A barren delusory place

Srinivas Chillara, Founder partner, SwanSpeed Consulting

Ramesh Venkataraman penned a castigating article regarding the state of the ethical stance of managers in India. Somewhere it struck a chord and I've think there is an important parallel to draw in the IT industry. Here I'm not referring to ethics, but how we respond to the Q: Are we true to ourselves? As professionals, programmers, managers etc.

The pressures of daily work and several traditions conspire to create a gently debilitating ecosystem. Living on and off in UK and Ireland for just three years, on my return to India, I was struck by how few people here admit not knowing something. We have a strong tendency to pretend that we know very well, even if we have only just heard of it (maybe several times). We mistake this familiarity for knowledge. And we do this over and over again, so this becomes second nature. We see this sort of knowing all around us, and feel part coerced and part comfortable nodding knowledgeably (or knotting no-legibly). The result is an institutional culture of  covering up ignorance routinely. Isn't it a habit for companies to say 'yes' to client's Q "Do you know how to do such and such?"

[ Recently I was at a meeting where a senior manager was taking his subordinates to task, for not convening regularly - at least, three times a week - so as to progress an activity. He happened to say "You are supposed to meet everyday, and over the last month you have never met!". Instead of contrite sheepishness, one manager counters bold as brass "We had meet last Thursday, so you cannot say we never met!" (this was very possibly the only time this meeting actually took place). The point that much more was needed to be done and here was an atrocious lack of seriousness, was diverted to a technical point. Where does such recalcitrant behaviour originate? ]

However in the long run we are deluding ourselves. Please note the IT industry is large, with about a million people working in this industry in India. They have had less impact in leading the industry's direction over 30 years than Ireland has had over 20 years. Ireland has a population of just over 4 million, counting each man, woman and child. Any real impact made by Indians is overwhelmingly done overseas, particularly the US. [ Again I'm not referring to business impact, but technical innovations ]

If you spend your life pretending to know, without knowing, then naturally you are actually lagging in knowing; So not even on the starting line for innovation as we don't even apply what is known, as it is not known to us.


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