Monday, October 19, 2009

Factors behind Success: Competence, Commitment, Hard Work and Luck

Recently when Venkatraman Ramakrishnan (Venki) got the Nobel Prize he made a statement that there are several good scientists that live in India and do great work but do not get recognised. CK Prahalad in one of his speeches at AMA made statement that there are many more faculty of his Calibre or even better at IIMA. If he applies for admission to IIMA today he is not even sure if he will get it. I believe what both these great guys are saying is so true. India recognises people only after someone else recognise them and then starts lifting them up.
I believe competence is essential for success. Also commitment and hard work. Perseverance is another word for it. Commitment gets reflected through perseverance and hard work. However chance or luck also has an important role to play. Interestingly in most cases I believe luck favours those who have the first three. There are always exceptions of course. In this piece I like to share my thoughts and experiences on how much chance matters. For years I have been teaching to students the role of “Internality and Internal Locus of Control” as factors in success. I continue to believe the same.
However, sometimes I keep wondering how much chance factors influence our life. I joined IIMA in 1973, I had the great opportunity and privilege to work with Ravi Matthai and Rangarajan. Ravi Matthai stepped down as Director and came from the family of John Matthai a well known figure in Pandit Nehru’s government and close to many bureaucrats and also Mrs. Gandhi. There was a rumour in the campus that he will soon be appointed a Minister or as Governor and will be leaving IIMA. How can such a person continue to be at IIMA? He did not become a Minister nor did he seek or get any other post in Government. Was he not offered? Did he choose to be so? The truth no one knows. He did a lot for IIMA. He lived the life of a true Management Guru trying to professioanlise management as professed by IIMA. He prefered to try out new experiments in Rural areas. However not many in the current lot of Professors or students even seem to know Ravi and what he has done. He remains a name among many other buildings like Kasturbhai Lalbhai (MDC), Vikram Sarabhai (Library) and Ravi Matthai Centre, Louis Khan (Plaza).
David McClelland who contributed a lot to the psychology of economic Development. His book on Achieving Society and Motivation Economic Achievement deserved one. Those days I am told people even criticized and ridiculed David for using per capita electricity production he used as an index of Economic Development. Now economists themselves accept it as a valid index. David did not get Nobel Prize. So did B F Skinner.
Udai Pareek has done a lot to Behavioural Sciences in this country. He should have been Bharat Ratna. A person of Abdul Kalam’s stature in Social sciences- why does Dr. Pareek not figure out in the prominent national Figures that get Padmashree’s and Padma Bhushans.

So why is it that India has many worthy of a Nobel Prize and still don’t get it and many who could be world’s number one management Gurus and not recognised or Bharat Ratna’s not identified? Chance. They all work hard, capable and have perhaps been doing marvellous things. Hard work combined with competence is needed for success. However luck or chance also plays a role. If any I believe it plays a strong role in determining successes or lack of it. Interestingly it is preceded by choices. Without choices there is no success or failure.
Of course there is a bigger question: What is success or what is failure? As St Ignatius of Loyola says” What use is it for a man to conquer the whole world and lose his own soul?”

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