President Pratibha Patil quoted Rabindranath Tagore in the last moments of her inaugural speech to the 15th Lok Sabha on Thursday. She said that the “dreary desert sand of dead habit” must be left behind.
Tagore used this phrase in his famous poem, Where the Mind is Without Fear. The poem was written in a different context around a hundred years ago, but Patil used an evocative phrase from it to call for a new culture of innovation. And in true Indian government style, she even announced that the next 10 years would be the Decade of Innovation (don’t miss the capital letters).
Economists have shown that the true source of sustainable economic growth is innovation. But building a nation’s innovation system is not just about having a few laboratories and a handful of risk-takers.
Hubs such as Silicon Valley have shown that innovation succeeds where the mind is without fear—of failure.
India will not succeed at mass innovation unless it learns to respect failure, rather than scoff at it.