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Method in the Madness

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Parameswaran Iyer, former Secretary to the Government of India, is best known for leading the imp... Read More

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Parameswaran Iyer, former Secretary to the Government of India, is best known for leading the implementation of the Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi's flagship programme, which became the world's largest sanitation revolution.

But Iyer is not your typical bureaucrat. With a far-from-usual career combining two distinguished tenures in the government and an eventful stint outside it, he likes to describe himself as an uncommon 'Insider-Outsider-Insider'.

In Method in the Madness, he reflects on the unique path he chose - from cracking the IAS to becoming a globe-trotting World Bank technocrat, to playing the role of a coach to his professional tennis-playing children, to finally returning to India and implementing the SBM.

Written with humour and wisdom, this is an inspiring read full of key management insights, practical career advice, and valuable life lessons that will resonate with readers across age groups and professions.

‰Û÷Param has worn more professional hats through his forty-year-long career than anyone I can think of! Method in the Madness captures his fascinating journey and leaves the reader with simple yet powerful insights on how to approach life and work with a can-do attitude. These are lessons in management that one can‰۪t learn at business school. A must-read!‰۪
‰ÛÓNandan Nilekani, Chairman and Co-Founder of Infosys and Founding Chairman of UIDAI (Aadhaar)

‰Û÷Parameswaran Iyer‰۪s Method in the Madness is the riveting story of a can-do IAS officer with a front-row seat to history. He fought illegal miners, saved Sikh families in 1984, worked with the Defence Minister during the Bofors years, caught man-eating tigers and went on to become a travelling evangelist for toilet use, implementing the world‰۪s largest behaviour change programme. Iyer also peppers the book with pro-tips, and advocates a system that offers young IAS officers an area of specialization for their work.‰۪
‰ÛÓShekhar Gupta, Founder and Editor-in-chief, The Print

‰Û÷In the management literature on decisions we have conventionally focused on description-based decisions where risky prospects involving the chance of possible outcomes are described such as in drug package inserts and mutual fund brochures. In much of life, unfortunately, we have to face decisions where we do not have explicit descriptions of possible outcomes such as of an accident on crossing a busy street or achieving desirable outcomes on taking up a job and such experience-based decisions are not adequately studied in management literature. This book tells us that in experience-based decisions low-probability events are given low weight ‰ÛÒ such as the chance of making it through the civil services or of an injury impeding a promising sports career or making India open-defecation free ‰ÛÒ and that provides insights about choices that we all would gain from since formal education or training would never expose us to such frames of mind by which to steer through life.‰۪
‰ÛÓProf. Errol D‰۪Souza, Director, IIM Ahmedabad

‰Û÷Method in the Madness is a rattling good read, full of twists and turns, setbacks and triumphs, peppered with pro-tips for life and work. Param‰۪s unconventional approach to disruption at the workplace is exactly what is needed to make a success of large-scale transformative projects.‰۪
‰ÛÓDr Valerie Curtis, Professor, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

‰Û÷Method in the Madness is as unique a book as has been the career of Param Iyer. Written with humour and wisdom, this professional memoir gives rare insight into what it takes to succeed, regardless of where one is in their career. From cracking the IAS to leaving it to being the frontman of India‰۪s sanitation revolution, Param has been the CEO of his career and, in this valuable chronicle, he is redefining the rules of business and what it truly means to be a civil servant.‰۪
‰ÛÓAmitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog

‰Û÷Successful bureaucrats aren‰۪t supposed to be ‰ÛÏInsider-Outsiders‰۝. Yet Param Iyer offers an absorbing account of his own such personal journey ‰ÛÒ traversing the IAS and the World Bank, being
a full-time parent‰ÛÒtennis coach, and finally spearheading the implementation of the Swachh Bharat programme. In doing so he offers real-life, from-the-heart management lessons that you won‰۪t find in a business school curriculum.‰۪
‰ÛÓBharat Anand, Henry R. Byers Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School, and author of The Content Trap

‰Û÷Param Iyer will always be associated with India‰۪s most audacious public health venture, the Swachh Bharat Mission. His account of the country‰۪s sanitation transformation and its impact on age-old beliefs and habits is an outstanding window into the world of governance and management ‰ÛÒ and a blueprint for creating a social revolution. An inspirational and impactful story.‰۪
‰ÛÓMark Suzman, CEO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

‰Û÷It is not often that you come across a book that makes you laugh, think and learn, all at the same time. Param Iyer‰۪s Method in the Madness is one such rare book. He takes the reader on a journey spanning decades and continents. The anecdotes from his life range from the hilarious to the sombre to the exciting, with never a dull moment. Young readers would do well to take notes as he generously shares his unique professional trajectory and vital career lessons. A fun yet educational read, packed full with pro-tips and insights, this book is a must-read for those who believe that working together can achieve social progress.‰۪
‰ÛÓNaina Lal Kidwai, Founder Chair, India Sanitation Coalition; Chair, FICCI Water Mission, and past president, FICCI

‰Û÷Param‰۪s unconventional career makes for fascinating reading, particularly his mid-career break to become a coach to a professional tennis player, his daughter, Tara, who was one of India‰۪s top tennis players. His is a great example of how learnings from sport can be successfully applied to any man‰ÛÒmanagement setting. Very insightful.‰۪
‰ÛÓVijay Amritraj, former tennis player and sports commentator

‰Û÷Param Iyer combines the art of simple storytelling with a set of practical management insights for all readers, from business school students to young, or even more seasoned, professionals. The book is a peek into an extraordinary life, combining a career in public service with raising a sports-mad family, as Param moves from small-town Uttar Pradesh to Washington DC, Egypt, Lebanon, Hanoi and back to India. His sense of purpose and the unique experiences he gained transforming India‰۪s sanitation landscape provide the backdrop to his ‰ÛÏpro-tips‰۝, simple lessons that contribute to getting an impossible job done. Throughout, Param‰۪s humour and optimism shine through, and are amongst the most important lessons to take away from this engaging book.‰۪
‰ÛÓAnu Madgavkar, Partner, McKinsey Global Institute

‰Û÷Parameswaran Iyer has had an inspiring, amazing life, and the Swachh Bharat Mission, which he implemented, has achieved an extraordinary amount in terms of health, safety, and even gender equality. It is a superb and practical example of the ‰ÛÏnudge approach‰۝ at scale. For managers everywhere, this brilliant, astonishing book is must reading.‰۪
‰ÛÓCass R. Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard University, and co-author, Nudge

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