Archive for July, 2013|Monthly archive page

Doers vs.Thinkers or Doer-Thinker or Thinker-Doer

In Education, Research and Development, Startup on July 14, 2013 at 7:09 PM

Have you ever found yourself thinking about the topic of this post? Quite likely. And it is all the more likely that you tried to classify yourself as a doer or a thinker. Being human beings, we love to take sides most of the time. We (or others) are either this or that; we work this way or that way etc. Doers take pride in doing things while thinkers take pride in their ability to think deeply and profoundly. Many doers challenge thinkers by saying that they “only think” and do very little on the ground while many thinkers hold the ability to think and come up with ideas in the highest regard. A classic case is the question about work experience versus research experience which I discussed here.

If we stop for a moment and decide not to analyze these two traits from a usability perspective and detach them from their economic outcomes, what do you think will win the doer vs. thinker debate? I guess it will still remain open because in their absolute existence, these two traits offer two different kinds of results. While the former generally gives birth to something tangible, something that our sensory perceptions can respond to, the latter gives birth to something that our minds can (or cannot) comprehend. For instance, a carpenter can produce chairs, tables etc. while someone who studies trees and plants can propose a theory on growth of trees. These two guys can exist in isolation without any problems. Problems arise when we try to assign a monetary value to their efforts and it is then that the debate starts. Since the aim of practically all economic exercises is to maximize the return on money and time invested, whether a doer is more important or a thinker, depends on who brings more value in a given context.

However, instead of identifying yourself with one of these, you can as well be both of these: doer-thinker or thinker-doer. You are one of these two depending on the ratio of these two traits in your character. The good thing about being both is that you appreciate both. You do not become dogmatic and you understand the effort and the skills required for each of them. You can appreciate both kinds of people (who exist in the either or world). Your attitude, character and style of functioning becomes more fluid and you probably gain the knowledge to get  the best out of not only yourself but also out of those who exist in silos. All this becomes really helpful when you are in an organization or you are leading a team. Thinkers can inject new and fresh ideas while doers can execute them. But as you are both, you know very well that an interaction between these two may lead to even better results than the sum of their individual results.

On Mentors and Mentees

In Education, Research and Development, Science & Technology Promotion and Public Policy on July 5, 2013 at 4:58 PM

The traditional Indian education system holds a teacher with the highest regard. A teacher is supposed to not only educate a student but also shape his/her character given  the fact that a significant amount of time is spent by a student in a school. A teacher with profound knowledge and insight and the ability to inspire students is referred to as “Guru”. Of course, times have changed and the education system (schools to universities) is as much a producer for economic forces as much a product of it. By economic forces, I don’t just mean the market forces but also any force that controls the funds and the resources to be allocated. While this interaction is important and probably unavoidable, it has also opened up the system to the vagaries and at times unreasonable demands of these forces on the education system. The effect can be seen on students as well as teachers. Probably, it is those genuinely interested in a well formed education system who experience more the push of those forces and the pull of their innate desire and commitment to the highest standards of teaching and mentorship. And the outcome is not always pleasant or holistically fruitful.

While the term “Guru” has religious origins, its use has permeated every sphere of knowledge and workmanship; now often used in a diluted sense to refer to someone who possesses exceptional knowledge and skills in a particular area.  The English word “Mentor” is the closest in meaning and spirit. A mentor these days faces the same challenges and being a really good mentor takes a lot of effort. But what exactly constitutes good mentorship? Well, there is no one single answer but an ensemble of insights, challenges and skills which forms the answer. Nature, a world renowned science journal, published an article  in 2007 on what all constitute true mentorship. It is based on an award program, named Nature Awards for Mentoring in Science, that it runs to recognize exceptional mentorship in the field of science. It is an excellent read for those interested in this subject. While it is based on inputs from people associated with science, they are so general that anyone in any other field will find them useful.