thanking my teachers…

every two to three years i have met someone who has changed the way i think, work or live my life…

on the occasion of teachers’ day being celebrated in india (on september 5th), i would like to thank a few people who have taught me important lessons in life.

i am not naming them here, but i am outlining the valuable lessons i learnt from them…

#1) life is about compromises. you can never get everything you desire. you have to make choices.

#2) build a core competency. then build a career around it.

#3) in life, there are happy days and there are sad days. if you are having more happy days than sad days, then you are doing just fine.

#4) take care of your team, beyond their professional wellbeing.

#5) you have only one life. chase your passion. make your dreams come true.

#6) treat people with respect. truly care for the people you work with or interact with.

#7) if you are a painter, you know when your painting is complete. have the fire in the belly to do great work.

#8) for you to achieve your goals, all it takes is only one person to believe in you.

thank you to all my teachers…

-ravi akula.

learning project…

this is a pitch video made for a project focused on early childhood learning!

the collection of videos are edited to convey the message that all children are creative and have big dreams!!

it is our responsibility to nurture them and make all dreams happen!!!

dots of my evolving life…

these dots have either shaped my life, or i am trying to shape them…

dots of my evolving life...

dots of my evolving life…

tribute to curiosity

here is my tribute to mars rover curiosity, in the form of an absolut ad

the original picture of Curiosity’s First Track Marks on Mars is taken from jpl nasa site


designing for growth: a tool kit for managers

the following is a summary of the article “Designing for Growth: A Tool Kit for Managers” that appeared in the Rotman Magazine. the article and the book is authored by  Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie.

the article explores the key question, what takes a manager to think like a designer. and the answer is, it takes empathy, invention, and iteration.

  • #empathy: is outlined as treating customers as real humans with real problems and understanding their needs and wants, at an emotional and rational level.
  • #invention: is clarified by examining scientists and designers. while scientists analyze activities of today or past to discover explanations, designers create things for future use.
  • #iteration: the path to solution is not a linear process but an iterative one. it involves learning at every step through experimentation to empathize better with the customer.
the toolkit, designing for growth, is a simple process that focuses on answering the following 4 questions – what is? what if? what wows? what works? this simple process leads us from defining the problem to achieving the solution. (refer picture below) at every step the “convergent” and “divergent” bands represent expanding the field of vision in the initial stages but narrowing down to most promising options during later stages.
to answer what is, we need to explore current reality. we need to observe/understand current activities to identify problems and to find opportunity for solution. try to find out what customers don’t like about today by using tools such as:
  • #1) visualization – identify, organize and communicate with visuals to bring ideas to life. very useful tool across all phases of the process.
  • #2) journey mapping – a tool to assess an ideas’ potential for value creation. “follow customers home” to understand their struggles.
  • #3) value chain analysis – deep dive into the value chain when this idea will be implemented. it allows us to identify capabilities and resources of the stakeholders, customers, competitors and find/collaborate with the right partner.
  • #4) mind-mapping – mine and organize all the information gathered in the research stage to draw insights about qualities of the innovation needed. this helps in generating ideas in the what if stage.
by answering what if, we get to envision a new future. after identifying emerging patterns, we develop hypotheses about what a future might look like. we transition from data-based exploratory what is phase to creativity focused what if phase. in this phase of ideation, we ignore constraints and explore possibilities by using tools such as:
  • #5) brainstorming – allows us to formulate hypotheses about new possibilities. key is not to evaluate and filter out ideas.
  • #6) concept development –  organize ideas generated out of brainstorming into coherent clusters, and translate most compelling clusters into concepts
answering what wows, leads us to make choices. it helps us to prioritize concepts and figure out what wows. in this phase we are not proving the idea, but assessing how business case might look like by using tools such as :
  • #7) assumption testing – evaluating the assumptions underneath the hypotheses. concepts that pass the test, could turn into real experiments in the marketplace.
  • #8) rapid prototyping – create visual or experiential prototypes out of concepts, to enable meaningful conversation with all stakeholders and to collect feedback.
and to establish what works, we take the solution to the market place. it is time to launch and learn. to iterate towards a refined solution by using tools such as:
  • #9) customer co-creation – engaging customers in an active and hands-on manner to refine the solution.
  • #10) learning-launch – learn by piloting the concepts into the field and identifying disconfirming data that disproves our hypotheses. conduct low cost experiments, with quick iterative cycles.
above all, while designing for growth there is bound to be a tension between creating the new and preserving the best of the present. the key is to manage this tension, as we iteratively progress towards the solution.

happy new year 2012!

wishing a happy new year to all of you and your families!

here is my special creation for the fans of Absolut ads and U of T !!!


words of wisdom from tim brown

on 7th dec 2011, we as members of business design club at rotman had the privilege to attend a fire-side chat with tim brown (ceo of ideo),  where he discussed about design thinking and business design.

compiled below are few words of wisdom (about design thinking, business design and all else) that i could gather from his talk…

#1) quantity vs quality of ideas: while the quantity of ideas is a good starting point, it is the quality of ideas that leads to success.

#2) innovation is not a zero sum game: the stakes become too high if innovation is treated as a zero sum game. be prepared to fail and hit dead ends, while experimenting.

#3) biomimicry/natural systems: nature provides abundant lessons for us to mimic, to solve relevant problems.

#4) creativity/design thinking/innovation: leads to new business models when various functions or parts of an organization intersect. problem with large organizations is that various functions end up as disconnected silos.

#5) big data and visual analysis: big data consists of soft and hard data. data collection is the easy part, but data synthesis or analysis is the tough part. the key to understand target customer behaviour is to recognize patterns in the data. better understanding of behaviours, could ultimately help in changing behaviours. tim gave few excellent examples about big data and visual analysis

#6) embracing failure: failure while playing or rapid prototyping leads to learning. failure is a loss if we do not learn from it. failure is extremely valuable, if  lessons learnt are implemented to improve things in future. if lessons learnt are shared across the organization, then great. problem with big organizations is that failure is buried because of the importance given to success in career navigation and advancement.

#7) business design: it is a great opportunity for designers and business people to work together, as it leads to more choices. but, there is a lot of knowledge to acquire and that would take a lot of time. nobody has yet mastered on how to teach this discipline. above all, it is tough to acquire the creative confidence to delve into the problem not knowing the answer and to lead the way through it.

and right after the fireside chat, he gave a presentation to the rotman audience titled “From Newton to Darwin – an evolution in design”.

p.s. there is more to tim brown and his wisdom on design thinking…

r.i.p. steve jobs (1955-2011)

“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” – steve jobs (2005 stanford commencement address)


steve jobs (1955-2011)

business design

i will post my thoughts/opinions/feedback on the topic of business design as i continue to learn more about this discipline, specifically the way it is taught or practised at designworks@rotman. but to get things rolling, here is a mind map i made based on the video podcast on introduction to business design presented by heather fraser.

business design @ rotman designworks

business design @ rotman designworks

one for india!

the following video ‘in our hands…india@61 and beyond!‘ was visualized, shot and compiled during the weekend of august 15th, 2008! (audio is of course by a.r.rahman)

(here is a reference for those of you who are not familiar with indian national flag)