Friday, December 25, 2015

Timeless problems

After a late night Christmas party and the usual early morning presents by the tree, this Christmas was slightly different.

My wife’s cousin, who just came to US a couple of days ago, is with us for the weekend before heading to Florida on Sunday for his Masters in Aeronautics. I happened to notice his book on “Flight Stability and Automatic Control” and was drawn to the calculus - derivatives and integration used in the text book. And, it soon lead to reminiscing about some math problems.

I am usually intrigued by Math problems that younger students ask as it allows me an opportunity to indulge in a common language despite the age difference! He posed the following.
  1. Is it possible for velocity of an object to be 0 and acceleration to be non-zero ?
  2. What is larger - x or 1/x ?
  3. A vehicle moves 1Km at 30 Kmph from A to B. What velocity would it have to move from B to C (another 1km distance) so the average velocity from A to C is 60 Kmph ?
  4. What is the derivative of Sqrt(2+sqrt(2+sqrt(2+sqrt(2+..…  infinite series
  5. And then, once he assessed me with that, he got on to the real one.. derivative of Sqrt(x+sqrt(x+sqrt(x+sqrt(x+..… infinite series

I don’t consider myself a math whiz, but take pride in my interest in basic math and like solving problems like these from time to time. After answering all of them, I must have gained the right to ask and it was my turn.

I am not particularly good at recalling problems from my memory, with the exception of this one below. That was because I created this problem myself, as I was learning Integration around 12th grade – almost a quarter century ago!

I asked him - which of the following, if any,  is/are integrable ? And, if they are, solve them.
  1. 1/(1+x^4)
  2. x/(1+x^4)
  3. x^2/(1+x^4)
  4. x^3/(1+x^4)
  5. x^4/(1+x^4)
  6. x^5/(1+x^4)

As soon as I said that, my 7 year old daughter who is still struggling in getting her 2 digit additions right – accidentally blurted out the correct answer – “All of them”. She probably figured the pattern in how I quiz her already J. I told her she was the first one who ever answered that question correctly. (and definitely the one to answer without even solving them !)

And, after a good discussion in solving all of them with the 21 year old student, he told me – “You created this problem even before I was born”. That was a profound observation. And, one of the reasons why I love Math problems – the timeless nature of the problems and more importantly – their solutions. Strangely, the solutions provide a sense of stability in this day and age where everything changes at a frantic pace. I cannot say how many other solutions remain the same over such a long period of time!

I look forward to asking the same question in about a decade when my daughter learns calculus. I am sure I will remind her she got it right her first time :)

After writing this article, I prod her – “how did she answer it correctly when I asked her about the “integrable” question?. She says - All of those are “Incredible” – the word she heard !  Math problems and solutions are incredible indeed– with their unvarying answers in this ever-changing world!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Don't get SMACked like "The Martian" !

In the movie – The Martian, Matt Damon gets “smacked” by flying debris from an intense storm leaving him stranded on the planet. After watching the movie (a very good one BTW), my daughter and I started playing the “What if” game – what would be doing if we were in his shoes. Somewhere along the way, a thought occurred – What such event could hit us in the ever-changing technological storm that we always seem to be in middle of? Thus, the seeds for this article were sown from another planet. :)
SMAC, an acronym coined by Cognizant in 2011 - seems to be the storm brewing recently. It has made its presence felt in the technologies that enterprises are working on today. It stands for Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud Computing. 
Considered the fifth wave in computing, SMAC’s solution market is expected to hold 80% of all total enterprise IT investment in the next 5 years, generating about $225 Billion of revenue for IT service firms.

This article explores trends in each of these areas and ways to train yourself and learn more about the technologies of this wave. Most, if not all, of these courses share a few common traits.
  • Available as online courses, certification programs or just DIY links.
  • Can be learnt for free or for a nominal cost.
  • Many of these take no more than a couple of hours per week – and more importantly - on one’s own schedule(of course, the time varies based on the technical depth of these courses and individual background )
Course Delivery Platforms
Many of these courses are available in three distinct environments.
  1. Enterprise Environment: Companies like IBM, Google, Hubspot, Cloudera and many others offer several learning opportunities on their websites. These lessons and certification programs are generally found in sections listed under Training/Developers/University.
  2. Academic Environment: Universities like Stanford, MIT (Open Courseware), Harvard (Extension School) and others offer courses in academic and online setting. Not all of these courses are free, especially if you require credit hours towards a degree or specialization.
  3. Hybrid Environment: Many venture-backed, for-profit Companies like Coursera, Udacity, Udemy, etc. and non-profits like edX, and Khan Academy generally fall under the category of MOOCs – Massively Open Online Courses. There are various distinctions within this category. Many of these courses are free if you just want access to content. If you need a link to certification at the end of the course (after passing the exam), most of these cost about $50 to $100 per course. If you need access to additional help like Udacity’s Coaches – it could cost about $200 per month.
Now, let’s look at how these sectors are evolving and how to be prepared in each of the SMAC categories.
Social Media
Hubspot offers a comprehensive marketing course that covers the Inbound Marketing methodology. It gives you enough breadth to cover the new age of marketing – especially in the B2B world.
  • How do you get visitors to your site and get them interested in your products?
  • How do you track, nurture, and convert those leads into prospects and customers?
  • How can Sales and Marketing work together on inter-dependent and aligned goals?
During a recent CMO Argyle event I attended, it was not uncommon to hear many B2B marketers generating at least one-third of their sales from Inbound Marketing.
If you want to get a quick overview of best practices in Search Engine Optimization, Blogging, Email Marketing, Social Media Distribution, Content Analysis, etc., this Hubspot course is for you.
As much as there seems to be an app for everything we ever want to do, the tipping point of Mobile Media time being greater than Desktop media did indeed happen for the first time in the last year- as shown in this comScore’s graph.
10 great courses to learn Mobile App Development is a great starting point to view courses in each of the three categories of course delivery platforms discussed earlier. Both Android and iOS courses are listed. All of these would require a decent amount of programming experience.
This is my favorite one. Though “islands of Microsoft Excel culture” are scattered in many parts of the enterprise, 43% of organizations are restructuring and reorganizing their organizations to exploit big data opportunities and 2/3rds of them either already have or are planning to appoint a C-Level role (ex: Chief Data Officer)– as summarized in this CapGemini and EMC study.
There is an EXCELLENT metro-map that outlines the path to get on the Analytics train. It can feel overwhelming, just like any of the metro maps in a foreign country – especially if you don’t know where you are and where you want to go.
  • If you think you are the right-brain kind of person and are generally scared of numbers, I would encourage you to start by browsing a few chapters of the book - Naked Statistics.
  • If you can calculate tip at a restaurant without pulling your calculator, comfortable with basic math, vaguely recall that PDF meant Probability Density Function (in the pre-Adobe world), and are willing to learn on your own, I would start with what you may have already done years ago - An excellent introduction to AP – Statistics Course. (I also use this while I tutor 10th grade students. The best comprehensive statistics material all in one place).
  • If you already know the difference between Descriptive and Predictive Statistics, and slowly want to get into the programming/tools side of statistics- a good place to start is with a programming language like R. Coursera’s data science specialization track is helpful – especially R Programming.
  • If you are comfortable with doing basic data analysis for yourself – either in Excel or R and want to get into more sophisticated tools and concepts, you can start indulging in Machine Learning and Data Visualization. All the MOOCs have great courses on this. Stanford’s course on Machine Learning by Andrew Ng is generally considered the rite of passage into the Machine world. Udacity also allows you to access for free their Machine Learning course, part of their Nanodegree offering.
  • When your data analysis skills start to crash your laptop(because you can no longer open large files in Excel locally), it may be time to jump into Distributed computing technologies - Map Reduce and Hadoop – also referred to as Big Data Technologies. And, here is where it could get a little hazy – on the Analytical vs. Cloud nature of these technologies. Both IBM’s Big Data University and Coursera offer several courses in these areas.
If you want to get the sexiest job of the 21st century – as deemed by Harvard Business Review, here is a terrific infographic detailing the roadmap to become a Data Scientist.
Cloud Computing
Globally, cloud apps will account for 90% of total mobile traffic in 4 years, compared to an astonishing 81% at the end of last year. 57% of IT Architects and tech professionals are running apps on AWS today, as summarized in this Forbes article.
Rackspace eases you into the terminology of Cloud with a basic/free 10-chapter CloudU Certification course elaborating the differences between public, private and hybrid cloud.
Cloud Academy offers multiple learning paths to traverse the cloud platforms from Amazon, Azure (Microsoft) and Google.
There are several paths to start the SMAC journey. We barely scratched the surface. Many of these technologies usually converge in many real-world enterprise projects. For instance: Analyzing (A) social network (S) data using Big Data technologies on the Cloud(C) combines three of these technologies.
The key is to start somewhere closer to the world you are familiar with in one of these areas, and without getting stranded, step by step, expand into others and get Home to the field of your interest.. Just like the Martian did !!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

What is Freedom?

Class Notes - Sep 20 2015

In the last class - we discussed the roadmap of the course and a multi-disciplinary outline of the various aspects - Philosophy, Science, History, Art etc.. of the Self.

In this class, we shall review one of the terms - Freedom, which would fall under the Philosophical side first - as we try to understand the theory in class. Once we understand the theory/concept behind this term(download in this class), each one of us will have to (install => Homework) in order to experience it.
Download and Install are part of the framework used in last class.

We started with a discussion of 
- what we thought Freedom meant
- how none of us are as free as we want to be
- how rules constrain our freedom

There were 17 students in the class and I did a quick survey based on three questions answered by them.
Q1) Write down any word you want to
Q2) Write down words that start with the letter "S"
Q3) Write down the maximum number of words starting with the letter "T" in under a minute.

Both Questions 1 and 2 were also answered in 1 minute (where I asked them to stop at the end of 1 minute). Prior to Question 3, the students were not aware that they took one minute to answer those two questions.
In other words, all three questions were answered in exactly one minute.

After the 3rd question was completed, I asked them to count the number of words written under each question. Each student then, reported three numbers.

After collecting the individual responses from each one of them, here is the average number of words in each case - to generalize across the entire sample of 17 students.
Q1) 5.12 words on average
Q2) 7.9 words on average
Q3) 16.1 words on average

Though they had the exact same time for each question (Q1 and Q2 unknowingly and Q3 knowingly)
- Most, if not all, of them were able to write more words in Q2 compared to Q1.
- All of them wrote more words in Q3 compared to Q2 and Q1

We talked about why that was the case. A couple of insights that they uncovered during the discussion.

- The ability to express was limited when they perceived no limitation(rules) in Q1
- Adding a constraint(rule to follow) in Q2 (starting with a particular letter) helped them to express more freely
- A time pressure added to better performance in Q3

Though, the time given for their "freedom of expression" was the same across all three questions, there are key differences amongst these questions
- Q2 had a "constraint" or a rule to follow - a starting letter
- Q3 had a "constraint" and a "goal" - finding the maximum words in a minute
- Q1 had neither a constraint nor a goal - in other words a perception of unlimited freedom.

The freedom to express was more when a constraint was followed (Q2), and the most when a goal was pursued (Q3). Though we perceive that our freedom is more without any goals and constraints, the actual freedom we experience is the most when we practice intelligent self-restraint in pursuit of our goals.

Back to Real World
1) A constraint allows us to establish that we will NOT go below whatever the lower limit we have identified for ourselves. That is the floor on which we will stand and continue to improve from there with time. In no time, shall we go below the constraint that we establish for ourselves.

A goal allows us to pursue our personal best higher and higher till we get to the ultimate goal.

2) A constraint is something that we have to STOP ourselves from doing. These are things that we are currently doing or that we have easy access to. When we tell ourselves that we will never hit below the floor we establish for ourselves, we program it in our brains. When our parents or elders ask us (provide feedback) to stop doing something, we will have to analyze for ourselves and establish those as the floors below which we won't go.

A goal is something that we have to START doing, that we are not currently capable of - in which case we have to start building the capability to reach our goal.

With time...
The following visual is just an example of how we can progress with time. In class, we discussed the lowest scale (the minus infinity) is Murder. Similarly, the highest scale (positive infinity goal) is the maximum happiness for not only ourselves, but for everyone around us.

On the constraints we will have to impose on ourselves - it may be "sleeping/eating more" for some of us, while it may be "sleeping/eating less" for others. In other words, the rules we want to follow will be different for each one of us depending on where we currently are.

As we see in the visual below, 
though it may "appear" (=> we just perceive) that we have unlimited freedom when there are no rules and goals
we will actually continue to experience increasing freedom as we start practicing intelligent self-restraint in pursuit of our goals

Define your personal goals and self-imposed constraints that you want to follow to experience maximum freedom.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

What do we study in Self-Unfoldment

Class Notes - Sep 13 2015

In the last class - we saw an introduction into the book - Self-Unfoldment.
In this class, we discussed how this book shall be used in the context of this course.

There are two things that we have with us always, if not most of the time.
  • One we are aware of - The Cell Phone.
  • The other we are unaware of - Our self fun :)
Before we jump into the topic of Self and understand what we are going to do in this course , let us look at the more familiar world of cell phones first.

What we do in the world of Cell Phones

1) Most of our beloved apps that are available on the app store are first downloaded onto our phone.
2) These apps are then installed on our phone before we try them out.
3) Once installed, we start play/interacting with it

Summarized by the picture below that we saw in class.

What we do in this Course of Self-Unfoldment

What we do in this course of self-unfoldment is not much different from the world we are familiar with.

1) We download the various topics related to Self. For instance-  Understanding the History, Science, Philosophy of self . This happens in the class when you come to learn about these various topics.
2) The act of installation- happens only when you start using these principles to work on your own self. We will get into the various practices that are part of this process - like Introspection, Reflection, Meditation, Pranayama etc..
3) Once installed, you get to use these new techniques and behaviors while interacting with the world around you. Over a period of time, these interactions will happen with the new behaviors you start to develop.

Summarized by the picture below that we saw in class.

Home Work:
We talked about the various combinations of doing and not doing these three activities and assess where we particularly are at this stage of the course. Across the three combinations of Download (Learning/Studying), Install (Practicing/experimenting on your self) and Play (Interacting with the real world), the following eight combinations serve as a guide to assess where we are and what we intend to do with this class.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Introduction to self-unfoldment

Class Notes - Aug 30 2015

What is the subject of this book: Self-Unfoldment ?
Why do we need to study another subject when we are studying so many other subjects?

What would I know when I study about the Self?
- Why am I sometimes happy, sometimes sad ?
- Why do I feel guilty after I lie?
- Does it make a difference whether I lie or not?
- Where was I before I was born?

Define Success…Discussions around
- Wealth
- Achieving the goal one sets for oneself
- Happy

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Journey of Life series

From Atlanta..

28 year old cab driver from Guinea..
Eldest of 5 siblings,
Last one in the family to come to US just 6 years ago after studying Networking in Africa,
Currently driving cab from 3 pm till night- after going to school from 7:30 am to 2,
Studying Aviation Maintenance - a 2 year program on 50K student loan,
Looking forward to work with Boeing or move to Europe/Asia if jobs are tough here.
Spotted doing homework in his cab while waiting for passengers at Dunwoody Marta.
Inspired by his drive to succeed, while he is driving around town.
Hats off to him !!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Top 12 Favorites - KPCB 2015 Internet Trends

One of the very few times where I look forward to the 100+ slide decks.. :)
The Annual Internet Trend Report from Mary Meeker (This is her 20th Annual report)  @ Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers - published yesterday.
Here are my Top 12 favorite slides from this year's.. (The complete deck has 197 slides -  )
1) Slide 8 - Impact of internet yet to hit these sectors - Education, Healthcare and Government/Regulation Policy;
2) Slide 10 – Smartphone subscription “growth rate” is slowing in most mature markets (US, Japan etc)
3) Slide 16 – We haven’t seen enough ads yet on Mobile
4) Slide 47 – Messaging still the Killer App Globally
5) Slide 85 – 400+ companies approved to operate drones in US - mostly "old economy" sectors
6) Slide 95 – Three regions with almost equal share of Global GDP - US, Europe, and China. This is adjusted for purchasing power parity.
7) Slide 97 – Gap between Goods-producing Jobs and Services jobs - continues to widen. Reminds me of the Alan Greenspan quote years ago on the "physical weight of US economy" getting lighter.
 8) Slide 109 – More Millennials than Boomers and Gen X in the workforce
9) Slide 120 – E-commerce barely at 10% of total retail sales in US .. what more is in store for the traditional retailers as this  trend continues ?
 10) Slide 126 – Freelancers are about 1/3rd of US Workforce
 11) Slide 133 – Online platforms  are becoming a reasonable source of earning income 
 12) Slide 167 – India often #1 or #2 for Global Internet leaders unlike (Korea, Japan, China - where home-grown varieties tend to flourish )

Monday, May 11, 2015

Journey of Life Series

From Miami..
Jamaican Cab driver who has been driving taxi for 35 years in Miami, hasn't visited Jamaica in last 16 years ever since his daughter was born here(His only teenage daughter turned vegetarian in last 4 years after watching animal cruelty videos)
Trying to find another field of work in the coming months..
Due to 40% customer drop in daily traffic and $150k drop in his license/medallion asset value.. in the post-Uber world
While Uber is currently illegal in Florida and he is likely to be impacted further if it becomes legal soon..
Wishes he had the foresight to sell his license a few months ago and pay off his mortgage before the $150K drop... now thinking of new career options...
And, he knew Uber was valued at $50 Billion.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Guru Problem

  • Analysis of data on Hindu Institutions shows some individuals or institutions (The Guru) are better than others - to learn from.
  • Institutions that are more focused, and have a good succession planning are better likely to survive for generations.
  • The best individuals or institutions help us in teaching the ideas of Hinduism to maximize our full potential in life. The art of putting those teachings into practice solely depends on us.

Many of us can recall the amount of time we spend researching on a particular item or a service before we commit to buying it. Just think of the time we spend - reading reviews on Amazon drifting from one product to another, comparison shopping before we buy that flight ticket for our next destination, finding the amenities available at the hotel we are staying at just for the weekend, researching the career track of the kids before considering putting our own toddler in the neighborhood day care (OK…The last one may be a stretch). Yet, when it comes to selecting an individual or an institution that can influence the most valuable possession of our lives – our brain, we tend to skim the research and trust in the Gods of probability.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to have stumbled upon the spiritual path, the journey usually starts off with a friend or a flyer describing some workshop or a session over the weekend. It may also be due to a book or a blog referred by someone we trust. After attending a couple of sessions or skimming through a few chapters, if one is convinced enough of the benefits and would like to be around other followers of similar thought– the journey is likely to continue further.

For the serendipitous- That is how it is supposed to be. For the skeptical – the question is: Is there a better way? There is nothing wrong if the journey happens to be a pleasant one ... not only in the short term, but also for years to come. But what if, the Guru (either the institution or the individual) we plan to ride with in our journey of life – takes us for a ride? 

Is there a better way?
With the number of Gurus (both institutions and individuals) making headlines for the wrong reasons, despite having thousands, if not millions of followers - have we learnt enough to avoid the treacherous path in trusting our Gurus? Every religion has had and continues to have their share of issues from sex and violence to Terrorism- AsaramBapu or Nithyananda; The Church of Scientology; The Catholic priests ; Madrasas and Buddhists - all came into light for the wrong reasons.

I strongly believe that most followers of all religions (including genuine atheists in pursuit of maximizing their potential) go through the same quest of life. However, just because every religion failed in some of their leaders or institutions, we simply cannot urge everyone to turn into atheists - In other words, you cannot throw the baby with the bath water. Every one learns differently and some need Gurus more than others. Just like we all learn a skill or a trade differently- Some of us are tinkerers in our basements while some go to technical colleges, while a few start a business and learn along the way- there is room within the so-called “organized religion” domain for us to learn from.

So, the question is - Is there a better way to find our Guru (both the individual and the institution itself) in a more structured approach? Let’s look at what the data says. If you want to jump straight to the conclusion, skipping the detailed analysis - please go to the last section - Whom to follow.

Analysis of Hindu Institutions
I am going to limit the scope of my analysis to Hinduism, a school of thought that I am reasonably familiar with. The same approach can be extended to other schools of thought and any other religion or philosophy.

Hinduism doesn’t have a founder. It has a lot of proponents who have created numerous ideas and institutions. These proponents and their institutions focus on many of the core concepts and package them differently for different audiences. In the business parlance, if these institutions were offering products, some of the key product lines can be considered as Karma Yoga, Bhakthi Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Jnana Yoga; Some treat Hatha Yoga, and Kriya Yoga also as "product-line extensions".

This is akin to open-source software philosophy – which doesn’t necessarily have a true founder. Different people came together with the concepts over a period of time. Yet – institutions like Red Hat, SUN, and Google have all "profited" from Linux, Java and Android respectively and some survived better than others.  They all have concentrated on different product lines and sectors – Operating System, Programming Languages, Enterprise Applications, Educational content (Open Courseware, Wikipedia, Khan Academy) – Yet, all of them believe in the fundamental “philosophy or values” of open source.

Is it wrong ? (Individual vs. Institution vs. Ideology)
Sometimes there is a feeling that we are not supposed to question the institutions or their founders in the religious path.  A few would even go to the extreme of describing it as blasphemy. 

Questioning or analyzing the Hindu institutions is not tantamount to questioning the religion or the ideology itself. In fact, the core values of Vedanta encourage a strong individual analytical reasoning and thus we are following the true spirit of Hinduism. 

Survival of the institutions is simply dictated by market forces and organizational dynamics - How well they are run in the short term and how well they are positioned for the long run. All of these institutions are formed with a core purpose (just like start ups), many of them fail (with in the first generation), and a few succeed (for several decades or centuries). However, most of them espouse the values of Hinduism and offer the "same products" we discussed.

And institutions themselves are founded by individuals - all of whom will have to leave this material world in about 80 years. In the first few decades of a new institution, it is hard to differentiate the individual from the institution. Those founder individuals who are able to successfully articulate this differentiation enable the institution on a successful path for future generations.

And, regardless of whom we are relying on to teach us the ideas- the individual or the institution, we would have to personally put these ideas into practice and annihilate the other "I" - the Ego . And that is the lion's share of the work - that totally depends on ourselves alone.

The Data
Looking at the religious institutions that survived over the years, is there a pattern that helps us place our bet on the right institution or the Guru? There are about 60 institutions that I started with. It gives enough sample size to start the analysis. I gathered the following attributes for these institutions.

Who started this organization? How did it get started? Is it a “spin-off” from another organization of the same or similar philosophy? Is it a “split-up” from an institution with a common founder? 

I tend to think of founders of any system/institution (religious or otherwise) as rebels from existing systems/institutions. Those rebels who end up successful with their philosophy or institution get branded as founders. Those rebels who are not successful keep fighting the battle till their ideas are either decimated or become successful(in which case they become founders). For instance, Jesus who rebelled Judaism and Buddha who rebelled Hinduism were successful founders of their respective religions. Daniel Jones, would be considered more a rebel and not a founder because his concept of Jediism did not succeed.

Practically, many successful Hindu institutions claim the lineage of Adi Sankara. Swami Narayan is another common founder across many institutions of similar philosophy. Similarly, there are a couple of institutions that associate with Swami Vivekananda / Ramakrishna Paramahamsa.

How long have they been in place? Especially in their current institutional form?

For instance, the four original Sankara Matams have been in place for centuries in their current form. Sangh Parivar, for instance is known to have created many institutes (VHP, RSS, Samskrita Bharathi, Hindu Munnani etc.) over the last century.

Succession Planning
Chinese have a saying – Wealth never survives three generations; Even in English, there is a saying attributed to Andrew Carnegie - “From shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”; If an institution survives for at least 60 to 75 years, the odds are high that it has solved the problem of "transfer of power or control" at least twice. For instance, If you are associated with institutions that have been time-tested, the chance of your relating with your grand-kids is higher on topics that emanate from these institutions. Other wise, they will be searching for their own institutions just like we are searching for institutions different from what appealed to our grand parents.

Questions to consider are: Who is the current head of the organization? Is it still being led by the founder generation? How many times have they been able to successfully transition power/leadership to the next in-charge? What is their philosophy of succession planning? Do they have a source of next -generation leaders ?

And, this is where lineage comes into question. If founders don't associate themselves with lineage (another Guru that they learnt from) - called as Guru parampara, how could we expect a successful transition of their own power/control to the next generation ? Do they intend to mean lineage starts with them? Or do they intend to run this as a single-generation organization? If so, do we still want to be associated with it?  

Having a source of next-generation leaders is likely to put some checks and balances into any institution. And, even if there is disagreement within the current institution, there is a possibility for some of them to spin-off another institution - which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Founders like Jaggi Vasudev (Isha Yoga) claim to not be associated with any lineage or teachings from within the religion. Sathya Sai Baba's organization struggles to find its place after the founder's death because there is no identified succession planning. 

Most people invoke Ramana Maharshi as an example of a realized person even without a Guru. He was one of those rare ascetics who also rejected being initiated into Sringeri Sharada Peetham - one of Adi Sankara's peetams and did not promote a lineage. There can always be some true exceptions. But, not every one is living the life of a Ramana Maharshi.

Core purpose
What is the core purpose of this organization? How many sectors/product lines - Jnana, karma, Raja yoga etc.. are they in ? Are they focused on single sector? Are they diversified into multiple sectors? (Philanthropy, Temples, Hospitals, Educational institutions etc.)? Are they growing too fast into multiple sectors?

Sathya Sai Organization is in diversified sectors. Chinmaya Mission or the Sankara Matam temples can be considered to be in fewer sectors – Jnana Yoga and Bhakthi Yoga respectively.

What is the order of magnitude for current followers of the institution? Are they in the hundreds, thousands, or millions?

Scale is a double-edged sword. Too few or too many are symptoms to watch out for. Scale is one of the dimensions for the viability of a successful idea. At the same time, one may not feel connected enough if there are too many followers- especially since Groupthink promotes network effect in these cases.

Some concepts never reach the scale though they may have been in place for a long time. Naga Sadhus (in Hinduism) and Amish (outside of Hinduism) come to mind in these cases as examples in this category. 

The Framework
The picture started to emerge after I mapped it along two dimensions.
On the horizontal axis – I used the dimension of time to represent the number of years these institutions have been in place. This data is relatively easy to obtain based on the year of their founding and what qualifies for a true institution. I used 75 years as a rough approximation to account for transfer of power/control over three generations - assuming the founder runs it for about 30 years and is able to do two transfers over the next 45 years.

On the vertical axis - There is a way to think of these institutions as having scaled or not. As mentioned earlier, scale is relative. For those that have scaled - are they in diversified sectors or are they focused in delivering their messages in a few areas? 

The 9 Regions

Region 1:
This is the group that hasn't scaled enough in the last 75 years. 

Most of us find our Gurus in extended family who pass on their wisdom, especially while we are growing up. Parents, Grand-parents, Uncles and aunts, and even siblings and friends - Their collective teachings are the foundation on which our experiences are built. Lucky are those with a solid foundation in this corner. With time, and at the appropriate time, each one of us will have to come out of this shell and experience wisdom from other institutions for wider applications of our life. Eknath Easwaran is one of those who found his Guru within the family -his grand mother as his spiritual teacher.

There are other genuine individuals whom I have heard of - Performing meditation in the Himalayas or some such place. Many of them like Tapovan Maharaj and Ramakrishna, who didn't scale by themselves, but enabled their students to scale.

It is also in this group that we are likely to hear of many individuals, who are smart enough for the common man, yet no where near a truly learned individual. Commander Selvam, who was recently put behind bars is an example from this category of people.

Since it is difficult to differentiate these individuals, unless one is on an active search for Guru oneself, it is generally better to find an institution after having learned enough from our extended family. Well run institutions have a better chance of "selecting" or "promoting" good individuals. In other words, for most of us - this is a good region to start with, that we would have to mature out of - at the appropriate time.

Regions 2 and 3:
These are institutions that have NOT been fully time tested and are in early stages. Some are first generational while a few are in second and third generation. These institutions are
- split/carved off from existing ones (AVG with Chinmaya roots, Sathya Sai off Shirdi Sai)
- started as a child institution off a parent umbrella (VHP off Sangh parivar)
-first generational founders with no lineage (Nityananda, Deepak Chopra, Isha, Asaram Bapu, Art of Living, etc.)

As the data reveals, there are not many institutions that stay diversified after the founder is gone. The only ones you see operating after 75 years are all those who constantly nurture a group of leaders.

Region 3:
Those that are diversified across multiple sectors usually have higher mass appeal and they are in Region 3. Leaders of this region, like Ram Rahim Singh of DSS - Dera Sacha Sauda have acted in movies. Either due to their innovative /unconventional techniques or due to focus in diversified sectors, this region is prone to more controversy than other regions.

I do not intend to say there is no room for founders. New ways of teaching are always good. But Innovation is different from sustainability. Data shows that many of these institutions in Region 3 wither away by the time they get to 3rd generation or die a premature death after the first generation founder passes away or get into trouble even while the first generational founder is in place.

Either way, it is important to understand the risk in relying upon first generational founders that have not yet ceded power/control at least once or have not even established a credible base/source of leaders for future generations. 

Region 2
Those that have a specific focus on a single purpose usually follow Jnana Yoga or Karma Yoga path. They are usually in Region 2. 

The really mature ones nurture a group of leaders preparing for a successful organizational transition for generations to come. Chinmaya Mission (2nd generation – 62 years) and Arsha Vidya Gurukulam (1st generation -34 years) are excellent examples of institutions in Region 2 that have a steady source of next generation leaders. 

Region 4:
Region 2 institutions that continue best practices for 75 to 150 years finally get to Region 4. These institutions were founded in the pre-independence eraIn addition to focusing on a few sectors very well, they have successfully transferred power/control for about a century. 

They have enough dedicated audience to keep them going, but are generally not as big as the diversified institutions. These institutions mainly face challenges in bridging the gap across multiple generations without losing their core purpose.

Brahma Kumaris (Sister Shivani for instance) and Ramakrishna Mission (Swami Sarvapriyananda for instance) are great examples of how they brought Vedanta into the campuses of IIT in India.

Region 5:  
These are the GEs(General Electrics) of religious institutions. Few succeed over the years staying together as a diversified business. BAPS is one example that came up in my data. Just like any institution with a diversified purpose – they cater to a wider audience. And, just like any institution is expected to have, they have had their shares of splits and mergers in the early years and have successfully overcome the initial hurdles. 

Regions 6 and 7:
Institutions that have done well for more than 150 years obviously have done a lot right. Many of these institutions are likely to appeal to those pursuing the path of Bhakthi Yoga. These are the regions that get tagged with “Organized Religion” and are likely to be perceived as more “traditional or ritualistic”.

The Matams established by Adi Sankara for instance have been in place for more than a thousand years and had a successful lineage of more than 70 leaders.  Many of these temples are the institutions that reveal the timeless nature of Hindu philosophy. And, yet - their successful scale could become a deterrent making us feel not connected enough.

Regions 8 and 9:
These institutions have lasted for more than 75 years or 150 years - despite having not scaled enough. The word that comes to mind is "cult" - but, not in a negative sense. This way of life or teaching appealed to enough people that it lasted for so long. As much as I hear about Naga Sadhus every Kumbh Mela (once in 12 years) – I would not consider them to have had any scalable effect. Please use caution in clicking on this link and this link about Naga Sadhus. It contains nudity.

None came up in my data for Region 8. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist. If they really don’t exist – it must be because the world has stopped creating fringe organizations of not too big scale in the last 100 years. If Church of Scientology survives for another 2 decades, we could see it here one day J

Whom to follow?
If your heart or gut says you have found the institution or guru to learn from, you knew all along this article was not for you. Thanks for reading thus far and I hope you found the right one and wish you the best in your spiritual journey.

If you were searching for an institution, I hope this article helps you in driving a closure in your mind, thus putting an end to wandering from one Guru or institution to another.

Twenty years from now, you wake up to the breaking news that the institution you have been following for half your life is mired in a scandal. If this is the risk you want to avoid – stay with institutions that have been there for at least 60 to 75 years with successful transition of power/control at least once or twice, and also have a group of next-generation leaders ready. These are typically in the later parts of Regions 2 and most of Region 4. Depending on the sector that interests you - Jnana or Bhakthi or Karma etc, there are many institutions available to be affiliated with. Most of these shown in the circle are dedicated to the path of Jnana Yoga.

If the institution that you follow is not listed, ask yourself the questions listed under the data section, and map your institution using the framework. This reasoning should allow you to know more of what you are really seeking.

From time to time, it is still critical to seek inspiration from the temples and institutions that have been there for centuries. It would be good to visit them from Regions 6 and 7. These are the annual pilgrimages where our parents and grand parents have taken us. In other words, listen to your Region 1 institutions too - Your family !