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Sanjiv Pande, SMART Technologies
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What are you reading at the moment? What did you recently finish reading? What have you learnt from it?
I am currently reading Currency Wars by James Rickards. A compelling read, the book is based on the premise that the western countries especially US are controlled by a nexus of international bankers, which use currency manipulation to gain wealth. The author fears that this battle for supremacy could lead to dire consequences degenerating into bouts of inflation, recession and sometimes actual violence.
I just finished reading Smart Or Lucky by Judith Hurwitz. She has been tracking the technology industry for the past thirty years making her an expert voice on the sector. In the book, Hurwitz deftly dissects numerous winners and losers of the tech industry and based on the observations offers advice to entrepreneurs wanting to achieve sustainable success. She posits that achieving business success is a combination of smart strategy and luck. Companies which are successful owing to sheer luck, run the risk of falling if they give in to complacency. Thus, for a business to thrive and survive it is critical to innovate.
The one book all leaders must read... and why?
Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne offers tips for survival during unstable market conditions. The authors argue that since change is the only constant it is very critical for businesses to not give in to complacency and be on the constant look-out for new markets instead of expending resources in a crowded marketplace. Based on a comprehensive study of more than thirty industries authors Kim and Mauborgne beautifully illustrate how lasting success could be achieved from creating 'blue oceans' or the untapped new markets which are ripe for growth.
One book everyone in your sector should pick up... and why?
Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Fooled by Randomness and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow is a must-have on every executive's bookshelf.
Taleb's book focuses on managing uncertainty which has become a staple post the great recession of 2009. The strength of the book lies in Taleb's ability to make dubiously simple mathematical concepts relevant in evaluating and understanding the apparently irrational movement of stock markets. He extrapolates these learnings to diverse spheres to come up with mantras for success in any business.
In the book Flow Csíkszentmihályi, a Hungarian psychology professor, outlines his theory that people are happiest when they are in flow, which is a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. Csikszentmihalyi demonstrates the ways this positive state can be controlled, not just left to chance and could help improve the quality of our lives. We can draw major lessons in management from this simple theory. Every leader is as good as his team. Thus, it is critical for a leader to motivate the team and channelize their energies towards the larger business cause by getting them "in the flow".
What kind of books would you normally buy while travelling?
Largely management books. I sometimes also like to pick up a Harvard Business Review while travelling.
Have you written any books? If not, do you plan to write in future?
I would love to capture my experiences and experiments on leadership in a book. In these times of talent crunch, employee retention has become a top priority for every company. Today's leaders have a huge challenge in front of them in managing the millennial workforce. Keeping your workforce motivated while driving business goals at the same time is a subject which highly fascinates me.
The books you grew up with? What did you like most about it?
P.G. Wodehouse and Agatha Christie have been my childhood companions. I loved the sarcastic humour of Wodehouse and the chilling suspense of the Christie novels. The Hercule Poirot series are one of my all time favourites.
Your book shelf consists of....
My bookshelf is a melee of books on culture, history and some classics. I also read a lot of books on management which have a proud place on my reading rack. Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca is my all time favourite which I have read and enjoyed multiple times.
Where do you shop for books?
I am bit of an old school when it comes to books and prefers to buy them from brick and mortar stores. Crossword and Spell and Bound are some of my preferred haunts in Delhi. Strand Bookstore in Bangalore is another favourite.
One book you cherish that you received as a gift... and who gave it to you.
Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig's, a well cherished gift by a close friend.
(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 06-08-2012)