As a result of my recent association, I have been visiting SPJIMR now for four months. SPJIMR is not the first management institute or set of faculty I have interacted with. I have chaired one institute, been on the governing board of three others at various points of time, and spoken at over thirty institutes. My stint as President of the All India Management Association in 2004 gave me wide exposure to management institutes, teachers and students. India’s large management education sector is exciting and worrying, both simultaneously. The exciting part relates to a few institutions or academics, and the worrying part relates to the middle and bottom of the pyramid.
In a welter of mediocrity, an institute can stand out through four broad strategies: great students, connected alumni, innovative teachers and management thought leadership. The first three are clearly visible among the top institutions in the country, the last item less so. From what I have seen at SPJIMR, the idea of thought leadership provides a sound basis for differentiation in the future.
Thought leadership means exactly that—the act of thinking about, expressing, debating, and modifying a point of view. Thought leadership is a distinctive act by homo sapiens, not to be found among any of the other 8.7 million species on this planet. No human being should argue that he or she does not have the time to think. It is entirely possible, indeed likely, that he or she would love to have more time to think; that is understandable. But here is the catch.
My experience is that thoughts arise in the brain out of a pressure of time! To think, you don’t need more time, you need a pressure (or shortage) of time. To write up your thoughts, you don’t need time, you need passion. We live our transactions in life by the clock time, but we live our passions in life by passion time—what Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi called ‘being in the zone.’
Thought leadership, by the way, does not mean some profound, award-winning thought, completely unknown to mankind. It would be great if it were, but more likely than not, it is merely a point of view. It is the malleability and shaping of thoughts that forms the basis of thought leadership. Just as we have two eyes, and we want the best eyesight, individually and in combination, we must seek the best out of management teaching and thought leadership. Those are the two eyes of a great management institution.
I remain very optimistic about the SPJIMR blog only because of the faculty I have seen!