Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Aiming and waiting for Perfection

When I joined IIIT in 2007, I shared my office with Prof. Ajit Das and M Y Rao my secretary. I used to have an office which was bigger than room three of us were sharing. I moved to my room only after six months. In IIIT, at that time there was no Internet, Library, Canteen or any amenity one is used to. It took time to build some of these features.

Subsequently, when we moved to Gothapatna Campus, the story repeated. We moved to a half constructed building. There was no electricity, no phone, no fax, no Internet. Prof Das and I shared a room. We tried hard to bring such facilities aend eventually over time these happened.

When I spoke to the students in the inaugural function, I said IIIT aims for perfection but does not wait for perfection. I am convinced that if you wait for perfection, it will never happen. Get there and make perfection happen is the principles we follow at IIIT.

So, you will see plenty of imperfections in IIIT. It is there in infrastructure, people, processes. We are aware of these imperfections and make effort to bring perfections. It causes inconveniences for people affected but we believe that is way to go.

Since ours is a residential campus, there is no need for transport service. However, we run a bus service to the city for convenience of the students. However, it is a 40 seater bus and gets crowded some times. Should we run 10 buses ensuring a seat for every student or run a bus based on our estimation of average load which may be inaccurate. We have chosen to run a imperfect transport system but aim for perfection by adding capacity or requesting Municipality to extend the City Bus service. Eventually, we will have a near perfect transport system.

Above is one example of our principle of Aiming for Perfection but not Waiting for Perfection. There are many instances. When I was chatting with Subroto Bagchi, he said it is a great idea and write a blog on this.

So here is the blog.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Moral High Horse

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to meet Ratan Tata in a conference in a conference in St Gallen Switzerland. He was the speaker in a session and I was a delegate. When I reached the hall there were a handful people and Ratan Tata was there. I told him we started our career from the same place. He looked startled. I told him that he started his career as the chairman of Nelco and I started as an Assistant Engineer. He was excited and he asked me if I knew about Abhyankar, Mahasur and others. I told him that I worked under them designing UPS, DC Drives and AC Drives.

Last month, he was in news for two reasons. He addressed somewhere in Uttrakhand and talked about how he refused to pay bribe and never got to start a Airline. It was telecasted and several channels had discussions on morality in business. A couple of weeks later the Nira Radia tapes were released and Ratan Tata featured there too. His stature seems to have fallen a bit after the release of these tapes.

Personally, I have very high regards for Ratan Tata. However, one lesson emerges from the episode. To practice morality and ethics is a perfect virtue. However, to sit on the moral high horse may not be a good idea. For when you fall from it, you seem like a villain when you are a hero.

In academic environments, we tend to climb the moral high horse. At the same time heating, copying and plagiarism is quietly practiced by students and teachers alike. The BPUT exams require one invigilator for every 20 students. This indicates the expectation of the unethical behaviour when the situation demands. One professor friend from UC Davis, recently told us he does not invigilate in exams; he expects the students to be honest when unsupervised. I wonder when we can expect that from our students.