Hi, my name is Venkatesh Rao (Venkat). I am a writer and consultant based in Los Angeles. My writing can be found on my blog Ribbonfarm, which I've been writing since 2007, as well as the Ribbonfarm Studio newsletter. Several curated collections of my online writing are available as Kindle ebooks. I have also written a book on timing and decision-making Tempo (2011), and am working on another one, The Clockless Clock, which I am serializing in my newsletter.
The bulk of my practice comprises 1:1 work with senior executives as a conversational sparring partner, to stress test and improve the rigor and quality of their ongoing thinking about their evolving challenges. Karl Weick's short paper What Theory is Not, Theorizing Is is a good description of the natural process I try to build upon.
Products of the theorizing process seldom emerge as full-blown theories, which means that most of what passes for theory in organizational studies consists of approximations. Although these approximations vary in their generality, few of them take the form of strong theory, and most of them can be read as texts created "in lieu of" strong theories. These substitutes for theory may result from lazy theorizing in which people try to graft theory onto stark sets of data. But they may also represent interim struggles in which people intentionally inch towards stronger theories. The products of laziness and intense struggles may look the same and consist of references, data, lists, diagrams, and hypotheses. To label these five as "not theory" makes sense if the problem is laziness and incompetence. But ruling out those same five may slow inquiry if the problem is theoretical development still in its early stages.
The working arrangement is usually just ongoing email/slack interactions, with 1:1 video-conference sparring sessions of 1-3 hours every 4-6 weeks (more or less often depending on the pace of developments). Occasionally a client will rope in a colleague or direct report to help drill down into a particular issue. There is usually no output product as such, beyond the summary email notes I send after every call.
Occasionally, I take on projects such as building system models, or preparing and delivering private workshops on specific topics at the request of clients.
My consulting models is best-suited for executives in medium-to-large organizations, and requires interactions over at least a year to yield results. Occasionally, I work with individuals, leaders at smaller companies and startups.
Clients usually find me directly through something I've written, rather than through a referral. The links below are to some of my more business-themed blog posts, but it is often a non-businsess post that triggers a great sparring relationship.Top
I develop and deliver customized talks and interactive workshops on specific topics at the request of clients, either as part of ongoing consulting engagements, or as one-off things. Topics I have covered in recent years include software eating the world (now available as a self-paced recorded workshop), OODA-loop thinking, and energy transitions.Selected public talks (video links if available):
Venkatesh Rao is a writer and consultant. He writes the Ribbonfarm blog, and is the author of Tempo, a book on decision-making. He holds a PhD in Aerospace Engineering (2003) from the University of Michigan. He is currently based in Los Angeles.Top