Wednesday, October 22, 2008

PERFECT SHOW WITH Dr.Murli Nagasundaram - Creativity Imbued !!

Folks, its been sometime, we had any food for thought.,. And the time spent waiting will not be for vain.,. Its my great pleasure to have Dr.Murli Nagasundaram as a guest in the Perfect Show. Dr. Murli Nagasundaram is a consultant on creativity, innovation and design thinking in business, government, education and society. He also conducts workshops on cultural sensitivity for business success in India.

Murli has a PhD in Management from the University of Georgia, Athens, USA, a PGDM from the IIM Kolkata, and a BE from the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Tiruchirapalli. In the mid-1980's, Murli helped found Collaborative Technologies Corporation in Austin, Texas, and designed a groupware product called VisionQuest. He has a passion for and involvement in the arts, design, the written word, theatre and emerging digital interactive technologies. More details on Murli at:


Guest : Dr.Murli Nagasundaram - MN
Host : Prashant Sree - PS

PS: Hello Sir. On behalf of Perfect Show readers, i welcome you to the Show.
MN: Thank You Prashant.

And here we go !!

PS: What are you passionate about in Life ?
MN: I am very passionate about Originality, Beauty, and Harmony. These things really excite me. So how does this translate into my life? I would like to play some role in filling the world with ideas and things that bring originality, beauty, and harmony to life.

PS: Thats quite different from the norm.,. And quite exciting too. As Nnamdi Azikiwe said,

Originality is the essence of true scholarship.
Creativity is the soul of the true scholar.

What have you learnt in your life( other than academics), which you would like to share with others ?
MN:That life really is much shorter than one might imagine. That there is no time to waste. And this doesn't mean one should rush through life -- one should slow down and relish every moment the way one relishes some truly tasty delicacy or intoxicating fragrance. Time is wasted when it is not lived intensely. Life is wasted when you rush through it. And it takes a while to both understand this and to find a way to strike a balance. That life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. So take in everything that is going on around you, because you have much to learn from it all. That it is good to be kind and generous to others both because there is much greater joy in giving than in receiving and because you never know when you might require someone else's generosity.

That children, especially small children, are the most beautiful and wonderful creations of this universe, and time not spent with children (one's own or those of others) is a priceless treasure lost or wasted. That all ideologies are man-made and hence highly flawed, so abandon all ideologies but keep your mind constantly awake and alive to everything around -- there is no greater teacher than nature, and what you learn from her is the only (non)-ideology you need. I could go on, but I will stop here.

PS: That was quite useful Sir. Iam sure all the readers will definitely agree with you. Now,If you are given a wish to change one thing in world, what would you change ?
MN:Doing dishes, washing and ironing clothes, cleaning out cobwebs and dust, repairing broken appliances and machines, the production of sewage and waste, air pollution -- in short, the ugly muck that is the Collective Effluence of Modern Civilisation. Gimme a magic wand to get rid of all this crap.

PS: That change is required as well.,. Who is your Favourite Mythological Hero and why ?
MN: The term 'mythology' was invented by Westerners as a pejorative term for traditions and literatures other than their own. So it is time we flung it overboard along with other such detritus from our colonial past such as 'vernacular', 'native' and 'idol'. My favourite traditional hero is Karna -- favourite in a tragic sense -- because of his utter decency and loyalty.

PS: Well, thats a new learning for me.,. No more mythology, but traditional heroes.,. :) Now,What would you like to evangelize in your life ?
MN:Constructive change, a fresh look at every aspect of life through the eyes of both hard science and traditional wisdom. Design and Innovation, simply for the joy of creating beautiful, yet functional things, and also to have a positive impact on the world.

PS:What do you consider as your charm ?
MN:It would be presumptuous for me to claim to possess any charm at all, so I hesitate to answer this. But if I reflect on what I have to offer another human being in a relationship of any kind, it is perhaps a willingness to listen deeply, empathize, find common ground and engage in something -- a conversation or activity -- that brings much joy and mirth to us and to others.

PS: Quite humble of you. What is your Thumb Rule for Success in Life ?
MN:First, there is not, and never will be, any finite set of metrics to determine whether one has achieved 'success'. 'Success' (or lack, thereof) is something one realizes in retrospect as one grows older, and the meaning and purpose of one's life gain clarity of some sort. I have learned that one has to be true to oneself. And one can discover who that 'oneself' is only by flinging oneself at every possible opportunity for varied experience in life. And the sooner you start doing that the more ground you can cover in the very limited time you have. Experience brings confusion and then clarity and then self-discovery, and thereby lights up the path one is truly destined to tread.

PS: An apt way for self-discovery !! Its like "The more i fail, the more i increase the chances of my being successful". The next question- Who have been role models in your Life and Why ?
MN: Fail often, fail early, as some like to say. Neither the terms Role Models nor Mentors could possibly truly describe the persons who have played a massive role in shaping my life. First off, is my late uncle, Dr. V. Ramachandran, the first in our family to obtain a PhD, the first to have traveled to and studied in the US, and most importantly for me, the one who brought home a set of model missiles from a visit to NASA that fired up my imagination at age 7. This eventually led to my pursuing mechanical engineering. He was also a management specialist of some sort, and that motivated me to pursue an MBA, even though I didn't even know what one was supposed to with an MBA (we were innocents then, mostly). The man had a book by Edward de Bono in his library which got me interested in creativity.

My professors, Jerry Wagner and Skip Ellis, who opened my eyes to an entirely new field I had no idea existed. My dissertation advisor, Bob Bostrom, a scholar, gentleman, philosopher, guide, and magnificent human being who gave me the space to pursue my passions. Steven Paul Jobs, Apple cofounder, and father of the Apple Macintosh computer who set my mind on fire, the searing heat of which caused me to ditch my dull, lifeless, managerial job and go off to do a PhD. I still salute the guy every day. President A P J Abdul Kalam, in my opinion, the greatest Indian in public service since Independence and a fantastic inspiration to young people who will shape India's future. If I had the wherewithal, I would hang a photograph of him in every public space to inspire Indians to rise above our petty quarrels.

PS: Quite true... Which books(atleast 3) have had an impact on your thinking as well as your attitude.,.
MN: Here are some, off the top of my head:
1. Metaphors we live by -- George Lakoff and Mark Johnston
2. Language, Thought, and Reality -- Benjamin Whorf
3. The Sciences of the Artificial -- Herbert Simon
4. The Social Psychology of Organising -- Karl Weick
5. Jonathan Livingston Seagull -- Richard Bach
6. Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid -- Douglas Hofstadter
7. Lateral Thinking -- Edward de Bono
8. The Design of Everyday Things -- Donald Norman
9. General Systems Theory -- Ludwig von Bertalanffy
10. Computer Power and Human Reason -- Joseph Weizenbaum
11. Orientalism -- Edward Said

PS: A few more questions regarding your experienced life Sir. About entrepreneurship, What do you think is more apt : "Are entrepreneurs made or born". A brief illumination will be great :)
MN:Entrepreneurship is but one manifestation of a more fundamental set of strengths and qualities that can show up in a variety of ways. Qualities that entrepreneurs possess include: high need for achievement; capacity for risk; tolerance for ambiguity; freedom from ideology; tenacity and persistence; stamina; an almost delusional belief in themselves and their futures; resilience (to bounce back from failure); an ability not to dwell on failures (I call this Constructive Amnesia); capacity to absorb criticism; belief in the importance of their pursuit; tolerance and ability to bend or break rules they don't believe in; and a lot more, besides, I'm sure. These qualities can be developed, or uncovered to some extent, but you either have a lot of it (more than some 'threshold level need to get up and act) or you don't.

Of course, there is the sticky issue of 'nature' vs. 'nurture'. Does the environment play any role? Of course it does -- notice how people who might have never risked their futures in India, become first generation entrepreneurs after they move to the US. So there are some that are in the 'beyond four sigma' outlier range who would become entrepreneurs no matter what (even in Communist China during the height of the Maoist regime), many others blossom in the right environment, a few are compelled by circumstances to turn entrepreneurial when they are left with no feasible alternatives, and a few just luck out -- right place at the right time, as in the case of many dotcomboomers. Most people probably can be entrepreneurial in a small way (for reasons of survival), but big-time risk taking entrepreneurs, it is my belief, are born, not made.

PS: Since you have had an extensive experience in Business Creativity, how do you sense the business environment changing over the coming years. In the fast paced world, when even a new technology becomes outdated in a short tenure, how can business realign themselves so as to cater to the customers need as well as innovating themselves.,.
MN: First thing -- we're no longer living in the License Permit Raj culture in which I grew up. I call that the Typewriter Economy. Did you know that when the original typewriters were created by Remington, they deliberately jumbled up the sequence of letters so as to slow down typists? -- if they typed too fast, the mechanism would get jammed. Thus, people were made to work less efficiently than they could to accommodate the inefficiency of the mechanism. That, exactly, was what India was like from 1947 onwards, and still is, to a great extent. The power of people demands to be unleashed. And to do that, we need to blow up the existing Typewriter Socio-Politico-Economic System and build a system that lets loose the innate creativity that is in everyone.

Since we now live in a globalised economy, where, if one economy sneezes, the whole world catches a cold, India has no choice but to get rid of the Typewriter System. This means big time innovation in every sector and level of business, industry, government, education, and society at large. Innovation never comes from on high. You don't have highly qualified pointy headed people who call themselves 'intellectuals' (this is a piece of nonsense that we inherited from the British; guess why the Brits are nowhere in sight in the world of innovation?) sitting in an ivory tower innovating or setting innovation goals. Innovation is a people thing -- people innovate, and organisations and societies structure themselves either to encourage and advantage of it, squelch it, or ignore it altogether.
We need to set the grassroots on fire, the way Kalam saab tells it. The flames of innovation will then engulf our nation, burning away the deadwood, and regenerating a fresh, vibrant, rich, and varied new Rainforest!

PS: That was quite insightful again Sir.Though i would very much like to go on with the questioning, one should know one's limits.,. :) The learnings which you have shared with us have provided us a perspective of life and also the importance of Creativity, art in the day to day life.,. On behalf of my readers, i would like to thank you for being a guest in the Perfect Show and wish you the very best in all spheres of life.,.
MN:Its been my pleasure to be in the Perfect Show. All the Best to you too.,.

Thats it folks, we reach the end of this edition of Perfect Show. I am sure you found it equally refreshing and invigorating.,. As always, i would love to hear your thoughts and feedback about the Show.,.

Thank You.


Nimmy said...

Dr MN is inspiring, to say the least! :-) Keep going with these wonderful interviews, Prashant! You're helping people discover leaders....!

Anonymous said...

thanx for posting these.. its really been an inspiration for my CAT preparation

RiverSoul said...

Very good show
Loved the insights
Yo man
Happy diwali to both of ya.

Forgive my late visit.
Had tests nailing me to my books

Anu said...

Thank you, this interview was enlightening.. appreciate the effort your putting in to help others