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February 11, 2014

Infosys Prizes Recognize Intellectual Gold

Posted by Srikantan Moorthy (View Profile | View All Posts) at 6:46 AM

Infosys Prize 2013 winners with Kofi Annan and the Jury
Infosys Prize 2013 winners with Kofi Annan and the Jury

It's time for the Olympics once again. For me, the best part of the games is the telling of all the back-stories before each event.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the back-story, it's a sometimes-emotional look at an athlete's struggles to get all the way to the Olympics. Most of these stories are about against-all-odds situations. It's not uncommon to learn that the aspiring athlete comes from a tough neighborhood, has sustained numerous injuries, but has the right mental attitude to focus on the prize - in this case, an Olympic medal. True, these stories are neatly packaged month ahead of time and formulaic. But that's one of the reasons they work so well. We know that each back-story ends in the present athletic contest laid out before us. And it usually results in that person winning a race and achieving medal status.

We like back-stories because by the time we're watching an Olympic athlete strut her stuff on the playing field, we feel like we've been with her throughout her entire life. All of her training with her coach, all of her early morning workouts at the ice rink. Of course, we don't really know her. But the perception becomes reality through a well-placed and constructed back-story.

We've got a back-story of our own. Seven of them, in fact. This year, the 5th annual Infosys Prizes went to seven of the world's most fascinating minds. There's Ramgopal Rao in Engineering & Computer Science, Nayanjot Lahiri in Archaeology, Ayesha Kidwai in Linguistics, Rajesh Gokhale in Life Sciences, Rahul Pandharipande in Mathematics, Shiraz Naval Minwalla in Physical Sciences, and Aninhalli R. Vasavi in Social Sciences. Each one of these world-class researchers has spent a lifetime innovating and contributing to the improvement of society.

Corporations can learn a lot from these prize-winners. Because a lot of what we do in the race to succeed and stay ahead of the competition involves strategy. It involves knowing the back-story of all your market rivals and why they're in the race to begin with.

The innovation journey is no less dependent on such information. The more we know about how an enterprise can benefit from new technologies and strategies, the more comfortable we are with the course we take.

So much is changing and so much is at stake that even the bronze medalists are happy to come out with such distinctions. So in this Olympic season - as well as from the bestowing of the Infosys Prizes - here's the thing that leaders and innovators can pick - get to know the winners through their back-stories. Because success is contagious.

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