Infectious Credibility and Idolization

There is a strange problem in India – we idolize. Idolization is not that bad, what makes it worse is a distorted mapping of credibility. Credibility becomes infectious and it seeps into areas which the person might not have any expertise in. We make them our universal idols who will solve all our problems and guide us to Shangri-La, the land of universal excellence.

Very recently Mr. Narayan Murthy, India’s entrepreneurial idol, made a claim that 80% of the IIT students are of poor quality (read here). I am not sure what data Mr. Murthy has, but I am surprised to see a man who has always believed in numbers, state a conjecture that will be difficult (read impossible) to prove. I am not too surprised or offended to hear Mr. Murthy’s comments and I have a simple “I don’t think so” response to it. I don’t care if Infosys is a body shop (read Chetan Bhagat’s response here) or is doing ground breaking R&D. What worries me more is that this statement is taken so seriously that we end up reading about his statement in all the newspapers and discussing it on Twitter and Facebook. Are we generalizing his entrepreneurial credibility into areas that may not be relevant?

This situation is not particular about one individual, but is so common that clearly demonstrates that credibility is infectious. A socially successful individual is quickly idolized and we start agreeing with his views in areas outside his expertise. Any attempt to argue against them are looked upon as disrespect. This is dangerous. We noticed this “with us or against us” ideology during the Jan Lokpal movement when any attempt to discuss the demerits of the proposal was ridiculed and labelled as a pro-Government voice.

Idolize these successful individuals because they have set the highest standards in what they have done. They drive young entrepreneurs and motivate organizations to repeat their success. But they are humans and they are bound to have opinions that others may not agree with. If we disagree with them, we don’t take away any of the credit that they rightly deserve. We are just not cool with their credibility become infectious and affect our individual judgement.

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