Monday Musings 266: Even if Trump gets trumped!
The recent issue of ‘The Economist’ says something very interesting about the possible nomination of Donald Trump (the issue went to press before he actually was nominated by the republicans). In summary the article argues that irrespective of whether Trump wins this November or not (and most likely he won’t), the American discourse in general and the Republican discourse in particular will no longer be the same for a very long time to come. They trace back this phenomena to the last century or more to a list of stray insurgents who appeared on the political scene of America from the 1800’s till date, who said dramatically idiotic things for those times, contested elections, lost gloriously and handsomely but even in their loss sowed seeds of the idea that they championed – which later on in some form or shape became mainstream, sometimes in a few years and sometimes in a few decades. Hence the conclusion, Trump may not really lose even he were indeed to lose the election.
The hypothesis appeals to me, even though Trump does not. (In fact I so enjoy the idea of someone like Trump in America – its sweet revenge; I am no longer particularly ashamed of my political class – even the USA has them!). The hypothesis is this – that a radically new thought, which appears contrarian, bold, audacious, even stupid or taboo when postulated for the first time, summarily rejected by the electorate for which it is postulated for, may still be worth its while – for it may oen the door for at least a conversation to begin on the subject thereafter.
This hypothesis is sufficiently proven in the realm of ideas (imagine someone proposing a telephone or internet for the first time or say flying for the first time), or in the realm of social issues (imagine the backlash when someone would have proposed abolishing caste practices or Sati 200 years ago) or in the realm of inventions/technology.
I want to take a look at the hypothesis in the organisational context. A new practice, a new model, a new way of doing things, a new assumption, a new idea – which is radically different from the way things are, is met with characteristic grunts and disdain. Sometimes the idea gets shot down at the drawing table itself. It is these set of ideas that have not been accepted yet that are of intrigue to me.
What if we are proposers of an idea and in a brainstorming session it gets summarily rejected and comprehensively denounced? Even worse what if it is mocked? It appears that the authors of such ideas who are at the receiving end of such vitriol must take hope. History teaches us this. Even if the idea is rejected, it may have at least injected the idea in the canvass of discourse. The first time it may meet with disdain, the next time it will meet with rejection (at this stage you are considered worth opposing at least!), the chances are bright that the third time it will get with a ‘slot to debate’. It is at this stage when one must take satisfaction that the idea has been given sufficient credibility – enough to merit a debate and opposition. The idea has received validation. Opposition is the highest form of engagement, perhaps more powerful and more fulfilling than agreement.
Voltaire had said, ‘No one can stop an idea whose time has come’. However what Voltaire perhaps failed to mention that before the time of an idea does come, there are multiple people who must have talked about the idea amidst derision and mock. It is on the shoulders of those unsung heroes that the glory of future strongly sits.
A wise and very senior leader shared in a candid moment that many times he has had to stay with an idea for more than a few years and build comfort and consensus around it before it got accepted. It was an invaluable lesson.
So the next time I may lose an argument around an important, path breaking, radically new proposition, may be I shall argue again – and again.