It was a Wednesday morning. My wristwatch showed 10.00 am. By the time I reached the bus stop, climbing down the stairs in a rush, skipping two stairs to save time, and navigating through a crowded street hoping that the bus driver might be late as well, my bus had already left. I realized that the bypass route to reach my office would be so congested that a private cab would not be able to help me reach the office on time. My hope to show up at the morning meeting was shattered. It is fair to mention here that this was the fourth time in a row that week when I was missing the morning meeting.
My mind crawled through the brain’s cache and projected consequences of a delayed day—questioning glances scanning a late-comer, unfinished works piling up, working overtime to clean up the queue, and totally exhausted by the time I would be in bed. Spending an entire day seemed an upheaval task for me. Amidst traffic, roads, and people, I found myself helpless.
My daily encounters with failure, be it missing the bus, not being able to reach the office on time despite my best intentions, unable to complete my work and to maintain a balance among responsibilities, and to not accomplish my plan, afflicted me. Slippages were tearing me up, wrapping me in a damp pouch of apprehension of failure. I was unable to figure out how I could realign my distorting life and find a breather for peace and happiness.
Inevitably, I chose to escape. Off-loading the failures on someone might help me find avenues for self-compassion. So, I looked for reasons for my unhappiness and failures—family, marriage, office, home, past, and aspirations. I started focusing more on the search for excuses. I looked up external ailments to heal my ruptures. My wound deepened. The lack of self-compassion turned my life outward-focused; nothing silenced my shapeless chaos.
I thought that being the center of attention would bring me happiness. I tried to live up to others’ expectations by altering my food habits, attires, and routines. My situation did not improve. Distraction was siphoning off my confidence and courage.
“Accept yourself. Start with a minimal accomplishment but make it a habit. It is okay to fail.” I found a person who understood my problems. My mentor’s relentless patience and empathy helped me empathize with myself.
It is said that “necessity is the mother of invention.” But unless we realize our core problem, the idiom barely makes sense. I realized that I had been facing an existential crisis.
Amidst noise and distraction, I heard my voice: “I am fine. Only I can make me happy.”
Self-compassion aided in healing my internal ruptures. I managed to focus on my priorities. Paying attention to the internal system improved my emotional state and efficiency. My performance soared eventually.
I achieved my faith in failure.
However, continuous juggling between household work and office vex me at times. Grief, frustration, and fear of drifting still bother me. Complaints still pile up in my heart and congest my head.
“Why do I need to indulge in household work? Just because I am a married woman. Yet, I am also earning, and my husband and I are equally qualified! I should better stay alone.”
“Where do you see yourself, when you are successful in your life? All alone?” “Pen down your thoughts, channel your grief and anger in a better way.” My mentor’s continuous guidance steered me to clear my blurred vision and ascertain a greater purpose.
My inner voice echoed: “It is not the first time you are thrown into an ocean of pressure in life. However, always remember that you are a swimmer.”
I have reflected on my experiences and failures, but this time with compassion and confidence.
The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy can’t be created or destroyed. Energy can only be conserved. We see a wide application of this principle. However, during the process, a part of the energy gets dissipated. That is because of system friction. I found that the principle holds true for my internal energy, too. The lesser the system resistance, the more efficient the outcome.
I am still learning how better I can manifest my internal energy.
Ushasi Sengupta is a senior research analyst at Tata Consultancy Services. She completed her Post Graduate Diploma in General Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur, in 2019. Other than working from home and working for home, in parallel, she is spending her new normal exploring the unchartered territories. She is a sports enthusiast. Running is her newly developed habit.
The basic human predisposition is to choose the virtuous humility over the much-despised arrogance. Given a choice, would you cook a dish out of the spicy arrogance or the sweet humility? However, it is not as absolute as we perceive it to be. Perhaps, we could make a scrumptious dish with a spoonful of arrogance coupled with a generous sprinkling of humility.
Color Palette from Humility to Arrogance
At the extreme left of the palette, we have a blob of the “humble” green, and on the opposite end, we have a dab of the “arrogant” red. As you move from left to right of the spectrum, the saturation of the delicate “green” of humility gets diluted and swatches of the bold “red” arrogance starts adding up to produce a yellow tint of “arrogant humble.” As we move to a shade darker along the gradient, an orange “humble arrogant” emerges.
Each shade communicates its inherent characteristics. We are familiar with the two opposite ends of the spectrum. Much about humility and arrogance has already been discussed a lot of times in great detail. A truly humble person is empowered with self-awareness, confidence, and contentment so much so that there is no urge to prove or broadcast. Humility makes you reverential, lets you help and appreciate others, and allows you to accept your shortcomings. However, we, in our limited capacity of understanding, often misconstrue humility as an antidote to pride. We misinterpret politeness as weakness or submissiveness. Therefore, a humble person is often taken for granted or even exploited.
More often than not, arrogance is perceived as an unappealing trait. Arrogance is primarily about self- importance, self-enhancement, and exaggerated pride. Having said that, arrogance might not be out-and-out contempt for others; the focus on self-improvement is so overpowering that the need to seek validation from others does not arise. Even though we blatantly assume, arrogance, in reality, might not consist in presumptuous inflated pride. As what might be misjudged as making extravagant undue claims about one’s worth, might actually be an exuberant confidence resulting in making the right claims about one’s abilities or achievements. We will discuss later in this article how the use of the compass of arrogance can help us navigate through the right direction toward our endpoint by using arrogance productively and balancing it appropriately, without being overly blunt or rude to others.
So, let us explore the transitional shades on the line between the two diametrically opposite hues—arrogant humility (AH) and humble arrogance (HA). What exactly are these two? Simply oxymorons? How do you differentiate one from the other?
The AH Factor
Arrogant humility is characterized by smears of inflated pride or arrogance on one’s humility. A paradox embedded in an oxymoron. We defy the virtue of humility once we become aware and proud of it. Arrogant humility isn’t humility at all. Let us break down few of the salient characteristics that distinguishes the yellow from the green.
The HA Factor
You have arrived at the magical shade by blending just the right dose of humility and arrogance. The right tint of arrogance adds the correct depth of confidence, self-assurance, and guts, while the right wash of humility, sweeping over with gratitude, openness and accountability, wears off the wrecks of arrogance.
HA features an eclectic mix that comes from the palette. This shade will make you move with ease and make you shine through all the facets of life. Humble Arrogants embody self-reliance and self-confidence but leave no stone unturned to showcase themselves if need be. The elevated self-esteem generates a continued desire to excel and an impetus to take risks and travel the extra mile. HA characterizes veneration for others as well as for oneself. A Humble Arrogant knows how to draw the line between taking onus of their mistakes and not taking the fall when blameless. The HA factor invites inspiration and sets the tone for able leadership.
Sourav Ganguly is the perfect example. The “god of off-side” brought in various shades of arrogance and humility to Indian cricket. The “Maharaja,” not so impulsively, took his shirt off and bared his chest at the “Mecca of cricket.” His charisma was such that no bookie dared to approach him at a time when the match fixers took up the reins of many Indian cricketers. Nevertheless, “The prince of Calcutta” is the man who came down the batting order and gave the opening position to Sehwag, paving way for one of the best openers Indian cricket has witnessed. He burned the bridges with selectors to ensure that Anil Kumble was part of the national squad for the 2003–2004 Australia series. He took the “risk” of exiting from the team if Kumble and the team did not “play well.” Anil Kumble was outstanding in that series. Sourav Ganguly backed Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, and M.S. Dhoni even if that entailed disappointing the board and selectors. He was uncompromising but impartial. This arrogance-packed-humility crafted him into one of the greatest captains of all time.
Let us have a look at the idiosyncrasies that fine-tune and set apart the orange from the red.
Now let us choose between the rock and the hard place.
Arrogant Humility versus Honest Arrogance
Arrogant humility is nothing but fake humility. It is pride veiled in humility. Often, we come across many celebrities, such as politicians and actors, humblebragging on social media. Fake humility stems from the urge to enact humility in order to glamorize ourselves or to grab attention and admiration. Humility is espoused. Arrogance is vilified. So often people act humble if not be one.
We often receive commendation for the #nofilter #nomakeupflawlessmorning selfies on Instagram captioned “Can’t believe woke up to this.” We buy the humility of going make-up free. We overlook the pride behind it—the pride of looking flawless even without make-up. We pardon the implicit attempt made to elicit admiration toward a blemish-free, picture-perfect skin. This act of appearing humble in order to fish for compliments is problematic not only because it is deceptive but also because of the fact that it sets the wrong example as to what a bare face should look like.
Parenting and humility can be used interchangeably. Unarguably, parents place their child’s needs above their own and extend the best possible support to build the child’s future. It is understandable that parents have certain basic expectations from their child. However, in today’s fiercely competitive world it has become a usual phenomenon that millennial parents burden their child with incredibly unrealistic demands and expectations. While the intentions are in accordance with the best interest of the child, the end results may be counter-productive. The “Trophy child,” in pursuit of meeting those unreasonable expectations, may lose their own voice and control over life. The parents emphasize on their hard-work and sacrifice for their child as a weapon to print their dreams through the child. In doing so, inadvertently, the nuanced genuineness in humility is compromised and the morality of humility is decried.
Authenticity is important but difficult to spot. So, the fake humbles are likeable and affable. However, they have early expiry dates. We cannot wear the make-up of pretention for long. It is sure to shed off some day. Needless to say, when exposed, they lose their approachability and, more importantly, their credibility. They are avoided. They lose friends and followers to fall back on.
Sometimes people use arrogant humility as an umbrella to shield themselves from their low confidence or low self-esteem. For instance, at our workplaces we come across many employees who do not want to lead a team project even when offered to do so. Then, there are some who simply reject compliments or pass on the credit to others. They perceive such manifestations as acts squared with humility, acts portraying I-don’t-want-the-spotlight attitude. The reality might be far from humility. These acts could be an outcome of the lack of confidence in one’s abilities to take up a challenging position. Such acts could also be contingent on the fear of getting exposed as incompetent. Similarly, by not accepting or bypassing compliments, one may be avoiding the risk of handling more expectations and more pressure in the future.
Roaming around loaded with honest arrogance is better than wearing a mask of false humility. An honest arrogant may be unapologetic and, unlike a fake humble, is not manipulative or vulnerable. It is better to be honestly arrogant about one’s inflated confidence in one’s competencies or about one’s faith in one’s dream to achieve bigger things than to fake one’s way through humility to draw attention or to blanket one’s incompetence. Fake humility doesn’t guarantee long-term success in any professional or personal goal. On the contrary, honest arrogance of one’s superiority (if not presumptuous) can be used constructively to fuel self-development and to ascend goals in life in the following ways:
Irrepressible confidence boosts the grit to pursue one’s targets and dreams.
The absence of urge to scout around for approval and validation from others easily downplays negativity bias and wards off distractions generated by toxic people.
The larger-than-usual focus on one’s strengths provides safeguards against the weaknesses that confines one’s abilities.
Majority of the top CEOs we idolize, such as Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, etc., are marked by arrogance and it is this arrogance that has worked as an advantage for them. Steve Jobs was infamous for his little to zero tolerance toward mistakes, inflexible demand, and control-freak nature. He ruthlessly extracted the best out of his employees when their performance was not requisite. He micro-managed intricate details: from design of products to their slogan and logo. It is his arrogance to cling on to his decisions, push for more, and look beyond that made Apple Inc. a juggernaut.
Christiano Ronaldo’s free kick at arrogance is nothing new. Perhaps, it his supreme self-confidence that makes him “arrogant, vain and whatever” and that is “all part of his ‘success.’” His inflated self-esteem hasn’t fouled over the decades; rather the exaggerated confidence in him is the internal motivator behind making the five-time Ballon d’Or winner one of the “best.”
The benefits of honest arrogance, though, can be better embraced while freed from the clutches of its ruinous effects. Moderation is the key.
If you were to choose a color to infuse into your personality on a blank canvas, which one would it be? If you go green, do not trade the smudge-free green for a smudged alternative. Be humbly humble. Do not scar it with fakeness.
If you want to take your creative flair to the next level and build a painter’s dream, orange is your go-to color—the color to success. Humble Arrogance is the arrogance that makes you stand apart from the ordinary and helps you reach the top rung on the success ladder, palliating arrogance with humility to prevent the former from becoming self-delusional.
If you choose red, unleash through your brushwork the burst of the best version of red. Use your arrogance productively to be on edge, to remain aligned to your goals, to distance yourself from toxic people, and to capitalize solely on your strengths.
Last but definitely not the least, choose anything but yellow. No matter how aesthetically appealing it is, you might wake up someday to find the magic effaced, rendering the same blank canvas you started with. Arrogant Humility will never fetch the rewards of true humility. Fake humility will make you chase the mirage of admiration, commendation, and attention but in the long run, it will leave you stagnant and grounded, blocking your access to avenues of opportunities and upper echelons of the success league.
We must also remember that humility and arrogance are judgments we make based on limited information and understanding we have of a person. Often, the message gets lost in translation, leading to misinterpretations.
Srija Chakraborty gave words to the H-AH-HA-A concept developed by Partha PD. Srija is an Assistant Manager at Tata Consulting Engineers Limited. Other than the challenges in Mechanical Design Engineering, she is also keen on designing her life. She is a food nerd. Cooking is her stress-buster and she loves backpacking, too. She is a trained Kathak dancer. She adorned her feet with the ghungroo at the age of six and practices the patience and perseverance that Kathak has taught her.
With a simple click on “Search,” or by pressing “Enter,” we receive plenty of responses to our queries on our screens, anytime and anywhere. Information is so widely available that a query string generates abundantly—sometimes more than we require. More or less, most of us can avail similar resources, as technology is pretty affordable.
In a world with a diminishing advantage of information, what could be your differentiator? How do leaders stand out among the crowd? We have read that leaders can leverage analogies from other disciplines to solve a problem. Let us see how to systematically manifest that treasure trove of problem-solving.
The Scatter Diagram Technique helps.[i] The technique is a synthesis of our perspectives about diverse domains. It is a systematic approach that helps in identifying and exploring various solutions to individual and business issues at a micro or a macro level. Moreover, it can help individuals nurture a quality life.[ii]
In this article, we shall dive deeper and experiment with our instrument to arrive at creative solutions to “power conflicts”—a primary aspect of any business. We will explore diverse business situations that are potentially vulnerable to confrontations over the distribution of power. Subsequently, we will apply the concept of Scatter Diagram to analyze those scenarios.
What is Power?
Power is an ability that helps an individual influence others’ decision. By definition, “Power is a capacity that ‘A’ has to influence the behaviour of ‘B’ to do things he or she would not otherwise do” (Obisi 2003)[iii]. In an organization, individuals own different power bases—formal or informal—and capitalize power accordingly. Conflicts of interest in power transactions often result in disputes. Let us analyze a set of conflict situations.
Understanding Power Conflicts through the Scatter Diagram
As mentioned above, we will apply the Scatter Diagram technique and find out potential solutions to our cases in the points.
Our three points in the Scatter Diagram are “football,” “history,” and “politics.”Power Sourcing: How Do Football Clubs Foster Their Talent?
In Football, power transactions occur between power bases, such as between the coach and the captain, the coach and the support staff, the management and the players, the management and the coach, the senior team staff and the junior team staff, and so on. Football clubs have their strategy to attract niche talent. One of those is the player transfer policy of few of the professional football clubs. Who can forget the expensive player recruiting process of Galácticos, Real Madrid, in the early 2000s?
Power Sourcing/Fostering Power: In-House and Outsourcing
Real Madrid diversified talent sourcing and brought renowned players in the team. This created a player-pool and, in turn, fueled the growth of the club. Their move opened avenues for strong off-pitch commercial presence leading to a financial transformation of the club. Real Madrid doubled their revenue from £93.2m per annum in 2001 to £186.4m at the end of the financial year in 2005.[iv]
This tactic proved to be a differentiator for Real Madrid because FC Barcelona, its arch-rival, heavily depended on nurturing players fresh from the Barça Academy. Barcelona’s philosophy of nurturing talents resembles organizations’ strategy of fostering in-house talents based on their value systems. This, in turn, protects tacit knowledge and thus promotes in-house brands like Barca’s famous “Tiki-Taka” style.
From an organizational perspective, we observe Microsoft, the technology conglomerate, handing over the executive leadership position to Satya Nadella, a Microsoft veteran, in 2014. Whereas during 2012, Siemens, Hershey’s, and 3M recruited CEOs from outside to steer diverse strategies. Another recent example is that of Infosys. Infosys appointed Vishal Sikka, a former member of the executive board at German software company SAP AG, as the CEO in 2014.
Power Distribution: What If the Team Has Only One Center of Control?
Now let us focus on the process of how an individual or an organization can influence associated individuals, that is, organizational control. Going by our sample football point, we will explore two famous figures of the English football division—Sir Alex Ferguson and Mr. Arsène Wenger. They are among the most successful and elite football managers. Both of them are also known for their penchant for silverware.
Surely, something that places them beyond the crowd is their management style. Their leadership style was far from traditional, while their underlying strategy was “control.”
Centralized Power Steers toward a Common Goal
Though questioned multiple times, Arsène Wenger spearheaded both managing and coaching responsibilities. Interestingly, absolute authority helped these defiant personalities thrive beyond the glorious period of their career. A centralized power enabled both to form a multicultural and diverse team and to steer the team toward a common goal—productivity improved, complacency reduced, and quality ensured.
In companies, power distribution between leadership and employees follows a similar pattern too. Brian Stowell, the CEO of Crown Point Cabinetry that supplied high-end custom kitchen cabinets to customers throughout the US, earned the trust of customers and motivated the workforce by implementing his strategy of organizational control.[v] Thus, understanding the absolute authority of a coach in a football team gives us an idea of organizational control and its importance.
Could there be a flip side of absolute authority? What could happen if most of the organizational power rests with an individual?
Absolute Authority Might Lead to Organizational Conflicts
Lionel Messi is touted as “the single most important entity” in his club, FC Barcelona. According to his teammates, “Barca can do anything to retain Messi.” Focusing on the corporate world, we see the influence of Warren Buffet on Berkshire Hathaway’s future or how Elon Musk’s tweets on Tesla negatively impacted Tesla’s share price by almost 20 percent. The aforementioned are among the many instances of impacts of a centralized corporate governance.
Stand-alone influences, such as Messi in Barcelona or Ronaldo in Juventus, can help their team align to a common goal. If channelized properly, this stand-alone influence can motivate the team immensely. However, when that individual fails to perform, it might destroy the value. From an organization’s perspective, the higher the power distance in an organization is, the more dependent are the subordinate employees on their leadership.
This, in turn, makes an organization more vulnerable to differences in opinion among its employees. And, “agency costs” increase if the stakeholders are not managed properly. The rise and fall of Theranos, the blood testing start-up in Silicon Valley, depicts the entire picture of stand-alone influence of the CEO, Elizabeth Holmes, who was the supreme influencer and decision-maker of the healthcare start-up.[vi]
So, from our knowledge of football, we can infer that absolute authority establishes a culture of power-distance in an organization, which can enhance corporate performance and impact adversely as well. However, a corporate governance that can strike a balance between a culture of power distance and a system of distributed accountability will steer the institution towards a common aspiration and enhance the institution’s performance.
Power of Collaboration: What can We Reflect from History to Strengthen Our Power Tenet?
We will shift to the next point of our Scatter Diagram, that is, History. Transactions of power occur between a king and his nobles, between a king and a church, between nobles and peasants, among colonies and empires, and across different strata of a society. Let us analyze these structures and try to understand the consequences of the division of power leveraging some “historically tested” solutions.
First, we will try to understand the meaning of “authority.” As per Max Weber, “Authority is power whose use is considered just and appropriate by those over whom the power is exercised.”[vii]The early Vedic history showcases an effective way of distribution of authority. The Varnas—Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras—were divided based on profession and people were living in a cohesive society. They were interdependent and had mutual respect.
Mutual Respect and Collaboration Drive Holistic Development
Though later on, this mutual respect was lost and the society became divided. This not only established hierarchy among castes and repression of the lower castes but also made the society weaker and vulnerable to attacks from foreign powers. Research study emphasizes the same as finding says that 80% of employees treated uncivilly spend significant work time ruminating on the bad behavior, and 48% deliberately reduce their effort.[viii] Hence, we can acknowledge that “collaboration and respect” can develop stronger bonds among teams and help the system prosper as a whole.
Mergers and Acquisitions: What Does the Roman Empire Tell Us about Corporate Synergy?
Thus, collaborations manifest synergy. “Synergy” becomes more vital when different institutions share their resources either by merging together or acquiring the other institution.
“Mergers and acquisitions” are crucial in the corporate world and so is the power struggle among the involved parties. Often, after acquiring a small firm, larger firms tend to overarch their culture and policy. Or when two firms merge, a mix and common culture are imposed on both the organizations. Two companies fail to negotiate their cultures and they clash. Amazon and Whole Foods venture, which, in spite of being one of the promising mergers, failed to create impact because of a cultural misfit.[ix]
Tracing back to ancient Europe, we see that the Roman Empire, the ancient mega-organization, was founded on the principle of res publica and sustained for more than 200 years. A closer look unveils that the imperial administration exercised both decentralized power and principles of minimal intervention. It maintained a fine balance between provincial versus centralized authority ensuring peace, law, and order on the one hand, and revenues and resources on the other.[x]
These centuries-old instances help us gauge the importance of organizational culture and behavior. Organizational synergy cannot be achieved unless the culture, management, and human resources of the merging entities are in sync. The peace agreements mentioned above can be a guiding strategy for the corporates today while designing the post-merger cultures.
Why Do Corporates Need to Plan for Sustenance?
“Corporate sustenance” beyond present reign depends on succession planning of a power base. Poor power transitions often impact organizations adversely. Confrontations and conflicts divided most of the religions apart. For example, Islam fragmented when prominent people got divided between the Shias and the Sunnis on the rightful inheritance of leadership after the Prophet Muhammad. This event teaches the importance of maintaining balance among “succession forces”—positive relations with leaders and also their supporters. Reliance Industries Limited reflected a similar pattern when the company split into two in 2005 because of the tension between two Ambani brothers. However, the organization revived after Mukesh Ambani had held rein of the business. Businesses can reflect on these historical events to make a cohesive and evolving work culture.
Power and Politics: Are They Two Sides of the Same Coin?
Now, we are on our third coordinate: Politics. Politics, at its core, is about the dynamics of power. In a government, a macro-organization, we see that the distribution of power varies across centralized and decentralized forms, in autocratic and democratic governments, in capitalist and communist rules, and so on. Also, within a government, we see the division of power between the states and the center, the houses of the parliament, the executive and the judiciary, the legislature and the judiciary, among various levels of the judiciary, the executive and the legislature, and many more.
Power distribution among various departments while working on cross-functional projects is very crucial. It is very important to understand whether any department can overrule the other department’s decision. Can any department curb the powers, aim, or budget of any other department?[xi]
Political Power Dynamics Can Help Us Arrive at Creative Solutions to Division of Power
Three major components of governance—the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary—have different relations and power distribution in different governments.
For instance, in India, the executive is answerable to the legislature and holds power till it has the legislature’s confidence. Whereas, the judiciary is an independent system that ensures the right conduct by the other two arms of the government. It has the right reserved to challenge any decision by the legislature or the executive and even strike it down. Although the judiciary is an independent entity the legislature can influence the judiciary system.
For projects in which strategy, execution, and compliance teams work together, this model can be helpful to ensure the right balance of power. Often within a party, executive decision power is diluted by the collective decision leading to performance criticism. As it happened to Dr Manmohan Singh, the former Finance Minister of India and one of the pioneers of Indian Financial Reforms, who faced extreme criticism during his regime for numerous corruption scandals and policy paralysis that were in place. When we look at business cases, we find Tata Sons and Cyrus Mistry indulged in conflict on the moves to reduce conglomerate debt. This resulted in an abrupt expulsion of Cyrus Mistry from the position of the chairman at Tata.
In the US, the political system is designed in a slightly different way. The executive has a strong veto power over the legislature, and only two-third majority can override the veto. Also, the legislative doesn’t have control over the executive. The judiciary has more power and is independent of the other two bodies.
A Combinatorial Approach
There can be different combinations of examples from each reference points of scatter space that can shed light on the various aspects of power distribution.
So far, we have seen three variables in our scatter space: football, history, and politics. We can express various power attributes, such as fostering power, control and authority, synergy, transition, and succession, as a combination of relations of these scatter variables. We can even try out different combinations of these coordinates of scatter place and arrive at another set of solutions with respect to organization’s distribution of power. For example, in a political system, the process of nurturing a political spokesperson is analogous to creating in-house leadership. The decline of the Byzantine Empire highlights the need for a strong succession planning.
Creativity: An Integral Approach in Differential Thinking
At an initial level, creativity and power seem quite unrelated to each other. But, mapping of different domain variables with an observed variable indeed needs creativity. Creativity triggers cues to discover a pattern. At times, these are a pattern of words, phrases, colors, thoughts, and of various other ways. From a broader organizational perspective, this pattern visualization is called strategy and vision. The CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, visualized the pattern of technology usage and translated that into one of the key business drivers—AWS (Amazon Web Services). Thus, creativity exemplifies the power of contextualizing a contrasting thought. It has a double-edged impact on the principle of the Scatter Diagram. Creativity twines the scatter points together. Also, while applying the Scatter Diagram approach, we foster creativity in parallel. Hence, creativity is the heart of the Scatter Diagram and one of the most influencing parameters.
Scatter Diagram is a continuous process. This can be applied even if you have a different problem statement and a different set of points. Each experience of problem-solving with a Scatter Diagram widens the scatter space and so does the diversity of solutions. And the process goes on. However, as the saying goes, “Practice makes a man perfect,” similarly, the efficiency of our mind depends on the frequency of application of the Scatter Diagram. Every time our mind traces back the scatter points and associates with problem-solving, it develops both System Thinking and Creativity. Gradually, we arrive at “out-of-the-box solutions” from our existing experiences.
Ushasi Sengupta is a research analyst at Tata Consultancy Services. She completed her Post Graduate Diploma in General Management from XLRI, Jamshedpur in 2019. She is a sports enthusiast. Other than working from home and working for home, in parallel, she is spending her quarantined days exploring the unchartered territories. Running is her newly developed habit.
We are grateful to Mr. Shahrukh Moin Khan for drafting the foundation version of this article.
[vii] Weber, M. (1978). “Economy and society: An outline of interpretive sociology (G. Roth & C. Wittich, Eds.).”, Berkeley: University of California Press. (Original work published 1921)
[viii] Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, “The Price of Incivility”, Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2013/01/the-price-of-incivility
[ix]Gelfand, M, “One Reason Mergers Fail: The Two Cultures Aren’t Compatible.” Harvard Business Review, https://hbr.org/2018/10/one-reason-mergers-fail-the-two-cultures-arent-compatible.
[x] Maier, F. 1995. “Megaorganisation in Antiquity: The Roman Empire.” Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE) / Zeitschrift Für Die Gesamte Staatswissenschaft, 151 (4), 705–713, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40751852.
I’ve been living a lie my entire life. A twisted sick retelling of a long lost twin’s sorry story. Even at the best moments of my tale, there is just so much malice in my wonderland. Mostly myself. I’ve been a sucker for self-harm, the idea of the bubble bursting so much more wholesome than the bubble. So as the author of this heavily rewritten book, let me show you a few pages of my life.
I say heavily rewritten as my disease has the added curse of a terrible memory. Whatever I don’t remember clearly, I rescript to suit my convenience or make a better story. I don’t remember a lot of my glory days, have entirely blocked out tear jerkers, and a lot of my suicidal moments feel a lot more subdued when I recall them now. The distortion doesn’t just restrict itself to my recollections. It alters the way I look at things. I used to be a pessimist and can recall this one incident where a boy had gifted me a flower for my birthday. After he left, I shredded it and stomped it to the ground. Flowers are just reminders of how impermanent life and beauty are. That all things eventually die.
My happiest songs are the ones which tell the saddest tales. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy up-tempo bangers. The notes which pluck the strings of my soul however are wrought with woe. Life shouldn’t have to feel this way. Jumping of a terrace despite my vertigo shouldn’t be the first thought that comes to mind. Contemplating least painful ways of offing myself shouldn’t be routine. I see people breezing through life and sometimes wish things were that easy. Dandelion seeds floating with the wind while I’m lugging my anchor around everywhere.
Relationships with people become complex. Family often becomes the crutch which broke the leg. (Childhood stress and trauma are common contributors for an early onset of manic depression). While on medication, the feelings and emotions become numb. Creativity, often associated with mental health problems, takes a backseat. For a person living their life in highs and lows, this new flat-lining can come as an unwelcome shocker. The predilection for the emotional rush can be quite overpowering. We tend to resort to drugs or quitting medication to experience the altered reality once more as the new normal feels quite bland. That is why a support system is quite necessary to monitor the initial phases of recovery and to prevent a relapse.
During depression, even the most supportive friends may feel unwanted. Judgement goes for a toss and we end up not thinking about consequences. This often leads to burning bridges and more often than not, there’s no going back. I am lucky to have so many people who understand my disease or try to. I haven’t been that lucky always. I was in an abusive live-in where the other person’s push and pull on my emotions made them go haywire. He just added fuel to the fire. Despite dropping me off to my psychologist, he refused to believe that I was ill and thought that I was deliberately acting crazy because I enjoyed that. I’m much choosier about the people I let into my life these days. Once I used to indulge in self-destruction. Nowadays it doesn’t take me a second to cut off someone who could harm me for the sake of self-preservation.
I survived delirium, borderline insanity, anxiety sucking away at me like leeches. I survived the horrors of the world not ending in 2012. I survived a speeding truck while fully loaded on three drugs. I survived bullies, I survived this, I survived that. I survived Dad. I survived, Dad.
I feel like the Destiny’s Child song. I’m surviving despite the odds of bipolar death rates (doubled due to increased chances of heart failure) and I’m not just talking suicide. We are hypersexual as well, often resulting in risky behavioural patterns and promiscuity. I have survived 6 HIV tests in as many years. I’m surviving not because I want to. I’ve tried the other options and failed, so why not make the best of living a loud life and making the best of it. Currently I’m surviving to hopefully see a day where I enjoy living and am excited about opening my eyes the next morning.
The author is bravely dealing with their mental health problems. The article has been published without any edits.
These two words either warm our soul or provide empty wishes, depending on how the message is delivered. We know how to read the words in the silence of our loved ones. We learn—why, more than how—to dismiss the cacophony of hollow etiquette framed in words. Rhetorical words, particularly. We dismiss them with an equally shallow politeness.
The onus of taking care, understandably, is on the recipient of the message.
(You) take care (of yourself).
Nandini, a creative professional, takes good care of herself. She routinely works out in a trendy gym, where, at regular intervals, strategically placed high-decibel speakers blast out an assertive voice claiming that the gym “cares for you.” Loyal to the idiosyncrasies of the brand strategist that she is, she completes the tag line in her perky tone.
“Cares for your money.”
She, then, exchanges a harmless laughter with her selectively sincere trainer. Occasionally, sweaty gym enthusiasts stop puffing their chests out and break into a smile at her mimicry. Deep down, her humorous response is a reflection of her lack of faith in the empty claim. Never has the gym cared to call up David, her husband, who routinely disappears after paying an annual membership fee.
Nandini, too, like most of us, is guilty of abusing those two magical words. Guilty of uttering without pondering first on the utterance. Guilty of not meaning the meaning. Guilty of moral hypocrisy, because tables do turn.
When Nandini isn’t working or working out or spending a fortune taking care of her skin and her hair, she feeds on the newsfeed and consumes the delights of others’ lives. She hates herself, despite all the “self-care.”
Double, triple, quadruple hypocrite Nandini is.
For taking care of ourselves without knowing how to take care of ourselves hurts the self. The skin glows, the hair shines while the inner world, shunned by the glow-shine veil, endlessly awaits its turn for a renovation. The internal system communicates an earnest plea to the veil to let it break free of the firewalls of social networking, to allow it to build relationships.
The inner self knocks on the door. Thinks aloud.
Nandini, are you home? The lights are on but you are off. Off the real world. I am concerned about you. You need to understand the impact of spending your limited attention loathing, loving, and fantasizing those virtual lives.
First: Based on the “reality,” which arguably isn’t the truth, you constantly redefine how your life should be.
Second: You don’t pay yourself the attention you seek from others.
The net result you achieve is an imitation of a should-be life. The constant tussle between the imitation and the original, as I have seen, leaves you exhausted. Unknowingly ignored, the original life, if bravely attempted, is worth your time. You don’t receive a notification on your smartphone reminding you to like your imperfect life. The recipes of others’ lives keep getting you to compare yourself. Comparisons are brutally unkind and unfair, Nandini. Not so much when others decimate you to a few parameters but what you do to yourself when you indulge in comparisons.
Imitation is arguably the best form of flattery but is clearly not so articulate in giving voice to people. A voice borrowed from successful people or loaned from popular movies doesn’t last beyond a temporary ego boost or an orgasmic adrenaline rush. I have noticed that if there is no precedent for your ideas, rather than cheering your uniqueness, you feel concerned that your thought process might make you look stupid. Your voice may as well be wrong, in which case, you must have the humility to stand corrected. But having that original voice is crucial for your self-development. You keep your ideas hidden deep inside a secret chamber, fearing disapproval or failure. This behavioral pattern has, not so surprisingly, put an end to your uniqueness.
Before you realized, you became an elegant copy of copies, Nandini. Sexy, alluring, grand, mesmerizing … but a copy nonetheless. We both know how many ideas you have lifted from others. And, I know how remorseful you feel every time you plagiarize and call it “creativity.”
The market for copies is fiercely competitive, ripe with safe opportunities; originality, on the other hand, is a relatively apprehensive and uncontested market. With every additional copy produced, the value of the original increases and that of the copy decreases.
The cycle of a should-be life continues. Because living the original, imperfect life requires courage.
The world needs more unique individuals, Nandini. You will do better to retain your uniqueness. The mutual interest of the human being that you are and the humankind in desperate need of changers isn’t enough to motivate you to retain yourself, I understand. My point is not that you aren’t getting better but that you are killing the unique elements in you fearing that they might make you look unsocial. Plus, you always have a tendency to validate your habits, your thoughts, your actions.
Remember: “If,” “But,” and “Should” do less than what “Will,” “Do,” and “Can” can.
Rejection is not your cup of tea, I know. You need a deeper understanding of rejections. Rejections and dealing with rejections are terrifying encounters. That won’t be so scary if you knew how to look at them as plain facts. And, move on. Your expensive business education, unfortunately, didn’t teach you much beyond copying and pasting. I would suggest you to invite more rejections to feel comfortable with rejections. Aim for the impossible, Nandini! You have nothing to lose but an opportunity to make peace with rejections, and hit a jackpot if otherwise.
Nandini, the more pressing concern is that you don’t have the time to spend with yourself, to connect with the person whose body you live in, to appreciate yourself for the small wins. The imitated life you are trapped in, no matter what you do, turns out to be less than the should-be life. For you don’t know how to slow down a bit when everyone else is moving too fast—how to approve the disapprovals.
For you have long forgotten the joy of spending time with the child and the old, you have long been ungrateful for the many gifts you are surrounded with, you have long been using someone else’s tape to measure your life.
For you haven’t really smelt the coffee you drink every day, you haven’t seen the buildings you move past daily on your way to the office. You haven’t used your hands in a long time to create something. You must try making one of those clay idols again. Muddy fingers carving tiny hands out of a heap of silt.
For you haven’t read works of literary fiction, you haven’t gifted your mind the imagination of experiences of others’ lives. You haven’t listened, you haven’t empathized.
Last week, your extended family members visited you. David’s maternal aunts and uncles, none of whom you are fond of. I know how much you dislike Sheela Aunty because of her habit of poking her nose into everyone’s life. After almost seven months, you met them. Sheela Aunty made a harmless comment: “You have become fat.”
You felt terrified, claustrophobic but managed to humor them. Unwillingly, you let them make you a part of a group photo. After they left, you went to your room. You shook in fear of imaginary dislikes on Facebook and Instagram. You sobbed. Shrilled, till the room deepened with your gloom. You punched yourself. Slapped yourself. Punched David. He kicked you back brutally on your stomach—repeatedly—as though his leg were a fork capable of killing you. This unimaginable domestic violence continued for two days. Non-stop.
Why, Nandini? Why?
Nandini, my dear, have you ever considered appreciating your skills? Your cooking abilities, your work performance, your writing skills? The mutton biriyani that used to get people drooling? The touching ad that you designed based on the life of the transgender person, Svetlana, who had adopted a child? The anaphora poem that earned you the “Artsy Adsy Prize 2020?” Your ability to produce outstanding research papers? The pioneering research paper you wrote on the necessity to have gender-neutral washrooms at workplace? That, too, without plagiarizing!
Do you think you need to look like a model or a film star to live your life? Are there identities of you that are more important than your glutei and abs? Sure, exercise, be fit by all means, but do so because you want to take care of yourself. Not to impress strangers on the Internet. Moreover, why do you need to start living your life after you achieve an hourglass figure? What’s wrong with who you are today?
No one has the power to “other-ize” you for who you are, Nandini. Neither the educated nor the literate; neither the beautiful nor the wonderful; neither the rich nor the wealthy; neither the straight nor the arrow; neither the law nor the claw; neither the art nor the science; or the old adage and the new. No one. Often what makes us extraordinarily human is what is denigrated in popular rhetoric. Don’t rob yourself of the small joys of life for having a dialogue with the deaf.
When and if they turn their gaze away, don’t look for shadows; for if you try to find one, you will create many out of nothing. Rather, be impregnable and untouchable by their words and actions that cast a deep shadow inside your mind.
That respectfully indifferent person is your hero: You. Nandini Arora. Make that hero a superhero.
Train your mind more than you train your body, Nandini. You have exercised—squatted, curled, pressed, crunched—but you haven’t really taken care of yourself. Not at all. All the years, you have looked at the mirror, arranged your hair but not the head. How many more Keratin treatments will make you happy?
Nandini. You have looked at the mirror, seen what you don’t have but not what you have. You cannot get up by drowning yourself in self-criticism. You have looked at the mirror, taken care of the invisible wrinkles but not the unseen emotions beneath them. You haven’t had a warm conversation with the imperfect self that you are.
You haven’t seen yourselves through your kind eyes.
You haven’t learnt how to shield yourself from your own devices and desires. How to protect yourself from your own expectations. How to access the renewable sources of happiness within yourself, in your solitude, in your state of flow. While conceptualizing an ad, maybe. Or, while trying to be the artist whom you lost to technology?
For you, it is either a low self-esteem or a high chest-beating, unhealthy self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem allows one to be compassionate towards oneself, to understand how positive emotions might be thin in absence of the essential negative emotions, to clearly see things beyond one’s control, to be able to delay gratification, to gracefully accept rejections, and more.
Above all, self-compassion, Nandini. You haven’t extended compassion to yourself.
Fall, you will. But. Push yourself up and crawl. Let go of the incessant need to network, to run with a business card after someone running with a business card after someone else higher in the hierarchy. Invest in meaningful relationships, Nandini.
Call up Sheela Aunty. Talk to her. She loves your Mutton Biriyani. She loves you. Don’t judge her. Hug David tightly and tell him how much you love him. Now, Nandini. Now.
And a little self-compassion, please? Shall we, Nandini?
I look forward to hearing from you. The sooner, the better.
We put a premium on effective communication. Listening, empathizing, respecting, choosing the right words, projecting confidence, etc., do indeed lead to better relationships and more business opportunities. The positive correlation between effective communication and success is easy to establish. Individuals and businesses, through their lives and successes, have shown us how to walk the talk.
Despite the omnipresence of evidence, our communication takes an ugly turn just when we need to hold our tongue. We can’t swallow the impulse to humiliate others. Empathy is easier said than done. Respecting others costs our ego; not everyone is ready to pay the price.
Knowing and doing are rarely on the same wavelength, making our knowledge irrelevant.
Imagine then, how we talk to ourselves, given that neither anyone is listening to our self-talks nor do we have to seemingly pay any price for our internal dialogues. There are reasonably high chances that your inner-voice serves you a diet rich in self-criticism. You are convinced that the diet provides you the nutrients necessary to win the race.
The voice is both right and wrong. Right because it gives you a chance to tap the latent potential in self-criticism. Wrong because the voice tells you that criticizing yourself is the most effective way to unleash your potential. It tells you about the 1% who succeeded but not about the 99% who didn’t. Through its glib talks, the voice blocks your access to your higher self.
Ignore criticism. Embrace compassion.
Scoff at me. But let me tell you that there is nothing more important than taking care of the “I.” The benevolent “We” is not so proud of the individualistic I. But unless the I is fine, the We can’t be well. Those I-shaming theories make an assumption that a focus on the self is a selfish behavior. The I is ruthlessly criticized for being I and branded narcissistic for life. Narcissism is too complex an affair to be simplified to I.
When you respond to the most rhetorical question “How are you” by saying that “I am good,” you better ensure that the I is good.
Mean what you say every day. Take care.
Treat the I with compassion. No anti-aging cream, no deadlift, no book, no partner, no penthouse, no robot, no success can do so better than you.
James, a 53-year-old C-Suite leader from New Jersey, was unhappy though he had everything one could wish for—a loving family, name, fame, and wealth. He failed to understand why he didn’t like himself.
There was a lurking fear of failure in him. The constant pressure to deliver results; the regular barrage of critical comments from the people sitting at the top turned his mind into a sponge that selectively absorbed everything wrong with him. No matter how trivial those comments were, he would go on a self-doubt trip from which he would take a lot of time to return. He would, thus, be left with little mental space to savor the blessings of life.
He didn’t know how to treat himself with compassion, though he preached positive thinking. He didn’t know how to talk to himself without pointing out his shortcomings and ruminating on them.
Asha, a beautiful lady from New Delhi, started believing that she was ugly. Few professional downturns made her hate the mirror. There is apparently no connection between the two but there is more to it than meets the eye. She had always been considered a successful professional, but the unexpected string of failures made her feel worthless. After months of self-analysis, she couldn’t explain her failures. Thereby, she scapegoated her looks. Her self-esteem plunged into the cracked ground beneath her feet.
She identified herself as a compassionate woman in her introductory note, and in the course of discussions narrated how, in college, she had saved a girl from committing suicide. In her own words, she had taught the girl how to be kind to herself. When I asked her why she was a hypocrite, she was taken aback. She understood why, nevertheless.
Criticism is easy. Most people excel in self-criticism.
Compassion is hard. It requires setting empathy in motion.
Self-compassion is harder. You need to reach your higher self, which is not so easily accessible. You need to distance yourself from your feelings and emotions, and extend compassion to the I you see from a metaphorical distance.
Talking to the I with kindness is the best place to start.
Talk to yourself as you would talk to your baby when she cries in the middle of the night. Your unconditional love for her isn’t reserved for the moments when she is a bundle of cuteness.
Talk to yourself as you would talk to your best friend who recently lost his job. You would hug him and tell him that this, too, shall pass.
Talk to yourself as you would talk to your mother in physical pain. You would sit by her side, hold her hands, and take care of her.
Talk to yourself as you would talk to the individuals you admire, despite their frailties. You would keep aside your self-righteousness and appreciate their talent.
Talk to yourself in second person.
Not “I am not giving up.”
“You are not giving up, Partha.”
Take a pen and a paper. Write. Write to communicate. With the feelings hidden underneath the superficial “I am good.” With the negative emotions that have unfairly been denied their right to exist. With the uncontrollable impulses suffering from identity crisis. With the thoughts scattered all over the brain. With the ego which never seems to suffer from a bad day. With the goal-turned-mirage. With the dreams you call “just kidding.” With the unconscious buried deep within. With the inner audience trying to shame the host. With the past refusing to make peace with the present.
Write to travel from denial to acceptance. Often the dirt in your mind is stronger than the love in your heart. Self-acceptance cleanses the tinted glasses; it paves the way to see yourself clearly for who you are.
Write to find yourself.
When you find yourself speaking the language of kindness with yourself, you shall see the common thread of pain and suffering that connects the world. You shall understand that your problems aren’t privileged. You shall celebrate the small joys in the journey of your life. You shall discover how you love many people and how many people love you in ways that can’t be accurately described by the word “love” alone. You shall feel grateful for the gift of life.
Little by little, you shall find your own means to self-compassion.
Your higher self, in time, shall find you.
*James and Asha aren’t the real names of the individuals.