Category: Young Minds

Are You Certain? Or do You Think?

Are you certain? Or do you think?

We live in times that are almost entirely about confidence. The underlying stuff is often of little importance. A bold claim has great impact. The ability to pause to consider two equally strong but opposing possibilities, not as much.

Maybe that is also why many of our management schools are ok with accepting students with little or no work experience. And then, they even invest in image consultants and sessions on how to speak at interviews. Their greater goal of course, is a close to 100% placement rate.

How else could they justify the fees they charge? Not like they are conducting any path-breaking research. Or boast of a substantial corpus with which they encourage homegrown startups. And yet, products of these institutions are just overflowing with confidence. Even when they are very wrong, or filled with weak assumptions. Nothing wrong with being wrong. A lot is wrong with having a shut mind.

And these are just students. Our industries are filled with individuals who consider themselves virtually infallible. The venture capital sector for instance, has an almost fixed success metric. 30-40% of investments usually fail. Another 30-40% of them only return the original investment or small profits. And only about 10-20% of them do exceptionally well. So, despite such high failure rates, it is uncommon to hear a venture capitalist ever speak of their failures. Even with the objective of educating the masses or aspiring entrepreneurs. Which is why, when an Alok Mittal speaks of a failed investment, it is almost an exception to the norm.

A tweet by Kunal Shah seemed to capture the trend of the times we live in. He said, ‘People don’t follow those who seem to be right or wrong. People follow those who seem to be sure what they are talking about.’

Amusingly, another tweet on the Nobel Prize account about Charles Darwin, the English naturalist, geologist and biologist, gave some hope. Darwin is renowned for his untiring work on evolution and natural selection.

When Darwin started taking notes in his “B” notebook, above his first evolutionary tree he wrote, “I think”. In an age where doubt, deliberation or questioning one’s own views are considered to be weaknesses, it was refreshing to see this. It serves as a reminder of what British philosopher and Nobel Laureate Bertrand Russell said. That ‘the whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.’

Darwin’s notes …. image source: link

Somebody once said, ‘arrogance and ignorance are a deadly combination.’ When caught between confidence filled with doubt, and just doubt, err on the side of doubt. It’ll prove beneficial in the long term.

So, are you always certain? Or do you often think?

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Do Some of the Pillars of Democracy need a Shake-Up?

Democracy has rested on four pillars. The legislature, executive, the judiciary, and arguably the most important, the press. All the pillars need improvement, some far more than others. The world press, for instance, has really become dirty. When in reality, it should be a transparent communication channel between the citizen, the country, and the world.

In an increasingly connected globe, traditional media surprisingly continues to wield disproportionately high power. And it has been responsible for numerous crimes, the world over. From keeping entire populations in the dark, to convincing them about who the good guys and bad guys are. By encouraging unsolicited violence on other countries. Press has made large sections of otherwise peace-loving populations completely convinced of the need for war. Not always because any country was under attack. But because politicians and industry stood to benefit from tricking citizens and getting them onboard. And with business people and politicians ever interested in wielding influence over large media houses, it makes one wonder how we are allowing ourselves to be subjected to lies.

The Indian press too, continues to scale new depths by doctoring news or hiding it altogether, to favor various political parties.

Anyway, interestingly, the Congress, among the bigger corrupt parties, recently figured a simple way to fix the distorted media problem. After taking a lot of bashing by two leading TV news channels for some time, the party recently banned the channels from their press conferences. How much is a TV news channel worth if it doesn’t have access to a certain section of national news? Not as much as it had before, right?

Mahendra Palsule highlighted in a good post, about the fifth pillar in a democracy, the (silent) citizen.

Think about it. Let’s assume these two channels got a reality-check after this banning. Imagine then what we the people can, and must do, to get the press functioning the way it is meant to, not the underhand way it is paid to. The day the masses stop consuming lies served to us by these media, we will have withdrawn the right we gave them, and which they continue to abuse.

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The Earning of Trust

The Earning of Trust.

I recently subscribed to NewsLaundry. It is a very young but self-proclaimed “media critique, news and current affairs portal”. It claims to operate on the obvious but often forgotten premise that news should be for the masses. And not for advertisers, or to distort reality for the masses.

Current times are seeing increasingly low times for the media and the news. Between fake and distorted news, influencing an action in the masses has been reduced to an equation. And those who can just manage to see beyond the superficial intentions, can see a much greater rot.

Having worked extensively in the small & medium business and startup space for over a decade, it got me thinking of the growth of a startup, which in many ways, is directly comparable to the growth of an individual. Words and deeds, and the way people treat others, etc., all add or subtract from their reputation.

In the business world, I have seen some truly promising startups struggle. And in some cases, the only holding them back, the limited reputation due to their recency in the game. On the other end of the spectrum are large companies. Already having established reputation, benefits they enjoy are often disproportionately higher than their incremental capabilities and passion. All thanks to reputation. To summarize that, the life of a business starts with abilities and energy that often far exceeds the reputation it commands; till, over time, it gets to a stage where it has the reputation it needs, but then must ideally invest into ability and energy to maintain it. Something often forgotten.

In an ideal scenario, it should have been the veterans of media setting examples for every starry eyed journalist passing out of college, on what media truly stands for in a domestic and a global setting. In reality, however, many of them have reduced themselves to being corporate or political (or both) mouthpieces. Essentially having sold their souls to ‘influence the masses for power and profits’ kind of devils.

Which paves the way for the startups to step in and do what the stalwarts should have. Clean up the mess. Many years ago, when I started my design strategy consulting practice, I had written a few lines about the importance of these startups and young companies. Sharing the same here:

“Time and change are formidable resistances for even large, global companies. Imagine then, their effect on Start-ups and Small & Medium Businesses.

The world however, needs more enterprising young companies, to lead global innovation, to keep larger businesses on their toes, and to maintain a good pace in innovation and technological advances for the benefit of mankind. In fact, most often, it is these young, innovative companies that are also closest in touch with present and future needs of consumers, understanding and responding rapidly to global and local problems with innovative and logical solutions.”

By the looks of it, seems like the young will also have to be the ethical torchbearers of the industry. The journey will be challenging and mostly uphill. And the possible reward? Future generations of truly free and ethical minds seems like a worthy enough goal to make this seemingly impossible pursuit meaningful. Wishing NewsLaundry the best on its journey to keep news unadulterated!

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Choose Your Mistakes

Choose your mistakes.

Life has made a lot of things extremely easy to start. Even the seemingly most impossible of tasks. The knowledge and resources available to us increase our confidence multi-fold, and daunting initiatives don’t look so big anymore. So yes, starting anything is damn easy. What’s the tough part? The toughest bit of it all, is to continue. But sure you already knew that, right?

There will come many an instance in your life, where a group of suddenly charged and enthusiastic people including you, will come together and set upon a journey, a bold initiative to do something life-changing, to create something unique and far-reaching. And shortly after starting, you will realize the uphill climb seems inversely proportional to the enthusiasm you all started out with.

Whenever such an idea or plan is in the offing, before you start, sit back, and make sure to factor in the decrease in enthusiasm going forth, and the increase in the slope; then build that into your plan. If things still look doable, jump right in. Else, shelving it right then will save you a ton of time, effort and money too.

Of course, this isn’t to discourage any budding initiatives before they have begun. Sure learning from others mistakes comes highly recommended by the oldies. And nothing like forgetting all warnings and making a bunch of them yourself. After all, the best of things around us, initially started out with completely different ideas, intentions and purposes in mind. And there is a lot of learning that also comes from starting, even if they end in failure. But given the limited time we are all given, while failing often and fast is recommended, it is also never too foolish to choose possible future mistakes wisely, and well before you’ve made them.

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B-schools, MBA grads & Their Priorities

Many b-schools in India are tilting less toward business, management, and ethics; more toward finishing skills. With a strong (and often desperate) focus on placements, they go an extra mile to add superficiality to students. From a scary importance on cracking interviews, having a cocky attitude, and the ability to fib-on-the-fly.

Unknowingly, they’re doing the students a great disservice. Students who enroll with little or no work experience are about as clueless as many of us were back in the day. But the overconfidence is only creates more problems for them.

It’d help to keep things a little more real, more on-the-ground. What institutes often churn out, are individuals who can talk their way through interviews, before they run out of steam. Some might blame that as regular millennial disposition, but I refuse to buy that. I’ve met exceptional millennials. People I’ve learnt a lot from, enjoyed having meaningful discussions with, and who are really pushing themselves to the maximum.

But the problem with many b-schools, is the pressure to fill batches by leveraging past stellar placements. And that goal drives their actions and priorities. Students on the other hand, are strongly influenced by these actions. If you have negligible prior work experience, the institute is your biggest windows into corporate life and its workings. Institutes’ concern ends the moment a student has cracked a job interview. So that’s where their efforts are channeled toward.

I received an email yesterday from an MBA with less than a year of total experience. It attempted a ‘shock-and-awe’ structure. Starting with something wrong about some aspect of your business/website, etc., before seeking a suitable role, which wasn’t even related to the ‘issue’ pointed out. And I’ve interacted with a fair share of them, when conducting workshops or giving talks, with MBA interns, and friends.

It takes some years of working the ropes to even attempt to sound cocky on emails or in person. And it has to be backed by solid stuff. This email turned out to have been by the candidate themselves, and not influenced by their b-school. But there are a lot of placement coordinators and college staff, filling impressionable minds with little tricks that work in the corporate world. Institutes need to be responsible for moulding their management students to be more receptive, and a little grounded. Not attempting to pull off such gigs with strangers on email with the expectation of landing a job, or even an interview.

If you want your business critically reviewed/reassessed, and love your business enough to be open to suggestions, I’ll be here.

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Feedback from a friend about a post

I just received probably the best feedback yet, regarding a post on my blog,  ‘Death and The Maiden‘, from Jimmy, a good friend of mine.

Now Jimmy’s the youngest friend I have. At over 65 years of age, he’s actually more fun to hang out with than some people my age. His sense of humour would make the rest of us look grumpy. And that’s when some of his dirty jokes aren’t leaving people red in the face with embarrassment.

Anyway, he is excellent at writing, and even better at poetry, and he was kind enough to email me this.

Here’s what he wrote..

Dear Shrutin

Read your article on the analysis of suicide – well analysed and considerable inputs

Perhaps sometimes it is not as simple as it appears. How often does one comment He/she had everything going then why

Another factor which is of great importance in keeping the balance tilted to the right is the “guardian angel ” This is extremely important and I say this from personal experiences I have been extremely  fortunate in this regard

There is a lot going for you and your writings are extremely profound. A thinker in the making. It is not important if someone likes it or not but if it sets even one person thinking it is good.  Keep at it my friend

Jimmy

Thanks a lot buddy.! Truly inspired and humbled by it.

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