Sunday, April 21, 2019

Innovators show-up more often than everyone else

This post is in continuation to my post on 'My Talk on Innovation'. As i promised, i am double-clicking on some aspects that i shared in my talk to awesome internship batch at my organization.

I narrated the story from my first job. I started working in an organization known as 'Quark Media House Pvt. Ltd.'. It was a publishing software product company, relatively lesser known in Indian tech scene that was dominated by by Indian services companies at that phase. Quark, at that stage, was ahead of Adobe in the publishing software segment.

I was 4-5 months into my first job when i received this email from Country Head (that was broadcasted to all the employees) sharing an opportunity to work on a side-project. The stated project was for Punjab Government tourism sector in which they needed help in building touch screen interface for their upcoming website. The idea behind this project was to provide touch-screen kiosks to the tourists at various prime places. To set the context, i am talking about the time in early 2000s when touch-screens weren't as consumerized as they are now.

I was clueless about the technology expertise needed to build this system so I gave this opportunity a pass and went on with my 'normal' projects. 3-4 months later, I again received an broadcasted email from Country Head, this time announcing the success of the project and thanking the team that was involved in executing the project. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that one of the team members being acknowledged was a peer of mine who had joined almost the same time as I had.

I was surprised because he was also in his first-time job and my assessment suggested that he skill levels were almost similar to mine! Curious to know the details, i approached him and asked him whether he knew about the technologies before signing up for this project. He answered 'No'. I then asked him then how did he sign-up for the project ? He simply said that he was curious to know more about the technology and how such projects are managed and simply offered himself to the project thinking that he will learn the skills along the way.

This was the moment when i felt my brain shift a little for the first time in my professional life. I had simply let go of an opportunity because I thought overly of my weaknesses. My friend had grabbed the opportunity because he chose to think of his strength (curiosity, risk-taking). Something snapped within me with this episode and it made me more open to risk-taking and strengths focused.

The reason I share this story and my learnings from it is two-fold:

1. Having worked with a lot of innovators in the recent past, I can vouch that Innovators simply don't lose a moment to grab the opportunities that matter to them. Many a times i see similar people participating in the innovation programs and gaining on multiple dimensions. They simply know the knack of showing-up more often than anyone else. They simply don't have the levers that pull them down in any way.

2. Second, was more of a personal learning that i inculcated from the story I shared. I found the words to express the learning from the podcast featuring Ravi Venkatesan and Pankaj Mishra. In that instance, I allowed myself to come in the way of my own progress. As Ravi narrated:

The biggest obstacle to your success is you. Sooner or later, we each become the barriers to other's success. We have to learn to get out of our own way.It takes high degree of self-awareness.
Metaphor of a giant balloon: Think of a giant hot-air balloon which has a huge lift, thats your potential. You could be anything but this balloon is held down by thick ropes or chains. These chains are your weaknesses, your fears.
Don't create stories in your mind that are self-limiting.
People who are able to succeed beyond luck are the ones that are able to see whats holding them down and gradually unshakle themselves.

Needless to say, that instance taught me a lesson for a lifetime that I can recall even now and share. That made me show-up more often than I even have, every day, every month, every year.

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