The Imagination Modification

My on-again off-again relationship with meditation is back on, for the time being anyway. I appreciate Brad Feld for recently writing about his meditation journey and inspiring me to start meditating again. For the last week, I’ve meditated almost every day.

In a previous post I wrote about the Patanjali Yoga Sutras and how Patanjali teaches that yoga is about stilling the five modifications of the mind – memory, imagination (fancy), right knowledge, wrong knowledge, and sleep. At the time, I was fascinated by the predominance of memory in my meditation. I have noticed that my tendency now shifts toward imagination – thinking about the future, or watching visions/dreams play out in my mindscape. Today, I even imagined writing this blog post, until I stilled that thought.

I also learned a lesson about being gentle in meditation. When it comes to discipline, I’m usually a bit harsh – on myself, and others. In meditation, I’ve learned that when one of these modifications arises, it’s a good practice to bring your awareness to your breath. Today, rather than abruptly trying to bring my attention to my breath, I first noticed my breath was there, and this of course brings attention to it. I then gently let my mind go of the modification which was consuming it (imagination mostly), and brought more awareness to my breath. In doing this, I noticed that even when the modifications came back, there was more space in my mind. Every time, there was less and less of a crowd.

That additional space kept me absorbed in watching. I usually set a timer to make sure I meditate for a certain amount of time – usually twenty minutes. At some point in my meditation, I have the thought “I wonder when the timer will go off”. This morning, that thought never came, I was absorbed watching all the way until the timer emerged.

Deciding to Solve the Problem

The first step to solving a problem is deciding that the problem will be solved.

This week, I have been struggling with a particular customer problem. And every time I thought about it, the thought was something along the lines of “wow, this is a tough one”. I would still think about what I needed to do, but I was not expecting to solve it. I was approaching the problem as if it were not solvable.

Today, as I was thinking about it, I decided that this problem will be solved. This has caused me to change my frame of reference when looking at it. Now when I think about what my team and I will do, I consider how that will lead to solving the problem. Though I don’t know what the end solution will look like, I’m seeing my actions as leading toward the solution. And since I have decided that it will be solved, I expect that it will.

Simply making the decision makes a difference.

Denver StartUp Week

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 10.05.35 PMDenver Start Up Week is next week (September 16-20). There is a lot great events and activities for folks who are involved in, want to be involved in, or be more involved in startups in Denver and Colorado.

One of the great ways to get information, share ideas, and meet great people is to participate in the DSW Office Hours taking place. Many awesome mentors from the area are reserving 15 minute slots of time on a first-come first-serve basis for anyone who wants to pick their brains about anything. Including me. This is all being hosted by EFCO, so we’ll be simultaneously spreading the word about how companies can support healthy communities and make for a better world. You can sign up for office hours here, and you can learn more about all the events taking place here.

Shorter Cycles / Smaller Batches: With a Phased Approach

How do you shorten the cycle and reduce the batch size in large scale systems?

I was on a call with Gartner Research the other day,  briefing them on the ILANTUS approach to delivering Identity and Access Management (IAM) solutions to our customers. During the briefing, we discussed our vision and ability to deliver value using shorter cycles / smaller batches. They explained that they are hearing the same thing from their customers – going away are the days of spending more money (multiples more) on product implementation consulting than you do on the product itself. Customers are demanding that they realize value more quickly and with less money. They want to see not only higher ROI (return on investment), but also quicker time to value.

They then asked “How are you doing this?” I explained that we are implementing shorter / smaller in short cycles, and had not yet figured it all out. So far, we have done the following:

1. ILANTUS developed IP has been created to lend itself to rapid deployment and quick delivery. So when we are implementing our products, this is relatively simple to do.

2. For implementations that include both ILANTUS products and large scale systems, we implement ILANTUS products first, or at least in a parallel track, so that value is delivered quickly.

3. For the larger legacy type packages that traditionally take a long time, we have shrunk the requirements-design-develop-test-production cycle by working in phases. For example, if there are 10 applications to integrate into the system, we break it up and go thru the entire cycle with 3 applications, then 3 more, then the remaining 4.

Where we are now is looking at how to increase the feedback loop in each of the steps in the requirements-design-develop-test-production cycle. I’ll discuss more about how we are doing that in another post.

Ultimately, what I believe we’ll need to do is to break out of the R-D-D-T-P cycle altogether.

Entrepreneur’s Foundation in the Press

One of my passions is contributing to society and making the world a better place. One of the organizations I serve on the board of, Entrepreneur’s Foundation of Colorado (EFCO) does a great job of doing this. We recently got some press in the Denver Post:


Captain or Coach: Leadership Lessons from the Cricket Bench

As you lead in the various aspects of your life, I invite you to consider if you act more as a team captain or coach. 
In India, cricket is far and away the most popular professional sport. In my two weeks there, I was drawn in and enjoyed following the game. I even made it to the stadium in Bangalore for the Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Pune Warriors match – thanks to Alok for arranging it, and Shiva and Pramod for coming along. I watched player Chris Gayle break a few world records and make headline news, even.
One thing that struck me is how the teams are led. The team captain, one of the players, is the first and foremost leader. They are interviewed before and after the game, they creat batting order, and make gams time decisions, both during play and from the sidelines. The coach is rarely, if ever, heard from. In my two weeks of watching cricket on TV, I saw few interviews with assistant coaches, not one head coach, and countless interviews and analysts discussions about the performance of the captains.
Contrast this to baseball or American football, where the coach is the primary lineup and sideline decision maker. The captain is usually one of the better players, playing the game with the team. The coach does not play. They each bring a different perspective to the decision making process.
This got me thinking about different types and styles of leaders in general. There are leaders who are playing with the team, make decisions from the inside, and can jump in at any point and take over for a player – the captain. There are also leaders who make decisions from the sideline, are available to advise players during gameplay, and see the game from an outside perspective.
Is one better than the other? There was a recent trend in management thinking that every manager should be able to do the work the players do (captains). I don’t believe this to be the case, and I haven’t heard it much lately. It is not the case for me – all the people who work for me are far more technically capable than I am.
I know there are quite a few Ilantians (what we working at ILANTUS call each other) reading my blog. For those of you that are, I see myself as coach and Pramod as captain. I think it’s a leadership partnership that works well.
I do not think it’s better to be either captain or coach. They each have their value. I do think it’s helpful to consider which you are.

Temples and Palaces

Here are some pictures from my great time touring Southern India this weekend. Much gratitude to Pramod and Rhagavendra, two gentlemen on my team, for making the weekend so great. All told I visited two palaces and five temples – each to a different god. I learned a lot about India, her cultures, and the Hindu religions.

Inside the ancient temple of Vishnu. Walking around this giant stone temple with columns carved from a single piece of stone was awe inspiring. Very grounding. This is outside the actual temple, which is an inner sanctum deep inside this large chamber. Photos are not allowed inside the main temple.



Here is me, Pramod (left), and Rhagavendra (right) enjoying coconuts outside Sultan Tipu’s summer palace.


Next was an ancient temple devoted to Shiva. Shiva is the destroyer, and also the dancing God. I so appreciate the image of a dancing destroyer. Here is the main gate tower from the inside:



Then up the Cherimundi Hills outside of Mysore and to a temple devoted to Durga. Here is a wall Ganesha sculpture above the main gate on the outside. Ganesha removes obstacles, and is frequently seen first among Gods, to clear the way for their influence:



We caught sunset over Mysore as we came down the Cherimundi Hills. Gorgeous, as you can see:


By the time we made it to the Mysore Palace, we had to wait just a little while for the five minutes they light it up at night:


On Sunday, I had the pleasure of joining Pramod, his wife Rani, and his son Niketh, on some temple visits in Bangalore. Here is the view of Bangalore as we are leaving the Kirshna temple (of “Hare Krisha” fame).


And here is me, Pramod, Randi, and Niketh at the end of the evening inside a new mall in Bangalore:



Another week of work in Bangalore coming up, including a cricket match on Tuesday. Then, off to see my friend Abdul Salam in Pune next weekend, before heading home to the US.

First Encounters – A Roadmap

I have had the pleasure of having a couple first one-on-one conversations with the folks in our Bangalore office who work for me. They don’t work directly for me – they work for people who report to me. I fumbled around a little bit at first, and have now arrived at this formula for the conversation, that I think is working really well:

1. Appreciate them for taking the time to talk to me, and if I’ve heard good things about their work from others, appreciate that.

Reason: Always good to start every interaction with an appreciation. I believe this is one of the best parts of complementing someone’s new shirt, or their haircut, etc… I invite you to try this yourself – it will change your life.

2. Ask for their career history, and how they came to ILANTUS

Reason: You can’t help someone get where they want to go without knowing where they’ve been. And that’s part of the reason everyone should work – to achieve a goal.

3. “What do you like best about working here?”

Reason: Find out what motivates them, what creates satisfaction in their life.

4. “What do you like least?”

Reason: Whatever this is, it’s opportunity for growth and change – with either them, me, or the organization.

5. Tell me how you spend your time.

Reason: Gets you to know some of what it’s like to be in their shoes.

6. What are your worries and concerns?

Reason: Gives them an opportunity to express what’s on their mind that is not positive. What causes them to loose sleep?

7. What are your hopes and wishes?

Reason: Learn what they want. What I love about this question is most people realize this is a greater question than “what do you want out of your career?” When they ask me what kind of hopes and wishes, I say “If you have a hope and wish, and will share it with me, I want to know what it is.”

8. What can I do for you?

Reason: The best way to be able to serve your employees is to know what they want.

9. Any questions for me?

Usually, the questions have come up in the process, but this opens the door for anything else.

10. Thank you for your time.

I have found that 30 minutes per person is actually enough to accomplish all of this. It has opened the door and is a great way to start a working relationship – even if the person I’m talking to does not report directly to me, but is a couple levels removed in my organization.

The Right to an Opinion

I have been on a consulting engagement since I got back Thailand in November. I have learned many things on my first independent gig. I’ve also discovered some new policies I have for operating in the world. One of the most important is that I only express my opinion when I have a right to one.

To give some specificity to this, take my current engagement. I was brought on to help put services around some specific products. So, when it comes to services processes, or services pricing, I have been readily offering my unsolicited opinion. But when it comes to things like the structure of the organization, it is not my place to offer my opinion unless asked.

At a more subtle level, I was talking to the CEO, Binod Singh, a very conscientious leader who knows everyone in his organization. I had been on assignment for about three weeks. We were discussing some changes that needed to be made. He told me how I should go about initiating those changes inside the company. I said “that sounds like a good idea”.

I was explaining this interaction to my friend and mentor, Steven Young, and he pointed out that I couldn’t really know if it was a good idea or not, since I knew very little about the company or its culture. Not only had I not been there long, but the company is 95% Indian, which is different than anything I’ve been in before. Putting it another way, I didn’t have a right to an opinion about how to take the action Binod suggested.

Now, my positive intention in saying “sounds like a good idea” is to tell Binod that I was on board with his approach. But when looked at carefully you can see that it actually comes across sounding a little foolish and arrogant. Binod did not react negatively to my saying it. But I think that even if only at a subconscious level, it did not serve me to pass judgement on his direction to me.

So, the question then becomes, how can I appreciate Binod for the advice without judging that which I have no right to judge? Any of the following could do: “thank you for the direction”, “I appreciate the advice”, “thanks, I”ll do that”. There are many more.

Next time you’re planning with someone, I invite you to try this for yourself. Recognize when you have a right to an opinion, and only give one when you do. Could you imagine what the world would be like if everyone did this in their marriage…

Keep the Customer Experience Positive

It’s really important to keep all interactions with your customers positive. That lesson was highlighted for me when I was recently a customer on the receiving end of a negatively framed conversation. I resigned from my most recent job in June, and have been looking for a new position. I recently posted my resume on a few job search sites, and one of them,, offered to do a free resume assessment.

I knew that it was bait and they would try to sell me a package to improve my resume, but I thought, it can’t hurt, so I said yes to the free resume assessment. The next day, I got a call from them. The woman who called me framed everything she said to me negatively. She did not say one positive thing about me or my resume.

I am open to the idea that my resume could be improved. In fact, there is not much I do (or anyone does for that matter) that couldn’t use some improvement. But to continually bash my resume was not a good way to engage with me and earn my business. She does have me thinking about hiring someone to help me with my resume. And I can tell you, it will be someone who is better at framing in the positive.

It was a good reminder to always frame conversations with your customer and prospects as positively as possible.