Thursday, December 18, 2014

What happened after the Monkeys and Ice water spray experiment?

Most of us have heard of the Monkey, Banana, and Water spray experiment.

Is there a chance of a better ending? How can companies transform employee behavior when caught in this vicious cycle?
1) Change the standards

A major lesson from history is that no heroes are responsible for their success. Not entirely. The factor that governs what it means to be successful is the prevailing standards. The culture just follows suit. I wrote this poem a few months back.
The play of chance, the hand of times
Distracts our eyes from what it hides
Hunter in an Industrial Age
Writer facing the Dinosaur's rage
Flip the centuries, the Heroes fall
Yet the world is snared by illusion's trawl

All we know is the scale of standards
Pity what’s different, judge what threatens
Fear the outlaws or discredit with slanders
Worship the Heroes, scorn the strays
And continue till time tilts the scales
You can go here if you would like to read the entire poem. The crux is, the company is still in charge of introducing the variables into the experiment.
What happens if you introduce a new ladder and dangle a bunch of bananas on a rope? This will confuse the monkeys. When a monkey gets the courage to reach up, offer this monkey a new Reward too as a Bonus. Introduce multiple ropes with bananas so that there are enough Bananas for the monkeys to reach.
Lesson: Fine tune the standards of Rewards and enable people to set their own goals

2) Change the setting

The Organization is still in control of the environment
Grab 2 monkeys and place these monkeys in a different setting. Have a new trainer monkey to reinforce good behavior. Protect the trainer monkey and punish with ice water spray if the monkeys try to disrupt. Keep doing this for a week. After the monkeys learn this new behavior, put them back in their old setting. This time, place a barrier between the 3 monkeys that remained in the old setting and the 2 monkeys that learned new behavior. Repeat the experiment for a week.
Lesson: Train people and leverage them to influence others

3) Change the consequences

The pack of monkeys continues this behavior because they don’t see a negative consequence for their behavior. Bring a new monkey and introduce the ice water spray whenever they try to pull down the new one from climbing up the ladder. Continue the experiment till the monkeys learn about consequences. Go back to experiment 1 and change the standards. . When the standards change, culture follows.
Lesson: Evaluate people with the right goals and help them understand the concept of consequences to justify their potential.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Why emotions carve the political landscape in Tamilnadu?

Self immolations in Tamil Nadu when ADMK supremo Jayalalitha was arrested raised a lot of questions.  This was certainly not the first instance. A similar account can be found in the Wikipedia page on MGR "His death sparked off a frenzy of looting and rioting all over the state... The police had to resort issuing shoot-at-sight orders. Tamilians from Bangalore rushed to Madras in trains to see the mortal remains of MGR. Government had announced free train facility for this visit. The violence during the funeral alone left 29 people dead and 47 police personnel badly wounded. This state of affairs continued for almost a month across Tamil Nadu. Around one million people followed his remains, around 30 followers committed suicide and people had their heads tonsured"

Why emotions carve the political landscape in Tamilnadu?

Language plays a major role in the way we think and behave much more than we give it credit for.

A few years back, I read a study by Lera Broditsky, Professor in Stanford on how language determines thought process, values, knowledge, and behavior. HOW DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK?

Her research includes her experience with Kuuk Thaayorre, a tribe in Australia. Their language has a lot of spatial words that are imperative to constructing a sentence (Equivalent to 'Move your cup to south, south west', 'Your north-west leg' etc). This forces them to stay alert on spatial attributes because they cannot communicate without that. She found them to have a very high level of spatial cognition.

Broditsky conducted an experiment asking people to arrange shuffled pictures to show temporal progression (E.g. a man aging). She found that native English speakers arranged the pictures from left to right and Hebrew speakers tend to arrange the pictures from right to left. People from the tribe Kuuk Thaayorre arranged the pictures from east to west. That is, when they were seated facing south, the cards went left to right. When they faced north, the cards went from right to left etc. and they were always aware of their spatial orientation.

Tamil as a language encourages valor, sacrifice, loyalty, idealism etc. at the cost of survival. If a native tamil speaker is not exposed to any other language, the language imparts such values with a higher intensity.

My husband, a Malayali values survival and that has to do with his language too. He is fluent in Malayalam, Marathi, Hindi, English, and can manage a conversation in Tamil and French. That does enable him in adapting to change better. Learning a new language or being exposed to other languages has a unique way of balancing us. Allowing our brain to consider different ways of thinking tempers intense beliefs.

Tamilians are fiercely loyal about their language. The unique vocabulary and the values it espouses shape one's thinking. Tamil was my second language in school and I found it intoxicating. The Heroes of Tamil literature valued Courage and Truth above everything else. They were always ready to lay down their life for a cause. Shrewdness was considered cowardice. The followers of the thalaivan (Head) followed him with intense loyalty. Death was the only choice if survival meant dishonor. Tamilians who know additional languages are less intense.

Monday, March 31, 2014

A phenomenon called Bruno Mars!

I am probably late to the party and I know that I am using the term 'probably' rather loosely. I just discovered this phenomenon called Bruno Mars. I don't care for music much. I hate how playing music in the car seems like a normal thing to do or how it sneaks in from my neighbor's house some mornings. The rare times I do enjoy music are when the lyrics resonate with me or when the voice shares more than technique. Old Hymns move me and that has to do with the words and not music. I love 'Les Miserables' for its content.The exceptions are Bob Marley and Michael Jackson and the occassional Nate Reuss. There is something haunting in their voice that reveals their inner persona. After listening to 'Grenade' I added one more to the list : Bruno Mars! Intense!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

What are the top 5 things that you have learned in life so far?

These are mine

1) Understand the concept of standards. If you are considered good/bad at something, always remember 'according to these standards'. Success, talent, beauty, intelligence, concept of strength - nothing holds the same standard across cultures or time. There is no point in feeling superior or inferior to anyone.

2) Never waste the power of words on white lies, mocking people or making promises that you don't mean to keep. 

3) Be an open book. If you have to hide something, you shouldn't be doing that in the first place. But keep the secret of others if it's not your story to tell.

4) Never resort to revenge. Let God be the judge. If that person deserves mercy, you would have erred by resorting to revenge. If that person deserves discipline, you are not the right person to discharge that. 

5) Learn where to use anger. Don't get angry at incompetent people. There is a difference between incompetence and indifference. It's not someone's fault if their intelligence doesn't fit the prevailing standards. Anger is best directed at hypocrites and bigots.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Anne Askew

Thinking of Anne Askew this Sunday. She never got her due in Church history. She was a protestant executed by the protestant King Henry VIII (who separated the Church of England from papal authority) because he found her ideas 'too protestant'. He executed both Catholics and protestants alike. (Bloody Mary executed less than 300. Henry VIII killed around 17000 Catholics+Protestants for religion)

Anglican churches tend to tone down that history when they talk about their origins. She is also not the kind of role model that they can be proud of because this was a woman who refused to take her husband's surname in the 16th century and asked for a divorce because she found him ideologically incompatible. She also preached openly at a time a woman on pulpit was unthinkable. Apparently, the author who compiled her autobiography edited a lot of portions to conceal her aggression.

She refused to recant and was the only woman to be tortured before execution though the law was against torturing women. The torture in a rack broke her limbs and she had to be carried to the stake to be burnt. Her life would have been spared if she had said that she accepted the theory of transubstantiation. She was asked again on the stake if she wanted to recant and she refused.

She believed that the Lord's Supper is not literally the body and blood of Christ, but rather a sacred symbol of it. She said "But as touching the holy and blessed supper of the Lord, I believe it to be a most necessary remembrance of his glorious sufferings and death. Moreover, I believe as much therein as my eternal and only Redeemer, Jesus Christ, would [that] I should believe. Finally, I believe all those scriptures to be true [which] he has confirmed with his precious blood." She was executed for that. It wan't a case of having to deny God. She believed in something and she died because she didn't want to lie. She was only 26. Apparently, even John Foxe, who was against women leaders admired her courage.

What's interesting to me is how much 'words' meant to these people. Honestly, I have never worried about the technicalities of the Lord's supper. Whenever I partake, I imagine partaking the Lord's body and blood but I also know that it is symbolic and no scientific transformation actually takes place. Is it his body-yes. Will this bread grow moldy if it is left somewhere- yes for that too. It's not a belief that I find a 'make or break' to follow Christ. I can accept both. I guess that's what separates us from the Heroes.

This is a ballad written by her.

Like as the armed knight
Appointed to the field,
With this world will I fight
And Faith shall be my shield.

Faith is that weapon strong
Which will not fail at need.
My foes, therefore, among
Therewith will I proceed.

As it is had in strength
And force of Christ's way
It will prevail at length
Though all the devils say nay.

Faith in the fathers old
Obtained righteousness
Which make me very bold
To fear no world's distress.

I now rejoice in heart
And Hope bid me do so
For Christ will take my part
And ease me of my woe.

Thou saist, lord, who so knock,
To them wilt thou attend.
Undo, therefore, the lock
And thy strong power send.

More enemies now I have
Than hairs upon my head.
But fight thou in my stead.

On thee my care I cast.
For all their cruel spite
I set not by their haste
For thou art my delight.

I am not she that list
My anchor to let fall
For every drizzling mist
My ship substantial.

Not oft use I to wright
In prose nor yet in rime,
Yet will I shew one sight
That I saw in my time.

I saw a rial throne
Where Justice should have sit
But in her stead was one
Of moody cruel wit.

Absorpt was righteousness
As of the raging flood
Sathan in his excess
Suct up the guiltless blood.

Then thought I, Jesus lord,
When thou shalt judge us all
Hard is it to record
On these men what will fall.

Yet lord, I thee desire
For that they do to me
Let them not taste the hire
Of their iniquity.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Why do I support gay marriages as a practicing Christian?

I thought of posting why I support gay marriages and better still why I feel the need to talk about it. My husband subscribes to the Christian church’s ideology and I understand where he is coming from.  We agree to disagree on this topic. I have  respect for individuals who are honest to their faith. Faith is my reason too.  I talk exactly for the reason you are silent.

It’s a bit of a lonely road because I am not an atheist or an agnostic. I believe in the sanctity of life and exclusivity in a sexual relationship.  My reasoning is based on the golden rule and how I perceive Jesus Christ.  I wrote about this in a previous post here

It doesn't concern me that standing for gender equality or homosexual marriages would pigeonhole me among Christians. I am not ashamed of my stand. My theology is not based on 'fear for the soul' or 'hell' that talking for a fellow human being needs to be done with caution. 

When slavery was abolished, many Christians were against it because they didn’t consider the revolt Christian. Some even argued that equality was against the nature of humans. I am glad most Christians agree today that the golden rule just doesn’t give any provision for slavery. Did Jesus talk about slavery in general? No. Did he even preach to the gentiles? No. But he did give the golden rule on which Christian ideologies should hinge on. He spoke against divorce but never against homosexuals. Preachers won't step down from the pulpits on those grounds but are eager to condemn homosexuals to hell. 

I see an evolution in terms of understanding of God when I read the Bible from the Old Testament to the New Testament.  I don’t believe that God gave the commandment to take in multiple wives, divorce at will, annihilate enemies or take in virgin plunders. The human understanding of God evolved.  Jesus Christ explicitly mentioned why Moses permitted divorces. He broke superstitious rules that were once meant to be holy. That’s why it’s dangerous to quote verses that are the opinions of people with limited revelations.

If I stand for commitment, I should encourage commitment. If someone is born with a different sexual orientation and desires commitment, I don’t have any logical reason against it. Why should we drive homosexuals out of churches, refuse legal commitments and then point fingers at an immoral life style. It’s up to a church to decide whether or not they want to conduct a homosexual marriage. But lobbying against legal equality is unreasonable. Should someone be punished for the way they are born just so that we could feel righteous?  

I talk about this openly whenever I get a chance because however inconsequential it is, that is one more voice added from the Christian crowd.  If this encourages one homosexual person who is depressed because of the witch hunting by some Christians, it's good enough for me. I am glad there were people who were not afraid to voice out against slavery, racism at a point such inequality was considered a safe Christian ideology. If they had inferred that any social cause is inconsequential since Jesus Christ did not actively support an anti slavery movement,  this world would not have progressed.  If Paul had confined himself because Jesus Christ did not preach to the gentiles, I would not have found a friend in Jesus.

“Matt 7: 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

This verse is not about being safe on the conservative side. It transcends race, religion, social standing, intellect, sexual orientation or any other identity out there. There is no other law against love.

37-40 Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Prajwala co founded by Sunitha Krishnan, a gang rape survivor - Rescued 3000+ and houses 600 sex trafficked victims

We all know about the brutal rape that happened in Delhi. Six men raped a 23 year old in a moving bus, beat her up, inserted an iron rod in her vagina, tortured her and left her naked on the streets. Her male friend was also savagely beaten up. She lost 3 litres of blood, had to undergo an intestine transplant since her's were severely damaged but despite medical intervention succumbed to her injuries and died. This has shaken up the conscience of the general public.

What happened to her was heinous. She held a mirror to the nation. Her justice is not in how those rapists would be punished. It's about how such crimes against women could be subverted. Please listen to this TED talk by Dr. Sunitha Krishnan 

For those who want to do something about sexual crimes against women - you could donate to Prajwala - co founded by Sunitha Krishnan who was raped by 8 men when she was 15 and has been fighting relentlessly against human trafficking for the past 16 years despite getting beaten up by goons more than 15 times. She has rescued 3000+ victims and her rehabilitation centre homes 600 sex trafficked victims.

It would make a huge difference if we pledge to donate a small amount every month or make a one time donation to support the work of people like Sunitha Krishnan who have put their lives on the line for this cause. 1000 INR per month or 100 INR pe rmonth won't make a dent in our household income but it could help save lives. 


  • Prajwala is a member of various national and state level committees to combat trafficking. For its efforts in the sector the organization has been recognized by various national and international bodies like Government of India, World of Children, UNFPA and Ashoka Innovators.

  • Anamika - The Nameless a film produced by Prajwala won two international awards in De Cine De Granada and Action Cut International Film Festival. 

  • Of Freedom and Fear a film produced in collaboration with Andhra Pradesh AIDS Control Society was screened in the New York Film Festival, Mini DV International Festival.

  • Dr Sunitha Krishnan the founder general secretary and the chief functionary of Prajwala has been recognised for her efforts in the anti trafficking sector by the following national and international bodies

  • Prajwala won the prestigious AGFUND International award in April, 2008 for its pioneering work to Combat Trafficking of Women and Children through Community Partnership. Prajwala was adjudged the best project in the world for its outstanding efforts.

  • Dr Sunitha Krishnan the chief functionary and co-founder of Prajwala won the ‘Real Heroes Award’ constituted by Reliance Industries Limited and  CNN-IBN Network in April, 2008.  This award is meant to recognize the unsung heroes of independent India.

  • Dr.Sunitha Krishnan, Chief Functionary of the organization was felicitated by Intelligence Business Network, Malaysia in March 2009. This felicitation has had a great positive impact as an entry point was created to sensitize women corporate leaders to be sensitive on the issue of trafficking.   

  • Prajwala received the National Award for Child Welfare from the Govt. of India in February, 09 for the exceptional services it renders to prevent child trafficking and its outstanding efforts to rescue and rehabilitate child victims of sex trafficking.

  • Dr.Sunitha Krishnan has been featured as a Real Hero in the Trafficking in Persons Report, released by the US Department of State in June, 2009.  This is an acknowledgment of activists fighting to end modern day slavery – Nine persons from across the world were chosen as 2009 TIP Heroes.