How to Harness the Power of Lateral Thinking to Enhance Creativity?

Inspiring Stories

20 April 2020

How to Harness the Power of Lateral Thinking to Enhance Creativity?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

As working professionals, productivity and creativity come at the apex of keeping a business going. The world out there is competitive, the industry stops for no one, and innovation becomes the key. Therefore, it becomes vital to continually engage with unique techniques to produce out-of-the-box ideas. Lateral thinking can help you work those grey cells and keep the creativity flowing.

What is lateral thinking?
The term was first coined by the famous psychologist Edward de Bono. He summarized the need for lateral thinking by saying, “You cannot dig a hole in a different place by digging the same hole deeper.”
Once you are presented with a problem, how do you get to thinking about its solution? Lateral thinking can help you break the barrier of age-old solution-driven techniques that have become redundant in the modern age. While practising lateral thinking, the answer is searched in indirect and creative light. When your perception about the problem is tweaked, the solution-driven mind is forced to think of alternatives and come up with solutions that are unique to one’s experiences.
Steps to harness the power of lateral thinking
A few things that can help you execute lateral thinking perfectly are –
1. Stay curious. The only way one can look at the question/problem from a new perspective is when they are questioning everything enough. Ask yourself questions about the whole concept before working your mind towards solutions.
2. Since lateral thinking has only one rule, i.e. think outside the box, there are no restrictions on the order in which the thought must proceed. You could also ideate solutions first and then think backwards. It will help you garner creativity.
3. Switch personas. Sometimes thinking differently could be difficult. An effective technique would be to think of yourself as a different person and run your thoughts as if you were someone else.

Why should you practice lateral thinking?
There are many pros to this technique. Some of them include-
1. It pushes you towards alternatives. When you look at the problem in an unusual light, it naturally will invoke newer solutions, something that will be more creative and unique.
2. It boosts productivity. Eliminating redundancy and monotony, lateral thinking will drive impressive ideas, keeping you motivated enough to not give up and keep working.
3. It makes your solution/product a potential game-changer. Most start-ups or early-stage companies rely on products and solutions that can help them impress stakeholders, including investors and consumers. A novel and out-of-the-box idea is sure to grab eyeballs and get the ball rolling for you.
4. It can be used during interviews to test the creative potential of the candidates. A talent that can drive your business towards incredible heights must be screened well!

Why do Leaders Swear by Thinking Fast and Slow?

Inspiring Stories

27 April 2020

Why do Leaders Swear by Thinking Fast and Slow?

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

According to Daniel Kahneman, human beings have fractional thinking – System 1 and System 2; where System 1 is the gut, intuitive thinking, and System 2 is analytical, problem-solving and reflective decision making. Overall, both aid our judgement, where for some situations system 1 (fast thinking) provides the foundation for System 2 (slow thinking). But in many conditions, these work independently – for example, first impressions are formed solely by fast thinking. However, best decisions are made when both these methods are running simultaneously.

Hence, leaders swear by thinking fast and slow because it provides multiple business advantages such as:

Error Minimisation: Leaders encourage employees to indulge in fast and slow thinking because it reduces errors. If a person applies any of the two independently, there is a higher chance of tilted decisions. For example, when a person thinks too fast, it leads to cognitive biases, leading to erroneous results. For example, A project demands the regional sales of X product. But an employee registers only ‘sale’, conducts a quick search and quotes global sales while providing no figure for region-wide sales.

Enhanced Productivity: When a person effectively balances both slow and fast thinking, productivity rises sharply. This promotes wise thinkers who analyse situations rather than rely on quick judgments. For example, in a team, two employees do not get along and indulge in ruthless competition. A leader, who applies fast and slow thinking, will adopt a sound strategy to form better relations between the two, such as joint mediations or a combined project. But alternatively, in a quick response, if a leader fires the underperformer, it will be a loss to the team.

Rational Decisions: Decision-making is the basis of management and hence, needs to be made rationally. For example, a team needs to vote for a leader. Some employees, instead of carefully assessing the candidates, might make an unreasonable judgement based on superficial qualities. This will lead to the selection of a wrong candidate, which could be avoided through balanced evaluation based on multiple factors, including appearance, attitude, career trajectory, team spirit, etc.

Quick, Calculated Response: Hasty decision making or slow thinking can both result in a disaster independently. Hence, employees need to be quick but also calculated in their responses. Assume a scenario where a client is angry, and the employee reciprocates with the same emotion or worse. In such situations, the employees should be prompt yet calculated with their replies, calm the client and ensure error rectification.

Better Negotiation: For leaders, negotiation is an everyday task. One of the most important factors that can help a leader win a negotiation is how well he/she understands the opponent. The principles of thinking fast and slow help one to better understand the opponent and ultimately win an argument.

Thinking fast and slow advocates a healthy balance of the gut and factual thinking.

The Rags-to-Riches Story of Jack Ma

Inspiring Stories

24 October 2019

The Rags-to-Riches Story of Jack Ma

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

We’re just two months away from entering a new year. And if you are looking for some inspiration to chart your journey into 2020 as a business leader par excellence, this is the story you want to read. Learn how Jack Ma, co-founder of the Alibaba Group, didn’t just dream big, but made it happen. He has rewritten the rules of the e-commerce game, become ‘China’s richest man’ and has gone on to become ‘the most flamboyant tech founder on the planet’.

Jack Ma – A man with great emphasis on learning

Born Ma Yun on 10th September 1964 in Hangzhou, China, Ma worked as a tourist guide for nine years so that he could practice spoken English. Interestingly, it was an American tourist who nicknamed him Jack when they were pen-pals. Although he was Head of the Student Council in school, college was not easy. He struggled to obtain his degree and then enrolled himself at a teaching institute to become a lecturer in English at Hangzhou Dianzi University.

 In 1994, Ma started his first company, Hangzhou Haibo Translation Agency. The following year, he visited the US with his friends for a better understanding of the World Wide Web. There he realised that China and Chinese products found no mention on the internet. This motivated him to start his second company, chinapages.com, which he registered in the US. In three years, the company earned about USD 800,000!

The birth of Ali Baba – A global inspiration

For the next few years, Ma headed an IT company established by the China International Electronic Commerce Center, a department of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation. He quit in 1999 to return to Hangzhou with his team to found Alibaba, China’s answer to Amazon. Ma firmly believed in an open market economy that caters to customer needs. Soon, his company revealed the mega potential of small and mid-sized (SMEs) businesses across the globe. In 2014, Alibaba raised USD 25 billion, the largest initial public offering in US financial history to become one of the world’s most profitable technology companies.

The rejections en route – A tale of extraordinary perseverance

Ma’s parents worked as musical storytellers and growing up, he had little exposure to the world of business. Life threw him his fair share of rejections and failures, teaching the entrepreneur important lessons in patience and perseverance. His first tryst with failure was during college graduation, when he could not succeed in clearing the Chinese entrance exams until his fifth attempt!

He applied 10 times to Harvard Business School; he was rejected every time. Ma also applied for 30 different jobs, including one at KFC, but failed to hear back from any of them! The failures only strengthened his tenacity and will to succeed. Today, he inspires people with his stories urging them to remain steadfast in the face of obstacles. An entertainer at heart, Ma enjoys singing and dancing. Did you know that he made his acting debut in 2017 with a Kung Fu short film?

 The richest man in China – More than a serial entrepreneur

Four years after Alibaba received the USD 25 billion funding, Ma announced his plans for retirement as Executive Chairman to pursue educational work. He is seen as a global ambassador for Chinese business, and a role model for start-ups.

As of October 2019, Ma is one of China’s richest men, with a net worth of USD 37.9 billion. He also featured in the Forbes’ list of World’s Most Powerful People and World’s Greatest Leaders. However, he remains frugal in his daily life, with humble hobbies like meditation, reading and Tai Chi.

In 2015, he launched Alibaba Hong Kong Young Entrepreneurs Foundation to support entrepreneurs in Hong Kong. The same year, the company funded the rebuilding of 10,000 houses damaged by the earthquake-hit in Nepal. This year, the Foundation launched the Netpreneur initiative that grants a million US dollars each to 10 African entrepreneurs annually, and launched a fund with USD 14.6 million to develop education in Tibet.

Instagram’s Success: The Journey of a Million Likes

Inspiring Stories

19 September 2019

Instagram’s Success: The Journey of a Million Likes

  • Posted by Awfis Editorial

Even as you juggle multiple deadlines through the day, chances are you are checking your phone every other minute to treat your tired senses to a visual euphoria. Over time, Instagram has replaced the office water cooler; it’s where you find fodder for fashion gossip, discover updates about the outside world, and get updates about your colleagues’ personal lives. However, this wasn’t always the case. From a social platform that once best served aesthetic snobs, Instagram has come a long way. But have you ever wondered about what went into its making and how it became an overnight sensation? Read on to know.

The road to entrepreneurship

Instagram founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom, was a child prodigy who got into coding early in his childhood. He graduated from Stanford University in 2006 and went to work for Google as an Associate Product Marketing Manager. However, Kevin always had the itch to do something with the social space and so, in 2009, he joined Nextstop.com, an online travel recommender, as their Product Manager. Nextstop.com is where he realized that entrepreneurship is his calling, and this is where it all began!

Burbn, Instagram’s predecessor

While at Nextstop.com, Systrom took out time to work on an idea that he had in his mind for quite some time. It was a location-based photo sharing app that he chose to call Burbn because of his love for the namesake drink. He got the prototype ready and presented it to Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz at a party in January 2010. He quit Nextstop.com soon after, leaving the rest to luck, which didn’t disappoint. Within 2 weeks of quitting, he got a seed funding of $500,000 from both, Baseline Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.

But before he could go full-throttle, he knew that he had to find a co-founder. Mike Krieger, a fellow Stanford graduate, was excited about the idea and the duo built Burbn together. Burbn allowed users to check-in to locations, make plans, earn points for hanging out with friends, post pictures, etc.

The birth of Instagram

Burbn was a failure; people were using the app to just share photos and didn’t want anything to do with the host of other features that it offered. When it came to sharing pics, users naturally preferred already existing apps like Facebook and Hipstamatic.

This failure led to the birth of Instagram as we know it. The duo decided to strip Burbn off every other feature and focus only on photo sharing. They began by studying the competition in the market. Although Hipstamatic had really cool filters, it was a task to share photos on the app, and Facebook’s iPhone app didn’t have a great photo-sharing feature. The duo saw an opportunity here; they decided to develop an easy-to-use app that made social photo-sharing simple, interactive and fun.

After eight weeks of experimenting and prototyping over countless bottles of Red Bull, Instagram was finally born on October 12, 2010.

The overnight success

Within just two hours of Instagram’s launch, its servers started crashing because of an incredible rush of traffic. Kevin and Mike had to burn the night oil to get the servers back up and keep them running. If rumours are to be believed, more than 250,000 people had signed up on Instagram within 24 hours of its launch!

Users loved the entire presentation of Instagram. They got hooked to the way the app allowed them to make their photographs unique without having to give out too much personal information or going through the hassles of building a network of friends. Users just had to follow others and share pictures, which made Instagram an instant hit! Instagram reached a record-breaking 7 million users just within 9 months, including some highly influential celebrities like Justin Bieber and Ryan Seacrest.

The acquisition by Facebook

While most people signed up on Instagram to share cool pictures, they eventually ended up trading likes and comments, making for a whole new social graph. This made Mark Zuckerberg notice the rising popularity of the app. In fact, Facebook saw an alarming decline in the number of people using the app to post photos; they were sharing pics via their Instagram handles instead. This bothered Mark and that’s when he thought of acquiring Instagram. He went to Kevin with the proposal.

Incidentally, during the same time, Kevin received an offer from Jack Dorsey (now CEO of Twitter) to buy Instagram for $500 million. Moreover, Kevin was also being offered a great amount of funds from Sequoia Capital, which he was more inclined towards. But Mark wasn’t someone to take no for an answer and he finally floated an offer to buy Instagram for $1 billion in cash and stock, in April 2012. Even after the acquisition, Instagram would remain an independently managed company.

Conclusion

Had the co-founders not tasted failures initially, Instagram would never have existed, and who knows what the future of Burbn would have been? In the words of Systrom himself, “It’s about going through false starts. Burbn was a false start. The best companies in the world have all had predecessors. YouTube was a dating site. You always have to evolve into something else.”