One aspect of life that the world-at-large is largely missing these days is the ability to think deep and long. There is hardly anyone indulging in visionary thinking. This may also have been the case for most of our history, but a few luminescent exceptions have held the thinking flag aloft intermittently.
There have been some rare thinkers who have shared philosophical and path breaking ideas with the rest of the world. Aristotle, Gautam Buddha, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, the Wright brothers and Steve Jobs are just some of the geniuses who obviously thought differently from the rest of humanity and had something unique to offer.
The fact that they came up with original and revolutionising ideas which were to impact the entire globe was clearly no coincidence. They surely spent months and years thinking deeply about their theories and plans before unveiling them for general public. And of course they were exceptionally gifted human beings.
In today’s world too, brilliant scientists and philosophers lead global thought and action by dint of their unceasing and unwavering pursuit of goals that they have set for themselves. The rest of the planet benefits by the research of a handful of such jewels, some of whom are Nobel laureates too.
But what of the rest of us? Are we condemned to live a life of mechanical action and reaction? Of career oriented drudgery and mindless hurtling towards shifting goalposts?
Or can we too, in our own little ways, be thought leaders for the society that we are a part of? Something tells me that we can be indeed, if only we would distance ourselves from the humdrum of our existence once in a while. Several good ideas crop up in our own lives when we are out having a walk, or travelling on a train, with nothing to do. Perhaps we need to spend some ‘think-time’ every once in a while, and we will surely be the wiser for it.
Thinking of others is an even nobler act. There are some NGO’s which supply items like shoes and sanitary napkins to needy students. They are thinking differently and acting in accordance with their mission of making a positive impact in society.
But even more compelling is the need for quality institutions to step up and lead collective thought processes. There are many Universities, Colleges and Schools which simply go through the motions. They exist only for teaching, exams and placements. The level of research being carried out on these campuses is minimal or non-existent, barring a few shining examples.
The number of PhD’s in India is nothing to write home about. But even more painful is the paucity of time spent on thought and research at our portals of higher education.
High end studies into the subject of thought leadership itself have thrown up some interesting findings. One of them is the fact that brands which are perceived to be thought leadership brands impact the behaviour of the market itself. Studies by Edelman-Linkedin and Forbes indicate that thought leadership increases the popularity of organisations which indulge in it.
Additionally, some Indian Think-Tanks have sprouted of late and while they have not exactly emblazoned the horizon with brilliant lights, some of them have made promising beginnings. They focus key areas like healthcare, education, resource mobilisation and urban planning. Others are more specific in their scope and concentrate on defence studies or scientifically oriented analysis. By being associated with them, young people who are starting to make a mark in their careers can propel themselves to great heights in the years to come.
The fact remains that someone has to show the way to the rest of society, otherwise it becomes a case of the blind leading the blind. Government bodies, corporate, academia and communities all need to be led by visionary people and institutions.
People in powerful positions may not exactly be great thinkers. It is therefore necessary for each Emperor Akbar to have a Birbal on call. The person in the saddle can then take informed and far-sighted decisions.
Thought leadership is a rare commodity in a world that yearns for instant gratification. It needs to be nurtured and treasured!