Two of the Most Important and Undervalued Skills for Success in the Workplace

Reading Constantly and Writing Well are by far the most important skills in the workplace for success.

A few days ago, I was giving my team a much-needed lecture on the importance of constantly reading and staying abreast of trends, as well as improving upon their writing skills. In Asia, where a liberal arts education is virtually unknown, few people have proper reading or writing skills. One might easily fault the language issue…and to be honest, I can be very forgiving of people from countries who were never exposed to English. Still, I don’t think that’s an excuse for NOT reading and keeping up with the latest trends, even in your own language, improving your writing and diction in your own language. That said, even of the Asian countries with easily available English educations, and former British (or American) colonies , I find the South Asian countries (India, Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) churn out people FAR better at speaking, reading, and writing in whatever language, including English (of course, English is the only language I can really judge in, but I can extrapolate that to a general interest in writing as well). I’m honestly not sure why that is, but that’s a different story!

Why is reading and writing so important?? Well, they are the basis for communication, and communication is the basis for ALL business and work, generally. If you aren’t keeping up with the latest trends and reading constantly, you will soon become irrelevant; and, if you can’t write, you can forget getting very far in any aspect of your professional development.

Read constantly. Keep up with the trends in your industry. It is the only thing that will keep you sharp and growing at a rapid rate. This is a necessary key to success in the workplace, because to mentor and grow, you need to stay ahead of the people who surround you. Don’t believe me? Read this article about Warren Buffett’s success formula, and this one from HBR.

Write well – clearly and concisely. Today I was reading this post about Jeff Bezos’ leadership style. A trained engineer (like me), I was impressed by his emphasis on writing. To be honest, I find writing to be an extraordinarily important skill. It is the fundamental for all success in the workplace…documentation, letters, communication all involve writing, and without it, you can forget getting very far. How you write is how people will connect with you; how they will perceive you; its where all your speech starts, and your thought ends. And I find that clarity of writing correlates heavily with clarity of thought. If you write clearly, it means you are thinking clearly. And how do you write well? Start with reading…the more you read, the better you will write…

Innovative Accelerator: Startup Bus

Startup Bus

Startup Bus is an innovative accelerator aiming to build a community of young entrepreneurs around the world, and succeeding in doing so. It started as a joke that became serious very quickly.

The concept is simple. You apply to be a part of one of the various organized bus trips (there are six that traversed Europe in Dec 2012; no plans announced yet for 2013). If you meet whatever they are looking for, you are accepted and assigned to a specific bus. Expect your peers to be from a variety of backgrounds, and hungry to dive into the startup culture.

The bus trip costs ~USD200, and lasts 72 hours. During this time you are encouraged to network and brainstorm and a number of tools are given to you; including talks and workshops. You stop enroute on a “startup tour” of sorts, meeting venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and incubators. By the time you get off, the hope is that you would have the beginnings of a company, with hopefully a couple of cofounders.

In the worst case scenario, you’ve seen Europe (or some other part of the world where the bus is). Not bad, eh??

Interested?? Apply here.

Here’s a peek into what its like:

And for a parody, check this out:

Innovation in Sanitation: Winner of the Gates Toilet Challenge…NOT SO CLEAR

The winner of the Gates Reinvent the Toilet Challenge is…drum roll please…

WELL, not so clear.

(I have a lot of problems with the Gates Foundation including their inability to communicate clearly what’s going on…)

Gates has decided to give money out in the form of grants; and its not clear what happened with any of those grantees. They got the money, yes…but then what?? Have the toilets been developed? Are they being tested? Are they being deployed?? Does the Foundation really care?? Well who really knows…

One of the grantees was the National University of Singapore, a place I was stationed at from 2010-12 and working in the field of water policy (including sanitation) at the time. Even with all my networking, I never heard about the grantees, or the development of the project. So I was never able to follow or support the project as it developed; nor was there any chance of collaboration.

From this article, it seems like CalTech was the winner of the challenge. Their model and development is innovative, effective and deserving, but a little technologically complex. I could instantly see problems with operation and maintenance in the developing world. But I’m not sure again what happened with it.

More results of the challenge are available here.

m4s0n501

Innovation in Sanitation: The Man Who Wore A Sanitary Napkin

Arunachalam Muruganatham at his desk working away on his award-winning sanitary napkin machine.

Lack of toilets and water during a menstrual cycle can mean huge drawbacks for women and girls. They can’t travel or get their work done on a regular basis; families that rely on a woman’s income will often starve during those days when she probably needs it most. Young girls often drop out of school because they can’t use the bathroom when they need, and this has lasting repercussions. Sanitary Napkins have traditionally been out of reach and too expensive for the poor.

Bring in Arunachalam Muruganantham, a poor handyman from a village in India and a high school dropout who was brave enough to take on the project to address the issues his wife was dealing with. It nearly cost him his marriage and made him the laughing stock of his community, but he stuck to his principles. Today, he has pioneered cheap and effective sanitary napkins for the poor in India and potentially the world. Watch his amazing story in his own words here:

Innovation in Sanitation: “She Toilets”

New “She Toilets” are causing quite an uproar in South India

In India, a country with one of the worst sanitation crises, the Hindu (the most respected newspaper in India), reports on a new initiative started by one of the small towns in South India to address the issue for women (women suffer the most with lack of access to toilets).

The “She Toilets”

The smart toilets will clean and sterilise their environments automatically. They have coin-operated sanitary-napkin-vending machines and an incinerator to burn used napkins. The toilets have baby stations to help mothers change the diapers of their children and Indian-style commodes.

Electronic display boards will tell users if the toilet is occupied or not. The toilet operation is remotely controlled. The smart toilets will send automatic SMS alerts to its controllers if the septic tank fills up or water supply is exhausted.

 

There are also security features to ensure the safety of the users. The agency has put up the “she-toilets” as most public toilets lack hygiene and pose health and safety problems to women users. The “she-toilets” have been designed keeping in mind the welfare of women commuters. They will be able to find the location of the nearest public e-toilet by searching on their mobile phones.

 

Sensor systems inside the toilet trigger its cleaning systems. The toilets will have washbasins, mirrors and health faucets. They will have FM radios and provisions to stop intruders.

 

Like everything else in India that is a public entity, I worry about the operation and maintenance, and long term use of this wonderful pilot project.

Sanitation: The Largest Infrastructure Problem in the World

This week is dedicated to sanitation. Around the world over 2.6 Billion people  (that’s almost 40% of the world population today!) lack access to sanitation. The results are catastrophic – high rates of diarrheal disease, typhoid, and other primary water-borne diseases; with numbers of secondary infections (such as HIV and TB) happily taking their toll.  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over 1.6 Million people die every year from diarrheal diseases alone, with 90% of these being children under the age of 5.

The worst part is its preventable. Want to learn more?

Here’s a great video to give you some perspective…

Global Health & Innovation Conference at Yale

The Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale

The Global Health and Innovation Conference at Yale

For those interested in presenting, Unite for Sight’s conference at Yale is currently accepting social enterprise pitch abstracts for presentation at the conference.  The registration rate increases after December.

Global Health & Innovation Conference 2013
Presented by Unite For Sight, 10th Annual Conference
Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA
Saturday, April 13 – Sunday, April 14, 2013

http://www.uniteforsight.org/conference

According to the organizers, The Global Health & Innovation Conference is “the world’s largest global health conference and social entrepreneurship conference.  This must-attend, thought-leading conference annually convenes 2,200 leaders, changemakers, students, and professionals from all fields of global health, international development, and social entrepreneurship.”  Register here.

Interested in presenting at the conference? Submit a social enterprise pitch abstract for consideration.

They have a great lineup of speakers, including a lot of stalwarts. Check out their lineup here.

GE’s Innovation Challenge: $600k to make flying and hospitals more efficient

Have an idea to make flying or hospitals more efficient?? Well, submit your idea to GE for almost $600k in prizes.

“The Industrial Internet. The Internet of Things. What does it all mean?

 

In a nutshell, it’s internet-connected devices collecting data and communicating to make industries smarter. This data is then used to anticipate and avoid problems, instead of fixing things after the fact.

 

As we continue to look for different ways to analyze data we need, we’re looking for people who know how to analyze and interpret data. Like finding an algorithm that can reduce air travel delays, or a solution to streamline a patient’s experience in the hospital.

 

To get started, choose your quest. Or, to learn more, watch the intro videos for the Flight Quest and the Hospital Quest.

GE’s Fascinating Innovation Barometer

What are the most important factors to improve innovation in a country??

GE has come up with a fascinating metric. They surveyed executives around the world regarding their views on innovation, and mapped out the data in a way that allows the viewer to study the relationships between different data topics, over geography and time. You can also compare the data they got from 2011 and 2012.

Check it out here: