Hiroo Onoda: Never Surrender!



Everyday, we read so many tales of amazing people around us. Some well-known and some not. Some who fade into history’s archives after being a bright spark and some who continue to stay and refresh our memory. My effort is to bring out the best of management and life’s lessons that could be gleaned from these individuals.

This is the story of Hiroo Onoda, a soldier from the Japanese Imperial Army. His story dates to the Second World War and beyond.

Hiroo Onoda was trained as an Imperial Army Intelligence Officer.  His mission was to go behind enemy lines and gather intelligence that would be useful for the Japanese army, while leading small teams of men to create havoc and unrest. If you are able to win skirmishes and ensure fatalities for the enemy (the allies, in this case), all the more better. Waging guerilla warfare and collecting intelligence were his training focus areas.

So, what’s special about him?

Hiroo Onoda continued his war for a period of 30 years (December 26th 1944 to March 10th, 1975) on Lubang Island (Philippines)! This is long after Japan had surrendered. He did not know about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and neither did he believe Japan’s surrender (extremely Jingoistic).

What actually happened?

Hiroo Onoda was following orders from his superior to the T:

  • No matter how long it Takes, the Japanese army will come for him
  • Even if there is just one man, continue leading him
  • No suicide
  • Collect intelligence and don’t be caught by the allied troops

Onoda and his companions employed guerilla tactics and continued harassing the enemy soldiers. One by one, his men fell but that did not deter Onoda in continuing his fight. He and his band of men refused to believe Allied propaganda on Japan’s surrender as for them there was no way that Japan could lose the war. Hence, all efforts from the Philippines government to draw them out failed as they construed the steps taken as traps. Efforts from the free locals, who were tired of being harassed also failed at convincing Onoda to surrender. What kept them going was the thought:

” Japanese army hasn’t come for us, so that means we haven’t still won. We can’t lose, so the war must still be on”

Though his men fell to the Filipino police and patrols, Onoda continued his individual efforts. He was so good at his work, that Japanese search patrols could not locate him. It was in 1974 that a student  Nario Suzuki succeeded in locating Onoda and tried persuading him to come home. As expected Onoda refused and it took his commanding officer, who was now working at a book store, to meet and talk him into surrendering. Onoda finally surrendered on the 10th of March, 1975 to the Philippine president, Ferdinand Marcos. He was pardoned for his crimes (he had killed around 30 Filipinos and injured scores as part of his guerilla warfare) against the Filipinos as Onoda has committed them in the mindset of an ‘At war’ soldier.

What’s the learning?

  1. Dedication to country and to duty: One would actually call Onodo crazy, but looking at his perspective, he performed what was right for Japan. He did not fail to carry out his orders. His intelligence notes and logs were maintained and preserved.
  2. Resourcefulness: Even on the day he surrendered, he had a working  rifle – all oiled and in an excellent condition with 500 rounds to spare! His uniform was well maintained and had very neat patches sewn on. He survived in the jungles on what the forest could offer and by looting the farms and livestock in the villages adjoining the jungle.
  3. Planning & Decision making: His decision making (despite being contradictory to the facts and based on minimal information) is still commendable. Where to attack, how to conceal oneself, how to make the best of his men and meagre resources and all along ensuring that Japan was benefiting from their service.

The strength of character demonstrated was exemplary – how many can continue such a hard life for so long, driven just by his duty to his country? It only takes the twist of fate to accord the right treatment – if Japan had won, Onoda would have been a certain hero for his valiant efforts and not looked at as a soldier who killed innocent civilians. He deserves respect for not opting to give-up and for pursuing his duty relentlessly.






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!


Who has a better life – this generation or the previous?

Answer by Bharath Kumar Balasubramanian:

I would answer this question from a technology perspective:
My generation – 80’s born (Gen Y) have seen a sea of change!
– We moved from 8-inch to 5 1/4  inch to 3 1/2 inch floppy disks!
– We jumped in glee at using the shiny CDs, followed by DVDs and then Blue-rays!
– We saw ‘Thumb’/Pen drives proliferate along with external HDDs
– We saw Moore’s law in action – performance of systems getting better and better while becoming smaller and smarter!
– Mobile phones metamorphosed from brick like devices to the smart snazzy devices that we use today!
– From Dial-up modems and their classic connection noise, that we would patiently handle   we have moved to superfast broadband!
– Websites and Applications for each and everything – you name it, it is available!
– Laziness and convenience got a boost with on-line shopping. Anything and everything delivered at the click of a mouse!
– We are connected more than ever before – very social!
– We are in the knowledge proliferation age. All that you want to know is available and all you have to do is just ask! (Quora for example!)
Isn’t this a great time to be!!

Who has a better life – this generation or the previous?

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

Chin up Chennai!



With water shortage, we prayed for the heavens to pour,
Now its time to pray – oh God! please, no more!

The houses are getting flooded,
so are our hearts with the love and gratitude exhibited!

With incessant rains, the water level does rise,
so do, our levels of patience and resilience!

Corruption and encroaching spoiled our reservoirs,
we brave out this situation, an experience fit for memoirs!

The rain water is certainly not welcome inside our homes,
but the hungry and the homeless, they certainly are!

You may be afraid concerning the well-being of a known one,
Don’t worry, for Chennai’s motto is now – One for all & all for one!

We are at war with Nature, you might say
Our brave soldiers of peace are here to save the day!

We are not afraid of any waves of a Tsunami striking us,
we only fear the fizzing out of the waves of Humanity in us!

Hold in there, chin up, help is at hand!
This too shall pass, as does the hourglass sand.

Tomorrow, when the sun shines and life moves on,
We will sing, we will dance, with our best clothes on!

Amazing people and an amazing city!

‪#‎Chennaithebest‬ ‪#‎Chennairains‬ ‪#‎Chennai‬ ‪#‎ChennaiUnites‬
Love you Chennai – My native & the best city in the world!
With Love & Prayers – Bharath Balasubramanian

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!


The ticket to a fantastic experience – Bye, Bye #Sachin!

The Ticket to a fantastic experience!

Thanks to a friend, Namrata Gupta, I got the the ticket for the first day of the second test match at Wankhede stadium. This is Tendulkar’s 200th test and his last. Getting tickets was no easy task and had actually resorted to watching the match on telly when I got this wonderful piece of paper.

The morning’s game theory exam was spent more on visualising the game at Wankhede than the ones in the question paper! Wrapping up the exam at 10 AM, myself & Mayank Saxena (who called me with the great news of the ticket’s availability) took the local train to Churchgate and from there walked to the stadium. We reached when WestIndies seemed to have a great partnership going between Bravo and Powell with the Windies losing just one wicket for around 65 runs.

Today was nothing short of what can be thought of as a great day.

  1. We got the train quickly and that too a super fast one!
  2. I had my camera bag with me and on producing my student ID (!) was actually permitted in an unofficial way to retain my bag – everyone had to safe keep it somewhere and were not allowed to carry their bags in!
  3. The Windies seemed too comfortable and we asked for some action at least in terms of some wickets that would make it great game to watch. Mind you, I am not a big fan of test cricket – but this game was really special!
  4. Over the next 2.5 hours, the Windies lost the wind in their sails and slumped to a paltry 182 all out (3 ducks in a row)!! I not only got to see the action but also had the opportunity to see our team bat!
  5. Ok, with our team batting, obviously had the desire to see the little master play! this was a tough wish torn between wishing the best for our team and yet wanting the first two wickets down so that Sachin could bat. Prayer answered – Murali and Dhawan gave a beautiful batting display and without wasting too many balls, left the stage for Pujara and Sachin!
  6. Watched Sachin bat out at least 18 overs along with Pujara and witnessed some of his classic shots 🙂    What more can I ask for?!

The atmosphere was electrifying – did not feel like a test match at all! It was more like a T20 kind of ambience with the crowd following and acknowledging each and every ball and run! The crowd was constantly rooting for Sachin and persuading Dhoni to let him bowl. A simple fielding from Sachin drew more cheer than a catch or a wicket from the other Indian players! Seated in the Sachin Tendulkar stand (Yay!), I was thankful to Dhoni as Sachin was fielding 90% of the time near us. Wherever he looked into the crowd, that section used to go crazy!! Sachin acknowledged the crowd very well and even gestured us to keep the volume down. Looking at him at close quarters was paisa vasool! very humble and really embarrassed by all the shouting that we managed!

The gesture from the West Indies team welcoming Sachin was very good. Though they attempted to place the master blaster under pressure initially by surrounding him with as many as 6-7 players, the God did not lose his cool and rather forced them to change their field settings by dispatching a couple to the fence!

Soaking in the atmosphere was a terrific experience – a lifetime experience to be cherished. Will certainly miss Sachin 😦