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Chip wars

How checks and balances help

The thinker’s mind

December 5, 2022

Ask for help

Over the weekend, we published D Shivakumar’s recommendations of the top 10 books on business and leadership published this year. He is Group Executive President, Corporate Strategy & Business Development at Aditya Birla Group and we know of him as a voracious reader. (We have a Twitter Spaces conversation with Shivakumar on December 8 at 7 pm. Do set a reminder.) 


One book that makes it to his list is The Earned Life by Marshall Goldsmith that we had particularly enjoyed. There is much to soak in on its pages. Why don’t you ask for help enough, for instance, is a question Goldsmith tackles head on. 


“You would not hesitate to call a doctor if you were in extreme physical pain, or a plumber if your kitchen sink was clogged, or a lawyer if you were in legal trouble. You know how to ask for help. And yet there are moments in each day when asking for help is clearly the better choice and you decline to do so. Beware two situations in particular. 


“The first is when you are ashamed to seek help because doing so will expose your ignorance or incompetence. The teaching professional at a golf club once told me that fewer than 20 percent of the three hundred members at her club had ever taken a lesson from her. They were too embarrassed by their faulty swing to let her help them. ‘I pay my bills giving lessons to the thirty or forty best golfers at the club,’ she said. ‘They only want to shoot better scores. They don’t care how they got there or who helped them. Their scorecard doesn’t care either.’ 


“The second situation begins when you tell yourself, ‘I should be able to do this on my own.’ You fall into this trap when the task you’re facing is adjacent to knowledge or a skill you think you already possess. You’re driving through a familiar neighbourhood, so you should be able to reach your destination with no need for directions from your phone’s GPS. You’ve given speeches before, so you don’t need a friend’s helping ear to fine-tune a wedding toast or your most important sales presentation of the year. 


“I do not have this problem anymore, which is why ‘Did I do my best to ask for help?’ is no longer on my list of basic Daily Questions. I declared victory in this battle many years ago, when I asked myself what task or challenge in my life could be more profitably and efficiently dealt with alone rather than with solicited help from other people—and couldn’t come up with an answer. You should too.”


Allow that to sink in. And have a good day!

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FF Exclusive: Chip wars

One of the most compelling battles of our times is the Sino-US standoff on technology. Clearly, the Americans are worried about how China’s tech capabilities are growing and some weeks ago, the Biden administration announced a sweeping set of controls that cuts China’s access to semiconductors. How do we decode this? What are the Americans thinking? How might China react? What implications will this have on business? Where does India stand? To explore these questions, our co-founder Indrajit Gupta engaged in a conversation with G Venkat Raman, sinologist and professor at IIM Indore. There was much he had to say on all of this.


“Given the national security implications, the central government needs to cobble coalitions within the country and develop public private partnerships with advanced educational institutions and private companies that have high tech prowess. These partnerships will bring new sources of funding for R&D and also more public discourse and awareness.” 


You won’t want to miss this podcast!


How checks and balances help

In Harvard Business Review, Dr. Noam Wasserman, dean, Sy Syms School of Business at Yeshiva University, argues that checks and balances such as having a strong and independent board, financial audits and regulations, are key to avoiding fiascos such as the recent FTX case. 


He writes that the lack of oversight in the FTX case, “was seemingly so extreme that it makes Zuckerberg’s iron grip on Facebook look like a democracy.” 


There were a number of red flags that VCs and others ignored. He writes: “At least Facebook (now Meta) has a board of directors and audited financials. FTX resisted creating an official board of directors until January, the VCs who invested in FTX did not get board seats—and its financials were an epic mess. Top executives included several of the founder’s college friends. And it was headquartered in the Bahamas, reportedly because of its lighter regulatory touch.”


Some founders might resist checks and balances because it could stifle them, and therefore the innovation that they bring to the table. However, Wasserman says they help founders themselves, employees and the society at large. 


He writes: “Founders benefit from checks and balances because they increase the value of the company, as my former Harvard Business School collaborator, venture capitalist Jeffrey Bussgang, explained for HBR last week. It makes the company more trustworthy, easier to finance, and less likely to implode. 

“For those same reasons, checks and balances help employees. It raises the value of their equity and lessens the risk of an in-over-their-head founder messing up their careers. And as we have seen from FTX, checks and balances help society at large by preventing frauds and bank runs.”

The thinker’s mind

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