Analytical deadlock

Written by Shombit Sengupta | Shombit Sengupta | Updated: Sep 22 2013, 07:52am hrs
Indian higher education develops excellent analytical capability in students, making them logical and effective in passing the different rounds of competitive tests, discussion groups and interviews to bag a great job. In your youth, at home, school and college, the values inculcated in you were to be obedient, respect elders, love and share everything with the family, live harmoniously with neighbours, conscientiously learn whats taught and reproduce that in examinations to succeed with flying colours.

After confidently clearing all tests, you join the working world. Only to realise that analytics alone gives no results. You are expected to ideate out-of-the-box; are admired for tactical new angles you can bring to kill competitors. Your efficacy is measured in how you ruthlessly, aggressively thrash competition entering your market territory. You also have to beat colleagues in performance to become a leader. You discover that an amorphous entity outside the enterprise, thats under no ones control, is what business is entirely dependent on. Thats the customer, whose insights you have to use in drawing up the companys strategy. Suddenly at work, its the bad student antics that are treasured, like marketplace fighting, challenging set norms, finding solutions purely through ones own wits. Many good student managers cannot take this total turnaround in mindset and practice. If youre one of them, youll intellectualise your job, engage in heavy analytics. Meanwhile, behind your back, the competition is nibbling away into the market share of your companys products.

This capitalistic world is akin to Africas savanna grassland-cum-forest, home to animals like lions, hippos, wild dogs and hyenas, crocodiles, wild elephants, snakes, among many others. Their attack can chop you, crush you or chomp you up. Survival of the fittest is the name of the game, exactly the way its among competitors in the capitalistic marketplace. Here, its like traversing the savanna where analytics becomes a deadlock impeding a market win. Without becoming a warrior whos watching every market movement, youll be eaten up in this savanna jungle. Conversely, the communist economic culture is like the frozen North Pole. Everythings very cold and decided by the state; you need nothing more than to protect yourself with heat. Competition barely exists here, so you can happily create heated analytics as the North Pole freezes all other action.

In the savanna, what role does art play to change your total perspective of work and life Even in todays Internet era thats proliferated with pornography, a bold 19th-century extreme close-up painting of the female vulva called Origin of the World still has the power to scandalise the world. LOrigine du Monde came to Paris Musee dOrsay in1995 after being in private hands for over a century. The museum mounted it behind glass and gave it special security in case it drove offended visitors to become violent. Its creator, Jean Desire Gustave Courbet, pioneered the Realist movement in French painting. He vociferously guarded his freedom: When I am dead let this be said of me: He belonged to no school, to no church, to no institution, to no academy, least of all to any regime except the regime of liberty. But Courbet was unable to exhibit this painting because he could have been sent to prison on charges of affronting public and religious morals.

The popular Paris Match magazine recently published an article that stirred up a storm. Had Courbet painted his muse in entirety, but severed the top half to avoid public dishonour for her Its now revealed she was Irishwoman Joanna Hiffernan, mistress and model of American artist James McNeil Whistler, and that the two artists fell out over her. In 2010, an amateur French art collector found with an antique dealer what he reckoned to be the top half of LOrigine. He bargained, bought the painting for 1,200 pounds and subjected it to various scientific tests. Earlier this year, the expert on Courbet, Jean Jacques Fernier, confirmed it to be part of the same canvas, authenticating it as LOrigines top half. But a controversy still reigns, not everyone is convinced. This new-found top half is now supposedly worth 35 million pounds.

Take another masterpiece, the 500-year-old Renaissance painting Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Its still steeped in mystery as nobody has discovered who the woman with the alluring smile was. But whats new is that the National Committee for Cultural Heritage in Italy has found that by magnifying high-resolution images of Mona Lisas eyes, letters and numbers can be seen. A microscope is required as the human eye cannot view them. Silvano Vinceti, president of the committee said, da Vinci put a special emphasis on the Mona Lisa. We know in the last years of his life he took the painting with him everywhere in a secure case. We also know that da Vinci was very esoteric and used symbols in his work to give out messages. In the right eyes black pupil, da Vinci wrote LV, possibly his signature. In the left eye are unidentifiable symbols. This worlds most famous painting was featured in Dan Browns bestseller book The Da Vinci Code, which became a film starring Tom Hanks. Brown had suggested that secret messages are hidden in Mona Lisa, a painting da Vinci started in 1503 and completed just before his death in France in 1519. Mona Lisa was once stolen, twice vandalised; even a tea mug was thrown on it by a Russian woman who was refused French citizenship. Thats how closely the world identifies Mona Lisa as the reference of France today.

So my sub-25 Zapper friends, analytics can definitely land you a boring career where you make good money, but your imagination will be stifled. By bringing creativity into this traditional work, you will keep your mind and business vibrant. Those of you who want a creative arts career, learning from these masters will help you ideate differently. Because they have shown how art can impact and change society, even five centuries after they have gone.

Shombit Sengupta is an international consultant to top management on differentiating business strategy with execution excellence (