Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Bonobos’

 

My audience may by now be losing its patience, thinking as to why I keep harping on the term ‘values’ so very often!

The Road to Happiness

Well, it would not need a Sherlock Holmes to figure out what is happening here. Besides being an occasional author, a speaker, a regular blogger and content creator on such topics as Management, P G Wodehouse, Bollywood and life in general, yours truly has undergone several juicy experiences in life – some sweet and some sour. Based on my 35 years+ experience in the corporate world, I have become aware and conscious of the need for high values and ethics in business. Some of you may recall my having worked across the two opposite ends of the Value Spectrum.

Add to this the enriching experience I have had while our planet has been busy spinning on its axis and completing 68 odd rounds around the sun since I have been around and the plot gets even thicker. Those of you who have had the misfortune of trudging through my articles and books would have already sensed an underlying current highlighting this very theme. In me, they would have discovered a fierce critic of any kind of compromises on this front.

My belief is that business ships (and lives too) which are built on a keel of sound values end up not only having a better brand equity but also yield better returns. When we are broad minded and give back to the society at large, we serve a higher purpose in life. Purpose brings inner happiness. Happiness is what we all seek.

Where Do Our Values Come From?

All this may have left my audience wondering as to from where our value systems come from. This would surely need the keen eye of Sherlock Holmes to explore.

Our Genes

After years of research on bonobos – intelligent apes closely related to us, homo-sapiens – Frans de Waal argues that human morality is not imposed from above but comes from within us. In his path-breaking book entitled The Bonobo and the Atheist, he proposes that moral behavior does not begin and end with religion. It appears that our values and ethics are instead a product of evolution and cultural response. All of us strive to be good within ourselves, in our own eyes. This explains our trait of innate goodness.

A cat or a dog may not think through the process so thoroughly, but bonobos surely appear to be aware of the nuances of social norms. They have a developed sense of reciprocity and fairness. They are even known to intervene in a fight between two tribe members so as to maintain peace and harmony!

Ancient apes, whales and dolphins deserve our gratitude for several qualities that we possess – our sensitivity to others, our concern for fairness, love of harmony and other just forms of societal behavior. If religion or spirituality attracts us, it is because that is how Mother Nature has made us. These present to us a template of good conduct; these touch a chord somewhere deep within us.

We, a Cocktail of ‘Gunas’

However, there is no guarantee that all of us follow the template of good conduct alone. As per Bhagavad Gita, each one of us has a unique mix of the three kinds of traits (gunas): Sattwic, Rajasic and Tamasic.

Spiritual texts tell us that both the good as well as the evil are manifestations of the Divine. When Lord Krishna manifests his all-pervasive and all-inclusive Vishwarupa form in the midst of his sermon to Arjuna, he reveals the negative side of the Divine as well.

Conception, Upbringing and Our Role Models

The thoughts of our parents when we were conceived, the manner in which we are brought up and the role models we have in our lives are perhaps some of the other factors which shape our inner value systems.

In childhood, when I picked up some money lying on the road outside my home, with gleeful thoughts of treating myself and my friends to an ice cream or two later, I had no other option but to be guided by the moral compass of my parents. I was made to donate the money to a beggar outside a temple we visited in the evening that day. In many other instances, a straight and narrow path of righteousness was laid out.

It was a common practice for my paternal grandmother to read a few pages of Ramcharitmanas almost every evening. Likewise, my maternal grandmother was a follower of the principles of Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave and Swami Vivekananda. Stories from Panchatantra et al defined the nature of books and comics available to us in our childhood.

The rich legacy left behind by my parents and other family seniors comprises the kind of values they cherished. Never to brag about one’s accomplishments. To listen to all, but to do only what one’s inner voice holds to be right. Be truthful and honest, but not to hurt anyone in the process. Do not easily promise anything; once promised, just do it. Treat others in the way you yourself wish to be treated. Be punctual; you have no right to waste another’s time. Eat healthy. Exercise regularly. Be good to others, but protect yourself first. Be always courteous to members of the tribe of the delicately nurtured. Judge people only by their inner qualities; not by their external appearance. As to your future plans, share these only on a need to know basis.

In addition to the immediate family members, there were a bevy of uncles, aunts and cousins passing by the household, some benign and a few others not so. Their feedback and their comments also shaped up our thoughts.

Those were simpler days when the radio was the only means of entertainment. The power supply would often play hide and seek. At bed time, while watching the twinkling stars high above, one could learn much from the stories of various achievements of our ancestors narrated by someone senior.

Lord Rama and Lord Krishna 

Mahabharata was yet another epic which influenced me. Arising out of an age-old belief that a copy kept in the house could lead to conflicts between siblings, I could read it only when I was in college. Some traits of Lord Krishna – a friendly disposition, fleet-footedness, detachment, helping those who are on the path of righteousness, strategic thinking, treating ends more important than the means, etc – are endearing and relevant to this day.

Both the godheads present a slightly different template of good conduct. Both exhort us lesser mortals to follow the path of righteousness, or dharma. But their methods vary. If Lord Rama is an epitome of virtue and is to be kept on a high pedestal and revered, Lord Krishna is less bound by notions of morality. He is a true friend, philosopher and guide. If a villain in our story is troubling us too much, one could frankly confide in Krishna and request him to ensure that the fellow be somehow banished from Earth and packed off to Mars on a one-way ticket. This is the kind of liberty we just cannot take with Rama who would surely take a jaundiced view of a request of this kind!

Much later in life, in the corporate world, I learnt the practice of ethical values at two of the companies I worked with. Tax planning and tax avoidance was fine, tax evasion was not. Creative interpretation of laws was fine; laxity in following the norms of governance was not. Payment of bribes was ruled out.

In one instance, while in the employment of one of these companies, I was invited by a management institute to be a part of their curriculum finalization team. A token remuneration was offered by the institute and accepted by me. As per company policy, the amount was gifted to a charity rather than used by me personally.

Learning from the Younger Ones

Bring in a leader of high values in an organization and see for yourself the manner in which ethical practices percolate down to all the levels. Given support from the very top, businesses then get run by striking a judicial balance between the commercial interests and the society’s welfare. A culture of encouraging Conscience Keepers and discouraging neither dissent nor whistle-blowing permeates such organizations.

In a way, we can learn much from our younger generation which does not feel shy in calling on its employers to either shape up or ship out. Uber experienced this recently, when it came to dealing with reports of harassment by its drivers of some of its female passengers. Likewise, producers of the 2020 movie, The Social Dilemma, deserve a hearty round of applause for giving us a peek into the way we get manipulated by the social media giants.

Values: Teaching and Learning      

I have no academic credentials to say this, but I believe that values can not only be learnt but can also be taught. Learning comes from within whereas teaching is an external stimulus. One moves as if on a spiral, imbibing things within while also absorbing inputs from outside.

If our inner consciousness is awakened, so to say, we may be more open to learning good values. But if we have somehow evolved into dense, obstinate and shameless beings, believing ourselves to be the epitome of perfection, life’s harsher slings and arrows alone may be able to teach us quite a few things. All of us are like sponges which readily absorb the kind of cultural liquid which surrounds us. That is how, keeping the right ‘company’ is so very crucial in our lives!

In-house orientation programs, backed by relevant case studies and real-time experiences shared from across different verticals of the organization can help. The credibility of the resource person often plays a crucial role.

Grooming Spiritually Inclined Leaders

Businesses (and many of our governments too!) need to consciously groom leaders who rate high not only on their Intelligence and Emotional Quotients, but also on their Moral or Spiritual Quotient, bringing in to the work place a set of healthy values and ethical practices.

This, I believe, is the basic need of our times.

 

(SQ Illustration courtesy Sanket; other images courtesy www) 

 

(Related Posts: 

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2021/02/21/a-few-things-which-make-me-angry-these-days

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/11/27/values-the-real-soul-of-organizations-2

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/ethics-and-values

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/towards-sq

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/the-beauty-inside-bonobos-and-management)

 

Read Full Post »

Poster The_Beauty_InsideWould hi-tech companies like Intel and Toshiba believe in the traditional Indian ethos of spirituality and reincarnation? The fact that their recent promos give us a glimpse into a universe where what is on the inside alone counts does indicate this. The key message appears to be that whether it is a man or a machine, it is only the entity inside which makes a difference. ‘The Beauty Inside’ promo has a narrative of daily incarnations, which fits in rather well with what Lord Krishna tells us in the Bhagavad Gita – that the soul inside us is what really matters!

This is obviously not to say that the essential principles enshrined in Eastern scriptures necessarily need an endorsement from the West. It is common knowledge that post-Lehman Brothers, premier management institutions from the West have started showing some interest in the Eastern philosophy. The concepts of morality and ethics have gained currency in management circles. The fact that Stephen Covey speaks of an inner voice and a soul in his book ‘The 8th Habit’ is yet another manifestation of this trend.

Learning it from intelligent apes

The concept of a soul is an integral part of various streams of religion and spirituality we see around us today. It is interesting to understand how religion and spirituality originated; also, the value these really add to our mundane lives.Bonobos

After years of research on bonobos – intelligent apes closely related to us, homo-sapiens – Frans de Waal argues that human morality is not imposed from above but comes from within us. In his path-breaking book entitled The Bonobo and the Atheist, he therefore proposes that moral behavior does not begin and end with religion. It appears that our values and ethics are instead a product of evolution and cultural response.

The fact that our innate goodness resulted into diverse streams of religions we see around us today readily explains the success of religion – and various Gods revered in each stream – as a concept. The spiritual thought process is also an outcome of the same core of our need to be good within ourselves, in our own eyes.

A cat or a dog may not think through the process so thoroughly, but bonobos surely appear to be aware of the nuances of social norms. Religion Ankara_Muzeum_They have a developed sense of reciprocity and fairness. They are even known to intervene in a fight between two tribe members so as to maintain peace and harmony!

Ancient apes, whales and dolphins deserve our gratitude for several qualities that we possess – our sensitivity to others, our concern for fairness, love of harmony and other just forms of societal behavior. If religion or spirituality attract us, it is because these touch a chord somewhere deep within us.

Templates of Exemplary Conduct  

The contribution of religion therefore is in presenting us with templates of exemplary conduct. It has codified the social and ethical norms for the average person. In particular, it has made it easier to explain the nuances of ethical and moral values by portraying examples of Gods and Goddesses whose conduct is worth emulating for the average person. Religion cleverly uses fear and temptation to guide and control human conduct.

Irrespective of the stream of spirituality one chooses to follow, the basic template invariably is again that of exemplary conduct. However,A_Vishva-rupa_print the focus is on listening to one’s inner self. The endeavor is to silence the mind, thereby attaining inner peace and happiness. Each stream of spirituality has a different prescription and a unique methodology, but all are unanimous that the spirit is at the centre of it all. To that extent, spirituality has the potential of uniting people, whereas religion has been seen to divide it along communal lines.

As compared to religion, spirituality is more embracing. In religion, we have the good guys – devas – and the bad guys – asuras. Following one’s Dharma, the code of righteousness, man can hope to attain salvation. However, spirituality encompasses the good as well as the evil, both being manifestations of the Divine. When Krishna manifests his all-pervasive and all-inclusive Vishwarupa form in the midst of his sermon to Arjuna, it shows the negative side of the Divine as well.

A Heady Cocktail

Intel and Toshiba have surely come up with a winner promo in ‘The Beauty Inside’. Similar campaigns which work on a heady cocktail ofintel logo some basic tenets of religion and philosophy on the one hand and the latest that technology and management has on offer on the other would surely follow.

Given that our scriptures are replete with gems of wisdom and lay down templates of exemplary conduct, more and more corporates could be hopping on to the spiritual bandwagon in the days to come. Already, we find companies appointing Chief Belief Officers and Chief Ethics & Compliance Officers. Goes on to show that the role of conscience keepers in corporates is getting the recognition it deserves.

Toshiba logo

Such developments give one hope that the upcoming generations of our future business leaders and professional managers would rate high not only on their Intelligence and Emotional Quotients, but also on their Moral or Spiritual Quotient, bringing to the work place a set of ethical values and practices.

Read Full Post »