Recently I happened to read some part of a talk given by Mr.Narayana Murthy, and linked it with something told to me by a top manager in my organization. Put together, it gave me some thoughts to ponder on, early today morning…

Here’s the gist of Mr.Murthy’s talk:

A team put together to execute any good idea should have members whose skills are mutually exclusive and at the same time is collectively exhaustive.

This is what the manager (in my organization) had to say:

If you are managing a team, and you have in your team a person who can do exactly the same work as you, then either of you is redundant.

Both are quite thought-provoking. In fact, the second one applies not just to managers, but to every team member. I believe that within a team, each team member should ideally contribute in his/her unique way, to his/her fullest capability. And no team member is an ideal and complete substitute for another; If he/she is, then that obviously means that at a time, only one of them is needed, and the other is a redundant resource.

Sometimes, I think the need for creativity and uniqueness in work, gets lost, as we scamper behind business, money and marketing. The need for each individual in a team to be a “unique contributor” is often undermined (Of course, needless to say that the unique contribution should be valuable and something that could make a difference), and people work mindlessly on tasks assigned to them, without putting their stamp of individuality on it.

Very often during our technical meetings in office, I have always been amazed at how each problem/solution evokes different responses from different people. While I have a very methodical approach to problems, and can chart out available aspects like jigsaw pieces and sew them together in my mind, another colleague of mine has an “attack” approach. He doesn’t try to spread out the existing information on the problem, but instead sees angles about it that the rest of us might not even have thought about, and attacks the problem by asking questions on those angles. And although some questions of his may not be relevant/may have an answer that a person like me can provide, there are always some questions of his which open up new dimensions that may not have been apparent till then. The approach he possesses is something which I can never gain completely, because it comes naturally to him, and is part of his own uniqueness. Similarly, I’ve often found that most people cannot chart out problems, and be able to visualize pieces of the puzzle falling together to form a solution as I can. And that is probably part of my uniqueness. Individually, my colleague and I contribute effectively to a team and are mutually exclusive, since neither can cultivate the other’s expertise.

It is important to know your area of expertise, know what your strengths are, and learn to polish and utilize them, to the best of one’s ability. It is equally important to recognize someone else’s strengths, and encourage them to polish it for effective utilization within a team. I believe the first is for any team member, and the second for any manager.

When, within a team, each member contributes in the way he/she knows best as an individual, works well with peer strategies and learns to interpret/bring out creative ideas, and when the manager of the team knows how to moderate within the team, utilize each individual according to their uniqueness while contributing with his/her experience and ideas, we have the ideal team environment.

I’ve stressed this out as the “ideal” team environment because in the real-world, concepts of “ideal” and “perfect” are relative, and never completely achievable. However, I do believe they are not impossible and can be achieved to some extent of perfection.

Strategies implemented at the individual level, extend to a team, which then extends to groups of teams and finally extends out to the entire organization – this directly implies that implementing strategies on an individual level can be finally extended to become a process for an organization, and with established processes, you get repeated success. And with the right kind of management models, correct and repetitive efforts and the right influences, successful teams coming out with creative,innovative ideas, and effective solutions to most problems, is no longer a dream.

The bottomline however is the individual. We must remember to be identify and utilize our uniqueness to the best of our ability. This also means putting in the right amount of hard work and being dedicated enough to ensure that everything you do has your individual stamp on it. Shun mediocrity, and start evaluating your own contribution to each moment you live in this world – it vindicates our run for the known parameters of success (money, fame) and makes every reward well-deserved. And more than applause or materialistic rewards, I think creativity/uniqueness comes with its own kind of reward – self satisfaction. There’s never a bigger reward than the satisfaction in a job well done.

3 thoughts on “Uniqueness

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  2. By your own definitions, nobody in any team is redundant, because each person is unique in some way. So there is no problem there; the problem is to be able to identify that particular uniqueness in oneself, or, in the case of managers, in others. Reality is that there are no ideal situations, your own statement; there is a lot of heartache, frustration etc in many people’s work. Probable reasons are that in real life, most work is mundane and repetitive. Even in the so called creative/original areas like research, the nature of the work is repetitive, boring and results are hard to come by. If one were to make ‘exciting’ new discoveries, inventions routinely then we would be flooded with them daily. As one renowned scientist (maybe Einstein) has put it – Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Hardwork is as much, if not more, important as creativity.

    I seemed to have wandered from the theme of your post – but I hope you get the general gist of my comment.

    Pardon me for blogging on your blog 🙂 But my personal opinion is that the comments that follow a post are as much interesting, as the post itself, and it also gives an opportunity for multiple viewpoints to be expressed.

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