Learn and Lead

About continual learning and leadership

Can Acrimony Lead to Higher Performance?

If you have been following the Delhi state's political situation, you would know that the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his party are constantly at logger heads with the political powers at the Center. Given the nature of how the capital state is governed, not everything is under the Chief Minister's hierarchical control. It's a bit like matrix structures in large organization. There have been many public spats between the Delhi Chief Minister and the Police Department (which is under Central rule). There is a widespread acrimony between the two. There is a constant one-upmanship going on between the two, with each trying to do better than the other. Even though each is trying to show other as inferior (and corrupt, and inefficient), they are doing this by improving their game better than the other. In the process, both are providing better service to the public at large. This is different from the situation where opposition party trying to pull down the ruling party in parliament, wherein the strategy is primarily to point out negative things without any accountability of the opposition to deliver (whilst they are not in power).

What happens when we see similar acrimony at workplace? I observed that each person tries to prove themselves in their role. There is constant push to do better than the other person. Email responses are faster and there is a clamouring to provide better customer service.

Is it possible that acrimony in team can lead to higher performance?

Of course the side effects of acrimony is low trust amongst team, fewer ideas generated in open discussions, fewer open discussions, and in general, not a fun environment to work in. Unless the people are stuck in the jobs (like the Chief Minister and the Police Dept), there is a good chance that people in the team will just give it up and leave the organization.

Diverging Convergence

There is a divergence of devices. We are no longer limited to the desktop or a laptop. Mobile devices have overtaken the desktop and laptops. These mobile devices may be tablets or phones. Wearable devices is no longer a thing of the future. We have devices that control refrigerators, air conditioners and a host of other appliances. We have devices controlling our television and even our automobiles. The devices are everywhere. The Internet of Things is here.

And yet, we want the same information on all devices. Whether we are using laptop, or tablet or phone, we want the same information available in each device, be it email or bookmarks. We install apps on our mobile using our laptops. We want continuity in what we watch on a laptop or mobile and what we watch on the television. We want to control our appliances using our phones. We want to alerts about our automobiles on our tablets and laptops. We want the same information irrespective of the device we are using.

The devices are diverging. The information is converging.

My Top 10 Photo Editing Mobile Apps for 2014

I have been trying my hand at photography for a few years now. I started with a point and shoot camera before moving to a DSLR. The most interesting advice I read about photography was that the best camera is the one you have when you need it. Now I use the mobile phone more than any other camera. DSLR is too bulky to carry around all the time and gets used only on special occasions. I bought my phone based on the camera it has. The camera was one of the most critical criteria in my selecting the phone.

The mobile phones these days come with features that make the phone camera so powerful. You can easily focus on the area you want, set ISO, exposure and in some cases even set aperture and shutter speeds. Combine this with powerful and yet simple to use mobile apps, you can get some pretty amazing pictures using your mobile phone.

So here are my Top 10 Camera and Photo Editing Mobile Apps:

1. Pixlr : In my view the most comprehensive photo editing app on the mobile. It’s got the most editing features and add-ons like filters, borders, stickers etc.

2. HTC Gallery : The default HTC Gallery app comes with a basic photo editor that I end up using most often. It does the job well for basic cropping and image adjustments. It has limited set of borders and filters but is very handy for quick edits.

3. Photo Grid : This is the best collage app that I have found. Really easy to use. It has a large number of templates for grid collages, and it also allows you to create free form collages. You can edit each picture individually. It also has a decent set of other collage templates with stickers.

4. Color Splash : If you are looking at editing and replacing colors of your photographs, this is the app for you. You can convert your photo into a black and white image and then paint using the original color or ‘paint’ the image black and white. Creating black and white images with color splash is a breeze in this one.

5. Giant Square : If you are on Instagram, you have to try this at least once. Giant Square creates big pictures for your Instagram thumbnail view. You can take one picture and create different sizes of thumbnails, from 3x3 to horizontal or vertical aligned thumbnails that make up a big picture.

6. Instagram : While this is primarily an image sharing app, it comes with an inbuilt editor and a host of filters. I have used Instagram for editing and applying certain filters.

7. Aviary : A nifty app that does the basic editing as well as provides a host of stickers to pep up your photographs. Unfortunately only the basic stickers are free and you need to buy other cool stickers and add-ons.

8. Frontback : I discovered this app by chance. You can take one photo with the front camera and another with the back camera, and combine both of them into one picture. It’s a great way to click a selfie and show what you are seeing in one picture.

9. Lapse It : Here’s a great app for capturing amazing time-lapse and stop motion videos with your Android camera. With the paid premium version, you can add sound track to your timelapse videos and use many other features.

10. Snapseed : I have started using this app recently and am beginning to like it. While it has the basic editing features and filters, the app allows you to adjust settings even in different filter applications.

I have tried these apps on Android. It is most likely that the iPhone and Windows versions of these apps also exist. Please check the respective OS app store for the version you are looking for.

I must say that despite using these apps I haven’t been able to create images like the ones these apps show on their site. Photography is not always about the app or the camera, it is about having an eye for the picture.

All photos/videos are mine and clicked using a mobile camera. You can view more pics here.

My Top 10 Productivity Mobile Apps for 2014

Continuing my post of My Top 10 Mobile Apps for 2014, I share my top 10 productivity enhancing mobile apps. In the last year, I found myself using the smartphone mobile more and more, not requiring me to use my laptop many a times. These apps allowed me to access my data anywhere and allowed me to be ubiquitous online.

My Top 10 Productivity Mobile Apps:
  1. Calendar: While there are many Calendar apps available, I settled for native HTC Calendar app as my preferred app. The native app allow me to sync multiple accounts. I synced Microsoft Exchange for my office calendar. You can additionally sync Google, Outlook.com and Yahoo for your personal calendars. I found useful the ability to search for location on Google Maps directly from the calendar invites if the location was entered in the meeting invites. It is also extremely easy to dial conference call numbers by simply clicking on the numbers within the invite text. The HTC native app shows me the invite text while making the call so I don’t have to remember the call dial-in codes while making the call.
  2. Email (Mail, Gmail, Outlook): When on the move, you need access to email. Technically you could use one email client for all your work and personal email accounts. However I prefer to use different email clients for different email accounts. For my office Exchange account I use native Mail app. There is an email client for most services so you can use the ones you prefer. Interestingly as I write this post, I notice that there is a pre-release version of OWA for Android, which I believe will allow for better integration with Exchange and Office 365. Currently the ratings and reviews aren’t flattering but the app looks like a promising one to improve productivity.
  3. OneNote: I use OneNote for taking notes. I can create different notebooks and within that organize my notes in sections, sub-sections and pages. If you aren't already using a software to organize your notes, I would highly recommend OneNote. You can sync your notebooks with your Outlook.com account and then access them on your phone using the OneNote app. You could also try Evernote which is also a popular app, though I haven't used it much since we use OneNote at work. 
  4. Google Keep: While OneNote is a full featured notes organizer, I just love Google Keep for its simplicity. Keep is a much lighter note taking app. This too can be synced on multiple devices so you have your data available on all devices whenever you need it. A very handy app for quick note taking.
  5. Task: I tried a few To Do apps but finally settled for native HTC Tasks app. I can sync multiple accounts and have my tasks with me all the time. the app has the usual end dates, reminders etc. If you sync to your office Exchange server, just remember to save your tasks on the server and not in the local PST while using your laptop.
  6. Online drives (Microsoft OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox): I am a late user of online drives that have been around for a while now. If you need to access your files wherever you go and on whichever device you use, you gotta use one of the online drives to store your files. Based on your preference, you can use Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox. All three have their laptop interfaces and mobile apps that allow you to sync and access files from any device. I use OneDrive since it works better with Office365.
  7. Editing files (Microsoft Office Mobile, Polaris Office): While I don’t edit or create documents too often on my phone, but on the few occasion that I needed to, I was really thankful that I could actually edit document, spreadsheets and presentations on my phone. I started using Polaris Office for editing documents since this came pre-installed with my phone. It is a simple to use app and does the work just fine. I have since also discovered Microsoft Office Mobile that I prefer to use because of its better integration with OneDrive and Dropbox. If I need to edit documents on my online drives, it is easier to use Microsoft Office Mobile. If you are using Google Drive, you can always use Google Docs.
  8. Gesture typing / Trace keyboard: Not really an app but a feature on Android phones is Gesture typing (on most Android phones), or Trace Keyboard (on HTC). This allows you to type by simply tracing your fingers over the keyboard letters without lifting your finger. This is a great feature to start typing faster and I would recommend you get used to this feature. It is easier to use this feature if you are comfortable with the QWERTY keyboard layout. I am not sure if the iPhone has this built in feature, but I discovered Swype app on iTunes that allows you to type without lifting your finger.
  9. Conference Caller: If you are on conference call bridges a lot, then you need to give Conference Caller a try. Conference Caller works like a general phone book for your conference call meeting details. Each phone book item consists of name, conference code and (optional) pin. I stored details of my various conference call bridge numbers in the app. It makes dialing in to a conference call bridge a one touch affair since the app dials your conference ID and pin numbers after dialing your conference call bridge number. You may need to experiment with settings for your conference call service but once you manage to do that, this makes getting on to a conference call so much easier.
  10. Pocket: Online bookmarking has been around for a while now, even though it no longer seems to be very popular now. However I found Pocket really handy. While browsing online either on the laptop or the phone, I can send/share any link to Pocket. The app has a neat interface to access my saved links. You can tag your saved links for better retrieval.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employers and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of my employers.

Creative Commons License This work by Manish Mohan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 India License.