Back when I was a kid in the 90s, we didn’t have the internet. We didn’t even have cable in most households here in India and yet people were flocking from India to the States every other day, building companies that were coming up there.

Interesting isn’t it?

The products of such low exposure being in so much demand the world over especially in tech and research. Only recently have Indian tech companies become strong enough to start acquiring assets overseas and those times India as a whole lagged behind. This was before the BPO revolution btw, as shortly after the BPO revolution the paradigm changed and some of the biggest Tech Services companies in the world are Indian.

So back then, all we could do to acquire knowledge was read. The biggest incentive to read were exams which were notoriously tough. Every year tons of students would hang themselves in their bedrooms right before the fearful ‘board exams’. Ultimately the governments successively changed the education system to incorporate things like self paced learning and learning beyond the classroom.

So I grew up in times when I absolutely knew there was little else to hope for in life if I didn’t know everything there was to be known. All my childhood was spent pouring over books of all kinds. Sometimes I’d get bored and try to make sense of twelfth grade electronics books.

One of the things I loved to do was memorize quotations. Oh yeah! Change the system as much as you will but rote learning will forever remain the go to method of learning in formal educational systems here in the East.

And two quotations in particular stand out for me that defined my life:

Don’t judge a man by the answers he gives but by the questions he asks

~ Voltaire

This is the first one and just reading it made so much sense to me that I launched into a collision course with the system for the better part of my youth.

Recently, co founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak commented on twitter that Indians care only about money and not so much about creativity and asking questions. (Tweet later removed)

Although leading Indian tech magnate Anand Mahindra responded valiantly, defending the average Indian innovator at the same time accepting to an extent the existence of this mindset, we all know what the truth really is.

If you are an innovator you sooner or later need to find your way to the Silicon Valley. Everybody knows that. It’s not going to change anytime soon either no matter how much call me out for being ‘prejudiced’ or indulging in ‘stereotypes’.

It’s just a fact, successful products are built by people with an open mind, an inquisitive mind. You need to be able to question things and the basis of key explanations to standard questions for the process of creation to make sense. You can’t grow up in a culture of ‘it is what it is’, ‘everything doesn’t have an answer’ and expect children to suddenly create the next iphone. #innovation #entrepreneurship

The second quotation isn’t really a quotation, it is a teaching of the Buddha. You see, the concept of ‘God’ isn’t really there in Buddhism as much as the concept of self realization and self work. It comes as no surprise therefore that most people on the spiritual path find themselves intrinsically drawn to Buddhist schools of thought such as Zen and Tao.

This is because the Buddha had a very straight forward way of thinking. He encouraged people to ask questions. He encouraged people to use their ‘Buddhi‘ or intellect. He encouraged his own followers to question his teachings and use their own thought processes to reach conclusive answers rather than painting everything in monochrome like most religions tend to.

My idea of heaven and hell may not be the same as your idea of heaven and hell and therefore I am not really likely to fall in line and accept your views on right and wrong; am I?

This assumption that other people think in the same way we do is the basis of widespread intolerance all over the world. As long as we’re living in society as ‘inmates’ of a system not ‘co creators’ of a framework, the so called security we seek to create for ‘everyone’ is just three wolves and two sheep voting on what to have for dinner. #society #justice #activism

We see now this whole thing blowing up with people debating on whether or not this pandemic is ‘real’. Press says it’s just a conspiracy or people going crazy because of all the stress the pandemic’s put them under but well, this was just an issue waiting to blow up.

Corona has just given everyone a chance to be openly expressive of everything they’re uncomfortable about. Might sound very harsh to say but honestly I don’t think it comes as a surprise that people came out in the volume that they did in support of the BLM movement. It’s not like these incidents weren’t already happening. They were, you’d read about it in the papers and listen to it on the radio, watch it on the news but then just have your coffee, finish your toast and be off to work.

It’s when you can’t do anything else that you’re finally being made to sit down and work through the issues your life and society has that you had just learnt to ignore on a regular basis.

So, you’ve got to learn to ask questions, you’ve got to learn to follow your heart in feeding your mind the curiosity it needs to grow. That’s the true narrative of ‘innovation’ we need to live by.

Why must you ask questions?

The eternal search of mankind, amplified curiosity has led to innovations through eras. It stands today, just as rudimentary such as an intelligent scholar; Decoded by scientists, imitated by artists and objected by cynicisms. 

Is conflict always a prerequisite to innovation? A start-up that is “disrupting the market” or idiosyncrasies such as can you be an engineer and intelligent? Can you be the poorest country and still be high in happiness index? 

Life is not happening in a linear manner.  The purpose of any question is to get excited  by the question itself. It is to speak as the end to the means rather than the means to get anywhere. It means to be prepared at answers that arrive. All innovation starts here. 

©Jay Kaushal

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