Archive for March, 2010

When Engineers Ideated on Pins

I did a session on ideation at PESIT in Bangalore, recently, as part of Nandini’s entrepreneurship course there. This was different from the last time when I did a session at SIMB. You can read about the session here. Now, we tried to play with certain ideation related myths and in the end also gave them an activity on creativity, what the bunch of students did was mind-blowing.

This time round, we also did some thought exercises around how to ideate better and how we tend not to share our ideas for fear of peer ridicule. It was fun, as the engineers found their own shortcuts into the exercises which proved to be even more deadlier than the finer points I was trying to drive in. At the end of the session, we gave them a task to get as creative as possible with 5 paper pins, some of them were given an agenda of thinking big and some of them were asked to keep it as personally relevant as possible.

The teams sailed through the next day with ideas ranging from making toys for children and using the pins for color and shape identification to using the pins to make flexible photo frames. Some of them used it more symbolically to make a circuit to represent the importance of adapting to change and some others used the meaning of pins (to support or hold together) to launch a website to help with social causes. Some very practical ideas ranging from jewellery to insulin shots (through capillary action) also emerged. One of the teams had a very interesting idea on using the pins to create a solenoid effect and light up a string of LEDs and use pins to create a 3D effect on a picture. The most funniest idea prize goes to the team which came up with the thought that they could use the pins to do acupuncture on fish to make them unconscious while being transported live and then bring them back to life through another acupuncture process. They had the whole class in splits for several minutes!

The whole class had a lot of fun and shows tremendous potential. Wishing them all the best with their entrepreneurial ideas!

Farmville goes to school

I was sitting at a bench near a principal’s office in a school. 4 young boys about 10 years of age were sitting next to me, preparing for their exams.

One turns to the other and asks, “what happened to your plants?”, the other retorts, “5 or 6 of them withered and the rest I harvested” and I’m left dumb struck that the children of this age could be so “into” plants and stuff! Another boy joins the group and continues the conversation, “I’d a golden box ask for some code to enter, what should I do?”, one of the previous guys go, “go to farmville.com, sign in and say connect to Facebook, simple” and I sigh!!!

For these kids, this is not “alternate reality” or “online stuff”, it is their mainstay, it is their reality, it’s what they talk about everyday and do everyday for hours.

I ventured into a discussion with them, I asked them what they do on Facebook, so they go, “chat”, “post messages”, “play games” etc. (the usual stuff), then I asked them if they use the Facebook groups a lot, “it exists, but we don’t use it much”. I asked them if their teachers are on Facebook, “some of them are, but we don’t friend them, that is dangerous!” and the discussion turned to me, “are you on Facebook?” so I said, “I’m into a lot of social networking, blogging and tweeting etc.”, they said, “really?” (all smiles!) and we were all friends instantly.

I think its time for teachers in India to start using these forums to engage the students instead of just keeping at the traditional books, copy, assignments, tests and projects mode. As I go through more of the teacher training sessions I’ll discuss about these concepts more and see how we can incorporate these into our education system.

LinkedIn Invite Rules

I get LinkedIn invites from several people who might be making contact with me for the first time, who send an invite without a word on why we should connect! Not that they must have an earth shattering or life changing reason for it, but a word on how we hold common ground will help me connect with them better. Now, it is up to me to go look at their profile and figure out if they are interesting for me to connect with. Mostly, they are and I accept the invite but it would be great if the person who initiated the contact did the talking.

The reason why I bring this up is because if we were to meet a person for the first time, I’m sure we would not just say a hello and then start calling them an acquaintance, will we? We will introduce ourselves, we will get to know them a little, find common ground and once that is set, we establish the connection. In LinkedIn, since the bio is already there, groups are listed on the profile, blog, twitter you name it – stuff about the person is already there, we feel that the rules of introductions don’t apply! More so than ever, it applies in the digital world, because I don’t have anything but your invite to go by to make a decision to connect with you. That little box that LinkedIn so kindly offers to you to personalize your message is there to help you establish a connection over and above the “vanilla” I’d like to connect message!

Apart from the rules and etiquette point of view, if you stated clearly why you want to connect in that message or as a follow-up message after the invite has been accepted, it helps a lot. I’ve had instances where people have sent in very specific requests to me and we have established a very good rapport over time. It also helps to state the interest so I can mentally make a note and access/help you if something in your sphere of interest passes by me. I’ve noticed that very few people in India will send you a personal note whereas it is common practice if I get it from outside India. I’ve also noticed that very few people in India respond to a personal note in LinkedIn (they accept the invite but ignore the note mostly!).

So, long story short, do mention a line or two about the common ground or why we should connect up, I really appreciate the thought!

I’ve attempted to write this post several times and always shelved it in better judgement. In hindsight, I should have published it long ago! I’m looking forward to connecting with many more of you and knowing you better.

The “closet” writers’ choice…

It is funny how sometimes mainstream media people perceive new media. The other day, I was talking to one of the owners of a magazine and I mentioned about my interest to write. I added that I had written in newspapers previously and now I maintain a blog that I update regularly. The other owner walks in and the person who I was talking to introduces me saying…”apparently she is a closet writer”…although I understand the word “closet” and the sarcasm in the sentence, I don’t really care! Here are the reasons:

1. I get bored of formats – I remember writing cover articles for The Metro Plus 5 years ago, I enjoyed it while it lasted. I wrote about 7 or 8 and then I stopped.  I stopped because I got bored of that format of writing – I did a lot of interviews with people around a topic of my choice, created a theme, a body of 400-500 words around the topic and submitted it for review. They selected a nice picture for the theme did some editing and published it. I had to wait for weeks sometimes for it to see the light of the day, there is absolutely no wait time with my blog – I publish when I want! I would love to write something fresh and new in a different style and have the freedom to experiment with it as I go along.

2. The power of pull – I get people on my blog who read the specific kind of content that they are looking for, instead of  a generic newspaper/magazine where a “masala” of stuff gets published so that they cater to the  varied tastes of their “invisible” customer.

3. The power of being ones own editor – Every time you write in mainstream media, no matter how hard you try there is invariably some element of pressure that creeps in (at least for me) that prevents me from being myself. On one end, it helps me be more formal and succinct in my writing and on the other, the pressure does alter the style at some level. I like being my own boss and having the freedom to express views in the style that suits me!

Don’t get me wrong, I love to write for mainstream media, it has a unparalleled push and grants “instant” recognition to the writer, but I would never want to lose my “closet” space for anything. Having discovered this space, it is more of  must have than a “weak alternative” for me! What do other bloggers think, are we really the “closet” writers?

Future Bollywood Calling…

I think we are ready for the next generation of heroes to take over. If I’ve to take a call from what I see today, I will have to put my bets on three of them:

1. Abhay Deol – I had written about him in a previous blog too. He exudes amazing confidence on the screen. The capability to carry a movie on his shoulder, on one hand and blend into the background, on the other. I think he will go a long way, if he just sticks to doing what he is doing in a calm and composed way.

2. Ranbir Kapoor – He has a brilliance about him that I noticed in the song sequence “Jogi, Mahi, Heer…” of Bachna Ae Haseenon and a mature presence on the screen. He has a natural pace on the dialogue, finds his space in the screen alongside larger than life actors and rises up to the occasion, when required. He is 2nd in my selection for the post of future Bollywood king.

3. Imran Khan – I see a lot of potential in the kid. He really shines in the latest Coke Ad and has a lot of “impish” charm that he can play to his advantage. Though it is the same thing I would hold down against him, in favor of the two actors above. The new age actors seem to maintain an aura about them that doesn’t necessarily emanate from their “boyish” or “impish” charms.

All the best to the new generation of heroes and may the best man win! I wanted to put these thoughts down. It will be interesting to see how each of them evolve over the next few years and then revisit this space.

Remixes Coming of Age

Two recent remixes I heard in very different contexts set me thinking…probably either the remixes have become really good or I’ve move ahead of the olden numbers. I still enjoy most of the 70s and 80s Bollywood songs so I would have to say the former.

The first song I heard was from a new movie “Road, Movie” that is starring Abhay Deol, called “Tel Malish” (although Dev Benegal, Director of the movie refuses to call it a remix – I’ll use a writer’s liberty and use the word anyway). It has a really slick feel to it and gives the song a whole new meaning in the context of the movie. When I first heard the song it was with some skepticism but all that vanished in the first few seconds of listening to it and by the time it was done I had to say wow. Hear it to experience it – here it is.

The second song is part of the new coke ad starring Imran Khan and an invisible coke bottle 🙂 and it is a remix version of the first few lines of an old Rafi song “tum jo mil gaye ho”, again interpreted so well in the current context and set to a very catchy rhythm.  Here it is.

I can’t help but say it again – would love remixes if they did this kind of a magic on old songs. The old songs get a new leash of life and the new ones their due recognition!

Innovative Ad Formats, Irritating too!

Now when I’m watching TV I don’t know whether I’m actually watching a movie, its promo or an advertisement of a product (not even remotely related to the movie!). Not that I care, but in my mind there was a sense of separation between content and advertisement and slowly but surely, it seems to be fading, a step at a time.

While it is interesting to see innovative ad formats, for example Asian Paints doing an ad jig with Karthik calling Karthik actors and using the movies song too, it is equally irritating when I no longer know what I’m being fed. This is where most of the movie content is headed for sure, in-built advertisements. Product placements were not a new phenomena in the movie world but by pulling the actors, movie concept and song out of context ads are daring to create a grey world of their own. I’ve not even begun to talk about the risks involved if the movie were to flop, right?

What do you think? Is it a good idea to have ads revolving around a movie concept timed with its release and leveraging on its promotional activities?


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