Saturday, January 31, 2009

Success Re-explained

I just finished Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, a New York Times correspondent, writing his third book. I was not too impressed by his second book, Tipping Point, which I thought was stating the obvious. However, he seems to have matured in his third attempt, and some of his theories found resonance in my experience. A couple of points to illustrate this:

The book starts with the 10,000 hours theory, which states that to be a world class exponent of any art or science, one needs to put in these number of hours. This is a necessary but not a sufficient condition of success. This means that if one puts in 3 hours a day, twenty hours a week, it will take ten years for a person to become adept at his profession. This jells very well, with my theory that it takes ten years of decent work for a person to become a world player in engineering. Of course, he has to take care that he does not repeat his experiences too much, and is willing to grab opportunities, as well as drive himself to work at home to get that extra experience which the office cannot provide. I ran this theory past my colleagues, who agreed with the time frame and the effort level involved reaching a certain stage of faculty.

Besides other interesting points Gladwell makes, another one which piqued my interest was the one on plane crashes. Inability to communicate that he was running out of fuel, an airline pilot crashed his plane. This was attributed to cultural aspect which makes people very reticent when dealing with their perceived social superiors. This aspect is also visible in Indian culture, although not too the extent in some others. This particular peculiarity of Indian culture is a massive hindrance to the way modern organisation run. Although a socially acceptable practice, this illogical deference to superiors needs to be rooted out ruthlessly in professional organisations.

On the whole a well written book, this one throws up a multitude of issues relationg to modern stories of success. I had difficulty in relating to the number of theories, wondering of the author is bit glib on throwing these cards on the table. And then suddenly the chapter on plane crashes turns up, and blows you away.

This book is a strong recommended read for anybody interested in the happenings and causes of events in modern society. It is also up for discussion in our book club, Cognition, which the brave Rohit Marwaha is still organising. I am hoping that the book club continues, but I am pessimistic about it.

Odds and ends

I read with interest the Delhi Bloggers Group heritage walk around Mehrauli, whcich inspired me to visit the Garden of Five Senses (see below). The photos taken by Saad were really good and are up at his blogsite. I must visit Jamali Kamali, a monument recommended to me by my colleague too, and that guy is my guru on places to eat and visit in Delhi.

Delhi Chronicles

The winter has had its truncated say in Delhi this year, and was unusually warm. A cold snap here and there helped us to remind us of its nasty reputation. But now in end January the sun is out, and it is a wonderful time to be going out and visiting the gardens. I decided to visit the Garden of Five Senses at Meharauli. Found it with great difficulty, as the metro construction has despoiled the road leading up to the garden. I lost my cell phone, so obviously the garden did not do enough to awaken my senses. The food at Bauji’s Dhabha was really good, but other than that there was little to write home about. Extended families of mind boggling proportions were out picnicking, and every spot of grass was occupied by people eating away home cooked food transported in huge containers. A dilapidated amphitheatre abuts on a upmarket restaurant, whose clients can roll in their Mercedes into the garden, while the rest of us have to park outside. A “solar bus” powered by solar charged batteries picked up kids from one end, fought its way amongst the cars from the aforementioned restaurant, and then had to have some manual help from a guy with long stick to flip around its electric contactors overhead, to make the trip back. A sad state of affairs. Methinks this garden will soon resemble the ruins it is surrounded by, and will have the honour of reaching the state of dilapidation in one hundredth the time.

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