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2015-05-20

'I initiate therefore I am' – Success mantra for the 21st century

If you don't have a high degree of initiative, you don't have much of a future in the corporate world.

17th century philosopher Rene Descartes said – ‘I think therefore I am’. With all due respect to him, I am inclined to revise this for the 21st century as – ‘I initiate therefore I am’.

For me the world is truly binary, people who take initiatives and people who don’t and that pretty much decides who survives the marathon and who doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t want to discount the value of thought because the very act of doing has its roots in a thought. However, in the modern world, taking the initiative to execute matters much more than just penning a thought on – is what needs to be done.

Before we delve deeper, let’s be clear on the definition of initiative. If you look on the net, you will find many interpretations, but for this write-up, I define initiative as not accepting status-quo and exploring ways to make things better. People who take an initiative are always working for the betterment of their own self, their family, their organization and the society at large. People who don’t are on the receiving end and perpetually complaining about the state of affairs.

If you don’t have a high degree of initiative, you don’t have much of a future in the corporate world. At the very base level, a manager expects you to take an initiative and think of possible solutions, rather than just report the problem to him.

If you are someone who has tried potential solutions, in whatever limited manner, and made an assessment on the impact, you are sure to stand out and win your manager’s trust. On the other hand, if you are very reluctant to stretch yourself and believe that you have done the needful by reporting the problem, believe me - you are the problem and your manager is better off without you. Think of it this way - the problem will anyway get reported to the manager, sooner or later...why does he need you for reporting only?

You can’t rise in the corporate hierarchy, if you haven’t demonstrated a very high level of initiative all along your career, essentially in each and every role you played. I am not saying that taking initiatives is enough to reach the corner office, you will need many more qualities, but initiative is the key ingredient here. If you are in an organization, where people are recognized more for politics played than the initiatives taken, trust me that you are falling into a pit. Neither the organization will go anywhere and nor will your career!

If you are an entrepreneur who lacks initiatives and is in the habit of procrastination, you are really a day dreamer! You can only dream of making it big because entrepreneurship, by its very nature, is all about taking initiatives at a neck breaking pace. As a founder, you are solving some industry problem which has never been solved, or even thought of before you. In the process, you are treading zillions of parallel paths, always ascertaining what works and what doesn’t work for you.

Every start-up begins with a great idea but a large majority fail. Why? Because the venture didn’t took enough initiatives to reach the sweet spot – where your product offerings, customer requirement and go-to-market converge. The founding team gets fixated with success from early adopters and gets into an execution mode, trying to do the same thing better and better hoping for repeat success. They don’t realise that the reasons for which the masses adopt a product are radically different from the reasons for which early adopters try the product. Initiatives, which should have been taken right after initial few successes to nail down the strategy for mass adoption, take a back seat.

Here’s an important observation before I close. I have seen people having a high level of initiative in the early years and then the drive tapers down. A few initiatives leading to a dead end, others which didn’t deliver as you expected and some others which were laughed at by the peers...and all this takes a toll on your motivation.You prefer to go down the beaten path now as it appears predictable and gives you that false sense of security.

But that’s exactly what it is – false.

I am a staunch believer – Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

"There comes a moment when you have to stop revving up the car and shove it into gear." — David Mahoney

The writer of this article is Suresh Kabra, a leadership and business development professional with a proven track record in driving new initiatives. Kabra is a technopreneur and a MIT- Sloan and BITS Pilani alumni. He has a patent on flexible display design.

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