complete solution for it. A challenge which looked so massive in its nature was resolved very easily only because of “Complete Thinking”.

Let’s unlearn our old beliefs and start learning fresh again. Impossible is nothing and nothing is impossible. What we feel can’t happen, chances are that someone somewhere is determined to make it happen. Our brain gets into the pattern-making habit and this obscures obvious patterns of solutions which work. We need to turn it upside down, the change in the orientation of things can make the solution patterns emerge. Think beyond limitations. Thoughts are all powerful. Thoughts have the energy to give us all the solutions that we may need in the world. Think Completely.

LESSONS FOR EXCELLENCE :

  1. Outside the box thinking might not be a fruitful proposition unless you have done with all the conventional thinking first.
  2. In the enthusiasm to come with innovative solutions, don’t just look at things differently, look at them as if a very elementary solution was readily available.
  3. Learning new topics gives us the vision to acquire breadth of possible solutions.
  4. Don’t just think forward, sometimes think reverse and turn the thoughts upside down to reach to the right solution.
  5. When your get stuck up, think like a child or ask a child to suggest a solution.

 

Ajit Varwandkar

Email : info@fsindia.in

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You and I can beat recession August 18, 2011

Posted by aglakadam in International Issues, National Issues.
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Mrs. Geeta Khurana, an architect, used to work for a leading construction company. Her husband was a practicing Chartered Accountant.  Both had an exceptionally peaceful family life full of love and understanding. It was daily chore for them to have breakfast and dinner together at home along with their children. One particular day Mr. Pravin Khurana did not reach home at the time he generally used to report back every day. Natural reaction was to contact him on his cell, which eventually was not responding.

After three hours when the CA reached home he saw a lot of mayhem inside. The house was full of people, the police, the neighbor’s and a few media people. While he was shocked to see the audience at home, all others were relieved to see him safe. Since Pravin did not reach home and also since he was not responding on cell, Mrs. Khurana got panicked and called up the police station to inform that her husband was missing.  What actually happened is this – on his way back from office Pravin witnessed one accident and rushed to help the injured. He had to go to the nearby hospital and as such he got delayed. In the process someone stole his cell phone and he could not update his status at home.

Friends you and I are no different. Think about it – what comes first to our thoughts when a near & dear one does not reach home at the expected hour? Would one think that the person might have hit a jack pot on the way and would be counting the amount! Nope. Invariably one would worry of some accident on the way. It’s very natural for human brain to readily accept the possibility of a negative consequence. That’s the treatment it gets right from its birth. It requires conscious efforts for an individual to anticipate and accept a positive outcome out of uncertain situations.

Something similar happened to the world last week when credit rating firm Standard & Poor’s stunned the whole world by downgrading the U.S. government’s debt rating to AA+ from AAA. This was the first time in history that America lost its top-rung rating.  Although this downgraded of US by S&P was not the end of the world, it gave birth to a tsunami of panic driven speculations across the world. The newspapers started talking of the second consecutive recession. The world became a theater of sentiments where the drama of downfall was being staged. 

A national TV channel interviewed me the same day and wanted to have my views on the likely job market scenario if there was a double-dip recession. Though I am not an economist I refuted the possibilities of job losses and bad times. They were not convinced and started interrogating me in a manner in which police would question a suspect. I stood strong on my stand and tried to convince them. S&P’s US downgrade did not mean companies in India will start throwing out their manpower from the window. It was just one indicator. Even billionaire Warren Buffett has expressed that US economy will avoid its likely recession in three years.

Every recession has a distinct point of ignition. 1995 recession was different, 2008 was due to the fallout of subprime lending. Even the who’s who in India were caught unaware in the last recession.  On the eve of Lehman debacle, Tata’s had signed up the takeover of Corus steel in a multibillion dollar deal. As such the impact of recession was also unexpectedly harsh. But today India is not unaware; inventory and manpower levels are well within manageable limits in the core segment. There would however be certain sectors which may face the heat. Even if economy gets into a continuous phase of de-growth I thing we can be sure of is that there won’t be episodes of mass unemployment this time.  

Actually the scars of 2008 recession are still live and it does not allow our naïve brain to stop extrapolating the negative. Relax: It is most unlikely that the world would plunge into a ‘once more’ recession. While the news of likely recession was on fire, there were some positives which happened simultaneously but did not get the public sentiments. There are signs of modest improvement which should quiet the slowdown worries. Here is a list of these encouraging news sentiments: Reputed rating agencies (other than S&P) like Moody’s and Fitch have not downgraded US. In July’2011 US added 117000 jobs, better than the previous two months. Hiring picked up and the unemployment rate dipped to 9.1 percent. Goldman Sachs on Monday upgraded India to ‘market weight’ from ‘underweight’. With the macro cycle oil prices were likely to roll down and a newspaper report said petrol could come down by Rs. 10/- a liter!

Life differs in each ones perspective. A deaf child says : “For all of you I am deaf, but for me all of you are dumb.” I am sure the US downgrade doesn’t warrant too much of panic like it did in 2008. Need of the hour is to refrain from being a negative thinker. Since we may not know the details of the macro economic developments across the globe let’s not succumb to a recessionary thought process. Worries of negative expectations lead to ignorant negative speculations on a mass scale. Businesses across the nation would adopt the ‘wait and watch’ strategy and this may subsequently trigger recession. Hence it is better to be wishfully optimistic than to be hopelessly pessimistic.  Positive thoughts will encourage & help build up sentiments leading to overall growth. Let’s together cultivate an optimistic belief about the future and spread the positive word around. 

LESSONS FOR EXCELLENCE :

  1. 1.       Let’s train our thoughts to dwell more on “hope for the best” and less on “be prepared for the worst”.
  2. 2.       No poison can kill a positive thinker and no medicine can heal a negative mind! Be it life or business; teach yourself to be positive in the world of expectations.
  3. 3.       “Words are under your control until you speak them, but you come under their control once you have spoken them!”
  4. 4.       Tongue is the biggest tool of mass destruction as well as mass construction. Let’s use it constructively.
  5. 5.       Collectively all of us can defeat recession by endorsing the right sentiments.

 

Ajit Varwandkar

Email : info@fsindia.in

How much homework is enough for students? August 7, 2011

Posted by aglakadam in Children n Students, National Issues.
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What is your homework policy?

I happened to be discussing about school education and child upbringing with one senior bureaucrat recently. The officer’s son was studying in one of the most prestigious ( & costly too!) school in the town, however he was still seemingly unhappy about his child’s performance at school and at home. He said, “Ajit Ji, readymade Maggy ko pani mein ubal ke agar gharwali khana parosegi to usne khana banaya bolenge kya?” ( If the housewife buys a ready to eat food, just boil’s it and arranges it for you to eat, will she be given the credit of preparing a good food?). I said, Not really. That’s what is happening to our children today. His complaint was that for every home work assignment which his son gets, he prefers to surf the internet, download the data, do a bit of copy-paste-reformat and finish the homework. I am afraid tomorrow he may upload his homework on face book and update the status!

When parent’s meet what they most of the time discuss and speak is about their children. A variety of ideas and information gets churned out in such discussions. One lady who shifted her son to a new school, feels it’s a very good school only because back home she had never seen her son so immoderately busy with his homework. In her words, “Now a day’s my son ‘studies’ a lot!” Actually her son is most of the times busy completing his homework.  On the contrary here is one senior banker who curses his son’s school like anything. What they tell the child to do at home is only to copy down the matter from textbook to homework copy. Worst is this that most of the time his son is on a multitasking mode. He does all his topo job (copy work) simultaneously while he is watching those film fare awards or other reality shows on the idiot box ( television). When cross questioned his son has a logical explanation “ Dad, till date not even a single such assignment has been checked by our teacher. She will only put a red colour mark to fulfill her statutory responsibility. Even if I write down the story of DON 2 in between the notes still I can get the “red colour OK mark and signature” from my teacher on the home work submission!”

Friends won’t you agree that doing such homework is just like eating a heavy dose of junk food which has no nourishment but only satisfies the sense of having eaten something!” If there is zero importance to homework given to children, it will only kill the students productive time and make him dull. I recall my school days when if I were to prepare for a debate on any topic first I used to use all my available information in the memory bank to scribble the preliminary framework. Then discuss it with parents and friends to make it more relevant ( obviously we did not have search engines those days!). Finally our teacher used to do the final cut and approve or disapprove the content. On the contrary in today’s era  if a student has to prepare for a debate, I can bet, 95 out of 100 students will log on to google.com and download the content (rest 5 might not have the  “right to internet” at home!)

In the current schooling system I have observed a gross disconnect between school homework and its expected output. Students from various schools share that they get homework from various subject teachers in different periods. Sometimes the summation of homework given by all the subject teachers in a particular day grossly surpasses the students capacity to accommodate. Students from lower classes are sometimes given assignments and projects which are very difficult for them to execute. In one school a class II student got an assignment to make a model of Roads and Buildings. This child has not been prepared to take on such an assignment on his own and as such the project gets outsourced to the kids parents or brother-sisters. This is a typical case of a fruitless home work. In the process the child learns to daringly fake in front of the world when she proclaims that she has done that project on her own! 

Be it an essay contest preparation or any kind of a project work submission there are off line and online companies which offer a readymade solution. This should not sound like news that there are various homework vendors available in big markets who offer to do your child’s homework in exchange of a few rupees! Home work is a booming business in a few metro’s now a days, specially the ‘bulk home work’s’ like summer home work or the winter homework!

Homework is defined as out-of-class tasks assigned to students as an extension or elaboration of classroom lessons. In effect I think, there could be three main purposes of  homework:

  1. Make the student practice at home what has been taught in school.
  2. Make her to prepare for the examinations.
  3. As an extended learning ( skill development and extra curriculum)

A lot of research has been done on the need and relevance of home work given to school children and its relevance in the current context. It has been found that homework is a largely effective in enhancing the student’s performance but only when it is executed by the student in the intended manner. According to a Duke professor of psychology Mr. Harris Cooper, there is a positive correlation between home work and student performance specially for secondary school students. Too much or too little home work, both work against the students learning aptitude. The research suggests assigning of 10 minutes of homework per day per grade-level. Accordingly class I students should get 10 minutes worth of homework while 9th graders can accommodate 90 minutes of homework.

Assigning homework should have educational value and should serve to enhance the learning. It should not attempt to supplement the time constraint in school in order to cover up the full course curriculum.  Homework is a tool which should be effectively and intelligently used by the school administration to leverage intellectual discipline and establishes desirable study habits. It should reinforce the lessons studied in school. As a by-product home work should bring the home and the school as well as the teacher and the parent close to each other.

LESSONS FOR EXCELLENCE :

  • Every school should have a well discussed and properly designed homework policy.
  • Before going for the internet resources, students should be educated and encouraged to at least attempt the first level of assignment with the available resource with him in his mind.
  • Feedback improves the effectiveness of homework, especially when the homework submission is genuinely reviewed and feedback given in a timely manner.
  • Attempt should be made to limit after school activities so that student has enough time to manage various other activities like sports, social networking, relationships etc.
  • Homework should entice the parents to monitor the child’s work at home, but it should not compel them to get into “on the job” execution support at home.

 

Ajit Varwandkar

Email : info@fsindia.in