Even obesity needs management principles
Review of ‘The Rich Labourer’ by Parthajeet Sarma & Sibani Sarma
There are books that tell you how to do something and there are those that attempt to show how things can be done effectively. And if a book goes on to show and demonstrate management principles through a story, the learning, I guess, gets sharper and sustainable. ‘The Rich Labourer’ by Parthaeet Sarma and co-authored by Siban Sarma reads like a tale and yet manages to hold a lay reader’s attention. I mean it is so easy to just give a list of principles and then elaborate them but to weave a story around them is nothing short of genius. This comes only when a writer has experienced everything mentioned and believes in the way obstacles were tackled.
One of the chapters is on aiming for a better self and focuses on losing weight… and this is what, I mused, will make readers gravitate to this book. Well, you see, solving problems that face manufacturers or service providers, searching for better ways to achieve targets of a Swachh Bharat, or tackling issues in CSR are what the protagonists in this story dive into… but the one chapter on losing weight made me read it twice. I am grappling with this issue for quite a while now and loved the way the intricacies of problem defining and problem solving were clearly laid out even for someone who has been out of touch with all that was taught when I was in FMS, Delhi University.
Pankaj and Riya, the protagonists in this management tale, go around the three Ps that are Probe-Ponder-Prove until a reader actually mutters that ‘once the real problems are identified, ideas to address them will emerge’. Yes, that’s true. By the time I finished reading this chapter I was really friendly even with management pomposity that goes on and on about a life beyond data, or end-user’s standpoint, or experience journey map. Even sequences like awareness, discovery, purchase, use of product or service, bonding sound easy enough to grasp. And so I must say again that only someone who has mastered this art can talk about things as complex as design thinking principles in ways that will attract even those who are primarily interested in reading pulp fiction!
Those of you who are waiting for me to talk about countering obesity through the principles mentioned in this book will already know that fancy quick-fix diets have an ephemeral effect. The first question that you need to ask yourself is: What will I gain by losing weight? This is because you need to feel good about yourself that seems lost, socialise with friends who remember you as the athletic Pankaj, so to say, and would love to feel less tired. According to the book, you need to probe whatever it is that is troubling you and preventing you from getting near your goal. This is so true because all that we need to do is to reframe the questions we often ask ourselves… and the solution/s will gradually emerge. The protagonist in the book does this and realises ‘that the problem was not about losing weight, but about connecting with friends, about getting enough sleep and eating right’. The charming fact is that the protagonist was able to get to his target ‘by doing ‘nothing’ about weight loss’. He also realised that in place of brute will power what was essential was the advantage of habit formation. The habit of sleeping and getting up early, going out for walks, eliminating sugar and processed carbohydrates by getting all his meals from home than eating out all the time were just a few of the strategies that he followed. For instance, the protagonist ‘began to head instinctively to the salad bar and fill a bowl with salad. He would still have his favourite chicken, but would place it on top of the salad. This way he was filling in less of the greasy stuff than he would if the bowl or plate was empty. He replaced aerated drinks with water.’ Thus ponder in the book is always about behavioural change, different actions, experimenting, and immediacy of adoption. There may always be areas that need to be reformulated or restructured… and this is what is done in the prove stage. Even in the case of obesity, there will be steps or experiments that may need a re-evaluation and a change in thought.
The book clearly say that ‘design is not about aesthetics but about problem solving’ and that the methods are human-centric which means that for any problem we need to ‘deeply understand the hopes and aspirations of people. Only when this is done, will sustainable solutions emerge’. Innovation is at the heart of any sort of solution and the book ends by talking about understanding myopia, group thinking, and psychological inertia. We need to see beyond the present, stay away from blindly following a leader, and remain open to competition popping up from unexpected directions.
‘The Rich Labourer’ isn’t just a book, nor is it one that is meant only for managers, the corporates, the bureaucrats, and the thinkers… structured methods to being innovative are vital even for those who plan to lose weight, if I may say so.
Title: The Rich Labourer
Author: Parthaeet Sarma and Sibani Sarma
Publisher: iDream Publications
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17 February 2017