In The Wisdom of Finance, Harvard University professor Mihir Desai writes about CP Snow’s famous lecture in 1959, where he spoke about the chasm between literary individuals and scientists. Snow considered that polarisation “a sheer loss to us all. To us as people, and to our society.” Desai compares that to the chasm that exists between finance and the humanities today. He writes:
“In my life, I revisit that chasm most days as I cross the Charles River in the American Cambridge. On one side of the river, I teach at Harvard Business School, where wonderful students and faculty members seek to understand the world of commerce, but are sometimes impatient with lessons that aren’t easily translated into actionable advice. Consequently, they doubt the value of what the other side of the river offers.
“When I cross the Charles to teach at Harvard Law School, I walk through a university that can be deeply sceptical of business, business academia, and the encroachment of practical knowledge. When I launched a course at HBS for undergraduates and tried to get it into Harvard College’s core curriculum, the presence of case studies that depicted business situations was initially considered inconsistent with a liberal arts education, precisely because of its practical dimensions. Wiser minds prevailed, but it gave me a sense of the nature of that chasm.”
The pandemic has made us mindful of such divisions and has forced us to recognize that it’s all connected.
At Founding Fuel, we have explored this theme in the past. Check out this podcast with Scott Hartley on techies and fuzzies. And this is one of the themes that we will be exploring on June 30 in a Masterclass with Prof Srikant Datar of Harvard Business School, Nitin Paranjpe, COO at Unilever, Pramath Sinha, founder and chairman, Harappa Education and Ajit Rangnekar, former dean of ISB. The session will be moderated by Meeta Sengupta. We will keep you posted.
Have a great Friday.
Astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent nearly a year on the International Space Station, shares some important tips for these times. They include tips like ‘follow a schedule, keep a journal, and take time to connect’. But here’s one that’s right for these days.
Kelly writes: “When you are living and working in the same place for days on end, work can have a way of taking over everything if you let it. Living in space, I deliberately paced myself because I knew I was in it for the long haul—just like we all are today. Take time for fun activities: I met up with crewmates for movie nights, complete with snacks, and binge-watched all of Game of Thrones—twice.
“And don’t forget to include in your schedule a consistent bedtime. Nasa scientists closely study astronauts’ sleep when we are in space, and they have found that quality of sleep relates to cognition, mood, and interpersonal relations—all essential to getting through a mission in space or a quarantine at home.”
In Insead Knowledge, Prof Ella Miron-Spektor cites three studies that show that “people systematically underestimate their originality—a defining characteristic of creativity—throughout the ideation process”. She suggests that managers should acknowledge their team members’ creativity by inviting them to share their ideas. “For millions of people now struggling to make ends meet amid the Great Lockdown, knowing that they are probably more original than they think could be a much-needed shot in the arm,” she writes.
Prof Miron-Spektor shares a friend’s story that many would relate to. She writes: “A friend of mine has reinvented herself from a therapist to a communication consultant, helping other therapists who need to work from home shift their practices online. If she had listened to her self-doubts thinking that ‘everyone is probably doing it’, she might not have carved out her new niche. Rarely has there been a more urgent need for people to be creative and, crucially, to be aware of their originality than in these challenging times.”
Digital apps, it is said, should be as easy to use as a book. But, even books aren’t as easy to use as we generally assume, as this 1950s guide demonstrates.
Do you think digital products are in general easier to use? Let us know what you think. Reply to this mail. Or join our Slack channel. If you aren’t a member, here is the invite code.
And if you missed previous editions of this newsletter, they’re all archived here.
Bookmark Founding Fuel’s special section on Thriving in Volatile Times. All our stories on how individuals and businesses are responding to the pandemic until now are posted there.
Team Founding Fuel