Thursday, April 23, 2009

First Penguin Award

I first heard of the concept of the First Penguin Award, from Saurav, on a lazy Saturday afternoon. But unlike alot of other things that we usually speak about on similar occasions (which are forgotten as fast as they are thought of), this idea remained in my head. Spent quite a lot of time during lunch, contemplating on it. And by the time I reached home, I decided to implement it in some form, at CityNaksha. Maybe, we won't be able to do it, as is. But we will definitely work out an implementation that will work for us.

I believe that constant Product Innovation is what keeps you at par with, or ahead of, the competition. Which means, that you need to spend time, working on your product, even after you have gone live with it. You have to keep tinkering with it, keep hacking at it, to make it easier for the people who are using it. To provide a better user experience. To ensure, that even when your users have access to the products of your competitors, they have more than enough reasons to keep coming back to you.

And, as with most things in life, the question of what to change, and what to leave untouched, is not in black and white. At best one can make an informed guess. And that is where the inherent urge to leave things as they are, gets the better of most people. This is a very dangerous attitude. If left unchecked, it can prove to be very detrimental to the organization's culture. At best, it stifles innovation. At worst, it gives your competition just that bit of God sent good fortune that they need to beat you at the game.

The First Penguin Award is in recognition of Glorious Failure, to quote author Randy Pausch. It encourages people to try new things, to push the envelope and not hold themselves back for fear of failure.

I often see people around me, shy away from trying a lot of things, just because they are afraid of failing at it. Ofcourse, a society needs some degree of failure denouncement to ensure that people give in their best when they attempt something. But I believe it has gone wrong, somewhere along the way. Instead of encouraging people to max out on their potential to ensure success, this social stigma associated with failure, has prevented them from trying out bold new things. And that can't surely be something that will benefit us in the long run.

Schools should encourage kids to try new things. Companies should facilitate their employees in taking risks. Societies must transfer the stigma, from failure to inactivity. Without glorifying it, we should change the perception of failure, to a stepping stone to success.

And this is one of the things we will do, at CityNaksha. We will not let the fear of failure, prevent us from trying. When judging the performance of people, we will not take the easy route and just measure how many things they managed to get right, alone. But rather, see how many things they tried to do, with the best of intentions and effort, irrespective of the outcome.

But we won't do this, because it sounds like a hip new Management funda. We won't do this because it makes us look like new cool kids on the block. And no, we will definitely not do this, so that our employees love us all the way to kingdom come. No. We won't start the First Penguin award at CityNaksha, for any of these reasons. But for something more mundane, less romantic, and hopefully for a more pramgmatic reason. We will do it, because it just makes more Business Sense.

We know, this will definitely not be easy. What the heck! Sitting here, tapping away at a keyboard, dishing out philosophy is way easier than actually getting down and dirty, and implementing something. But the best part is, we know it won't be easy. And so, we would really appreciate it, if you could leave your thoughts as comments to this blog. It will surely help us to learn from mistakes, without actually making them. And more than that, we just plain and simple, love to hear from people! ;)

Lets keep connecting the city.
Facilitator, CityNaksha.