Cerebral Shangrila

Sunday, September 25, 2005

If you are a parent by Azim H. Premji, Chairman,Wipro Ltd

This mail was fwded to me. Premji talks about the age old conflict in "child upbringing" .

If you are a parent, you have many aspirations for your child that may include him or her becoming a doctor, an engineer, scientist or another kind of successful professional. I believe these aspirations are driven by your thinking about your child’s future, and her centrality in your life.

Since good education is often the passport to a good future, I presume it leads you to getting your child admitted to a good school. Then you encourage your child to study hard and do well in school exams. To bolster this, you send him or her for tuition classes. This would have primed your child for board exams and entrance exams, thereby leading to admission into a good professional course. Doing well at college increases the probability of landing a good job.
And a good job means the child’s future is ensured.

I am neither a psychologist nor an educationist, and what I will now state may seem counter-intuitive. I think that these aspirations and actions might be doing more harm than good to your child. To understand why, we need to re-examine some of our fundamental assumptions.

In the first place, I have seen time and again that living for some distant future goal also means you do not live in the present. The distant goal will always translate into an external measure of success, such as exams. And most exam-focused children start forgetting what it means to be a child – to be curious, mischievous, exploring, falling, getting up, relating, discovering,inventing, doing, playing.

Childhood is very precious; precious enough not be wasted by the artificial pressures of contrived competition, by too many hours of bookish study, and by school report cards that simplistically wrap up an entire human being in numbers.

The second assumption is that education is merely a ticket to socio-economic success. Given the state of our country, this reality cannot be ignored. But restricting education to only this aspect is , I think, a very limiting notion of the aim of good education. The primary purpose of a school is to guide the child in her discovery of herself and her world, and to identify and nurture the child’s talents Just as every seed contains the future tree, each child is born with infinite potential. Imagine a school which sees children as seeds to be nurtured – here the teacher is a gardener who helps to bring out the potential already present in the child.

This is very different from the current view which sees the child as clay to be moulded – where the teacher and parents are potters deciding what shape the clay should take. There is an old (and forgotten) Chinese saying “ Give a seed to a potter, and you will get a bonsai”.

Even in a commercial organization, to make profits we do not have to chase profits. Rather, we need to build an institution that gives every employee an opportunity to do meaningful and fulfilling work.

Create an organization driven by values of innovation, integrity, customer centricity and care. And as you practice these values everyday and moment, you will see that the profits take care of themselves.

Similarly, dear parent, this is my request to you. Do not give up your child’s present to secure his or her future. Give your child the freedom to truly explore life with abandon. In doing this, you will see your child flower into a creative and sensitive human being. And when this happens, everything else – money, social success, security – will fall into place automatically.

Let your child be a child.


  • Very relevant - needs to be forwarded to all parents of the world! atleast to most in India!

    By Blogger Abhishek Chatterjee, at 5:24 PM  

  • India can't accept a fellow like Bill Gates or Thomas Alva Edison, unless they Graduate. So parents here are in a pressure to make their kids clear that Graduate/PG mark because of the pressure from esteemed Corporations(including Wipro) and Marriage market looking for paper degrees..

    So this is not a practical solution considering the current scenerio.

    By Blogger gormandizer, at 3:07 PM  

  • Very relevant and thoughtful article. Was published in the Times Sunday edition here about two weeks back.

    By Blogger Vasant, at 4:03 PM  

  • Another azim premji letter - employee turnover !
    Every company normally faces one common problem of high employee
    turnout ratio. People are leaving the company for better pay, better profile

    or simply for just one reason' pak gaya'.

    This article might just throw some light

    on the matter...... After reading it' I realized how true the subject line of this mail is.

    Early this year, Arun, an old friend who is a senior software designer, got an offer

    from a prestigious international firm to work in its India operations developing

    specialized software. He was thrilled by the offer. He had heard a lot about the CEO

    of this company, charismatic man often quoted in the business press for his visionary

    The salary was great. The company had all the right systems in place employee-friendly

    human resources (HR) policies, a spanking new office, and the very best technology, even

    a canteen that served superb food. Twice Arun was sent abroad for training. "My learning

    curve is the sharpest it's ever been," he said soon after he joined. "It's a real high working

    with such cutting edge technology."

    Last week, less than eight months after he joined, Arun walked out of the job. He has no other

    offer in hand but he said he couldn't take it
    anymore. Nor, apparently, could several other people in his department who have also quit

    recently. The CEO is distressed about
    the high employee turnover. He's distressed about the money he's spent
    in training them.He's distressed because he can't figure out what
    happened. Why did this talented employee leave despite a top
    salary? Arun quit for the same reason that drives many good people away.

    The answer lies in one of the largest studies undertaken by the Gallup Organization.

    The study surveyed over a million employees and 80,000 managers and was published

    in a book called FirstBreak All The Rules.

    It came up with this surprising finding: If you're losing good people,look to their immediate

    supervisor. More than any other single reason, he is the reason people stay and thrive in an

    organization. And he's the reason why they quit, taking their knowledge,
    experience and contacts with them. Often, straight to the competition.

    "People leave managers not companies," write the authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt

    Coffman. "So much money has been thrown at the challenge of keeping good people - in the form of
    better pay, better perks and better training - when, in the end, turnover is mostly manager issue

    ." If you have a turnover problem,
    look first to your managers.

    Are they driving people away?

    Beyond a point, an employee's primary need has less to
    do with money,
    and more to do with how he's treated and how valued he
    feels. Much of this
    depends directly on the immediate manager. And yet,
    bad bosses seem to
    happen to good people everywhere.. A Fortune magazine
    survey some years
    ago found that nearly 75 per cent of employees have
    suffered at the hands
    of difficult superiors. You can leave one job to find
    - you guessed it,
    another wolf in a pin-stripe suit in
    the next one.

    Of all the workplace stressors, a bad boss is possibly
    the worst, directly
    impacting the emotional health and productivity of
    employees. HR experts
    say that of all the abuses, employees find public
    humiliation the most
    intolerable. The first time, an employee may not
    leave, but a thought has
    been planted..

    The second time that thought gets strengthened. The
    third time, he
    starts looking for another job. When people cannot
    retort openly in
    anger, they do so by passive aggression.

    By digging their heels in and slowing down. By doing
    only what they are
    told to do and no more. By omitting to give the boss
    crucial information.
    Dev says: "If you work for a jerk, you basically want
    to get him into
    trouble. You don't have your heart and soul in the

    Different managers can stress out employees in
    different ways - by being
    too controlling, too suspicious, too pushy, too
    critical, but they forget
    that workers are not fixed assets, they are free
    agents. When this goes on
    too long, an employee will quit - often over seemingly
    trivial issue.

    It isn't the 100th blow that knocks a good man
    down.It's the 99 that went
    before. And while it's true that people leave jobs for all kinds of
    reasons- for better opportunities or for
    circumstantial reasons, many who
    leave would have stayed - had it not been for one man
    constantly telling
    them, as Arun's boss did: "You are dispensable. I can
    find dozens like
    you." While it seems like there are plenty of other
    fish especially in
    today's waters, consider for a moment the cost of
    losing a talented
    employee. There's the cost of finding a replacement.

    The cost of training the replacement. The cost of not
    having someone to
    do the job in the meantime. The loss of clients and
    contacts the person
    had with the industry. The loss of morale in co-workers.

    The loss of
    trade secrets this person may now share with others.
    Plus, of course,
    the loss of the company's reputation. Every person
    who leaves a
    corporation then becomes its ambassador, for better
    or for worse.

    We all know of large IT companies that people would
    love to join and large
    television companies few want to go near. In both
    cases, former employees
    have left to tell their tales. "Any company trying to
    compete must
    figure out a way to engage the mind of every

    Jack Welch of GE once said. Much of a company's
    value lies "between the
    ears of its employees". If it's bleeding talent, it's
    bleeding value.
    Unfortunately, many senior executives busy traveling
    the world, signing
    new deals and developing a vision for the company,
    have little idea of
    what may be going on at home.

    That deep within an organization that otherwise does
    all the right things, one man could be driving its best people away.

    By Blogger peace092677, at 5:43 PM  

  • Truer words could never have been spoken. The burden that the current system of education places upon a child is enormous and has to be overhauled completely.

    By Blogger Krish, at 8:59 AM  

  • abhi,vasant,thennavan -- Yeah.Its very relevant.But do we have the courage to do it? But its getting better every day.

    Gormandizer -- I hate to say this.You are right to an extent.

    Oscillator -- Thanks for that fwd.

    By Blogger Cogito, at 12:33 PM  

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