October 12, 2017
Our Tryst with The Oracle
For anybody who has had a question for a long time and the answer was not found by typing into Google’s search field, chances are that they would have resorted to Quora to quench their thirst. If the questions were about history, politics, economics or even career advice chances are even higher that their questions would have already been answered in one form or the other by Balaji Vishwanathan.
“The Oracle of Quora” as we like to call him is an internet celebrity known for his nearly never ending knowledge about a wide variety of forces that shape, push and pull our world. His incisive analysis of current burning issues uses references to history, geopolitics and economics as ameans to provide context and clarity. To get a taste of his famously no nonsense and analytical style according to your field of interest, click here to find them.
Given below is a topic wise summary of the evening he spent with the team at Skylark Drones.
Security vs Risk
He emphasised that grit and determination matter a lot more than inherent talent or ability, some of the biggest companies in the world do not have C level executives with startup pedigree as their heads, that is primarily because, to be a true entrepreneur one has to try, accept failure at a very fundamental level as a part of your development and move on.
Given that you are practically a nobody means that you might not have substantial actual capital at your disposal, but what you do have is vast scope to learn from failure. Large companies can portray themselves to be dynamic but they have very fixed targets and are accountable to very real shareholders and that can limit their horizon to experiment with concepts.
Hence, it is very important to have the curiosity of a novice to learn new things and the responsibility of a seasoned professional to objectively accept failure. This is something that both Balaji at Invento and Skylark Drones strive to inculcate in new employees by mandating internships at the start of their journey.
The freedom to fail was something that taught Balaji important lessons about how to know when the world is ready for your ideas to be realised and productised. All of this starts from asking the right questions and having that urge to find the right answers and pushing those answers and questions to the brink, arriving at core truths and values in the process. We have shared some of our experiences about our journey in this context below.
Learning Beyond Words
When you have provided nearly 4000 answers that have been viewed 230 million times, having mastery over concepts in certain fields is a prerequisite but the ability to relate the concepts of one field to that of another is the secret sauce that makes your answers the most desirable.
Balaji shared some insights on how he assimilates and correlates concepts and knowledge from different fields to understand a situation from every major angle. In order to understand more about a given topic he adviced us to try and use senses beyond sight.
Breaking the barriers between the senses allows you to break the silos in your mind about different subjects and this in turn brings about free association.
For example: If you’re learning about historical architecture, step into an ancient temple and reconstruct the temple using the knowledge you have and realise it through a sense of touch or go to a maker lab and build models to test concepts that you have learnt in mechanics and electronics.
His central teaching was that no knowledge within a silo or restricted definitions are of any use today without context provided by inter-related subjects.
We obviously could not let him go as we continued to bombard him with questions about technology and automation replacing human labour and the search for true inspiration.
Alas, he had to move on and do what he loves, getting back into the world and running his company and we had to part with only one question remaining in our heads, when will you come again? To which he replied with a characteristic knowing smile as seen below.