Long ago, I wrote an article, titled ‘Are Indians creative and original?’
To a question, ‘How creative are Indians?’ Edward De Bono says:
From the limited interactions I’ve had, I find Indians very argumentative. Argument is a primitive way of discussion – not constructive one at all. Americans are creative and have a ‘go-getter’ attitude. The Chinese are not much creative. The Japanese, on the other hand, are moving from logic-based thinking to more creative one.
When I came back from
Something that I observed was the way meetings were held. First, nobody spelt out the agenda. Second, there were too many opinions. Some opinions were taking the course of meeting completely astray and divergent! Some of them were completely nonsensical just taking up everyone’s time! Many meetings just got extended, and some of them didn’t produce any result. For the first time, I saw ‘democracy’ in action on a completely different definition from what I was used to. [I keep sticking to that famous line from Crimson Tide, where a military guy says, ‘We are here to preserve democracy, not practice it!’ My rule for an organization is simple- ‘Ideas flow bottom up, decisions come top down’].
On few occasions, when a manager said, we will do this, few subordinates just brushed it off emphatically saying, ‘No, we won’t do it’. And the way the manager reacted was something that I did not anticipate. He suddenly took a conciliatory stance and tried to cajole them.
I would have expected something completely different. I would have expected the manager to be stern and not tolerate such indiscipline. When I started to learn more about Indian industry, I realized that it is heavily services oriented where attrition is a big problem. The manager has to somehow ‘manage’ the show, maintain the headcount to get the revenues. And the fact that excellence is not rewarded nor recognized in this industry, it allows everyone to fall into a mood of complacency, saying, ‘sab chalta hain’ (anything goes), including being belligerent and rebellious towards your manager.
In another episode, an Indian company recruited an American as their VP. When he was holding a meeting here in
I was sharing notes with few others from the West who have experienced Indian industry and I realize that definitely there is much more room for unnecessary arguments in Indian companies, sometimes to the point of being unproductive and sometimes destructive.
Are we ‘too argumentative’ to the point of making the discussion not constructive?
I have many examples from Indian TV. Each time I sit down to watch a debate on Indian TV I really get fed up within the first few minutes because every member starts shouting at the other. After some time, everyone is bickering, fighting, and they don’t stop talking even when the other person is talking. The mediator just cannot stop the fight and even he enters the fray, talking and shouting to make other people stop talking and shouting. That’s when I change the channel. That’s too much of argument for me. Nowadays, I flip the channel whenever I see such a debate.
What use is it when there is nothing to take home after such a long debate? What we all do is come, argue, and nothing gets done. Debate is something quite different from an argument. What we see on Indian TV is usually heated and nonsensical arguments, not a debate.
‘All talk, no action’, is what I call them all. [I have another one, ‘All fluff, no stuff’]
And as I said before, I like the slogan from Nike, ‘Just do it’.
More of action and less of arguments would be quite healthy for Indians.