A Great Opportunity Missed!

Posted on May 27, 2012 in Specials

By Zafar Satyavan:

A famous bureaucrat once said that IAS stands for… I Am Sorry. I was reminded of that while meeting one yesterday and apparently, he had invited me to discuss the social media strategy for his organization. We got off to a bad start when he asked, Why Social Media? He might as well have asked, Why Gravity? Duh!

Then, making a pathetic excuse, a subordinate walked into the room and remained busy for about 20 minutes explaining her situation about a lost ATM card. We resumed the conversation which was somewhere between a discussion and an argument. He reluctantly agreed to look at the PPT I had prepared. I inserted my USB stick into his laptop and walked him through some slides. I noticed a hint of interest but again he started to point out the loopholes in my argument. I could feel my BP rise but managed to keep my cool. Another irritating employee walked in and I decided not to show him the remaining slides as I could see that the meeting was headed nowhere.

As I walked out of his room, I faintly heard a voice up in the clouds saying… “Thou shall NOT deal with bureaucrats who are not on Facebook!”

Okay, let us analyse the above from a different point of view.

The bureaucrat in question is a person of considerable personal capacity to introduce change. Not only that, he is in a position to initiate a revolution in the space that he commands. I am completely stumped by his reluctance to look into the matter and the only clue that I am intuitively sensing is that he is unwilling to admit his ignorance about how to use technology. At the same time, there is a huge generation gap that cannot be bridged because the senior party is abusing its authority to nurture the young. I am reminded of another saying that goes… “you cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong!” This is exactly what is happening if we take into account that the young are much more adaptable when it comes to the use of technology and social media, but it takes an enlightened but humbler mind to admit this.

On one hand, we have TREMENDOUS talent in this country that requires only a little support from someone with the means. A single phone call, a word of encouragement, a small tap on the shoulder is all that is needed but the ones that are holding on to power, whether emotional at home, financial at the workplace and just plain muscle in public life, refuse to acknowledge their responsibility towards the future. Yes, we ARE responsible to the future too!

In that context, let me summarize a few points that would give you some insight into solving the crisis of opportunity…

They are all Micro SOFT!

Even if a senior person uses Open Source software, it is unlikely that they would understand the essence of technology as a medium to connect with other human beings on the planet. This is ingrained in our attitude so if a person is basically unwilling to make friends with people who are from backgrounds different from his/her own, the rigidity in their nature translates into a way of living that is incompatible with the connections that one is capable of making. Even if he or she accepts you as a friend on Facebook, it is done with a different motive. The connection is not made for a conversation that leads to understanding. There is a severe lack of understanding about software and programming which has translated into the mess about “Aadhar,” why the UID scheme is a scam and why few people understand the dynamics of working on the web.

Low emotional IQ…

Those born before 1970 were most probably unable to communicate their feelings because they did not have mobile phones while their hormones were inspired to make a romantic connection. Love required a “love-letter” with no room for anonymity and they were completely at the mercy of the postal department. So, the Love of their lives was restricted to endless drama on the screen that made Bollywood blockbusters and depressing songs that echoed their sentiments without translating into a reality of love that could be lived for real. Is it any wonder that the emotional life of my generation was kick-started by a movie called “Qayamat se Qayamat Tak?” Somebody, please ask Aamir Khan! 🙂

Lacking Soft Skills…

You will send an e-mail, waiting for a simple acknowledgement and it will not arrive, ever. In person however, he or she will wax eloquent on the merits and demerits of many a topic but when it comes to the electronic space, the inputs are scarce. That is why I have tremendous respect for a socially mobile elder. I mean, he or she is really bridging two centuries!! Actually, if the elderly are taught to use the Internet, it would really enrich their lives instead of passively watching soap operas on cable TV that exploit their situation no end! Just like a letter in the mail, a real person responding to one’s words in the electronic format is an uplifting experience too!

Education and its real purpose of training the human mind are distorted by self-styled teachers who take it upon themselves to become public heroes. Cable TV plays devil’s advocate by carefully presenting contradictions when there is no dearth of “teachers” and “gurus” who influence the naive beliefs of public opinion one way or another. The less you know, the more you believe, indeed!

They abuse hierarchy without knowing it…

Just because we have a tradition of respecting our elders does not make them right all the time. Deciding upon the correctness of a decision is more circumstantial, especially in a fast moving world. In order to thrive in a competitive market, we often have to take decisions quickly. Getting over this issue is more cumbersome when we have to budget our time for trying to convince the sceptic. The solution is about making screens senior-friendly and this means… bigger fonts, easily clickable boxes and a basically simple interface. An elderly person is often willing to share his or her wisdom but if it is too complicated, it can easily discourage them.

Although I am eagerly waiting to get a quad-core smart phone, there are more and more whose technology learning curve is lagging behind. How fast is fast enough? How new is new? There were times when the mobile phone was not yet born, when there was more of the surprise element in life… when one did not know what is going to happen. When friends and relatives turned up at the doorstep without an agenda and the sense of expectation was much stronger. Come to think of it, knowing too much imposes a certain burden on the memory.

I Am Sorry, time to let go!