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A double-edged sword…and we’re not all that bad…

January 4, 2011
tags: , ,
Traffic in Mumbai
Image via Wikipedia

This one came to me after I finished a chat with one of my American colleagues…

He was talking about the absolute chaos that he experiences everytime he comes to India or Africa, and while parts of me agreed with him, there were other parts of me that were defensive, patriotic parts of me I guess!

However, a little later, I chose to ponder on this conversation, and the reflection it had triggered in me. And I came up with the following. Let me know if you agree!

Red light camera at junction.
Image via Wikipedia

There are basically 2 worlds out there (actually 3, but let’s not be too picky):

1. The developed world – Europe, Japan, Singapore, USA would fit into these

2. The undeveloped/developing world – India, China, Russia, Africa etc.

I’m sure you get the picture… And here’s what I see.

The Developed world is well…developed :o) Which is to say, they have become a very structured, organized society. Trains run on time. Everyone stands in queue, things are where they should be etc.

They have managed this because they have developed systems and processes. But it doesn’t stop there. They have built a value-system where you DON’T break the system or process. If

red traffic light
Image via Wikipedia

the traffic light is red at 3 am and the streets are empty. They will stop.

This is a good thing. It means you will not have any accidents at 3 am.

However, this is also not a good thing. Because it is indicative of all that is today, destroying the developed world, and making it a has-been in current world-history and commerce.

From the outset, man has had a desire to control his environment (women who expect politically correct writing, please bear with me, it’s too much of a pain to write like that. I respect women. But I will write the way I am stuck with. Forgive me) and towards this objective he has built an ability to predict worst-case scenarios and then put risk-control processes in place to ensure safety.

Over millenia this has led to a mindset of risk-aversion and a loss of the pioneering/risk-taking mindset.

The more developed a nation, the higher the presence of derisking processes and ergo, the more safety-seeking the general population. Do you see where this is going?

Japan, USA, UK, France…take more names – all headed for seeking more comfort. Risk and Comfort are opposites. So what do you think has happened to the overall culture of the developed world?

Now let’s look at the undeveloped or developing world. If you’re an African in Zambia, you likely don’t know where your next meal is coming from. If you’re in India, when you aim to get into a good engineering college you know that you are 1 out of 450,000 applicants vying for 300 seats. If you’re Russian, you know that your entrepreneurial venture will likely need to form some kind of alliance with some form of a cartel or mafia.

Do you see where I’m going? No comfort.

Folks in the developed world grow up in scarcity. They’re hungry. They’re not seeking comfort, they’re seeking survival. They don’t have time for comfort. They want to get to the front of the queue, and they will do whatever it takes to get them there.

They’re flexible, adaptable, predatory almost – in their desire and ability to acquire what they aim for.

While the developed world is looking for the right page in the manual to identify what action to take, the hungry little bugger from the undeveloped world has acted and is already 2 steps ahead.

U-turn permitted road sign from Singapore
Image via Wikipedia

The universe abhors status quo. The universe abhors control. The universe thrives on the presence of both – chaos and order. And that is the only way to create sustainable, dynamic, long-lived organisms, organizations and  nations. Balance. Be the sword and the shield.

Or die, on the edge of your own…I’d love to hear what you think about this post..

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 10, 2011 8:55 pm

    Great Post and my first time on your blog…
    Here are a few thoughts:
    # In China, people will not jump the red light at 3 A.M as well because they have a rule of law, and its still growing very fast..What drives that? Top down approach.

    # The order that developed world has is not just for rule of law but is applicable on a lot of other stuff as well – academics, innovation etc…Whereas they look for a proper innovation process and create all the products like the iPad, Kindle etc, for now we are happy just supporting them.

    # Our chaos usually leaves us behind..More chaos means more variables to deal with that basically means less surity of future…

    # Risk Taking – Ours is forced and upto an extent because nobody cares…No wonder almost all the riskier things in life were invented/discovered by people from the developed world…Right from getting on top of Mt. Everest to Genpact opening their first BPO on Gurgaon..However there risks are more calculated, studied and they mostly have a contingency plan…

    The day we as a country start respecting Order, is the day we start really progressing….

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      March 17, 2011 6:57 pm

      Excellent counter-points and all true. I loved each one of your examples and that’s what makes your comment so relevant, that you have presented valid examples for each point. This one added value!

      By no means am I denying the need for order, just that we need a cha-ordic state. And at least we’ve got the first half in place! 😉

  2. January 27, 2011 6:12 pm

    Excellent post.
    your post made me ponder.. the developed world has already achieved what the developing world is still trying to achieve.But if you think, what makes the people from the developing world more hard working and passionate..its their HUNGER to succeed,to get everything that they desire.

    This reminds me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
    Physiological Needs
    Security Needs
    Social Needs
    Esteem Needs
    Self-actualizing Needs

    Dont you think the developing world has only reached the stage till social needs and many of them unfortunately are still at the
    physiological needs stage, whereas the developed world is moving more towards esteem needs and self actualization.

  3. Vidhya permalink
    January 17, 2011 9:52 am


    A wonderful post! A great insight and totally a different outlook on developed & developing/underdeveloped countries. Yes, you rightly said, we are not all that bad, but don’t you think so that we have been feeling too good and getting too comfortable by saying for more than a decade, say two decades for that matter now?

    I think and believe strongly that we need to get up and start working towards bringing in some order after a long years of chaos. We need to bring in changes almost in every sphere of our economy. Even developed countries became too comfortable with their development and order, and we are following their footsteps and sticking to be called as developing country for more than 40 years now.

    Without, exploration, discovery and breakthrough no order can brought in as well and at the same time to maintain the same we have to keep improvising on our breakthroughs and innovations. The race does not stop after bringing in ORDER.

    I believe it is more of a comparative analysis that happens most of the time; I think we need to come out of that and work for ORDER, as that is the need of the hour. We don’t have a choice anymore, but to bring in order.


  4. Manasi Gune permalink
    January 7, 2011 5:18 pm

    Like everything else, progress & development too has its advantages as well as disadvantages! Like you said ‘The universe thrives on the presence of both – chaos and order’; we have surely have plenty of chaos, now its time we got some order in our lives! A balance between order & chaos is what would be most conducive for continued progress.

    Very interesting post! I had never considered Risk VS Comfort this way.


  5. hps bajwa permalink
    January 4, 2011 10:28 am

    Looking at the +ve side of being in a chaos and a developing country , we can always picture ourself as ahead of our counterparts in hunger for success. This is similar to crab story as all of them want to come out of Jar but none succeeds as legs are being pulled down by remaining ones.Reality is we need to improve in everything ( infrastructue to being more patient on roads so as to allow others to move in first). We as a society will develop much faster if we are having better systems in place, while developed worlD is working on IPADS , KINDLE we even are struggling to improve literacy rate. For more than 50 % of population getting three times meal itself is a challenge. So lot to be done in developing India, it may take another 20 years to reach at GDP level of even our neighbour China. ( My views may be away from what you are indicating but I think scarcity is going to go down but we need to keep our hunger for success ON all the time )

    • gurprrietsiingh permalink*
      January 4, 2011 11:38 am


      Thanks for being the other edge of my sword. What you are saying is undeniably correct. As we progress towards greater development, let us continue to maintain our quest for exploration, discovery and breakthrough. This is what will keep us fresh and challenging!

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