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Monkeys on Fairness and Team Productivity

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Sarah Brosnan and Frans de Waal at Emory University have been studying group behavior among primates for years.

In a recent study, Brosnan taught a group of capuchin monkeys to perform a bit of “work” – putting a pebble into a cup. Each time they completed the task, they were given a small reward – a slice of cucumber. Nice, straightforward reward system.

Brosnan puts two monkeys side by side, both performing happily and collecting their cucumbers.

This is the state of equilibrium. Work felt fairly distributed. Rewards evenly distributed.

The team is productive. Tireless. Happy.

Back on the monkey front, things change.

Brosnan starts giving one of the monkeys grapes instead of cucumbers. Capuchin monkeys like cucumbers. But they love grapes. All hell breaks loose.

The monkey still getting cucumbers can’t believe it. Formerly cooperative, the industrious capuchins refuse to work at all. They screech in protest. In some iterations, the cucumber monkey stops working.

Others throw the cucumbers back at Brosnan. One throws it on the floor and stomps on it (and the neighboring grape monkey reaches in, grabs it and eats it). Apparently the desire for fairness is hardwired not only in humans, but in our primate cousins as well.

And inside any team or community, individuals look to peers to judge whether they themselves are being treated fairly.

If you are getting the same treatment as someone you consider an equal, all is well. Or if you have a good explanation for why they are getting better or worse treatment – you can tell a story that explains the difference — harmony and productivity reign.


Written by pradeep1701

January 28, 2013 at 8:11 am

Measure of success

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One day a young man on his journey, came to the banks of a wide river.

Staring hopelessly at the great obstacle in front of him, he pondered for hours on just how to cross such a wide barrier.

Just as he was about to give up his pursuit to continue his journey he saw his Boss on the other side of the river.

 The young man yells over to the Boss “Hello Sir, can you tell me how to get to the other side of the river”?

The Boss ponders for a moment looks up and down the river and yells back “Dear young man, you are on the other side and I am also wondering what to do”

 —- Sometimes, the measure of success is not in How far you go to reach the other place

Written by pradeep1701

January 16, 2013 at 9:05 am

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A Negotiation Story – Don’t Confuse Position with Interests

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Simon is a sales executive in a software company that provides sales management solutions to the life assurance industry. A typical sale for Simon comprises a software license fee of $80,000, with an additional annual maintenance and support charge of $20,000, for a total purchase price of $100,000. Having competed effectively in a bid to a large insurance company, Simon was the preferred supplier. When it came to the negotiation, the buyer informed Simon that he needed him to sharpen his pencil a little, as he was only prepared to pay $75,000 in total. Simon was surprised, and a little dejected. He couldn’t sell the software without maintenance, and there wasn’t any way he could provide a full 25% discount. He tried everything to raise the buyer’s offer. He offered free additional training programs to the buyer. He suggested that, if he could hold his price, he could add a second year’s maintenance at a reduced rate. He even offered a dedicated support agent, just for that customer. It was all to no avail. The customer held firm, stating that he could only pay $75,000. Simon was confused. This customer had been reasonable to deal with right through the selling cycle. He provided information as requested and gave honest feedback on issues and progress. Simon felt he was at an impasse. The customer wouldn’t move from his $75,000 number – not one dollar. Finally, Simon just asked the customer, “What’s magic about $75,000?”

The customer’s response opened the door to a solution. “It’s all I have left in this year’s budget.”

Though Simon had checked budget availability earlier in the selling cycle, a small project had been approved that took $50,000 from his buyer’s coffers, leaving him with only $75,000. That left him $25,000 short, if he agreed to Simon’s number. The buyer’s issue wasn’t value or price. It was that year’s budget. His position stated that all he was prepared to pay was $75,000, while his interest, once uncovered, revealed that $75,000 was all he was prepared to pay in that financial year.

Simon solved the problem by selling him a two-year maintenance contract, and agreeing a payment schedule that met his customer’s requirements. “Can you commit to a two-year support deal, if I structure the payment schedule such that you only have to pay $75,000 this year?”

Written by pradeep1701

January 2, 2013 at 6:29 am

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What is Love?

One day, Plato asked his teacher, “What is love? How can I find it?” His teacher answered, “There is a vast wheat field in front. Walk forward without turning back, and pick only one stalk. If you find the most magnificent stalk, then you have found love.” Plato walked forward, and before long, he returned with empty hands,having picked nothing.His teacher asked, “Why did you not pick any stalk?” Plato answered, “Because I could only pick once, and yet I could not turn back. I did find the most magnificent stalk, but did not know if there were any better ones ahead, so I did not pick it. As I walked further, the stalks that I saw were not as good as the earlier one, so I did not pick any in the end.His teacher then said, “And that is love.”

What is Marriage?

On another day, Plato asked his teacher, “What is marriage? How can I find it?” His teacher answered, “There is a thriving forest in front. Walk forward without turning back, and chop down only one tree. If you find the tallest tree, then you have found marriage.” Plato walked forward, and before long, he returned with a tree. The tree was not thriving, and it was not tall either. It was only an ordinary tree. His teacher asked, “Why did you chop down such an ordinary tree?” Plato answered, “Because of my previous experience. I walked halfway through
the forest. This time, I saw this tree, and I felt that it was not bad, so I chopped it down and brought it back. I did not want to miss the opportunity.” His teacher then said, “And that is marriage.”


Written by pradeep1701

December 28, 2012 at 8:26 am

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An excerpt from “You Can’t Send a Duck to Eagle School” by Mac Anderson

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Not long ago, a friend sent me the story of “Old Warwick.”I think it shares a wonderful lesson for every leader to learn.

A man was lost while driving through the country.

As he tried to reach for the map, he accidentally drove off the road into a ditch.

Thought he wasn’t injured, his car was stuck deep in the mud.

So the man walked to a nearby farm to ask for help.

Pointing to an old mule standing in a field, the farmer said “Warwick can get you out of that ditch,”.

The man looked at the decrepit old mule and looked at the farmer who just stood there repeating, “Yep, old Warwick can do the job.”

The man figured he had nothing to lose.

The two men and the mule made their way back to the ditch.

The farmer hitched the mule to the car.

With a snap of the reins, he shouted, “Pull, Fred! Pull, Jack! Pull, Ted! Pull, Warwick!”.

And the mule pulled that car right out of the ditch. The man was amazed.

He thanked the farmer, patted the mule, and asked, “Why did you call out all of those names before you called Warwick?”.

The farmer grinned and said, “Old Warwick is just about blind.

As long as he believes he’s part of a team, he doesn’t mind pulling”.

  • Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision.
  • The ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives.
  • It is the fuel that allows common people to obtain uncommon results.

Written by pradeep1701

December 12, 2012 at 3:51 am

Harsha Bhogle on Sachin & World Cup

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Remember when you failed an examination. How many people recall that, your class, friends, relatives? You failed to make it to the IITs or IIMs. Who remembers. How many times have you had the feeling of being the best in your class, school , university, state….., you failed to get a visa stamped this quarter…, you missed a promotion this year…, how did it feel when you dad told you in your early twenties that you are good for nothing…..and now your boss tell you the same…

You keep introspecting and go into a shell when people most of whom don’t matter a dime in your life criticize you, back bite you, make fun of you. You are left sad and shattered and you cry when your own kin scoffs at you. You say I am feeling low today. It takes a lot from us to come out of these everyday situations and move on. A lot??? really?

Now here’s a man standing on the third man boundary in the last over of a world cup match. The bowler just has to bowl sensibly to win this game. What the man at the boundary sees is 4 rank bad bowls bowled without any sense of focus, planning or regret. India loses, yet again in those circumstances when he has done just about everything right.

He does not cry. Does not show any emotion. Just keeps his head down and leaves the field. He has seen these failures for 22 years now. And not just his class, relatives, friends but the whole world has seen these failures. We are too immature to even imagine what goes on in that mind and heart of his. That’s why I would never want to be Sachin.

True, he has single handedly lifted to moods of this entire nation umpteen number of times. He has been an inspiration to rise above our mediocrity. Nobody who has ever lifted the willow even comes close to this man’s genius. His dedication and mental strength is unparallel. This is specially for those people who would have made fun of him again last night when India lost. They are people who are mediocre in their own lives. Who just scoff at others to create cheap fun. Who have lived in a small hole throughout their lives and thought they have seen the oceans.

Think about the man himself. He is 37 years of age. He has been playing almost non stop for 22 years. The way he was running and diving around the field last night would have put 22 year olds to shame. The way he played the best opening quickies in the world was breathtaking. He just keeps getting better which is by the way humanly impossible. Its not for nothing that people call him GOD.

But still I don’t want to be in those shoes. We struggle in keeping our monotonous lives straight, lives which affect a limited number of people. Imagine what would be the magnitude of the inner struggle for him, pain both mental and physical, tears that have frozen with time, knees and ankles and every other joint in the body that is either bandaged or needs to be attended to every night, eyes that don’t sleep before a big game, bats that have scored 99 international tons and still see expectations from a billion people.

And he just converts those expectations into reality. We watch in awe, feel privileged.

Well I think its time that his team realizes that enough is enough. They have an obligation, not towards their country alone but towards sachin. They need to win this one for him. Stay assured that he himself will still deliver and leave no stone unturned to make sure India wins this cup.

This is not just a game, and he is not just a sportsman. Its much more than this. Words fail here…..


Written by pradeep1701

December 12, 2012 at 3:47 am

Story: Deliver the Expectations

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Last week, I had to buy a cabin bag to gift it to someone. My requirement was to buy a cabin bag of any make which falls in the price range of 3K to 4K INR. Also, I had preferences of going with American Tourister brand if it falls within my price range. First, I went to the VIP store as I could not find an exclusive American Tourister store at the InOrbit mall. The guy at the VIP store asked my requirement and showed me around 3 models (3150, 4150 make of VIP and 3500: make of Skybags, a VIP subsidiary). I somehow did not feel like buying as the guy did not offer me any discount or any value add and the most important he was not interested in making me buy as he was not trying to build a rapport. J

So, I have asked him if I can get American Tourister baggage somewhere here. He was generous to share that I can find the American Tourister collection at the LifeStyle store on the same floor. So, I went to the LifeStyle store to check the collection. They had a very good spread of Samsonite, Carlton, American Tourister & VIP which was good enough for me to make a decision.   This time the attendant has narrated the features of cabin baggage of all the brands that fall within my price range. He has finally suggested me to go with the cabin baggage price tagged 3500 price of the make: SkyBags.

After putting in a lot of thought, I have made up my mind to go with the same. This is where the actually story begun. As I mentioned in the first line that I need a cabin bag which I would like to gift it to someone. Now that I have the cabin bag decided, I would need to check for the options to get it gift wrapped or have a way to carry it to be able to give it as a gift. It is quite obvious that I cannot just give the bag in hand without any covering on the top of it.

Now, the time has come to decide whether to go with the LifeStyle or buy from the exclusive VIP store. Please note that both the stores are not interested in extending any offer on top of the 3500 price tag. Ideally, it would make sense for me to buy at the VIP store as the claims would be a little easier than others.

So, I wanted to take some time before taking a final call. I have told the attendant at the LifeStyle store that I would come back in a couple of minutes. Now, I went back to the VIP store to check if they can get it wrapped up by a cover or tie it with up with a ribbon or do something to make it commendable for gifting. His answer was that the only thing that can be done is to enclose in a transparent plastic cover which comes with the baggage. He also said that I haven’t heard of any customer buying a cabin luggage as a gift. On top of it, he wasn’t really keen on finding out ways to fulfill my expectation. All the answers were closed-ended. J

At the moment, the only option is to buy from the LifeStyle store provided they make it reasonable for gifting. Now, the response from the store guy made me take a decision as he did not disregard my need rather took time to check if it can be gift-wrapped. He checked with the respective team and informed me that they cannot gift-wrap huge items like a cabin bag. Now, I thought of a more reasonable option of giving it in a cover which I can hold and carry. A carry bag would also make it easy for handing it over anyone as a gift. The store-guy went and checked with the respective team, this time the answer was yes but an withan extra charge. Though they do not maintain jumbo bags, he got to know that the “Home Store”, a subsidiary of the LifeStyle store keeps such jumbo ones as they deal with the home articles which demand for huge carry bags.

Finally, I went ahead and bought the cabin bag from LifeStyle as they were able to address my expectation of “a cabin baggage to gift it to someone and within the price range of 3K to 4K”.

The moral of the story is that you need to deliver the expectations and not just a product or a requirement. This story also signifies the importance of asking questions to understand the actual expectation behind a requirement. In the above case, my requirement was just to buy a cabin baggage within 3k to 4K but my expectation was to get it reasonably packed for gifting. Surprisingly, I have noticed that all our assumptions & thought process take a U-turn after you get to hear the expectations.

Also, this signifies the need for understanding the actual expectation beforehand as no one would be interested in telling you that last-minute tag line which will influence the decision making so much unless someone shows interest & invests time to know about it. I call the expectation as last-minute tag line because this is that underlying criteria which largely influences the final call and you get to know only at the last-minute. J


1)       Deliver the expectations instead of delivering a requirement

2)       Ask questions to get more clarity about the actual expectation

3)       Become genuinely interested & Invest time in understanding the expectation

In this case, I had to take a decision just about a cabin bag. Think of a case where you would need to deliver a project with tight deadlines and you get to know about the actual expectation which influences the success criteria only at the last-minute.

I just wanted to share this experience as I thought this might be that factor which will make us be more productive & efficient (for professionals) and bring repeat customers for any kind of business in the current competitive world. Please do share your stories if any.

Signing off…..!!! Pradeep Narsimhula

Written by pradeep1701

December 10, 2012 at 8:37 am

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