News, Facts and Fiction

New IITs and IIMs and the Toyota Recall

(IITs, Indian Institutes of Technology. IIMs, Indian Institutes of Management)

I am anchoring a workshop on Accelerated Learning in one of the B – schools when the reports appear in the media that Toyota   recalls of 688,314 vehicles produced in China though no injuries or accidents have been linked to the recall. The recall amounts to more than a year’s sale of vehicles.

Dream:  I am waiting in front of my B-school which I graduated from in 1981. There is a huge crowd of alumni waiting for registration. The b-school has a great reputation and has discovered that there have been some major glitches in all their graduates throughout the school’s history. The graduates have been responsible for systemic failures of grave dimensions affecting the very survival of the planet. They are waiting to register for a remedial programme. Their licences to practice have been revoked.  I wake up from the dream with the fear of losing my job to realise that I do not have a job to lose and I don’t need a license to do what I do for a living. Thank god, it is only a dream.

We share our dreams and news in the morning. We will soon have more IITs and IIMs. We are wonderful when it comes to numbers.  The Toyota quality issue is pales in comparison when we look at what the top of the pyramid does to the bottom. (It is part of our programming to think of the world in terms of pyramids, or sometimes as a flat reflecting our own inner landscapes. We perceive ourselves to be standing  on the apex of the pyramid and from where we are rest of humanity are down there). We don’t just leave it at that. More questions follow: What is Indian about the Indian Institutes of Management? Are they B-schools or M- schools? If they are catering only to business why are they called management institutes? Is business not capable of meeting their own demand for managerial talent or otherwise?  Why should government indulge in this business where it has no competence to talk about? Why do we want more of them when they have failed in meeting our technology and management challenges ? Do US seeds germinate and take root in the Indian soil? Can copies be better than the original? Which Indian academic in management working in India has the highest recall rate? Why is it that we don’t even have a single technology or management breakthrough of world class scale and size in proportion to the scale and size of the country? Why are we so hung up on numbers and blissfully unaware of quality? You said quality, quantity and time goes into setting of standards and that standards though essential can also breed conformity and compromise on outstanding achievements, when you don’t have any standards of your own?

Is there a moral to the story? Accelerated learning and making people to ask questions is a tightrope walk? One cannot indulge in it without taking a position on some of these issues.

On August 25th 2008, we were witness to a different kind of Olympic event. Around 300 very young people, average age 25, were celebrating their outstanding achievements and performance at work in the Trinity hall of Taj Residency, Bangalore where I heard the following dialogue

“We are meeting here a day after the Olympics, an Olympics where China made its century and we got away with the ‘holy trinity’. It is appropriate that we meet in the trinity hall and discuss our performance, be it in Olympics or in our work. We need to celebrate performance even if they are not grand victories and we need to celebrate such winnings in the context of the community that made it possible. I congratulate all of you and those who have shown such a brilliant planning of the event that we could discuss these issues in the most appropriate context. I thank you for making it possible for me to be part of this celebration of community and performance. It is also the most appropriate time for us to discuss and envision, as a community of practice, the heights of performance that we would scale in the coming years

The average age of billionaires is 61. The Face book CEO, Mark Zukerman is the youngest of the lot at 23. Two out of every three of the billionaires are self made like the welfare mom JKR who made it to the list at 42.  So it is not always an inheritance of wealth that takes us to the heights but how we leverage our inheritance that nature and history has given us that take us to the history book. Our own Anil Ambani was the one with the fastest rate of growth. More of them from China and India are making it to the history book. The combined worth of around 1100 billionaires is around 3 trillion dollars.

Many of my millionaire classmates who were many times smarter than me are not around to talk about their performance.  I am sure each one of us would have a dream other than making it to the list of billionaires. If all of us have only billionaire dreams, it would be better to start looking for another planet.   This brings us to the issue of metrics and criteria by which we measure success, performance and achievements. Is wealth the only measure of success or should we have multiple criteria? While we celebrate performance we also need to remind ourselves that personal success needs to be balanced with lot many other aspects. One very important aspect among them is the improvement in community, which in the first place made these achievements possible, as this alone will guarantee sustained high performance (SHP)”
Abhinav Bhindra, 25, the lone gold medallist from > 1 billion Indians has been drilling holes on paper for twelve years. He was seven when he proved himself to be a sharp shooter. From taking the position to be a shooter to reaching the summit of achievement spans a journey of 18 years, many a set back and smaller wins in between. For Michel Phelps, focused effort started at 13 and the crowning event happened at 23. Mastering of the process takes ten years or even more. It is most often a lonely journey. What would be more interesting to watch will be how these people continue to perform and rewrite the story of human potential? Sergei Bubka continues to perform off the field. Mapping the human potential would require a closer study of the exceptions, not just in athletics, but from as many perspectives as possible at different levels, individuals, institutions, communities, globally, at the level of the species.

We will remember the events and forget the process. We have a built in bias to our birthdays, floods, festivals and feasts.

How did China top the 2008 Olympics? India too has a comparably large population. China won by design, India won by default. It is ironic that the same is true of performance in other areas too. If India does not perform, the world will not, because one in every six is an Indian and one out of every three of the poor in the world also is an Indian. While individual performance may happen in isolation, performing as a community involves complexity of a much higher order. Some communities have a history of continual improvement while others do not fare as well.

India offers complexity of the highest order which makes it all the more interesting to students of performance/ achievements. No other country has the same kind of complexity of colour, religions, languages and dialects. For over two thousand years it has remained in a slumber very often basking in the glory of a far too distant past.
Personal growth to performance as a single community is a continuum and at some stage in the process, the critical mass and velocity is achieved for the collective transformation. A small minority takes position as individuals. They decide early in life as to their purpose of being here. The direction of their journey is clear to them and they hang on tenaciously. Once they achieve that some of them redefine their goals to the next phase in the journey. Some others take a position much later during the course of the journey. Many do not take a position at all. They leave it to the astrologer, fate, destiny or default. As a nation, India prefers the astrologer to the management consultant.

Global standards apply to the metrics of performance as in the Olympics though the same is realized within the local context. The gardener needs to know the soil. Gardening skills from Silicon Valley would need to be localized for better results in Bangalore. Unless it performs better than Silicon Valley, it does not get into the metrics. Once you get in to the record books, there is the problem of continuing to outperform the competition. We have outlined the problem of SHP. The two B- schools that I attended and the work that I was involved with kept me reminded of the Indian and the developmental complexity, that one cannot imitate and compete with the competition since a copy can never be better than the original. Each one of us is in a unique situation or context and each one has to find choose his/her road. That applies to community too, regardless of the scale, be it organizations or nations. Yet some universals hold good which could accelerate the process. We are all trying to build a Cathedral or Taj Mahal. The story is all too familiar and with every retelling it could take in new perspectives. In the latest version, the supervisor on the spot is beheaded by the emperor. The logic had the supervisor been effective in his role the emperor would have heard the same answer from all the masons. (More on leadership in the Indian context The challenge of creating community necessitates taking a common position, a coming together based on a shared vision. How do you create such a vision? Do we have something, a non-controversial reference point, around which communities can emerge?
We have very sophisticated systems to navigate the planet and beyond. Navigating through life is a more complex process where each one of us is left with multiple tools. For some it may be the astrologer or their particular brand of belief system. The multiplicity of the maps is one of the blocks to a common journey. I remember a starlit night, by the bank of the river. Looking at the sky my teacher asked me “What is the meaning of all this”? I had no answer but there was a wish at the time that someday I would find it out. It took 25 years to resolve the issue of making sense of the world, to make a map

The Chinese seafarers had better maps than Columbus. A good one will not take you where you never wanted to go and need not be revised too often. The FDF is a map to reduce the complexity of the developmental process across multiple levels and contexts. A map has to hold good at the local as well as global levels, something similar to the periodic table. The FDF has been in use since 1990, to accelerate personal and community learning
The 5 Ps of making sense of the world: Purpose, Positioning, Potential, Performance and Process, paying attention to improvements.
We are born like bullets going out of the gun. Who fired the shot? We did not unless you are a mystic who would say that you chose your time, parents and place of your birth. We have inherited a body, mind from our parents and the past, the product of a process as old and as young as the universe. How does one convert this inheritance – make it our own, own it? This is where the 5 Ps come in.

Can a 100 year old regenerate his body? Prior to regenerating the body one should regenerate the spirit, the meaning. The spirit is about the purpose. Why are we here? Is it just because we were born – by default? Or is there a design? One should be able to recognize the design, the purpose. The GOI has a department of Ayush, to my knowledge, the only one of its kind in the world. We had a science of life, Ayurveda, an inheritance from our past. The department deals with the science of life! The purpose is to live; defeat death the basic premise of Ayurveda. The philosophy is in stark contrast to the mainstream understanding of health and healing wherein to fall sick is an exception, the current mainstream belief being to fall ill is the order which is self-fulfilling. Once we have a purpose for which we are ready to die, take a position, we will not die unless the purpose is achieved. This is what it means to take a position. So have an impossible dream and take the position that this is the purpose of my being here if we want to outperform the competition, live longer, defeat death, gain market share, whatever. What do we learn from people with exceptional longevity, centenarians? Why do they go on? Many of them are healthier than the 20 + some things I mostly work with. They seldom go to the doctor and still have that sparkle in their eyes.

When the purpose is absent the potential of the body is not challenged and unless we challenge, stretch, we do not create the conditions for the potential to be expressed – Michael Phelps, Bubka, Isinbayeva, Bhindra – as individuals. Next step is to challenge these limits as a community of practice and pay attention to the process, the improvements that happen and the metrics. Improvements follow from new learning, LLL. The self, individual or community, is the learner, hence the first discipline.  The 5 Ps are in place. There are more Ps. The more perspectives we take we are in better touch with reality and our solutions are likely to be more effective.

True North

Animals align themselves to the magnetic poles of the earth They have a built in compass/GPS function, courtesy of nature, to keep them aligned and tuned to nature. The human situation is more pathetic than that of the animals. We need to work at developing some of these skills, an obvious disadvantage in exchange of freewill and choice. It took us long to develop the compass to navigate the world. The technology has become very sophisticated and our maps of the planet and immediate neighbourhoods are near perfect. We can cover much more in a day than our previous generations, can even go for a deep dive into outer space and come back with pin point precision.
Though mobility has improved rapidly vast majority of us still do not move out of our places of birth. There is a different kind of a journey which all humans undertake, the one of personal and community growth and development. How well equipped are we for this journey which is many times more complex than a journey over space? Let us run a reality check.

What is the first requisite for a journey over space? We should make certain of our current position. Ask any number of people, you are not likely to get this answer. First things first- goes the saying but seldom does this happen. Let us ask the same question about the other journey that we discuss here, where are we now? What is our current position? Any error in estimating the position takes us on the wrong course. What makes us, the Human, uniquely different from the Animals, as a class? Ask yourself and arrive at the answer. Ask the same to another 100 people you come across. We play this game in our stretch workshops. We seldom get the right answer even with groups of people known for their brilliance. Quiz them on anything else under the sun you would get an answer though one can as well get these answers through a web search. It takes much more time to get the group to agree that our uniqueness as a class which makes us distinct from the animals is our ability to IMPROVE ourselves, the environment and community around us. If we don’t improve and improve continually, can we claim ourselves to be human, that we learn and evolve? If we do not we would be sub animal. The human is the most threatened of all species. S/he is a threat to he/r/self, to the environment and other life forms. The World without Us would be much better off.  Animals do not kill within the same species without any reason but we do. They don’t have cancer wards, asylums and old age homes. If we are to learn about community it is much better that we look at them than at us. So what has gone wrong with us? Is humanness / community improving or on the decline?
Are we civilized? If the emperor says he is the emperor we have reasons to disbelieve what we hear. Same holds true of claims of being civilized and developed. As a child I remember that most of the adults in my village used to carry a dagger with them, not to fight wild animals but to protect themselves from others. Hardly a week would pass without some news of a murder on some silly reason. Today they don’t but in some ‘more civilized, developed parts of the world’ nearly every other man owns a gun. Who is more civilized / developed?
Who performs and what are the criteria for measurement? The southern coastal state of Kerala in India, unlike many other parts of the country, has more or less the same quality of life as that of a developed country like Sweden, the major differentiator being it has a much lower per capita income. Should we measure development by eco illiteracy or eco literacy? Who leaves a bigger ecological footprint, the rich or the poor? Do we recognize performance? Farmers commit suicide in some parts of India. Fishermen of south India are probably the best of primary producers but even poorer than the farmers. Drinking water has become costlier than milk. Farmers and fishermen are poor not because they are not productive but because the markets and those on top of the pyramids respect and listen to those with muscle and not the unorganized. No wonder that we have a crisis of food security in the making.

Are we better off than the animals in terms of community?  Are we mature, adults? Hitler is not dead. He still lives in us. Listen carefully to the new age messiahs, gurus, change agents and leaders. Adults need only data, information and they can lead themselves. Compare the salary structure of CEOs in Japan vs. USA in comparison to the shop floor worker, which shows that we are willing to entrust our fate to the commander in chief, rest all our hopes on a small number of men and women. We have very little faith in the wisdom of community. We still would like to have leaders and followers, than self-manage. The result is Hitlers in camouflage. So do we learn, if we do there should have been improvements across multiple facets which ultimately will lead to oneness, better community, environment and the assurance of a secure future.
What is progress if in 2500 years we could not go beyond Buddha and Christ and in over 5000 years we could not improve on the wisdom of the Upanishads? From similar antiquity if we have to translate the Kama Sutra, a treatise on sex and sexuality into many languages what have we understood about sex and sexuality?
WANTED – A new language of Improvement
“Change is the only constant”. We have more change masters than masters of improvement. Change can be good or bad, superficial or substantial. Look at the semantics. If one observes the language one can see the positions which give rise to such views from which the language originates. From such positions improvements cannot happen. To cross over the semantic swamp we need a new language, a LANGUAGE of improvement and PERFORMANCE which we might call Inglish. Inglish is more than Indian English, which, thanks to the British, is spoken by more people than in Britain and USA combined. When one learns a language other than one’s mother tongue, every word is vey new whereas for the native speaker the very same words have lost their depths of meaning. Familiarity takes away the depth and might even breed contempt. Inglish is a requirement because we have used up the communication potential – most of it has been used up as advertising by-lines to promote shadows and substitutes (Brand X makes you a complete man and brand Y makes the complete woman) – of languages to connect people across the planet as a community. So we communicate yet do not enhance true community. Such communication is the noise, the major barrier to connect and build bridges. We need a common language to connect the world as a single community. We could make machines talk to each other across multiple platforms. Next step is to do the same with the human so that man and the machine are aligned. The graphic user interface took the computer to the masses, transcending the barriers of language. The visual has more bandwidth than any other stimuli and the NOW gen views rather than read. Inglish has to be a visual language.
This is just to trigger and continue the dialogue. This work is not meant to be full-fledged with self contained arguments. These are some very random thoughts on why we need a compass/ GPS to fix our position and direction for the journey – to show us the TRUE NORTH, one for each one of us, since we cannot use somebody else’s.


One thought on “News, Facts and Fiction

  1. Pingback: Meta: The post on posts | First Discipline

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