Twenty Thoughts for 2020

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It is that time of the year yet again, when a new year bids adieu to the old. This time it appears more significant than merely an incremental number, as we move out of the teens of the 21st century. So, without further ado, let me get on with business. Let us bid farewell to 2019 with 19 of my highlights and examine twenty thoughts for 2020 and beyond.

#01 – New Year Resolutions

I had published my customary New Year post last year and also spoke about the Survival Kit for New Year Resolutions. I am pleased to report that the momentum and the discipline of weekly reviews continued right through the year.

Thoughts for 2020: Plan to write about the mechanics of the simple “TRIGGER” framework that I had developed in 2013 and have been following  religiously for over 6 years now. Hopefully, more people will be able to benefit from an actionable and time-tested framework, with a sample size greater than one!

#02 – democratAIze

This brings me to the next point around democratizing and sharing knowledge.  I had created a platform called democratAIze (i.e. democratize the usage and application of AI) last year. The basic idea is to share my knowledge and experiences around Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP).

Thoughts for 2020: Although I continued doing my bit during the year to keep sharing my experiences, However, I did not bring it together on This shall be amended in 2020, hopefully with dividends!

Ping me if you feel strongly about the intelligence stack (AI, ML, NLP) or generally about sharing knowledge and upgrading yourself.

#03 – YouTube Channel

Since content has moved very significantly to video, I finally created my YouTube channel. It was an interesting experience to grapple with the nuances of video content generation and editing.

Thoughts for 2020: With the initial learning curve out of the way, expect more videos this year on my YouTube channel. Do not expect anything too prolific, though. I am looking at one video each month for 2020. If it’s the right balance, please do Subscribe

#04 – Eightrospections

I had a fun pun time creating a video called “Eightrospections“, introspecting on my 8th work anniversary. I continued with the tradition of sharing my thoughts on my work anniversary, triggered largely by the copious congratulatory messages that I get on LinkedIn

Thoughts for 2020: I got a lot of positive feedback on the video, but well wishers also mentioned that I should appear in the videos or do a voice over. And that’s precisely the intention for 2020.

#05  #50 – It’s a Golden Anniversary…

Continuing with the theme of work anniversaries, I had the good fortune to celebrate one of the most unbelievable occasions. A colleague of ours celebrated her 50 years of working with our organization. Trust me, this is not a typo!

Thoughts for 2020: The occasion helped put things in perspective, especially in the context of increasing life spans and thinking through one’s late stage career. Time to think about the work-longevity balance and the need to keep re-inventing yourself. As I like to say, lets live an “autodidactual” life of continuous self-directed learning.

#06 – …and a Silver one too

Yours truly also celebrated 25th anniversary, albeit in a much quieter fashion!

A plant and a poem accompanied me and my memories to visit the office where my professional journey started 25 years ago!

 Thoughts for 2020: There are loads of learning to distill from the various stages of my career. These are scattered around, both in my head and in my writing and speaking endeavors, from time to time. How about consolidating it in a cohesive structure, say a 25 part series or a book?  Maybe, I will do it now and surely by the time I get to gold!

#07 – My journey

However, some of my experiences were captured in an interview by Vassu Arora of LawStrat, as part of Law Firm Leaders Series. I speak about how few key elements cut across various stages of my unconventional journey and much more. You can read the interview here, but do come back to continue this journey!

Thoughts for 2020: The dots do connect, even across seemingly unconnected fields. Whatever happens is for  a reason. Hindsight provides us wisdom as it unveils the reason.

#08 – Nearing a Century

Changing the journey track from me to our firm, we celebrated reaching a milestone of 400 people and much more at a Town Hall event earlier this year.

I shared my thoughts on how to approach the future, as we are closing in on an unbelievable milestone of completing 100 years of vintage after three years.

Thoughts for 2020: Use milestones as an opportunity to sit back, reflect and take a long term perspective. 2020 is a milestone year, isn’t it?

#09 – Taking a leaf out of a Decade

Speaking about organizations that have lasted a long time,  I have been visiting the Bookaroo Children’s literature fest pretty much each year for the 10 years of it’s existence. It has been a commendable journey and kudos to the organizers for keeping commercialization at bay and retaining the essence of the festival for a decade.

I took a leaf out of Bookaroo this year, in my interactions with the Taktse International School from Sikkim, which has also been a regular visitor to the festival. The kids were truly impressive and it was especially heartening to attend sessions and hear them articulate their interpretation and aspirations, while overcoming language barriers. In one of the sessions, the presenter spoke about Urdu script to an audience, half of whom didn’t follow Hindi and the other half didn’t follow English! 

Thoughts for 2020: We are prisoners of our belief systems and perceptions. I have been pleasantly surprised in my earlier visit to Sikkim. How can we think beyond stereotypes and change our mental models in 2020?

#10 – Languages, with an international flavor 

Speaking more about languages, my daughter had a quirk of fate going in her favor. She studies French in school and randomly started learning Spanish during her summer vacations. With a fortuitous stroke of serendipity, the school announced an educational tour to Spain.

Needless to add, she had a great time in Spain which included a visit to the Real Madrid stadium. Ok – granted that she was more excited about other aspects of the trip, but it wasn’t just me who was excited about visiting the most successful club in the world.

Thoughts for 2020: The kids these days have exponentially more exposure as compared to our generation. I hadn’t traveled abroad even until I was at twice her age and here she confidently managed an independent international trip, even surmounting language barriers! 

#11 – The Future Workforce 

This brings us to the next thought, of what the future workforce holds in store for us. I had written an article earlier this year on the sidelines of the CBSE Board results. I may not be in the same state of mind next year, with my son appearing for his Board examinations!

However, my subsequent experiences during the year have only reinforced my beliefs about the future.

Thoughts for 2020: Speaking of stereotypes, what is our mental model of a millennial and how does it need to change? Why do we need to change our thinking model? How has our perception of reality has diverged from reality over time?

#12 – From Boards to Bands 

Let me just spend a minute here talking about my son, especially in his ‘dreaded’ Board year. Ever since he got the benefit of a piano at home, his love for music has really blossomed. He played the piano for his school’s band which won the 2nd prize at Mayo College Ajmer. Additionally, music acts as a stress buster (for all of us) at home!

Thoughts for 2020: I am reminded of a famous TED talk (16 million views) that debunks the 10,000 hour rule and advocates 20 hours as the guiding post to learn any new skill. I haven’t yet tried my hand on the piano, but maybe sometime in the near future? How would you like to spend these 20 hours in 2020?

#13 – From Universal to Natural Language

Well, we all agree that music is a universal language that has the potential to bring us all together. However, some very interesting developments are taking place in the Data Science world of natural language processing (NLP). We are developing a uniform way of encoding meaning that is contained in the natural languages that we speak.

These developments have profound implications, since language is fundamental to most of our activities, social or professional. I had written about one of the use cases for Recruiting that we had implemented earlier this year. 

Thoughts for 2020: I am very excited about the pace of developments in this space, especially since I have been very vocal about the promise of NLP over the last few years.  A research paper published last year referred to a 2013 technique as “Classical NLP”. Now, how many fields in our history have moved from “invented” to “classic” in the space of 5 years?  Disruption is truly happening at the Speed of Light – can you move at the Speed of NOW?

#14 – AI – The New Language of Business 

It is critical for businesses to understand the implications and the massive potential offered by these developments. PHD Chambers invited me to speak at a seminar on Artificial Intelligence. They have also shared a brief snippet of the talk on their official YouTube channel.

Thoughts for 2020: Businesses need to connect the dots across multiple diverse areas to extract value from these new technologies. This has always been true, but only assumes more importance in the wake of disruptive changes.

#15 – Crank up the business using AI

The most common challenges for business is getting RoI (return on investment) from AI. Based on my experiences, I created the CRANK framework to assist and guide businesses. The initial feedback from using this methodology in my opening session at a Data Science workshop was encouraging.

Thoughts for 2020: Think about how to crank up the business using technologies in the contemporary intelligence stack. I will be happy to discuss any feedback, thoughts and ideas.

#16 – Augmenting Lawyers 

Moving on from talking about business to technocrats to speaking about technology to lawyers. 

It was a privilege to be the rare non-legal professional to be invited to speak at the RSG Grow India Summit. The audience comprised of the founders and Managing Partners of the country’s top law firms and other legal luminaries. The event witnessed our firm moving into Top 10 of the country and acknowledgement of our use of AI, ML and NLP  for business as world-leading.

Thoughts for 2020: Check out my thoughts on “Augmented Lawyers – Reality, Legality and Eventuality”. Even traditionally insulated industries are embracing change. Innovate or Die, the battle lines are drawn for 2020!

#17 – Keynote on Decoding Tech at CIO Rise

I was humbled to be invited to present the opening keynote address at the CIO Rise. This event was attended by over 100 top CIOs. In addition to the business impact of technology, I also spoke about the cognitive aspects of cognitive computing.

On a personal note, this was nothing short of a milestone moment for me. It is the subject matter of a separate note, but I have come a long way from overcoming lack of technical knowledge and concomitant fear to the present day. 

Gratitude to Anindya Basu, the first person that I worked with in Accenture. He pushed me very confidently into uncharted tech territory almost 20 years ago and changed my destiny. I was thrilled to hear of his recent elevation to the Head of Accenture India.

Thoughts for 2020: Firstly, nice guys do finish first and secondly, as you may have read earlier, we got the spelling of “I-(a)m-possible” wrong!

#18 – Emerging HR

On this note, let me change track to people management and HR. I had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion at Emerging HR event at The Oberoi, Gurgaon. The discussion on role of HR in unlocking value of a M&A transaction was a great example of the dots getting connected. The panelists brought together perspectives of HR heads, CFO, Corporate Lawyer, Investment Bankers and I had fun knitting it all together from the CEO’s vantage point.

Thoughts for 2020: Multi-disciplinary perspectives, cross-functional teams and collaborations will become the grundnorm in 2020.

#19 – Engaging CFOs 

One of the topics that often gets brushed away with mere lip service is that of gender diversity. I moderated a panel discussion, provocatively titled, “Men buy Shares on Mars and Women open Savings Accounts on Venus”.

The CFO Engage event held at the Leela Kempinski had over 400 CFOs in the audience. These discussions are like a drop in the ocean, but hopefully the grand platform put together by Programic Asia helps move the needle a little bit. 

Thoughts for 2020:We ended the session with a community pledge to take action and monitor the target metrics. The same principle can apply to pretty much everything that we have discussed so far. SMART goals to take on a smart world!

#20 – In 2020, is 40 the new twenty?

While we have collated 19 thoughts so far from our Review of 2019, there is something that is running at the back of our minds. There is too much disruptive change happening around us and it can be discomforting. After all, there is a popular imagery of startups founded by college dropouts that appears to marginalize the role of people in their 40’s. However, a  study by MIT published in Harvard Business Review shows that the average age of successful startup founder is 45.

On that final note, let us begin 2020 with new energy, build up the momentum. As I wrote earlier in an article on Managing Change, never, never, never, EVER lose momentum, once you have built it up.

Let’s get cracking in 20-20 style with these 20 thoughts for 2020 and beyond!

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