I attended the Fortune Most Powerful Women in Business in India program in Mumbai earlier this week. I’d been to the MPW programs in the US in the past and wanted to check out the India version. First of all a google search of “most powerful women” produces multiple lists, with a good overlap of names. Hmm. Second of all, the criteria are a bit fuzzy as we are confusing wealth and company revenue with being powerful and influential. I’m all for being powerful but I thought it would help to define the word a little more clearly so that we can work towards getting there. In my mind true power is being influential, when you’re able to change the way people think about something, someone or someplace. So you have to go beyond just the revenue and talk about whether the person is changing lives, and at what scale.

Ditto with brands. If you’re not changing the way I do something or look at someone or something then you are not influential. So when a brand like Swiggy tries to reposition how we refer to delivery folks through an ad it is making a stab at staying influential. Yes, they’ve already been influential in changing the way we purchase food, but that’s now in the past and the accepted new normal. To stay influential they have to continue to change the way we do things and think about things.

Amazon is influential on many fronts, not just size. It is one of the first to show non-linear people growth with revenue, hiring 20,000 less for US holiday sales than last year. (Ok, ok, they’re hiring 100,000, but that’s not the point!) The key is automation, of course. Is this a sign of the times? Yes, I think it is. If your work is repeatable and process-oriented the flood waters are rising. Worse if an industry player figures out how to automate and achieve non-linear growth before you, you are doomed, along with your business.

We’re in a period of rapid change and one that requires quick decision making. Three year strategies are sounding like an anachronism with many large companies settling for a 3 year vision and 3 month operating plan. In this context, I found this article by Dr Prakash Durga Devarakonda on Decision Science very helpful – he defines speed as the 4th Capital and puts a methodology for decision efficiency.

I’ve been getting queries on whether an MBA is worth it. Depends how much you spend of course! Salaries are not linearly linked to how much you paid for your education, unfortunately. And while in the past you could live off your educational qualifications for your entire working life, today you may need to refresh every 5 years or so, and invest in that too. So essentially you’re getting a certain branding and alumni network which should last you your lifetime, but the actual educational content may have a shorter shelf-life. Also, generally speaking, I’d say “managerial” jobs are likely to be automated faster so better to invest in hard skills, and be able to DO something.

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