Wednesday, January 6, 2010

the case of a blank cd

Lessons from small incidents are sometimes priceless.
Key: Have an open mind, and ask questions.

I was at work, when I overheard one of the team leads on a bridge call, on speakerphone. The guy on the other side required a blank cd to move/store some data. The team lead got up and started looking around for the blank cd and got it in next few minutes from a different manager.

I was watching this, and at the end asked anyway, to the team lead, if he did found a blank cd, to which he said "yes, John had a few". I cheered him, and he smiled and went back to his desk.


During my college internship preparation, I got a lifetime of wish coming true, in the make of a telephonic internship interview from the dream factory itself, Microsoft at Redmond. I prepared for it all day and night, and every time I lifted my head from books and the laptop, I magnetically flew into the dream of how it all will be working with Microsoft finally, and how I would just do anything to be there... (not that I dont dream the same..), but back then I learnt one very important quality.

The internship interview was for Program manager. The quality I learnt was of, "asking questions".
It didn't matter as greatly, that you knew the subject deeply, as compared to, if you are an actively thinking individual who processes information actively and ask questions about things, to confirm or to understand/learn more, before investing your time and resources.

In the telephonic interview, I was asked, how would I redesign/rebuild a house which had no walls but just the fully furnished floor, and a limited budget to finish.

Of course, most would agree that the first thing that comes to the mind naturally is, how much budget you have and how much time you got to do this. And the interviewer, wont give out hints to you, he/she will just listen and mark you on that.

So, as I said, asking questions, has to come from actively processing things and removing the "no pop-up questions" restriction from your mind. Let it ask and counter-ask.

So, In case of the CD, it's important to ask about the whats & whys.
What would you like to achieve?
What data are you trying to move/copy? (Is it alright to copy "that" data to a removable disk?)
Do we have an alternative to achieve that objective?
Can only copying be a solution?
Can it be copied to other network drives?, how about a USB stick ?
What better can we do, for situations like these, next time onwards?

And in case of the unfinished house:
Why is this house unfinished?
Who owned it and why only the floor is intact but the walls are all gone?
Is it a demolition or a result of a natural disaster or something else?
Why do the owner now wants only the walls built, when there's so much scope for a new house design? Is it legal & safe to rebuild?
What if an event like this happens again? (the one that destroyed this house)
Would it make any financial sense to re-do it as compared to buy a new one or build a fresh one?


  • The answers fuel the questions towards greater clarity and understanding of what you are dealing with. So, always start with asking questions to yourself and always try answering and figuring out, by asking or by studying about it.

  • State your requirements in more comprehensive broad terms, to avoid bounding people to the words and terms. For example, I read this somewhere: If a fire safety manual would say "grab a blanket, and cover the victim". It closes the reader's mind for the moment, and forces the reader to run and look for a "blanket", when anything that could have covered the victim and terminated the air supply as a fire fuel, would have done the job!, including your own coat, or a good roll on the floor. What we want to achieve is to block the air supply fueling the fire. Likewise, asking for a help to achieve an objective is more open ended, and leaves the reader to evaluate options, think with an open mind, as compared specifically asking for CD. So, what can be done is, state your objective clearly then maybe followed by what you think is the tool required to achieve it. If your listener/reader is an active, open-minded thinking individual, he/she will get the information.

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