Is Cockroach Theory Still Relevant Today? 

We can easily consider Sundar Pichai, the father of the Cockroach Theory. The term makes a narrative of differentiating between responding and reacting, while in today’s era, it is used as a reference by several leading leaders, including Mark Zuckerberg, Piyush Bansal, Ritesh Aggarwal, etc. But how did the theory come into existence and evolve? How is it relevant in today’s corporate world? 

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google, illustrated a valuable lesson in self-development through the cockroach theory. Here’s the story: one evening, Pichai was dining at a restaurant when a woman suddenly panicked because of a cockroach, causing a commotion in her corner of the restaurant. A waiter calmly removed the cockroach, restoring order. From this incident, Pichai deduced that we often react impulsively to unexpected situations without assessing and responding with a calm state of mind. As a successful leader, Sundar Pichai found this experience to be a powerful metaphor for CEOs, highlighting the importance of thoughtful, measured responses rather than instinctive reactions.

We can frame an example of how Indian companies took the pandemic as a challenge and crossed the sustainability hurdle. Rather than immediately reacting, few businesses dig into research & development to create a channel with an online marketplace, selling through e-commerce sites, contactless payment with UPI, and adopting software. Some key examples of the brand that transforms challenges into opportunities are Suparshva Swabs, which initiates the business of personal hygiene products such as cotton buds, cotton balls, and special swabs. IHCL launched Qmin to present culinary experiences from restaurants at customers’ homes. Shree Shakti Enterprises, dealing with kitchenware expands its offering towards sensor-based sanitiser dispensers to hands-free hand wash systems and automatic foot sanitisers for surged demands. All these real-world examples demonstrate the path of success that suggests responding rather than reacting to any external challenges. 

CEOs face immense pressure to make decisions in their leadership roles, and one bad decision might ruin their company’s growth and stability. From sales projection to workforce negotiation, they are bound to sit back, observe challenges, and verify all the possibilities before sharing any judgement and feedback. The analogy is that a woman quickly reacts to an external disturbance while the waiter handles the same situation with a stable and calm mindset. Being proactive effectively helps when CEOs or managers respond with intent and thoughtfulness; it helps them make better decisions. It gradually transforms leaders into more resilient and adds a high Emotional Quotient (EQ). 

“Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” Publilius Syrus’s quote depicts that the real patience test for leadership begins during challenges rather than stable forces. In the era of social media, where every individual gets judged for their good or bad behaviours and freedom of speech, it is too easy to mark any comments. CEOs are representing their brand; their one comment and aggressive behaviour might lead to a stock crash and affect their business collaboration. like Ashneer Grover, Former managing director of BharatPe, who got mixed responses from people, where few liked his cool personality over Shark Tank India episodes. At the same time, others believe he was imitating rudeness without any such reasons. On the contrary, Ritesh Aggarwal, Founder of OYO Rooms, perfectly symbolises that CEOs can be patient and calm and still take any startup to a global giant.

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