Evaluating Ideas

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Our brain keeps working all day. Even when we are sleeping. Thoughts waft in and out of our consciousness. There is always an inner voice babbling something about everything. There is a constant nagging in our minds, whether we choose to act on it or not is a different discussion. There are a thousand ideas that we get throughout the day- ideas that are silly, stupid, crazy, impossible, ambitious and a host of other varieties. All these ideas may be great as such. But in reality, not all can grow into something more than just an idea. There are other external and internal factors that influence and the situations that one is in lets only certain ideas to grow and thrive.

Spending a great deal of energy on an idea that is bound to fail due to the various conditions surrounding it is not an intelligent thing to do. True that “Nothing is Impossible”, but practically somethings are impossible. For example, for all the climate change that’s going on, you still cannot make it snow naturally in South India. As of now, that’s impossible. So, if your idea is to ice ski in Chennai, it’s not going to work. You might instead want to settle for ice skating in Chennai on an artificial ice rink, or get ready to go to a place where you can ice ski. In totality, you should be ready to alter your idea to fit in with other worldly and practical factors, simultaneously making sure that you don’t change the basic idea itself.

Well, so the first step to achieving great actions out of great ideas is to evaluate the plethora of ideas that your brain brings up all through the day, and pick the right ones that can become great. To simply put it, you have to evaluate your ideas.

For example, in the book “The Value Strategy” by G. Jagannathan, there is a chapter titled “Evaluation Phase: Weighing the Options”. This chapter basically talks about how ideas that have been taken from all the sources in a business meeting have to evaluated later for the “best alternative idea that will equally satisfy the basic function, at an overall reduced cost”. So, here we can see that the practical factor that would be key to the selection of the final idea is based on this. Some of the factors as identified in the book for the business that they discussed are safety, durability, reliability, cost, availability, acceptability by the user, etc.

Generally ideas can be evaluated by sorting out priorities. One should ask questions to oneself before they start implementing or working on an idea. Is the subject of the idea in itself most important to them? Or is it the end result that the idea can achieve more important? If the end result is more important, then is there any other idea that they have in mind that can lead to the result with lesser investment and better productivity?

What must be invested to carry out the idea? Is the subject of investment available (eg. money, time, land, etc.)? How sure does the result look? Is it a stand-alone idea or inter-dependent one?

The nature and type of questions will be different for different ideas. In fact, not all questions can be answered at the beginning. But these questions must be revisited every now and then to stay on track. As a final note, humans are passionate creatures with a powerful brain and our actions are driven by intuitions. So, on the pursuit of answering such questions and methodically sculpting ideas, one should not ignore the gut feeling that prompts us to do something even when the odds are against it. The evaluation phase is just to be statistically and cognitively informed. A balance is what we require for success.


Leadership Dharma

Raghu’s New book

We’ve recently released Raghu’s latest book, Leadership Dharma: Arjuna The Timeless Metaphor.  

Wonderfully written by Raghu its beautifully designed and illustrated by Manu and Divya.  A lot of work has gone into it’s publication.  Apart from Raghu, Manu and Divya, others who contributed are Prasad Kaipa and N Gopalkrishnan who helped in giving the book a shape.  Gopal helped Raghu rework the book improved the flow and made it more readable.  Davila Khazvini contributed a lot editing the copy..


In his foreword Prasad Kaipa writes, “…… our ancient wisdom – recorded through stories in the Upanishads, Jataka kathas, Puranas and Itihasas have to be retold in way that the modern young people cause use those stories to reflect on themselves and gain self knowledge.  That is how smart people become wise.


Raghu is one such story-teller who knows more than enough about Indian wisdom and is sufficiently deeply interested in the modern IT and entrepreneurial India.  He lives with the latest while reflecting on the oldest, at the sae time.  I have seen it first hand.”


Now Raghu has retold the story of the five Pandavas in the context of modern organisation.

A truly well written and beautifully designed book which will give you a deep insight into people and organisations.







The Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED) technique although originated in the automobile industry has proved to be a major threshold in various other industries also. In the late 1950s, Shigeo Shingo, a consultant of the then small automobile company named Toyota realized that large pieces of equipment requiring die changes for the manufacturing of metal sheets was taking too much time resulting in the production of large batches which increased overall costs of the company. SMED was born to facilitate quick changeover of the die. He has written a great book, A Revolution in manufacturing, which describes and guides the reader in a step-by-step manner in this methodology.
Contrary to popular perception, the methodology of SMED is not exclusive to light engineering industry or specifically to sheet metal industry. Over the years, I have come across the application of this methodology in several industries like, Pharmaceuticals, Oil Refineries, Paints, Plastics, Food Processing, Textiles, Soaps, Shoes, and so on. The list is endless. The possibilities are infinite. Sky is the limit for applying to core knowledge of SMED and extend it to improving the process wherever there is a changeover.
Proper implementation of this technique is of great importance in the industries with batch processing. The common problem faced by such companies is heavy production of material in batches. A large Pharmaceutical Formulation Plant has several distinct production areas and it manufactures hundreds of stock-keeping units (SKUs) in batch production mode. In one area technicians blend APIs (Active Pharma Ingredients, the drug) and other key materials (called Exepients) in huge stainless steel equipments. The blend is then compressed into tablets of different sizes based on potency requirement in rapidly rotating machines. Sometime blends, when transformed into a form of pellets, are used for filling into capsules.
Subsequently, depending on their drug release pattern, tablets are coated or left uncoated. The pills are inspected to weed out bad ones. The good ones are then sent to packing lines to pack them in different quantities in blisters, strips, bottles or pouches.
In some plants, there are lines for injectables, gels, lotions, ointments and liquids, which are closer to continuous process, which differ significantly from the process of manufacturing tablets and capsules.
All these different products, processes, packaging means a mind-boggling amount of changeovers which, in a typical plant, can take anything from 30 minutes to nearly 4 hours ! The longer the changeover time, the larger the size of the bath that has to go through such a set up. Larger batches mean the time taken between producing two batches will be very long. This, in turn, means some products will be is short supply and some other products will show a huge surplus inventory. batches. Thus we see that a pharmaceutical factory produces large batches of materials because:
Supplies take a long time to retrieve
Cleaning up from the last batch takes long
Equipments used cannot process small batches
Production of small batches may have great variations.
Once the exact reasons are categorized, applying quick changeover methodology in pharma industry becomes easier and effective as well. In today’s market pharmaceutical manufacturers are experiencing unprecedented market conditions. They are facing tough market competition and the SMED technique has helped them to speed up their process and reduce cost and unnecessary wastage.

Pharma industry enjoys some major advantages by the application of the SMED technique as it helps in reducing the batch size of the products thereby reducing the stock abundance and immobilized capital and prevents wastage due to over production. Also, Simplified operations can be performed without much variation and ensure consistent quality.
All this underscores the urgent need for and relevance of SMED in the pharma sector.
The SMED technique has not only proved vital for Toyota but for various other sectors like pharmaceutical sector and companies involving manual assembly processes. Service organizations also benefit from the SMED technique.

The India Way

Recently, I came across a fascinating new book titled, The India Way : How India’s Top Business Leaders Are Revolutionizing Management.  This book is written by four Professory from The Wharton School, Peter Cappelli, Harbir Singh, Jitendra Singh, and  Michael Useem.

  Peter Cappelli is the George W. Taylor Professor of Management and director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School.  •He is the editor of Academy of Management Perspectives, and the author of The New Deal at Work: Managing the Market-Driven Workforce and Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty.

  Harbir Singh is the William and Phyllis Mack Professor of Management and co-director of the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at the Wharton School.  •He is widely published in the areas of strategy, governance, acquisitions, joint ventures, and restructuring and is the coeditor of Innovations in International and Cross-Cultural Management.

  Jitendra Singh is the Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management at the Wharton School.  •He has coauthored several books, including Emerging Multinationals in Emerging Markets, and he has served on the boards of several companies, including Infosys Technologies and Emcure Pharmaceuticals in India

  Michael Useem is the William and Jacalyn Egan Professor of Management and director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management at the Wharton School.   •He is the author of several books on leadership, including The Inner Circle , Investor Capitalism and The Leadership Moment.

All four of them are th top of their careers presently.  It was out of sheer academic interest and personal curiousity that they started research on India.  Over a four year period theysurveyed over a hundred publicly listed companies and personally interviewed over a hundred Chairmen and CEOs of some of India’s best companies.  In all, the book represents twelve manyears of work!

I hd a opportunity to attend a talk by Prof Jitendra Singh at The Great Lakes Instt of Management here in Chennai, rather at their impressive new campus a little beyond Mahabalipuram.  It was very interesting and I found his insites fascinating.

According to the authors there are four pillars of the India Way :

  •Holistic Engagement with Employees

•Improvisation & Adaptability

•Creative Value Propositions

•Broad Mission & Purpose

I came across a blog byProf  Michael Useem today and I encourage you to read it   http://blogs.wsj.com/india-chief-mentor/2010/06/24/building-business-the-india-way/

In this blog he describes four common threads they found throughout their research –

First, Indian executives see their most important goal as serving a social mission, not maximizing shareholder value, as in the U.S.

Second, Indian executives measure and manage almost every aspect of human resource practices and effectiveness, significantly more so than in the U.S. firms.

Third, Indian executives banged away at hard problems with a trial-and-error approach that is deeply rooted in a culture of scarcity and constraints. 

And fourth, Indian companies are less interested in acquiring competencies through mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, or other externally oriented approaches compared to American firms.

With the India way of operating, many Indian firms have achieved rapid growth for most of the decade.  If Indian firms have grown faster than others, the reason can be found in the India Way of managing.

I encourage you to read it.  If you are working for a foreign company, I reommend you buy a few copies and send it to your head office.

You know where ypu can get a copy – kkbooks.com of course.