Archive for 2009

Dashboard and Windscreen

There's a close similarity between running a business and driving a car. You should strike a balance between the time you spend on keeping your eyes on the dashboard, and the time you spend on looking through the windscreen. If you spend too much time looking at the dashboard (internally focused) you will lose focus on what is happeing on the road ahead of you. If you spend too much of time looking through the windscreen (externally focused), you will never know when you run out of fuel (cashflow crisis) because you are too busy chasing a car (competitor) moving ahead of you on the road or too busy eying on the beautiful girls (customers) walking along the streets.

Make sure you are upto date on what's happening outside the window, in the macro environment. At the same time, never lose focus on the KPI's on the dashboard to measure your success and spot failures.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

How to Create an Online Survey/Questionnaire With Google Docs?

I have been using Google Docs for quite a sometime now to solve a nasty problem most of us will have to face very often. The problem is how to access that last word document you saved from your home PC, when you are at office or working with a computer in some other place. On the other hand, when you are at a library referring some books, but not having access to your own computer to note down some of the important extracts into a word document, Google Docs might be a handy solution if you have access to a public computer in the library.

The aim of this post is not to talk much about the uses of Google Docs (which expands much beyond the few uses I’ve mentioned above), but to describe how to use Google Docs as a survey tool to collect responses for a research project or for a customer survey for a business organization.

For last few years, sites like Surveymonkey and SurveyGizmo used to serve this need for many researchers but a secret most of these people didn’t know is that, Google Docs comes with an inbuilt feature of creating professional looking online surveys just like Surveymonkey and SurveyGizmo. Most important thing is, it comes to you 100% free to collect unlimited responses, where as most of the traditional survey tools limit it to 100 or 500 responses for the free versions. You can easily create your questionnaire as a Google form and share a web link (URL) through email to get responses from your target respondents. If you have a website, you can easily embed the questionnaire into one of your web pages to give it a more professional look and feel.

To start creating a survey form/questionnaire on Google Docs, first you must have a Google Account. If you are already using Gmail; that’s your Google Account! Or else, you can create a Google account during the process of making your survey form.

Log in to http://doc.google.com and sign in with your Google Account, if you already have a one. If not, click on “Get Started” to start creating a new Google Account.

After you log in, your work desk for Google Docs would look something like this.



Let’s assume either you know how most of the Google Docs features work, or you only need to create a survey form now for your research.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

How Many Social Media Profiles Do You Actively Manage?

The World Map of Social Network Penetration Around the World

When I say, “actively manage” it involves logging into your account at least once a week, updating your profile, submitting content and interacting with friends/followers etc.

I’m interested in knowing, if there’s a “magical number” of social media profiles an average human being can handle. (Like the Dunbar’s number of social connections)

My gut feeling says that the magic number is somewhere around 3 to 5. I used to be active on Facebook, Linkedin, and Stumbleupon, for quite a sometime and recently Twitter came into my universe as well. My first impression about Twitter was not that positive, but after carefully blocking out those spam followers and unfollowing people with irrelevant interests; now I can sense the core value of Twitter as a social media tool. I can see myself more active on Twitter than what it used to be few months back. In the meantime, my activity levels on Stumbleupon have dropped drastically during the same period. I have not “discovered” a new page on Stumbleupon for weeks now, and right now there are over 50 page recommendations (by SU contacts) awaiting on my Stumbleupon toolbar for me to Stumble through.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Flickr As an eMarketing Tool for Local Businesses


Emilia Doerr writes a short (but informative) article to the Web Marketing Today bog about the effective usage of Flickr to promote your local business (Worth reading it in full). The post particularly appealed to me because I have already tested Flickr as a web marketing tool for small businesses, to promote my wife's pet clinic in Nugegoda (Sri Lanka).


It wasn't intentional at first place, even though I knew how effective Flickr could be in enhancing the web presence of any business. In fact we've been using flickr as a social media marketing tool back at my work place for some time now.

What I did was, just uploading few of the photographs I've taken at the opening of the animal clinic to my existing personal flickr account. I consciously used SEO friendly titles for the images, and related keywords in the image descriptions. Within a few days, few images that I uploaded to my flickr account (specially the location map) started to appearing on Google search results for many of the relevant keywords for "animal clinics sri lanka", "animal clinics in Colombo" "animal clinics in Nugegoda area" etc.

First; I was surprised to see people finding us on Google using these keywords (See the screen shot above, from Google Analytics reports). I never thought Sri Lankans are already Googling to find local businesses around their neighborhood. Even more surprising thing for us was to attract two regular clients to our clinic, who found us on Google and on our Facebook fan page. Just a two clients sounds not a big deal, but this is within the first 2 months of our opening.

"Search Engine Marketing" and "eMarketing" are fast becoming viable channels for reaching potential customers in Sri Lanka, especially for the small and local businesses. Larger corporations might still not get the "mass appeal" or the "impactful quick results" they expect from their marketing budget. No worries! They can continue to feed the invoices of big advertising agencies, and carry on the traditional interruption marketing tactics!!

Flickr can be a handy tool for local businesses when it comes to their SEO efforts, because the competition for the keywords they are aiming to optimize is relatively lower than for national or cross-border businesses. Because, you are narrowing down your scope to the specific geographic area you are catering to. A restaurant in Mount Lavinia, does not necessarily be the number 1 on Google search results for the keyword "restaurants in Sri Lanka". Because, if someone searching for "restaurants in Sri Lanka" on Google, he probably is trying to plan a round trip to Sri Lanka, or writing a restaurant guide for Sri Lanka. Only a genuine customer, who is seriously looking for a place to dine out in Mount Lavinia area, will search for "restaurants in Mount Lavinia". If you are after serious business; what you should aim at is the keyword which generates you serious customers. If you are just going after the number of hits to your website; you can aim at more fancy keywords with higher volumes of impressions.

I can see there are few local businesses in Colombo and sub-urbs already using some eMarketing tactics to promote their products and services. But still, largely they are limited to either broadcasting email messages through an email marketing agency or setting up a Facebook Fan page and expecting people to become fans. The problem with these email marketing agencies and eMarketing experts is, they are knowingly or unknowingly spoiling the opportunities by overdoing certain tactics. If such "overdoing" of eMarketing tactics lead to creating mistrust among the Sri Lankan public, in the future that will hinder the potential effectiveness of using such tools for a large number of small and local businesses.


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Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Never Tie Your Ego to the Brand That You Manage

“Branding” is like falling in love. Once you seriously get involved with a brand, it is very hard to think of separating yourself from the brand that you manage. When someone makes a negative comment about your brand, you overreact by taking it too emotional. One of my friends who recently resigned from their job told me “It’s so hard to believe I’m leaving this brand after working with it for this many years. I’m still going to love it”.

From the surface look of it, one might feel it is a good thing for a brand manager to fall in love with the brand they manage. When you get emotionally close to the brand, you will do your best to make the brand the number on in the industry.

Or is it really?

In my opinion, tying your ego with the brand you manage is bad. It’s bad both for your ego and for your brand. It is bad for your ego because no brand is guaranteed to remain “un-attacked” from a hostile competitor or turbulent market conditions. If your ego is tied to your brand; then every time when the brand gets attacked, your ego too is going to get hurt. On the other hand; if you see your brand as a part of your ego, then the business decisions you make on the brand becomes “ego defending decisions” in practical terms.

Attaching your personal "ego" to the business decisions you make, can in turn make it difficult for you to recover when you make a bad business decision. You will feel that your ego is being threatened, when you are forced to admit the hard truth that you made a bad business decision. If you can leave your ego out of the equation; it makes much easier for you to put your hands up and say “I screwed it! Let me try a different trick this time”. But, as long as you keep your ego tied to the (bad) decision you made; you will continue to fight for defending your decision. In real terms, what you are actually defending is your own ego. Not your decisions or the brand.


This is why it is so important for us to separate the brand specific business decisions from the people who make those decisions. Depersonalizing the decision making process is crucial, not just at branding level, but also at all decisions a business organization is making. As soon as you separate the decision makers from the decisions they make; people will start to look at things more objectively when things go wrong.

If you truly love your brand, never fall too deep in love with it. Keep the distance!

“All great marriages involves a powerful emotion; passion. So do all great brand relationships”. But remember this quote holds true only for passion and emotion in the relationship between brand and the customers. Your love to the brand should be like the love of a parent. You are not supposed to romanticize with your brand. Your job is to making an adorable brand, for your customers to fall in love. For your customers to romanticize with!


[Originally posted on www.amisampath.com]
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Dettol's Marketing Revenge Against Lifebuoy

BMW Vs Audi Vs Mercedes, Coke Vs Pepsi are some of the well known rivalries in the marketing arena, with competitive advertising attacking the opponents in their strongest selling propositions. Today I noted another fascinating reaction campaign by a well known hand wash soap brand Dettol. They lost the bid to secure the official sponsorship for the Global Hand-washing Day events held all over the country at the face of their arch rival Lifebuoy. Uniliver ran months long campaigns to raise awareness of the benefits of keeping your hands clean, in the run up to the World Hand Wash Day; 15th October. Millions of advertising money was spent on TV, Radio, newspapers and there were few new media campaigns done on the interent as well.

Dettol remained calm through out the run up phase to the Global Hand-washing Day, and responded with a brilliant idea which I see as a “sweet marketing revenge”. The theme of their ambush campaign is "make everyday a hand wash day"


The campaign ran morning to evening on national radio, and on almost all the daily newspapers. Lifebuoy spent millions of building up the awareness in the run up to the day, and Dettol sneaked in just a one shot of media buying to leverage the attention towards their brands. Clever work! and hats off to whoever masterminded the campaign at Reckits (or the agency).

This reminds me the 1996 Pepsi campaign (in South Asian Region) titled “Nothing Official About It”. They ran this campaign as a revenge for Coke's “Official Soft Drink of 1996 Cricket World Cup” campaign. The campaign (featuring Sachin Tendulkar and Sharukh Khan) illustrated how boring the “official things” are, and suggested that Pepsi is fun, because there's nothing official about it.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Will Hollywood Be Bollywoodized by Year 2020?

First, I want you to watch the below Youtube video till the end. Then read rest of my blog post which examines a hidden message to the world in this video. First watch the video. Don't forget to read what I have written in rest of the post, below the video.



I first saw this energetic dance and singing act by a Spanish group of entertainers, in a viral video on Facebook and then searched Youtube for it, to see the community opinion about the video. The entertainment face value of this video is so high, and the true social and cultural implications of the video might not get the due attention if we don't examine this from such an angle.

It wasn't too long a time ago where the entire world looked at Hollywood as the capital of entertainment. The rest of the world's entertainment industry was highly influenced by the work done in Hollywood. Film makers from Europe to Middle East to Far East took Hollywood as the benchmark for producing commercially successful movies. Music industry too, was heavily dominated by the Americans and we rarely saw internationally popular music bands coming out from other regions, except for may be one or two.

But the shift started to take place from early 90's, when MTV decided to launch themselves in India, with the aim of “bringing MTV culture to India”. But the rest is history! We all know that, MTV went back home after being “Indianized”. If you look at MTV Asia at the moment, you would rarely see a show dominated by Hollywood or other western artists. It's a whole new generation of Indian pop stars who are occupying the airtime on MTV Asia.

Sometime back, I wrote about how India is slowly taking over the dominance in world cricket; through the “Indian Paisa (=Money) League” (So far to date this is my most read, and most re-published blog post). The cricketing culture about two decades ago was; no subcontinent player was allowed to speak in native languages to the local umpires or the international match commentators. But, now we see New Zealand umpires speaking in Hindi and calling for “play” at the start of cricket games. We see Indian and Pakistani players speaking in native languages on the international match commentaries. These are only some signs of what is going to happen in next couple of decades, to the so called “global culture” and the entertainment industry.

If we take a look back to see who dominated the world culture during past few centuries; the 16th to 19th Centuries were belonged to the Europeans who conquered the world through massive expeditions, and spread their culture all over the world. 20th Century was clearly belonged to Americans. The blue Jeans, Coke, McDonalds and Micheal Jackson!. They were the super power, and they still hold on to that position strongly. But, 21st Century is going to be dominated by new super powers of the world; China and (or) India. Between these two; India will play a larger role than China, in re-shaping the global culture and entertainment industry, than China.

The above Video is just a forerunner for what is going to happen to the world entertainment industry in another 10 years time. Of course there are still airport security officers in the USA, who doesn't recognize the name Sharukh Khan. But the shift is taking place swiftly. India is not only eating into the entertainment industry in Sri Lanka by pumping in mega tele serials in whole sale; but they also slowly creeping into the markets dominated by Hollywood.

In few years time, we will see more Hollywood movies like “Slumdog Millionaire” featuring storylines based in India. We will see more Indian musicians like AR Rahaman winning Grammies and Oscars for wonderful works like he did for Slumdog Millionaire. We will see more Western and American artists trying to imitate Indian entertainers like the Spanish guys in this video does. In short; we will see more Bollywoodization of Hollywood and other entertainment industries across the globe. Today is 18th August 2009. I will check back this blog post on 18th August 2019 to shed some retrospect. Would you join me then?

(This post was written in a real hurry, and I haven't had much time to look for spelling mistakes or grammar errors. If you note any; please send me an email to amitha@ this domain)
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Every Manager is a Perception Manager

You are a manager of perception, no matter in what managerial discipline you are actually involved in. Be it marketing, HR, Finance, operations, supplies, or procurement, you belongs only to that single breed of managers; "Perception Managers".

All the other designations you hold at your organization are just fancy words, or icing of the cake. All what you do by sitting at your office, may be 8 to 12 hours a day is managing the perception of people with whom you interact.

If you are in marketing, you manage the perception of your customers. If you are in HR, you manage the perception of your employees. If you are in finance, you manage the perception of your creditors, shareholders, and the auditors. As a supply chains manager, what you actually do is managing the perception of partners in your supply chain activities.

The challenge ahead of you is to create a positive perception about the idea that you "stand for", among the people with whom you interact. If you fail to create a positive perception about your brand among your customers; you fail as a marketing manager. If you fail to create a positive perception among your creditors and shareholders about the financial stability of your company; you fail as a finance manager. And if you fail to create a positive perception of yourself among the employees you manage as precious human resources of your company ; you fail as a HR manager.

This is a universal truth in management which no manager can be an exception.

(Based on the ideas gathered from the seminar on "Impact of Perception in Consumer Behavior" by Dr. Uditha Liyanage)

Originally posted on www.amisampath.com Like this blog? Get email updates when I post next time, or subscribe to the feed on a reader. Follow me on Twitter @Amisampath
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Great! I Won an iPhone from Airtel. Now Give Me My Free Airasia Ticket to Kuala Lumpur

This morning I received an email from one of my very close friends; offering me a chance to win a free air ticket to Kuala Lumpur, sponsored by Airasia. Since AirAsia is the hottest topic in town after Airtel launch in Colombo; it was natural for anyone to read the entire email to see what's on offer.



According to this email, all I had to do is just forward this email to 10 of my friends, and copy it to a Gmail address mentioned in the email. The email was very cleverly designed. By the first look at it, no one can ever imagine that it is a prank email. But as soon as you hit to the line “copy to XXXXXXXX@gmail.com” you get the cat out of the bag.

It's true that AirAsia is a budget airline. As a low cost operator in their industry, I'm sure AirAsia is looking at all sorts of cost cutting tactics to bring down their overall operational costs, in order to maintain lower airfare to their customers. But what can AirAsia save, by using free Gmail accounts for their marketing campaigns? AirAsia already owns www.airasia.com domain, and it doesn't cost them at least an additional cent to create XXXXXXXX@airasia.com for this particular marketing campaign; if it was a genuine campaign. Why would such a reputed company use a free Gmail account for their marketing campaigns?

Being the type of a “inquisitive” guy; I immediately turned to AirAsia's website for finding an email to forward this and ask for explanations. But for my surprise; AirAsia is not directly reachable via email! Not a single contact email address was published on their website. (Being close to the customer, huh?). Not being successful to find and email to contact them, I resorted to Twitter for contacting them.



In just about 20 minutes time, I received a private message on Twitter, from AirAsia Blog. All I wanted to know from them is the line “The email is not by us. Thx fo ur help”


Great! Now that AirAsia officially accepting the fact that this email is not sent out by them, I immediately reply the friend who forwarded me the mail, telling him that this is a prank email. Then I forwarded the prank mail to the address they specified me in the Twitter message. So far I haven't received any response from them about the mail, but I'm closely watching their reaction. Would they come out and tell the world on their blog that “this is a prank email” ? Or, would they just keep quiet and enjoy the free publicity they are gaining out of this, like AirTel did with the free iPhone story?

What's the learning point to take out of this incident? This AirAsia free ticket deal is a prank, making it's circles all over Sri Lanka. The same thing happened with, now famous “Airtel Launch in Sri Lanka” prank email which went for a good amount of cycles all over the country. Most of the Internet users in Sri Lanka are not aware of organized prank emails. But, this is a common phenomenon experienced regularly by Internet users in other countries. Nokia give away free phones, Bill Gates give away one dollar per email forward, are few such scams to remember.

Why would someone do this?

Not a difficult question! They want to “harvest” your email address book. Unprofessional email marketing companies use this type of cheap tactics to build their email marketing lists. Later, they re-sell these email lists to other companies to send you promotional email.s You might think “It's not a big deal for me to receive an occasional promotional email from someone”. But, if you ask any of the American citizen, they will tell you how these “occasional” emails could suddenly become floods of spam emails, promoting you Viagra pills or cheap Replica watches.

Prank emails are not the only method used by spam list collectors to harvest your email. They use sophisticated web extractor tools, to collect email addresses you publicly leave on other websites on the internee (Eg: on discussion forums, Yahoo groups etc). If you want to avoid these web extractor tools, and publish your email; use a little tactic like the one I used to publish my contact email in the “About me” section on this blog.

Next time if you receive an “unbelievable offer” from someone you know; take few seconds before you hit the forward button like a brainless machine. You can do a great favor to all your friends, and to this budding email marketing industry in Sri Lanka, by discouraging this type of scammers. Educate your friends about this, by forwarding this post to those who may concern.
(Posted on www.amisampath.com)
Monday, July 20, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

The Tataki-dai Principle

Have heard a lot about Japanese management principles like 5S and Kaizen, but I came across for the first time with this simple principle called “tataki-dai”, in an article about Japanese Kao Corporation. Tataki-dai proposes you to present your new ideas to others at 80 percent completion, so that they could criticize and contribute before the idea become a proposal.

If the idea get beaten up sufficiently before it become a formal proposal, more stronger the idea would be. Just like beating the cake mixture before it’s baked. Next time when you are about to propose something to someone; make sure to use the tataki-dai principle. Present only 80% of it, and let the others to criticize and contribute to sharpen the idea. After all, if you present everything at one shot you are blocking the chance of others to express their personal wisdom and more importantly denying their need of ego soothing. I believe, Japanese invented this principle with lot of psychology behind it. This is a great tool to maximize the benefits of the idea “many brains are better than just one brain”. It brings out the collaborative idea generation into life. This creates an environment in an organization, where people willing to appreciate differences in opinion. An idea in action is never a brain child of just a one person. Only 80% at maximum can a single person claim ownership in the idea. Japanese being a collectivistic culture, this makes perfect sense to practice.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Ringtone Marketing Anybody?

Few months ago I was traveling on a bus and I was seated next to a teenage boy probably on his way back home from his tuition classes. This guy; who never looked to me like someone who's having a steady or permanent income source, was carrying a highly sophisticated mobile phone in his hand. Guess what!! He's playing a snow man game on it. (Is that the best you can do with a mobile phone?) Few minutes later his phone started ringing. It wasn't the standard Nokia or Sony Ericsson ring tone. It wasn't a tune of a trendy hip hop song either. Sounded to me more like a great masterpiece of music and the tone lingered in my mind for the rest of the day and for few more days. Few days later I was at a Cargills outlet. I heard the phone ringing in the pocket of a passing by shopper. Amazing! It was that same ring tone which registered in my mind so boldly. During the period of next few week, I can't remember the exact number of occasions I heard that marvelous work of music. But on a one sudden day I heard the same tone on radio! And on TV... What's this? It's a jingle of some new product to be launched; a teaser campaign. It didn't took me much longer time to know that it was actually the teaser campaign for Bharati Airtel's long awaited launch in Sri lanka. I Googled for the ring tone and learned that it was actually a true musical masterpiece by Oscar award winning musician A.R. Rahman.

Guess what this time? I downloaded the tone; and set as the default ringtone of my Dialog connection! I was so passionate of the music of that ringtone. I bluetoothed it to about 10 or 12 friends of mine, who were all on either Dialog or Mobitel networks. It was just free advertising for Airtel, on Dialog and Mobitel as the career! Isn't it such a simple package for a good marketing campaign?

What is the marketing lesson in this story? We always think Marketing is all about spending millions on advertising and brand building campaigns. Companies ignore innovative and truly effective ways of spreading their brands from one (may be potential) customer to another, and continue adding more clutter to already polluted advertising airtime on major TV channels. The above Airtel ringtone story is a great example of how a company can use a simple concept like a mobile phone ringtone to enhance the brand recalling ability of the potential customer. Every time I hear that ringtone, it reminds me of "Airtel". Every time someone ask me "what's that cool ringtone?", I answer them "It's Airtel's advertising jingle". You need not to be a mobile phone operator to experiment this. You might already have a great advertising jingle with a high brand recalling ability. How about converting it to a ring tone and set the virus free? There are millions of careers out there to spread your virus. Your jingle will be played across the country at bus halts, supermarket queues and even inside public lavatories.

Going a step further, you can create small funny video clips of about 20 seconds, with some association to your brand. These video clips jump from one phone to another via Bluetooth, MMS and GPRS, at absolutely no cost for you for a single impression. How much did you pay per impression for your last TVC?

In Sri Lanka, the rate of Internet penetration is still at very low levels. Estimated Internet penitration rate in Sri Lanka is about less than 6%. But, we have a higher penetration levels of GPRS (and 3G) enabled mobile phones in Sri Lanka, making it much more easier for our companies to do M-Marketing than E-marketing. There are few SMS and Mobile marketing companies emerging in Sri Lanka, but their business model is having not much of a different from a traditional advertising agency. In other words they all try to sell hard! Who wants to get interrupted by an annoying SMS ad while you are in the middle of some serious work? But in this era of sophisticated technologies and highly empowered individuals; it is not an easy task to push your boring advertisements down the throat of any victim you see as a prospective customer. Much emphasis is need to be made on creativity (not the traditional definition used by advertising agencies)and sustainability of such M-marketing campaigns.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Eight Ways to Build Collaborative Teams


We are analyzing this great HBR article published by Lynda Gratton and Tamara J. Erickson in 2007, to evaluate it’s applicability to Sri Lankan organizations, as a part of a group assignment in our MBA program.

The essence of the article is like this. In today’s highly dynamic business environment companies have to rely on large, diverse teams of highly skilled and educated specialists to get a major collaborative initiatives like and acquisition or an overhaul of IT systems. Members of such teams are often convened quickly to form into the team, and they quite regularly are expected to collaborate online, and often are not known to each other in person before the project in hand is assigned to them. This creates a major challenge for today’s business organizations to assemble the knowledge and breadth required to accomplish the objectives set in such major initiatives. In the research done prior to writing this article, the authors found an interesting paradox in the 15 multinational companies they focused on for their study. Although teams that are large, virtual, diverse and composed with highly educated specialists are increasingly crucial with challenging projects, those same four characteristics make it hard for teams to get anything done.

In their research, Gratton and Erickson noticed that, while large, virtual, diverse and highly educated teams performed well in a collaborative environment in a one organization; yet another set of teams with the same characteristics were failed to achieve high performance in similar environments. Their research found that team members collaborate more easily and naturally, if they perceive themselves to be alike. They further found, greater the proportion of experts a team had, the more likely it was to disintegrate into nonproductive conflict or stalemate. The findings of the research left with the question “how can executives strengthen an organization’s ability to perform complex collaborative tasks to maximize the effectiveness of large, diverse teams, while minimizing the disadvantages posed by their structure and composition?”

Gratton and Erickson carried out a study into 55 large teams and identified teams which demonstrated high levels of collaborative behavior, despite their complexity. They studied the factors behind the success of these collaborative teams, and out of about 100 factors they initially identified; they were able to isolate eight practices which were positively correlated with success of those teams. These eight factors were categorized into four general categories, namely; executive support, HR practices, strength of the team leader, and the structure of the team itself.

1. Investing in Signature Relationship Practices

Executives can encourage collaborative behaviour by making highly visible investments in facilities with open floor plans to foster communication; for example that demonstrate their commitment to collaboration.

2. Modeling Collaborative Behaviour

At companies, where the senor executives demonstrate highly collaborative behaviour themselves; teams collaborated well too. This is similar to leading by example. If the executives are expecting the teams to collaborate well; they first have to demonstrate it by collaborating well among the top executives.

3. Creating a Gift Culture

This involves mentoring and coaching, especially on an informal basis to help people build their networks they need to work across corporate boundaries.

4. Ensuring the Requisite Skills

Human resources departments that teach employees how to build relationships, communicate well, and resolve conflicts creatively can have a major impact on team collaboration.

5. Supporting a Strong Sense of Community


When people feel sense of community, they are more comfortable reaching out to others and more likely to share knowledge.

6. Assigning Team Leaders That are Both Task and Relationship Oriented

The debate has traditionally focused on whether a task or a relationship orientation creates a better group, but in fact both are key to successfully leading a team. Typically, leaning more heavily on a task orientation at the outset of a project and shifting toward a relationship orientation once the work is in full swing work best.

7. Building on Heritage Relationships

When too many team members are strangers, people may be reluctant to share knowledge. The best practice is to put at least a few people who know one another on the team.

8. Understanding Role Clarity and Task Ambiguity

Corporation increases when the roles of individual team members are sharply defined yet the team is given latitude on how to achieve the task.

We plan to evaluate the applicability of these 8 principles within a large and diverse team environment in one of the leading multi national companies in Sri Lanka. We will study, what of these factors are currently visible in this large team, and what factors are not properly visible. Then we will try to identify the reasons for not having those team characteristics, and see if the absence of such factors made an impact on the overall performance of the team.

How ever; what I’m most interested in this article is the comprehensiveness of these eight characteristics. If you think about these eight factors in deep; you will see how powerful these principles can be in enhancing a team’s performance. However a vast majority of the teams are formed without taking these factors into consideration. For example, gift culture and sense of community are the areas where it is overlooked most of the time. When a cross functional team is formed, first it need to be socialized into a community. The newly formed team’s members should have a sense that they are now not just a “proxy” of the larger department or division they belong to; rather they are a part of a community of with a common objective. The common objective might be to re-launch a product, revamp a website, or build a new MIS for the company. If this community feeling is lost; people will perceive their role in the team as just being a representation from their department or division. As a result, they will be driven by the narrower objectives of that particular department, where as from the organization point of view, the objective of the newly formed team is to be much broader than that.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Four Free Online Tools for Converting PDF Files into Word Documents

Few years ago, a friend of mine asked me if there’s a tool for converting PDF documents into Microsoft Word documents. I wasn’t aware of such a tool those days, and I Googled for a solution. Unfortunately I couldn’t come up with a single free service which allowed me to convert a PDF file into a Word document. There were lots of downloadable PDF converters available at that time, but they were all too expensive to afford. We want free stuff!

But the things have changed a lot today. Couple of days ago I found a PDF to Word Converter on a link I found on Stumbleupon. Then I Googled for the same keyword “Free PDF to Word Converter” and was surprised to see the amount of choices we are left with, in a matter of just one or two years.

I tested 4 of these tools and thought of documenting this on my blog.

PdftoWord.com

This is the site I first found on Stumbleupon. It’s completely a free service, which enables you to upload your PDF files and get it converted either to Word (doc) format or to RTF format. I tried both outputs, and realized Word format is much better in output quality than the RTF version. A key advantage in this tool is, you don’t have to wait until the entire file gets converted, to download it. You can upload a PDF file, select the output format you want it to be converted to, and give your email address. They will email you the converted document once the processing is finished. This will allow you to close your browser and work on something else, during the processing time for the document conversion. However the drawback is, you got to give your email; which might end up in getting more spam than you get at the moment!


ConvertPdftoWord.net

One of the serious problems I encountered with PdftoWord.com was the loss of color information during the conversion process. I converted two files, and in both occasions the colors was either missing after the conversion, or converted into a different color. This was bit disappointing to see, but ConvertPdftoWord.net worked just fine with the color information. I converted the same files as I converted with PdftoWord.com, and both files were converted with proper color information. As usual, every advantage comes with some trade-offs! The file size is too larger with ConvertPdftoWord.net, compared to the files being converted through PdftoWord.com. I converted a 900KB PDF on PdftoWord.com, to create a Word doc of 1.6MB. When the same PDF was converted with ConvertPdftoWord.net, the file size raised up to 2.4MB. Other than the file size issue, the output quality of ConvertPdftoWord.net was seemingly better than what it was produced by PdftoWord.com.


FreePdfConvert.com

This tool gives you the same service as the above two services, and the added advantage here is; you are able to convert PDF files hosted on web URL’s, directly into Word documents, without having to download them to your machine. Further added advantages are; it allows you to convert the file into Excel rich text format also. You can also extract the images in a PDF document, into JPEG, or PNG format. In other words, this performs as a PDF to Excel converter, as well as PDF image extractor software as well.


PdfOnline.com

This works exactly the same way as ConvertPdftoWord.net. You can upload the file and get the PDF converted into a Word document, and download it directly to your machine, without having to disclose your email address to an unknown party.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

SlideServe.com – A New Tool for Sharing Powerpoint Shows on the Internet

About an year ago I posted a small write up here on this blog, on the topic “Sharing Powerpoint Shows on the Internet”, and for my delight (and for surprise!) the post has been ranked number one on Google for a search on that phrase as a keyword. Last week, I was contacted by a new company called SlideServe.com, who are also in the business of facilitating sharing Powerpoint shows on the Internet. I registered myself on SlideServe, to test their service for myself and thought of writing a dedicated post about them.

SlideServe is still in Beta, and I found few basic issues that they really need to fix soon. First; I signed up and activated the account through the email link. SlideServe wanted me to login again, as soon as I activated the account. I logged in and uploaded a profile image, and then tried uploading a presentation to my account. Upload process went smoothly, and I got up to a point where it said "Your Presentation is currently being processed and will be available to view in a few minutes". However, as soon the file uploading is completed I realized that my session has timed out, and I've been logged out automatically from the session. I logged in again, and went to "My Presentations" and shhhhh!. It's all gone!

I uploaded the file again, and went to "My Presentations" to see the file. This time it was there, but the strange thing is the first file I uploaded was appearing in the "Latest Presentations" section under a user name "guest1249" Hmmm... Something seems to be is very spooky there.

We can expect such teething issues as SlideServe still is in Beta. As per their domain Whois data, the domain was first registered only in April 2008; one month later I've posted the above mentioned blog post about Sharing Powerpoint shows on the internet. As per my estimation, there are about 465 members signed up with their service at the moment (as at 15th May 2009). That means they are still new in business, and have a long way to go.

SlideServe requires us to add the basic information about the file before it's uploaded to their servers. It would have been better if the user is allowed to browse the file and upload it, as soon as they click on "Upload" link. While the file is being uploaded to the server, the user should be able to add more information about the file, add tags, select channels and save it. This is the procedure that it takes on Youtube video sharing, and I thought that is very much more user friendly.

Another drawback I noticed is; SlideServe doesn't allow multiple file uploads. You can only upload one presentation at a time. Multiple upload is very crucial for someone who need to upload a series of presentations on a similar topic.

On the positive side; I see the site navigation and layouts are pretty cool. Apart from the small drawback during the upload process mentioned above; the rest of the site is easily navigable. Color theme is easy on eyes and it resembles a lot like Facebook and Wordpress, which is a good strategy to build the credibility of a website. (Make your look & feel similar to an already trusted site among your audiance; not necasarily a competitor). Altogether, the site looks much organized than it's main competitor SlideShare.net. I find it very difficult to navigate on SlideShare most of the time, because there are too much of information being stuffed into each and every page of the site. Comparatively, SlideServe has a pretty simple and easy on eyes layout with relatively less stuffed with excess information.

Below is the official "About us" details sent to me by a representative from SlideServe.com. Personally, I do not have any intention of shifting from SlideShare where I still feel pretty comfortable. However, we always like more options! Who knows; may be SlideServe will outplay SlideShare in couple of years, just like Google did to Yahoo, or like Facebook did to MySpace. No one ever thought that "we need a substitute for Yahho or MySpace". Good luck SlideServe!

P.S. This is NOT a paid review

About SlideServe


SlideServe.com is the easiest way to upload and share your PowerPoint presentations publicly or privately with the world. You can embed/email the presentations to social networking sites, blogs and friends.

SlideServe gives you a place to share your PowerPoint presentations with the world. Through SlideServe your presentations reach a worldwide audience. It is free and you can share PowerPoint presentations and slideshows that include animations, transitions, audio, video and Flash. You can find lots of presentations with class, style and elegance in this presentation sharing community. There is an option to insert them into your blog or web sites and for viewing presentations in full screen mode without reducing the quality of presentations. In SlideServe, user can Write comments, Rate presentations, Add them to favorites and also Add presentation to your social bookmarks like Google, Delicious, Digg, Furl, Facebook Share, StumbleUpon, Reddit, Technorati, Live, Yahoo, Twitter, Ask and many more. All PowerFlashPoint users can upload and share their presentations directly to SlideServe. Maximum size of file is limited to 30MB and there is no file size restriction while uploading through PowerFlashPoint software. SlideServe currently supports .ppt, .pptx, .pps and .ppsx formats (PowerPoint XP, 2003 and 2007). Unlike some of the similar services, when you register with SlideServe you will get a free software client - a powerpoint add-in based on the powerful PowerFlashPoint (converter from http://www.digitalofficepro.com) engine, which allows users to seamlessly convert PowerPoint to Flash from within PowerPoint.

Saturday, May 16, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Blog 2.0

It has been a while since I last posted something “worthwhile reading” on this blog. Few people who accidentally Googled or stumbled upon this site left me with some feedback saying “dude you should be writing a bit too often”. I am humbly pleased to see that some of the posts I’ve made in the past on the topics such as, Procrastination, IPL, Googling yourself, and mental paradigms have reached some ranking on Google search engine, and as a result I’m getting some positive feedback asking to “blog a bit more often”. Problem is; I find it real tough to dedicate myself an hour or two per week to punch in the 1000 + 1 ideas that are burning inside my head, into a comprehensive blog post. I’m not a natural writer, so it takes me at least two minutes to put up a proper sentence, and you might see what a pain I must go through to write a single post of about 100 lines.

However, I finally decided to break the silence and get involved in this blogging business, a bit more often and serious. The MBA is coming to an end in another few months time, and I must line up some new things to engage with for burning out the excess capacity! Specially when you finish with an MBA which requires you above average effort and commitment; the vacuum is going to be wider. What am I actually going to do with this extra time? I thought it will be a good idea to give life to this blog once again, with the hope of keeping myself engaged in knowledge centered activities, even after the MBA. Remember; person who stops learning after the day of his graduation is uneducated the day after.

Now my first challenge is to find an appropriate title for my new blog. Ami’s Space was a random title came to my mind, and I’m not very much happy about it as a brand. Sounds too bland! I wanted something which reflects my desires, and my universe. What do I stand for? Surprise! I really don’t know!! May be now is the time for me to answer this question, and find out my personal “stand”.

I wanted a title for this blog with something related to Social Media. Not that I’m going to challenge Dawn Foster or Chris Brogan with this blog. But, Social Media and Web 2.0 is something that really fascinated me within last 2 or 3 years. But again; I don’t want to make this a “Social Media Guru Blog”. Rather, I wanted to have a title which represents me as a Social Media Enthusiast. But the title should not limit the scope of this blog, only to Social Media. I want to randomly rant about the IPL and Cricket, or sometimes have few thoughts assembled about a movie I loved or a TV show I never miss. But in all topics, I want to touch the “business side of it”. Like in my post about IPL and Cricket in Olympics.

The first idea came to my mind as a title for this blog was “Life 2.0”. The word “Life” covers a wide scope, and 2.0 will denote my love for Web 2.0. More than anything else, I thought “Life 2.0” would represent me very well; because the year 2009 is definitely going to be a transformational year for me. The last two years of my life was totally dedicated for the MBA, and “Life 2.0” would be a great title to resemble my “life after graduation!”. At the same time, 2009 marked the 30th milestone in my life journey, and it was amazingly a wonderful feeling to look back down the memory lanes. If anyone of you followed my Facebook updates during last January, you would have sensed that feeling!

However, branding is an annoying business. Specially if you find that the brand idea you come up with, (after thinking and thinking and thinking for hours); is already taken by someone else!

I’ve not still finalized a title for my re-launch. If in any case that I couldn’t find a better title for this blog; I will move alone with the “Life 2.0” title. I hope that Todd Dowling will not raise any copyright violation cases against me :-)
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

So you want to check if that domain is available?

You landed on this page, because you directly typed in a domain name owned by me, into your browser. 

If you are interested in buying the domain, you can contact me on amitha[at]Amisampath[dot]com
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

Do you see what I see? I doubt not always…

Sometimes I’m surprised, and yet again I find it so funny to see how differently people assign meanings to the same strings of words, written or spoken by someone. Many books on communication will explain you about the noise in communication process, in terms of environmental disturbances and clutter created from other simultaneous messages. But very little is spoken about the noise created within the mind of the receiver. Noise created by the mental paradigms that we all are trapped as individuals.

As receivers of a communication message, we always tend to assign an interpretation of our own, to the message being communicated. This interpretation is often made biased by the mental paradigms we believe in. In other words, our interpretation and responses to the messages we receive, are often being shaped by our individual personality, exposure, expectations and sometimes even the deprived needs of our own selves.

The problem lies, at the differences in mental paradigms the sender and the receiver hold about the same message. In other words, you might not “see” what I “see”; but you will “see” something else that I never expected you to see, by hearing or reading the words I used.

To explain this further, let’s look at the “Pig Story” narrated by Joel Barker in one of his training videos.

Once upon a time, there was a young man with a very fast sports car who loved to drive on curvy country roads. One day, he was out driving his favorite road when around a curve came a car out of control. Just as they were about to collide, the car pulled back into its lane. As it passed, the driver (a lady) yelled out “PIG!!!”

Well, the young man was shocked at her insult, so before she disappeared down the road, he yelled after her “COW!!!”

He thought to himself, how dare she call me a Pig? I was in my lane. She was the one who was hogging the road. But he wasn’t too upset, because he had got his revenge, before she got away! (I shouted back “COW!!)
And so he put the accelerator to the floor, whipped his car around that curve….. and ran into the Pig!!!
That was a paradigm story (as Joel Barker narrated) . The young man was responding with old rules (that he knows well). You call me a name; I’ll call you a name. But when you think about it, the woman was really trying to help this guy, by warning him about the pig.

Next time before you interpret someone’s words; be sure you receive the message into an open mind. This will help you to avoid coming into wrong judgments of people you encounter in your day to day life. Remember, you cannot judge other people by the meanings you personally assign yourself, to the words spoken by those others. What they mean by yelling “Pig!” at you, may not always be an insult to you; but it could be sometimes a friendly warning!!!
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Posted by Amitha Amarasinghe

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