Monday, August 21, 2017

University of Queensland Speech

Last December I was honored to deliver a commencement address at the University of Queensland.  I spoke about AI, jobs, our futures and education.  Here is a video and a transcript.  I covered a bunch of key points in this brief address, and I hope to elaborate on these points in a longer post soon.

-- Vishal

Honorable Chancellor, honorable Vice Chancellor, distinguished leaders of this great university, the graduates and the guests, it’s a great honor for me to be here today and thank you so much for this amazing recognition, for which I’m deeply grateful.
It is a big day for all of you, for the graduates a culmination of a long journey of education that many of you have been on.  But is it a culmination?
As I think about our future, and your future, and the times ahead I would like to make three points -about AI, about jobs and your learning abilities and I hope you will find these useful.

My first point is that we are living in, we certainly are entering, the times of AI and the jobs that you will go through over the course of your lifetime, will go through a radical change. Earlier today, today’s New York times, it’s still the 14th in the US, had an article about the great AI awakening and also today in the New Yorker magazine there was an article about our automated future and it is just today just two of their publications. There is no doubt when we look around that the AI technologies will have a profound impact on the jobs that we see around us today. Increasingly we have to assume that the jobs that can be precisely articulated and specified, are going to be automated. Much has been written about this. I will not belabor this point but we all have heard about jobs from truck drivers, to retail store owners, medical diagnosis to legal research and in my own world of IT services, various forms of system administration, business process operation and even operation and maintenance of complex systems are going to be automated. And yet we have to live and we have to thrive in these times.  So the question is, can we?

My second point is that, yes we can. Of course we must, but also that we can. We are still in the early stages of these technologies and the pervasive role that they will ultimately play in our lives. Recently we have seen, no doubt, some remarkable successes, some remarkable applications and some amazing achievements of these AI technologies and AI systems. But when I think about this and when I look at the state of the art, I realize that we are still quite far from the Society of Mind that Marvin Minsky wrote about in mid 1980s. We are still quite far from thinking about enabling a great symbiosis between intelligent systems and people. We are still quite far from being able to imbibe and impart our contexts into the contexts of our systems and vice versa. Being able to achieve shared perspective with ourselves and using technology to enable that, and being able to achieve shared perspectives with machines, is still quite a way into our future.
Also when we think about the role of technology in creating jobs we have to realize that as technology takes away jobs, the creation and the enabling and scaling of that technology ends up creating more new kinds of jobs. People say that it is different this time around with AI because this is about our minds and not just about our bodies. But nonetheless, the reality is that every technology that will displace the jobs of today, is going to be followed by the enabling and the construction of those kinds of technologies. So, despite being early in these times the second key question becomes how do we thrive in these times, what are we and especially what are you as young graduates to make of this?

My third and final point is that I see only one way for us to thrive in these times and that way is learning, “EDUCATION”. We have to learn to build these systems. We have to understand and learn to construct these systems of our future. Even if a system can drive a truck, a human still has to buy that software and build that system and that system is written by us. We need to understand computing and artificial intelligence as fundamental enabling technologies and scale the education of these. Given that every walk of life around us is going to be transformed by computing, we are still quite in the early days of this and we have to think about enabling and equipping ourselves with these technologies.
My wife Vandana runs our Infosys foundation in United States, and she recently made this great observation that in the dark ages 6% of the world’s population could read and write and if you are to think about the computing and AI as the new forms of literacy, today less than half a percent of the world’s population can understand and program what you do implying therefore that we are still in the dark ages when it comes to computing and the ability to build the systems. And even when we look at the further out future, at a time when we are able to build systems that can take precise specifications and do those jobs, no matter what those jobs might be, in other words, systems that become perfect and problem solving, those problems that can be precisely defined, we still have the human frontier of problem finding. Of being able to look into great unknown and identifying and articulating problems that are yet to be solved. That problem finding, that act of creativity, that act of innovation is still in our frontier is, still ahead of us.
Techniques like design thinking which the University of Queensland has been working on are quite fundamental to that future. We still live in times where innovation is seen as something mystical, something that is done by a chosen few who somehow are born with the ability to innovate but when we look around us we realize that innovation is no more than the act of seeing something that is not there. Seeing something that is yet to be invented, that if it were to be invented, that would lead to the world that is more desirable, that is more feasible, that is more viable, a world that would be better.
So when I think about these times of AI, it seems that our destiny is quite straight forward. We all have to become ignorant, and why not. Nonetheless, whether it is to build these systems to be relevant in the times of these systems or to be able to become innovators, the key is ‘learning’. We can no longer believe that going to school that all of you have done for the first 17 or 20 or 25 years of our lives and then stopping going to school, is the way of life. We have to think about learning for life, for our entire lives. We have to learn all of this, but most importantly, we have to learn to learn itself. We have to ask ourselves what is the world that we are living in, what is it that makes it what it is and how might I create the future of this world, a great future of this world.
Alan Kay, a great teacher of my life, famously said that, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it”. I believe that the invention of our future is what is in our future. In the age of AI, we have to switch our context from making a living to making a life, a life that may be artificial OR more importantly a life that may be ours. That in building the AI’s of our future we end up amplifying ourselves, we end up improving our own humanity.
I wish you all the very best in these times ahead, for you and for all of us. Thank you!


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Moving On...

Earlier today I resigned my position as MD & CEO of Infosys.  Here is the mail I sent to our employees.

Dear Friends,

After a lot of reflection, I have resigned from my position as your MD & CEO effective today.  A succession process has been initiated, with Pravin serving as interim MD & CEO, and I will work closely with the Board and management team over the next few months to ensure a smooth transition. In addition, I have agreed to serve as Executive Vice Chairman on the Board to further ensure continuity until the new management is in place.

For days, indeed weeks, this decision has weighed on me. I have wrestled the pros and cons, the issues and the counterbalancing arguments. But now, after much thought, and considering the environment of the last few quarters, I am clear in my decision. It is clear to me that despite our successes over the last three years, and the powerful seeds of innovation that we have sown, I cannot carry out my job as CEO and continue to create value, while also constantly defending against unrelenting, baseless/malicious and increasingly personal attacks.

In 2014, we started with a very challenging set of conditions, and in the last three years, we have decisively turned things around.

Three years ago, I started this journey with a calling, to help reshape the company around innovation and entrepreneurship, to deliver breakthrough value for clients, and to help elevate our work, our standing, our selves, on the basis of a dual strategy, bringing together dualities of renew and new, automation and innovation, people and software, to show a new path forward in a time of unprecedented disruption within the industry and beyond. That time, around and before June 2014, was a difficult time. Our growth rates were low and attrition was high. There was a sense of apprehension all around and I came here to help enable a great transformation as our core business faced intense pricing pressure, and clients looked increasingly to innovative partners to help shape their digital futures. Now, a bit more than three years later, I am happy to see the company doing better in every dimension I can think of.

We have grown our revenues, from $2.13B in Q1FY15 to $2.65B this past Q1. We did so while keeping a strong focus on margins, closing this past quarter at 24.1% operating margin, beating some competitors for the first time in many years, and improving against most in our industry.  Perhaps more importantly, our revenue per employee has grown for six quarters in a row. Our attrition has fallen, from 23.4% in Q1FY15 to 16.9% this past Q1, and high performer attrition is hovering at or below the single-digit threshold for a while now.  We grew our $100M+ clients from 12 when I started, to 19, and increased our large deal wins from ~$1.9B in FY15 to ~$3.5B this past year. We’ve done all this while improving our overall utilization, to a 10-yr high this past quarter, and an all time high including trainees, while improving our cash reserves, rewarding employees with a new equity plan, and returning cash to our stakeholders. And we have done all this while improving our standing with clients to the highest ever in the 12 years since we’ve done our client satisfaction survey, and a jump of 22 points in CxO satisfaction.

A few days ago, Nitesh, Radha, and I met a client in our office in Palo Alto. It is one of the largest companies in the world - and the CIO was excited and proud about seeing automation come to life in their landscape.  Her reaction to seeing many of our innovation projects, as well as our workspace itself, was thoroughly rewarding, and a testament to all we have achieved. She requested us to bring our innovative work and processes to everything we do with her team in a similar space, and even that we help them establish a similar presence for their company in the valley!  This is a sentiment I’ve often heard from clients who’ve visited our 12,000 sqft space here, that has seen 2200 visits over its ~27 months; clients where we saw much faster than average revenue growth following their visits. So, as I look back on the three years as CEO, what brings me the most joy is the new roads that all of you have traveled, the new frontiers that all of you have enabled.  From embracing the new ideas in education, teaching ourselves Design Thinking like no one else ever has, learning AI, new development processes, and more, to applying these learnings via Zero Distance, a one-of-a-kind program of massive grassroots innovation, powered by education, by the amazing Zero Bench, and by your creative confidence.  With 16500+ ideas generated, 2200+ of which have already been implemented, ZD is proof that innovation need not be the domain of a chosen few in some elite department, but is the prerogative of us all; proof that the extraordinary within each one of us can indeed be unleashed. To complement this grassroots innovation, we’ve launched 25+ new services that contributed 8.3% of our revenue last quarter, up from zero in April 2015.  And our own new software business is now at 1.6% of revenue.  Our AI platform, Nia, now with 160+ scenarios deployed at more than 70 clients, is helping drive both automation within the company, and breakthrough new business scenarios outside.  Beyond new services and new software, we’ve ventured into new horizons, from our startup fund’s investments in promising new businesses, to the work we’ve done in the last 3 years in local hiring around the world, especially in the US, to the exemplary and inspiring work our US foundation has done in bringing computer science education and a culture of making, to the masses.

And I am proud of how we have upheld our values, our culture, our integrity, whilst we have gone about this massive transformation.  I am proud of how our Board has worked, tirelessly, selflessly, these past quarters, despite intense, unfair, and often malicious and personal, criticism, in not only upholding our standards of governance and integrity, but also indeed raising these.  None of our successes would be worthwhile for a moment, if this was not the case.

I was, and remain, passionate about the massive transformation opportunity for this company and industry, but we all need to allow the company to move beyond the noise and distractions.

Back in May 2014, when I first met many board colleagues, I thought of the road ahead as a road for the next 33 years of this iconic company. For Infosys is more than a company: it is an idea, a dream, a pioneering possibility.  Back then I thought, just as I do today, that the time ahead called for a company that could show the way to a digital future, a future where our humanity, amplified by automation and software, would unleash our creativity, our imagination, to construct great worlds of our futures, and would do so powered by education, by our timeless value of learnability.  Such an Infosys, whilst staying true to its core, to her values and timeless principles, would shine the light in an altogether different context, a different reality. Such an Infosys would be one where an individual’s entrepreneurship, ability to imagine and create, ability to learn, and to amplify themselves with software, with AI, would create a greater whole. Rather than an overarching system enabling the people, the people’s agility and imagination would create a greater system. Three years later, we can clearly see that the seeds of this idea have taken root and are growing, into beautiful new flowers and plants, and I see no reason why these cannot continue, and help shape our company’s future.

For sure this journey has been a difficult one.  No one, especially me, thought it would be easy.  Transformations are hard to begin with.  A massive transformation, of such an iconic institution, with such groundbreaking achievements behind her, would be even tougher, and the exponential rates of change all around us, further amplified by geopolitical matters, would add that much more headwind.  But all this was known, and clear, and in many ways added to the calling that I felt.  For as the legendary architect Daniel Burnham said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir man’s blood.”

But after much contemplation I have decided to leave because the distractions, the very public noise around us, have created an untenable atmosphere. I deeply believe in creating value in an atmosphere of freedom, trust and empowerment. Life is too short to engage in battles of opinions in the public, these add no value, take critical time and focus away from the business, and indeed add more to the noise, to the eardrum buzz, as I wrote to you a few months ago. The founding principle of the strategy I laid out for our renewal was personal empowerment, working in an entrepreneurial environment.  I need this for my own work as well.  Steve Jobs, in his famous commencement speech at my alma mater, said:

“Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the result of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become.”

I now need to move forward, and return to an environment of respect, trust and empowerment, where I can take on new lofty challenges, as can each of you.

As Steve Jobs said, I must follow my heart and my intuition, build my buildings, give my givings, and do something else.  Over the next weeks and months, I look forward to working with the Board and management to create a smooth transition, and simultaneously staring into the great unknown, and to doing something great, something purposeful, for the times ahead.    And also to spend some time with my loved ones.  I’ve been away from home far too often and far too long.

As I completed my three years recently, many people asked me if I have any regrets.  This question is more apt today and the answer is a clear NO. Not for a second.  However difficult the noise of the last several months has been, I wouldn’t trade our time together for anything. I would not give up the experience of seeing the gleam in your eyes as you described a new idea, invention, or contribution. You worked on these confidently, without reward, without arrogance, showing exactly the kind of creative confidence that David Kelley talked about in Design Thinking – a wonderful thing to witness.

I am deeply grateful for the immense support and love I’ve received from all of you, from our worthy clients for whom we do our life’s work, and by our shareholders across the globe.  I am grateful for your trust, confidence and friendship, and am thankful to our team of amazing leaders, who will help lead our company to greatness.  To my first Infoscion colleague and trusted friend Ranga, who enabled us to achieve the things we achieved, to the amazing Ravi, a pocket of passion and energy and execution excellence, to the calm and steadfast Mohit, who introduced me to the band of brothers and lived it, day after day, to the larger than life Rajesh, with his great heart and big laugh, to Binod, a veritable bulldozer brother with his broad shoulders and broader smile, to the one of a kind Ramadas, the architect and protector of our magnificent campuses with his indomitable spirit and world-class excellence, to the always smiling Deepak who helped live the strategy, to Krish and the best HR team in the world, especially the extraordinary Richard, Nanju, Shruthi and their amazing team for helping to carry out some of the craziest and most amazing people initiatives, to Inderpreet, a new voice to the team, a voice of calm, strength, integrity and a stability that far belies the little time she’s been with us, to Jayesh and our entire finance team for their dedication, their impeccable meticulous integrity and world-class excellence, and especially to my partner, friend, and pillar of strength, Pravin, who carried all the load in the world, with a smile, impeccable integrity and the most amazing grace, and will now lead you to the next phase of our company's growth.  To Zaiba, Bala sir, Nagaraju, Hari and many others for making it possible for me to be me and to do my work, to my Palo Alto family: Sanjay, Abdul, Navin, Ritika, Barbara, Tao, Vinod, Shabana, April, Sudhir and others who have stood by me and have given up so much to be a part of this journey and contributed so much to it, and indeed to thousands of Infoscions who’ve made it all matter.  I am thankful to Sesh and our entire board for their unfailing support and confidence in me throughout this journey.

Together we have achieved a lot.  Even in the midst of all of the distractions, even as the tendency was to return to the familiar, we still managed to persevere and make wonderful progress. We have laid the foundation for the next 30 years of Infosys, and I feel deeply proud to have worked alongside all of you in sowing the seeds that will return this company to the bellwether it once was.  As you’ve all often reminded us, Infosys is no bigger and no smaller than any of us, the people, the Infoscions.  You are the ones that will take Infosys to the next 30 years and beyond.  As I think about the time ahead, for all of us, I can only see us powered by a freedom from the known, of renewing ourselves to thrive in the time ahead. Each one of you has vindicated my deeply held belief that people are capable of doing more, achieving more, being more, than they ever imagined possible. So, keep pushing yourself to do better at whatever you are good at, but also learning to do things you have never done before, indeed, nobody has ever done before. I know I will be doing the same.

The Board, Pravin, and I will communicate additional details as we move forward in this transition, and meanwhile, we continue our work as is. I wish all of you the very best in your journeys ahead.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Andy Grove

Andy Grove passed away earlier today.  A pioneer of our industry.  I spent a memorable summer at Intel 25+ years ago, when Andy was the CEO.  My brother used to work at the then AI lab and I spent a summer working on some exciting new AI techniques and applying these to semiconductor manufacturing.  Andy met the interns, as he used to every year, and spoke from his heart about many things.  Excellence, being paranoid, what great leadership is all about, process excellence (he was passionate about seeing Intel be at least one generation ahead of the competition on the microprocessor manufacturing processes), about how there comes a time when the founders of a company leave and then their instincts and values have to be institutionalized into a company's culture and its structures and processes, and many other matters.  He also spoke to all of us about our potential, the human potential, with his own experience of surviving the holocaust as a youngster with his mother, escaping the soviet rule and coming to America, and becoming the first non-founder CEO of Intel.  Amazing man.  His determination to have Intel dominate not only the semiconductor technology, but its manufacturing process, helped create a giant company of our times that is a cornerstone of the digital world.  What an example of our human potential.  
R.I.P András István Gróf...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Marvin Minsky, 1927-2016

Prof. Marvin Lee Minsky, or just Marvin to those who knew him, died last night.  We have lost one of the great humans of our time, perhaps of all time.  A humble, brilliant, passionate man, with a blazing intellect and an amazing zen, a childlike curiosity, Marvin pioneered much of the early work in AI, together with John McCarthy, Herb Simon, and Allen Newell and others.  He opened our eyes to much that was new, and he and his academic progeny have shaped a lot of what we know about AI today.

With a grad school recommendation letter of all of a single line, Marvin changed my life.  And his work, his teachings, his ways of exploring the unknown, his ability to span and to combine several widely varied disciplines, have been a great lesson to me, a source of great inspiration over more than 25 years, from my graduate studies, to our recent work on AI, both at Infosys and with OpenAI.  Indeed when I started my AI lecture recently for Infoscions, not happy with any of the recent work I saw, I went back to a paper Marvin wrote before I was born ("Steps Towards Artificial Intelligence").

As sad as I am, and countless others are at his passing, perhaps even sadder is his recent statement, on the current state of the work in AI, at a time when we hear about AI and its impact on our world and our lives all around us.  Last week I was in Davos at the World Economic Forum's mtg, and AI, and its feared impact on people's lives, and jobs, was the talk of the town.  I hosted a panel with some key experts as well, to try and add something hopefully thoughtful, to all these voices, but perhaps just added more to the noise, and all along I kept thinking of how Marvin would have reacted to all that sound, all those alarms.  Perhaps he'd have chuckled, before unleashing a typical Marvin zinger that would put things in perspective, and yet enlighten.  Despite the widespread interest in, and hype around, AI, we are nowhere close to implementing many of Marvin's ideas, including his work in the society of mind, which he published ~25 years ago.

So in looking back on his life, and reflecting on his passing, perhaps the best we can all resolve to do is to live his dream, his aspiration, of building systems that get ever closer to Artificial Intelligence, but to do so in a way that he would have been proud of; his purposefulness and integrity, his gang of experimenters, his childlike curiosity, his "model railroad club", his instinct to look at things from many different perspectives.  That a purposeful, unencumbered, pursuit of artificial intelligence may in the process get us that much closer to our natural spirituality.

Upon hearing the news of Marvin's passing, Alan Kay, his friend for the last 50 odd years, said to me "... there was no one ever like him."  So true.

R.I.P Marvin.  There was no one ever like you.  We will miss you...

Sunday, December 13, 2015

OpenAI: AI for All

Yesterday saw the announcement about the birth of OpenAI, a non-profit organization to develop and advance Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies, and share these in the greater good.  Infosys, and I, are a part of this endeavor, and very excited about it and I've been asked tons of questions in the last 24 hours about this, so I thought I'll write some thoughts down.


A few weeks ago, Marvin Minsky, one of the fathers of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the one who gave the field its first definition -- that AI is "the science of making machines do things that would require intelligence if done by men" -- made a few sobering statements about the state of the art in AI.  Indeed I felt sad listening to this giant lament the lack of fundamental progress in the field, and highlight some of the underlying causes.  And this despite all the buzz and hype AI work has picked up lately.  Marvin is one of the truly great human beings and scientists, whose teachings and advice helped influence my life and led me to focus on AI in my grad studies and beyond.  So more than anything else, I see OpenAI as an opportunity to "do something about it".

My friend and teacher Alan Kay once referred to Sam Altman as a "builder of civilizations".  When Sam, a wise man who is but 30 years old, was thinking about the idea of building an open ecosystem for, among other endeavors, AI, Alan and I shared our ideas with him and our experiences.  Sam asked me if I would be ok with the fact that such an endeavor would be untethered and would produce results generally in the greater interests of humanity, and he was somewhat surprised by my reaction, that indeed I would only support this venture if such an openness was a fundamental requirement!  In all my experience with corporate research teams, I found a continual struggle for the teams to find relevance with the work in the "here and now", usually knowing that this unnecessary and premature seeking of relevance not only blinds us to those opportunities that can shift our paradigms, it defeats the point of research.  He shares the view that cooperation helps dramatically improve our lot, helps create a foundation for much larger value creation than any isolated "feudal" system can.  Indeed, endeavors such as agriculture, and science, show that when we share, we improve all of us.  As Newton once said, "if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants".

I am really excited that Sam, Elon Musk, and others -- including Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel, and Amazon Web Services, and Infosys of course -- are supporting this great endeavor, and in addition to Alan, a great set of leaders will serve as advisors.  Ilya Sutskever, who has worked over the last several years as a leader in developing the so called "deep learning" techniques, will direct the research at OpenAI, and will be joined by several dynamic leaders and individual contributors, whose conviction and imagination will help this field move forward, based on the best of what we know, the best ideas, the best inventions, and the key lessons.

Our wish is that together the OpenAI team will do unfettered research in the most important, most relevant dimensions of AI, no matter how long it takes to get there, not limited to just identifying dancing cats in videos, but to creating ideas and inventions that amplify our humanity, that help us learn more, see/perceive and understand more, and be more.

Why Open?

One question that's been asked since yesterday, is why should this be open?  Isn't it better to have deep AI be in the hands of a select few experts or specialists?  My sense is, our trust in complex systems stems mostly from understanding these and their predictability, whether it is nuclear reactors, lathe machines, or 18-wheelers; or of course, AI.  If complex systems are not open, not open to be used, extended, and learned about, they end up becoming yet another mysterious thing for us, ones that we end up praying to and mythifying.  The more open we make AI, the better.

Why Infosys?

Another question that's been asked a lot, is why Infosys?  We at Infosys, with over 150k software engineers, are unique beneficiaries of and contributors to this endeavor.  Most of our work is in building and maintaining software systems, and AI will increasingly shape the construction and evolution of intelligent software systems, in all kinds of domains and industries.  In addition, as a large services company, many parts of our work can transform fundamentally with AI.  In services like infrastructure management, business process outsourcing, and verification and maintenance of existing software, we can massively migrate mechanizable work to automation, and instead build intelligent software systems, that amplify us, our abilities, as well as those of our customers.  So a great transformation that we are undertaking at Infosys, is to embrace automation at a very large scale, so people can, as Prof Mashelkar once said, "do more with less for more", and at the same time, educate ourselves in new areas to help build intelligent systems, but also to innovate in our work, to exercise our creativity in everything we do, and amplify our abilities, our humanity, using AI.

But beyond business, there is another key reason; our endeavor to do purposeful work.  Our founders always believed in this.  Many years ago, Mr Murthy and our founders started the ACM Infosys award, which celebrates great young Computer Science practitioners.  The Infosys Science Foundation supports work in the pure sciences, as does the Infosys Foundation in India.  And most recently, the Infosys Foundation in the US, is working hard on its mission to help enable/expand computer science education, and has already started many promising initiatives here in the US.  So OpenAI aligns very nicely with our long-held values.

So as we get started on this great journey, I find myself excited, hopeful that OpenAI will help uncover great innovations, that new AI techniques yet to be discovered, and built to share, built in ways that are open to all, will help us transcend our limitations, improve and amplify us all, and that our work in artificial intelligences, may help bring us closer to our natural spirituality...

Palo Alto,
Dec 12, 2015

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Days, Quarters, Years. The Moments in Our Momentous Lives...

Today marks an year since I started my journey as the CEO of Infosys.  One Year.  One spin of the earth around the sun, with my life's work centered around the Infosys planet.  There has been a ton of interest about my first year.  This, of course, is a good thing.  I feel privileged to be in this position, and feel ever more aware of the weight of the responsibility.  But I don't understand the significance of the one year mark.  I never did.  Anniversaries and artificial ritualized celebrations of the sort, beyond the uniquely personal aspects of these, somehow always seemed to me to be pointless constructions.

We posted a good quarter recently.  Our Q1 results saw the best revenue growth in 15 quarters.  Most of this was due to great execution by our sharply focused leadership teams, and some of it due to the innovation seeds that we've sown over various points last year, that are starting to bear fruit.  But again, the 90-day cycle, an imposition largely constructed by public markets around the world, seems to defy any meaningful purpose.  Indeed, arguably, focus on 90-day performance, can often distract us from longer-term progress.  When we look at many emerging and flaring crises in the broader economy around us, we can see the results of some of the short-term gain oriented decisions and mindsets.  Whether in the debt matter between the Eurozone and Greece, or Italy, or the stock market situation in China or even many industries' responses to the disruptions they face, etc...  We all see large-scale phenomena over the centuries that are collaborative in nature, whether agriculture or science or long-term research or some forms of democracies, and the fruits they continually yield, and yet we, by and large, make like hunters and gatherers and force ourselves into local minimas, knowing that the right things to do have far longer cycles than 90 days.  There are far too few examples of long-term innovation, and waiting for fruits to be borne over longer lifecycles than our attentions and our senses can stay tuned for.

And yet we too are governed by our cycles.  Our life cycles.  Earlier this week Prof. Kalam passed away. An extraordinary, and extraordinarily humble and grounded human being, one that set an almost incomparable example of what a human can do, and at the same time showed us that a human can do so if we get ourselves to.  While doing something he loved, his amazing life came to an abrupt end.  Once again, a reminder of the fragility, and yet the finality of our lives.  We shine, sometimes brightly, for a while, usually an all too brief a while, and then we fade away, into the same grand void the same grand dance that creates us.

So all this got me thinking this weekend, on our moments, our anniversaries and our lives.

I was in Munich yesterday and the day before, visiting some clients and meeting our team.  Had some amazing sessions and discussions.  But the visit with our onsite team was what stayed with me.  Young kids and experienced Infoscions.  Full of passion and energy.  Inspired.  Of course there were the selfies.  But it was the glint, the gleam, in their eyes that I found inspiring, and awesome.  They were all bringing innovations to their day-to-day work, and were excited about sharing these.  I asked them about their lives in Munich, the long summers, the harsh winters, the language, the food.  Most of the colleagues were young, a lot of them singles, yet to marry.  Living away from families and loved ones.  One young male infoscion said he's had to learn to cook.  That there is a local grocery store (called Bollywood!).  But their energy, the human energy, was palpable.  And on my way back to the hotel, I thought this was what it was all about; this urge to innovate, to do more, to be more, to do something beyond us, to improve the lot around us, every day, every single day.  To wake up every day and to work to improve things.  To deal with the struggles and stresses of our lives, and yet to work to endure and to improve.  To renew all we are and all we do, and yet bring some new in addition.  To marry our natural daily cycles, with longer-term improvements and patience.  Living in the moment and yet not being blinded by instant gratification.  So the most heartening bit of all was to see this basic duality at work in our teams, and that lifted me up.  I found that to be the most fitting realization for today.  And if today is anything like yesterday was, anniversary or not, it will have been a worthwhile day, a day to remember for all the right reasons, a great piece of our extraordinarily fragile, immortal, lives.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Davos, a state of mind

I wrote the following thoughts on our internal Infosys portal, and felt it is worth sharing with the wider world...


Davos is a small town in Switzerland, but, for a few days in January, during the World Economic Forum’s gathering, it transforms into a large state of mind.  I’ve been here with our amazing, inspired, Infosys team, meeting with clients, partners, world leaders, thought leaders and other leaders and visionaries.  Beyond the learnings and the dealings, there are the journeys Davos puts you on.  It is easy to get lost here, in more ways than one.  In the maze of routes and security gates that connect the various venues.  But also in the plethora of thoughts, visions, roadmaps, forecasts, warnings and other articulations, for these are to be found all around, aplenty.  I’ve been absorbing much of this, over the last 3 days, and every once in a while have also been adding to the mix, answering the questions of curious journalists, and in other venues.  It is somewhat surreal; there is a lot of human warmth in the freezing alpine cold, a very curious and spontaneous blend of diversity, of thought, of personalities, of ego, and of humanity in general.  The atmosphere, in many ways, drowns out the content.  And all you remember, to paraphrase Maya Angelou, is how you felt.  As I look back on the last 3 days, I feel good, about the future of the world, the future of our company.  For sure much doomsday prognostication was to be found, and real threats analyzed, but by and large, as I get ready to visit a great client and partner of ours, at 11PM, I find myself with a distinct feeling of comfort, that the road ahead of us is ours to carve, ours to shape, that while there are great big factors and forces that can influence our world and forces that can shape our contexts, that the stage has been set for us to do our thing, and that if we do it, the greatness to follow is ours to achieve.  That the times ahead are calling on us to be bold, to be decisive, to be determined, not to sway in the winds driven by others, but in building the great futures that our clients seek and that we deserve.  So in that sense Davos has been a great mirror, a great echo chamber, one where you travel far to reach, and get lost in the brilliance of humanity, only to find that which you always knew, but perhaps had lost the courage to believe…

I leave here as a world citizen, a proud Infoscion, ready to, together with you, all of us together, to build the future of our predictions, the future of our aspirations, a more human future.  And that, underneath the layers, of snow and of words, is what I've found this town to be all about.