Within moments of Vishal Sikka’s departure, the what ‘Sapp jokes began. ‘khota sikka’or de-coinization (Sikka slso means coin in Hindi) and every other possible pun or metaphor hit my screen across every social media platform. Public spats have become entertainment spectacles for us. Where we used to avert our heads in the past – in embarrassment for the parties in question – today we watch, we throw witty asides or show our polarized opinion one way or another, unhesitatingly showing a vulgar curiosity that was earlier somehow shameful.
The dramatis personae, themselves, have no need for privacy. Indeed, the leaked email or an open letter is now the new way to have a slanging match on a very public street corner; the unseemliness of it somehow lost on the participants. They only appear intent on proving to the world they are the blameless party.
Perhaps it is the immediacy of the email, or the Presidential tweet that makes for an impulsive rejoinder. In an earlier time, a memo would have been dictated, brought for signature and would have provided time for a cooler perspective. The immediacy of response mechanisms today gives unprecedented opportunity for inopportune missives. Things said in the heat of the moment seem to be a way of life.
We, the bystanders, today look for salacious details about a father – son spat and other such public fights and make them our daily soap opera. Somehow, in interacting with a screen, we seem to be suffering from a disassociative disorder and feel no sense of restraint forwarding a what ‘Sapp joke or tweeting a witty quip that we might otherwise share with only an inner circle in an earlier conversation.
The Infosys brawl however, needs to be seen in another light –as a clash of values. For the founder, the values of company before self, a frugal way of life – where work was a higher purpose and a lack of ostentatiousness were all deeply personal and embodied the work culture at Infosys. For the present time, a new set of values are perhaps needed – such as innovation and a performance driven culture, high levels of personal enterprise and ownership; driven by rewarding the most capable. This emergent culture was forcing the pace of growth while taking head-on, the more inclusive past of Infosys.
At Tata too, the clash was about an inclusive culture v/s a performance driven culture. Values are deeply embedded in our unconscious – and while they are culture specific, they are also culture defining. These rifts will only get more common and more public.
So the combination of rapidly changing times and the digital age makes for explosive outcomes. It worries me that the next war most certainly would be caused by a tweet.
In 140 characters or less….

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