Power of boring execution

How did Obama win so easily in what was predicted to be a close election? Some fascinating lessons for any business

#1. Overnight success built over 8 years

Obama’s victory is a lot to do with the power of execution than with vision and great speeches like last time. Democrats out organised and out reached their supporters. In a way their over night success was 8 years in the making. The databases, the demographic analytics and on the field volunteers.

#2. Customer segmentation and targetting

If the strategy was to focus on the poor / middle class voters and certain segments of likely voters based on race – everything about the first term presidency now looks like targeting that segment. In the end no one can be all things to all people (not with standing the 47% remarks)

#3. Pace yourself

There are good days and bad days. But it’s a fascinating lesson in pacing yourself (keep in mind Obama had a day job all thru the campaign)

#4. Strike good partnerships

Who can question the credibility and connect Bill Clinton brought to the campaign?

No big speeches or tag lines this time. Boring boring. The power of boring execution is here to see !!

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Learning from RahulG

RahulG is a great lesson for any entrepreneur …

1. You can aim for the moon, dream of reaching the stars and walk with your head in the clouds … but need to keep your feet on the ground – Know his guru Michael Porter taught him the power of grand vision and strategy … but he needs to appreciate the value of cheeky singles and keeping the score board ticking … and boring execution

2. You are only as good as your team – For all his enthusiasm and hard work, the team he projected to rule UP if they win wasn’t impressive … add to that bad advisors with foot-in-the-mouth disease !!

3. This is the world of alliances and re-usable libraries … you can’t do everything by yourself … co-opt others to help – Not finding good regional allies in an era of multi-party coalitions is the ultimate killer … true in politics … true in business … need partners.

4. Just do it – Why not just become a minister first, if not the PM … and just do it … how long will he “threaten to take over” … don’t over analyse and be paralysed … just do it.

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge

Charles Darwin noted “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge

Nobel prize winning psycho analysts defined what is known as the Dunning Kruger effect …

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which the unskilled suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes” See here for more

So if you are an entrepreneur in an area that you have no prior experience or domain knowledge … remember there is an irony in “believe in your self … believe in your idea“.

Account for a learning curve … surround yourself with sources of learning (customers, advisors, field research etc.)

Yes or No? I vote Mu

There are a lot of questions you ask in a startup that can’t be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No“.

Get used to scenarios such as

You don’t know either way, for sure“, “You don’t know enough“, “It’s too early tell“, “Need more data“, “Need more time

In all these cases accept that fact that one needs to “Un-Ask the question“.

In Japanese (and Korean) there is a word called Mu (in Chinese it is Wu) … it’s like NULL value in programming. You could answer Yes, No or Mu ….

a.k.a. Wikipedia on the Mu

The term is often used or translated to mean that the question itself must be “unasked” – “mu” in this sense means to “unask” the question or that no answer can exist in the terms provided.

In Robert M. Pirsig’s 1974 novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, mu is translated as “no thing”, saying that it meant “unask the question”. He offered the example of a computer circuit using the binary numeral system, in effect using mu to represent high impedance:

For example, it’s stated over and over again that computer circuits exhibit only two states, a voltage for “one” and a voltage for “zero.” That’s silly! Any computer-electronics technician knows otherwise. Try to find a voltage representing one or zero when the power is off! The circuits are in a mu state.

So don’t be afraid to say Mu … it may lead you ask a different question or answer it correctly in time.

So if your investor or employee or neighbour or wife or brother-in-law ask a question like “When will you be profitable” … relax, be confident, smile like a Zen master …. and  just say “Mu

Learning from Obama – Part II

Back in 2008 I wrote a post about learnings from Obama’s election for startups … I am now compelled to write the second part of that observing what appears to be dissapointing presidency of Barack Obama.

Here are some lessons for startups …

  1. Long term vision, scalability are all great but with out short term tactics there is no long term existence … why plan a new colour scheme when your house is on fire … put the fire out first
  2. Get quick wins to rally the team… instead of showing short term success , Obama started mega changes like Health Care and Energy that may take a decade to show any impact … even Sachin gets his centuries on the back of singles and not just 4s and 6s (home runs for Americana) … what about jobs today?
  3. At times one needs to know it’s time to stop selling and marketing … and focus inwards to build the product / service right. Execution matters … even more than ideas. Obama gets a C for execution, who cares if his ideas win Nobel prizes?
  4. What you say NO to matters more than what you say YES to … many times. Looking back … every time Obama didn’t say NO diluted his power and eroded his credibility … the latest spineless capitulation on Bush tax cuts will further alienate every one from all camps …. for a startup not saying NO will reduce focus at every step and eventually result in lack of excellence

American presidency is only of academic interest to me … but it’s sad to see such a dissapointing gap between expectation and reality for a leader who captured world’s imagination. One hopes the second half of this term will see an improvement in the same.

This surely teaches ideas, marketing, long term vision etc. are all great … but make no sense unless they matched with execution in the short term on the ground.


Views expressed are solely personal opinions of the author; and do not represent the views organizations/institutions he is associated in any form. The author has no responsibility for actions taken based on ideas expressed here.

(Sridhar Turaga’s Blog: An Indian Entrepreuner)

5 good reasons why CWG were messed up intentionally

May be Mr.  Suresh Kalmadi and his team are smarter than they look. Remember Pointy Haired Boss and Evil Dogbert?

Here may be 5 good reasons why they intentionally messed up CWG preparations.

#5. To embarrass the Queen and the British …

To tell them that even this last colonial relic of the British empire will defiled. No wonder Scotland was the first to confirm attendance … I understand this is one of the few international events where they compete with British under the Scottish flag …

#4. To set very low expectations before the games and then exceed them …

It’s the oldest trick in the book … set very low expectations and bring every one to a psychological state that anything decent after that (at least the flush works and we give every athlete their own mop to clean the rooms !!) looks like a brilliant turn around. Even NDTV started talking of a “turn around” today in their “balanced and mature” news coverage.

#3. Make sure none of the top athletes confirm attendance … and India wins all the Golds …

Easy one to see why …

#2. Anyways “Indians” will have to live in these after those 15 days …

The masses can’t be given world class infrastructure to live in with hygiene standards that are “not Indian” . They won’t feel at home living in Australia or Singapore. So they had to take a real long term view of this infrastructure and build it to “our hygiene standards”.

#1. Setup the foundation for Shri Rahul Gandhi’s entry  …

When Shri. Shivraj Patil made way for Shri. Chidambaram … every one got ecstatic about the obvious fact that the country must now be more secure because the later doesn’t seem to change his clothing with every security incident. (May be he does but all white looks the same every day … even NDTV’s Roy and Dutt are enamored with Shri Chidambaram … so we must be better off). So if Dr. Manmohan Singh is proved as a bad leader … Rahul Gandhi must be a great leader.

Can you think of more good reasons why there is a plan behind this mess …

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Views expressed are solely personal opinions of the author; and do not represent the views of the organizations/institutions he is associated in any form. The author has no responsibility for actions taken based on ideas expressed here.

(Sridhar Turaga’s Blog: An Indian Entrepreneur)


Easy lies this head with a crown …

Shakespeare wrote “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” … but Google wears it’s crown as the undisputed leader of online search quite easily. After dominating the space for years, it seemed as if new threats would shake their monarchy. Real time search, decision engine type search, Bing, mobile search etc. But they seem to blow them away !!

It’s fascinating to watch how Google added every such innovation as a simple product extensions (time based searches, indexing twitter feeds etc.) … then positioned themselves at the pole position in mobile search (both with the search portal optimised for mobile as well as extending adwords to WAP content … and buying AdMob).

Now they set the re-set button on the entire search experience with Google Instant and AJAX (?) powered search results that avoid full-page refresh for pagination. You just can’t do search anywhere else after using Instant … they feel like dial-up after using broadband.

I can only admire the innovation and boldness that drives Google (at least for the search part) that make them look so comfortable wearing the crown of the search space …

I won’t write about what Yahoo could have been (with mail, portal, groups, messenger etc.) … every one beats them up.

Instead I am hoping Nokia would take a leaf out of Google’s book and retain their market share with some bold moves.

(May be bear all access charges to synchronisation of contacts to Ovi free with leading telcos …. allowing non-Nokia mobiles to sync / use OVi etc. or give free downloads to a desktop client for top end models … I know they are allowing unlimited music downloads to X6 but who has the data plan and time to use that?)

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Views expressed are solely personal opinions of the author; and do not represent the views of the organizations/institutions he is associated in any form. The author has no responsibility for actions taken based on ideas expressed here.

(Sridhar Turaga’s Blog: An Indian Entrepreneur)