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Posts Tagged ‘Consciousness’

In the preceding post, we brought in focus the fact that the first step in the process of evolution is the act of creation of information, followed by the emergence of energy and matter. Their interaction creates the Cosmic Mind and the Cosmic Consciousness, which also comprises such other subsets as a human consciousness, or an animal’s consciousness, and the like.

Having explored different facets of Consciousness, we realize how woefully short our present methods of running businesses are when compared to the ideal situation we at the Conscious Enterprises Network (CEN) are aiming for.

Admittedly, there are silver linings to this dark cloud. These are in the form of several individuals and groups of people who are aware of this deficiency and wish to do something about it. Right from environmental activists to business groups which follow Plan B and aim for a triple-bottom surplus from operations, there are many disparate attempts to nudge others in the direction of a heightened consciousness. 

The Challenge

The challenge here is three-fold. One aspect is that of identifying and grooming leaders who vibrate at the same frequency, despite their operating in diverse fields of business. A bevy of leaders such as these would be like an orchestra which plays out a mellifluous piece of music even though the instruments are as diverse as a cello, a clarinet, a trumpet or a piano.

The second one is that of creating a leaderless movement so as to avoid getting into ego traps of any kind. One way to do so could be to develop a common Charter of Consciousness which is voluntarily agreed upon by those who wish to come on board. This is likely to promote a better degree of interconnectedness between like-minded organizations, thereby ensuring that the Consciousness Virus becomes the next thing to grab the attention of Homo sapiens.

The third one is to create a credible and transparent forum which would not only keep the flame alive but also facilitate an exchange of ideas, techniques and practices. The collective learning opportunity such a forum would generate can be readily imagined. The forum would comprise individuals/organizations which have already set the bar high by demonstrating that businesses can be run successfully based on a twin compass, a commercial one and a conscious one. 

Rewiring the Leaders

The task of inner rewiring of leaders can neither be abdicated nor delegated. Charity begins at home, as they say. The call for a transformation of this kind can only come from within. Unless this inner change takes place, those around cannot be expected to fall in line.  

Through the ages, our spiritual leaders have laid an emphasis on reengineering ourselves at the individual level. However, this does not get done by attending seminars and events; or, by reading up on the subject. These help us to receive good thoughts. But the challenge lies in applying these thoughts to our mundane lives, and then to act upon the same. The process at work here needs to follow the manasa-vaacha-karma process. In other words, the concept of Consciousness needs to seep into our thoughts, our words and then into our actions. It needs to become a way of living life; a way of being.

This is a long-term project, requiring tenacity and commitment.

Here are some tips which may help leaders achieve this objective:

  • Developing a circle of close friends and confidantes who happen to be virtuous souls; networking with like-minded persons/organizations on social media platforms.
  • Regular meditation, so as to remain connected with our inner selves.
  • Shifting our attention from ‘me’ to ‘we’; adopting a mindset of ‘I Am Something’ instead of ‘I Am Everything’.
  • As we proceed further, our Consciousness expands to a still higher dimension, where the qualities of generosity of heart, humility, compassion and kindness reach their epitome.
  • We start engaging with our people more effectively, capitalizing better on our human capital.

Spreading the Consciousness Virus

Technology, if deployed with a benign intention, could go a long way in assisting us to spread this virus far and wide. The intention needs to be that of serving and facilitating rather than controlling. Advances labeled as Industrial Revolution 4.0 can assist us in propelling ideas such as consciousness more efficiently and, hopefully, even effectively.

Herein lies the primary challenge. Technology can merely be a tool. It is necessary, but not sufficient. What it needs is for humanity to wake up to its spiritual obligations. Our civilization’s present state is that of abject hedonism. This has led to a vast majority amongst us who have become slaves to technology. We have become zombies for whom checking the latest update on our technical gizmo is the first as well as the last act of the day. Virtual relationships have become more important than real relationships.   

The endeavour needs to be that of creating a number of tribes and networks which propagate such thoughts and motivate people and organizations to start making a transition to a higher plane of consciousness.

Tribes which are created to achieve a common purpose and believe in the same set of values would readily collaborate with each other and bring about a synergy. Different tribes may be at different levels of enlightenment/consciousness but if the values and the goals are the same, better results would be imminent.

Technical tools like Artificial Intelligence can help us to keep inside a firewall of sorts, keeping us shielded from distractions which retard our spiritual awakening/progress – the realization of the ultimate reality, that we all are one. It could give us the deeper private space which we need to grow inwardly and to realize that one of the most pleasurable things in life is to give succor to those who need it.  

This is why at CEN we believe that conscious leadership starts with the awakening of a leader to what he/she really is. The journey has to begin with a single aspiration – that of being a knight in shining armour who rides his/her nimble steed of technology to rescue the triad of hapless damsels best described by Plato over two thousand years ago as Truth, Goodness and Beauty. All three are in serious trouble and could do with a daring act of rescue.

Dear reader, are you game? If so, let us look forward to a book by one of CEN’s co-founders, Dominique Conterno, which goes into further details of the concepts we have touched upon briefly in this series of posts!

(Inputs from Dominiuqe Conterno and Esther Robles, co-founders of Consciousness Enterprises Network (https://www.consciousenterprises.net) are gratefully acknowledged)

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In the earlier part of this series of articles on Consciousness, we had covered the wide range of models which experts have used to define the concept of Consciousness, whether from management practitioners, scientists or those who repose their faith in either religion or spirituality.

We notice that most of the models used for explaining Consciousness have been centered on these four concepts:

  1. A physiological activity taking place in the human neo-cortex (human only).
  2. More generally, a physiological activity taking place in the whole brain (human and other animals to some degrees).
  3. An energy like phenomenon that uses the brain to manifest itself.
  4. A deeper phenomenon at the core of everything, eventually connecting us to a Universal Consciousness.

The CEN Perspective

The model that Conscious Enterprises Network believes in is related to some extent to point 4 above. The aspect we are investigating is information based and not just energy/vibration based. To us, energy is of secondary importance.

Of Evolutionary Forces

We believe that Nature (or, ‘The act of Informative Creation’) came about first, followed by matter/energy. Over millennia, driven by forces of natural evolution, we have been chiseled to a state we find ourselves in today.  We have repeatedly enjoyed biological benevolence and good fortune. From a single cell structure, we have today become a highly sophisticated machinery which willy-nilly is aware of its own existence.

In the interim, we have undergone repeated transformations. We have never been attached to a particular type, shape, color or size for too long. We first developed a liking for oxygen. We then frolicked about in the deep oceans, before trying to rule land in various forms. We bore our way underground and climbed on trees. We took wings and enjoyed the freedom of mobility, often backed by a highly effective GPS.

We assumed different forms, whether of the hissing or slithering kind or of the ferocious carnivorous kind. From bonobos and apes to Homo Sapiens has been a logical jump for us, and we know that we have indeed arrived.  

We now roam about all corners of the solar system. We keep messing up the fragile environment we have been gifted with. We have possibly come to believe that the journey of evolution is over. We think we can now rest on our laurels and remain content with inventing newer and better means to destroy ourselves. We need pandemics to come knocking to our doors to wake us up from this slumber and drive home the reality that we need to be more conscious of the inexorable forces of nature and respect its mandate.

The Importance of Information

Our physical bodies serve the unique purpose of facilitating the process of learning that we continue to undergo. It would not be wrong to say that our bodies are merely the tools provided to us by Nature. This helps us to keep amassing information-based wisdom – the wisdom of survival, the wisdom of living a happy, contented and fulfilling life.

Thus, information is the key input. The characteristics of information are as follows:

  • It is alive from the simplest form to the more complex form.
  • It brings about stability by having a self-organizing capability.
  • Self-learning helps it to expand in complexity.
  • Self-reflectivity enables a dynamic continuity.

Since information is the key, energy assumes a subservient role in our evolution. 

Another Take on Consciousness

In this model, we can readily explain Consciousness as a process belonging to the realm of information. Information, when backed by self-reflection, tends to get distilled and refined. Through this process of involution, we fulfill our purpose of self-learning.

As per this model, the source of everything could be called a Quantum Soup from which all possibilities and all potential creations of nature keep emerging and becoming extinct. The Quantum Soup is beyond the physical and the multidimensional universes, akin to the Vishwa-Roopam described by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, an Indian scripture, some 5,500 years back.

What comes about is a timeless chain of procreation which, in turn, leads to an environment which, even though in a flux over time, gets established temporarily. We keep growing, duly propelled by a complex information structure.  

Consciousness is a process of singular information. With further information packages thrown in, it assumes a condensed form. Thus, it does not belong to its parts but to all of creation. It may appear as if it is confined merely to a specific situation, say, a human life. But that is just an illusion created from a perception created as we mentally travel back and forth between the past and the future. It is not a perception of an eternal present.

The Toltec/Shamanic Tradition

To absorb this concept better, let us consider the Toltec Shamanic tradition. For a Toltec Shaman (see work from Carlos Castaneda), when a living entity dies, it faces the “Eagle” that is generally explained by a mass of pure consciousness with a mass of information behind it.  This mass of consciousness absorbs the dead entity’s history with its consciousness too in its action. In other words, the “Eagle” devours even the awareness of the dead. We base our observations on the work done by Carlos Castaneda in this context.

Consciousness as a Process

Because of its functional aspect, consciousness is universal and does not belong to any portion of information. This is another important point as my consciousness, yours and anything that exists is fundamentally the same one.

Indeed, there are packets of consciousness, such as a human consciousness, a tiger’s consciousness, and the like. Owing to the self-organizing property of information, such packets lead to an apparent compartmentalization of consciousness.

Sure enough, it takes time and understanding for one to realize that our individual consciousness is actually the same as that of anyone else even though each entity’s physical sheath and history may be quite different. 

(Inputs from Dominiuqe Conterno and Esther Robles, co-founders of Consciousness Enterprises Network (https://www.consciousenterprises.net), are gratefully acknowledged; illustration courtesy the www)

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Defining Consciousness is akin to the case of seven blind men trying to describe an elephant. People have different perspectives. So, when it comes to saying what it really is, the descriptions are often as different as chalk and cheese.

The reason for a wide spectrum of ways in which we understand this concept is what one could label as the Yin and Yang factor. Many of us use our brains to explain what we understand it to be. Many others use our hearts to do so. Perhaps this concept is rather profound. It is beyond the sensory limitations of the human mind, which has an uncanny ability to divide and analyze things. This is what eventually leads to the phenomenon called Analysis Paralysis in management. Our hapless hearts are rooted in what Daniel Goleman refers to as Emotional Intelligence. A solely emotional perspective has its own limitations.

But the situation is not as challenging as it appears to be. The common denominator underlying the entire spectrum is that of the collective good. An integrated view of the concept is surely possible, provided we move on to the level of what Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall, in their book Spiritual Wealth: Wealth We Can Live By, allude to as Spiritual Intelligence.

However, before we move further, let us consider some of the perspectives which one normally comes across.

What is Consciousness?

The Five Maxims  

Ask Jeffrey Deckman, and he is apt to say that it is imperative for a Conscious Leader to play the following roles:

  1. Being a ‘healer’, who calms, comforts and connects those around him.
  2. Of being an ‘elder’, by practicing wisdom, empathy and patience.
  3. Acting as a ‘steward’, nurturing talent and creating conditions for growth just like a gardener would act.
  4. Doffing the hat of a ‘navigator’, envisioning challenges and opportunities, defining broad goals and guiding others.
  5. Being a ‘facilitator’, acting like the conductor of an orchestra, ensuring harmony, encouraging open discussions and aligning by voting and not by consensus.    

Of Gallant Knights

Danah Zohar and Ian Marshall speak of Knights, the leaders who choose to embark on a spiritual path. Having sensed something fundamentally sacred underlying human life, they embed this reality in their actions and in their life’s work.

In both life and work, the knight abides by five principles:

  • There is something sacred, some deeper, shared consciousness, unfolding in this universe and providing a baseline for every aspect of life.
  • Life and all its enterprises are interconnected.
  • All human endeavour, including business, is part of the larger and richer fabric of the whole universe.
  • The relationship of the healthy individual to the world is one of engagement and responsibility.
  • Service conveys deep sense of humility and gratitude.

A Triple Bottom Line Approach

Stephen Karbaron exhorts businesses to embrace an approach of profiting from a purpose driven, triple bottom line paradigm. To him, this is what defines a conscious business strategy approach. He emphasizes the need to be innovative, adaptable and prepared for change, whilst being aware of all stakeholder needs. He keeps sharing live examples of businesses which follow this approach.  

Of Philosopher Kings

Dr Roy Woodhead is of the opinion that the very words ‘conscious enterprise’ imply some sense of an ‘enlightened enterprise’. In one of his thought provoking articles, he says that Plato put forward the idea of ‘philosopher kings’ to lead us. They would not be allowed material gains but would be well looked after; their economic neutrality and lack of vested interests were seen as very important for effective government by the philosopher kings.

Ramayana, one of the revered Hindu scriptures, speaks of King Janaka, the foster father of Sita, the heroine of the epic story. He is said to be a ‘philosopher king’. He is revered as being an ideal example of non-attachment to material possessions. He not only administers his country but also invites sages and intellectuals to spiritual discourses in his assembly. His interactions with sages and seekers such as Ashtavakra and Sulabha are recorded in ancient texts and are illuminating treatises on spiritual principles.

In their book ‘Rajarshi Leadership’, authors S. K. Chakraborty and Debangshu Chakraborty espouse the cause of spiritual leadership. This is a concept which sums up a key lesson from India’s tryst with spirituality: that of first discovering the divinity within, and then to manifest it without. Such conscious leadership is blissful to oneself and to others.  

A Holistic View of Affairs

Jack Beauregard is of the opinion that it is about one connecting with the wholeness and the process of creation. A higher level of consciousness opens one’s life to one’s inner cores, thereby allowing the creativity of the universe to flow into one’s life. This enables one to find innovative solutions for solving the numerous challenges that one faces. He believes that a higher level of consciousness also creates a spiritual perspective. It allows one to view one’s life, other people, our work organizations, technology, the planet earth, and the universe from a sacred point of view.

Jack Beauregard opines that one can help create a new, harmonious world in which to live by taking responsibility for transforming one’s own consciousness. When enough people choose to develop, act, and do business from a balanced, wholistic paradigm, this will automatically have a positive influence on the consciousness of our planet. We can help co–evolve with the intelligent creative process of the universe. When a critical mass is reached, we will then create a positive alternative to the negative actions and beliefs of today’s world. 

Our species will evolve to its rightful inheritance when we realize that human consciousness is a smaller part of the larger consciousness of the universe, and our individual lives, and the human species in general, are small parts of the vast web of life and just one manifestation of the mystery of creation.

The Realm of Creativity 

Hindu and other scriptures speak of one reaching a state when one’s consciousness becomes one with that of the universe, often leading to an exalted phase of creativity. Our physical body then acts as an antenna, translating signals from the universe into something human beings would comprehend. When someone like Mozart composes music, he merely writes what he hears. When a humourist like P. G. Wodehouse creates his unique characters and weaves them into a dramatic plot, he acts more like a celestial author who enables lesser mortals like us to notice a humorous strain in all things around us. 

When Science Steps In

When humanity gropes for the source or the definition of Consciousness, our scientists do not disappoint.

Consider The Global Consciousness Project which is an international, multidisciplinary collaboration of scientists, engineers, artists, and others. Their goal is to examine subtle correlations that may reflect the presence and activity of consciousness in the world. Their researchers predict structure in what should be random data, associated with major global events. Their contention is that when millions of people share intentions and emotions, their data show meaningful departures from expectation. This is an area where science appears to establish the reality of a global consciousness.

A materialistic scientist would tell us that our brains consist of neurons made of atoms. These process our external experiences. At times, our neural processes lead us to recognize a higher meaning in things. According to them, our 40 Hz oscillations happen to be the neural basis for consciousness in the brain.

A Spiritual Insight

More than a century ago, this is how Sri Aurobindo, a highly revered spiritual master and a visionary from India, described his concept of Consciousnessthus:

Consciousness is a fundamental thing, the fundamental thing in existence; it is the energy, the motion, the movement of consciousness that creates the universe and all that is in it not only the macrocosm but the microcosm is nothing but consciousness arranging itself. For instance, when consciousness in its movement or rather a certain stress of movement forgets itself in the action it becomes an apparently unconscious energy; when it forgets itself in the form it becomes the electron, the atom, the material object. In reality it is still consciousness that works in the energy and determines the form and the evolution of form. When it wants to liberate itself, slowly, evolutionarily, out of Matter, but still in the form, it emerges as life, as animal, as man and it can go on evolving itself still farther out of its involution and become something more than mere man.

— Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, pp. 236-7.

Consciousness is usually identified with mind, but mental consciousness is only the human range which no more exhausts all the possible ranges of consciousness than human sight exhausts all the gradations of colour or human hearing all the gradations of sound — for there is much above or below that is to man invisible and inaudible. So there are ranges of consciousness above and below the human range, with which the normal human [consciousness] has no contact and they seem to it unconscious….

— Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, p.233.

In a way, what he appears to be pointing out is that understanding Consciousness is akin to realizing the difference between a physical body which is alive and one which is dead. It is like the sole element which is missing from a dead body.

By providing us with a very wide canvas to understand the term Consciousness, Sri Aurobindo is also indicating that organizations which are conscious are most likely to have the following characteristics embedded in their culture:

  1. An attitude of humility and devotion which enables people to operate – individually as well as in teams – at a higher level of productivity;
  2. A flatter hierarchy which redefines the relationship between those who lead and those who are led; in other words, a Theory Y approach to human relations, a higher diversity of cross-departmental teams, a premium on gender diversity, and an optimum gap between the packages and perks of the highest and the lowest paid people;
  3. A harmonious engagement with diverse stakeholders.

(Notes:

  1. Inputs from Dr Ananda Reddy of the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advanced Research (SACAR), Pondicherry, India, are gratefully acknowledged. Illustrations courtesy www and Huta, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India.

2. Inputs from Dominique Conterno and Esther Robles, co-founders of Consciousness Enterprises Network (https://www.consciousenterprises.net), are also gratefully acknowledged.)

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Exploring the concept of Consciousness further, one may say that whereas a normal organization cares for Results alone, an organization steeped in Consciousnesswould provide an equal weight to all of its three ‘R’s – Results, Relationshipsand Righteousness – in its strategic and tactical thinking.

Results could be either of the financial kind, the market share kind, or a combination of the two.

Relationships would imply a positive working atmosphere where, besides harmonious relations, dissent is not suppressed; rather, it is encouraged. Following human values is an essential part of this attribute. So is respect and dignity towards people in general.  

Righteousness would encompass such features as concern for sustainability, giving back to the society and running operations not only within the ambit of law but beyond it, wherever possible. Being pro-active, when it comes to corporate governance; taking care of the rights of the minority shareholders; ensuring that principles of natural justice get followed; and, following values and ethics.

Yes, the precise definitions of each of these sets of attributes would vary depending not only upon the kind of business an organization is in, but also on the kind of business environment it operates in.   

If each of these three dimensions of conscious organizations is taken into consideration, organizations which are committed to achieving a higher level of Consciousness could consider doing a self-assessment by using the kind of representation shown below:

Here is a scheme which can enable an organization to rate itself against each of the attributes, on a scale of 1 (low) to 9 (high).

Conscious organizations which rate themselves very close to the (Relationships: 9, Results: 9, Righteousness: 9) position in the figure could pat themselves on the back and keep up the good work they are doing, inspiring other ones to follow suit.

The ones which are in the Aspirant (5, 5, 5) category are already on the right track and would do well to start firing at all the twelve cylinders and reach a higher level of Consciousness.

The majority of organizations we come across might fit into the Arsonist Achievers (9, 9, 1) slot. To them, both Results and Relationships count, though they could not care less when it comes to following the path of Righteousness. Such enterprises end up contributing to the kind of situation where we find that during 2020, for instance, humanity needed to be supported by the planetary resources which 1.7 Earths alone can provide. (https://www.footprintnetwork.org/2021/01/19/we-do-not-need-a-pandemic-to-movethedate)

The Bureaucratic ones (9, 1, 9) are bound in red tape, caring only for Relationships and Righteousness, with poor accountability for Results. Yes-persons rule. Sycophancy prevails. Service to the public goes for a toss.

Organizations in the Doomed category (9, 1, 1) prophesize caring only for Relationships, while neither producing Results nor caring for Righteousness. For example, some of the Bretton Woods and other institutions set up after the World War II now appear to be out of sync with the global realities.     

Then we run into some Hollow ones (1, 1, 9) which profess to care only for the path of Righteousness but in reality are shams, pampering only to the ego of a self-styled guru heading a sect. Internal working conditions are akin to labour camps. The pomp and show of serving humanity is often more of a public relations exercise. 

We also have the Preachy ones (1, 9, 9), which care two hoots about Relationships but keep delivering results while making it appear as if they are also on the path of Righteousness. Their bluff is easily called because this unique feat cannot be achieved unless Relationships are given due importance in the scheme of things. Many political outfits which we find are steering their countries away from the core tenets of democracy and turning these into a dictatorship would fall in this category. Political power surely comes their way, but at a great cost to the socio-economic fabric of the nation.  

Most of us dread dealing with the Fly-By-Night (1, 9, 1) kinds, where Results alone count. Long term survival is not the aim. Just keeping the head above the water remains the sole aim. Quite a few of enterprises – mostly in the tiny and small sector – would fall in this category, simply because they can neither afford the luxury of Relationships and Righteousness, nor do they consider it necessary to do so. Ponzi schemes and financial scams fall in this category.  

Then there are mafia organizations which are blissfully ignorant of any such niceties; these continue to chug along in an Unconscious manner. Our society shall surely be better off in their absence.

Within the three ‘R’s outlined here, there may appear to be a sort of gradation. To many of our embryonic start ups, it may appear that only when a certain stage of stability has been attained can the business imagine paying attention to Relations and Righteousness. But habits, once formed, die hard. Such organizations run the risk of getting caught in a conceptual warp, evolving into pure money spinning outfits, eventually landing either in the Fly-By-Night slot or in the Arsonist Achievers slot.

The Many Lenses of Viewing Consciousness

But this is merely one way of viewing the concept of Consciousness.

Over time, our scientists, philosophers, academicians, management honchos and spiritualists of all hues, sizes and shapes have attempted to define the same. Each of these is presents a unique perspective and is worthy of consideration.

The final choice, of course, rests on our leaders. It could be based either on the nature of activity of an organization or on the leaders’ strategic vision.

The pandemic plaguing humanity since 2020 has yet again awakened us to the urgency of uplifting our state of Collective Consciousness and getting an injection of Vitamin Consciousness.

Note: Inputs from Dominique Conterno and Esther Robles, co-founders of Consciousness Enterprises Network (https://www.consciousenterprises.net), are gratefully acknowledged.

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A culture which is rooted in Consciousness does not throw up hapless leaders who keep burning the proverbial midnight oil in their relentless pursuit of commercial goals only, while shoving concerns such as the environment, the society and human resources under the corporate carpet.   It does not merely mean that our marketing honchos are doing their best in servicing our customers effectively and efficiently; instead, it implies that they do so while ensuring that the product/service as well as its packaging is environment-friendly.

It means that those toiling on the operations side design the processes in such a way that the carbon footprints are at least neutral, if not positive; that our financial wizards keep nudging the organization towards maximizing returns to all its stakeholders; and the human resource executives keep burning the midnight oil to ensure that people and processes respect human values and dignity, while keeping the costs to the bare minimum.

Professionals in an organization could be performing their roles while understanding challenges at the mental level alone in a rather artificial manner, leading to rigidity and even fanaticism in some cases. But then we suffer some limitations which are not different from the kind of handicap some of our sensory organs often face – a nose which fails to detect the putrid smell of a corporate scandal in the offing, an eye which can see but does not register wastage of resources in the operations, an ear which can hear but does not listen to a female employee reporting an incident of harassment at the hands of a superior and defers taking an action against the latter, a tongue which turns to complacency upon tasting a mighty success and a skin which has turned so thick that bribing one’s way through a regulatory agency no longer feels prickly.

Contours of a Conscious Culture

Values which drive an organization create its cultural ambience. Thus, a Conscious Culture is based not only on the kind of high values and principles being followed by a business but also on a smarter recognition of the purpose of the company and the interdependent relationship between the company’s stakeholders.

The drive of propagating a Conscious Culture need not start only from the desk of a top honcho in an organization. One may find even a liftman, a receptionist, a cleaner, a post room employee, a supervisor, or a manager initiating it. If the working atmosphere is such as to recognize and encourage conscious behaviour, the drive is bound to have a snowballing effect across an enterprise.

Many of us are aware that spiritual experts recommend not merely a sitting meditation but also a walking one; in other words, not a static meditation but a dynamic one. Likewise, Consciousness is not merely a waking awareness at the mental level but also the force which moves and propels the organization towards its enlightened goals. When interconnectedness between various departmental silos gets activated, the chances of a synergy coming about improve. The net result is a quantum jump in the overall efficiency of the organization, leading to uniform satisfaction all around, amongst all its stakeholders.

The marketing honchos then refrain from registering sales which could eventually become bad debts due to customer expectations not having been really met. The operations experts do not lose sleep over shipments which must be booked just before a quarter ends even though the physical goods might still be stuck on the manufacturing line. The finance guys do not indulge in window dressing so as to please their superiors. The human resources team does not start shifting those in permanent employment to a mode of contract employment, or refuse to submit correct employment figures to pension/provident fund regulators.

To put it simply, the silo approach gives way to an interconnected way of working, where each silo head is aware of the implications of his actions over all the other silos. A truly Systems Approach to doing things comes about. All elements and all clusters of the network are connected in some ways, leading to overall improvement in efficiency and effectiveness.

In a large IT hardware outfit where I used to work, ballooning sales receivables used to make the top management lose sleep. An aggressive sales force kept earning handsome incentives on billings while the finance head kept twiddling his thumbs trying to keep a lid on dues from customers. Based on repeated caution from internal auditors, a joint group comprising managers from marketing and finance was formed to review the matter. The incentive scheme was suitably tweaked and a monthly review by the joint group eventually brought the situation under control.       

A Self-actualization of Sorts

Following a paradigm of Consciousness does not belittle the importance of generating profits. Rather, it encourages a business to make decent profits and plough a part of the wealth generated there from into the welfare of the society at large. It exhorts an enterprise to act based on the harsh realization that resources drawn from the earth and the environment happen to be limited in supply. Often, the stark choice facing managements is that of profits today versus survival tomorrow. Wiser organizations would strike a balance between the two.

Some of us may recall the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, where the last stage is that of self-actualization. This is akin to our realizing who we really are and what we aspire for in life. However, when we turn to Eastern philosophies of motivation, we may discover that Maslow is not the ultimate authority while adopting either a spiritual or a conscious approach in management. He merely offers an image of the individual and social achievement based on our egos. In the Eastern view, there is instead an attempt to transcend the ego at all levels.

Adhering to Consciousness would not mean that one expects our business leaders to evolve to a stage of being such selfless persons as Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela.

Lord Krishna is often portrayed as someone who encouraged a mighty war to take place some 5,500 years back. But if we scratch a little deeper, we shall find that he had no selfish motive in doing so. He had already built a small independent state for himself and his family in Dwarka and was seeking neither more property nor wealth for himself. His motive was essentially to demonstrate that the path of Dharma – righteousness – is to be always upheld. Admittedly, the war caused large scale devastation. Humanity had to bear an enormous cost. The irony was that even the so-called victors never felt victorious!  

Our scriptures have never held that making profits is a taboo. Instead, they hold that a portion of the same be shared with the society at large. This is indeed the way of nurturing a culture steeped in Consciousness in the organization that we happen to lead.

Way back in 1889, when the visionary industrialist J N Tata kept aside half of his personal wealth for the purpose of setting up an educational institute where Indian youth could receive world-class learning in science and engineering subjects, he was not concerned about his business in any way benefiting from the gesture. He did it for India, the country he loved. It comes as no surprise to see that today the Indian Institute of Science in India, set up in 1909 after Tata had expired, is held to be an educational institute of eminence.

Notes:

  1. Inputs from Dominiuqe Conterno and Esther Robles, co-founders of Consciousness Enterprises Network (https://www.consciousenterprises.net), are gratefully acknowledged.
  2. Illustration courtesy Huta of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, India.

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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)

 

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Background

In this series, we consider some movies through the spiritual lens of 12 personality traits mentioned by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry in India.

Part 1 had covered the traits of Sincerity and Humility.  In this post, we consider movies which touch upon such traits as Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration and Receptivity.

 

Gratitude

In the pre-independence era prior to 1947, we had self-sacrificing doctors who rendered their services in alien lands, serving the people affected by war and plague. Old timers may remember Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946), which was based on the true life-story of Dr. Dwarakanath Kotnis who was sent to China during World War II. Dr. Kotnis had helped the people of China during the Japanese invasion. His selfless service makes us remember people like him with profound gratitude. He had married and settled down there itself but had eventually died of plague.

Our hearts get filled with gratitude when we think of either the Corona Warriors or the soldiers who guard our borders.

 

Jaagte Raho (1956) takes us through a night in the life of a poor peasant (Raj Kapoor) who enters a multi-storied building in Mumbai looking for some water to drink. After witnessing the shady deals of the high and mighty of the society, he is shocked but is not able to find water. Eventually, he finds a young lady (Nargis) watering the plants in a temple nearby who helps him to quench his thirst. The look of gratitude on his face says it all.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) is based on the profound sense of gratitude an army feels towards its soldiers and their families. It is set against the backdrop of World War II and the Normandy Invasion. General George Marshall learns that three of the four sons of the Ryan family have got killed in action and that the only remaining son, James Francis Ryan, is with the 101st Airborne Division somewhere in Normandy. Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s Bixby letter, he orders Ryan to be brought home and to be reunited with his mother.

 

Perseverance

Many of us have a bulldog-like quality in us; of not giving up on the goals that we desire to achieve in our lives. Irrespective of the kind of difficulties we face and the obstacles we come across, we keep working on a particular project till the objective is met. If we have made a sincere promise to someone, we go out of our way to fulfill it.

 

The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is one of the several movies which showcase the indomitable spirit of human beings. A prison life replete with all its obnoxiousness does not dim the flame of hope inside. If a tunnel takes 19 years to build, so be it. Life has to be lived, not thrown away just because odds happen to be stacked against us. A promise made needs to be fulfilled.

 

Almost all the sport-themed movies focus on this quality. Think of Lagan (2001), Iqbal (2005), Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), Mary Kom (2014), Dangal (2016) and M S Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016).

 

Then there are movies of individual resolve which uplift your spirits by highlighting the kind of travails the characters go through to achieve what they want; Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009), Nil Battey Sannata (2015) and Secret Superstar (2017), to name a few.

Erin Brockovich (2000) is another good example of this personality trait. We shall return to it soon enough.

 

Aspiration

Rolling stones gather no moss, as the wise men say. Life is but another name for the inner motivation we have when we aspire for higher things. The aim could be a basket of materialistic desires or a wide spectrum of spiritual progress. When we aspire for it, perseverance propels us towards our chosen goal.

 

Sujata (1959) was about an untouchable girl (Nutan) brought up by an upper caste couple. It is only when a young man (Sunil Dutt) walks into her life that she awakens to her aspiration to lead a normal life.

 

In Swades (2004) we get to meet Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan), a NASA scientist who wants to return to his roots in India, with an aspiration to solve the problems of local villagers using modern technology.

 

Aaja Nachle (2007) had a gutsy US-based choreographer Radha (Madhuri Dixit) desirous of saving Ajanta, an old open air theatre planned to be demolished to make way for a shopping mall in her home town in India. The difficulties faced by her in keeping an old cultural tradition alive in the face of strong forces of so-called modernization formed the crux of the script.

 

Despite outward signs of success, many of us feel lost, confused and searching for what we really want in our lives. Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) shows us a way out of this misery in Eat, Pray and Love (2010). She steps out of her comfort zone and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. She cherishes nourishment for the body in Italy and for the soul in India. Finally, and unexpectedly, she finds the inner peace and balance of true love in Indonesia.

 

In Udaan (2010), we meet a 17-year old youngster who wants to be free of the overriding discipline of his father at home. How he overcomes his low self-esteem and picks up the courage to aspire for a life free of humiliation and abuse is the central theme.

 

Hindi Medium (2017) showcases the aspirations of a young couple to ensure that their son willy-nilly gets admitted to a good English medium school. The movie ends on a positive note and captures the potential of refurbished public schools which could give a healthy competition to so called elite schools. It was based on a successful experiment conducted by the Delhi government in its public schools a few years back.

 

Sui Dhaaga (2018) introduces us to Mauji (Varun Dhawan) and his wife Mamta (Anushka Sharma) who, when humiliated and cheated by the company where they work as tailors, become entrepreneurs and make their venture a success despite severe odds.

In all these cases, the settings and the aspirations are quite different. But the central message is clear – that we need to work hard to realize our dreams.

 

Receptivity

This is a unique quality of those with an open mind, capable of receiving and taking in knowledge and new ideas and then acting upon the same, if necessary and prudent.

 

Take the character of Uma (Sharmila Tagore) in Anupama (1966). She is extremely shy, diffident and introverted. She has been brought up by a father who blames her for the death of his wife during childbirth. She falls in love with Ashok (Dharmendra) who is disliked by her father. A close friend of hers gives her a dressing down and awakens her to the possibility of a happier life in Ashok’s company. She picks up the courage to stand up to her father, obtains his hesitant consent and joins her beloved.

 

Taare Zameen Par (2007), based on the challenges faced by a young boy suffering from dyslexia, brings in the character of Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Amir Khan), a cheerful and optimistic art instructor. After meeting the boy’s parents, the perceptive teacher is able to diagnose the illness from which Ishaan (Darsheel Safary) suffers. He also finds the boy’s hidden talent for art and takes him under his wings, enabling him to start living a near-normal life.

 

Avatar (2009) happens to be a movie which pitches for sustainability and care for environment. Set in 2154 AD, it calls upon all of us to be receptive to the fragility of nature and limited resources of our planet. One of the unique concepts brought up by the script is that of the sacred Tree of Souls.

In a way, such movies exhort us to be receptive to changes happening all around us and revising our basic priorities in life. Perhaps the Covid virus is also nudging all of us in the same direction.

 

(This series of posts is dedicated to Ms Usha Bhatia, my late wife. Inputs from Mr Sanjay Mohan and Ms Gargi Banerjee are gratefully acknowledged)

 

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/13/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-1-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/20/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-3-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/24/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-4-of-4)

 

 

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Summary

These days, as a pandemic stalks us, people are hooked to movies of all kinds, even while supposedly working from home. The cumulative effect of using high-definition gadgets, lockdown ennui, death tolls and binge-watching movies is that of a higher level of stress. The lack of freedom to venture out on long drives further compounds the problem. 

To avoid landing up in a loony bin, we could cut off our daily diet of depressing news. We could ensure interacting only with those who radiate positive vibes. We could also think of consciously changing our movie-watching palette so as to start appreciating flicks which have a deeper layer in their themes.

In this series, we consider some movies through the spiritual lens of 12 personality traits mentioned by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry in India.

Introduction

When the upright good guy defeats the morally deficient bad guy, we cheer. Think of the James Bond franchise, courtesy Hollywood.

When a movie ends on a positive note, we applaud. Imagine any movie from Bollywood where the hero and the heroine finally walk into the sunset on a sandy beach, with a romantic song playing in the background. The unstated assumption is that the couple lived happily ever after.

When the outcome is negative but the movie is well crafted, we may sulk but still carry a favourable impression of it. Go back to either Titanic or Mughal-e-Azam. Both were tragedies but mounted lavishly, with excellence in almost all the departments of film making.

But once in a while comes along a movie which touches us somewhere deep inside. The script may carry a key message. Or, it may showcase certain values which we cherish ourselves, thereby creating a deep resonance within. We experience love. We feel hopeful and uplifted in a somewhat deeper manner. The soul gets awakened.

If we were to muse upon the theme much afterwards, we could say that such movies had been conceptualized with a dash of spirituality. These are movies which inspire us to live through and face difficult situations in our lives. We could think of classifying these in the genre of what we could refer to as Conscious (or Soulful) Entertainment.

Of a Spiritual Streak

Think of such movies as Shawshank Redemption, Avatar, Contact, Gladiator, Schindler’s List, The Sound of Music, Lagaan, Jagte Raho, Swades, Guide, Abhimaan, Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Veer Zara and many others of a similar ilk. What do all these have in common? Yes, most of these are big hits. Yes, they have A category stars. Yes, all are well made. But these are not their most important features.

When we go back to the first time we watched one of these, most of us would recall having felt uplifted and hopeful. We would have felt compassion and love for the entire humanity. Our hearts would have felt much enlarged. Much like the short sequence from Mera Naam Joker where the hero’s heart goes on expanding and no one has a clue as to how to solve the problem!

We would have felt like living much longer, drinking deep from the rivulets of unalloyed joy that life offers. These films are but a few in the genre of ‘Conscious’ or ‘Soulful’ films which have the potential to change lives, inspire choices, and elevate human consciousness.

One of the spiritual lenses available to us to view such movies has been offered to us by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry in India. She has mentioned the following twelve traits which are essential for the spiritual progress of an aspirant:

Sincerity, Humility, Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration, Receptivity, Progress, Courage, Goodness, Generosity, Equality and Peace.

Some movies which touch upon Mother’s 12 traits

 

Sincerity

The sincerity with which an individual takes up a challenging task and executes it well, even while risking his or her own welfare,  generates a swell of positive emotions within the viewer and sets an example of achieving perfection in the discharge of one’s professional duties.

Do Aankhen Baarah Haath (1957) which captured the valiant efforts of a jail warden Adinath (V Shantaram) to rehabilitate six dangerous prisoners released on parole to persons of virtue in an open jail experiment. Besides demonstrating how concentration, perseverance and hard work can make one realize one’s goals in life, the movie also drives home the point that if people focus their energy on a worthy cause in a sincere manner, success is easy to come by.

Maria (Julie Andrews) who is a free-spirited person lacking in self-discipline and self-confidence assumes the role of a governess for the seven children of Captain Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) and ends up winning the hearts of the entire family in The Sound of Music (1965).

In Khamoshi (1970), we meet nurse Radha (Waheeda Rehman) who loses her own mental balance by being so sincere in discharging her duties as a professional as to neglect her own emotions of love towards two of her successive patients, Dev Kumar (Dharmendra) and Arun Choudury (Rajesh Khanna). A key lesson underlying the storyline is that of cultivating a sense of detachment in one’s profession, as highlighted in the Bhagavad Gita as well.

Think of Debaraj Sahai (Amitabh Bachchan) mentoring Michelle (Rani Mukherji) in Black (2005). The movie was inspired by The Miracle Worker (1962).

Humility

Here is a quality which covers such personality traits as purity, charity and obedience.

Gladiator (2000) captures the saga of General Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russel Crowe) who is devoted to Emperor Marcus Aurelius and works throughout his life to keep the Roman Empire safe. When offered the throne, he declines the offer, preferring instead to return to his village. Before he dies, he asks for political reforms, for his gladiator allies to be freed, and for Senator Gracchus to be reinstated. Maximus’s friends and allies honor him as “a soldier of Rome”. His character represents not only the purity of his intentions and loyalty to the empire, but also humility.

When denizens of planet Earth soar into space, they have this humbling experience of realizing how infinitesimal Homo sapiens happen to be in the overall scheme of a vast universe. We may be rooted in our prejudices and may be overly busy, what with our ego-skirmishes with others over petty matters and a relentless chase of the materialistic goals in our lives; yet, we are merely a fraction of a speck in the divine arrangement.

Watching movies like Apollo 13 (1995), Gravity (2013), and many others leaves us humbled in more ways than one.  

(This series of posts is dedicated to Ms Usha Bhatia, my late wife. Inputs from Mr Sanjay Mohan and Ms Gargi Banerjee are gratefully acknowledged)

(Related Post:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/16/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-2-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/20/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-3-of-4

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2020/08/24/some-movies-with-a-dash-of-spirituality-part-4-of-4)

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ashokbhatia

Can we identify a God who can be beseeched to preside over our Internet-ional GaneshaAffairs?

In Hinduism, for example, we are exposed to a mind-boggling variety of divine manifestations. Down the long corridors of time, since the dawn of history, the Hindu pantheon has evolved with a multitude of deities.

The deities offer an eclectic mix – some are highly specialized whereas others are all-purpose ones. Some are removers of any obstacles that a seeker may face in life. Some grant better learning abilities and wisdom. Some bestow immense wealth and prosperity. Then we have the generalist trinity – one is said to have crafted the creation, one runs it smoothly like a true blue CEO while another destroys and reconstructs. The latter two intervene in human affairs as and when they deem it necessary.Ravi_Varma-Lakshmi

In fact, there is no sphere of life which has not been touched by some…

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Successful organizations which boast of high brand equity follow several sustainable practices. One of these is the practice of treating their human assets with the respect and dignity they deserve. While compassion and empathy govern their HR practices, it would be wrong to surmise that they do so by compromising on their business goals.

This unique species of organizations, referred to here as Homo Organizationum, is envisaged as the one comprising Functionally Humane Organizations, where an optimal balance is  maintained between business results and human relations.

Let me share one such instance from my own career.

High performance vs domestic bliss

A star performer in an IT manufacturing set up had to strike a fine balance between her role as a crucial final quality controller and that of being a home maker. In her absence, high priority shipments could get delayed. At home, she had to take care of an ailing mother-in-law and a kid. Her husband used to work in another set up around 900 kms away and would come visiting once every two months.

On a specific weekend, when an important shipment was to leave the factory late at night, message came that her husband was on his way home. Much to her dismay, a permission to leave the factory at the normal closing time was promptly turned down by her immediate superior.

The grapevine ensured that the incident of refusal of permission percolated upwards to the manufacturing head. The superior was called in without delay and given a dressing down. He, and the head of Quality Assurance, were guided on making alternative arrangements.

Eventually, the woman was delighted to receive a permission to leave the place of work by lunch time itself, adding a few precious hours to her domestic bliss. The shipment also got despatched without any compromise on the immediate business goal.

Several such examples abound. Regrettably, however, these are outnumbered by the kind of instances which involved blatant exploitation of employees. Across organizations, this manifests in so many ways. Inhuman treatment while pursuing an immediate business goal. Depriving the employees their rightful dues. Lower salaries, accompanied by liberal grant of personal loans and advances, thereby keeping the employees perennially indebted to the employer, and the like.

The leaner Davids and the flabbier Goliaths

When I look back at my 35-year exposure to the private sector, one thing stands out. The positive examples were mostly from the larger companies in the organized sector. The negative examples were invariably from the small-scale sector.

Large companies have a better organized way of working. They often carry some flab. Systems take precedence over individuals. On the contrary, the smaller ones tend to be much leaner – though decidedly not fitter – simply because one person gets hired only when three are required!

The Consciousness of Organizations

Members of the species of entities known as Homo Organizationum thrive only when they can add value to their diverse stakeholders. However, to create a brand which is respected by their customers as well as their employees, as also to add value on a sustainable basis, they need to have a working culture which places a higher premium on such values as empathy, compassion, dignity, respect, justice, honesty, openness, transparency and equality.

Their employees then become their brand ambassadors, making it easier for them to attract better talent. This, in turn, makes them more efficient and effective.

All organizations have a consciousness which seeps through all its organs. It manifests itself in myriad ways; specifically, through its culture. It is reflected in the manner in which the seniors conduct themselves. It shows up in the way decisions get taken. Unlike grandiose Vision and Mission statements which adorn their physical walls, it is not easy to articulate culture in words. Nor can it be readily replicated.

Just like a tiger is known by its stripes, an organization is known by the kind of consciousness it lives and operates by. The more humane the same, the higher the probability of sustainable success.

Some crystal gazing

Advances in technology are already re-shaping our organizations. Gone are the control-and-command structures. Hierarchies are getting flatter. Mundane tasks are being taken over by Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Geeks are twiddling their thumbs, trying to cope up with Machine Learning, Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, Internet of Things, et al.

Besides technology, buyer behaviour is changing. Geopolitics is changing. Workforce attitudes are changing.

But Homo Organizationum face little risk of becoming extinct. On the contrary, it is quite likely that with the kind of changes in the offing, the need for organizations to be humane would only go up in the future.

Time for HR honchos to re-skill themselves.

(A version of this article was published in the IBA Journal, volume 9, issue 2)

 

 

 

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