There is always something new to learn

First things first – jet lag sucks more as I grow older . Not that long ago , I was able to function just fine with a different time zone every day as I flew around the world .

This time in India – it was quite hard to shake it off , and it was twice as bad this week in NY fighting the reverse lag. I can’t wait to get a good night’s sleep on my own bed after three weeks on the road.

I was in the IBM learning center in Armonk, NY this week for a leadership training class called RISE .

IBM training events are usually quite good – and I have taken and taught at many of them over the years.

But this one was quite special – and I learned a few things that I perhaps haven’t paid enough attention so far .

1. Simulations are such a great learning tool !

We worked in teams of six making decisions about a certain problem . The case study was about 80 pages long that we had to glean info from in an hour . And then every day we got new information and had to tweak our decisions and make new ones. Case studies of course are not new to me and I did my fair share in business school and also in many later training sessions. I have also worked with simulation based systems in past a couple of times . But a three day session – competing against three other teams – and seeing the results of our decisions quickly ( sometimes painfully ) was an exceptional learning experience.

For those keeping score – our team “aurora” won πŸ™‚

2. The power of the Balance sheet !

I had taken the role of CFO for my team . Good thing that the course had a Pre-req to brush up on Finance fundamentals – and I had plenty of time to do it because of the jet lag keeping me awake at night πŸ™‚

In my day job – I worry about P&L every day and cash flow fairly frequently too . It’s very rare that I even have to think about balance sheet . But as we worked through the course of the three days – I quickly realized what a powerful tool Balance sheet can be .

Let’s just say a lot of lessons from my Finance management professors flashed across my mind in rapid fashion πŸ™‚

I think one of the reasons we won the “game” was that we used Balance sheet more productively than other teams. And we strategically kept quiet about that till the end of course πŸ™‚

3. The incredible value of diverse opinions

We had four ladies in the team and two gents . Two from US , one from Hongkong , one from Australia , one from India and one from Belgium . In short – a fairly diverse team .

One decision we had to take quickly in the simulation was to pick a sales channel for a scenario amongst three choices . Five of us chose one channel and my Belgian friend Sonia chose another – and she gave a darn good logical reason . We went with the majority decision and painfully realized as we saw the results that we were dead wrong and she was right !

Good lesson learned to listen more closely and watch for group think kicking in !

I still can’t believe we passed on her perfectly good and rational argument – and I was one of the first to dismiss it . On the bright side – we quickly realized our folly and started listening to each other more intensely since that moment !

4. Hearing the views of multiple senior leaders on the same issues is enlightening

We were incredibly fortunate to have a half dozen senior leaders engage with our class – including my own boss Marianne and my ex-boss Mark ! It’s not often that we get several of them to give their opinions on any given topic . It was an eye opening – and thoroughly enjoyable – experience as they patiently explained their unique views on the questions we raised .

5. “Collabagility” is a thing πŸ™‚

We had some fun with the word – a combination of collaboration and agility . We even created some rap music on it yesterday πŸ™‚

We all thrive on problem solving – and usually that is all from scratch . Over the last four days over meals and drinks together with my new friends from around the globe – one thing became quite clear . Many things that I have encountered as unique problems have already been faced and solved by others across the world. And no one has any issue discussing how they solved those problems either .

I thought I was a well networked guy – but I clearly haven’t done nearly enough in making use of it productively . Now that we all know each other better – I look forward to more “collabagility” πŸ™‚

6. Good decision making needs food , sleep and exercise

Ok – so this I knew very well before I landed in Armonk πŸ™‚ . But for good measure – the faculty reminded me of this any way during the coursework as well .

Just that I first hand experienced what happens when Jetlag plays spoil sport . Day 1 – slept 3 hours . Day 2 – slept 10 hours . Day 3 – slept 4 hours . Day 4 – slept 9 hours . The only good thing that happened with insomnia is that I took some long walks early in the morning – and in biting cold – along the West Chester woods .

There used to be a time when I could run SAP go-lives for 36 hour shifts across several sites. Clearly I won’t be a good release manger any more πŸ™‚


Published by Vijay Vijayasankar

Son/Husband/Dad/Dog Lover/Engineer. Follow me on twitter @vijayasankarv. These blogs are all my personal views - and not in way related to my employer or past employers

5 thoughts on “There is always something new to learn

  1. This was an enjoyable read and of particular note (to me anyway) was the power of diverse points of view in your “winning” team (inclusion as a business imperative, much?) Also enjoyed your point that group think or consensus (even of very smart individuals) does not necessarily make for smart consensus. Kathy Sierra’s “One of us is smarter than all of us” still rings true these many years later.
    I enjoy your posts, your authenticity, candor, and humility.


  2. Vijay, was very pleased to meet you. You are so smart and so inspiring leader. The Balance Sheet tool is damly the one to look after ! We discovered that the last day only ! Being more serious, what you described is so thru. This ‘simulation’ exercice is in fact a good practice of real life to make decisions in Teams not being able to get all Data but to go to your guts, your strategy and in listening to each others.
    This will help me so much to understand how the board of my Customer may approach decisions, as such as IBM SVPs will need to convince when we will have big plays to make IBM to invest to win. Thanks again:!

    Liked by 1 person

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