A connected world beckons

A new year invites us ahead. A year is just behind us. The segway days always proffer an opportunity to reflect and gather ourselves towards renewal. 2013 was fabulous. Like most other years. O Henry’s fantastic line “’Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating” settles it for all years.  Nestled in the whorls of the smiles, sobs and the sniffles there were lessons to be learnt and songs of the heart to be heard.

The present day world is called a “Connected World”. Not without reason. Conversations in the digital space have ushered in a level of exposure and transparency to our lives that have never been seen before. These conversations have set the tone of dreams and aspirations in a ever so profound way, in far off places. Including the deepest recesses of our hearts. This piece by R.Madhavan captures it well.

We no longer are content with ‘what was the case’ driving the present day agenda. Heck, stuff that is labelled ‘what is possible’ is something that we seek to dismiss, if it doesn’t match up to what we hear as possible from around the world. In our restlessness for change and progress, we have crossed frontiers that we didn’t know we could and more often than not, have discovered frontiers that we didn’t know existed.

Examples of the Arab Spring may sound clichéd and are too often touted.  I am fresh from a trip to Egypt and conversations with people on the ground there, has had a profound impact on me at many levels. At the core, irrespective of culture we are all the same!  The connected world is a ‘big’ ‘small’ ‘bad’ ‘good’ place. Infact, fit whatever adjective you would want to fit in there and it would work.

The connected world, is what we make of it, and what we give space for. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat and a zillion other ideas moved from being just swell ideas to ideas that also paved the way for fat bank accounts. Every single round of VC investment in ideas provides the way for chatter and a load of more noise on what perhaps the idea can do. Of Course, there are after effects too.

But for the discerning, who can cut the noise out and listen deeply, what stands out is what was well known : The ground is shifting. Only now, it is shifting far faster. Even before we get to comprehend a shift fully, one more is well underway.  Examples galore. Large chunks of people are getting introduced to the internet through their mobile phones, completely by-passing desktops. I hear that the robots are coming and that they will pretty much do everything that you wanted them to do. Thus changing the several industries (including the Indian IT industry)! That driverless cars will do to chauffeurs around the world, what mobile phones did to Kodak.

Infact, several aspects of the present portend the shifts that are coming at us furiously. Like Amazon selling 426 items per second on Cyber Monday. Or the realities that 3D Printing is bringing. MOOCs. Apps. Oh my, the list of course, is endless

All of them makes me stop and ponder with wonder. On the world that was, that is and that will be. So filled with possibilities and potential.
At a very personal level 2013 provided me with fantastic opportunities to interact with several thought leaders across the board, in person. Listening and sharing ideas. For which I will be forever grateful.

Equally rewarding was when my travel took me to small towns and villages. Places where people haven’t experienced the bright sparks of wisdom that emerges from Twitter. Or Google Plus. Or indulge in the incessant chatter of friends and family on whatsapp and watch cat videos on YouTube.

Their lives without smart phones or 3G connectivity, runs on old world wisdom and a basic person-to-person connect.  And as the farmer who owned one ox as his prized possession, narrated his hopes for the future over a shared meal in a remote contour of the country, I was reminded that confidence and hope for the future are not a function of tools and possessions.

When when his wife, after serving two more ladles of rice with a large smile, spoke with an effervescent matter-of-fact ease, about walking three kilometres, one way, for a pot of water, I didn’t know what to say and stared emptily in silence.  The labourer in Dharavi who lives in a home that is as small as a Nano yet labours away to make small utensils as a route to his big dreams taught me the power of momentum from concerted action.  The social worker who walked away from being a five star chef to taking care of destitutes on the roads of Madurai showed choices dictate consequences.  These stories are as endless as the advancements we are seeing in the connected world. I could go on, till it is 2015! Or more.

2013 was the year that I met as many people who have been remarkably confident with far less, as those that have been meticulously despondent with much more. Perhaps the biggest of learning’s for me has been that love, hope and happiness is ready currency and always shareable. Something that my daughter teaches me daily!

If you are reading this, you are privileged in so many ways. (And no its not about how profound the contents on this blog are 🙂 ). The quest therefore, thats kept me up many night is this: “how do we spread this privilege around?”

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We, all of us, have the unique privilege of holding the reins of possibility. Of connecting two different worlds. Infact, of many different worlds. I totally loved it when Gautam Ghosh, tweeted that networking is not saying ‘here is my business card but asking ‘how can i help’? That outlook and approach can leave the world a far better place. How can we bring people together? Shrink the worlds, so to speak.

Earlier today, I sat with a piece of paper and stared aimlessly into the sky. Scripting the hopes I harboured for 2014. Heres what I had scrawled.

  • From seeking happiness to spreading some. Ditto for love and hope
  • From being insanely competitive in a very limiting way to being profoundly co-operative in an ever so expansive way. From hoarding to sharing.
  • From running fast to running meaningfully.
  • From holding court in conversation to more holding the space for other people to converse.

I wonder what you make of these.

The tools that the connected world offers are stuff that world hasn’t seen much of before. To imaginatively deploy these for purposes far beyond what they seem to offer is where the opportunity for the future lies.

J.P.Rangaswami writes in his blogpost here “We have to remember we’re human beings. And as human beings, one of the most powerful things we do is to have covenant relationships, not contract ones.
Covenant relationships have tacit components to do with trust and sacrifice and vulnerability and forgiveness.
We need to learn how to model all this, this ability to trust and to make ourselves vulnerable, this ability to sacrifice, this ability to forgive, in the systems we design to conduct business. Because those abilities are what make us human. And business is conducted between humans.”

That could well be as good as it can get stated.

So, heres wishing us all the power to go beyond the obvious, open eyed and curious. Aware and thankful for the privileges that we have been bestowed with. And looking for the first available excuse to spread some cheer around. Lets get to work. After all, as Gibran said, “Work is love made visible”.

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