gist of it

I attended a wonderful keynote by Dr Abhijit Banerjee, at Google today. He and his wife Esther Duflo won the Nobel Prize for Economics this year. I have read some of his work before and was very interested in hearing him live. His keynote was quite short and delivered some really positive and inspiring insights. His five take aways on solving for Next Billion User’s problem were –

  • Ignore global trends. They somewhat lie.
  • Augment not transform
  • Don’t fear the obvious
  • It does not have to be new to be innovative
  • Look through the user’s eye.

Such simple advice and yet so true. I think his list is an example of his advice – “don’t fear the obvious”.

I think sometimes we over complicate things. We like to solve for tougher problems, which is always more rewarding, but in doing so we sometimes over complicate the problem and hence over engineer the solution. I have seen this time and again and in some cases I had a voice, and I was able to avoid it. And in some cases it was obvious that my voice was not welcome, and there I gave up. But this is even more important when you are solving for the NBU. Their problems are deeper than our problems. Let’s not solve with super apps, let’s solve with deeper understanding and empathy.

NBU is of a lot of interest to me. For several reasons. Being an underdog myself, I like to bring up the underdogs, root for their success, and take them across the line. There is joy in that. My dad found that joy by serving for Lions Club. He organized blood donation camps, and limb transplant camps, and eye camps. I just attend a summit and take notes.

The message of augment not transform is another favorite line from my old, yet glorious consulting days. While my employer sold transformational project plans, I looked for quick wins, smaller augments. Sometimes that’s all that is needed. Transformations are expensive. In an NBU context, even more. Sometimes you need to re-think the problem, but sometimes you just need to solve it.

Perhaps I am just a risk averse person and hence my views jived with that of an academician. Don’t get me wrong, I admire Elon Musk. But I don’t get inspired by him. I am inspired by the insights Dr Banerjee shared today.

Lately, I am increasingly finding myself in a state where I just don’t care enough about expressing my real view point. And when I do I get exhausted. May be that’s why women leave the workforce. It gets too exhausting to keep that edge. You are not meant to be in the game anyways. No one is counting on you to win it.

I was telling a friend at work the other day, sometimes I feel I have seen this movie so many times. I know how it will end. I know the drama, the ego, the fall, the climb, the competition. It’s almost not worth playing it anymore. But we are humans. We have temptations. We commit the sin and bite the apple sometimes, and then we feel disappointed.

Dr Banerjee said, “Trying and failing is better than failing to try.” It stirred something within me. I am failing to try what I want to do. I am losing energy on things that will never satisfy me. And not even attempting to do things that will likely give me more joy. Hmm.. note to self, do something about your joy!

On a high note, our project “get Tara healthy” aka improve her iron levels, is yielding positive results and we are thrilled about it. It is always nice to see your efforts yield positive outcomes. Even better when you have the data to support it.

I am glad I was able to attend the keynote today and get another jolt of inspiration. I was running dry. Glad I found it so close to home.

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