Any high-growth society is faced with the challenge of rapid capacity creation. By ‘capacity’ is implied ‘capacity to deliver’; not skills and qualifications. Put differently, India has qualified people but that does not necessarily mean that we have the capacity to deliver.

The challenge therefore is – How to scale up the capacity to deliver in our society?

If this challenge is not resolved we may face a serious issue: economic growth without the ability to manage it well. If one takes up solving the challenge of rapid capacity creation, it opens up numerous sub-challenges.

For example,

  1. how does one help people assimilate knowledge quickly? (not simply knowing things but translating  knowledge  into superior practice)
  2. how to share expertise rapidly from one part  of a system to another?
  3. how to open up people’s minds to direct energies towards productive output instead of diffusing their energies all over the place?

All these are difficult challenges which require enormous time, attention and energy from the organizations.

There is a simpler, easier answer to the challenge of rapid capacity creation: develop contributors.

Why develop contributors: Answer 1

Only individuals who are able to operate at a level deeper than mere ‘functional tasks’ will be able to cope with change.

Organizations are facing an extremely fast-changing environment. For 40-50 years, business, organizations, and society were almost static. Things were going at a ‘Hindu rate of growth’. In that kind of an environment, with traditional technologies and processes, workers who stayed within their functional responsibilities were good enough.

For example, public sector banking for many decades operated the same way – establishing a branch in an area and waiting for customers to come. Sectors where the bank invested in, those sectors grew. Where the bank was not interested, those people had no choice but to drop those activities. In such static environments, the difference between workers and contributors was not obvious.

Organizations have to firstly, stay relevant to the changing environment and, secondly, be in a position to anticipate future change. For this, organizations need people who feel the changing environment and are able to translate that into business outcomes that need to be achieved. These people need to take up the responsibility for this transformation of the organization and work towards navigating the change. New capacities have to be learnt, new practices have to be adopted, earlier notions or assumptions have to be discarded.

To take a specific example, Airtel has established a presence in Africa, which means learning a whole new capability – engaging with diverse multi-ethnic multi-cultural customer communities. And learning the new language is just the first step. Differences in cultures mean different sets of expectations in the market which in turn means different engagement models. Airtel needs its staff to rise up and take up these new capabilities and respond effectively to the new environment.

So completely new things, new demands are coming up for people. New industries are being born.

Why develop contributors: Answer 2

If one looks at the entry level salaries for graduates of premier technical institutions, there has been a spiraling growth. Their salaries are extremely high, and in course of time, will get higher. This is because we assume a correlation between the educational background of the graduate and his potential for contribution. 

When salaries grow higher, organizations ‘demand value’.  Having paid these high salaries, organizations want returns out of the individual. They want to see business outcomes achieved with the individual raising himself or herself in order to achieve those.

If the individual does not create that value, he will be out of the job. Then he is caught in a state where he was so highly paid that every other job makes him feel underpaid and undervalued. This is because, unfortunately,  his self-worth is connected to how much he gets paid!

Contributors, on the other hand, ensure that organizations get value for money. They recognise that whatever they get paid is the due reward for the value that they have created for the organization.

So only contributors will justify high salaries.

Why develop contributors: Answer 3

Only contributors will have the energy and the will to generate the transformative insights needed in a complex marketplace.

Society’s language is in terms of lifestyle, while organizations are talking in the language of products and services. Organizations need to redesign their business around ‘lifestyles’, ‘human goals’ and ‘societal purposes’. This requires organizations to re-purpose themselves to serve society rather than to sell products.

Today, for example, it is very hard to distinguish between a telecom company and a media company. Take the case of Samsung. Is it a TV manufacturing company or a refrigerator manufacturing company or a cell phone company or what? In a world where ‘entertainment’, ‘convenience’ and ‘networking’ are all rolled into the lifestyle of the current generation, it is no surprise that Samsung has put itself as a ‘provider’ of tools to enable that lifestyle.

In such a situation, the distinction between industries and markets is fast getting blurred. All kinds of new complexities, new business models are emerging. For this, contributors are needed. Only contributors think like this.  As that starts happening, organizations have to go deeper into the subject and get very deeply engaged with the markets.

One cannot afford to take on a very transactional and hands-off approach to work. One has to gain deep insights into the situation. Only at a deep level, apparently separate things, apparently disparate ideas, come together.

Unless one goes one level deeper than what the situation is at,  one will not be able to see the connection between two separate things.

In the Samsung example, ‘convenience’, ‘entertainment’ and ‘networking’ are all linked to the lifestyle of the generation, and can be perceived only when this depth is achieved. If one takes an industry focus, each one – TV, refrigerators, cell-phones – is a different industry. If one goes deeper, then one will discover synergies in either their core competency or capability matrix or distribution system. If one goes even deeper than that, one will see the synergies in the kind of ‘thinking’ across these industries. One will find that their ‘business models’ are the same.

Only contributors can come up with such transformative insights.

Why develop contributors: Answer 4

Only contributors will enable their organizations to navigate the transitions in society.

Organizations, 20-30 years ago, wanted an ‘organization man’ – a person who conformed to the culture and rules of the organization, who stayed with the organization till retirement, working diligently every day. Such a person was respected for what he was. He was our ‘national role-model’ for success. He went to the right colleges, got the right degrees, had the right pedigree. Then he entered the right organization, and climbed up in the right way. His life was set! Even in the early years of liberalization, the organization changed from public sector to private sector but the ‘concept’ remained essentially  the same.

Today what we see outside is a transition. In some cases we find that some of the ‘old school’ people are still there, in certain key positions. We also find new industries where there is a new breed of people, talking a completely different language. These are the places where only contributors are running the organization, and they are able to handle this complexity in a completely new way. Their answers are not shaped by the answers of yesterday but by the outcomes of tomorrow.

Contributors recognize that one cannot afford to have yesterday’s formula for tomorrow’s success. Hence,  they are the breed of  individuals who will help organizations navigate transitions into the future.