Sunday, October 26, 2014

Aspirational Balance and Competent Diligence: ABCD of an Equilibristic Paradigm for Sustainable Achievement by Individuals and Entities

Aspiration and achievement are the two ends of a journey which need to be bridged consistently for one to feel fulfilled. Aspiration, which is a natural human tendency, has become an organizational characteristic too given that organizations are mere conglomerations of human beings. Aspiration itself varies significantly across human beings as much as it does between organizations too. Broadly however, positive facets such as knowledge, experience, growth, income, sustainability, and responsible citizenship mark the aspiration mix, whether of an individual or an organization. Each of the facets, of course, gets defined by one or more metrics such as educational degrees, career span, professional status, pay, income and savings, social recognition and goodwill in respect of an individual. Corporations also get judged on these facets by intellectual property, longevity, business rank, revenue, profitability and net worth, brand image and corporate citizenship. This simplistic array of metrics should not lull us into thinking that aspiration is a concept that can be easily managed.

At the other end, one has achievement which is reflected only when the set aspiration is achieved. The journey from aspiration to achievement can be casual or confident and fulfilling or disappointing depending on how insightful the goals are set and how surely one traverses the path from aspiration to achievement. The path from aspiration to achievement is rarely linear; external opportunities and challenges as well as internal competencies and deficiencies determine the relative ease and arduousness of the journey. Striking a right balance between staying laser focused on originally set goals and adapting them on a real time basis is the key aspect of achieving one’s full potential without undue stress or inappropriate laxity. There are four fundamental aspects that drive this process, namely, aspiration, balance, competence and diligence. These are factors that are individually relevant but become even more powerful when paired. This blog post develops a paradigm of aspirational balance and competent diligence as a guidepost to sustainable success.

Aspiration, balance, competence, and diligence

Aspiration is a strong desire to achieve something. Aspiration usually has a strong emotive driver, sometimes accompanied by inherent biases. Without aspiration, exceptional progress becomes impossible for individuals, organizations and nations. Rags to riches, Man on Moon, Rover on Mars, India in space club, Polio free world, Vaccine for cancer and Regenerative medicine are some of the aspirations that may have looked impossible at the time of their formulation but eventually became or are becoming realizable. Aspiration needs competence to enable performance. Studious and intellectual individuals as well as knowledge corporations and economies have deliberately focused on competence building as the foundational means to enable performance and fulfill aspirations. Aspiration and competence form a virtuous cycle, with each prompting the other to higher levels. However, the virtuous cycle is reinforced or eroded by the embedded behavioural balance and diligence, respectively.

Balance is the intrinsic quality of an individual or entity to appreciate the own strengths and weaknesses, or own highs and lows, and set himself or herself for success. It is an internal compass that gets fine-tuned continuously with learning and development.   Balance arises from a high level of sensitivity to facts and figures as well as insights and feelings, without any biases. Balance helps one overcome one’s weaknesses and reinforce one’s strengths. Diligence reflects an approach to work that is marked by focus, care and effort. Diligence involves a strong application of knowledge and experience to new problems. Awareness helps one look at possibilities and impossibilities while balance helps one choose the right aspirational goals. Competence provides the capabilities achieve goals but diligence is what makes the seemingly impossible eventually possible. Aspirational balance and committed diligence make the winning pairs for success. At various levels, from micro-local to mega-global, one can cite innumerable examples of aspirational balance and competent diligence leading to exceptional achievements.

Tightrope walker

The interplay of the four factors is best illustrated by tightrope walking.  Aspiration and balance are interlinked and interrelated as goal and moderator but the subtlety of their constitution and the complexity of their interaction are not well understood.  Aspiration is imitable while balance is inimitable. To amplify a little more, the human brain is naturally wired to seek satiation (through aspiration that comes out of social existence) but needs enormous rewiring to exert to achieve it (through balance that is enabled by individual effort). Aspiration is a social influence while balance is individual discrimination. Balance can be misunderstood as a limit to development; on the other hand, in reality it is an enabler to move to higher trajectories. The case of the tightrope walker is a perfect example of balance being an integral part of aspiration, serving as an internal compass and perfecting itself through learning and development.

Tightrope walking is not everyone’s cup of tea; while everyone is a natural walker only very few are natural tightrope walkers. Competence to be a tightrope walker comes with training but stays only with diligence. The tightrope walker cannot afford to miss even a second in applying his or her competence; that is where diligence counts. Competence through education is knowledge while that through practice is skill. Diligence through motivation is a practical phenomenon while that through inspiration is wisdom. Competence is visible and quantifiable while diligence is invisible and embedded. Human faculties respond differently to the tasks of aspiration (tempting to overestimate), balance (risk-averse to be safe), competence (resting on oars too soon) and diligence (failing to nurture oneself). The perfection with which an individual or an entity creates aspirational balance and committed diligence defines sustainable success.

AB, CD grids     

Conceptually, depending on individuals and corporations having low or high aspirations, balance, competence and diligence, we can categorize individuals and organizations into four quadrants on the two factor pairs considered earlier. The four quadrants of the Aspiration-Balance (AB) grid are: low aspiration-low balance (LALB), high aspiration-low balance (HALB), low aspiration-high balance (LAHB) and high aspiration-high balance (HAHB). It is self-evident that LALB individuals and entities would be Losers, baulking at all opportunities while HAHD individuals and entities would be Achievers, setting high competitive barriers for others. HALB individuals and entities would be Daydreamers, failing to walk the talk while LAHB individuals and entities would be Umpires, bringing their judgement to others. These classifications need not necessarily stay constant and consistent throughout lifespans of individuals or entities. Awareness (or lack of it) determines the entry and mobility drivers across the four quadrants. Given that careers and corporate longevity are like marathon races, a high level of awareness on aspiration-balance interplay is required for optimizing the Aspiration-Balance grid. In reality, AB grid is only an external reflection of another grid that may be termed Competence-Diligence (CD) grid.

Conceptually, depending on individuals and corporations having low or high competences and displaying low or high diligence in deploying their competencies, we can categorize individuals and organizations into four quadrants which are quite self-explanatory. The four quadrants of the CD grid are: low competence-low diligence (LCLD), high competence-low diligence (HCLD), low competence-high diligence (LCHD) and high competence-high diligence (HCHD). It is self-evident that individuals and entities who are LCLD would be Laggards unless they make conscious efforts to build competencies and inspire themselves to be diligent. On the other hand, HCHD individuals and entities would be Masters, winning all-round appreciation for their perfect synergy of capability and application. HCLB individuals and entities would be Mavericks, unpredictable in their performance and compliance. LAHD individuals and entities would be Followers, eager and willing to follow a leader.

World is a circus

We have seen tightrope walking as an example of how aspiration, balance, competence and diligence are required to perform and deliver beyond what a human body and mind is biologically and naturally accustomed to. On a broader canvas, the world is so competitive and volatile that one needs to be all what a consummate circus artist needs to be, whether a tightrope walker, trapeze artist, gymnast, acrobat, juggler or even joker. In a circus show the performers are few and applauders are many. In the real world, which is a circus of high performance of multiple talents, everyone is expected to be a performer. Consummate artistry in the chosen dimension of talent is inescapable to stay successful. As with a circus artist, maintaining the equilibrium while defying gravity is an essential requirement for a contemporary individual or entity.

Given that career progression and corporate longevity are like marathon races, a high level of awareness and a high level of focus on the four determinants of success, namely aspiration, balance, competence and diligence constitute the essential foundations of consummate artistry. Whether one would be a loser and laggard or an achiever and master (or any of the other categories of daydreamers and mavericks or umpires and followers) would entirely depend on how one sets about developing one’s own gravity-defying equilibristic capabilities. Successful artistes are those who learnt the ABCD of artistry from the very young age, and sustained it throughout the lifespan. For very fortunate few, world may be a ready-made canvas on which they can paint a picture of choice. For most, however, world is a circus of competitive performing artists where nothing less than consummate artistry gets the applause.

Posted by Dr CB Rao on October 26, 2014

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