Values in Action

Amid a lot of talk and emphasis on values, here are a few values explained – values in action.


Mahatma Gandhi was a stickler for time. Once, a teacher was twenty minutes late for a teaching class. Gandhiji told the teacher he had wasted four hundred minutes. The teacher was confused. Gandhiji explained that since there are twenty students in the class, the teacher had wasted 20X20 equals 400 minutes of precious time. This is integrity; walking the talk & being an exemplar of ethical & principled behaviour.


Barry Marshall, a doctor, believed that stomach ulcer is caused by bacteria. But, the entire medical fraternity believed that bacteria cannot survive in the acidic environment of the stomach. Marshall’s claim was dismissed. He had to make the world learn what the truth is. Barry Marshall took bacteria from the gut of an ailing patient, stirred it in a broth and drank it. He gave himself an ulcer and since there was a cure at hand, Marshall lived to tell the tale. This is passion, a deep sense of purpose fuelled by the fire-in-the-belly (pun intended!) Marshall won the Nobel Prize for his work.


Lal Bahadur Shastri, India’s second prime-minister came from a very poor family. His school was an 8 mile walk away from home and there was a river to cross. Lal Bahadur did not want to burden his parents by paying the boatman two rupees per month for a boat ride. He learnt to swim. No matter how cold or stormy the river and the elements were, Lal Bahadur braved the currents and made it to school – on time. Once, people in a boat thought him to be a drowning boy and hauled him up. They were amazed to know he swims every day to reach school. This is commitment, being responsible, disciplined and reliable.


Henry Kaiser was an industrialist called upon to build faster merchant cargo ships in America during the Second World War. Great Britain was under siege and the Germans were sinking ships that were the life-line for Britain’s very survival as a nation. There were two problems. Kaiser had to build ships at a faster rate than their sinking. The ships took too long to build (8 months) because of a complex design that required skilled technicians who were in short supply. Kaiser had to learn fast! Earlier, ships were being riveted into being, piece by piece. Kaiser learnt to weld & this allowed pre-fabricated parts to be assembled together in quick time. Production time was brought down to a couple of weeks! And they built a ship in just four and a half days. This is speed, being nimble, proactive and decisive.


The Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bomb is the most shining example of seamless learning. Driven by the fear of the Germans going nuclear first, the Allies put the best team of people at work. Scientists, Engineers, Administrators, Operators, Workers; about 130000 people were mobilised together in secrecy for this project. The theory of bomb was known, but not the method. Time was critical. The project leaders found a way to get the best minds to work together (not an easy task) and conduct research, development & production phases simultaneously (race against time) The scientific, organizational and management complexity these people navigated through boggles the mind. And yet they did it. This is seamlessness, being able to be open, collaborative and learning from the best!

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