I never expected watching the movie ‘Spiderman’ would give me an insight about social responsibility. In the movie, Spiderman goes on to wrestle a strong opponent for a promised prize money of 3k$. When he finishes, he is cheated by the cashier and given only 100$ citing some lame reason. As he walks out of the room a burglar breaks into the room, steals all the cash and gets away. Even though the burglar was within the reach of Spiderman to get stopped, he chooses not to act which gives him a satisfaction that something bad happened to the cheater. The burglar’s future action kills the uncle (foster parent like) of Spiderman to get away with the cash. This event makes him feel guilty and makes him go on a mission to protect people in need through his new found powers.

We face many situations on a day to day basis where we may choose to remain inactive as we are not directly affected/influenced by it. In any social setting the loop is closed and our inactivity will hurt us sometime later.  We have social circles every where and there is an implicit responsibility to not cause hardships to others. The mutual feeling of getting protected by the others helps us grow in strength and channelize the energy into more productive tasks. The seemingly simple problem will soon grow to be a 800 pound gorilla or the elephant in the corner.

It is not necessary to sacrifice one’s dreams to do whats right like how Aunt May advises Spiderman but it is worth to nip the problems in front our eyes and it is our responsibility too.

Clayton M Christensen’s writing on ‘How will you measure your life?’ made me have a re-look at my priorities. In the year 2010 I had been doing so much that I had never been so busy, stressed and tired ,eventually fell too sick. Yet when I recollect that year, nothing good stands out barring a few high points and most of the time I had spent trying to squeeze in more and more. On the contrary when I identified some core areas to work & concentrate; and try not to pack myself, I see a remarkable improvement in efficiency and my sense of well being.

I inferred Clayton’s writing as below

  • Get the priorities right and use the resources wisely, we have only 12-14 hours in a day. We should learn to amplify the effectiveness in the tasks we will be involved in every day instead of trying to cram in more hours. Keep revisiting the priorities as they change very often and one plan is never good for long
  • Avoid succumbing the temptation of this one time. Some positive habits are hard to catch on and difficult to follow. Have something like a Seinfeld calendar and make sure not to break the chain.
  • Stay away from the power tools both at work and the family. The best way we can win the confidence of others is to create a level playing field and help each other. Collective intelligence is far more superior than the sum of individual intelligence put together, team work will take us to new height even in a learning mode.
  • Every person we meet has something to teach us, right or wrong is always a perception. By being humble we will be approachable and people will readily share experience and knowledge to help us out. Individuals who act overly assertive or arrogant can leave a wrong impression of being successful, we should be careful not to follow them because mostly their arrogant behavior is to mask their shortcomings. They need to put someone else down to feel good about themselves.
  • Have simple rules and values by which we would leave our place lot better than what we found.

Clayton M Christensen is a professor at Harvard Business School. His work on which this blog is based on is available at HBR

While travelling to office, I always take the inroads instead of the arterial ones to avoid the rush. Most of times, the travel is smooth but if there is one small break in the flow, then the narrow roads gets crowded and jammed in a matter of seconds. I observed the attitude among the bikers who want to keep moving at any cost, has contributed to the sudden jams. If all those on the road obeyed the rules and stayed on the left side of the road, then the chaos could be avoided or the traffic would not have jammed.

This behavior gets carried over to the workplace as well. When we are too concerned about our own learning and improvisation, without our knowledge we tend to create a situation like the traffic jam where the onus is on us individuals to pull ourselves up. Everything depends on the individual to claw her way up anywhere (school, workplace, even queues); doing something against the rules and getting an edge is considered to be great talent.

This creates an environment where team work is most likely to be division of labour and the learning is always an individual’s responsibility. Awards, recognitions follow for individual brilliance; but what is not realized is that sum of all individual efforts is always lesser than the collective output. One of my peers highlighted this very well by relating this to a story Birds that flock, seem to learn faster

We should realize that our own learning is dependent how much the peers also learn; individual learning and moving up the ladder is just an illusion or is beneficial only for the individual and that too it comes with a great cost.