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Posts Tagged ‘Sri Aurobindo’

The prattle of tender feet around one keeps one very much alive and contented. Especially so when one happens to be in a phase of life where one can have the luxury of observing their behaviour at close quarters without having to worry about their mundane needs. Other then providing unalloyed joy and sparkling mirth, it also provides one an opportunity to grow spiritually.

When a Bollywood diva casts a spell

Take the case of a one-year old toddler who takes Master Thos to be his role model. If Thos was infatuated with a Hollywood diva, he happens to be besotted with one of the Bollywood divas. Play this particular song on the TV, and he goes into a trance which even the most advanced practitioners of Zen might not have experienced. Meals get forgotten. Toys cease to be of any consequence. Those around him might not even exist.

Sonam Kapoor, the diva in question, may be delighted to know of the brand equity she carries in the mind space of this young one. There is a good chance that he might even earn the distinction of being the youngest ever fan of a Bollywood diva.

One can only hope and pray that, as he grows, he never gets to emulate the goofy schemes of Thos the Terrible. In fact, thanks to the benign influence of the diva, perhaps there is a chance that he would end up performing such noble deeds as walking a few miles to fetch a newspaper for a guest or carrying any other injured young one on his tender shoulders, so as to win over the affections of his heart-throb.

The sincerity with which he expresses his fondness for the song featuring Sonam Kapoor is something which deserves to be emulated. It teaches us the innate goodness in all things musical, artistic and beautiful.

By being under the spell of a silver screen diva, he is merely following a long-held tradition of his ancestors. Soon, though, moving doors, books or other items may take his fancy.

He also demands equality in treatment vis-a-vis other kids in the immediate vicinity. If that does not come by, he knows how to shriek and attract the attention of his seniors, so justice gets meted out. This is invariably the scenario when some ice cream is getting distributed.

There are also times when he reminds one of Algernon Aubrey Little. When the father’s boss came visiting some time back, he was a model of ideal behaviour. No tantrums. No yells. Only some cute smiles. Peace prevailed. A promotion on the job soon followed.

Norway Schhol Art 1

A respect for technical gizmos

The other young boy, all of four years old, reminds one of Edwin the scout. It is not that his daily acts of mercy include dousing fires with and setting cottages on fire. But he does try to reverse-engineer and repair an egg-boiler, with catastrophic results.

Anything that moves attracts his attention. Curious to the core, he would tend to dismantle the gadget and then look on helplessly when attempting to put it together again. Door locks get fondled with much love. Remote controlled toy cars or toy boats are never safe in his vicinity. A family senior testing blood sugar or injecting insulin is an object to be closely observed and supported.

As he has grown, cell phones and iPads have gained his respect as reliable sources of perennial entertainment. Thus, these are no longer subjected to the kind of rigorous quality tests he used to conduct in his formative years. In his younger days, he has dunked many a cell phone in a mug of piping hot tea, marvelling at their steadfastness when compared to, say, biscuits.

One is yet to notice if, like Edwin, he is an expert on ant behaviour. But dogs, pigs, cows and horses do come in for stark appraisals under his watchful eye.

Locking up people inside dark rooms comes naturally to him. So does sneaking up from behind and suddenly yelling in one’s ear, thereby leaving one all of a twitter. Often, sudden bouts of some karate moves make one run for cover, lest one may need to review one’s medical insurance cover. Tying up one’s shoe laces surreptitiously makes him burst into uncontrollable laughter, much to the chagrin of the party of the other part.

Dealing with him is very instructive. His knowledge of all things mechanical and electronic makes one humble. One simply aspires to be a quick learner like him, so as to be able to quickly absorb the latest that technology has to offer and make progress in life, as defined by contemporary standards.

Norway School Art 2

A goofy mind, a tender heart

Consider also the case of a young girl of 6 odd years whose flair for drawing, painting and singing is often a talking point. But beneath the veneer of sophistication and innocence lies a mind which could churn out goofy schemes at the drop of a hat. The likes of Roberta Wickham and Stiffy Byng could learn quite a few tricks of the trade from her.

Much like Peggy Mainwaring, she is used to staring and giggling at odd times, leaving the party of the other part shaken to the core. A relentless chatter emanating from her often leaves one yearning for some peace and quietitude. A continuous barrage of queries fired at one leaves one exasperated at times. The value of courage and perseverance is thus learnt the hard way.

Compassion comes naturally to her. She loves being surrounded by pets she can shower her motherly affection on. When a bitter feud with a younger sibling results into the latter getting hurt, she gets immediately transformed into a caring and loving nurse. But Homo Sapiens often get bluntly ticked off by her for the slightest of perceived infractions on their part.

When germs of acute goofiness strike, the sky is the limit. A younger sibling’s trousers are found wet in the middle of the night. Wisdom dawns when one notices the empty bottle of drinking water by the side of the bed. Guilt-less pleasure is felt when the younger sibling gets a reprimand for an act of omission committed by her own self.

Post-ablutions, she turns out to be a great bathroom singer, requesting the support of a senior to clean up. ‘Potty is over’ is belted out, in tune with a nursery rhyme like ‘Twinkle twinkle little star….’.

Her receptivity is not to be taken lightly. When it is playing time at a friend’s place, she realizes the rest, solitude and enjoyment the hapless mother would experience while she is away. The hapless mother’s rights to such well-deserved rest and recuperation come in for open and frank criticism.

Norway School Art 3

Competing with the Bermuda Triangle

Yet another case which merits consideration is that of a young lass of 7 years who is built along the lines of Kid Clementina. She is a not-so-quiet saint-like child, when in a good mood. When taken out for a movie and a dinner, she is full of gratitude. She gazes at her benefactor in silent admiration. But while at home, a stubbornness tests the patience of the seniors around.

Great deal of perseverance is required so she may partake of any single meal which may last well over 90 minutes. Each morsel is punctuated by a commercial break, so to say. Unless, of course, the meal comprises a pizza alone, followed by the temptation of either an ice cream or a chocolate.

The threat of changing the WiFi password alone works wonders and makes her obey various commands at home. Fond of playing such brainy games as chess, she is quick to perceive that an attempt is being made to make her falsely win the game of patience and strategy. She resents such acts of chivalry. Her artistic skills are remarkable. So is her passion for karate.

There being no ink pots around these days, one is sure that she is unable to put any sherbet in the same in her classroom. But messing up the password of the iPad of a schoolmate comes readily to her. Rapid progress gets made by her in the realm of mastering all kinds of technical gizmos.

She believes in keeping one on one’s toes. While going out of the house in a hurry, one suddenly finds one’s footwear missing. Or, a ping-pong ball resting inside one of the shoes. A toothbrush can suddenly vanish, leaving one gnashing one’s teeth in disbelief and dismay. A toothpaste tube could get replaced by a cold cream tube. Unless one is alert and agile, the experience leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth, literally as well as figuratively. One’s shaving kit could go into hiding for two weeks, leaving one feeling like a distressed soul pining for one’s beloved, beard and all. One’s favourite comb could get hidden, leaving one shuddering at the prospect of making an appearance in public. Overall, the house appears to provide stiff competition to the Bermuda Triangle.

Norway School Art 4

A Core of Innocence

Put any two of the kids together and the results could be disastrous. Put all four of them together and the foundations of civilization start quivering.

The combined goofiness of a group of kids is directly proportional to the square of the number of kids together.

Unlike what the Theory of Relativity postulates about there being an upper limit for the speed of light, one does not believe there could be an upper limit for kids’ goofiness. With three kids of his own, Einstein himself might have been in agreement with this proposition.

Their interpersonal interactions are more like sinusoidal curves, putting the Dow Jones Index and the Sensex to shame. Loving embraces are quickly followed by bitter arguments, accompanied by loud background music and tantrums of all kind.

Their minds are highly creative. Their imagination is vivid and fertile. More often than not, they are a reflection of what one is and how one behaves in their presence. In a way, they hold a clear mirror to us, especially when it comes to ethics, values and social leanings.

It is true that kids are simply adorable. Perhaps because their external sheath of goofiness is built around a core of touching innocence – a virtue which one loses as one advances in age. They radiate the purity of their chaste souls, yet to be corrupted by social prejudices and materialistic considerations. A sheltered upbringing obviously helps.

Towards spiritual progress

mothersymbolmeaningThe Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram has spoken of twelve attributes which help a spiritual aspirant to make progress. Sincerity. Humility. Gratitude. Perseverance. Aspiration. Receptivity. Progress. Courage. Goodness. Generosity. Equality. Peace.

Being with kids surely paves the way for rapid spiritual progress, besides keeping one amused and entertained at all times.

The challenge of minimizing Screen Time

While families have shrunk, technology has entered the family space. For hapless parents, there are two challenges. One, that of minimizing Screen Time, weaning away kids from gadgets and involving them in outdoor activities. Two, that of imparting them the values which would last them a life time. Perhaps it is time to consciously revert back to the joint family system. More about this in another blog post.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/some-plumsville-kids-and-the-richter-scale-of-roguishness-part-1-of-3

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/when-masters-thos-bonzo-and-moon-rise-in-love

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/11/20/bringing-up-kids)

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The Indian view of the discipline of management speaks of four pillars of Integral Management – Wisdom, Power, Harmony and Perfection. Of these, Power is a potent tool which, when harnessed judiciously, enables organizations and individual managers to scale greater heights.

Organizations wield tremendous power. They do so not only by virtue of their financial prowess but also by way of their brand equity, their size, their reach in the market and the kind of innovative products or services they offer. They exercise influence on the society – first, by identifying its latent desires, and then by serving the same.

Individuals who are part of organizations also wield tremendous power over its resources and its people. Arrogance and exploitation could easily follow.

However, if Power is understood as “strength and force, Shakti, which enables one to face all that can happen and to stand and overcome” difficulties connected with “men, events, circumstances, means”, then Power could be used for the overall good of humankind.

Thus, with power comes the attendant responsibility of using it wisely and equitably. Checks and balances need to be put in place to ensure that boundaries set by values and ethics do not get transcended. Keeping a strict control on arrogant behaviour is the sine qua non of long-term success in career.

Power needs to be used in a socially responsible manner. Using the power to share the gains of business with relevant stakeholders makes good sense. Deployment of power to benefit the society at large, that too in a manner which does not harm the environment, ensures that the business remains sustainable.

Managers also have a latent power – of their mind, their will, their ambition, their attitude, their passion and their soft skills. By channelizing the same appropriately, they could rise to greater heights and become more evolved persons, exercising greater influence on the events and people they are connected with.

At a one-day seminar on “The Element of Power in Management” organized by SACAR on the 6th of August, 2016, speakers from a wide spectrum of managerial expertise shared their views on the judicious and responsible use of power in day-to-day operations.

SACAR Power Aug 2016 B

Dr. Ananda Reddy, the Director of SACAR, elaborated upon the four components of Management ― Perfection, Harmony, Power and Wisdom. He said that one could be spiritual at all the four levels – physical, vital, mental and psychic by aspiring towards what are called perfection, harmony, power and wisdom. These, he proposed, present a new paradigm of Management. On the level of thought, Power comes into play. Higher level management has to deal with the power of thought, of planning, of setting up realistic targets. He highlighted the importance of using power in a responsible and judicious manner.

SACAR Power Aug 2016 A

Dr. V. J. Chandran, IPS, SSP, Government of Puducherry, spoke of the need to use the power at one’s command in a spiritual manner – for the overall good. He highlighted the need to punish people in proportion to their crimes or indiscretions. While dealing with tough situations which present moral dilemmas, the Principles of Natural Justice have to be always kept in mind. Assuming responsibility and accountability is important. Improving upon one’s quality of work, one’s ability and one’s personal expertise alone helps. He shared with the participants certain instances where abuse of power led to severe complications for the society at large.

SACAR Power Aug 2016 3Ms. Mamatha Gurudev, Managing Director, Vijay Spheroidials, Bangalore, spoke of the power of beliefs while recounting her journey as an entrepreneur. She held that believing in oneself was the single most important trait of an entrepreneur. It makes sense to cultivate a habit of looking within and of being in touch with one’s own inner self. Trust reposed in one by others also empowers oneself. The focus should always be on the process, not on the person. She exhorted the participants to change their attitude from ‘I can’t do it yet’ to that of ‘I can do it’.

SACAR Power Aug 2016 4Ms. Padma Asokan, Director, Omeon Solutions, Chennai, elaborated the art of leveraging the power of money. Money needs constant activity and circulation. It should be used to increase wealth and prosperity. Wealth belongs to the divine and those who hold it are mere ‘’Trustees” and not “Possessors”. Investment in people is as important as investment in business. To be successful, a business needs to make money without diluting its core values. She shared with the participants quite a few of her experiences in running her business.

SACAR Power Aug 2016 5

As part of an interactive session, conducted by yours truly, participants spoke of the various ways in which they had experienced, and occasionally countered, the abuse of power. Clips from the movie ‘Erin Brockovich’ were shared with the participants, showcasing the challenges inherent in trying to stand up to big corporates polluting the environment with little regard for the community in which they operate.

SACAR Power Aug 2016 6

Mr. P. Rangaraj, Chairman, Chemin Controls & Instrumentation, Puducherry, spoke of the power of innovation in business. He touched upon some unique success stories and highlighted the need to make frugal engineering a routine habit. He described the kind of disruptions that innovation normally causes and explained the elements of perfection, harmony and wisdom which are necessary to upscale and market a new product or service.  Identifying market needs and fulfilling the same with innovative products needs to be part of a company’s culture. This alone could lead to sustainable growth and a strong brand image.

SACAR Power Aug 2016 7

Mr. Jayprakash Thindiyote, Managing Director and CEO, PSL Management Software Technologies, Puducherry, touched upon the power of technology. He spoke of rapid advances in the field of robotics and the advent of Artificial Intelligence. He felt that the more the technology evolves, the higher would be the need for bringing in spirituality at the work place. Having respect for alternative views, effective communication, genuine compassion and a creative approach to problem solving alone could help a business grow in future. He exhorted managers to be like an I-POD, that is, have an Inner Peace but be Outwardly Dynamic.

Mr. Ganesh Babu, Founder and CEO, Winning Minds Solutions, Puducherry, and Dr. Arvind Gupta, Assistant Director, Directorate of Distance Education, Pondicherry University, coordinated the entire event. Their back up support was invaluable in the planning as well as the hosting of the entire event.

Dr. Shruti Bidwaikar, Assistant Director, SACAR, summed up the proceedings and offered a vote of thanks.sacar-power-seminar-hindu

The seminar received an overwhelming response from participants coming from various walks of life, like government officials, management educationists, corporate executives, businessmen, Aurovillians, entrepreneurs and students.

The Integral Management Group of SACAR had already covered the facet of Perfection and Harmony in the past. The next event, focusing on the facet of Wisdom, is planned to be hosted during March, 2017.

(Link to a write up which appeared in The Hindu of September 13, 2016:

Best Regards

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After the 2008 economic meltdown, the management world has discovered that CEOs need to follow not only a Business Compass but also a Moral Compass to steer the enterprises they happen to head. Improving one’s Spiritual Quotient is now a sheer business necessity, and shall be more so in the decades to come.

It is here that Indian scriptures and sages provide a ready template for managers of all sizes and shapes. Let us consider a few facets of some of the pearls of Indian wisdom which find ready application in the realm of management.

Some pearls of Indian wisdom 

Ramayana

  • The entire narrative highlights the importance of values in our lives.Ramayana 1 Businesses which follow a policy of righteousness and conduct their operations in an ethical manner enjoy tremendous brand equity in the market. This rubs off on their products as well as on their employees.
  • Lord Rama decides to leave his comfort zone for fourteen years and ends up connecting with lesser mortals better. Likewise, CEOs and marketing honchos of today who travel through the hinterland to get a better first-hand feel of the customer’s pulse do a far better job of servicing the market.
  • An alliance with Sugreeva, coupled with an out-of-the-box unconventional army, eventually leads to Sita getting traced and Ravana getting vanquished. Mergers and alliances based on mutual respect and trust leads to better market share. Mighty objectives can be achieved even based on frugal resources.
  • Beware of sycophants. A couplet in Sundara Kanda of Ramcharitmanasa clearly advises us to ignore the advice of a paid deputy, a doctor and a teacher who speak positively out of either fear or expectation of a gain. A king who acts upon such motivated advice loses his kingdom, his body and his righteousness (dharma) as well.
  • When Sita gets banished from the kingdom, Rama’s role is not much different from that of a true-blue CEO whose loyalty to the company’s overall welfare is unflinching.
  • CEOs and managers who entertain amorous intentions in respect of women team members and managements which look the other way just because they accord a higher priority to business goals than to the character of their top honchos could take a leaf out of Rama’s conduct.

Mahabharata

  • The attachment of Dhritarashtra, the blind king, to his evil son, Mahabharat Draupadi_and_PandavasDuryodhana, proves to be highly destructive in nature. The entire Kuru clan gets eliminated. CEOs who promote their kith and kin without assessing the overall welfare of an organization get doomed likewise. Same holds true for many a political outfit.
  • Arjuna’s skills in archery are well-known. He achieves mighty feats based on his power of intense concentration on the job at hand. Multi-tasking, a misleading buzzword in current business parlance, has no place in his dictionary.
  • The perseverance of Pandavas eventually pays off. Repeated setbacks do not deter them from seeking their share in the kingdom. War follows only when even a settlement with five villages only gets turned down by Duryodhana. The tenacity of bouncing back in the face of adversity that Pandavas display is worth emulating by MNCs which try to penetrate the Indian market.
  • The unity of purpose amongst the five Pandava brothers is exemplary. Theirs is a unified and invincible family which goes through its trials and tribulations as a single unit. Likewise, large conglomerates like Tatas draw their strength from a set of core values. Each company within the group’s fold has a unique place in the market. The companies operate in fields as disparate as salt and software. Yet, all of them are connected by a common value system and a similar business philosophy.
  • The manner in which Krishna persuades a demoralized Arjuna to take up his arms by enunciating the basic principles of life in the Bhagavad-Gita is exemplary.

Bhagavad-Gita

  • One of the basic concepts enunciated by Krishna in the Bhagavad-Krishna_Arjuna_GitaGita is that of the everlasting nature of the soul. The concept of a soul now finds a resonance even in modern management literature. In ‘The 8th Habit’, Stephen Covey urges professionals to pay heed to their ‘inner voice’. While proposing the whole person paradigm, he speaks of the four dimensions of a person – spirit, body, heart and mind.
  • Over its eighteen chapters, Krishna propounds the intricacies of different forms of Yoga, a philosophical system which treats all life as a management enterprise. It exhorts managers to be impartial, not favouring any one goal, any one mode any one or group of persons.
  • A manager’s goal is the total overall good, in keeping with environmental necessities and societal requirements.
  • He is not swayed by happiness or sorrow, ego or nepotism, greed or desire.
  • He is not swayed by external temptations of tangible, material success and thus attains a state of happiness, peace and contentment. He radiates positivity and his decisions bring happiness sooner or later to maximum number of people.
  • In other words, detachment is the key takeaway from Bhagavad-Gita. Detachment from the rewards of any work or action taken results into a neutral state of mind.

Thirukkural

This is a classic Tamil ‘sangam’ (3rd century BC to 4th century AD) literature

Thiruvalluvar

Thiruvalluvar

composition. It has 1,330 couplets or ‘kurals’. It was authored by the renowned poet Thiruvalluvar. It is replete with words of wisdom. It is simple and contains profound messages.

Thirukkural has 133 chapters, each containing 10 couplets. Broadly speaking, all the 133 chapters can be divided into three sections: Righteousness, Wealth and Love. Even though the contents are meant for kings of yore, many of the messages are equally relevant for CEOs of business world.

Consider these ‘kurals’:

  • It is not good to forget the benefit received; but it is good to forget then and there the injury done by another. (108)
  • Those who alienate friends by back-biting may have forgotten the art of making friends through suavity of speech. (187)
  • Entering an assembly without sufficient knowledge is like playing at a dice board without its knowledge. (401)
  • Men of foresight who guard themselves against coming events know no distress. (429)
  • A king must act after measuring the strength of his plan, his own resources, the strength of the enemy and that of the ally. (471)
  • Let men be chosen with deliberate care; when once the choice is made, let no suspicions crawl into your soul. (509)
  • Strict enquiry and impartial justice mark the rule of a just monarch. (541)
  • The greatness of a person is proportionate to the strength of his will power. (595)
  • What you have clearly decided to do, do it without hesitation and delay. (668)
  • An unfinished deed and an unfinished fight will, like a half-extinguished fire, cause ultimate harm. (674)

Each ‘kural’ is complete in itself. It deserves to be meditated upon, one at a time, and imbibed in our day-to-day lives. One wonders at the keen observations of the poet, his sagacity and the effort he has taken to collate and compile this beautiful work, replete with words of wisdom which continue to be as relevant today as they were in the days of yore.

Chanakya Neeti 

Chanakya is a well-known Indian teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and chanakyaroyal advisor. He is said to have lived from 350-275 BCE. He authored the ancient Indian political treatise, the Arthshastra. He is considered a pioneer in the field of political science.  He assisted the first Mauryan emperor, Chandragupta, in his rise to power. He is widely credited for having played an important role in the establishment of the Mauryan Empire.

One of his seminal works happens to be Chanakya Neeti, or Chanakya’s Aphorisms. It is a treasure trove of wisdom and speaks of the criteria to be used to judge people, the need for keeping one’s intentions confidential, the value of continued learning, situations wherein it pays to be a hypocrite, the supremacy of one’s duty, and the like.

He draws an interesting analogy between the animal kingdom and those who waste their time criticizing others. He holds such persons to be worse than the crows amongst birds and dogs amongst animals.

Sri Aurobindo

Profound thoughts of one of the prominent Indian seers of modern times, Sri Aurobindo, could be interpreted to propose a different paradigm of management. Sri_aurobindo

Whereas the Western model of management thought is based on such functions as Marketing, Finance, Production and People, the Eastern model, so to say, could be said to comprise four pillars of management: Perfection, Harmony, Power and Wisdom. Collectively, this paradigm could be called Integral Management.

Analyze the conduct of any business leader and one is apt to find the underlying presence of all these elements. It does not matter whether a manager handles marketing, finance, production or human resources.

  • It is by striving for perfection that one achieves excellence in results. Being perfect implies putting our best foot forward and doing our best under the given circumstances. It is the striving for perfection which assumes significance.

When Apple launches a new product, the whole market is abuzz. The toil and hard work which goes into creating and launching a new product is exemplary indeed.

  • A harmonious conduct with respect to all key stakeholders is essential for sustained success in business. Relations with financial institutions, regulatory authorities, customers, distributors, suppliers, staff and labour need to be based on a harmonious blend of business needs and the principles of natural justice.

The manner in which the Taj Hotel management responded after the 26/11 terror attack is a shining example of harmonious conduct of business.

  • Use of power with a sense of responsibility, that too for the greater good, leads to higher brand equity for a business. Marketing prowess can influence customers’ decision making, and has to be directed at their needs and not wants. Financial strength can also be leveraged to do something useful for the society. Administrative authority comes with a great deal of responsibility.

The case of Dr Pachauri being shown the door by TERI in a sexual harassment case is just one of the several examples of how the high and mighty should not exercise the power at their command.

  • Wisdom in decision-making leads to a sustainable business, which gives back to the society and the environment what it draws from the same.

In September 1898, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata decided to set aside half of his wealth as an endowment to establish a university of science. His donation was worth Rs. 30 lacs in those days. The other half he left for his two sons. The Indian Institute of Science eventually came up in 1911, paving the way for quality research and teaching in India.

This is the kind of unique learning which an aspiring manager receives in her formative years in the Eastern world.

Managers with a Western Mind and an Eastern Heart

Successful CEOs and managers of the future would need to be those who have a Western Mind and an Eastern Heart.

The success of the likes of Satya Nadella (currently the CEO of Microsoft) and Sundar Pichai (currently the CEO of Google Inc) goes on to show the growing importance of managers who are not only exposed to the Western models of management but also steeped in Eastern wisdom in the realm of management.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/management-lessons-from-ramayana

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/management-lessons-from-mahabharata

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/09/04/management-lessons-from-the-life-of-lord-krishna

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/management-lessons-from-thirukkural

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/managerial-perfection-notes-from-a-seminar-at-pondicherry-india

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/03/26/harmony-in-management-a-seminar-at-pondicherry-india)

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A place grows on us. It offers a comfort zone which we get used to. We might dislike the place for so many things. But when we are away for some time, the gravitational pull again comes into play. We start missing the place.

Lakshmi

Lakshmi

Pondicherry is no exception to this general rule. While here, we might bemoan the lack of civic sense, the streets littered with garbage, the reckless driving on the roads and the absence of adequate parking space in the town area. But take us away for some time, and we start missing it somehow. We yearn to get back to the humidity and the heat of the place.

What is so hot and happening about this quaint little town, perched on the Bay of Bengal, you may well ask.

Consider the following.

A small group of close friends

This is what makes Pondicherry so very special. Friends who are helpful. Friends who are there when you need them. Friends who have helped us make Pondicherry a home, far away from one’s roots. Friends who offer constructive criticism. One may not speak to them or see them for quite some time. But the underground cable connections remain in place.

For a nature lover

The restless waves of the Bay of Bengal somehow sweep away all that bothers one on any particular day. Watching an early morning sunrise is an uplifting experience. Mental peace reigns.Moon

A unique experience is that of watching a golden-hued moon rising out of the horizon a day or so after any full moon day. As it slowly changes its colour from a pale yellow to a light blue and then to its customary bright silver, the shimmering waves below keep dancing in tandem. One simply marvels at the beauty of nature on offer in Pondicherry.

For a pseudo-literary buff

For pseudo-literary buffs like me, it is a cerebral delight to attend book launches which happen at regular intervals. Perhaps inspired by the literary geniuses who made Pondicherry their abode in the not so distant past, authors of all hues and genres make it a point to include the place in their launch itinerary.BookFrontCover

Home grown authors are never in short supply, ready to fling their latest works at an unsuspecting audience. Tamil, French and English books keep popping up at regular intervals.

Even yours truly has gone ahead and published a book in Portugal, and is pretty happy about the fact that he is spared the trauma of having to read his own work in Portuguese, a language he does not understand himself!

Food for the soul

For a music-appreciating person like me, a flute recital by Hari Prasad Chaurasia, or a santoor recital by Shiv Kumar Sharma, is as uplifting and purifying as a vocal concert by Kalapini Komalini.

Even though national celebrities happen to be in Pondicherry only once in a blue moon, the soft glow of inner happiness lingers on for many more years to come.

For an art lover 

Art galleries like Aurodhan and Tasmai keep the place alive and happening. Dance performances of all genres keep me hooked to the place. When it comes to theatre, institutions like Aadishakti add their own charm to the place. Auroville has eclectic performances scheduled almost every week. Screening of offbeat movies is a routine affair. Alliance Francaise also keeps organizing some exciting events.IMG_0446

Workshops on masks, outfits teaching Salsa and Zumba, Baul performances, folk dances – you name it and Pondicherry has it!

For the intellectual pigmy 

Talks of subject experts organized by the local chapter of Madras Management Association do stir up the manager within me, reigniting my entrepreneurial passion. Held once or twice a month, the talks are short, crisp and highly focused. Business strategies get discussed. Power dressing tips are offered. Management lessons from movies are put across. In short, lot of management wisdom gets shared by those who practice the art and science of management.

Improving my Spiritual Quotient

For someone who is trying to understand how businesses can be run based on sound values and ethics, listening to some charismatic speakers steeped in Sri Aurobindo’s thoughts often leaves one gasping for more. The content may be incomprehensible to someone like me, a novice in the realm of spirituality, but there is a possibility that the quest may bring about some enlightenment in due course of time.

The heartfulness program of Sri Ram Chandra Mission offers a simple way for the lay person to peep within.

Brahma Kumaris happen to be very active, as do so many other outfits of the spiritual kind.

Minimizing the Pumpkin Quotient

It is fun to work with like-minded teams and create events like workshops and??????????????????????????????? seminars which allow stressed out managers to explore the spiritual dimensions of management. This way, they get an opportunity to sharpen their skills. I get rewarded in return by minimizing my own Pumpkin Quotient.

Frequent endeavours being made by such organizations as Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research and Sri Aurobindo Foundation of Integral Management tend to increase the allure of Pondicherry.

Frequent guest lectures at academic institutions in the region also add to the gravitational pull of the place.

Keeping the body and soul together

  1. For the best North Indian food in town, the place you can head to is Roma’s Kitchen in Auroville.
  2. For vegetarian seekh kababs: Hotel Anandha Inn/Annamalai
  3. For the least greasy samosas in town: Madhu Sweets, Mission Street.
  4. For good tea (meaning not the milky tea we get to slurp otherwise): Sekar Snacks, a tiny joint right opposite Mithai Mandir.
  5. For greasy Punjabi dishes: Punjabi Dhaba off Mission Street.
  6. An eatery which transports you back to the ‘Life of Pi’ days: Indian Coffee House, Nehru Street.

Keeping alive and kicking

Howsoever oppressive the heat, a walk along the promenade leaves one feeling invigorated.

To a young-at-heart senior citizen like me, Pondicherry offers a wide array ofYoga Dhanurasana_Yoga-Asana_Nina-Mel ‘pathies’ to choose from. As a follower of allopathy, one just needs to brave the crowded corridors of JIPMER, to be able to avail of world-class medical advice. For a focused attention on dental blues, Mahatma Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Dental Sciences comes to the rescue. Eye-related issues get readily addressed at either the School of Perfect Eyesight or the Aravind Eye Hospital.

For occasional forays into homeopathy, naturopathy, yoga and ayurveda, abundant choices are available. Acupuncture, acupressure and reflexology treatments are readily available. For spiritual healing, one just needs to walk in and meet a specialist.

Perhaps a day would soon come when a national level institute of Integral Medicine comes up here. My physical form will then not have to get compartmentalized into organs and ‘pathies’, but a holistic view will get taken of me as a whole being!

An accessible government

The upside of living in a small territory is that one could walk into any government office and meet smiling and helpful seniors. The problem gets heard. If it has merit, it also gets resolved as quickly as possible.

Experience of a unique kind

The kind of aggressive driving we get to experience in Pondicherry makes us fitdrawing to be able to drive any kind of vehicle in any part of the world. The dexterity required on the roads would make a circus stuntman squirm with shame. The kind of democracy on display on the roads could easily be packaged and marketed to train our wannabe politicians.

It is a unique experience which makes one feel as if all those rushing about on the roads are ardent functionaries eager to play their part in the French Revolution, following the dictum of Liberty and Equality but sans Fraternity.

Satisfying the wander lust

If ever boredom threatens to kick in, a short picnic at Alambara Fort (on ECR, 40 kms towards Mahabalipuram) is my recipe. It has long stretches of shallow water one can wade through and a pristine beach yet unsullied by the ravages of tourism.

A day’s trip to Gingee fort (60 kms, towards Tiruvannamalai) is another attraction. Other than the steep climb, we get to meet herds of our ancestors who are more interested in the bananas and eats we carry with us.

The bliss of doing nothing!

With its scenic promenade, picturesque locations, an old world FrenchExercise 1 ambience, Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Auroville, Pondicherry offers the lay visitor a curious combination of hedonistic as well as spiritual opportunities. One could go on a spirited binge and enjoy an upliftment of a transient kind. Otherwise, one could soak in its spiritual glow and relish a bliss which lasts much longer.

Often, when relatives call up to announce that they are planning to pounce on us, one of the most frequently asked questions is this: “What is there to do in Pondicherry?” When I say “Nothing”, they get disappointed. I then proceed to cheer them up by pointing out that this, the opportunity of doing nothing, is indeed the Unique Selling Proposition of the place.

The soft power of Pondicherry is the reason I do not relish being a Non Resident Pondicherryite for an extended period of time!

(Photograph of the moon and the yoga illustration are both courtesy the world wide web)

(Published in the New Race Journal, Vol II, Issue II: New Racehttp://sacar.in/2016_NR_V-2_I-2%20Aug2016.pdf)

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Mairie hall b4 collapse

Governor Bontemps gave me a glorious life in the year 1870,

I had a long innings of 144 years, serving all of you aplenty.

 

Just a year after I was born, the French Parliament gave you representation,

Panon Desbassyns de Richemont had the first honour by your recommendation.

 

The first seeds of your emancipation he and Ponnu Thambi Pillai alone pooled,

The latter walked into the court wearing shoes and established equality between the rulers and the ruled.

 

Local governance brought in better degree of autonomous gaiety,

When the first ever Municipal Elections were held in 1880.

 

The novel concept of Renocants was introduced through the 1881 decree,

A beginning of assimilation of two diverse cultures I could then see.

 

In 1892, setting up of the Gaebele (Bharati) Mill was a historic event,

The starting up of the Rodier (AFT) Mill in 1898 was no different.

 

As the farmers started acquiring industrial skills, making different work ethics align,

Of the faint stirrings of a home-grown ‘Swadesi’ movement there was a clear sign.

 

Subramaniam Bharati soon arrived and ignited your patriotic fervour,

1910 saw Sri Aurobindo come in and assume the role of a spiritual saviour. 

 

V. S. Aiyar and Va. Ra. shortly followed, giving an impetus to the freedom movement,

The French rulers were aware but did not think it worthwhile to comment.

 

I watched in horror as the twin disasters of two World Wars unfolded,

I salute those who made the ultimate sacrifice with my hands folded.

 

The year 1947 made me rejoice as the Indian Union awoke to its tryst with destiny,

I watched in quite sorrow as 1948 saw a farce election being held with impunity.

 

I was a dumb and mute witness to Monsieur Menard’s brutal repression,

Leading to a complete hartal in 1954, giving the natives’ wish an expression.

 

Our de facto transfer to India came about on the 1st of November, 1954,

The rich tapestry of French influence of 280 years became a part of history and folklore.

 

I witnessed the dream of Auroville manifesting itself in a manner grand,

With quiet dismay I saw the promenade losing its lovely stretch of sand.

 

Matri Mandir added to the golden-hued spiritual ambience of the town,

Enthusiasm of people from all over making Pondicherry their home could never be put down.

 

Having people who use 55 diverse languages and together face a tsunami-like adversity,

It sets a fine example, a testimony to cultural harmony and unity in diversity.

 

I did play an important role in making Pondicherry what it is at present,

An oasis of peace in a vast desert which is turning increasingly turbulent.

 

I breathed my last this day in 2014, hoping I shall be reborn soon,

A new body received in a spirit of harmony and utility shall be a boon.

 

My soul continues to hover unabated, shining through many of you,

I hope that you shall overcome your differences and rebuild me with a holistic view.

(Historical facts quoted from ‘A Concise History of Pondicherry’ by Prof. P. Raja, ISBN 81-87619-03-1)

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/the-soul-of-mairie-speaks)

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In a highly competitive and inter-connected world, how can organizations keep pace with the ever-evolving business environment? How can business leaders and CEOs achieve results, when faced with disruptive technologies which keep changing the way the business works?

An alternative paradigm for management processes can perhaps help. This paradigm comprises four aspects which underlie all aspects of management, as it is understood, taught and practiced by working as well as by aspiring managers.

The four aspects of Integral Management, drawn from Sri Aurobindo’s writings, are: Perfection, Power, Harmony and Wisdom. Perfection in whatever an organization plans and does. The Power that a company uses to achieve its goals. The Harmony which is required to enable the achievement of goals. Above all, the Wisdom which goes into running a business enterprise in a sustainable fashion.jrd-tata

Smart managers always aim for Perfection. It is said that Mr. R. M. Lala, an editor, writer and publisher of repute, once commented to Mr. J. R. D. Tata that the latter believed in excellence. The great man is said to have retorted thus: “Not excellence. Perfection. You aim for Perfection, you will attain excellence. If you aim for excellence, you will go lower.”

Sri Aurobindo Center for Advanced Research (SACAR), a NGO devoted to disseminating the thoughts and vision of the well-renowned seer of India, recently held a day-long seminar on various aspects of managerial perfection. The seminar was held at Pondicherry in India.

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Some of the key issues deliberated upon at the seminar

Making ‘Make in India’ a success needs a change in the attitudes of those who practice the art of management. The attitude of compromise needs to be shunned in all spheres of life. A strong sense of self-belief is a pre-requisite.IMG_4242 Resized

Imperfection leads to higher stress. When faced with a challenge, ‘Root Cause Analysis’ often leads to a state of perfection being achieved. Attention to detail alone helps. Pushing down complexity is yet another way to realize our goal of perfection.

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Perfection is a dynamic concept. It is a moving goal. Even 99.9% is not good enough. Factors which help a leader in her journey towards perfection are:
o Unquenchable thirst, constant endeavour
o Catering to revised customer expectations
o Vision to reach there
o Perfect planning
o Obedience
o Constant supervision and vigilance
o Perfect balance and enduranceIMG_4254 Resized

Decision making can be made more perfect by supplementing rational thinking with intuition. The higher the level of uncertainty, the greater the role that intuition can play. Intuitive faculties can be developed by means of:
o Listening better
o Reflecting on a decision before implementing
o Examining your beliefs
o Communicating to, and consulting, others
o Learning to recognize and interpret your emotions
o Creating the right learning environment; allow failures
o Using situational assessments and case studies

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Leadership styles can be perfected by following some concurrent processes:
o Leading oneself first – introspection, self-improvement, practicing gratitude, shouldering      responsibility, improving quality of action and self-discipline; self-image plays a crucial role
o Leading others – by example
o Delivering results
o Grooming leadersDSC_0114 Resized

A sound HR philosophy is the essence of Perfection, which is an inner state of living. The principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity are useful in crafting innovative HR policies. Employees at all levels deserve an operational freedom which needs to be balanced with a sense of collective responsibility.DSC_0121 Resized

Some real-life examples which were touched upon

The following were some of the real-life examples which came up for discussion at the seminar:
• Evolution of manufacturing excellence across the world, from the first World War onwards
• Products of Apple and the no-nonsense attitude of Steve Jobs
• The SAS turnaround by Jan Carlzon; lessons from ‘Moments of Truth’
• Nestle India’s delayed decision to withdraw Maggi noodles from the shelves
• Recall of more than 2 million cars by Honda due to faulty air bags

The seminar, entitled ‘In Pursuit of Managerial Perfection’, drew an enthusiastic response from business managers, scholars and students alike. It was addressed by Dr. Ananda Reddy, Director of SACAR, Mr. R. Mananathan, Chairman and MD, Manatec group of companies, Prof R. P. Raya, Dean, School of Management, Pondicherry University, Prof. Jaisree Anand, Founder LearnMore India Consultant, Mr. Ganesh Babu, Founder and CEO Winning Minds, Prof. Kisholoy Gupta, Senior HR Professional and yours truly – a heady mix of management educators, lifestyle coaches, business thinkers and influencers.

Dr Shruti Bidwaikar, Assistant Director, SACAR, summed up the proceedings of the day. Dr Arvind Gupta, Assistant Director, Directorate of Distance Education, Pondicherry University, advised the participants to imbibe the day’s learning in an appropriate manner while facing challenges in life.

SACAR proposes to organize a series of follow-up seminars touching upon the three other pillars of Integral Management, viz., Harmony, Power and Wisdom.

(Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/an-inner-approach-to-leadership-and-management-note-on-a-seminar)

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Learning from Failures

With a higher level of uncertainty, a leader’s chances of failure would also go up. A failure which results into pain and suffering can also be taken as a boon, as time often proves. If the right lessons are drawn, the chances of a failure repeating itself in future can be drastically brought down.

Consider these words of wisdom from Narad when he tries to explain to Savitri’s mother as to why she must marrya1 1 (11) Satyavan and suffer on the terrestrial plane.

‘Although the shaping god’s tremendous touch
Is torture unbearable to mortal nerves,
The fiery spirit grows within
And feels a joy in every titan pang.’
(Savitri, page 444)

Leaders wear their crowns of glory. But the crown does not come cheap. The cost they have to bear is that of the cross they have to carry.

‘Hard is the world-redeemer’s heavy task;
The world itself becomes his adversary,
Those he would save are his antagonists:
This world is in love with its own ignorance,
Its darkness turns away from the savior light,
It gives the cross in payment for the crown.’
(Savitri, page 448)

Management by Consent

In the times to come, the profile of the followers would also be different. Hierarchical authority is already proving difficult to manage change; there is no reason to believe this would not be even more so in the future. The followers would demand a higher degree of participation in the decision-making processes. Leaders who recognize this need of their followers and create a working environment which enables the same would achieve higher levels of efficiency and effectiveness in their business processes.

Creating a non-coercive environment in which employees and other stakeholders are clear about the corporate identity and the mission would be far more important than it is today. Reverse mentoring would be more a norm than an exception in the days to come.

Consider the all-powerful God of Death. When accosted by Savitri, he does not dictate terms. He allows a reasonableSavitri_Yama discussion on the subject. He keeps changing the line of his arguments, intent upon denying Savitri the life of her husband. He tries his best to dissuade her from changing one of the basic laws of nature. He even declares “I, Death, am the gate of immortality.”

Savitri is undaunted. She points out that if this creation has arisen out of a meaningless void, if matter can come forth from energy, and life from matter, and mind from life, and if soul can peep through the flesh, what is wrong in hoping that the imperfect man of today will someday transform himself into the perfection of God?

The God of Death eventually loses the argument, his authority and also his stature. But his greatness lies in the fact that he has the good grace to permit and then lose an argument to a person who looks like a mere mortal. Realizing her sincerity of purpose, he even grants her a boon.

In Ramayana, the villain is Ravana, a highly learned and accomplished person. One of the reasons for his downfall is to neglect the advice of nay-sayers. His wife, Mandodari, brother Vibheeshana and grandfather Malyavaan – all advise him to return Sita to Rama. Instead, he chooses to listen to his courtiers who play on his ego and pride and advise him not to do so.

A couplet in Sundara Kanda of Ramcharitmanasa clearly advises us to ignore the advice of a paid deputy, aRamayana 2 doctor and a teacher who speak positively out of either fear or expectation of a gain. A king who acts upon such motivated advice loses his kingdom, his body and his righteousness (dharma) as well.

When Lord Rama decides to accept Vibhishana in his fold, he does not simply order the same. He consults all seniors present before arriving at a decision.

Monsanto’s CEO, Robert Shapiro, had the ability to go against traditional hierarchy. He initiated strategy sessions with cross-sections of employees of different ranks, specialties and geographical perspectives and reaped rich dividends for his company.

The Moral Compass

Leaders who believe in sustainable businesses would not only use their commercial compass while determining the direction to take. Using a moral compass would be a valuable trait amongst the future leaders. A strong inner core, embedded with a value system which recognizes the needs of the society at large, would be a great quality to have. A pre-condition for employing key managers would be their endorsement and support of the core values of the business.

Sticking to some core values which are steeped in righteousness eventually leads to success. The main protagonist, Rama, is depicted in Ramayana as an epitome of virtue. He is an ideal king, an ideal son and a pragmatic person. He sets high ethical standards in warfare and invariably sides with dharma, or righteousness.Krishna_Arjuna_Gita

One of the basic concepts enunciated by Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita is that of the everlasting nature of the soul. The concept of a soul now finds a resonance even in modern management literature. In ‘The 8th Habit’, Stephen Covey urges professionals to pay heed to their ‘inner voice’. While proposing the whole person paradigm, he speaks of the four dimensions of a person – spirit, body, heart and mind.

A random sample of all successful business houses which have been around for more than a century now – Siemens and Tatas, for instance – is ample proof that ethics in business do pay dividends in the long run. Names of such business houses enjoy tremendous brand equity in the market; understandably, that rubs off on their products as well.

When the likes of Siemens and Wal-Mart come clean on their misdemeanors, they set an excellent example of probity in the business world. When Mr. Ratan Tata, the Chairman Emeritus of India’s salt to software conglomerate, rues his inability to enter some fields of business because of the absence of a level playing field in India, his focus is on one of the core values of his business.

Indra Nooyi is charting a unique course for Pepsico globally, shedding traditional markets and going in for healthier food products instead.

Preparing Leaders for 2025!

In a careful reading of the major turning events in the Mahabharata, Krishna emerges as an eminent strategist. He keeps Draupadi’s frustration under check. He knows that Kauravas would never agree to let Pandavas have their share of the kingdom in a peaceful manner. Yet, he himself goes to plead their cause so that peace is given a last chance.

Eventually, all mighty warriors on the Kauaravas’ side fall with specific inputs from Krishna. In case of Bhishma,Krishna Arjuna attacks him standing behind Shikhandi. Dronacharya is misled to believe that his son Ashwatthama has fallen at the behest of Krishna. When Duryodhana appears to be invincible in his mace fight with Bhima, he gestures to the latter to hit the former below the navel, thereby incapacitating him. When Balarama gets upset with Bhima for having broken a cardinal principle in his final fight with Duryodhana, Krishna intervenes to pacify him by reminding him of the several injustices perpetrated by the Kauravas on Pandavas.

Much like a business leader of modern times, Krishna displays vision, flexibility in approach, resourcefulness and an excellent capacity to command. He is the trouble-shooter par excellence who leads, inspires, guides and motivates.

Captains of industry today can set a personal example by getting cross-functional teams in their organizations to come up with suggestions to face the challenges of future effectively. They can also emulate some of the traits, thereby leading to a trickle-down effect across the entire organization.

HR honchos can re-design their appraisal processes and re-assess training needs of key managers to address this issue.

Those in senior management positions can consciously plan to hone their skills in areas they find themselves deficient.

Management institutes can tweak their course content to ensure that those leaving their hallowed portals possess these traits, so as to improve their contribution towards the organizations they decide to either float or serve.

Indian scriptures are replete with instances which demonstrate the importance of good values and ethics.chanakya Ramayana speaks of righteousness to be upheld at any cost. Mahabharata tells us to limit our ambitions and desires and be reasonable in life, lest a fate worse than death may befall us. Bhagavad Gita – the song celestial – is like an ocean full of practical advice for managers young and old alike. Chanakya Neeti is full of pearls of wisdom. All these are waiting to be explored by those who are interested in being spiritual as well as practical in their approach to problem solving and leading people to their goals.

(Note: On matters spiritual, inputs from a subject expert, philosopher and guide are gratefully acknowledged.)

[Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/grooming-future-business-leaders-a-spiritual-approach-part-1%5D

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