Saturday, October 27

I never realised the aspect of internal brain drain

We know of the brain drain from emerging countries to the west but how about the internal brain drain aspects? fascinating angle and one which I didn't previously consider. Something to think about. I quote:

As a director of international programs at the University of Botswana for four years, I witnessed this indigenous African brain drain up close. Every year it seemed somebody from the law department was recruited to be a judge. I watched as nongovernmental organizations poached at least three of the best female academics for jobs within Botswana. For-profit universities, almost all foreign owned, regularly recruit local Ph.D.’s from the university to give them a local face. Foreign-owned businesses in Botswana are always on the lookout for faculty trained in business, science, and engineering. The government itself has not held back. It has cherry picked at least two of the university’s best administrators for top roles in education. Finally, a number of academics find that their services as consultants are so in demand that they can easily make a much better income as self-employed contractors than working at the university.

Further depleting academic staff at the university is a brain drain to South Africa. Every year at least one faculty member leaves for a very sizable pay raise to work at a university to the south. There is, however, one difference with the internal brain drain and the one to South Africa: Most of the university’s former faculty come back after a year or two. They find the social environment in South Africa much more conflicted and competitive. Also, they feel they are treated as foreigners rather than fellow Africans. And some are surprised that taxes are often higher than they expected. On the other hand, those who leave the university for jobs within Botswana almost never return to academe in any capacity.

Most discouraging is that those leaving are often among the best and brightest. They are creative, ambitious, often charismatic, and almost always top leaders. The result is that the full professor ranks at the university have very few locals and a sizable proportion of expatriates, particularly from other parts of Africa. Indeed, Botswana poaches extensively for senior talent from other African countries, many of whom are quite good as instructors and scholars. These African expatriates often remain in Botswana until retirement because the salaries are much better than what they could earn at home, even in the private sector. However, they usually do not identify with Botswana personally or professionally. Many provide little service to the institution in terms of committees, are not serious about mentoring junior colleagues from Botswana, and do not contribute to the local intellectual environment. So while the university may provoke a brain drain from its sister countries in Africa, it cannot replace the best and the brightest local scholars who have the energy and vision to propel both the institution and the nation forward. Moreover, the university often ends up paying more for these senior expatriates than it would have for the talented locals.

Friday, October 26

Next time somebody talks about work life balance

I’m going to show them this photograph.

We frequently have “bring your daughter to work” day, a way to encourage more women participation in the banking industry, but when I saw this Dalit man’s photograph with his baby daughter, it took me aback.

His name is Babloo (my namesake as it happens) and he lives in Bharatpur, a small town in India. His wife died during childbirth but to keep  body and soul together, he makes a living driving a rickshaw.

Thursday, October 25

11 Books Every Young Leader Must Read

There are zillions of lists like this out there. But for what its worth, here are the ones…

Marcus Aurelius, The Emperor's Handbook.

Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning.

Tom Wolfe, A Man in Full.

Michael Lewis, Liar's Poker.

Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don't.

Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Richard Tedlow, Giants of Enterprise: Seven Business Innovators and the Empires They Built.

Niall Ferguson, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.

Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail.

Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Bill George, True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership.

Hmmm, I am afraid I have only done 7 out of these 11…I have to plonk the others on the “to be read pile”…

Wednesday, October 24

Confidence Game


An interesting although for me, a rather unsatisfactory close. You are an investor. And a citizen. And both need access to news. But the current world and economic and social and technological footprint doesn't give the right economics behind the newspaper or media industry. Indian newspapers are growing but they are corrupt, sell news and are more rags than anything else. So where does an investor or a citizen get its news from? Twitter? 

That requires you to have a great imagination to be able to distil zillions of voices. Think of the daily mail, the third most popular media site on the net. And people hate it viscerally. Schizophrenic or what? I read it regularly and find the reactions to the stories I post from there hilarious. Fascinating but ultimately futile, this posturing against popular media and very elitist. Wrong side of history. 

Keep a finger on the pulse of what the people are saying son. And twitter is too much noise, you want to follow trends, and that cannot be done if you are part of the herd. Step just so far back that you are part of the crowd but not in it, able to guide and track trends but not be driven (at least too much). 

Still, interesting reads. Remember what the printing press did, it destroyed many priesthood, modified politics, democratised citizenry. The Internet will do the same. 



Confidence Game

Columbia Journalism Review; Strong Press, Strong Democracy


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Essay — November / December 2011
Confidence Game

The limited vision of the news gurus

By Dean Starkman

“The question that mass amateurization poses to traditional media is ‘What happens when the costs of reproduction and distribution go away? What happens when there is nothing unique about publishing anymore because users can do it for themselves?’ We are now starting to see that question being answered.”—Clay Shirky

“The whole notion of ‘long-form journalism’ is writer-centered, not public-centered.”—Jeff Jarvis

“As a journalist, I’ve long taken it for granted that, for example, my readers know more than I do—and it’s liberating.”—Dan Gillmor

“As career journalists and managers we have entered a new era where what we know and what we traditionally do has finally found its value in the marketplace, and that value is about zero.”—John Paton

“The story is the thing.”—S. S. McClure


Ida M. Tarbell, a writer for McClure’s Magazine, a general-interest monthly, was chatting with her good friend and editor, John S. Phillips, in the magazine’s offices near New York’s Madison Square Park, trying to decide what she should take on next.

Tarbell, then forty-three years old, was already one of the most prominent journalists in America, having written popular multipart historical sketches of Napoleon, Lincoln, and a French revolutionary figure known as Madame Roland, a moderate republican guillotined during the Terror. Thanks in part to her work,McClure’s circulation had jumped to about 400,000, making it one of the most popular, and profitable, publications in the country.

Phillips, a founder of the magazine, was its backbone. Presiding over an office of bohemians and intellectuals, this father of five was as calm and deliberative as the magazine’s namesake, S. S. McClure, was manic and extravagant. Considered by many to be a genius, McClure was also just an impossible boss—forever steaming in from Europe, throwing the office into turmoil with new schemes, ideas, and editorial changes. “I can’t sit still,” he once told Lincoln Steffens. “That’s your job and I don’t see how you can do it!”

At McClure’s, there was always, as Tarbell would later put it, much “fingering” of a subject before the magazine decided to launch on a story, and in this case there was more than usual. The subject being kicked around was nothing less than the great industrial monopolies, known as “trusts,” that had come to dominate the American economy and political life. It was the summer of 1901.

Sunday, October 21

A father of 37

When I first read this, I was a bit taken aback…but more I read about it, the more fascinated I became..

I quote:

Sudarsan is a man I met at a skills training center for below-poverty-line Muslim girls in Southern India's Nizamabad district two weeks ago. He is a 55-year-old government clerk, who has with his wife over the years adopted 37 children. Some are orphans; other fled or were abandoned by their families. He is the area's unofficial contact point for — and caretaker of — lost children.

But Sudarsan now faces a problem. His girls and boys are growing up and some are already over 18. Having stretched his income as far as he can to raise them, he must now help them transition to adulthood, to ensure that they are educated, employed and financially independent. To do that, he needs to negotiate with members of the community, local politicians and visitors who might give his children opportunities.

His strategy, which I saw first-hand during my visit to Nizamabad, involves a delicate balance of authenticity and persuasion — and it's one from which anyone who needs to negotiate in professional life can learn. Here is how Sudarsan advocated for his children, in three steps.

You can go read the article about how the man negotiated, but gosh, what a great man! he adopted 37 children! wow, very impressive…