Learning Complexity — Leadership Series … 3

In one of the many tanks in the fish farm lived three big fishes who were great friends. They were Silvy, Goldy and Platy. All the while they were practically moving together and gossiping for hours on end.  They would discuss for hours on the problems of life and how such complex problems might be resolved. They were very intelligent too. They devised an underwater Twitter like system, called ‘Fishter’, to continue their long conversations through the day.

However, they did not seem to have any problem of their own. Food was not a problem since they were well fed by their owners. So there was no need to hunt for food. In the process they forget the art of hunting for food. Life was otherwise comfortable, without a care in the world. Their joy of living was greatly enhanced by the presence of many beautiful female fishes to flirt with. The only regret they ever had was their inability to take a monsoon holiday in the nearby paddy fields as owners quickly drained off excess water fearing loss of fishes from their tanks.

Days passed by merrily with nothing much ado. Only in the evenings they swam up to the surface to pounce upon the tiny tasty morsels gleefully thrown at them by children living in nearby localities.

Then one day, terror struck. Silvy, Goldy and Platy overheard their owners discussing on the banks of their tank, ‘Tomorrow morning we are going to farm this tank for our order from Japan‘. It meant the end of the world for our three friends. They would be caught and kept alive to be sold in the Japanese market. The Japanese are terribly fond of buying fishes live. They abhor buying dead fishes.

On hearing this, Silvy was anxious and nervous. His blood pressure shot up. He began to fret and think of his fate – death at such a young age? He thought it to be unfair of the owners. He thought it unfair of God to have sentenced him to death for no fault of his. Then he thought of all the losses he would incur. He thought of the comfortable life he would lose forever. He thought as to why he was born in this tank. And he blamed his fate. After a few hours his body was slowly turning blue. His breath was labored. And he was light in the head, unable to think any further. His throat ran dry though he gulped gallons of water. And his body shivered. He felt his brains bursting out.

Meanwhile Goldy was adamant. He thought, “All these years we have mastered solving complex problems through our innumerable discussions and dialogs. So we can definitely think about this and solve it. Why not?”

Goldy sat in a corner like Rodin’s ‘Thinker’ and thought of ways and means to save himself and others from the impending danger. He asked himself questions and tried hard to find answers to those. He predicted possible scenarios and how to tackle them if they were to come up. He ‘tweeted’ about this to his world. But he received no response. Everyone seems to be worried about their impending fate of doom. Then Goldy thought of ways to hide from the fishermen or escape from the net. He thought about the tools and techniques that might come in handy during the process. He carefully worked out and rehearsed his designed processes. He also thought of taking up the matter with the ‘Fishes Right Commission’….

But Platy seemed to be himself looking cool and composed without a fish-scale being ruffled. He was a bit philosophical too, ‘Death is inevitable  None can escape the jaws of death. But didn’t Shakespeare say, ‘Cowards die many times before their death’. I shall meet it when it really comes.”

With this nonchalant view he went about with his flirting with young females, drinking, love making, perhaps for the last time and merry making in his usual spontaneous carefree attitude.

Night passed with its uncanny shivering. At the break of dawn fishermen were all round the tank. They cast their net. Finding themselves caught in the net, poor Silvy died of a heart attack. Goldy with his eyes wide open, was still trying to figure out ways from this dreadful situation. His plans were not working. But Platy kept observing what was going on in the most relaxed mood ever, possibly conserving vital energy for the very last moment.

After a few minutes the net was hauled up. The fishermen were delighted by the big catch — all big fishes were neatly rounded up. That meant more money for them. Then they started doing something queer. They started sifting the ones in poor health or the ones that were long dead from the healthier ones.

Platy saw that they put Goldy into a smaller tank which had water in it so that he could be kept alive for the Japanese market. Then he saw them throw out Silvy to the far end of the narrow strip of land that separated two fish tanks.

Immediately, Platy feigned death and lay as still and inflated as possible. Sure the fishermen took him to be long dead and threw him to the far corner of the narrow strip of land. That brought him very close to the other tank. Sensing opportunity he leaped for his dear life and jumped into the adjacent tank as soon as fishermen looked the other way.

There he did not waste a moment further. He gleefully glided towards the beautiful young female fishes.

(An ancient Indian story retold in the modern context)

4 thoughts on “Learning Complexity — Leadership Series … 3

  1. In the story lies the vital lessons of complexity. (1) Complexity is a reality. Hence it is wise to embrace complexity instead of fearing/shunning it. (2) Strategies/plans mostly fail in a complex situation. Prior knowledge/experience rarely helps as each problem pose a different challenge. (3) Keeping a worry-free mind and being attentive is vital to problem solving. (4) Learning is always instant, thru attentive observations & sudden insights. (5) Big problems don’t need big solutions. Small interventions can bring out big results. Am I missing something ?


  2. Fantastic story. We can relate the story to our present recession syndrome. People are desperately trying to find out solutions to wriggle out like they did before but faltering in every steps. The theories, strategies are not working but fully agree with D C Padhi that “small interventions can bring out big(successful) results”.


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