Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Stay Hungry Stay Foolish

Two great thinkers said two very profound things, that together sum up the need of the hour.

'Stay hungry, stay foolish', made famous by Steve Jobs, prescribed attitudinal shifts to remain successful. George Bernard Shaw said, "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world, while the unreasonable man insists on adapting the world to himself, therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man". Wise words from two men living in different times but highlighting the same issue – the risks posed by our inherent need to ‘conform’.

Workplaces today are dominated by professionals that would rather ‘conform’ than ‘transform’; in turn putting at risk the very notion of what these places were meant to be  - a highly charged environment of talented individuals focused on improvisation, improvement and innovation. A conformist attitude brings with it huge risks, and for a creative services industry like Public Relations, those risks can be dire. 

Over the last 15 years, PR in India has evolved in many ways. From offering geography based media engagement services at a time when information and access was at a premium; to offering multi-stakeholder engagement services today when both are a given; and ‘authenticity’ and ‘advocacy’ are the Holy Grail. The wave of technological innovations that are changing the way we connect and engage with people, make this an exciting time for PR professionals – challenging and often confusing, but with great potential.

The industry at large is responding quite well – with new service lines, standards and processes being developed to manage this opportunity. At the same time, we also need to be careful to ensure that these don’t stifle ‘creativity’ and ‘imagination’ and encourage ‘conformism,’ which is rampant. Here are some basic questions we need to ask ourselves to check if we’re headed towards conformism:
  • Are we clear about the differentiated value of PR in the evolving communications landscape? Many of us struggle to understand and articulate this, which eventually bears on our ability to ideate.
  • Are we rewarding process and compliance, and stifling curiosity, creativity? I often find that missing deadlines becomes a bigger issue than coming up with mediocre ideas. 
  • Are we too scared to fail? PR agencies have always had it tough, and the external change is making it tougher. Conforming to expectations, is digging ourselves deeper into a hole at a time when authenticity is the true differentiator.
  • Are we limited by our experience or the lack of it? The environment we operate in continues to evolve and as such none of us have all the answers. Do we accept that and seek to learn and grow, or stay comfortable within the scope of what we know?

If we’ve answered yes to the last three questions, we need to be extra careful and course correct. We need to reward creative risk taking as much as the ability to manage. We need to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset as much as a ‘get the job done’ mindset. What’s also missing today is passion, and there’s nothing like invoking the entrepreneur within people, to stoke passion which is what differentiates between good, and great and is crucial for a creative services sector like ours in particular. 

We need to stay hungry - look beyond short term results and be focused on driving disruptive change for our clients and big opportunities for ourselves. We all need to stay foolish - in the way we look at campaigns to challenge convention and drive real advocacy even if it comes at a risk.

These are imperative to drive the next level of growth for our industry. We have a big opportunity staring at us. We can augment our foundation and build on it, or hand it on a platter to others.

- Karan Punia 


  1. Great post karan. Just what I needed to read. Thanks!

  2. Great post karan. Just what I needed to read. Thanks!