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짼 2004 58 -
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Towards competitive excellence!
Self-realisation is the beginning of soul searching and the best tool to gain competitive excellence!

- K Shankar -
Chartered Mechanical Engineer 

K.ShankarWITH competition and pressure all around, what does it take to succeed today; may it be an individual, industry or nation? How can Indians and Indian organisations build a sustainable competitive edge and gain competitive excellence and leadership in the globalised world? Attitude, Behaviour, Competence, Drive, Excellenc.....the A to Z list goes on and on and gets back to its loop to repeat, until words are not available. 

When we plan for a long journey we immediately start setting our home and ourselves in order. Arrange things, leave instructions, tell neighbors to take care, plan and prepare our luggage according to our needs and wants and so on. If all these preparations are required for a temporary journey, what preparations should we do for our life journey, which is an eternal journey until we rest forever?

Know yourself
Any journey begins at home. Likewise any advancement/growth of an individual starts with himself or herself. What most people forget to do is to depart for the life journey, without preparing the home ground i.e knowing themselves.
The first deadly skill among the skills for attaining competitive excellence, in all that we do, is the skill involved in really getting to know yourself. Even the oldest admonition is Man, know thyself. It may look simple but is the toughest task. Self-realisation is the beginning of soul searching and the best tool to work with to gain competitive excellence. 

Self-analysis and Self-realisation
Self-analysis leads to self-realisation and self-realisation leads to self-development. Besides if one can understand himself or herself thoroughly, they can easily empathise others thereby reducing the chances for conflicts. Self-analysis is the process of analysing ones strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, opportunities and threats and positioning oneself appropriately to attain competitive excellence in the chosen field of profession. A clear understanding of strengths and weaknesses is the first step towards gaining competitive edge. 

One may wonder as to which is the appropriate age or stage during which one should start this exercise of trying to know oneself. This is an ongoing exercise at every stage in our life and there is no end to this. It is a progressive exercise that is life-long. The beginning of this exercise shall entirely depend on the individuals ability to think and act accordingly. It may vary from person to person depending on the environment in which they grow, the counseling they get in different forms through the people around them, but ideally one can start this exercise consciously, around the time, while completing the secondary education.

At school level it may appear too pre-matured but it is imperative at this stage to think about the future considering ones strengths and weaknesses. One can take parents or teachers or student counselors help to do this exercise. Unfortunately the students seldom do this kind of exercise and rarely get the opportunity to realise the significance of this exercise, which pushes them to an undesirable path, ignoring their own strengths and weaknesses. This is the starting point for all problems that may occur further in their life. This kind of formal counselling is still in its infancy stage in our country and has a high potential as our nation is progressing to become a developed economy.

Identify strengths and weaknesses
Sometimes the likes of an individual is different from his or her strength/competence in a particular area. For instance one may like to become a Doctor because his Doctor uncle is successful, but the individual may be a good drawing artiste. Such strength must be identified and the individual must move further in the direction of his or her strength to become more strong and competitive to make a successful career out of that rather than pursuing a medicene career. 

Learning complimentary skills like graphic design may add value to basic strengths. Weaknesses must also be identified and efforts must be made to overcome the same if they are major weaknesses. For instance if Communication of that individual is poor it may affect that individual to climb the ladder further.

Counselling at the right age and the right stage such as this instance as pointed above, could lead a person to the right destination in his or her life. Competence and strength might have developed right from their infancy stage as a natural art, but breaking that artificially to switch over to parents likes or peer pressure shall only lead to half-hearted progress in the chosen field.

The above-mentioned instance is just a case of trying to know oneself during the student days. Even after getting into some profession, everyone must conduct a personal audit on themselves on what their ambitions are, what they are good at, what they are strong and competent at and whether their likes and strengths are matching and which way they should go etc. Even housewives seeking some part-time career can conduct this kind of audit to venture into the right kind of business that would suit them.

Self-audit can be done in the following areas

  • Education nCareer/Profession
  • Competence building n Addl. Skill development
  • Family n Money
  • Materialistic goals n Society
  • Health n Spirituality
  • Other interests
Creative thinking
The process of Self-realisation, self-analysis et al, begins with thinking. Hence children must be given opportunities to think and do things. Unfortunately our education system and curriculum have limitations on this. Creative thinking must become a part of school and college curriculum and simple workshops must be conducted on this to motivate and drive the students.
Well, what's creative thinking? 
 A low-income family devises a plan to send their son to a leading university. Thats creative thinking.
 A family turns the streets most undesirable lot into the neighborhood beauty spot. Thats creative thinking.
 A factory worker conceives a new working method that increases his productivity. Thats creative thinking.

Creative thinking is simply finding new, improved ways to do anything.
Once the thinking process starts, one must learn to make his or her, own judgement based on critical thinking (Analytical thinking) considering the pros and cons involved in every issue that confronts them. Both Objective and Subjective judgement skills can be learnt in this process. 

Also this will enable the young minds to study themselves and understand their own potential considering their strengths and weaknesses. Simple morals and cases can be used to stimulate thinking. The magnitude of ones achievement is based on the size of his or her thinking. If we think big our achievement will also be big and vice versa. The economic reforms process being carried out in India since 1991, is a clear case of Government thinking and mind-set change.

In life everything begins with thinking. There cant be a better thinking, on the importance of thinking than this. What our mind can conceive and believe, it can also achieve. 

Organisation context
In the organisation context, those who realised their strengths and weaknesses are already arms up for facing the global competition. For example, in Chennai, Sundram Fasteners has global acceptance for product quality. Jet Airways has won international acclaim for in flight service. NDTV has established itself as a world-class news and current affairs organisation. IIM Ahmedabad is rated as the best management institution in Asia. Indian Institutes of Technology have left an indelible imprint on technical education. There are good examples but numbers are not sufficient for a large economy. Yet it is better late than never to put in more efforts. 

Leadership to foster creative thinking
Getting back to the beginning, on gaining competitive edge and catching up with the world for attaining competitive excellence and leadership, lets first understand ourselves thoroughly as individuals, as industries, as an economy.
This can happen only in an environment where creative thinking is encouraged and to do this we need competent and inspiring leadership in all walks of life. We need leadership that can foster creative thinking, ideas and motivate the cadres to realise their full potential. 

This is missing today because of the absence of an environment that builds leaders. There is too much of negativism in our attitude. There is more regulation than freedom. More suppression than autonomy, and more suspicion than trust. This is happening even in organisations where the top management is highly qualified. The challenge for all of us is to create an environment where such leadership can flourish in every area. The process must start with a commitment by each one of us to provide efficient stewardship in the fields where there is a trace of core competence, to ensure global competitiveness and leadership. Know thyself and you can take on the world.

The author is a Management and HRD Consultant. 
Email: shankargea@satyam.net.in / shanakrgea@vsnl.net 

Courtesy: Deccan Herald 

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