If it is not thanksgiving day, will you not say “thank you”?


Or conversely, if you say “thank you”, does it mean you are celebrating “thanks giving day” ?

I am jetlagged – and this is the thought that strangely came to mind today morning as I was on my 3rd cup of coffee. I attribute it to a bunch of emails I read yesterday night, and a few phone calls I attended today morning. You know who you are – and you are responsible for what follows in this rant – for good or bad.

Totally rhetorical question for most people – and I hope none of you who read this fall into the minority who will answer differently from the rest.  Yet, most of us to some degree are hung up on certain days to do certain things.

When I first moved to US for my job – my manager was a French guy. Few days before thanksgiving – someone asked him at lunch on what was his plan for thanksgiving. His reply was ” You know I am French, right? . We don’t need a specific day in the year to say thank you ! “.  He wasn’t joking – and the guy who asked the question really felt bad. Totally awkward for me sitting at the same table.

When I grew up in India, there was no such thing as celebrating father’s day, mother’s day, valentine’s day etc. We did have Christmas, Independence day etc.  Now – I see Indians celebrate valentine’s day et al the same as US and other countries. But not having grown up in a time when this was a big deal – I find it hard to feel anything special on these days. I call my parents every few days and meet them as often as I can, and hence have no reason to remember when Father’s day or Mother’s day is. However, my daughter who was born in US and goes to school in US is growing up believing it is a very special day – and of course I humor her and play along.  It is fascinating to say the least watching how 2 people of Indian origin – me and my kiddo – have such diversity of perspective.

There is an economic aspect of this that should not be lost on us. Companies that do their business based on sales of Greeting cards, chocolates and flowers probably make billions of dollars every time such a “day” is celebrated. And they do a good job with advertising – I have seen the impact it has on my own little daughter. These companies have successfully bred a sense of guilt in her that it will be terrible if she doesn’t buy a card or a chocolate for daddy and mommy on these days.  I am ok with it as long as she does not get an idea that the only day she needs to think of daddy and mommy are on father’s day and mother’s day.

On the work front – the thing that gets my goat in a similar manner is the abuse of the word “innovation” . There is no limit to what companies do to proclaim to the world that they are innovative.

Why is it difficult to admit that there are only so many original ideas in the world, and that if every one had such ideas – no idea will have a marginal utility bigger than others to qualify as innovation? By all means try to find the next big idea – please don’t stop doing so, but please please try to resist the temptation to shout out at every step of the way that “we are innovating”.  No – you are just working, whether it is an innovation or not will be known after the fact when customers get to judge it.

I have long held the view that the only folks qualified to judge innovation are customers – not vendors, and not analysts, and not book authors, and not me. It is not innovative if customers don’t attest it as such.  And hence I would love to live in a world where vendors do not talk about innovation happening in labs, and where bloggers and authors and analysts don’t get all high and mighty and start judging what is innovative and what is not.

I also believe strongly that innovation should not be confused with being new. It is not as if innovation started 2 years ago – and hence any thing old is not innovative. To my mind – if something has withstood time, it is extremely innovative.  I think it is beyond stupid when people say things like “how much of this company’s revenue is coming from new products”. What world do these people live in?  If innovation needed to be new – you would have thought that the poster children of innovation such as Google would have moved past income from search and adwords, Apple from ipods and Macs, and so on. Also, who are we to say if innovation is earth shattering or incremental?  If I did not open up games that have higher resolution – I would not be able to differentiate easily between last 2 versions of iPad. Does that mean the latest iPad version is not an innovation? No – it is innovative, since customers bought plenty of it.

One last rant on innovation before I brew another kettle of coffee.  What is the deal with “innovation days” ? So Google (and 3M before them) had an idea that one day a week should be devoted to pet projects. Good for them – does that mean everyone else who tried got a big benefit? did aping that make any one else a lot more  innovative? How did it work for Google itself – did it open up avenues whereby other streams of revenue matched or came close to the money that the search business brings home?  And what has company shouted from roof tops that “we are doing ( choose one or more from <open, closed, terrific,…>) innovation ”  and then followed up with something customers agreed was innovative?  The ones we celebrate as innovative – at least as much as my jet lagged memory can be jogged – have never announced before hand that they are innovating.

And that is it – I need that 4th cuppa NOW !  After that I need to work on the innovation agenda for my new role 🙂

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3 thoughts on “If it is not thanksgiving day, will you not say “thank you”?

  1. Not that I’m willing to take etiquette lessons from the French, but this is a great point. While we can innovate anytime, I do see why “community innovation” needs to be scheduled. We need to maintain focus within a group of people who have real jobs!

    Great post, Vijay. Go #PUKR!

  2. I chuckle to read that as I know at least one of the provocateurs in your argument. I know their response as well.

    To the analyst bit of me I have to remind myself that in technology, what passes for innovation so often says more to the fashion nature of what happens in the Valley and beyond. As Larry Ellison said: ‘Last year it was Fuchsia, this year it’s Puce.’

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