Author Articles: Pawan Gupta


The hardest part of the job is to play

January 8th, 2016 by Pawan Gupta

All study no play makes Jack a dull boy. Well what if Jack was a wannapreneur? It would not only make him dull but leave his ideas die too before even coming to life. We all have so many ideas in our heads which may or may not solve the problems we take up completely. But these ‘may nots’ often kill the ‘mays’ and we jump from one idea to next before trying out the previous one; the reason being generally is to find a bit more certainty of success in what we finally do or sometimes more innovation or creativity in our ideas. And in all this expectation of finding a solution that looks perfect in its ideation, we forget to start. We forget that innovation and creativity can’t come out of the blue from ideation; they need a ground to grow and we have to prepare that ground first with even the minimal resource and skill that we have. That We must give our ideas a try; that we must play even if we aren’t sure to win.

We learnt this lesson in the paper prototyping workshop given by Akshat Raghava at ASLI. The whole day struggle with the paper and tools made us realize how easy it is to ideate the perfect solution but how difficult it is to put it together. Perfect solutions or the most innovative ones require a lot of skill, precision and time. I completely failed at first while putting together the grand scheme of plan that I ideated for my prototype and learnt how I should have started small and iterated to reach the better alternatives. So I started all over again, this time with one idea at a time learning from the small failures that I met at various steps. We also realized how difficult it’s to create something even if it is just with paper and required consistent effort and patience of learning; and why we we must keep on playing with the hands instead of our heads in order to make smaller mistakes and learn from them.

We must give our ideas life in our hands before they die in our head.

We may see it like this: Ideas are eager to come to the life and breathe in the real world and a wannapreneur’s job is to play with those ideas. It’s the hardest part of his job but is the only rewarding one. He can afford to fail but not to miss the slightest chance of success and to make sure he doesn’t, he must keep playing and learning. The harder he plays, the more he learns. Of course, not all ideas are worth playing with but we never know which ones are worthy before we try them at least once. We must think before going ahead with an idea but not over think. Over thinking often kills not only the idea but also our opportunity to learn from our mistakes and become better. The mantra to fail fast is to be remembered and I would also add what I learnt that we must fail small in order to succeed big.

We should not compromise with our ideas until we see them failing. And this requires that we keep testing our ideas because that’s what is needed to reach the best solutions -iterations; you need to leave behind all the mediocre ones to reach the best.
As Niel Bohr puts it – An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that could be made in that field.

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Design as a “Way of Thinking”

October 10th, 2015 by Pawan Gupta

Design and creativity are considered the two most important skills for an individual to succeed. But both get often related with only certain professions like artists, graphic designer and architects as people weigh them on the scale of visual beauty and do not consider them in problem solving. Fortunately, Steve Jobs’ statement, “Design is not just how it looks like or feels like, but how it works”, gives other professions, involved in the value creating chain, equal credit for design & creativity as the designers. The definition of design and creativity has evolved from being identified as important individual skills to the powerful social tools that can be utilized for solving complex business, social and cultural problems. There is a new way of thinking developed which employs these tools to understand a problem and solve it through a process that designers applied unknowingly. The process is called Design Thinking. The notion of design as a “way of thinking” in sciences can be traced to Herbert A. Simon in his book The Sciences of Artifical, and in engineering to Robert Mckim’s 1973 book Experiences in Visual Thinking. Today, Tim Brown and David M. Kelly, the founders of IDEO, are expanding the design thinking philosophy.

So, What is Design Thinking?

It’s a methodology of solving the complex problems applicable to all walks of life. Problems have patterns and the scientific approach of problem solving employs analysis for identifying those patterns to find a solution i.e. a problem-centric approach. But design thinking approaches the problem in a holistic way and applies the process of synthesis creating the first solution through a defined process and then iterating to find other alternative better solutions. However, Tim & Kelly argue that design thinking incorporates both analysis and synthesis approach towards problem solving as every synthesis is built upon the results of preceding analysis.
The core stages of solving a problem through design thinking can be divided in different phases:
– Empathize
– Define
– Ideate
– Prototype
– Iterate/Test

Design Thinking diagram

The 1st stage is to empathize with your customer. The process starts with people rather than problem. Put yourself into their shoes to directly see what’s going on around from a customer’s point of view. Interact with the people, learn from them and find the insights by asking questions. But it is important to be away from judgements as it dilutes the process of questioning. The right way is to approach with curiosity and respect and with a beginner’s eye. Keep asking WHY until you reach the end.

The 2nd phase is of defining the problem. Find out what is expected, hoped for or needed. It’s time to focus by thinking in a convergent manner. The need should be identified as a Verb and not a Noun. The approach should be solution-focused and not problem focused.

The 3rd phase is ideating which is mainly brain-storming. The task is to shft to divergent thinking and bringing ideas. Write down each and every idea that comes to you. Don’t judge or weigh your ideas against each other and don’t jump to conclusion. Let the ideas flow; it will require effort but embrace the obstacles by considering each and every thought while not diverting from the topic.

The next stage is to incorporate the ideas into something tangible. Make prototype by arranging your most relevant thought and integrate the ideas into a solutions. Don’t judge the solution yet.

The last phase is testing and receiving feedback on your prototype and responding by doing the iterations to find alternative better solutions.

The process seems very simple but mastering it requires a lot of adaptive practice to choose the right inflection point and appropriate next stage which needs high order intellectual capacity and is learn-able. While learning, What we must avoid is resistance, utopian attitude, fear of failure and playing the devil’s advocate during the ideation & prototyping stage and judgement, heuristics & assumptions during other stages of the process.

Design thinking is changing the way problems are being solved in 21st century. With a human centred design approach, the problems are being viewed with several perspectives – extreme and balanced. The principles of design thinking are creativity, ambidextrous thinking, user-centricity, team-work, curiosity and optimism. It aims, not directly at the final solution in a linear manner but at creating a better future in a cyclic manner of above mentioned stages. The idea is to convert the problem into a design problem and identify inter-related patterns which can be mathematical, behavioural, scientific, economical, rational, irrational or otherwise and consider all the visible and ambiguous aspects to reach the known and unknown parameters of the problem statement to find a solution, then iterating to reach the best solution. The benefit with this method is that the risk is mitigated at a very early stage and the cost comes down due to iterations at prototyping stage; however, sometimes, success is not met easily and requires a lot of iterations which you can sometimes see on the face of designers in an organization. Yet design thinking is a powerful method to solve even many ill-defined problems using the human centred approach where more analytical approach of science and engineering fail to define the problem within the known technical domain.

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Expand Yourself

August 25th, 2015 by Pawan Gupta

The world is changing every moment in an extra-ordinary way, yet as an individual we often see life as mundane and ordinary. We complain about our daily routine, where everything seems to be repeating itself – a monotonous job, similar problems and same old talks – In fact, even our complaints are same every day. We constantly witness the change around us but our same old habits, tastes and likes & dislikes do not let us feel it and we find us trapped in a small sphere, while the world seems to be ever expanding.

How to break out of this sphere and be the change was the topic of our workshop with Antje Pfahl at – ‘Adianta School for Leadership & Innovation’. Although the title was – ‘Personal branding on social media’, what she really meant, I believe, was changing oneself for the better by changing how one communicates with the world through internet. She told us to reshape our on-line profiles as per our true-self and how we envision us. But to improve ourselves, first we need to know ourselves so we took up several activities in that direction.

I realized that I am an honest, courageous and a thoughtful person blessed with a little creativity and an ability to make people smile at times. And if I work upon organizing myself and my thoughts a bit, it would not be impossible to give shape to my ideas and accomplish my mission of changing the way education is imparted and problems are solved in our society. Well, I hope I would also be able to fulfil my dreams of travelling the world and climbing a mountain one day along with so many other things. :-D

I learnt that to feel the change, we must expand ourselves by meeting new people, discussing new ideas and acquiring new skills. All this will lead to struggle as we would be exposing our weaknesses by coming out of our comfort zone but this struggle is essential for our transformation into a better person. Expansion is necessary for our future.

As the workshop ended, I decided to continuously work upon improving myself by working on my weaknesses and take every challenge that comes my way. I know that with my skills & experience in engineering and social sector domain, I can adapt myself to difficult situations and come up with innovative solutions. So, I look forward to learn through my future and experiment with my life in new ways.

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The Social Media!

August 19th, 2015 by Pawan Gupta

Well another day over; It was my 2nd day at Adianta and was supposed to start with a yoga session, however, we mainly practiced the same posture through the day – Chair Aasan. Yet the morning was good as Aditya Dev Sood greeted us with his unique style of creating a mind-space and tuning us in; the topic was “Social media- the good, the bad, the essential and the potential”.

He started by asking us to recall some people whom we have learnt from in our life some way or the other. Different names came up of course based on our individual past experiences along with a few common personalities. His aim was to lead us to a discussion over the exposure a person can get based on his or her limited physical reach. From there he smoothly drove us to the Social Media junction to talk about how the diverse amount of exposure can shape our learning curve and how these social platforms have expanded our reqch to learn from the people and culture which are otherwise out of our exposure circle. Although there were a few jumpers on the road in form of some of ours’ negative perceptions about, and drag in, using the platforms like facebook and twitter, he was able to push us through them with his examples of Work Aloud philosophy. He specifically emphasized over the importance of blog writing by sharing ” Practice vs Reflection” test results ( not sharing the result just to add some suspense here) and twitter which he considered a good platform to connect the people living in other parts of the world with their treasure of learning.

Well! What I concluded from the discussion is that Social Media platforms are tools which may have given space to grow anything in the virtual world, be it a garden house or a garbage pile. It may have its own problems but far more important is its potential to improve our potential. By teleporting our minds to almost any corner of the world with a click, it has tremendously increased the radius of our exposure circle. The only thing we need to learn to use these tools effectively is separating wine from water without getting over-drunk.

That was all before we moved for lunch. Later in the day, it was not that exciting despite of being called a party – LapTop PARTY-as we more or less dragged the same topic of social media and kept commenting until we realized it’s not facebook. The party was about creating and reinventing our social profiles which turned out to be boring I guess in the lack of presence of a drunken host and booze (read Aditya and his insights) . And that’s how the 2nd day rapped up. Oh! forgot to tell you about the new individual responsibilities assigned to us for next few weeks; will share in the future posts. ;-)

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