The $101 experiment!

The world around us has changed a lot in last 365 days. The way we connect, the way we meet, the way we talk, the way we travel and ALSO the way we learn.

As the ways of learning changed, it opened a Pandora’s box. Now, a trainer sitting in Bengaluru, Mumbai or Ahmedabad, could train people in Hawaii and Christchurch sitting right from his/her drawing room. But this also brought out an avalanche.

Because now, suddenly there was a flood of online classes for every topic perceivable from every trainer in the world, the only way some trainers thought they would be able to attract learners to the classes was only be lowering their price and there started the proverbial race to bottom e.g. From the peak pricing of $500 for a 2 day CSPO class, some trainers and organizations started to offer prices for as low as $150 .

As a CST and having teaching Product Management for many years now, I was wondering how do I sustain the market? Should I even be bothered about offering a class given what was happening from a price point?

I had pointed the futility of this rat race to bottom to a lot of my fellow guides online and offline but no-one seemed to be taking notice or being bothered anymore.

SO, I decided to run a marketing experiment !

I put up the lowest one of the tickets for my CSM classes for as less as $101!!! Yes $101.. This was a no frills ticket.

The others two tickets were posted at a rate of $250 and $350 and included most of amenities

The purpose of this experiment was to find out whether the lowest price is the only consideration which a learner would use to decide which trainer and workshop he/she wants to be part of. (Unfortunately, a lot of training marketing companies and trainers think so).

So after running this experiment for a quarter, I am happy to report that my original belief that rock bottom pricing for any product/ service is not the solution, stands vindicated.

Here is some of the results from my experiments which confirmed my belief:

  • During the January-March 2021 quarter, I posted 7 workshops from my ScrumAlliance offerings.
  • Less than 1% of total queries received, enquired for the lowest priced ticket.
  • Most students (close to 95%) enquired for my medium price ticket which sells for approx. $250. This is much higher than the published prices I see from a lot of trainers/ marketing companies today for a CSM workshop in Asia.
  • There was no significant uptick reported in the traffic to the registration portal because of low pricing. The number of visits more or less remained the same over this period.

I completed this experiment end of March and changed the pricing.

If you have a passion and dream to be a trainer (CST, PST, SPC et al), here is a simple advice, that I would like to provide based on the above experiment :

  • DO NOT build your sales and marketing strategy around pricing. Be sensitive to the market but do not fight the bloody war to rock bottom.
  • Increase your personal brand value. That’s what pays in the long term.
  • Last but not the least, collaborate and win with your fellow trainers. Celebrate each others’ success and recommend their good work to your students. Your students would for sure come back to you if they liked the person you recommended.

So pandemic or no pandemic, some things never change in this world: the sun, the sky, the politics AND good sales & marketing strategies. The choice is yours!!

Is being free and open a sin or a responsibility?

If you have seen the NetFlix documentary, Wild Wild Country on Bhagwan Shri Rajneesh (or Osho, as he was called in later years), or have been intrigued by what happens and used to happen in the Osho Ashram in the tony Koregaon Park neighborhood of Oxford of the east, Pune read on..

but …

If you think if anything and everything that happens outside the moral fabric of the society is immoral and illegal, may be you should move away from this article because, dear reader, you would, for sure not align with some of the examples and the words I say..

So, coming back to the Wild Wild Country and the man behind it. The Baba who preached freedom, of soul, of speech, of karma , and more controversially , of sex and related things.

First, to mind you, Osho was definitely not the first to talk about this and definitely wouldn’t be the last to talk about these so called “taboo” topics.

Now, I am not here to talk about whether Osho was right or wrong, whether Swami Nithyananda is right or wrong, whether Krishna was right or wrong or the practices of other religions like Islam and Christianity are right or wrong. I am simply not qualified and read enough to be able to comment on these.

But , what I want to point out, if you notice a little deep in all the examples above, is the yearning for Freedom.

Freedom from mundane, freedom from rituals, freedom from restrictions, freedom from tyranny and orders from bosses.

Under our thick skinned, poker faced daily routines and facades, all of us yearn for it and yet only a few dare to talk about it or actually, try and be free.

But. why is that while everyone says eons of words about freedom of expression, being yourself and more, not many dare to be actually free?

Well, the answer is a simple societal flaw: Anyone going out of their lane is considered a sinner, an outlaw and society fails to accept anyone talking about breaking those societal rules. Be it those of marriage, relationships, office work, culture, basically just about any dimension, which requires interaction between two humans.

And that’s what I call hypocrisy! unfettered, unabashed hypocrisy!

I will give you a very small example from the time I spent long back in God’s Own country Kerala.

Now, if you are in a public transport in Kerala, and a lone woman is sitting and the seat next is vacant, an unknown male dare not sit on that seat, as it is considered to be immoral, unethical but the same state, downloads the highest amount of porn every month globally.

We all hate godmen like Sant Ram Rahim, Satpal Maharaj, Swami Nithyananda, yet in our immediate family, or we ourselves would have some Guruji , whom we bow down to take blessings from and worship them like Gods.

So, does Freedom generate sin or cults always? May be not!

Freedom is not a Sin. It is an essential fuel for the human soul to grow, to learn, to innovate, to leap and reach beyond and create that magic. So, as a social beings, we need to rethink our behaviors and our responses to things out of our normal way of thinking.

But, Let me now present a totally different perspective. Freedom is a right, but it does come with responsibility. The downfall of many a cults, spiritual figures, and social heroes has not been their ability to connect but because of taking things for granted, bringing egos and personality worship into their vicinity, destroying the ecosystem of society around them.

With great power comes great responsibility, and freedom is Power. So, if you are thinking radical, out of the box, great, by all means you have the right to think differently but do always think about the consequences that you would have on those around you. Are you ready to ensure that your thought process doesn’t inadvertently or knowingly cause harm to others.

Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand and they can be good friends if allow them to. So, think, my dear friend think!

PS: This article is not about Agility as you would have expected from my blog, but if you would notice and know the Agile values, I am sure you can resonate all of the above in the context of Agile Values and true Agile team.

Your best chance to be an Outlier!

We all have been to a zoo once in our lifetime, sometimes as a child, some times accompanying our children.

Do you remember that excitement that we used to have as kids to see an African Giraffe or a Gorilla or Sea Lions, all the way from a different country and continent ?

But while watching all those calm, lazy animals , did you ever wonder how the world looked like from their perspective. Caged, confined with nothing much to look forward the next day.

No, I am not starting a lecture about Animals Rights and PETA (Though i have been a closet animal activist all along).

I am steering this discussion to a different paradigm. The paradigm of human intelligence and preservance (and IQ).

When animals are confined and caged, they don’t have many other things to do as their mind just know a few things to do: Eat , Sleep, Play/hunt…and repeat.

But in these strange times of 2020, as a Human being, are we also doing the same?

True, some of us are working in WFH, Virtual mode and yet others have resumed officers, but are we repeating the same routines all over again, pre and post lockdown?

On that note, let’s talk about Outliers.

Who are outliers? These are people in our society, from amongst us, who are considered geniuses, in any domain, business, sports, religion, politics, software et al.

And some notable examples I would talk about here: Michael Jordan, Bill Joy, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahatma Gandhi, M C Mary Kom, Chattrapati Shivaji, Dhirubhai Ambani,Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Jack Ma.

These are all considered geniuses of their times and field. But what can be common between Chattrapati Shivaji and JackMa (apart from their innate talent, of course).

It’s that one word which we have heard since our childhood, but we keep on ignoring:

“Practice”

We want to have all the comforts in the world, we want to be respected and well known in our field, we want to enjoy the fruits of our labor , but when it comes to practice, our ‘excusist’ syndrome takes over and you often listen yourself saying that dreaded phrase “Oh, I don’t have time”.

A counter-argument that I always hear, oh, I practice my skills when I am working so I can easily become a master at my work…

But, just ask yourself at this moment.

The job, the work that you are doing, Is this where your passion lies? Is this what you see yourself doing 15 years from now? Is this something which will give your fulfilment and fond memories in future.

If not, this is the perfect time to take a pause and think!

Are you riding the hamster’s wheel or have you really started practicing towards your ultimate purpose/ Goal of life?

And this lockdown , caged period we humans are/have faced is probably the best opportunity to practice those skills and gain mastery over what we really want to do?

But, how much practice is enough to gain Mastery/ Expertise on a subject/ topic/ skill ?

It’s a very simple number:

10,000 hours*

(*Taken from Outliers: By Malcolm Gladwell)

So, even if you start practicing your art/ skill for 1 hour per day for 5 days a week, it would take approximately you approximately 40 years to be the master in your field of choice.

But, what if you got a chance to practice, 3-4 hours per day for 5 days a week? The same time period reduced to 10 years ( now that sound more reasonable, particularly for young minds)

Let me ask a question then:

Are your still cribbing about lockdown and and reading this article?

OR

Has your wonderful super-computer already started planning on how to master your skills and be the Outlier in your field by making best use of this stay-at-home opportunity ?

As I leave you with more questions than answers, reflect, set your goals and start your journey.

-MK

The Origin of Conflict!

Nah!

I am not going into the boring old topic of conflict management here. umm, there has been enough said about it.

Actually, this came up in some of my deep discussions with my daughter about one of her research topics in school on ‘how does religion affect the laws?’. So, we have been debating and discussion about Iran, Mohajirs of Pakistan, the conflicts in 7th and 8th century , the multi-religion families and more.

We did discuss how religion itself has caused almost 70% wars and suffering in the world. How religious suppression goes in waves: From the early centuries’ Catholic dominance, to the persecution of Jews, the suppressions of women’s right in post revolution Iran, under ISIS rule and even the suppression and ‘atrocities’ in countries following Buddhism.

But how did Religion become a topic/power even greater than the right to live, right to have proper food, right to die in dignity?

So, we dig deeper and what we discussed , the problem of all religions (and so called religious ‘Gurus’) is not the religion itself, but the desire to expand , the “Greed” to expand, to be the most followed religion in the world.

Is this Greed limited only to religions? Well if you look around you, this “Greed” is everywhere, in personal, professional world, everywhere!

In Politics, the greed to have ultimate power and rule the millions and billions..

In business, to earn more and more (Yes , even in my training business)..

In Offices, to have that influences on maximum number of subordinates..

At Home, the greed to always get your way and control (the typical saas-bahu conflict)..

And when , this greed is not fulfilled, we enter into a conflict zone and obviously, we tend to blame others for start of that conflict

But are human beings born greedy, are human beings born with a religion, are human being born with expansionist mindset. NO!

A child is not born with a rudraksh, or a skull cap or a cross.

It is the parents who force their religion upon their kids. Even at the tender age of 1-2 years, when they don’t even know how to spell their name, kids are told to bow down, follow the rituals, and not go against one’s religion. But was it your religion or your parents’ religion you are following?

It is the parents’ greed to follow the ‘family’ traditions, family religion which make them grow more biased and confused as they grow..

But, coming back to the origins of conflict, where does this Greed come from?

Can it really be eliminated or suppressed? Let’s try to find an answer.

Let’s actually look at the Neanderthal times, when we were still gatherer-hunters 2,00,00 years back. The number of people on the planet was too far less and the resources to feed were in plenty. SO, there were pretty much no conflicts..

But then, we started to expand our clans, our families. and that needed more resources, more food, more hands, more hands who would hunt and gather for the ever expanding clans.

and there in started the origin of conflicts. Because now we had continuously forage into others’ ‘territories’ to get more food , so if they would try to defend, we would forcible try to take over land and food sources and force them to follow our rituals and ways of food and more.

As humans evolved some of these things got hard-wired into our genes. To protect what we call ours, to expand wherever and howsoever we can and to look down upon those, we conquered.

Flash forward to future, and lets go to the ever burning Middle-East part of the world.

If the powers to be would not have the expansionist , religious mind-set, Would the Gulf-war take place? NO!

Would Yemen be in the condition it is now? NO!

Would the USA have more bases outside of mainland US? , NO!

You are thinking this is a political statement I am making.

BUT think about the conflicts in your office… When a colleague is given more attention and privileges,when the boss never listens to the voice of reason, when people are fired even though they would have served the company dutifully for 25 years

And, it’s not also professional.

Think about your conflicts with your friends, your family members, your neighbours. Are they really ideological or one party trying to prove their supremacy and trying to say others are wrong. Ah! the greed to be seen as superior.

and let me make it more personal, when you want your partner to love and like you the way you want them to , isn’t that greed. When you want your partner to be 24×7 with you, isn’t that greed!

Now, almost all religious gurus can give you a 5 day gyaan on how to suppress greed, but I would rather leave you with a question..

Before you preach others about anything..

Have you been able to suppress your own greeds?

What do I do in lockdown?

It’s May.. and most of us have been locked down since almost 60 days. Everytime we think it will open, the number of cases rise and authorities have to extend it. Yes, some of us are working from home but what about those who can’t work. Either the business is shut down, or simply we lost the job!

We have already spent hours on talking about how life is unfair, how 2020 should be cancelled and what not ! But what after that?

We are still in lockdown and the mayhem doesn’t seem to end anytime soon.

Being in a similar situation, I have been pondering about it but as the divine light shines sometimes, I read a story which ignited a light. And as I have been sharing my little rumblings with you, here is this one too:

I don’t know if it is mentioned in Hindu mythology or not… but I like the context, so I am sharing it ..

Once Lord Indra got angry with the farmers, he declared that there will be no rain for 12 years .. you will not be able to grow crops …

The farmers begged for mercy from Lord Indra.

Lord Indra said that it is possible for it to rain only if Lord Shiva plays his Damru (small drum) ! But he had secretly discussed with Lord Shiva and requested him not to agree with these farmers. When the farmers came to Lord Shiva, they said that after 12 years, the Damru (drum) would be played.

Disappointed farmers decided to wait for 12 years.

But a farmer was regularly plowing the field. Was sowing seeds. Other farmers were making fun of that farmer. A few years later, other farmers asked him, “Why are you wasting your time and energy when you know it will not rain for 12 years?”

He replied, “I know there will be no rain and no harvest. But I do this only as a” practice. ” After 12 years I will forget the method of growing crops and working in the fields. The body may forget its habit to toil, so I do it every year so that after 12 years it will not be difficult for me to work when it rains. “

Hearing their argument, Goddess Parvati was appreciative and said to Lord Shiva, “You may also forget to play the Damru after 12 years!”

Lord Shiva was also worried. He tried to play the Damru to check if the Damru were playing. It started raining as soon as Damru’s voice was heard .. and the farmer’s field, which was working regularly, was full of crops, but everyone else regretted it ..

“Practice” makes you perfect. Practice is the essence of quality. Practice is the secret of youth.

Sometime after 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years, the lockdown will end. Instead of staring at it, do one thing. Sharpen your skills in whatever business or field you are in. Keep growing.

Focus on your skills today, focus on how you can improve yourself.

… so that when the time comes to work again, you are ready to meet all the challenges ..