Enabling Tomorrow’s Leaders with Ravi Venkataraman – Episode 25

Ravi Venkataraman

“Where there is curiosity, the adult in the child and the child in the adult are awaken. This is how innovation happens.”

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Episode Summary

In this conversation, Ravi reflects on leadership lessons, making tough decisions, overcoming fear, and on the four spiritual principles that guide him in life and in business.

Ravi Venkataraman is the founder of Alive Consulting where he mentors and consults global companies on setting up their shared services operations and on developing design thinking and leadership. For more than three decades he held global leadership roles with banking and with shared services organizations.

As the former Senior Vice President and head of Global Business Services at Hewlett Packard, he led a multifunction shared services organization of 18,000 employees located in 58 countries and was responsible for the back-office operations of the entire company which handled millions of transactions every day.

Essential Learning Points:

  • “I am working on shaping the future by enabling tomorrow’s leaders.”
  • What gets me going is the realization that where there is curiosity, the adult in the child and the child in the adult are awake, and that is how innovation happens. To activate curiosity, we need to work on how to ask the right questions.
  • Prayer not only helped me become grateful but also ensured that I have everyone in my prayer. For me prayer is a communication with the deepest part of myself.
  • The bridge you have to cross to convert your dreams into reality is fear, and prayer helps me do that.
  • I said to the chemistry professor, ‘The test tube got broken.’ The teacher hitting my hand said, ‘Please say I broke a test tube.’ My dad explained, ‘The teacher was trying to teach you accountability. You have to be accountable for your actions and learn to live with the consequences.’
  • Football and music taught me about teamwork, about relationships, and about connecting the dots in an unusual way.
  • How did Ravi’s dad teach him to pray? To first overcome fear and second to surrender to God. Prayer helped me handle setbacks and be grateful for whatever I have.
  • How a setback and losing an opportunity opened a whole new future for Ravi.
  • How did Ravi learn to empathize with customers?
  • What were the two reasons Ravi was recruited and hired to help HP build its shared services organizations?
  • Why did Ravi love the sales role and being with customers?
  • “Every time I’ve had a win it was a real high. When I had a loss, it wasn’t as bad a low.

The Four Spiritual Principles that guide Ravi through life and work:

  1. Whomever you encounter is the right one. This means they are there to help you in your journey in life.
  2. Whatever happened is the only thing that could have happened. It happened so you can learn from the experience. Life is teaching me a lesson.
  3. Each moment in which something begins is the right moment. Every moment is the beginning of a new life.
  4. What is over is over. Once the experience ends you were supposed to have learned from it, moved on, and evolve.

Additional Points

  • How does Ravi apply the 7-rung ladder in his design thinking workshops and in his mentoring work?
  • How did Ravi shift his organization from outputs focus to an outcomes-driven work and thereby closed a $400MM gap in three months?
  • Why when you do not agree on everything at the senior leadership level you must get alignment.
  • I learn best by asking questions and by listening.
  • Why does Ravi approach organizational changes by announcing a date with destiny? How do you compress 12 months of complex reengineering work into nine weeks?
  • The pressure of defining success in a narrow way resulted in us preferring to be right over being kind. The Dalai Lama said, “It is better to be kind than to be right.” In business, you can be kind and make the tough decisions too.
  • What we can learn from the honey hunter about productivity found in the laws of nature, and how nature’s sustainability is more efficient.
  • Transforming education in rural India with the help of technology and 600 volunteers from 110 cities around the world.
  • “God has given me an opportunity to be of service and help to people. It is improving my spiritual stock inside me because I am gaining the learning. I am not doing anyone a huge favor. They have given me this opportunity to serve them. That is my learning.

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