Carving Out

carving

We often hear the expression “carving out” a niche in corporate board rooms and career conversations.

On my recent trip to Himalayan monastery, I saw artists, surrounded by all kinds of tools and chisels, carving out beautiful designs from blocks of wood.

This got me thinking on what it really means to ‘carve out’ anything – whether it is a business strategy or a career or life itself, for that matter.

At its core, “carving out” is a way to “carve in” and elimination is at the heart of it. Unless we don’t eliminate everything that does not engage our heart and mind, we will not carve out something unique. How often do we question what we do and stop doing things that we do only to remain compliant with expectations of the outside world?

“The soul grows by subtraction, not addition.”
– Henry David Thoreau

If you are carving out according to a pre-determined formula, you will carve out things that every one else is carving out (which is fine if that’s your goal). At the heart of shaping our unique strategy, career or life is our underlying need to express who we truly are. And our need to express ourselves can be as unique as we ourselves are (unless we start thinking that we are not). So, when it comes to carving out, we have to first connect with our deeper motivations and then work inside-out. Most people however look for formulas to succeed and take an outside-in approach.

“None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

In actual wood carving, one wrong stroke of chisel can change the shape of creation. But the process of carving out in real world has to be guided by trial and errors. We are seldom handed over our gifts. Just like natural resources buried deep under the ground, our gifts as human beings are buried deep under. It takes a lot of intention, iterations, trials and failures to identify what all truly lights up our heart.

In the end, it is about focusing on possibilities. You can treat things as a simple dead block of wood or as a possibility. Everyone faces constraints and roadblocks but focusing on possibilities means to ask, What can I still do? What’s still possible?”

Because the art of carving out starts from envisioning possibilities and ends with bringing those possibilities to life.

The 9 Rules of Innovation by Greg Satell

Innovation is perhaps the most used word in corporate boardrooms today. Start ups are organized around a brand new idea but they often stumble when it comes to execution. Big companies have all the required resources, but also a lot of red-tape and resistance to change.

Add to this, the challenges of hyper-competitive landscape, organization cultures, shortage of talent and agility to move swiftly and the challenge of innovation compounds.

Moreover, innovation is not as simple as having fresh ideas and executing them well. It actually stems from having a deep and wide understanding of problem and domain at hand and it takes years to get to that understanding. Also, innovation doesn’t always mean a flashy new idea. Innovation can take many forms from operational innovation to business models and creating platforms.

In 2016, I had read an excellent article by Greg Satell that outlined “The 9 Rules of Innovation”. The post provides a rich context to the topic of how to innovate.

Here is a snippet from the post that underlines the fact that innovation requires us to pursue width of understanding and not just depth:

Darwin’s theory of natural selection borrowed ideas from Thomas Malthus, an economist and Charles Lyell, a geologist. Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA was not achieved by simply plowing away at the lab, but by incorporating discoveries in biology, chemistry and x-ray diffraction to inform their model building.

Great innovation almost never occurs within one field of expertise, but is almost invariably the product of synthesis across domains.

Greg cites example of Google to outline the 70/20/10 rule which I so agree with. He says,

The premise of the rule is simple. Focus 70% of your resources in improving existing technology (i.e. search), 20% toward adjacent markets (i.e. Gmail, Google Drive, etc.) and 10% on completely new markets (i.e. self-driving cars).

And finally, a nugget of wisdom that outlines the path to success in a networked world:

In a networked world, the surest path to success is not acquiring and controlling assets, but widening and deepening connections.

I encourage you to read Greg’s post and here is my sketch note synthesis of key ideas from the post. The post also has a wonderful sketchnote drawn my Mauro Toselli, who has been an inspiration in my own sketchnote journey:

Also Read at QAspire.com

Three Pillars of Great Branding (and Leadership)

One thing that truly defines great leaders is that they “create an expectation”. Not just meeting the expectation (that’s management), but setting an expectation. Leaders paint a vivid picture of a future state and promise positive change. That is the starting point of leadership irrespective of whether you are leading an organization or improving a small process to ease execution. People want to know where you are taking them along.

But creating an expectation means delivering on that expectation. Leaders deliver a meaningful experience to match the expectation. Not just the outcome, but an experience with touch of humanity. The way outcome is delivered, the mindset and intent behind how it was all put together is a key leadership differentiator. This journey may have its peaks and lows – times when tough calls have to be made and times where difficult conversations have to be made. It only leading others was easy. But, the point of delivering an experience is staying completely true to the intent. Actions become powerful when driven with intent.

And when outcome is delivered with right mindset and intent, it resonates with others. The experience of delivering the outcome is as important as the outcome itself. When the experience resonates with people, it builds an emotional connection and people would want to work with leaders to repeat that experience.

This post is inspired by an excellent post on three pillars of branding by Bernadette Jiwa. When I read it, I found parallels between the essentials of branding and essentials of great leadership.

Here is a quick sketch on three pillars of great branding (and leadership too).

Make More Art

Make more art.

Art that is not only confined to traditional understanding, but doing things in a way that changes others and ecosystem for better. In that sense, each one of us has a possibility to be an artist.

A project delivered successfully that enables a customer in a big way, a conversation that moves a needle for someone, generously sharing to build a community, a quick post that inspires someone, an improved process that eases life of your colleague, a talk that provokes thinking, a nudge for someone to raise the bar, a small handwritten note of gratitude to someone, thinking differently to challenge the status quo, learning something all the time, creating a piece of work that moves the conversation forward, initiating and delivering – it is all art if it makes world a better place. In fact, that’s also what real leadership looks like.

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” ― Edgar Degas

It is as much about small things as it is about big things. Being an artist is about raising the bar. Just when the world settles into a definition for an artist, the artist raises the bar, delivers a surprising outcome or an expected outcome in a surprising way.

To be an artist at work means pursuing craftsman spirit.

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.” ― Martha Graham

In this context, I loved a quote from Robert Twigger’s book “Micromastery” by Andy Warhol. I included that quote in my visual book review of Micromastery, but the quote is so inspiring that it deserved a separate visual.

Related Reading at QAspire

Disconnect to Connect

For our creativity to thrive and learning to happen, we need unburdened spaces in our life – physical spaces too, but most importantly, mental spaces.

In a world of never-ending streams of updates, pictures and sound bites that constantly crave for our attention, we need an intentional effort to disconnect.

We need to reclaim the disconnected and real space where we can make sense of it all, spend time reading a good book without getting anxious about sharing what we are reading, explore places and ideas with sense of wonder, have real conversations with people, reflect on our experiences, create and discover our true selves.

I believe that minimalism and act of subtraction is at the very heart of discovering ourselves because to understand who we really are, we need to prune everything that we are not. We need to be comfortable with ‘missing out’ on things that everyone else does or consumes or shares, so that we can think, reflect, create and just be. Letting it go is as much about our thoughts and beliefs as it is about the objects of our desire.

Here’s a quick visual nudge to disconnect once in a while, step away from the cacophony that surrounds us and do it intentionally. Who knows, it may enrich us in a way no technology ever can!

Also Read at QAspire.com:

Micromastery: A Hidden Path to Learning and Happiness

Learning anything new is not a daunting challenge, but a journey where each step counts. Fundamentally, we learn so that we can be happy and joyful. Micromastery is a great way to eliminate anxiety in learning.

Two years back, I was fascinated by people creating sketchnotes and I wanted to learn how to create them. I was unaware of what goes into creating a great sketchnote but I decided to give it a try anyway. I remember taking up a quote and creating some rudimentary visual which I then shared on Twitter as a showoffable outcome. A couple of generous folks appreciated and that feedback fueled further exploration. I then explored more to learn about structure. My second sketchnote was incrementally better than the first one. It had a structure, some use of typography and separation of key ideas. I pushed it a bit further, one step at a time, by exploring visual metaphors, learning from the community, getting better at image quality and editing/coloring them using digital tools. And then, they started getting noticed. Each step fueled the other resulting in a body of work that I am incredibly proud of.

I never felt overwhelmed along this journey because I was doing it for the joy of doing it. I wanted to get better and at the end of every iteration, I wanted myself and the world to see an improved outcome. I was pursuing what Robert Twigger calls “Micromastery”.

This approach has served me well while learning how to write, speak in public, play a few songs on harmonica (mouth organ), sing solo and play a guitar.

Truth is, that is how we learn as kids. I can see my 5 years old son dabbling into so many things, learning in small increments and then improving upon it. He doesn’t want to be a specialist. He just wants to explore whatever interests him. His latest fascination is drawing the Amazon logo and he is getting better at it. His eyes shine when he succeeds at creating stick figures.

I read this book “Micromastery” by Robert Twigger with great interest. He defines micromastery as:

“A micromastery is a self-contained unit of doing, complete in itself but connected to a greater field.”

The book nicely explores different facets connecting micromastery to dynamic learning, getting into flow, polymathism (Neogeneralism, multipotentialite) and happiness. In many ways, reading this book was liberating because it tells us that we neither need permission to learn anything nor an overwhelming plan. We just need to find what we love doing, however insignificant, and start pursuing it.

If you are a keen learner who is interested in learning wide array of things instead of going just deep, this book is for you.

Here is a sketchnote covering some ideas from the book:

Path is Made by Walking

A prescribed path seldom takes you to an uncharted territory.

Walking down a beaten road provides some security and certainty and that is important to an extent. We all live in a competitive world.  The problem starts when we get used to only treading along the beaten path. Because wherever it leads you to would be a crowded place.

We need the spirit of exploration as much as we need certainty. We need an open heart willing to surrender to the joy of finding the unknown. We need feet flexible enough to follow the direction of our heart. We need to pursue the joy and find joy in the pursuit. We need to experiment, look for intersections, dig them deeper, with others and share. And then we find the interesting. Then we truly learn.

And it is only when we learn with this sense of exploration that we can create our unique path that others may choose to walk upon, eventually to find their own paths.

The way to remain open to possibilities is to think that there is no path. That the steps you take and celebrating each step along creates a path that is uniquely yours.


Also Read at QAspire:

In 100 Words: Immersion and Doing Work that Matters

We cannot be anxious about something “out there” – a goal, a target, an external reward, a validation from others and generally things that feed our ego – and be immersed in what we do at the same time.

To be able to do great work/art that changes others for better, we need to let “joy” rule us instead of “ego”. Then there is no self in the game: self is just a conducive medium for the inspiration to show up in form of work.

If/when this happens, rewards and recognition will be by-products of the pursuit, not the pursuit itself.  


Also Read at QAspire:

Move And The Way Appears

I am a big fan of taking small, daily steps in the direction where your energy takes you. I started this blog 11 years back with very insignificant posts that no one read. My first sketch note a couple of years back was far from being good. My first steps towards a health and wellness were slow and tentative. But how does that matter?

Because, those first few insignificant posts did not deter me from moving forward. I wrote, and wrote more. And as I did that, I learned how it works. I did more of what worked and here we are – a blog with tens of thousands of readers each month, sharing their encouragement to me via comments, likes and shares on several social channels. This blog has a life of its own.

“Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things bought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh

I remember I was hesitant in sharing my first sketch note. But less than 2 years after I shared the first one, the sketch notes have gone viral – from social media to global conferences to office walls to being included in books. When I started, did I have a purpose to make them viral? I just knew that I enjoyed making them, learning along the way and improving all the time. I was pursuing joy and suddenly, the way started appearing. 

“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid of only standing still.” – Chinese Proverb

I lost significant weight (nearly 12% of my total body weight) in past 4 months.  My big plan was to move one small step at a time – read a bit about what it takes, take small steps towards cleaner eating, do small changes in lifestyle, get more active and suddenly, it all started revealing. Lessons came to the fore as a result of moving forward slowly, daily and steadily.

My biggest lesson in learning is:

It doesn’t matter what you wish to do. It never happens in one big bang. Instead, it happens in a series of small steps taken with an open mind, learning along each step and putting that learning back into the next step. And then it grows, purpose reveals and you are on a journey before you realize. Forward motion, however small, feeds our esteem and inspires us.

Purpose may not always be the starting point of your journey. Sometimes, you start the journey and the purpose reveals itself.

And who knows, small steps you take in the direction of your heart may open up new paths for you and inspire others? Small is never insignificant, but a powerful step towards a higher purpose.

Move, and the way appears! 


A Round-up of Related Posts at QAspire to add to the conversation:

Peter Drucker on The Effective Executive

Ultimately, leadership is all about ability to act on the ideas. In that sense, anyone who thinks of the self as a leader has to be good at executing things. Probably a reason why top leaders in organizations are referred to as executives – the one who executes, not just someone with a fancy title and corner office.

Leadership is a very broad term and leaders in organizations come in all shapes and sizes – from introverted to extraverted, charismatic to simple, people oriented versus task oriented and the differentiation goes on.

But Peter Drucker, whose work has played a defining role in my own growth as a manager and leader, identified eight practices of effective executive based on his observations over 65 years of his consulting career.

The June 2004 article by Peter Drucker in Harvard Business titled “What Makes an Effective Executive” is a must read, if you are a student  of leadership.

Here’s a short snippet of 8 characteristics along with a quick sketch note.

What made them all effective is that they followed the same eight practices:

  • They asked, “What needs to be done?”
  • They asked, “What is right for the enterprise?”
  • They developed action plans.
  • They took responsibility for decisions.
  • They took responsibility for communicating.
  • They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.
  • They ran productive meetings.
  • They thought and said “we” rather than “I.”

The first two practices gave them the knowledge they needed. The next four helped them convert this knowledge into effective action. The last two ensured that the whole organization felt responsible and accountable.

– Peter Drucker, What Makes an Effective Executive

Related posts at QAspire

Future of Work: Ways to Prepare

At #SocialNow conference recently, Luis Suarez shared a slide by Thierry de Baillon on ways to prepare for the dark side of technology. I loved the ideas and decided to sketch the approach.

Once again these ideas reinforced my belief that leading organizations and self in the future is all about the stuff like connections, empathy, flow, learning and thinking differently. It is clear that these implicit and human/social elements of work are the real antidote to onslaught of technology.

The sooner organizations embrace these elements into their culture, the sooner they will start adapting. That is the way to ride the wave of technology changes rather than getting crushed under it. 

Related Visual Posts at QAspire.com

In 100 Words: Boundary

We get too bogged down by our self-imposed boundaries.

Boss won’t allow.

That is not our process.

I’ve never been told!

Not my job.

They need to do it!

And it goes on. But what if we cross that boundary and get into the realm of:

What can I do?

Who can I influence?

How can we make it better?

How can I elicit their commitment for this?

It’s a different conversation that requires great deal of emotional labor. As Seth Godin says in Poke the Box, boundaries are in our heads, not anywhere else.


Related Posts at QAspire.com

Future of Work: Four Shifts Leaders Must Focus on

Talking about the impending shifts like automation, robotics, disruptions and uncertainties in our world of work is almost clichéd.

What seems like a problem is also an opportunity to do the thing that makes us human – to change our attitudes and fixed beliefs about how we have traditionally experienced work. It is this shift in how we see the world around us that truly enables us to deal with it constructively.

In this context, I read an excellent post by Kenneth Mikkelsen titled “Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes” at Drucker Forum blog. Here is a snippet from the post:

Leaders, like anyone else, are habitual beings that protect their worldview and the meaning they derive from it. Peter Drucker understood that better than most people. In Innovation and Entrepreneurship he dedicated a chapter to incongruities, the mental gaps between perception and reality. Drucker saw these gaps as an invitation to innovate. At its core, entrepreneurship is at about exploring such opportunity spaces to create something new, something different.

The post further outlines four shifts leaders must focus on to deal with slides and shifts around us. Here is a sketch note version of ideas presented in the post.

Related Posts at QAspire:

The Spark of Initiative

There are people who coast along, go with the flow and do as directed. And then, there are those who strive to add value, raise the bar and make a difference.

If you belong to the latter, Seth Godin has some simple (yet profound) guidance for you. He wrote about three ways to add value – by doing things, by taking decisions and by initiating. Our education system trains us to do things efficiently. Our experience may lead us to a point where we can decide effectively what’s best for ourselves, our team, project and organization.

But we need to learn the art of initiating things ourselves; by having new ideas, starting small experiments, taking tiny risks, caring enough, exerting emotional labor, doing the right thing when no one is watching, learning along the way, adapting our approaches and then hopefully, see our ideas come to life.

“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth.

Not going all the way, and not starting.”

– Siddhartha Gautama

In his book “Poke the Box” Seth Godin wrote,

“The world is changing too fast. Without the spark of initiative, you have no choice but to simply react to the world. Without the ability to instigate and experiment, you are stuck, adrift, waiting to be shoved.”

In a future that is increasingly getting automated, it is this spark of initiative that is and would remain our real competitive advantage.

Sketchnote: What Rebels Want From Their Boss

At the heart of a meaningful change is someone who thought beyond the boundaries. Someone who challenged the status quo. Someone who exerted emotional labor to pursue, fight for their ideas and convince others. And then they bring about change. You can call them rebels or change makers and they are inevitable for growth and positive change.

Rebels may not be a very popular lot and many bosses I’ve seen work overtime to subdue the rebels. But great leadership is about providing right channels to direct this energy, nurturing a mindset of continuous improvement and supporting people as they execute their experiments and ideas. That’s what rebels expect from their bosses.

“…it’s just another one of those things I don’t understand: everyone impresses upon you how unique you are, encouraging you to cultivate your individuality while at the same time trying to squish you and everyone else into the same ridiculous mould. It’s an artist’s right to rebel against the world’s stupidity.”
E.A. Bucchianeri, Brushstrokes of a Gadfly

In this context, I love the work that Lois Kelly and Carmen medina do at Rebels at Work community. I have sketched their ideas here before and here’s a quick sketchnote of their recent blog post “What Rebels Want From Their Bosses”.

This may help you as a leader if you really intend to support rebels in your teams.

Related Sketchnotes/Posts at QAspire.com

Social Mindset: A Key to Engaging People

It is more than obvious now that the way people feel about their workplace has direct material impact on performance of the business. This simple equation gets even more complex when we think of forces that are fundamentally changing how we work. Our workplace conversations today are dominated by topics like increasing globalization, economic uncertainties, automation, disruptive innovations, social technologies, generational shifts, mobility, people analytics, gig economy and such.

Newer generations at workplace demand different experiences and therefore, organizations are challenged constantly to move beyond traditional engagement programs and think of engagement more holistically. There is plenty of conversation happening today around moving from employee engagement to employee experience, role of design thinking in driving people experiences and creating a differentiating employer brand experience.

These are all worthy topics to take the conversation of talent engagement forward but I think that none of this will be effective in engaging talent unless we address something very fundamental underlying all of these ideas. We live in social, hyper-connected and super-transparent world and therefore, adopting a “social mindset” is and will remain a killer app for engaging people.

Social mindset is about focusing on people more than focusing on process and having a belief that magic happens when:

  • We create ecosystems where good people can thrive
  • People are aligned to purpose and are clear about how their work contributes to larger objectives
  • People have tools and communities to learn what they want to learn and when they want to learn
  • Leaders play an active role in building ecosystems for high performance

Real engagement happens when we focus, not on generating engagement, but doing right things that increase human engagement.

To be able to adopt a social mindset, leaders need to be equipped with deep understanding of how social, networked and self-evolving structures work. Only then can organizational leaders facilitate effective engagement of talent to meet organizational objectives. This is conversation that goes way beyond HR teams focusing narrowly on “employee engagement programs”. This is a more holistic conversation, and one that really engages talent by integrating work design, culture, rewards, learning and career development to deliver superior employee experience. Let us take a deeper look at how social mindset enables each of these and what it means in practical terms:

Work Design: People need a conducive space to perform and how work really gets done is a key driver for engagement. Technology advances have transformed how work is performed and designing work in a way that engages people is a real challenge and opportunity. Organizations have to relentlessly clarify purpose, how an individual’s work enables achievement of purpose and provide autonomy to team members to execute their ideas. People derive sense of control when they have space to do the work in their own unique way and execute their ideas. Social mindset plays a huge role in enabling people to perform. Traditional “once-a-year” feedback mechanisms only disable people. Real enablement happens when people get frequent feedbacks and support throughout the year. Enablement is also about involving people in collaborative problem solving, making goals transparent, seeking their feedback and most importantly, acting on that feedback. The design of organization and work should enable and encourage people to pursue non-linear career paths. Reducing organizational layers, building small teams and empowering them to self-organize go a long way in engaging talent on a longer run.

Alignment and Clarity: In an information intensive world, real empowerment to people is all about seamless communication across different clusters of organizational network. When communication channels are open, people have greater opportunity to clarify their concerns, know the strategic direction and align their local decision making accordingly. Organizations are increasingly using enterprise social networks like Yammer, Microsoft Skype for Teams and Slack to facilitate these critical conversations. Using social tools to not just broadcast but engage in a dialogue is a great way to also build a compelling employer brand. Communication and clarity across the board works like grease to reduce friction, enable clarity and therefore, improve engagement.

Social Learning: People who get the required support to do their work better tend to be better engaged. We have moved beyond traditional one-way forms of training (learning events) to continuous streams of on-demand learning (learning journey) that combine synchronous and asynchronous forms of learning. People don’t go to classrooms when they want to learn – they go to corporate learning management systems, micro-learning platforms like Twitter, Enterprise social networks like Yammer and so on. Enabling social learning is about encouraging people to share their work, get feedback, align their practices and learn from these experiences. It is about building communities of practice and encouraging people to work out loud. For this to happen, leaders have to set the right example and become engaged social learners themselves. When organizations get this right, they build a solid employer brand (reputation) while engaging with their prospective talent pools on external social networks.

Creating Ecosystems of High Performance: Real engagement happens when people are able to play to their potential and deliver superior performances. Effective leadership that works hard to build trust, respects people, engages in seamless conversations and treats people as colleagues and not as “resources” goes a long way in building a performance culture. Social mindset and leadership is about building a fabric of relationships between clusters of networks in organization to facilitate collaboration and performance. It is therefore so vital for leaders to walk an extra mile to clarify goals, communicate, build relationships, foster trust, deliver feedback early and often and set right examples.

Social mindset has existed in our societies and communities since ages but often forgotten in the maze of organizational layers, tight bound hierarchies, complex processes and boxed responsibilities that inhibit shared understanding and learning.

Human beings are fundamentally social and therefore, understanding of how social structures work is easy. It is all around us.

It is often in doing things we know that we stumble the most!


This article originally appeared as Cover Story in PeopleMatters Magazine April 2017 Edition


Also check out: Happy to have contributed a sketchnote to the re-published version of “The Best Leaders are Constant Learners” by Kenneth Mikkelsen and Harold Jarche at HBRAscend.in – a Harvard Business Review publication.

SHRM Top 20 Indian HR Influencers on Social Media 2015-16

Last week, SHRM India continued its tradition of releasing its report on Top 20 Indian HR Influencers on Social Media for 2015-16.

I was thrilled to be ranked amongst Top 10 Influencers for the fourth consecutive year. The report says,

So, we shortlisted 200 influencers and took into consideration multiple social platforms to find out the Top 20 influencers of the year. These influencers have played a significant role in informing and educating people on the recent trends of Human Resources on the digital medium.

I was also featured amongst the most consistent influencers since the inception of this report. That was truly humbling!

For someone who is not into traditional HR space but into business operations, this recognition means a lot. It underlines the fact that we can no longer depend only on one department to engage people, manage talent and build culture. New world of work and changing expectations from people demand that every business leader inculcates the mindset of HR. If you work with people, you are into HR – no more, no less.

We can and we need to do much better at creating ecosystems of performance and engagement.

And the journey in that direction continues!

– – – – –

P.S: Someone once asked me, “How to become an influencer?” Here’s my response to that question in a visual form.


Self-Expression Through Service

“Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Service is the highest form of self-expression” read the title of an editorial in Times of India by Janina Gomes and it got me thinking about service.

I realized that the only way to grow yourself, your teams, your organization is to think about what you have to offer from a service perspective. Who and what do you serve? You can directly serve others or serve a cause that enriches others. We all know about great examples of servant leaders from Gandhi to Mandela. But what about Steve Jobs? I like to think that he devoted his life serving the cause of simplifying technology and design.

But why is service the highest form of self-expression, you may ask?

Because mindset of service subdues the ego and real self-expression (and also learning) cannot happen when you wear a mask of your ego. And the truth is, real service is not about you, it is about purpose and people. And when you think about purpose and receivers of your service, YOU become the medium and not the source. Ego and entitlement must take a back seat if you are truly set out to serve others and when that happens, the whole foundation of your engagement with the cause is transformed.

Gandhi famously said,

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service of others.”

It doesn’t matter if you are an artist, employee, a team member, a leader or an entrepreneur – you are paid to serve something or someone. Breaking the cocoon of your limited beliefs and thinking about who/what you serve is also a powerful way to also discover your unique purpose.

Here is a quick doodle to encapsulate this wonderful thought!

Also Read at QAspire:

Sketchnotes: My Interview in a French Book

“For every disciplined effort, there is a multiple reward.” – Jim Rohn

I started creating sketch notes only in mid of 2015 as an experiment to learn better and simplify ideas. Little did I know that this experiment will grow into something amazing.

I have been in pursuit of simplifying ideas and extract signals in a noisy world since 2009 when I wrote my first book #QUALITYtweet. My sharing on Twitter, experiment of 100 word posts and lists are all directed towards brevity without losing the substance of the message. I have learned a great deal out of it.

“It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what others say in a whole book.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

I was happily surprised last year when Philippe BouKobza reached out to me with a few questions on my journey in creating sketchnotes for his upcoming book. Earlier this year, the interview and a sample sketchnote was published in a French book titled  “Travailler avec le sketchnoting. Comment gagner en efficacité et en sérénité grâce à la pensée visuelle” roughly meaning “Work with sketchnoting. How to gain efficiency and serenity through visual thinking.”. It is an excellent resource for sketchnote enthusiasts and I wish the book comes out in English sometime soon.

Since the interview is published in French, I thought of sharing the insights here in English too (some people also requested this on Twitter). So, here it goes:

Since when do you use Visual note-taking / Sketchnoting?

[Tanmay Vora] In school, I remember using the last page of my notebooks to doodle. Back then, I used to write my own name in different ways and experiment with letters. After I got into corporate life, I have used visual notations, process flow diagrams and blocks to make sense of things while consulting customers and during internal team meetings. But I got started into visual note taking only in mid of 2015. I only wish I had started sooner.

How did you discover this technique? 

[Tanmay Vora] I discovered the technique of visual note taking through a blog post on the same topic by Abhijit Bhaduri. I have been blogging about leadership, learning and quality since last 10 years and I found a great new way to represent some of these ideas visually to simplify the understanding for myself and for the readers. I learned a great deal from the wonderful sketchnote community on social media where people like Mike Rohde, Mauro Toselli and many others generously share their learning on art and craft of creating sketchnotes.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of Sketchnoting?

[Tanmay Vora] I think the biggest benefit of creating and consuming information in sketch note form is that it simplifies learning and eases comprehension both for the creator and for the consumer. Visual metaphors allows the brain to fill the gaps enabling connection and synthesis of ideas. I find sketch notes a great way to organize and summarize the insights in a way that raises attention and engagement.

John Medina, in his book “Brain Rules” said that we remember 15% of what we read (text), 35% of what we see (pictures) and 65% of what we read and see (text + pictures). Visual notes are a great tool for sense making and easy communication of ideas.

· What are your main uses of this technique? 

[Tanmay Vora] I use visual notes extensively to:

  • Simplify learning for myself and others
  • Summarize insights on leadership, learning and quality
  • Sense-making through idea synthesis
  • Brainstorming
  • Creative problem solving
  • Visual communication (as social objects) to drive conversations and change

How does your entourage react when they see your sketchnotes?

[Tanmay Vora] Hand drawn sketch notes add a human element into the digital world and that’s the reason people instantly connect with sketch notes. My followers on Twitter, Facebook and blog use my sketch notes as useful reminders of some of the most important concepts in leadership and learning areas. I often get pictures of how my sketch notes are decorating someone’s home or office space in form of a poster. Sketch notes I created have made it to several live events including global conferences and TEDx talks. I feel immensely grateful when my work intersects with real world and I get positive feedback on how it helps others in their own learning journeys.

Just like I was inspired to create sketchnotes through inspiration from others, my own work in visual note taking has inspired several people to start taking visual notes. I feel very happy when my work sparks inspiration for others. That is why I do everything that I do.

Also See: What Creating Sketchnotes Taught Me About #Learning