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Grateful for ... the Influencers

Courtesy: Carl Richards (

Happy Thanksgiving!

These are just a few of the many people who influenced me. I have used their insights and have seen those insights work every time.

Eliel Saarinen, the Finnish-American designer, architect, and city-planner. I'm not a big admirer of art nouveau, but Eliel's insight "Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context" is something I have used so frequently for 25 years that I can almost write a booklet on how to apply it!

Tom Peters, whose passionate voice on Excellence is unmatched. Interestingly, his work that influenced me is not In Search of Excellence, but The Circle of Innovation.

Michael Hammer and James Champy, who moved our focus away from organizational groups to business processes. They talked about the value, use, and mis-use of IT in their mid-90s bestseller Reengineering the Corporation (contrast with the 2003 edition of Lean Thinking, where IT is first mentioned only in page 327).

Al Ries and Jack Trout, whose statements on brand extension are debated, but whose Positioning concept I frequently use in my world.

Kishore Padmanabhan, who at Tata Consultancy Services (1989) taught me how to draw a line (timeline, that is) and how to manage projects and teams.

Richard Anderson, my UC Berkeley instructor – his comment "Why not you?" on my assignment paper encouraged me to set up India's first usability lab and his continued mentoring helped me bring new learning to the IT industry in India. I suspect that I learned a few of his presentation techniques as well.

Gilbert Samuel, my 10th grade teacher, a rare forward-thinking person in India at that time, whose frustration with India's antiquated cars (the one based on Morris Oxford, for example) and antiquated thoughts and practices showed me the importance of change.

Edward Samuel, my grandad who constantly preached to me key Biblical ethics, illustrating with his own life experiences. I haven't met anyone of higher moral standards. The best part is he was a star in his profession, heading schools and always hunted by competing schools. Proof that "good guy" and "winner" can co-exist in the same person.

Forced to read locally-produced mediocre textbooks at school, going to college in 1981 was being set free! I spent hours every week day at what was then called the United States Information Service (library at the American embassy in Chennai). It was like discovering an entirely new galaxy! I knew what I was going to read and watch from that point forward. It was a decision I made and stuck to. Thanks to all the American pioneers and contributors whose works have positively influenced my thought and action for over 30 years!


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