Let’s Skype: Talk in 6,Chat in 56

When I and a colleague completed a Coursera course on Chinese,  I asked my colleague Abhishek a question – So, What next?

His reply: Making friends from 1.4 Billion People! 🙂


Hello in Many Languages

Knowing an additional language can be awesome. There are so many more people to reach out to! What if we could achieve the same benefits without having to really learn a new language? Reading about Skype Translator and looking at how it has already started changing lives thrills me to no end!

Imagine being able to speak in 6 languages (Spanish, Mandarin, Italian, German, English, and French) and type/chat in another 50 (called messaging languages) – you can reach out to almost anyone in the world! And Skype is going to make sure that people understand you and are able to express themselves well. Simply superb.

I am excited and while making it obvious, share some areas where I believe disruptions are going to be common because of real-time Language translation, that is readily accessible:


  • Reduction of the emotion conundrum:

LOL, ROFL, HA HA – they really don’t express the underlying emotions! You can have a poker-faced person typing out these in the chat window on the other side and yet come away thinking you just cracked a great joke! Similarly, in a conversation, where  the importance of emotions is often underplayed, the conversing parties can actually see each other utter the words, and follow the emotions – helps to reduce the confusion and also promotes better understanding!

In languages such as French and Chinese, where a minor difference in the accents can make a world of difference, the parties will understand the real intent and act accordingly rather getting culturally sensitive about a misplaced accent!

Now, you can emote in your language and still ensure that the person on the other side understands you and is able to feel the passion….completely!


  • Connect more:

What prevents one from approaching another from a different country/culture? The language! Our folks on the USS Enterprise (StarTrek) had these fancy language synthesizers and converters that helped them carry on a conversion, talk peace and even plan war with Alien races. Skype translator is similar, though restricted to earthlings at the moment!

Doesn’t it feel wonderful that the entire population (~7.4 Billion) can now be reached out to and engaged in a conversation!

There is a phrase in Sanskrit – ‘Vasudeva Kutumbakam’ ( वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम् ), which means – “The World is one family”. We shall now connect with our other members, in the language that they prefer!

  • Reach out more:

A Tourist asking for directions, a student of theology wishing to connect to great teachers from around the world, an academician willing share and get his work reviewed by the eminent in his field – they will all be now able to reach out better than what has been happening now. Berlitz translation books and notes, however useful, will have to pave way for a translated speech and text that clearly question and communicate with the local population!

Students  will be able to discuss science projects and lessons with their counterparts across the world!

  • Help more:

Mankind’s problems are global. Patients in trauma, students in need of counselling, people with suicidal tendencies, victims suffering from phobias and post traumatic experiences – they are all over the world. The number of hands that can help has now exponentially increased!

A counsellor in India can now help  someone in Kenya to overcome depression, a US based consultant can help speed up an initiative in China by providing experiential inputs…the scope is literally endless.

  • Expand:

Establishing Businesses or outsourcing work have more markets to consider, now that the language barriers are eroding faster. More social entrepreneurs in the areas where help is needed the most can help in faster development. More businesses can increase the count of developing and developed countries. The sharing of best practices across countries and industries will be simpler and so will be the sharing of relevant intelligence.

Countries that prided themselves on communication skills, especially knowledge and fluency in English will now need to take a relook at their USP as language will cease to be a barrier for business.

  •  Increased knowledge base:

Videos, Podcasts, Songs, Dialogues and Audiobooks – they can all be made available in multiple languages without significant effort. You could actually watch a Chinese movie in French by having edited the sound track (except for the lip sync!)

Skype Translator, as I understand, is a spin-off from Microsoft’s Siri-like clone called Cortana. The translation technology has evolved over 15+ years of development at Microsoft as mentioned by Satya Nadella.


It has positive network  externalities, which means that I benefit from more and more users joining and using it. You get better translations, an increased spread of the languages covered and of course, have more people to communicate with!


Though these are the initial days, the future is full of promise and the expectations are huge! It wouldn’t be long before ‘Skype’ would actually refer to a verb that means to communicate in native language with a translator!

All the best #Skype & #Microsoft!

Hope we increase the tribe of the folks below, so that their languages can be learnt by more people and thus prevented from getting wiped out!



Workshops that work! (Part 2)


This post follows from the part 1 at:


Part 1 deals with,

– identification of workshop objectives

– classification of participants

– Dealing with each category

This part deals with the preparation for ensuring a super workshop!

‘Be Prepared’, the boy scout motto applies itself well in our case! Workshops that deal with organization level changes have much higher rate of success when the participating audience is comprised of individuals across the organization. While this ensures a high quality of discussion and a wider coverage of options, this also necessitates that the workshop preparation is at an organization level. Imagine having to switch topics (production – sales – supply chain – general management – product development-…) while discussing a single idea or impact!

An interesting introduction ice-breaker that we could use to bring out the value of each participant would be to pair the participants and have them ‘sell’ their partners to the audience. The selling terms would be in terms of expertise, roles & responsibilities and hobbies – this ensures that the audience understand the value that each individual brings to the workshop while also establishing a personal connect!

From experience, 8 preparation activities that have helped me connect well with the audience and conduct a great workshop:

  • Research, research & research:

Understand the industry, the players and the latest happenings in the industry. How is your customer going to be impacted?

Ideas and the suggestions that will make the Senior management sit up and take notice (‘Wow! That’s interesting – we never thought of it that way!’) are important. The quality of interaction could make or break the senior management commitment to the workshop.

  • Who’s who?

Use LinkedIn and other social networks to really understand the participants better. Using their name as they walk-in and referencing their experience works wonders. A simple ‘Hey Mark, how’s your whitepaper on predictive analytics going?’ warrants a focused participant and a great contact!

If you can’t find them on the social network, the organization’s intranet could help you with the photos and the project details, so that you have a ready greeting for them!

  • Be value driven:

Workshops could actually result in a massive waste of time and money if not properly channelled. A 2-day workshop with 15 participants could be a massive 240 hours wasted if not conducted properly and if it fails to meet the expectations. Ensure that the expectations are set forth and the objectives clearly communicated before the start of the workshop. Time checks and course corrections are a must!

  • Be prepared:

Prepare for exigencies – non availability of meeting rooms, workshop materials, food and beverages (very important – hunger is a big distraction), reduced availability of key participants…. could all feature in your list of risks. Plans B & C really help!

  • Ensure mutual respect:

More the participants connect with each other, the easier it is to conduct and achieve the objectives. One fun way to ensure that each individual understands the importance and the value of the other participants is to conduct a ‘Sell him’ introduction. Participants in pairs, sell each other to the audience at large bringing out the best that they have to offer in terms of their experience.

  • Have Fun!

Workshops need not be morose, sullen affairs where the focus is merely on coming up with an organization strategy or defining the requirements for the next state-of-the-art trading system. The idea is to not only come up with the best of plans but to also ensure that the participants are at their creative best. You would never believe some of the great ideas that come up as a result of participant letting go of their constrained thinking.

  • Hold individuals responsible

Walking away from a workshop and forgetting what happened is a very common occurrence. Workshops should be followed up with action items and status reporting to ensure that the learning and the actions do not go waste. Institutionalizing a desired trait needs the best of nurturing and directions and of course, follow-ups.

  • Ground rules rule!

Laying down the rules for usage of electronic devices, breaks, expression of views and attendance helps in setting the context and ensures a workshop with minimal interruption.

Enjoy your workshops!

This article on LinkedIn

Workshops that work! (Part 1)

Source: Workshops that work! (Part 1)


EngageLet me begin with an original quote 🙂

“The only reason that a workshop hasn’t worked, is because you haven’t!”

Workshops are a great way to bring the stakeholders together and to arrive at a consensus. One might be armed with the best of presentations and workshop activities, but you can never be sure of a great workshop until we identify and cater to the most important component – the participants!

I love workshops – both conducting and participating. It is an exciting feeling to have a roomful of audience who are waiting to,

  • have their knowledge requirements fulfilled
  • work together to achieve a whole that is much bigger than the sum of the parts
  • challenge their comfort zones and pick up new skills
  • share their knowledge and expertise
  • solve problems that have haunted them

As you can see, the stakes are quite high! Ensuring that the participants walk away with the satisfaction on a day well spent, a day that brought them closer to their goals is thus the hygiene factor. There is an amazing amount of experience and creativity to be tapped at workshops and I strong feel that there is an equal learning opportunity for both the workshop facilitator as well as the participants.

My experiences from the visioning, prioritisation and brainstorming workshops that I have conducted helped me understand/segment my participants better. Classifying and understanding the participant early on helps in faster bonding and in the deployment of the appropriate technique to ensure participation and inputs.

Here are my six types of participants:

  • The EXCItrons: ”This is the workshop I have been waiting for!”

They are excited to be there in the workshop and ready to go! They need just the direction.

  • The WALLtrons: “Should I say this, or should I not?”

They are interested in the workshop, but need a gentle nudge before they are completely in.

  • The QUIEtrons: “Let me observe and be a passive participant”

Shy/reticent, they need to be involved. They do great work, but are silent about it.

Call them out for their opinion to get them talking and participating.

  • The WHYtrons: “Why am I here?”

They are still thinking on why are they in the workshop in the first place.

Make them understand their importance in this exercise and in the implementation of the future state.

  • The DISRUPtrons: “I have been forced to attend this!”

Joking, chatting, using their mobile phones and not really contributing characterizes this group. Just spend some time with them, looking over their shoulder and ensuring they contribute. A couple of questions and the value that they could bring to the table should settle it in most cases.

  • The I-Trons: “I love ideas – especially when they are mine!”

They could be in any of the above groups. They will provide unsolicited opinion and will try to shoot down any idea if it does not appeal to them. Lay down the rules – ideate first, scrutinize later.

Nothing beats preparation and an exciting agenda/activities list!

To Summarise this post,

– Workshops mean a lot to the organising stakeholders – we need to adopt the organization’s motives as our own and become a temporary employee!

– Each participant has the potential to add a tremendous amount of value – it lies in how we can tap it

-Workshops do not have to be conventional – creativity, visioning and fun activities do just fine if not much better!

 Next part: Getting ready for the workshop + tip & tricks that work wonders for me!

This post on LinkedIn!