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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Life lessons from Harsha Bhogle

The famous IIM-A alumnus(known for his cricket commentary) Mr Harsha Bhogle comes down to campus often, and shares some gyaan with us students. I was fortunate enough to attend one such session about half year ago(posting now since I found those notes during a spring cleaning spree!). He started with his usual disclaimers that they would all be sports related(thats all he claims to know!) and that he would not argue on cricket matters(since he does not want a busman's holiday).

The salient features of his talk(and my comments on them in Italics) were

  1. Join the winning team:-This improves your probability of winning  else you may end up like Mohd Ashaful(star Bangladeshi player whose talent is wasted because he is in a mediocre team. He could have bested Michael Clarke-star Australian player- but got no chance). Also, unless you have tasted success in your initial years, you would freeze/hesitate when the big moment of truth comes. This logic explains why young MBA graduates head in droves for the 'winners' and want to try entrepreneurship after some years of work-exp. I would agree that this is easier for the person involved. Of course, winning on what aspects('growth', 'reach') etc would need to be seen-business is not like cricket where Win/Lose is easy to calculate.
  2. The margin between best and the rest is small-stay humble:- In an era where that extra 1% separates the best teams, you should stay humble and focus on execution and related jobs like practicing well each time. This is true more so in business because complacency can easily erode that extra edge. Even the topper of a MBA batch sees competition yearly from subsequent batches, colleges and nations and cannot afford to rest on his laurels.
  3. Give your 100%- One can control one's efforts but not the outcome. Often, the best results take years to achieve(like winning World Cups). So, choose a field because of the passion you have, and the money will follow
  4. Analytics:- Success being a function of time, space and scale, it is important to use analytics well. Michael Lewis's book Moneyball is an excellent example of how analytics was applied to the professional sports talent market-with astounding results. This has lessons for business also. 
  5. Continuous improvement:- Giving the example of the one-trick wonder Monty Panesar(who has let himself go), Harsha said that one should invest in one self(practice, coaching, training) instead of expecting others to do so
  6. Size is not everything:- Teams like New Zealand punch much above their weight. In this liberalized era with lesser entry barriers, even smaller firms(with that success DNA) can aim to compete effectively. 
  7. Setting up success for others:- One cannot always hit that winning 6, score centuries and achieve records. Thinking in the team's interests and enabling others is important. The movie Chak De India illustrates this in the India-Australia women's hockey final where the 2 g termstar players set up goals for each other. Even consulting firms harp on this factor and this is essential-ensuring that your own interests are also served in the long term

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