Looking back, the first four years seemed to have happened in a flash for all of us. Through the ups and downs, we emerged intact and more close-knit than ever. Statistically speaking, most start-up organizations fail within the first year of inception. The reason they fail is that, often the people who bring a company together, are the first to fall apart. That is part of a natural process through which the corporate world goes through Darwinian evolution. Four years into MindTree, the entire senior team remained intact, not just the first ten people who came to build the organization. When Fordham University of New York did our third annual employee perception survey in 2003, 90% MindTree Minds across the world said that it was a great place to work.
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As we grew together, we saw each other very differently from our initial perceptions, formed during the go-go days of the nineties. We saw in each other new strength; we saw aspects of personality that we never knew existed. Nothing helps like tough times to bring out the true nature of individuals. Once you know who you are sans the trappings, you feel secure in that knowledge and life becomes so much simpler. It gives people massive emotional security. Leaders approach issues without ego and that becomes critical to the nurturing process that every young company must have.
The summer of 2003 saw us fully aligned, self-confident and with high energy levels. We were getting closer to employing 1000 people. As we looked forward to 2004, we were clearly poised for 40% growth in an otherwise difficult market. Most companies that started around the same time as us had evaporated. We were clearly being seen as the emerging face of the mid-size segment. We were coming across as the credible alternative to larger competitors. Many customers and prospective employees did not want to go to these companies because of their sheer size. For those who chose MindTree, we represented agility, access and attention that came from youth. The challenge of terrorism and global geo-political disturbances continued to overshadow the business of economies. Amidst hope and caution, at MindTree, the next phase had begun.
This is the phase that we know will have to be led with fractal leadership. In the formative years between 1999 and early 2003, we had been able to build an outstanding cadre of people who were now rearing for larger action and greater space. Sandeep Bhatia, a long time customer at Franklin Templeton once told me that he was always intrigued by this something that made MindTree different. He had said, "I think it has got to do with your people. I do not know where you get them from and what you do to them". In Part III of the Making of MindTree, I will introduce you to some of these outstanding people. Many had left behind a lot to come to create "a Different Kind of Company" as the New York Times once called us.
What happens when people come together on the platform of a shared vision? How do they change and how do they cause change as the game unfolds? Professor Raghu Garud of Stern School has expressions for these. He talks of "creaction" – a coined term that is formed by the coming together of the words "creative" and "action".
Momentous tasks like institution building involve deep churn and that is the core of any creaction. Churn is about a constant balance between strategy and tactic. It is about leadership and followership.
It is about submerging leadership's ego to the overall purpose. It is also about building simultaneity as you plan for fractal growth. Every growth is a potentially destructive phenomenon. Only simultaneous organizations can manage the opposing forces that hold what is essential, what is the core and, at the same time, expand in space. In contemplating the process of institution building, Raghu Garud talks about concepts like path creation and path dependence. There are the people who are more comfortable in charting new paths.
These are people who go where no one has gone before. Then there are those who feel more secure when they walk a path that already exists. The mental make-up for the two tends to be very different. The two eat different kinds of breakfast to become who they are.
Above all else, people who build institutions need to have a certain sense of history. They need to be driven by an inner call that is disproportionate to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Because, in reality, the rainbow has no end...