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5 reasons why good Generalists are like potatoes

A man in pin-striped business suit looks happy looking at a bowl of potato fries, a bowl of potato wedges and bowl of potato chips

I was never a fan of potatoes growing up. I thought they were boring, mushy, and bland. But in the last 20 years and having moved 16 cities, I realize they are the perfect food! They are the ultimate all-rounder: mashed, fried, baked or boiled. Top it off; they go with everything, including cheese, egg, or meat – not to mention veggies too! As a bonus point: they are inexpensive and available across the globe!

I never liked potatoes as a kid because they looked too bland and mushy. But in the last 20 years, I have realized that they are the perfect food.

Rajesh Soundararajan

Potatoes do not discriminate against any other ingredient or cuisine. They can be enjoyed in any shape and size chips to fries to wedges, without discrimination! Also, Potatoes are versatile and are a must-have in different cuisines.

Much like the Generalists who can just work in any organization and culture. They have the unique ability to adapt themselves according to the needs of a team or an organization without discriminating against anyone. Like potatoes, they imbibe its values or culture of their workplace.

Generalists are like potatoes. Like potatoes, they do not have a distinctive snob factor. They usually do not cost much to hire while delivering immense value to organizations when hired well!

Like potatoes that are easy to prepare, Generalists can quickly be onboarded across industries because they possess skills which are applicable across domains

Generalists are the ultimate all-rounder, like potatoes.

Potatoes are versatile and adaptable and can be cooked in various ways. You can have your mashed spuds straight up or make them into chips, wedges or even potato gratin. These versatile tubers can be used as the main course or as the side dish—they are equally good either way!

A good Generalist is similar —they are the ultimate all-rounder who can take on any role you give them, no matter how big or small. A true Generalist will always be your second-in-command (after all, they are exceptionally good at taking orders). They are also more than capable of stepping up to lead projects if they need to do so—and sometimes even when they do not need to do so because they want some more responsibility!

Generalists are wildly versatile – mashed, fried, baked or boiled. Oops.

Have you ever noticed that potatoes are versatile? They can be mashed, fried, baked or boiled. You can use them as a side dish or main course. You can even make potato salad out of them (and who does not love potato salad?).

Just like good Generalists! Good Generalists are versatile, and they can be used in many ways. They can be used as a team lead, a project manager in the main course, or as that go-to resourceful guy.

Top it off; they go with everything, including cheese, egg, meat, or veggies. A good Generalist can be put in any department – project, product, sales, operations, or finance. They can be worked with in many ways, go with many departments and are not too pricey and accessible.

They can be your side dish or even your main course.

Like potatoes, a good generalist can be your “side dish, or even your main course” (sic). The potato and the generalist are both versatile. They can work on projects requiring technical skills but not too much specialization—tasks called “the 80%”. If you are looking for someone to take care of the back-end development of your website or app, great! Oh wait, did you say your Operations team have quit en masse? Look for a few generalists. That is yet another area where they will shine, not outside their boss. And after all this, they will probably still have time left to help with other things like graphic design or marketing (if you need it).

The bottom line is that if you need something done quickly and well—and do not mind having them around after they are done—good generalists will always be there for you.

They are also not expensive and accessible across the globe.

Yes, they are not expensive, like some Yartsa Gunbu, Spanish peas, Wasabi roots or pink lettuce. Potatoes are accessible across the globe and inexpensive. Well, there may be some La Bonnotte Potatoes, but they are more exceptions than the rule. They can be grown in most countries, which means they are available all year round, unlike other foods with strict growing seasons. Potatoes contain a valuable source of carbohydrates, vitamin C, potassium, and fibre, making them ideal for people on a budget or with dietary restrictions. Even more importantly—they can be stored for months!

Well, the generalist is produced in most countries, universally available, and significantly less constant skilling and grooming. Generalists are a valuable resource for contextualization, standardization, and cross-functional and cross-industry innovation…Even more importantly, they have a long shelf life unlike some of the tech industry, where the skills courses/certifications they attempt to gain are already ancient by the time they finish a course!

A Generalist is like a potato – good in everything but rarely gets credit for all the goodness.

Yes, a lot of things, well, from being a Patient Care Assistant or a Police Officer or a President, but they rarely get credit for all the goodness that comes from being a Jack of all trades. A Generalist can be hired for any project or team because they are usually capable in many areas. It is high time we see their versatility and pay attention as they should. From fries to wedges to chips – they are everywhere

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and found it helpful in shaping and shifting your career. If you are a Generalist like me, do not worry. We have lots of time ahead of us to prove that we are good and the best at what we do!

Follow me on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajeshsound/

A man in pin-striped business suit looks happy looking at a bowl of potato fries, a bowl of potato wedges and bowl of potato chips
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Mind Mapping for Excellence in Children

We are happy to do a session for children this time and how children can use Mindmaps towards excellence.

This program is curated by a Buzan Mind Map Certified® trainer, to help your child finish double work in half the time and help them have more fun. Mind mapping is an internationally proven is a secret method to help children with

– Remember better
– Produce brilliant ideas
– Dramatically save time
– Prioritize work
– Get better grades
– Organize day-day life
– Have fun

Mindmaps helps the brain to work at full capacity by using both sides of the brain simultaneously – the left side for the words and logic and right side for the imagination and creativity.

It is proven to help in thought organization, memory, cre8ivity, comprehension, concentration, communication, organization, problem-solving, project management, decision making.

Date, Time – (two sessions of 9o min each)
Session 1 – Tuesday April 28, 2020 11:00am
Session 2: Wednesday, April 29, 2020 11:00am
Register Link: https://bit.ly/MM4CRegister

Trainer : Rajesh Soundararajan
Rajesh is a certified Buzan Mind Map Trainer who was trained by Tony Buzan himself, the inventor of Mind Maps. Rajesh is also a member of the High IQ Mensa club with a recorded IQ of 156. He is a Mentor of Change under the NITI Aayog Atal Innovation Mission.

A CEO, dad, engineer, entrepreneur, farmer, ivy league MBA, road tripper, shutterbug – he invests much of his spare time on children, environment, and social issues.

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3 Steps towards Building an Amoeba Organization*

Is your organization structured like an Amoeba?

Successful businesses can continually alter its organizational structure to meet the changing demands of the environment in which they are operating. Each of that change helps them propel forward to achieving the goals the organization has set for itself. And finally, it is not bound the rigid boundaries that are prevalent in the industry or in other industries. Let us take each of these with an example

Business is no Biology, Why then are we talking of Amoeba, here?

An amoeba (/əˈmiːbə/) is a type of organism which

  • can alter its shape, primarily by extending and retracting pseudopods.
  • propels forward (and feeds) by using and extending a pseudopod and let’s go its rear portion
  • do not form a single taxonomic group and are found among the protozoa, fungi, algae, and animals.

A successful business means these 3 things

1. Altering the structure:

Altering the structure of an organization is usually a daunting task. It requires a leader to think out of the box and often begets undesirable resistance from HR and other units that look for status quo for ease of administration. Even in the many cases where an organization undergoes reengineering and restructuring, it often is a laborious exercise and involves months of planning and years of execution. It is anything but simple. But then creative leaders know can get this done.

In one exceptionally large organization that I was working, it was boom time and the business team was quite successful in meeting and exceeding targets. We had an extremely capable sales team and marketing team. The technical team was terrific. The Unit was on a super-fast growth. Yet, burnouts and the low compensation started to take its toll. The Business Unit leader was fully aware of the consequence and had many meetings with HR in vain. So, in this case, he hired a ‘marketing manager’ and the job role was clearly defined as an ‘excitement specialist.’ The measurement was about creating excitement in the team and help the unit be a fun place. The new-hire, an ex-advertising professional from a reputed Advertising Agency exactly knew what to do to build that excitement in the team. She was successful and the need for that position had been done away within 12-18 months when intended results of retentions and motivation were achieved.

There were other times, what was needed was ‘just a process to be set in place,’ or entire unit was to be focussed on ‘competitive win back.’ The organization structure changed countless times, where the required people were brought in or moved out and/or roles changed dynamically. Such changes could not have been reflected under the rigid structure, but with a creative leader, we were able to achieve none the less. The organization not only survived one of the worst dot com busts but propelled forward to be a leader in the industry as competition floundered. And that brings us to the second point.

2. Propel Forward:

To propel forward is a simple term but then defining the forward is the key. The forward could mean winning competition even at a short-term loss or it might earn profit maximization. It might mean the need for PR or need for better sales closers. There can be a couple of areas where one needs to move forward, and it only means adequate resources are deployed in those areas for that duration to make them successful. Any less, the effort would go waste. Any more, we might not be doing it efficiently. Propel forward for an organisation unit may be different from the standard industry practices.

The key to propelling forward is to let go of the past that is holding us back. We could have had an organization that was great and successful in the past but continuing the same activity and being tied to the past will slow the unit down. The key to propelling forward is to let go of the tenets that gave success in the past and unbound and unleash itself.

3. Unbound and hence Unleashed:

The core tenet is being unbound and unchained by the dogmas that exist in the organization and unit. Any change like this is seen as maverick and would lead to eyebrows being raised and questions being asked. The only way to address such criticism is to continue to deliver on outcomes. The team would need to be fully aware that they are being taken into full confidence and it needs to work on ‘a mission mode.’ Goals are pursued as a mission, and the team sees itself as a task force and a crack team. Call it permanent beta, disruptive innovators – any name that you wish. The idea is to take the team along and make sure they are unbound and unleashed all the time to deliver their best.

Go ahead try it! Build your own Amoeba Organization*.

If you like such articles – You can follow some great resources on

 This above article first appeared in the Times of India on April 03, 2019

Rajesh Soundararajan is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Futureshift Consulting, a boutique consulting outfit that helps organizations chart their business, marketing and technology strategies that generate demand, drive predictable revenue and achieve impactful outcomes.

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*I am not talking here about Amoeba Management, which is a system designed by Kazuo Inamori, the creator and current honorary chairman of Kyocera. Amoeba Management is different from building an Amoeba Organization that I am talking of and is primarily composed of personnel in a company, with a clearly defined purpose of making a profit for itself.

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6 things that I learnt from a devastating accident

I share my experiences from a devastating accident in which I almost lost three fingers, and what I have learned from this miracle ordeal.

Three years ago, it was late Sunday evening in January when I met with a freak yet devastating accident. As I was working on a 12,000 RPM rotary metal cutting tool, a momentary lapse of attention and I severed my three fingers on the right hand.

This jolted my family and threw life out of gear. With three small beautiful children and a family that is dependent, an entrepreneurial journey, and a whole life ahead, a useless right hand, was the last thing one would want on.

By the time I was wheeled into A&E, the situation was grave, and more than one hospital in the area refused admission as they did not have the doctor on call over that weekend. It was a weekend night, and Bangalore roads were choked with heavy traffic.

The Two-Wheeler Ride To Eternity:

And clutching the tree dismembered fingers of my right hand tightly with the left. I rode pillion on a two-wheeler, and my wife was the ‘ambulance’ driver. The blood loss was significant as The body gushed out blood to the fingers. Sitting in the pillion, the one thing on my mind was to keep myself awake, come what may, and not become unconscious and fall off. I hugged my feet to the sides of the scooter, much like how you would on a horse and kept talking to my wife, lest i fall asleep. The notorious city’s traffic was not helping and a good 30-40 minutes later, and what seemed like an eternity, we reach a hospital that would admit us.

What happened during that ride was nothing short of awakening and rebirth.

What happened during that ride was nothing short of awakening and rebirth. My mind was filled with an intricate mix of self-doubt and self-acceptance on what-if and how I will live with just a thumb and a little finger for the rest of my life. A billion thoughts crisscrossed my mind. Would this be the end of me? Will I be accepted in this world? How will I have an opportunity to pursue my hobbies and passions for which I came back to India? How will I do as an entrepreneur? Would this end my professional life forever?

The Surgery And The Recovery

It was an intense 4-5-hour surgery under general anesthesia, and I remained drugged for hours afterward. I still remember the light banter in the Operation Theatre with the surgeon. He informed me that he would need me to sign the consent form, as he said, “….we can save one finger, be ready to lose two of them, but we will try to save the second one”. This was before the General Anaesthesia, and I replied, “Doc, without those three fingers, I cannot sign. How about you fix them, and then I can have the form signed in no time.” After a good guffaw, they got the consent form signed by my wife, who was there through out the phase not sleeping a wink.

Cut forward to 6 weeks later – As we went for the removal of cast and stitches, my doctor was awed and euphoric – for this recovery was beyond all his expectations. He mentioned I was ‘one big lucky man‘; While I was relieved, I knew deep within that the hundreds of prayers and positive energy from many well-wishers and the doctor’s dedication would not go waste.

And all that was backed by a rock-solid backbone by wife and children, strong support of family, prayers, blessings, and encouragement from many friends. Over the next few months – life had ‘raced back to normalcy – in 6-8 weeks, much earlier than the expected 6-12 months.

I was welcomed from the hospital with a cake, and the little ones were more excited to see me, than to have a piece of that cake.

I was welcomed from the hospital with a cake, and the little ones were more excited to see me, than to have a piece of that cake.
I was welcomed from the hospital with a cake, and the little ones were more excited to see me, than to have a piece of that cake.

I have learned a lot in those few months and unlearned many more. It indeed was a rebirth. With many cobwebs in mind removed, the mind knows what is essential in life. In retrospect, this was the best exerience in my life, yet. Couldn’t have been luckier to have this experience.

Here’s a summary of the six most important lessons that I’ve learned:

1.  Love And Respect:

Throughout the adventurous journey, I realized the importance of having the love and respect of family, whom you could always depend on. My parents-in-law were all the time and my parents flew in from Dubai immediately after hearing this. With that confidence of the support of my family and friends, I would sail through this life. I was also fortunate to have support in the form of many hundreds of telephone calls and WhatsApp inquiries from all corners of the world. Many of them dropped by for a visit. Words of encouragement, flower bouquets, courier packages with holy water, ashes, and prasadams (similar to holy water, in the form of solid or liquid) from holy places were pouring in.

2.  Acceptance:

Within minutes of the accident, and immediately after the shock, I had mentally prepared to accept whatever was on the cards and whatever googly life threw at me. If it means living with just my thumb and the little finger for the rest of my life. I was ready for a life the way it was dished out to me.

3.  Gratitude:

Gratitude was the most important of all the learnings. Through the process of a long recovery, I was filled with immense gratitude for all the amazing things that life had to offer. I was grateful for all that so many people have done for me. Through the countless solitary moments, I thanked thousands of people, yes, thousands of people. I could vividly remember the faces of the many persons I had encountered since childhood. And, I believe that act alone was the single most significant contributor to my miracle recovery, a record of sorts.

Let alone not losing any of the fingers as the doctor had said, the recovery was much lesser than six-twelve months; I was ready and kicking and six weeks. In fact, just a day after the bandages removed and even without physiotherapy I went ahead and did what I love to do – an 800 km Road trip, more than half-which I was at the wheel.

I could vividly remember the faces of the many persons that I had encountered in life since childhood.

4.  Law Of Attraction:

If there is one important thing other than gratitude, mentioned Earlier it is the law of attraction. Much I was accepting each day for what it was; I was not willing to let go of the optimist in me and the fighter in me. Each day, I would visualise miraculous healing and see the senior surgeon tell us that he was amazed at the speed of recovery.

5.  Amazing Adaptability Of Human Body:

Through my journey, I was able to be aware of and observe remarkable aspects of the internal workings of the human body. The experience of ‘electric shocks’ from nerve endings as they try to heal, regrow and reconnect to the nervous system, the incredible way my left hand took over seamlessly, much like a doubles partner, to compensate for my every weakness. The reflexes had dramatically improved. Never in my entire life would I have experienced such a level of alertness and strong reflexes .

6.  Mindfulness, Dramatic Increase In IQ Tests

Here, I’m going to speak about something incredible that happened and is beyond imagination. This was more of an unintended consequence, serendipity if you may, for what you are about to hear is not something even I foresaw in my wildest dreams.

I am a regular player of online brain games like Lumosity. After that break of about 6 to 8 weeks, scores consistently surged way higher than any previous of the high scores. Not believing this magical twist, I took 20 -30 different brain tests. The scores were consistently 30-70% higher than my earlier high scores. On further research, I learned that sudden use of the left hand for the considerable amount of time helped activate the other half of the brain.

Today, I am so grateful to the people around me, my life, and the universe. When I play badminton, play with children, pick up those weights in the gym, or make that 10,000 km road trip – and all of them are still a bit of effort, nonetheless – not a day passes without feeling how blessed life has been.

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Aspire to be a CEO: Learn differentiated decision making.

One of those big myths about business decision making is about the inherent admiration of a aggressive, super-sure, quick decision maker. This strategy may be great in certain situations – not so good in others.

Some decisions in haste can be reversed, altered or has little impact. These haste decisions are necessary if there is a fire in a factory. Decisions made for the sake of speed is a little different from decisions that require swiftness. Understanding the difference is critical.
There are two kinds of decisions – revocable and irrevocable.
Revocable decisions are changeable decisions that can be made relatively fast and if it is wrong or needs to be altered, can be changed again relatively fast wit comparatively minimal impact. Examples would be – Office layouts, Advertising schedules, Not making a decision, Pricing, Phone service provider, Choosing an insurance company, even hiring a contract staff or a tier 2 reseller.
Irrevocable decisions such as brand name, acquisitions, executive hires, buildings, IT architecture are usually not easily irrevocable. Exercise caution while taking irrevocable decisions. Even if you need to take these decisions under time pressure, then you need to read fast, assimilate information fast, analyse fast, think fast and then decide. The decision may seem fast – but as a manager – you know you have done your due diligence.
Sounds easy! The essence of understanding the difference is the situations under which you operate in a particular mode that will make you successful.
Tim to decide! Merry Christmas!

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Watch this space – Landing a DREAM job…..

Close on the launch of the series -“Aspire to be a CEO: …” series, we are now starting another parallel series -“Landing a DREAM job, not any job…”
Thank you all for the great support – feedback, tweets and retweets.
Today’s workplace is super competitive and lot more dynamic. There are more and more awesome jobs; yet it is harder than ever to land one of them. The rules are changing by the day and in most cases, “the job application” process has just remained the way it was in my grand dad’s times
The rules in the “Landing a dream job, not any job…” series may sound a bit iconoclastic, to a few. The idea is not to make you a rebel. It is to set you thinking.

· Think if your current conformist approach is really helping you get what you want.
· Would you personally believe (leave out the crowd thinking) doing something different help.
· What would you do, if any, that you would differentiate yourself?

This is not about the usual stuff. We are not talking about being average and mediocre here, are we?
Watch out this space!