The Big Idea

The Smart CEOThis is a series focused on ideas around organizational innovation for the Smart CEO magazine, a contemporary business magazine with a unique editorial focus on business model innovation, actionable business ideas, entrepreneurship development and growth companies.


Team IQ

Posted on May 1, 2013 by Tara Thiagarajan in Blog, The Big Idea, Writing. Comments Off on Team IQ

The art and science of building a collectively intelligent team

Several years ago we had hired an HR consulting firm to help us assess our senior managers. Through a series of competency mapping exercises they were going to tell us who could be tasked with greater responsibility, who would have to go and what skill gaps we might fill by training. They had devised a set of exercises among which was a group problem solving task. In the group task they each assigned themselves one participant to observe, and made notes on the person’s participation and contributions. I sat in as an observer in one of the group exercises, not tracking any one person in particular.

Among the group was a manager whose assessment so far had been on the brink. Communication skills were below average, logical and quantitative … Read More »


Getting fit for the future

Posted on December 1, 2012 by Tara Thiagarajan in The Big Idea, Writing. Comments Off on Getting fit for the future

It is important for organisations to continue to be valuable and saleable. To do so, companies need to tap into their network of partners and train together to stay ahead of the market.

When most of us think about the value of organisations, we are thinking about our revenues, customer base, products and distribution, maybe even our processes and access to capital. While these are good indicators of our accumulated value so far, they are not nearly as good indicators of their continuing value tomorrow. In today’s fast changing world where there are more unknowns than knowns, nothing is stable, and strategies often have to be quickly reconfigured to discard dead ends and take advantage of new opportunities.  What determines whether an organization is poised to take advantage of the future? How does an organization ensure that it is fit for … Read More »


You’re hired? Not so easy!

Posted on August 1, 2012 by Tara Thiagarajan in The Big Idea, Writing. Comments Off on You’re hired? Not so easy!

A college degree does not necessarily guarantee good skill sets useful in a work environment. To change that, companies and educational institutions need to work together to develop a curriculum to ensure a more productive workforce. Going one step further, industry professionals need to double up as faculty members – all possible in today’s digital world.

In a country with over a billion people and the largest young workforce in the world, you might think it should be easy for companies to find and recruit young people but it’s not. It’s quite the opposite. About a year or so ago, I was interviewing candidates for junior branch manager positions.

What does a finance company do? I asked them, what do you think is its main source of revenue?

Opening of accounts, said one. He was a high scoring commerce graduate.
Maintaining the systems and … Read More »


The Hidden Key to Productivity

Posted on April 6, 2012 by Tara Thiagarajan in The Big Idea, Writing. 2 comments

Every company worries in some way about how to make people more productive. To do this, most companies normally focus on two things: training – building knowledge and skills, and technology. No doubt this does yield returns. However, there is something else, perhaps even more powerful, that is largely ignored.

Productivity is how much you produce or create within a given period of time. Therefore, it has an implicit rate component to it. This means how productive we are depends on how fast and how effectively we act. Our knowledge and skills certainly play into how effectively we act and technology can speed it all up. The other hidden component, however, is how fast and effectively information travels through an organisation every day. Information about who else is doing what, information on resources in the company and the larger ecosystem, information … Read More »


Scrap the MBA

Posted on December 28, 2011 by Tara Thiagarajan in The Big Idea, Writing. 10 comments

What we need are Masters in Enterprise Building (MEBs)

Ask MBA (Masters in Business Administration) students what they want to do after they graduate and the answer is usually a variant of ‘Get a good job’. A good job, they will explain to you, is a job with a good salary, good personal growth opportunities, good work environment and good facilities. Large multi-national corporations will top that list. At the recent IIM-A Confluence, Satish Pradhan, executive vice-president, Tata Group likened business school placements to the Pushkar Mela. wherecandidates, like camels, are dressed up, paraded and sold to the highest bidder. . A student countered that they were ‘trained’ to find jobs.

What’s wrong with that, you might ask. For a country, where less than 10 per cent is employed in the formal economy and where the college capacity extends to less than … Read More »


Microfinance 2.0

Posted on July 18, 2011 by Tara Thiagarajan in Microfinance, The Big Idea, Writing. Comments Off on Microfinance 2.0

The last decade has seen a sensational rise and fall of microfinance in India. After the crisis in Andhra Pradesh (AP) that claimed debt related suicides on account of exorbitant interest rates and high pressure collection tactics, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has finally put in place regulations based on the recommendations of the Malegam committee. With massive defaults to contend with and the new regulation that places caps on the rates and spreads, the industry is struggling to find its feet again. Many of the less efficient players are out of luck and out of business. Others are tightening their belts and getting more efficient in their operations. But, is microfinance 2.0 just about process efficiency? Or can it be something greater?

Where it began

Let’s start with the premise of microfinance and what it started out trying to … Read More »