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The greatness of stupidity

Source | | Vineet Nayar

All of us have made a few stupid decisions at some point in our life. By ‘stupid’, I mean the most illogical decisions. I believe that on an average everyone makes at least 25 such decisions in their lifetime, be it picking a job or a carrier one should not have; taking risks one should not have; climbing mountains one should not have; making friends one should not have, to name a few.

When you reflect on those stupid decisions, you realise that they were great learning experiences. My own life has been full of such decisions and I am quite convinced I would not be where I am without those decisions.

The thing about greatness is that it comes only to people who dare to experiment, overcoming their fear of failures or fear of looking stupid. Any innovative or creative pursuit is based on a premise that you would do things that have not done before or do it in ways never attempted before. Such attempts may look stupid when it fails but that is the only route to breakthrough thinking, innovation and greatness.

Industrial age was about quality, process and efficiency. However, digital age now is all about innovation, creativity and taking calculated risks to explore the unexplored. If India truly wishes to be a five trillion economy, it needs disruptive thinkers, innovators who are unafraid to look stupid. We need them as our political leaders, business leaders, administrators, researchers, investors and educators because without them, growth will be just incremental. India’s aspirations are running high and it needs a big gear change in its outlook and attitude, now.

So how do you teach someone to be unafraid of taking stupid decisions? Do we as parents, educators, mentors or leaders encourage it or do we do just the opposite? Is this ‘play safe, not stupid’ attitude not the core reason we do not have enough innovators and breakthrough thinkers as role models in India?

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