Design Thinking, Job Search, Richard Bolles

“One of the saddest lines in the world is, ‘Oh come now – be realistic.’ The best parts of this world were not fashioned by those who were realistic. They were fashioned by those who dared to look hard at their wishes and gave them horses to ride.”

-Richard Bolles

Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. Designers here do not mean only those who work in R & D department and come up with designs for new cars or architects who design buildings.

Designers are all of us, we are capable of thinking of new ways to solve the problems that we face.

If you are searching for a job, most common way of searching job is to keep applying on job websites like Naukri, Monster or iimjobs.

Research has shown that this design of job search i.e. uploading your CV on websites and keep applying to online advertisements is most inefficient way of searching job.

Always define WHAT you want to do with your life and WHAT you have to offer to the world, in terms of your favorite talents/gifts/skills-not in terms of a job-title.”

-Richard Bolles

First person to attack this design is Richard Bolles, his book- “What Color Is Your Parachute” is critique of this kind of thinking, he has suggested alternative design for job search, which he claims has higher rate of success. Instead of blindly applying to all vacancies, first try to understand yourself, freeze on your area of interest and companies you would like to join, focus on small local companies etc.

“The problem with competition is that it takes away the requirement to set your own path, to invent your own method, to find a new way.”

 ― Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Second person to attack this model is marketing guru, Seth Godin. In his book “Linchpin” he argues that getting yourself selected is like labour contractor choosing few labourers from pool of hundreds of labourers. Here all the labourers are capable of doing the job, so all labour contractor has to do is to choose one who will demand lowest rate. Few will get work that day and rest will have to go back empty handed.

“Tom Peters, corporate gadfly and writer, is an artist, even though his readers are businesspeople. He’s an artist because he takes a stand, he takes the work personally, and he doesn’t care if someone disagrees. His art is part of him, and he feels compelled to share it with you because it’s important, not because he expects you to pay him for it.”

― Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

You need to stand out, infact Godin suggests that you should be known without your CV ex. the employer should hire based on innovative ideas that you share with world, blogs that you write, books that you publish.

One more theme is by Ayse Birsel, who is a Turkish designer of products. She has used the concept of design in designing one’s life…design life you would like to live.

“This project is very close to my heart, a carte blanche to do what I want, with little compromise. Design can also be fun, personal, and very close to your heart. Your life is your design. Make it resemble you, reflect you, and be close to your heart.”

 ― Ayse Birsel, Design the Life You Love: A Step-by-Step Guide to Building a Meaningful Future


Amy Cuddy, Presence & Imposter Syndrome

“Your body language shapes who you are.”

-Amy Cuddy

Two American psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, during their studies found that there are some people who are great achievers but always feel that they are incapable and achievement is just due to luck, and sooner or later people will label them as frauds. They gave this phenomenon a name- imposter syndrome.

In their words imposter syndrome is “it as a feeling of “phoniness” in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement…While these people are highly motivated to achieve, they also live in fear of being found out or exposed as frauds.”

Amy Cuddy is a social psychologist from Harvard, who once suffered from imposter syndrome. Amy Cuddy had car accident, post-accident she suffered from neuroticism and imposter syndrome. Though she did well in academics, she always felt like imposter.

Later she wrote book called “Presence”, which gives tips on how to overcome this syndrome.

According to her body language reflects our emotions i.e. rubbing your hand while anxious.

Cuddy discovered that opposite can also happen i.e. our body language can affect our emotions, we actually feel confident if we take a power pose or if we smile by putting pencil in our mouth, we actually feel happier.

“To feel confident, you should act confident. Bring your boldest to your biggest challenges.”

-Amy Cuddy

Her advice is to overcome imposter syndrome is to fake it until you become it. Take power poses even you are not feeling confident, power pose will send signal to your mind and you will start feeling confident i.e.  behave with confidence till you truly feel it. Standing at desk (rather than sitting), walking meetings etc. are power poses.

Irom Sharmila, PRJA and Elections

On November 2, 2000, in Malom town in Manipur, 10 civilians were allegedly shot and killed by the Assam Rifles while waiting at a bus stop. The incident later came to be known to activists as the “Malom Massacre.”

To protest against massacre and repeal of AFSPA, an act that gives unlimited power to armed forces to control rebels in disturbed areas, Irom Sharmila went on hunger strike, she was later arrested and force fed using tube. The hunger strike which started in year 2000 ended on 9th August 2016.

During this 16 years of hunger strike, Irom Sharmila became quite popular in her home state Manipur, she was seen as symbol of resistance against AFSPA. Many celebrities met her, she became symbol for resistance against AFSPA even in other states.

But in 2016 she announced that she giving up her strike. She wanted to get married and fight elections.

Suddenly her popularity started declining people felt that she had betrayed the cause. AFSPA still exists.


Irom Sharmila went ahead and decided to contest elections. She formed a party called PRJA and with two other candidates decided to fight elections. Two others candidates were, Harvard-educated Erendro Leichombam and Najma Phundreimayum, a Muslim women rights activist.

Irom Sharmila decided to fight against Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh from Thoubal. It was a bold decision, as chief minister is a veteran politician.

Irom Sharmila gathered funds from well-wishers through crowd funding, she also got some funds from Aam Adami Party. She and Najma did campaign on bicycle.


But when results were declared yesterday, performance of PRJA was disappointing. Irom Sharmila got 90 votes as against 18649 polled by Okram Ibobi Singh, even “None of above” got more votes! Clearly Irom Sharmila has overestimated her popularity.

“I don’t feel ashamed of my defeat but am fed up of elections and won’t contest again in future… But I want my party, Peoples Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) to survive.”

-Irom Sharmila


Manipur – Thoubal
Result Declared
Candidate Party Votes
OKRAM IBOBI SINGH Indian National Congress 18649
LEITANTHEM BASANTA SINGH Bharatiya Janata Party 8179
LEISHANGTHEM SURESH SINGH All India Trinamool Congress 144
IROM SHARMILA CHANU Peoples Resurgence and Justice Alliance 90
None of the Above None of the Above 143


“We really like her cause (for repealing AFSPA), but we’re compelled to support someone whom we think is capable of fighting back and winning the elections”

– Y Roben , a resident of Thoubal.

Others too did not fare any better. Erendro ended up getting 500 votes and Najma got 33 votes.

Why did they lose? People may like the cause, but when it comes to voting they want candidates who can win elections. They didn’t have any faith in administrative capability of PRJA candidates.

“It was not the result I expected. During electioneering, all the masses whom I met were sympathetic to my cause. But they ended up voting for others, due to their selfish motives.”

-Irom Sharmila

If Irom Sharmila wants to get into politics, she should have a solid agenda and execution plan. Blaming people and calling them selfish won’t help.



Rowan Gibson and Four Lenses of Innovation

“The question we need to be constantly asking is: “Are we changing as fast as the world is changing?” Today, it’s all about how fast you can drive strategic renewal at the level of the core business model. And the fuel for renewal is innovation. Remember, Kodak stuck to their vision of photographic film versus digital photography for way too long and paid a heavy price.”

– Rowan Gibson


Rowen Gibson is an expert on radical innovation. He is President of Imagination Bridge – the global innovation consulting firm. He has written a book on innovation called The Four Lenses of Innovation.


In this book he talks about four key business perspectives or “lenses” which he has identified and which will enable a person to discover ground-breaking opportunities for innovation and growth.



The first lens is “Challenge Orthodoxy”. The question one should ask self is “What if the dominant conventions in your field, market, or industry are outdated, unnecessary, or just plain wrong?”

Good examples of those who challenged orthodoxy and used their insights to come up with interesting products are companies like Uber, a taxi company with any taxis or Elon Musk who came up with idea sleek looking electric car (people always have images of ugly looking electric car) and selling that car online.


The second lens is “Harnessing Trends” study trends and look for disruptions. The question one needs to ask here is “Where are the shifts and discontinuities that will, now and in the future, provide the energy you need for a major leap forward?”

One such innovator who benefited immensely by asking this question and then designing a product is Jeff Bezos, who rode e-commerce wave by starting Amazon.


The third lens is that of “Levering Resources”, how you challenge thinking of existing employees, provide them resources to come up with innovative product. The question one needs to ask here is “How can you arrange existing skills and assets into new combinations that add up to more than the sum of their parts?”

One good example is that of Larry Page and Sergy Brin using competencies of Google employees to move from search engine to a hardware, operations system, driverless car company etc.


The fourth lens is that of “Understanding Needs”. The question one needs to ask here is “What are the unmet needs and frustrations that everyone else is simply ignoring?”

Good example here is that of P & G employees staying at homes of customer to know how their products are used.


“You still need a vision, of course. But the horizon has to be much closer now. We no longer have the luxury of thinking in terms of decades. These days, a business model may have a lifetime of five years, three years, two years. Think about how many industries now have a fundamentally broken or at least threatened business model: music publishing, movie distribution, cable TV, advertising, fast food, telecommunications, retail, traditional media publishing, and financial services, to name just a few.”

– Rowan Gibson

These perspectives can then be used to design an innovative product, Rowen talks about an 8 step process to convert insight into products.

  • Frame a challenge and focus on it
  • Research the subject
  • Immerse yourself in the problem
  • Feel the creative frustration of the roadblock
  • Detach and let the problem incubate in your unconscious mind
  • Arrive at an illuminating insight
  • Build the insight into a big idea
  • Validate and execute on the idea.


Liz Wiseman, Stagnation and Burnout Zone

 “We all know one of those colleagues — bright and driven, but wasting away in a job they’ve been doing for years. They may be working hard, but they are trapped in old thinking and stuck in a rut, often putting as little thought into their work routine as their daily shampooing routine — lather, rinse, repeat. Some just look stale, while others start to stink. With each passing day, their hard-earned knowledge and skills become more obsolete, and they become less fit to work elsewhere. It is painful to watch.”

-Liz Wiseman

Liz Wiseman is a management consultant. She is author of books like Multiplier, Rookie Smarts etc.

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Based on her research, she has identified what she calls as burnout zone. Before you reach burnout zone, you start stagnating.

When you are on top of things, stagnation starts. You become comfortable, start feeling good about yourself, keep getting positive feedback etc. but after some time boredom creeps in, you are more interested in fixing other people’s problems than improving yourself. Slowly you start having negative feeling about things and start getting annoyed about certain things. Next step is burnout zone.

“When the world is changing quickly, experience can become a curse, trapping us in old ways of doing and knowing, while inexperience can be a blessing, freeing us to improvise and adapt quickly to changing circumstances.”

― Liz Wiseman


In burnout zone you are idling, you are working in comfort zone and limiting your professional growth.

“Experience is not the enemy: It is the hubris that is often a by-product of experience that is our greatest enemy.”

― Liz Wiseman

'We're the largest, strongest things on this planet! Why change now?'

To move out of this zone Liz recommends certain things like,  talking to strangers, take views of people who are not from your business/funtion, expand network and perspective. You can take a job you are not qualified for; this will move you out of comfort zone. Throw out your best practices and develop new practices fit for the new realities of work. Try shredding your crib notes, stump speeches and other templates that have you stuck in a rut.


“What man actually needs is not some tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him.”

― Liz Wiseman

In other words golden era is over; get ready to catch the next wave.

High Performers, Failures and Golden Period

“I wore black because I liked it. I still do, and wearing it still means something to me. It’s still my symbol of rebellion — against a stagnant status quo, against people whose minds are closed to others’ ideas.”

― Johnny Cash       

There are lot of books available in market on high performers, successful leaders, habits of successful people etc. Each has its own theory of what makes person a success. Many books are written by management experts based on lot of research.

My organisation Vivify works in field of talent assessment. Based on my experience, I see something common in way higher performers work. Some common themes that come across are

  1. Coming up with multiple options and comfort with numbers- For any given situation they come up with multiple options and analyse them well before choosing one. Secondly they are quite comfortable with numbers be it quantitative analysis, market figures or financial analysis.
  2. Dealing with stakeholders- High performers excel in dealing with stake holders, be it customers, peers, subordinates or board members. They usually come up with win-win deal and are seen as fair.

My experience is what really separates high performers from failures is how they deal with  what I call as “Decline of Golden Era”.

gupta islam britania-rule-waves

Golden Era is that period of history when success is at its peak in every sphere of life be it arts, architecture, science & technology ex. Gupta rule is seen as golden era of Hinduism, while period between 9th to 12th century is seen as golden era of Islam. Period from 18th to early 20th century was golden era for Britain. Britons could proudly sing “Britannia rules the waves…Britons never never shall be slaves” (but make others slaves!)

“One day everything will be well, that is our hope. Everything’s fine today, that is our illusion”

― Voltaire

Similarly each organisation has its golden era, when there is plenty of business, profitability is high, shares are up, employees get good pay hike/bonuses/promotions etc. After sometime decline sets in and things get tougher.

High performers are first to spot decline and start preparing for next wave, for them golden era is not a fixed period in history, it is cyclic. They hate status quo and start preparing for next golden era, which requires competencies which are very different from ones required for earlier golden era.

Low performers/failures are slow to spot decline, they believe that golden era is permanent and they should keep doing what they were doing. Even during decline they believe that trend will soon reverse and golden era will be back. Once they see no sign of return of golden era, they become cynic and get nostalgic. They refuse to change and keep blaming others for decline, irritate others with stories of golden era, criticise current policies etc.  They never question their status quoist mentality and need for change.

I know one such person who worked for reputed large organisation, after spending 35 years in same function he retired 4 years ago. We will call him Shantaram, he looks like Paresh Rawal in Hera Pheri. Since I don’t know how he looked during “golden era”, I assume he must be like young Paresh.

Shantaram with his team in "Golden Era"
Shantaram with his team in “Golden Era”

In any get together Shantaram will always join group that is critical of current management set up. He will keep telling about how he ran organisation (unit which he headed was sold to stop financial losses), how he trained and motivated people, how good his team was ( none of his team members have anything good to say about him), how well he filed papers, how he stapled them, how he punched holes exactly in middle of A4 size paper, how useless current people are ….so on.

Shantaram motivates his team members during decline of golden era
Shantaram motivates his team members during decline of golden era

Shantaram is imprisoned in golden era and refused to get out of prison. Shantaram may be talented and may have contributed during golden era, but today is a failure.

Shantaram ... today
Shantaram … today


Shantaram ...then
Shantaram …then