The other day I was speaking to an elder colleague of mine. He said, “Research has taught me how to solve problems. After all isn’t life all about problem-solving?” Coming from a man more experienced than I, I won’t deny the fact but I’ll add that it is not just problem-solving but it is multi-problem-solving. It leads you to have to decide on what to solve first and what next…which to be given attention and which to be neglected…which to be taken to the heart and which to the mind…which to be shouldered alone and which to be shared. So problem solving with the ability to prioritise would be the most important skills gained through research.
Speaking of problem solving, I find it worth mentioning that I am currently reading For the Love of India by R. M. Lala, a the biography of J. N. Tata. A man who is known as the father of Indian industries, is the one who started the first steel industry in India, made the Taj Mahal Hotel & the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and envisioned hydro-electric power in a period when India was ridden with poverty and illiteracy. He was the man who envisioned India 50 years ahead of time. These four of his most important projects were all taken up in the last 20 years of his life. Although, only one was completed within his lifetime, all came to fruition within a decade of his death. The author writes of the numerous problems that Tata faced for his grand plans. These problems were not just economic and technological problems but also included the many hurdles created by the Indian Raj. The sheer scale of these projects combined with the problem of setting up a system to maintain achieve profitability were some of the biggest challenges of his times. Although, these problems were from a very different and difficult period in Indian history, the problem solving skills are still very relevant.
The Indian Raj respected Mr. Tata’s in-depth research into any project that he took up. He always had data to back up his facts and got the right people to comment on issues that might be criticised. They also revered his immense commitment to the cause and the extents to which he would put in efforts to support his ideas. His superior control on the english language and networking skills in a period when communication was such a new invention are worth lauding. But most important of all his skill, was the skill of finding the right person for the right task which did him the best in the years after his death to fulfill his magnanimous dreams. All these are problems he foresaw and worked on them day after day. He was simultaneously handling four mega projects which were immensely different each other. His multi-problem solving skills are worth learning from and I recommend reading his biography.