Cover photo credit: https://www.competitivenessmindset.org/
BY SUPRIYA D.G
New Jersey-based Competitive Mindset Institute (CMI) launched a training program for meritorious students in India in May this year. CMI, in a long-term association with the Foundation for Excellence (FFE), will provide leadership training called Finding the Leader in You (FLY) to 7,500 scholars in small batches this year. FFE grants scholarships to meritorious students with financial need to pursue a college education. In the last twenty-six years, FFE has awarded more than Rs 228 crore scholarships to over 24,000 students in India.
According to the World Economic Forum’s latest ranking of global competitiveness, India slipped 10 places to number 68 and was one of the lowest among the BRICS nations.
“There are dire economic and non-economic consequences of India’s lower ranking in global competitiveness”, says Harsh Bhargava, Co-Founder and President, CMI Inc. He explains further that only when the domestic industry makes world-class products, would a consumer buy its products on a sustainable basis. A consumer may buy substandard or higher priced products out of patriotism for the short term and during a national crisis, but not on a sustained basis. “So, to be competitive domestically, our business will have to be competitive globally. It’s that simple! Competitiveness leads to sustainable growth, to rise in employment, and increase in pride and confidence in the nation.” he adds
Harsh Bhargava and Uday Nadkarni, founders of Competitive Mindset Institute conducted an independent study and based on the findings, decided to address the gap in global competitiveness in Indian youth, through their own initiative and efforts in transformation through leadership training. Consequently, their non -profit organization based out of New Jersey provides leadership training through the development of non-cognitive skills with an office also based out of Ahmedabad in India.
Bhargava’s experience in projects on competitiveness strengthening in the emerging markets, entrepreneurship and youth has spanned several countries. He is also the Founder and the President of I Create Inc, a non-profit corporation, dedicated to creating job creators instead of job seekers. Mr. Nadkarni, a successful entrepreneur in the IT industry for more than 30 years, holds a US patent for technology related to skills database management.
CMI’s independent study involved nearly 27,000 CEOs, policy level government officers, directors and faculty at higher educational institutions, media, NRIs and the civil society. The survey ranked the five most important attributes in overall importance (%) to competitiveness, and where India stands in each.
This study, a first of its kind in India, conclusively found that not only are these five attributes most valued in the global marketplace for competitiveness (dark blue), but they are also severely lacking among Indian professionals on average (maroon). Further research showed that increasing global competitiveness could raise India’s per capita export to 50% of the next lowest nation, Brazil, and potentially create over 30 million well-paying jobs.
Extrapolated conservatively from Export-Import Bank of India Report 2016
CMI instituted the one-of-a-kind program called Finding The Leader in You (FLY) with its trademark L.I.F.E framework to impart non-cognitive training skills after the growing need to address the results of the findings became apparent.
Uday Nadkarni says, “I am not aware that there is currently any kind of training in the skills that CMI offers”. He adds that the LIFE framework pedagogy that CMI has developed is “aimed at getting students to not only understand the subject at hand but to learn how to practically apply it and to then practice it routinely in all that they do – professionally and otherwise”.
LIFE stands for Learning, Introspection, Fellowship and Engagement – the four parts of the FLY training that CMI provides. Students report their experiences with the process and are provided with feedback.
Altering a pre-existing mindset to meet new demands that are a global imperative, while keeping in mind the specific cultural context within which the individual lives, is challenging and requires a fine balance. Nadkarni admits that there are certain traditions that make it harder to develop the skills demanded by global competition. “The culture of obedience for example, may not promote critical thinking, originality, taking initiative, etc. as much as some other cultures. But if global competitiveness demands these skills, as our research has shown, then developing them through customized training becomes even more necessary for our effectiveness and economic growth.” he asserts.
The onset of the pandemic exacerbated the inadequacies in not only regular education, but also deprived students the opportunity to engage in communication and community. This signals an urgent need to make the learning of non-cognitive skills a part of mainstream curriculum as early as elementary school.
Technological intervention has redefined learning processes, and enabled to a great extent, the possibility of virtually carrying on with our lives as before. It has sadly also exposed the gaps between those who can and cannot afford to be part of this transition. While CMI seized upon the opportunity and redesigned its in-person (and highly interactive) FLY program to be delivered on-line while still retaining much of its interactivity and participatory nature, Nadkarni laments that the need for learning the competitiveness skills that the FLY program teaches remains important and urgent for a larger base of learners and working professionals. He says emphatically, “Without these key skills and other related non-cognitive skills, we remain at a significant competitive disadvantage when we compete for global business. This loss of competitiveness, which has been validated through data, in turn depresses per capita GDP – just at the time that India is striving to leverage its huge demographic dividend.”
“If significant economic and competitive gains are not made while the demographics are favorable, this giant population bump may turn from a dividend into a liability as it begins to exit the workforce in a few years,” he warns ominously.
Both Bhargava and Nadkarni have reiterated the urgency for collaboration and not competition among various institutions and organizations to rise together and meet the long-standing call to rehaul our education system and learning pedagogy. The founders opine that foundational concept for the skills that CMI’s FLY program teaches and other non-cognitive skills in general, are introduced in many countries such as the United States, in primary schools from grades 1 through 5, and then continually reinforced throughout their years in school and college. They point out that these skills and attitudes do not need to be taught explicitly as separate ‘subjects’ requiring their own time and curricula. These may also be taught by weaving in the concepts into the mainstream curriculum.
More importantly, these skills help amplify the hard skills taught throughout the students’ school and degree programs. Students with greater critical and problem-solving abilities, who persevere and are more conscientious meet their curriculum requirements with deeper understanding and better perspective. In the workforce, they are more likely to be more effective, results-oriented, innovative and most importantly, emerge as leaders, they affirm. Nadkarni, finally sums up the purpose of CMI’s training agenda, what the latest National Education Policy, also encourages educational institutions to do – “provide non-cognitive skills training as part of their curriculum to produce more ‘well-rounded’ graduates who are better equipped to solve ill-defined, multi-faceted, real-life problems.”