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What makes some writers and thinkers prolific?

By | Dr Pavan Soni | IIM-B Innovation Evangelist

Last week, I attended the Bangalore BizLitFest held at IIMB campus. The theme of the event was Entrepreneurship, and there were several impressive writers and thought leaders offering their insights on reading and writing over the course of the day. For me, the highlight was the session of Prof. Anil GuptaRamachandra Guha, and Devdutt Pattanaik, three of the most impressive and distinct writers from India.

Not only that I enjoyed listening to their thoughtful reflections on topics around innovation, business, society, mythology, and history, amongst others, I was also thrilled to have spent some quality time with each of them. It was a humbling experience, at the least.
During my conversations, and after reflecting over the interactions, it occurred to me that there is something remarkably common across each of the three stalwarts. I could as well stretch these identifiers to some of the other prolific thinkers, writers, and doers that I have come across over the years.
So here is my take.

Clarity of thought and conviction
Think of the topics that each of the aforementioned authors cover- grassroots level innovation, political and economic history of modern India, and mythology. These are very obscure and difficult to deal topics, notwithstanding that people often have their own non-scientific views on these. The reason the gentlemen have stood tall and stood the test of time is because of their deep understanding of the subject matters, and an uncluttered mind. Not only that their commentary on the subjects is very insightful, but also their responses to questions are very sharp.

Also, these thinkers speak with a lot of conviction, which is not owing to their authority as much as stemming from their deep research on select few topics. They can mostly anticipate your question, and leave you with a response that doesn’t leave much to explain. Their incisive perspectives are both fresh and powerful.

High energy levels
How do you communicate obscure concepts to a diverse audience, which is never short of their own opinions on almost all subjects? This calls for not only deep domain knowledge, but also a powerful delivery. Guha, for one, comes across as a highly passionate and energetic person. My lunch meeting with him left me wheeling with several thoughts and his energy levels were palpable and infectious. The case with Prof. Gupta, and Devdutt was no different.
I believe that high levels of energy come when you conserve and converge your energies, and for that, you need to pick your battles.
Even if you observe them during the tea breaks or other networking events, they are able to engage in simultaneous conversations, and with a rather higher number and level of conversations that most people can manage comfortably. May be, they draw energy from their work, or their admirers, but energy is visible and rubs you off.

Humility with a purpose to improve
Most of such thinkers and writers aren’t humble because that’s expected of them.
In my view, humility is a very strategic tool to remain in the game and continue to improve. These people know it all too well that it is complacency, and not lack of knowledge that would kill them faster.
So, they listen to you intently. Even if they can’t answer your questions, they make it a point to come back, in some form or shape. And they come back strong.
Think of the following statement by Pattanaik, “mythology is an important conduit of economic development”, or from Prof. Gupta who quipped, “not all innovations have to be scalable.” Now, these might sound very controversial or counterintuitive statements, but if you stay with the logic for long enough, you get the essence.

I thank the organizers, and wish to be in the league soon.

Republished with permission and originally published at www.pavansoni.com

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