Time present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in time future/ And time future contained in time past”,TS Eliot, Four Quartets, (1941)

A change in the calendar year gives us a high. We look forward to another new year. Resolutions are made. Hope is re-ignited. Many of us gather optimism like tsunami victims collect falling rations from runaway helicopters. Part greedy, part needy – we reach for the the new year. The more enthusiastic among us prepare a whole new to-do list. During the few fleeting quiet moments between the hectic year-end parties, we long to make a difference. “Must make more time for fitness, holidays, families, relationships and self-renewal and learning”- we promise to ourselves with the certainty of an alcoholic. Look back, this drama has been enacted for many years now. The only way to stop this endless drama is to see the new year in a new light.

A new year is not all that new. Certainly not 2019 -when so much is left undone in 2018. A lot of good stuff began this passing year. We must continue the unfinished agenda and complete the pending tasks of 2018- if not wholly, substantially. Let me list the top items from 2018 , which I urge we continue ,albeit with some modifications. As I do that ,I will wear my two hats: 1) a global Indian , and 2) a Human Capital Pracademic ( Practitioner+ Academic)

Global Indian

  • Despite Trump, Brexit and all those voices of toxic nationalism, we must continue in 2019 our Paris accord promises to control emissions, check pollution, embrace sustainability and prevent the icebergs from melting any further. Note: The earth is going to see a rise of 1.5 °C in temperature just in 10 years if the current levels of emissions continue (IPCC report, 2018)
  • We must continue the debate over Human’s rights over Robots and “govern” all digital and new age innovations including in genomics through better public policy.
  • We must continue the “#MeToo”-movement – albeit in more constructive ways- so that the huge unfinished agenda of mutual respect between genders is truly addressed.
  • Closer home in India , we must continue to skill our people (Skill India?), clean our streets and garbage ( Swach Bharat?) ,create jobs in large numbers ( Make in India?) ,connect our cities and towns with more efficient air and rail lines and road ways ( Udan?)
  • We must continue to push for freedom of choice (e.g. food, faith and films) and not let anyone lynch the essential pluralism that underpins our society.
  • We must embrace technology, leapfrog into the digital world -while creating net sustainable jobs and retaining the human/personal touch that characterizes our civilization

 Human Capital Pracademic

As someone deeply convinced that Human capital is the single most important lever for  economic progress , I would like us to continue the following in 2019.

  • We must continue the ‘digitalization agenda’ that attained a new peak in 2018 . However, we must de-hype and de-mystify the real journey. In 2019, we must break it down to its practical elements, use the twin lenses of economic value creation and managing human consequences before we decide what, when and how much to digitalize.
  • We must continue to lend solid support (in companies and universities) to build new skills and make learning more applied.
  • At the firm level, we must continue the small yet significant systemic changes we made to performance management ( focus: continuous feedback) , Hiring and selection ( de-biasing /de-congesting) , Diversity ( from gender to transgender and from presence to inclusion) improve employee experience ( from enrollment to true participation) and finally mind our ’ new collar’ workers who can flip our carts and snap our deals, if not handled well.
  • We must continue our fight against jerks and megalomaniacs who routinely hijack our companies. The 2019 Human Capital agenda must include a serious attempt at improving corporate governance both internal and external.
  • Overall, we must stop the hypocrisy of ,on the one hand proclaiming: “people are our greatest assets” and on the other, treating them as liabilities.

There is a lot to continue and accomplish in 2019. We can’t play the usual trick of moving on to a new year and forget last year’s promises. The opportunity of the next year must be founded on the commitments of the last year.

Best wishes for 2019!