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Friday, August 29, 2014



Wouldn’t it be awesome if we could hack into our own brains and rewire them to be happier?

Science has shown we actually can thanks to a phenomenon called experience-dependent neuroplasticity. "It’s a fancy term to say the brain learns from our experiences," says Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist and author of the book Hardwiring Happiness. "As we understand better and better how this brain works, it gives us more power to change our mind for the better."
Hanson assures he isn't just talking new-age mumbo jumbo. "This is not just 'smell the roses,'" he says. "I am talking about positive neuroplasticity. I am talking about learning. … The brain is changing based on what flows through it."
Understanding how our brains function can help us better control them. Here are some key takeaways from Hanson on how our brains work when it comes to wiring for happiness:


Our brains are awesome at overlearning from negative experiences. "The brain continuously scans for bad news," says Hanson. "As soon as it finds the bad news, it overly focuses on it."
Think of where we've evolved from and this starts to make a lot of sense. "Our ancestors evolved in really harsh conditions," he says. Negativity bias is really good for animals surviving in the wild. It's what Hanson calls the "eat lunch don’t be lunch" mentality. But these days, we aren't exactly running from predators, yet our brains are still functioning as if we're in the wild.
Try not to overlearn from your negative experiences. That means if you get a performance review from your boss, for example, and he tells you countless positive things about your work and one bit of criticism, don't obsess (as we often tend to) on the one negative thing. "The brain is like a garden, except its soil is very fertile for weeds," says Hanson.


There's a lot of good stuff happening in our lives, but we don't always let ourselves stop and notice it. Rewiring your brain for greater happiness isn't simply about positive thinking. "I don’t believe in positive thinking," says Hanson. "I believe in realistic thinking."
Realistic thinking means noticing the good things that happen to us as they occur and letting ourselves experience them. "We tend to not even notice a good fact when its there," he says. "The boss actually said 19 good things about you, but you're obsessing over the one bad thing."


Say you're in a meeting and you get acknowledged for something you've said or called out for the great work you've done. In that moment of being valued, neuro-psychologically there is a particular activation of synapses--the tiny connections between cells that allow neurons to pass on electrical and chemical signals.
"When we talk about the neural basis for feeling valued, we are talking about an activated coalition of billions of synapses," says Hanson. "As they fire together, they start wiring together."
When those synapses are firing, they become more sensitive and new synopses start to form. That means the next time you feel valued, the positive feelings experienced in that moment will be a little stronger.


It's important to let yourself linger in the moment of a positive experience--not just because it feels good (though that should be reason enough), but because you're actually helping rewire your brain in that moment. For most people, it's hard to have positive experiences for more than few seconds. Think about how quickly you push away a compliment rather than letting yourself really feel good about it. But brushing aside positive experiences rather than internalizing them literally doesn't allow you to transfer the positive feelings associated from your short- to long-term memory, says Hanson.
"People tend to be really good at having that beneficial state of mind in the first place, but they don’t take the extra 10 seconds required for the transfer to occur from short-term memory buffers to long-term storage," he says. "Really get those neurons firing together so that they wire this growing inner strength in your brain."


Making a change in your brain is a two-stage process and it doesn't happen overnight, to be sure. You first have to allow yourself to have certain positive thoughts or experiences, play them out fully in your brain and let them register. "The brain is old-school," says Hanson. "It's like a cassette recorder. You record the song by playing it."
The changes associated with this are gradual. Think of it kind of like an interest rate. "An annualized interest rate of 5% or 6% is not great, but that small percentage accumulating every day over time can make a big difference," says Hanson.


Our brains are working just fine, you might be thinking. Why mess with something that's not broken? But the fact of the matter is happiness isn't something that happens to you. It's something you can teach your brain to experience more fully.
"We should not fool ourselves," says Hanson. "We've got a brain that is pulled together to help lizards, mice, and monkeys get through the day and pass on their genes. We've got a brain that's like Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good. Be muscular from the inside out. Grow the good stuff inside yourself."

MBA SPECIAL...................... CAT 2014 is likely to be a more competitive and extensive exam

CAT 2014 is likely to be a more competitive and extensive exam

The average difficulty level is likely to remain at par with earlier CATs

The widely taken Common Aptitude Test ( CAT) for admission to most acclaimed B- schools is set to be very different from the previous CATs, after the changes announced by the convening committee. The tough entrance exam will see changes in the form of a new structure — a two-day test window with four test slots, more questions, an early-November date — and a test creator. All of these have significant implications on how a student must approach the test. This means that applicants will have to follow a course correction in their preparation for the D-day. It’s time to reset your pointers to prepare for the new pattern.

The new version of the CAT is a gruelling three-hour exercise. To excel, appear for at least 20 full-length mock tests in the 100 days before the test.
Every competitive exam has its own unique character with features such as the structure, the content, including both width and depth and the testing environment. CAT will be held over a two day slot on November 16 and November 22. Here is an analysis of the changes in CAT, along with tips for the exam that is only 100 days away.
Structure: The structure of the exam determines the testtaking strategy. The change has three significant elements
Increase in the number of questions
Increase in the time limit to 170 minutes No sectional time limits Since the launch of the computer-based test for mat five years back, the number of questions appearing in CAT has been only about 2/ 3rd of the last few paper-based CATs. This means that 40 t o 45 attempts are good enough for a decent percentile. Thereby, the psychological barrier that you need to cross to be in the zone of the call getters is reduced.
In the current format, you must aim at 60 to 65 attempts. Your ability to get to this level will be aided by the fact that you will have more questions to choose from. However, to take advantage of this, make sure that you practice a wide range of topics.
You will have to start by moving your target questions from 40 to 50 in a time frame. Then gradually, push it to over 60 as you practice further. The bottom line is: You move from a scenario where you spent 140 seconds on a question to about 100 seconds per question.
The new version of CAT is a 170- minute affair. That makes it a gruelling three to three-and-a-half hours of focus. Stamina can be built only through “sustained” practice in simulated situations. To be at the peak of your performance through the 170 minutes, work on as many mocks as possible. Completing 20 mocks in the span of these 100 days is a good aim. In CAT preparation, it is undeniable that testing in itself is inadequate unless backed by thorough analysis and feedback.
The most challenging and probably game changing element is t he “no sectional t i me l i mit” f or mat, which has been i ntroduced f rom this year. It changes the test from a knowledge check - ing paradigm to an aptitude checking paradigm.
The key to good performance will lie in how well you play your strengths. T his will include your knowledge of the subjects, the questions that you have chosen and your time management skills. Adequate practice will ensure that you get your strategy right. A few questions that you must ask yourself while taking a mock test— Which questions first? How much time to devote to which section? How many rounds of attempts?
Content: Would there be a significant change in content? It is unlikely. It is true that the test creator has more options for framing questions. The IIMs themselves would be very closely associated with the test designing process.
It is advised to get used to the types of questions that have been seen in the previous CATs, when an in-house body used to conduct the test. The average level of the paper is likely to stay at par with the earlier CATs. While it is imperative that you include all types of questions in your mocks, make sure that you know the previous CAT papers well.
Test environment: The tests are going to be conducted in 99 cities and in not more than four time slots. This could mean a lot for the student as well as for CAT, as an exam. If done carefully, the test can bring back the credibility of the CAT scores. Most of us know about the scores fiasco i n CAT 2013 and t he subsequent litigation. Hopefully for the IIMs, these positive changes in the test will encourage more students to appear for it. Stay prepared for a more competitive CAT.
There is no option for students to choose time slots for this test. So when to book your slot is no longer relevant. Compiled by HT140827

MEETING SPECIAL........................ “Note And Vote”: How Google Ventures Avoids Groupthink In Meetings

“Note And Vote”: How Google Ventures Avoids Groupthink In Meetings


You know when a meeting turns into a complete waste of time? Maybe you’re trying to come up with ideas, or make a decision. Before anyone realizes it, the meeting starts to suck.
Meetings want to suck. Two of their favorite suckiness tactics are group brainstorming and group negotiation. Give them half a chance, and they’ll waste your time, sap your energy, and leave you with poor ideas and a watered-down decision. But meetings don't have to be that way.
On the Google Ventures design team, we dislike sucky meetings as much as anyone. We use a process hack that short-circuits the worst parts of groupthink while getting the most out of different perspectives. For lack of a better name, we call it the “note-and-vote.”
The next time you need to make a decision or come up with a new idea in a group, call timeout and give the note-and-vote a try.


1. Note
Distribute paper and pens to each person. Set a timer for five minutes to 10 minutes. Everyone writes down as many ideas as they can. Individually. Quietly. This list won’t be shared with the group, so nobody has to worry about writing down dumb ideas.
2. Self-edit
Set the timer for two minutes. Each person reviews his or her own list and picks one or two favorites. Individually. Quietly.
3. Share and capture
One at a time, each person shares his or her top idea(s). No sales pitch. Just say what you wrote and move on. As you go, one person writes everybody’s ideas on the whiteboard.
4. Vote
Set the timer for five minutes. Each person chooses a favorite from the ideas on the whiteboard. Individually. Quietly. You must commit your vote to paper.
5. Share and capture
One at a time, each person says their vote. A short sales pitch may be permissible, but no changing your vote! Say what you wrote. Write the votes on the whiteboard. Dots work well.
6. Decide
Who is the decider? She should make the final call--not the group. She can choose to respect the votes or not. This is less awkward than it sounds: instead of dancing around people’s opinions and feelings, you’ve made the mechanics plain. Everyone’s voice was heard.
7. Rejoice. That only took 15 minutes!
The note-and-vote isn’t perfect (remember, I said “pretty good decisions”). But it is fast. And it’s quite likely better than what you’d get with two hours of the old way.
You might want to adapt the specifics to suit the problem and your team. Sometimes multiple votes per person are helpful. Sometimes sales pitches give crucial insight. We often jump right to voting when there's a finite list of options. So long as you do most of the thinking individually, you’ll see a big efficiency boost.


Quiet time to think
Meetings rarely offer individuals time to focus and think. Group brainstorms--where everyone shouts out ideas and builds off one another--can be fun, but in my experience, the strongest ideas always come from individuals.
Parallel is better than serial
Normal meetings are serial. In other words, one person is talking at a time, and someone is always talking. That means there’s one thread of thought for the length of the meeting. Parallel work increases your bandwidth. More solutions are considered and evaluated.
Voting commitment
Writing down your vote ensures that you won’t be swayed when someone else you respect votes for something else. This is a social hack--we naturally want to make other people feel good and form consensus in meetings. Conflict is useful.
We’ve used the note-and-vote for everything from naming companies to choosing product features, and from setting a meeting agenda to picking a restaurant for lunch.

ENTREPRENEUR SPECIAL.......................... The Entrepreneurship Coach

The Entrepreneurship Coach

Ernesto Sirolli has spent 30 years helping people find the resources they need to start businesses and make them thrive. He and the people he’s trained have been instrumental in launching more than 40,000 enterprises in 250 communities and 25 countries. Curiosity, commitment, and the willingness to spend time in some of the most remote locations on earth have given him unusual insight into what successful entrepreneurs do well. Above all, he advises business leaders to shut up and listen.
In fact, “Want to Help Someone? Shut Up and Listen” was the title of Sirolli’s TED Talk in 2012. Originally delivered at a regional TEDx in rural New Zealand, his presentation was posted to the main TED website and garnered nearly 2 million views, bringing worldwide attention to his work. Speaking in heavily accented Italian, and in his characteristic tone of wry simplicity, Sirolli recounted his early experiences working for an Italian NGO that specialized in economic development. After earning his laurea di dottore in political science from the University of Rome—the highest graduate degree offered in Italy at the time—he set off in the early 1970s full of idealism to work in impoverished communities in Algeria, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Somalia, and Zambia.
Everything we touched, we killed,” he says, evoking slightly nervous laughter from the TED audience. “Every project we did, every single one of them, failed.” He describes, for example, how his team decided to teach Zambians how to grow food in the beautiful fertile valley where they had always lived as pastoralists, shepherding animals but planting nothing. The team imported seeds from Italy—tomatoes and zucchini—but the locals didn’t seem interested. The team tried to pay them money, but there was little in the valley available to buy. Finally, the NGO started importing whiskey and beer in order to coax the men into the fields. “We kept thinking, what is wrong with these people?”
It soon became apparent. The tomatoes appeared on the vines, huge bursting fruits that put the most bountiful Italian crops to shame. The team members were joyful, but the next morning they awoke to find every single one of the plants gone. Hippos had swarmed up from the river and begun gorging. The Italians ran to tell the Zambians what had happened. “Of course,” said the people. “That’s why we don’t plant in the valley.”
Why didn’t you tell us?” asked the Italians.
Because you never asked,” came the response.
The experience was painful. “I thought we Italians were good people, and I wondered how we could fail so badly,” says Sirolli. “Was it for these ‘results’ that we had hooked the community on whiskey and beer? So I began looking around at other projects that had been done in Africa—by the English, the Americans, the French—hoping to get ideas. And I realized, at least we fed the hippos. Other million-dollar projects just left rubbish behind. Everywhere I saw the same problem: Our well-intentioned efforts failed because we didn’t listen to the people we were trying to help.”

Challenging Entrepreneurs to Succeed

The story of Sirolli’s experiences in Africa is told in his book, Ripples from the Zambezi: Passion, Entrepreneurship, and the Rebirth of Local Economies (New Society Publishers, 1999). Now used as a text in many community and economic development courses, Ripples offers three essential messages about economic development. First, all effective development ideas need to come from local people rather than “experts,” no matter how well-meaning or informed these experts might be. Second, most efforts to motivate people are fruitless; rather, those trying to help local enterprise must wait until entrepreneurs ask for help, then connect them with the resources they need. And third, entrepreneurs should never be encouraged to act in isolation on their dreams, because doing so will increase their chances of failure and cause them to question their own capacities.
This last concept is important and informs Sirolli’s ideas about development and the nature of enterprise. With a methodology developed over years of challenging real-world conditions, Sirolli is pushing back against what he sees as the all-too-prevalent myth of the celebrity entrepreneur as go-it-alone individualist. “Instead of writing biographies, the business media is often publishing hagiography: hero stories about geniuses who do it all on their own,” he says. “But when you look at the real story, whether it’s Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Sam Walton or [Thomas] Edison or the owner of a chain of dry cleaners, you see none of them did it alone. They all had [groups of colleagues] who could do the things they couldn’t do. The way it’s presented is very dishonest. My work now is to oppose this fake mythology and show that enterprise really succeeds when the right people come together.”
It led Sirolli to cofound the Sirolli Institute, a global social enterprise in Sacramento, Calif., that is dedicated to revitalizing communities by fostering entrepreneurship. In Sirolli’s view, this is a calling of the highest order. If communities devastated by industrial decline or isolated from global supply chains are to flourish and create sufficient jobs, local entrepreneurs need to succeed. Young people, he notes, are particularly inspired by a vision of responsive, grassroots growth, of going where they can and working with what they find to create products and services of distinctive value. Supporting them and helping them find what they need to thrive is the essential first step to healing communities.
Sirolli’s method for supporting such endeavors involves training “enterprise facilitators” (EFs) in each locale. These are individuals who work for either the community or a development agency and whose sole mission is to help entrepreneurs identify and find needed resources. He has trained about 185 EFs, located around the world. “These people don’t work for me, and they don’t work for the people they help,” he says. They work for government agencies or companies committed to local development, which pay them directly. “For most of them, it’s a full-time job.”

Making the Business Beautiful

On a bright afternoon at a Starbucks just outside downtown Sacramento—where Sirolli and his wife and business partner, Martha Sirolli (executive director of the institute), live—he is waiting to meet an entrepreneur. He rarely works directly with entrepreneurs anymore, and he seems to welcome the chance to exercise his skills directly, as a college president might look forward to teaching a class.
There are two rules for enterprise facilitation,” he declares. “First, your relationship with the client is sacred and entirely confidential. Second, you treat the client as an adult. That means the client gets to decide whether and when to act on what you discuss. It’s not your role to monitor how that person is doing or hold him or her to a timeline. For that reason, you never call the client, you only call the client back. To be passive is the foundation of this work, and that’s why it’s difficult. It takes discipline to resist the impulse to do, to tell, to solve, to intervene.”
He adds that he trains facilitators to be conscious of every gesture. They must signal that the facilitator is someone to confide in: a resource rather than an authority figure. “You meet your client in a coffee shop, not an office. You don’t take notes during the meeting. You sit shoulder to shoulder and get the client to draw something and then look at it together. [These signals] create a feeling of collaboration.”
Sirolli’s father was a doctor, first in a small Italian village and later in Rome, and he finds a strong parallel between the two practices. “I see enterprise facilitators as the family doctors of business. The EF is basically a diagnostician. You help diagnose what an entrepreneur needs and suggest ways to find the right resources. It’s not your job to follow up. If my father saw a patient smoking in the piazza the day after a consultation in which smoking had been discussed, he would not even let it show that he noticed. It was up to the patient to change his behavior.”
Then the entrepreneur arrives. Ben Aller is a handsome, athletic young man wearing an air of anxiety. He thanks Sirolli for meeting him and explains that his company builds custom environments for zoos, which enables him to fuse his passion for design with his love of animals. For almost a decade, Aller ran the fabrication shop for a major zoo supplier in Arizona, but he was frequently told he was too interested in his work. “I kept hearing stuff like ‘You don’t really need to know about the mating habits of shrews to do this project.’ My enthusiasm didn’t seem to be a plus.” In 2004, he returned home to Sacramento and set up an exhibit business of his own, including a manufacturing center on a friend’s ranch.
It’s been a struggle,” he says. “The selling part takes time away from designing and building. Plus it can take two years between initial contact with a client and when you get a check.” The previous year, Pixar Animation Studios contracted with Aller to build artificial branches for a reptile house, a complex job that took four months, during which time he had to turn down other work. This was followed by six months without a job. “Clients love my product, but the business feels like it’s built on sand.”
Sirolli asks Aller what he is good at, and what he isn’t good at. “I have great ideas and my work is the highest quality and original, but I’m not a good marketer or money manager. I don’t actually likemoney, but I need money to reach my goal, which is creating zoo exhibits that connect animals and people.”
Tell me, who is helping you? Who is working with you? Come sit beside me and draw me a picture of your supporters.”
Aller pulls out a pen. “I have my mom, but she doesn’t have any money. I have my friend Jay, a kind of father figure, whose ranch I work on. He lets me use his equipment and gives me lots of support. Plus a landscape designer and animal artist—both great—who I had to lay off.”
It takes three people to make a business,” Sirolli says, “those who know product, marketing, and financial management. This is the trinity of business. Who are these people for you?”
If you put it that way, almost everyone is product. For financial management, I have nobody. For marketing, only a part-time Web guy.”
Sirolli notes that most product people cannot double as marketing people. “Product people believe they can sell because once they’re in front of a customer, they [will] blow [the customer] away with their passion. But an occasional blown-away customer does not make a business. There has to be someone who screens 100 prospects so you can get before the right ones. If you don’t have that, it’s a waste of time. You shouldn’t be doing sales unless a marketing person sets it up.”
But I can’t afford to hire a marketing person,” says Ben Aller.
You don’t need to hire someone. Did Steve Jobs hire Steve Wozniak? Did Bill Gates hire Paul Allen? No, they went into business together. Businesses are founded on relationships, and you don’t have the relationships you need to be a business. So finding your people is your job.”
My problem is money.”
No, your problem is trying to do everything yourself. You have to say, ‘I am the sultan of zoo fabrication, and my job is to form a team that can take my products to the world and make sure they pay.’ Then you look for a marketer who is so good she will work on commission because she knows she can bring in clients. The right person is out there. Maybe she’s in a horrible job or has been laid off. Maybe she’s just starting her career. You give her a list of all the contacts you’ve built up and offer her a good commission plus 30 percent of your business. Then you bring in a financial manager the same way.”
How do I find them?”
Ah, this part you will like! Marketing people and financial managers are like animals—they live in habitats. So go and hunt, turn over the rocks as you would when looking for lizards. Identify which habitats you need to explore. Call your friends in zoos and ask them to give you the name of the best marketing person they have ever met. Go to animal volunteer societies and ask about people who have experience in marketing. For finance, go to the bank or ask your friend Jay—he probably has some white-haired guy he plays golf with who could meet you a few times a year. Go to these people with such passion for your product that they are inspired to work with you.”
I like the idea of habitats, and I love the idea of going to zoos—why didn’t I think of that?”
Because you weren’t seeing that your real job is to build friendships so you can stop drowning in solitude.” Aller replies that the lack of money still feels like a pressing issue. “If you had money now,” says Sirolli, “it would only help you to fail faster. You’d spend it creating new products you couldn’t sell. I want to give you an image: Your company has to be as beautiful as your product. Right now you have great products but a weak company. It won’t change until you find your people.”

From Australia to Esperance

After leaving the Italian NGO in the 1970s, Sirolli came under the influence of E.F. Schumacher’s 1973 classic Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered (Harper & Row), an influential book that championed the use of appropriate technologies and questioned the then-unchallenged belief that bigger is better and progress is always measured in numerical growth.
He was also influenced by Abraham Maslow’s work on psychologically healthy individuals. One of the first psychologists to insist that psychology could benefit healthy people, Maslow noted that the wisest individuals he met seemed to be following Nietzsche’s injunction to “become what thou art.” Maslow described this drive as “self-actualization” and put it at the summit of his influential “hierarchy of needs.” The drive to realize one’s potential was more significant than the need for food, shelter, and love. To Sirolli, Maslow’s insight confirmed the importance of intrinsic motivation: The best way to support social and economic growth was to help people do what they wanted to do, instead of presenting them with preconceived projects or promising more transactional rewards.
The best way to support social and economic growth was to help people do what they wanted to do.
Sirolli moved to Perth, Australia, in 1979, eager to put into practice the ideas he’d been incubating. Inspired in part by the concept of self-actualization, he enrolled in a Ph.D. program at Murdoch University; his goal was to study how the principles of humanistic psychology could be adapted to economic development. For his demonstration project, he persuaded the town of Fremantle, south of Perth, to give him US$1,025 (AUS$900) for a job-creation project.
At a local craft market, he observed a number of young people who were “putting a lot of effort into making terrible ugly sandals that nobody wanted to buy.” Scouring the region for someone who could help them improve their skills, he discovered a Sicilian immigrant, a shoemaker since the age of 14, who made surgical boots for the local hospital to suit people with foot deformities or serious injuries. Sirolli introduced the shoemaker to the five most dedicated sandal makers, helped the group locate space in the basement of a local furniture factory, and spent the minimal funds he had secured buying tools. Thus was born the Fremantle Shoemakers’ Cooperative. The venture lasted 10 years and turned the town into a center for the manufacture of orthopedic footwear—as well as fashionable shoes made from kangaroo hides that had formerly been exported to Italy for luxury brands.
A television documentary on the success of the venture caught the attention of the minister for regional development in Perth. He was looking to boost the prospects of Esperance, a coastal village nearby. The region had been in sharp decline since the government introduced quotas on tuna in response to overfishing. The minister offered Sirolli a plane ticket and keys to a government apartment.
In Esperance, Sirolli began inviting local people for coffee, always asking the same question: “Do you know anyone who is thinking of starting a business?” He was always told no. The problem in Esperance, he kept hearing, was that people were too lazy and too well looked after by the government to have any interest in working for themselves—most of the fishermen who’d lost business had gone on the dole. Eventually, a group of fishermen came to Sirolli to ask if he could help them figure out how to get a better price for their tuna. Since the catch quotas had been put into effect, the harvests had become too small to support them at the commodity prices for which the tuna was sold.
Sirolli persuaded five fishermen to contribute $228 of their own money to commission a study to see how they might sell their fish at a higher profit. They learned that tuna sold to local Japanese restaurants for sashimi fetched 10 times as much as the 68 cents per kilo they’d been getting. Sirolli then helped the group secure a $1,140 loan from a ministerial discretionary fund so they could learn the precise methods required to prepare tuna for the sale. He connected them with the head of a local technical college who put on sashimi handling demonstrations, and they used some of the money to fly a Japanese chef in from Perth to train them.
This was the start of an explosion of local activity that eventually led to Esperance’s becoming a prime supplier of superior-grade sashimi, not just to Japanese restaurants in Australia but to suppliers in Japan. Since the Japanese paid a full $17 per kilo for their product, the fishermen now earned more money than they had before the institution of the quotas.
Their success inspired a group of farmers, who figured “if those idiot fishermen can do it,” they should be able to address two of their own difficulties—getting a better price for their sheep and stopping soil erosion. Sirolli got each of the farmers to contribute $114 to commission a study on a new approach to selling mutton and found two young agronomists to look at how the value chain for old ewes could be enriched. The team came up with a cost-effective way of making use of the sheepskins. Sirolli also brokered a meeting with a local environmentalist—formerly viewed by the farmers as “the enemy”—who helped them identify commercial uses for the native scrub that grew on their marginal land and find an instructor to start a class in re-vegetation at a local college. Within a short time, the farmers had both expanded their business and stopped soil erosion.

Business-Centered Therapy

Sirolli has achieved this kind of success by adapting methods pioneered by Carl Rogers, the founder of “person-centered therapy” and a major influence on organizational development. Rogers’s clinical work demonstrated that a therapist could help people heal by simply “being there,” offering witness and support. “Rogers basically invented facilitation,” says Sirolli. “He believed a counselor’s sole job was to remove obstacles so a patient could resume normal growth. He told his students, ‘You don’t do the work, you let your patients do it. You’re there to honor their innate wish to grow.’”
Using Rogers’s technique with entrepreneurs represents a radical departure from ordinary business development. “For one thing,” Sirolli notes, “few programs emphasize one-on-one work with entrepreneurs, preferring to focus on infrastructural support such as microloans, literacy, and training. Also, most programs require entrepreneurs to complete a business plan before applying for funding, even though there’s little connection between the ability to write a plan and [the ability to] run a business. Finally, a lot of programs supply money. Our practice is to never do that, on the theory that an entrepreneur with a good plan and the right team will have little problem finding money.” The real challenge of the method, he says, is “being comfortable enough to wait, to resist the temptation to step in. That’s tough in our action-crazy culture.”
Sirolli’s success drew national interest. The Australian government provided money to train “another Ernesto” to continue in Esperance so he could move on and start more projects. “They sent me a wonderful young guy, and the training took place in the back of a station wagon. I told him, ‘There are just two things you should never do. Don’t initiate anything yourself, and never try to motivate people.’” The newly anointed EF objected that it would be a disaster to rely on locals for ideas, but promised to do “nothing” until given different instructions. Within two months, he had 46 projects under way.

Mining and Communities

By the late 1990s, Sirolli was in demand throughout Australia and New Zealand—surfacing ideas, brokering relationships, training facilitators, and finishing his book. Around this same time, he met his second wife, Martha Sirolli, and they began working together. Sirolli worked for a Minnesota development agency, then with a federal enterprise zone in South Dakota, and ultimately with the institute that he and Martha cofounded when they later moved to Sacramento. In every venue, he followed his practice of drinking “bottomless cups of coffee” with the locals and helping those who were motivated find resources to start viable businessess.
Ripples from the Zambezi found an avid reader in Bruce Harvey, an exploratory geologist who negotiated land access for the Melbourne-based mining giant Rio Tinto. “Ripples spoke to me, because in mining we need to be concerned with the long-term viability of communities where we open mines, which for the most part have little in the way of physical or social infrastructure,” Harvey says. In other words, a giant mining company entering a local area could learn something valuable from the example of a social-entrepreneurship catalyst like Sirolli.

n the past, we promised communities that if they let us come in and create a modern economy, they’d get to participate and reap the benefits,” says Harvey. But it didn’t work that way. “Mining and petroleum are capital-intensive industries that don’t produce many jobs. Plus, most of our workers have specialized skills and must be brought in from elsewhere. So we need a different model for helping people who live near our mines sustain some kind of livelihood. If we can’t do that, they’ll end up throwing us out—maybe not right away, but after a generation or two. The work Ernesto described in Esperance and Fremantle—places I knew—offered a different approach, one based on local talents, ideas, and ambitions.”
Harvey asked Sirolli to keynote the annual conference of the Minerals Council of Australia, the industry’s chief trade group, in 2007. The purpose was to present an alternative to the top-down, engineering-based model of development that resource companies had traditionally pursued—bringing in well-paid consultants to teach resource-starved local people how to do jobs the consultants thought they should do. “Ernesto showed us how we could help local people identify businesses they wanted to start. He told us to listen instead of commissioning studies.”
Sirolli, for his part, saw a huge opportunity for helping mining companies become real partners in development. In his speech at the conference, he invited the executives to “imagine if people wanted your company to work with them because they knew this would improve their community! You’d be invited to bid on projects instead of having communities organizing against you.” The speech created a stir. Until that point, most of his work had been with governments, development agencies, and nonprofit organizations; now industrial companies also started to seek him out. He began a series of seminars on enterprise development for mining executives, and accepted a fellowship at the University of Queensland to teach corporate social responsibility in resource-intensive industries. With sponsorship from mining and energy companies, he set up training for enterprise facilitators in communities where natural resources were being developed, as diverse as Canadian tribal lands, remote villages in Indonesia and Wales, and rural U.S. communities where shale oil was being produced.
Bruce Harvey, who had been promoted to global practice leader in community and social performance for Rio Tinto, brought Sirolli in to work at Oyu Tolgoi in southern Mongolia, site of one of the world’s largest copper mines. “The NGOs in the area wanted to help the local people,” recalls Harvey, “but they were proposing things like chicken farms, which are totally alien to Gobi culture. Ernesto came out and said, ‘Don’t propose anything, just get people talking. Thenthey can figure out how what they want to do might pay.’”
Sure enough, listening revealed an opportunity: developing a market for wool from the two-humped Bactrian camel, a fiber renowned for its softness, warmth, durability, and strength. “It’s potentially a very lucrative product,” says Harvey, “but it was being treated as a commodity, like ordinary wool. The locals mostly just lopped off the dirty camel hair any which way with scissors, tossed it into bags, and sold it in bulk to Chinese traders. That left most of the value on the table.” The enterprise facilitators helped the local farmers discover how they could add value at every step. They sheared the wool carefully with tools that kept the strands intact. Then they cleaned, sorted, combed, and wove it, doing the finish work required to create a beautiful luxury fabric sought out by designers all over the world.

Small Interventions

One of Sirolli’s current goals is to work with business schools to shift the nature of entrepreneurial education. “Most schools teach entrepreneurs that they must have all the skills—product, marketing, financial management. They reward students for putting together a go-it-alone business plan instead of collaborating or identifying who they need to start a business with. In this way, [the schools] often set their students up for failure. If, instead, schools could provide enterprise facilitators, they could help students figure out what they really need to get started.”
Sirolli had not realized until his 2012 TED talk that his methods could have value for established organizations. “I now hear from so many businesspeople. An entrepreneur from Florida just flew to Sacramento to see me. He said, ‘I’ve been very successful, but I realized I don’t really know what people in my companies are capable of doing.’ I said, ‘Do you realize that among the people you employ there are some with beautiful dreams that you could invest in? This would be an organic way to grow your business.’”
Sirolli believes that enterprise facilitators will always have an advantage over planners and development boards because they avoid over-investment and don’t choose which projects to support. Instead, they help people identify impediments that stand in the way of translating their dreams into businesses so they can move forward. By making small interventions on hundreds of projects, EFs avoid the pitfall of trying to pick winners. Because nobody can predict tomorrow’s market, Sirolli notes, “Economies that rely on a few starters and products will always be vulnerable. The nations with the broadest catchment areas will be leaders.”
Or, to quote Peter Drucker, “Innovative opportunities do not come with the tempest but with the rustling of the breeze.” Helping small businesses offers a way to fan that breeze.

By Sally Helgesen

APP SPECIAL......................... The app for your h‘app’iness

The app for your h‘app’iness

From tracking your sleep pattern to combating negativities, there are a number of applications that help you beat lifestyle stress.


Happiness is a state of mind. And the key to it is relaxation and finding joy in things around you. Sure, it depends on you, but there are some apps to help you become happier. Skeptical? We were, too. But a closer look showed that some of them do work!

HAPPIFY [iOS app and website:]
Available on the iPhone and as a website, Happify is a platform that uses quick activities and games based on a set of questions on how happy you have been in the last week, as well as your present state of mind. The activities help you reduce stress, combat negative energies and boost optimism and self esteem, besides encouraging open-mindedness.
Based on psychological research from leading academic institutions, the activities are personalised for you. If you like it, and want to do more activities, you can also buy a premium version, starting at
` 270 a month for a 2-year package and ` 790 a month if you pay per month.
[iOS and Android - free]
This app is more of a journal. According to research, if you record happy moments of your life — from bumping into an old friend to a pretty sunset you watched, or just a cup of coffee with someone that gave you joy — the celebration of these “wins’ has a power to motivate and ignite joy. The app lets you record these moments, either privately or in a public mode.
A number of people around you, irrespective of whether they are your friends or not, will also show up in a feed. For example, someone may share the joy of their child mak- ing his/her first drawing, someone may feel happy after buying their first car — put this all into the journal, and it will help you build a happier nature.
In addition, Happier also offers courses on its website, from building 7 happier habits over a 7-day period or 7-days of outdoor walks and meditations. These courses cost anywhere from a one-time fee of ` 1,200 or a monthly fee of ` 600.
[iOS and Web]
Designed primarily for the youth, Smiling Mind calls itself a modern meditation designed to bring balance into young lives. It allows you to specify your age group, starting as early as 7-11 years, going up to 16-22. You can choose an individual programme and also add education or sports to it. You can sign-up for a meditation session or set up a reminder for a later date.
The first meditation gets you into the mood with a 5-minute body scan, which relaxes your mind. There are several others as well that help you improve awareness of mind, body and all the senses — and all for free! You can even download these meditations and use them when you are on a holiday and not connected to the Internet.
SLEEP BOT [iOS and Android]
Sleep disorder is a common problem these days. A number of apps and devices are available to help you monitor sleep, but Sleep Bot does things slightly differently. Launch the app when you are ready to sleep and it will shut off music, put your phone on silent or airplane mode if you choose to.
While you sleep, the app will record your sleeping time, movement – you just need to put the phone next to your pillow, and it even records sounds such as your partner’s snoring, or the neighbour’s dog barking in the middle of the night! Want to wake up at 5AM? Set the alarm and the app will wake you up in a 30-minute window where it senses your sleep to be the lightest. All data is automatically sent to, and you can track your sleep movements and make notes.
HT 140826

Thursday, August 28, 2014

FINANCE SPECIAL............................... All you need to know about cap on free ATM transactions

 All you need to know about cap on free ATM transactions

The RBI's decision to cut the number of free transactions on other banks' ATMs will have widespread ramifications. Starting 1 November, if you conduct more than three transactions on other banks' ATMs in a month, you will be charged Rs 20 per transaction. The apex bank has also allowed banks to charge customers if they use their own bank ATMs more than five times a month. This applies to transactions in six metros: Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

The silver lining in the new rules on ATM usage is that the charge structure has been harmonised. Before the RBI decided in 2009 to make five ATM transactions free, banks used to charge anything between Rs 15 and Rs 60 per transaction at another bank's ATM. This was later revised to Rs 20 per withdrawal and Rs 9 for non-financial transactions. Banks have been lobbying for the introduction of charges on ATM usage ever since the RBI allowed this.
Thankfully, the RBI has not permitted banks to have their way and retained the cap on charges for withdrawals.
While Rs 20 per transaction is not exactly usurious, it can add up to a sizeable amount every month if you are not careful about your cash flow. With careful planning, you can avoid paying the ATM charges beyond the free transactions. However, don't go overboard trying to avoid the ATM charge. For instance, keeping a lot of cash at home to save on ATM fees could prove counter-productive. In your effort to save Rs 20 in transaction fee, you may lose a few hundred rupees in interest.

Besides, it is possible that your bank does not levy charges for using ATMs frequently. For instance, preferred customers, who hold a large bank balance or have made investments through the bank, could be allowed more than three free transactions a month at other ATMs and an unlimited use of the bank's own teller machines. The change comes at a time when banks are adopting technology at a furious pace. Most banks now offer customers the facility of knowing their account balance or getting a mini statement through an SMS or phone banking. So, avoid using the ATM for nonfinancial transactions that can be done through other channels.
6 ways to avoid high ATM charges
Here's how you can avoid the charges that are likely to kick in from 1 November 2014.

Use cards wherever possible
Your first weapon against ATM charges is the plastic in your wallet. Use your debit and credit cards so that you don't need too much cash. Be alert when you do this. Some establishments charge 1-2% of the amount as transaction fee, which will defeat the purpose of using the cards. There is also the danger of overspending if you use plastic money for every purchase.
Plan your cash flow better
Don't wait till you are broke to withdraw money from the ATM. Give yourself a buffer of 2-3 days by indulging in advance planning. In this manner, you won't be forced to use another bank's ATM. While withdrawing cash, take out more than the amount you need immediately. Take into account the expenses during the coming 8-10 days and withdraw accordingly.

Prefer your own bank

If your bank's ATM is in the vicinity, avoid using another bank's machine. Even if you have to walk 50-100 feet, your first choice should be your own bank's ATM. Only if there is no ATM close to you should you use another bank's ATM. Some banks have apps that can help you locate their nearest ATM on the smartphone. Make a list of your bank's ATMs in the areas you frequently visit.
Keep emergency cash
Keep some cash at home in case you run out of money due to unforeseen expenses. However, don't keep too large an amount in cash. In your effort to save Rs 20 in ATM fees, you could be losing out more in interest on that amount. Besides, keeping cash at home is risky.
Start using dormant account 
The silver lining is that the ATM charges will help revive your dormant bank account. Most banks charge a small annual fee of Rs 80-100 for a no-frill debit card. One debit card will allow you 36 transactions on other banks' ATMs and 60 at your own bank in one year. That is much cheaper than the charge imposed by your current bank if you exceed the cap on transactions.
Use SMS, phone banking for non-financial transactions

The cap on ATM usage includes non-financial transactions, such as balance enquiry or a mini statement request. Instead of using the ATM for this, take the SMS route. Most banks offer SMS facility for checking account balance, mini statements with last five to 10 transactions, and the status of cheques issued by you.