Tag: clayton christensen

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My TOP 10 books: Give yourself the reading habit as a gift

I have seen many TOP 10 lists and I always expected an explanation. This is my TOP 10 with my own explanation and it need not be your top 10. I have to thank my mentor, Suresh Lakshman, who instilled the habit of reading in me when we were colleagues in an Animation studio in Mumbai a decade ago. I remember the ‘Erroneous Zones’ and ‘Talking Straight’ books that he forced me to read which set me off in my reading journey. I don’t really like the idea of ‘owning’ anything but my book shelf is my most prized possession. I also like the smell of the books and do not enjoy reading books in gadgets. Reading is the best gift you can give to yourself and to others. Suresh gave me this gift and this is my gift to each one of you so that you can start this wonderful reading habit.

My Top 10 Books

1. My experiments with truth by MK Gandhi: This is the first book I read in my life. Non-violence can come only out of his pursuit of truth and I have always wondered how a man can share some of his darkest sides in such an open manner. Gandhi is the greatest innovator the world has ever seen and the title ‘Mahatma’ (Maha-Atma) is just so apt for him.

2. Freedom from the Known by J Krishnamurti: I learned how to think from JK by reading his books and watching his videos. Every sentence from him is a quote – ‘The observer is the observed’, ‘Truth is a pathless land’ to name a few and all my thinking plus structure is heavily influenced by him. He was the one who inspired Bruce Lee to dismiss his own technique and proclaim ‘No way as the way’.

3. The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda: This book came to me and I still don’t know how it came to me. After I finished reading this book, I wondered what the author had actually done as the whole book is about his gurus and the greatness of others. Later, I realized that there was no ‘I’ in this book. The author is the man who took yoga to the west and this book is a personal favourite of Steve Jobs.

4. The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho: I experienced this book in my life when I went to do my MBA in Japan. The universe conspired to help me realize my dreams in the face of extremely difficult circumstances and I am thankful to Paolo for this enlightening work. I strongly recommend this book to everyone who is facing uncertainty with their dreams and goals.

5. Innovator’s Dilemma/Solution by Clayton Christensen: The best business book I have ever read. I saw disruptive innovation as not just a business concept but also a philosophy for life. I read and experienced this book. It is one of the few books that work on a paradox and also, it never blames managers for failures which is also unique in the business world. I have met him personally and he is GOD in human form.

6. Ramayana by Rajaji: I have not read Shakespeare or any of the English authors in his league but Rajaji’s writing is my benchmark. This book has words that can be used in only certain contexts and I marvelled at his usage of words while relying on a dictionary to understand the words . I believe in this story and the legend of Rama thanks to this beautiful storytelling by Rajaji.

7. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson: Steve Jobs is an inspiration in many ways and I relate to him in the same way as I relate to Gandhi. He pursued truth and this book is such a compelling narrative of his life with all its bright and dark sides. It is a 600+ page book and I completed this book in less than a day as I couldn’t put the book down as it was so engrossing.

8. On Dialogue by David Bohm: This is a book on philosophy and this book elevated my thinking in many ways. David Bohm is a famous physicist and his conversations with my guruji, J Krishnamurti represent thinking of the highest kind. One of the chapters is ‘The observer is the observed’, the famous quote by J Krishnamurti and if there is something called bird’s eye view, it will take you to the max possible view.

9. Made in Japan by Akio Morita: I read this book after reading Lee Iacocca’s Talking Straight. I still don’t understand what was so great about Lee Iacocca’s work. Akio Morita led his people through thick and thin to create a world famous brand called SONY. His ability to understand consumers’ needs and his ability to transform his ideas into great products is the foundation for all the innovators all over the world.

10. Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto: Barbara was a former management consultant at McKinsey who went on to teach McKinsey consultants on how to present their ideas in a structured fashion. When I was in consulting, I was told that my PPT and presentation skills were not up to the mark. This book helped me a great deal and it is a matter of just understanding what constitutes structure.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank the 100s of authors who inspired me, most notably, Wayne Dyer and Robin Sharma, who helped me to take the baby steps when I started my reading journey. Thank you!

Presently, I am reading 3 books – Bhagavad Gita by Paramahansa Yogananda, A bunch of thoughts by MS Golwalkar (to learn about an ideological stance that I could never relate to) and The Art of Possibilities by Rosamund Zander.

My father is the author of 3 books in Tamil and my goal is to publish my first book in the next 12 months.


Image Credits: www.wired.com

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Taj Mahal Hotel

A picture with Clayton Christensen

It was 17 March 2011 and I got a call from my ex-Boss Hari Nair that he was going to meet HBS Professor and the World’s Top Management Thinker Clayton Christensen at theTaj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. This was the same hotel where there was a massive terrorist attack in 2008.


Prof.Christensen is the Co-founder of the consulting firm that I was part of in India and Hari was leading the India Operations of the firm. Hari knows how much I idolize Clay and he was kind enough to extend the invitation to me. Clay had come to attend the TCS board meeting and we had an one hour appointment with him.

On the way to meeting Clay, we realized that we didn’t have a camera and our cell phone cameras(Nokia and Blackberry) were not good enough to get a good picture with Clay. Hari decided to buy a good camera as he settles only for the best. We roamed around Taj Mahal hotel area and we couldn’t find a single shop that sold cameras. We had 40 minutes before our appointment with Clay.After searching for a while, we got tired and we were concerned about the meeting time. We were looking for an answer and suddenly remembered the ‘jobs to be done’ framework pioneered by Clay which we used to advocate for our clients.

The ‘jobs to be done’ framework is a tool for evaluating the circumstances that arise in customers’ lives. Customers rarely make buying decisions around what the “average” customer in their category may do — but they often buy things because they find themselves with a problem they would like to solve. As legendary Harvard Business School Professor Theodore Levitt said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”

We asked this question ‘What is the job that we are trying to get done?’. What do we need this camera for? To take pictures with Clay. What tools can help us take a picture with Clay? Photographers, Studios, Cameras, mobile phones etc. Mobile phone and cameras are not an option now. We started looking for studios and after a while, we asked ‘Won’t Taj have a photographer or will they not arrange for a photographer if we want one?’. We almost got the answer. We went to the concierge services at Taj and asked them to help us to get a few pictures. They said ‘With pleasure sir!’. After our meeting with Clay, a photographer came to take a few pictures with Clay and to this day,this picture is one of my prized possessions.

What we were expecting from the Taj was a receipt to collect the pictures at a later date and instead, they had printed the picture, framed it in a way that was way beyond our expectations. They also emailed the pictures to us. What more could we have asked for?

The pictures cost us Rs.350 as against the Rs.10,000 or more we would have spent for a digital camera. Had we got the camera, we would have asked ‘somebody’ who passed by to take a random picture but now, this picture was taken by a professional photographer of Taj Mahal Hotel. The ‘Jobs to be done’ framework taught by Clay saved the day for us and we both went back happily having achieved two things 1. Getting high quality framed pictures with Clay at a very affordable price 2. Practicing what we preached our clients.

Next time, When you are looking for a solution, try asking this question ‘what is the job that I am trying to get done?’ and then, suddenly the number of solutions will seem to be plenty.

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