Inaugural address to PGPM Class of 2017

Teaching In The Time Of The Internet
November 20, 2018
Inaugural address to PGEMP Batch 65
November 26, 2018

Jan 9. 2017

Faculty and staff of SPJIMR, the wonderful PGPM team and the new students who are entering the family.

Jan 9. 2017

Faculty and staff of SPJIMR, the wonderful PGPM team and the new students who are entering the family. I am going to introduce you to broadly three things; I am going to talk a little about Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and how they shape us. We are going to talk to you about SPJIMR and out attitude towards education. And finally, as teachers give advice there is a little advice and perspective. So, that’s the sequence.

If you look at SPJIMR as part of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, BVB was founded by K M Munshi in the year 1938. He was a man with Gandhi ideals. One thing he had seen is that India opened itself to the world and functions as an independent nation, there is a need for somebody to re-emphasise and be the custodian of Indian values and Indian culture. And that values and culture must be made relevant to the society. The mission of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan can really be seen as taking all the Indian-ness and keeping it alive and relevant. Why is that important? Because that is a part of the fundamental makeup of SPJIMR. I address many of the alumni abroad at many of the alumni meets. Most of them said; Many of us have travelled abroad, many of us have stayed abroad, but we will not find an SPJIMR alumnus with an American accent. There is something about the institute, its interviews, its selection that keeps people grounded and in touch with their roots.

There are two philosophies that is a guiding thought of BVB. One says: Let noble truths come to us from every side. This means many things. It means that we can learn from everybody. It also implies stability. There are two examples that I will use at this point. There is a gentleman called R Gopalakrishnan and some of you might have interacted with him. He is an Executive in residence here. He was the Director at Tata Sons and a very well-known man. He has written as many as six best-selling books. His last best-selling book was on Innovation.

He made a presentation at our faculty meeting. I have seen him present many times and I felt that this was not his best presentation. And I was meeting him immediately after that and I asked him if he didn’t mind. Basically, I had the audacity to give R Gopalakrishnan feedback on his presentation. I told him what was wrong in five minutes. He met me a few days back and told me that he acknowledged one thing. He said of all the presentations I have made post the faculty meet in SPJIMR have been seen as the best presentations I have ever made in my life and my wife told me that. And that’s like the highest praise I could get. Five minutes of your feedback helped and that’s how I turned it around. I am saying here is a man who has written five best-selling books and I have written none. Took feedback from a person twenty year his junior. In-corporated that feedback to meet success. That is humility.

Second dimension of this humility is what I would like to quote from Simon Sinek. Simon Sinek said he was a minister in the government and he went to give a speech. There was a car to pick him up. He goes to the place in the car and is served tea in a china cup. Next time he is asked to speak at the same forum. He is no longer a minister. He takes an Uber to the venue. Then he asks for some coffee and is directed to the coffee machine. He takes his coffee in a plastic cup. The point he makes here is that when you strip off the designation of the paraphernalia then you are worth the coffee cup. So, the coffee cup is the true worth of the leader. It’s this dimension of being willing to learn from every human being and the other is being aware of who you are and maybe at a level being comfortable with who you are.

People are talking about race, religion and basically about our differences. People are talking about how human-beings are different. And when we focus on differences, the walls between people can gro. If you look at organisations today, the silos within organisations are collapsing. The organisations of the past had marketing and finance and information management. But increasingly organisations are becoming more integrated. Increasingly information technology is not a business function but embedded in every organisation. The fact is that we are all connected and it is important to take out the silos from our mind. People are really more similar when they are different. When we start the foundation of similarity then we can celebrate differences.

When you are looking at the world as one family, whenever you see someone angry, across languages and cultures you can say that somebody is angry. Similarly, across languages and cultures on videos and say that somebody is sad. What they say is that if you can recognise the emotion in another person that means that you have experienced that emotion personally. Basically, it is that when you recognise that a person is angry it is because you have seen the same set of reactions in yourself. It means that fundamentally we are alike and we all connected by this element and this ability to respect it.

I don’t care whether you are strong in religious beliefs or an atheist. But what is said is that there is a belief in a larger force. Whether you call it God or you call it luck. If I look back in my own life, there are times when something happened where I met somebody and it changed things. And if I would have not arrived at that spot, five minutes earlier or later it would not have happened. There are things that happen in the world that we cannot account for to anybody.

There is also another thing on Honesty that I want to talk about. How many of you have seen this movie called Wonder? Strong recommendation to go and see it. The story is about a boy who goes to a high school in America and he has a completely disfigured face. The day he is walking into the school, he is wearing a helmet. And there is a moment in the movie where he is standing outside the school with the helmet and he doesn’t want to take it out. And his father takes off his helmet and pushes him into the school. The parents are literally praying as they are pushing him into the school. The boy is very good in studies. So, he has knowledge. But he has two problems. One is that he is not warm, so everybody critiques him. And the second is the most important. He is ashamed of his own face. What the movie shows is that over his course of time in the school, he converts his problems into skill. Skill is a repetitive pattern of behaviour. So, when people bully him he doesn’t respond in kind. He helps other students. He listens well. He learns forgiveness. Finally, in the process he accepts himself. In the process of accepting himself the entire school accepts him and he becomes the best outgoing student. Knowledge, skill, attitude. Attitudes is the way you think. It’s the predisposition to behave. If I am ashamed of myself I will behave in a certain way. If I say this is my face and I have accepted it and I am comfortable with whom I am then I can start to gain the respect of others.

A large part of the SPJIMR experience is not just teaching you marketing or finance or information management. It’s an institute where we help you to find yourself and be comfortable with yourself. People cannot accept you unconditionally until you have learnt to accept yourself unconditionally. And if you are not, then what you are doing is that you are really walking in this world with a helmet. Because that’s a part of who you are that you are ashamed to expose. A large part of this is understanding yourself and openness.

How do we do it? There are two things about the SPJIMR experience. One is that more than 60% of the faculty have worked for more than ten years in the Industry. What we teach in our classrooms is theory backed by current understanding of practices. What is taught in our classrooms is current. For us the class is over when the class is over. This doesn’t mean that the classes extend but it means that the faculty are willing to spend time with you beyond the classroom to help you grow. But there is a larger willingness from you that you must have the courage to reflect back into your experience. Understand your strengths. Become comfortable with your own strengths and then say how do I use this to learn and grow.

One of the biggest things in learning is that faculty can teach you but you are responsible for your own learning. Nobody else is. If you can deeply accept this and say that I am responsible for my own learning and one of the things I want to achieve and everything else is a consequence, is that I want to know myself, be comfortable with myself, be accepting of myself and then go out into the world and be the best that I can be. It’s a great journey.