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Happy birthday, Plum!

ashokbhatia

Many of the fans of P G Wodehouse suffer occasional pangs of anxiety. They fear that the species comprising the admirers of P G Wodehouse may soon become extinct. They suspect that not many of the younger generation may be getting infected enough with the delectable affliction of Wodehousitis, simply because his works belong to a bye-gone era which fails to connect with the youth of today.

When they sit down to relish the pleasures of the table, the food – even if it is dished out by a spouse who might be God’s gift to the gastric juices – simply turns into ashes in their mouths. Their brow is furrowed. They shudder at the prospect of a PGW-less society in the future, devoid of the pristine humour which makes one unwind after the harsh slings and arrows of Life have taken their toll. The human race, which is trying…

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Lord Krishna may be able to help

When compared to human beings, machines tend to be far more objective in their approach to things. Humans have the luxury of wallowing in self pity and being attached to objects and people. Machines cannot afford luxuries of this kind. Thus, when it comes to machines and algorithms, several tips dished out by Lord Krishna become irrelevant. But for human beings who have to interact with machines and have to ensure that these are programmed along ethical and moral lines, life shall surely pose different kind of challenges.

Unlike Ramayana which speaks of Ram Rajya and Thirukkural which elaborates upon the duties of a king, Bhagavad Gita does not directly address such issues as the manner in which either businesses or governments need to be run. Nor does it directly touch upon the subject of taking better care of human resources – a key factor in management. Yes, when it places a premium on work being done with benign motives, it hints at the desirability of getting work done with malice towards none. The scripture is primarily focused on the need to do one’s duty with a sense of detachment and equanimity.

Let us consider the kind of indirect clues it offers which could perhaps be of some use to CEOs and managers who are trying to grapple with the challenges posed by rapid advances in technology.

(Quotes of verses from Gita below are literal translations from Sanskrit. Each translation is followed by (xx.yy), where xx is the number of the Chapter and yy the number of the verse within)

The promise of Saatvic actions

To recapitulate what Gita says, it is work which is taken up for work’s own sake, in an attitude that work itself is worship. Actions performed in a spirit of inspiration and with benign motivation would fall in this category. So would actions which are propelled neither by love nor by hate. These are acts of grace which are not acts of obligation. These are not actions arising out of one’s likes and dislikes.

The assigned action which is done without attachment, attraction (or) repulsion and without clinging to (its) fruit that is called ‘Sattvic’. (18.23)

Business leaders who mostly operate at the Rajasic plane, if they were to consider working in this manner, the issue of wrong motives – whether at the development or at the implementation stage – would not come up. Eventually, they would end up steering their business along sustainable lines.

The perils of Rajasic and Tamasic actions

But machines have severe limitations. Those who shop or eat out at a restaurant soon start missing the smile of a charming floor incharge or the kind of fuss that a human waiter could make over a customer. Irate customers who call a company to register their anger about some deficiency in service are further put off when they are greeted by an auto-response system which prompts them go through several cycles of 1 to 9 button punching. Poor machines cannot compare the uncomparables/unquantifiables. So, they cannot advise CEOs on choosing between profitability and human safety.

Machines could therefore assist at either the Rajasic or the Tamasic level of actions. Lord Krishna cautions that such actions eventually lead to problems.

The fruit of virtuous action is said to be Sattvic and pure; the fruit of Rajasic action is sorrow; ignorance is the fruit of Tamas. (14.16)

Overcoming Leadership Deficit

The responsibility on the shoulders of a leader is rather heavy. She has to walk the talk and set an example for others to follow. If she herself is prone to using her expense account to accommodate outings for her loved ones, others will lose no time to sniff it out and follow in her footsteps. 

Whatsoever a noble man does, the very same is also done by other men. Whatever standard he sets, the world follows it. (3.21) 

The pink slip syndrome

For someone who ends up getting a pink slip all of a sudden due to the organisation having adopted a newer set of technologies could find that Bhagavad Gita has already highlighted the importance of one doing work skilfully and sincerely, thereby pursuing excellence.

But he who, controlling the senses with the mind, without attachment engages the organs of action in the Yoga of action, he excels, O Arjuna. (3.7)

It exhorts one to not to overtly fall for the temptation of the senses which get continuously exposed to the delectable offerings of life – pleasures of the table, inclination for a variety of amorous endeavours, addiction with social media, and the like.

Keeping one’s desires under check and avoiding undue intoxication with power and pelf is another crucial idea that it recommends. It advises one to not to live a life of delusion which makes one undertake a perennial but futile search for an everlasting pampering of one’s ego. Practicing equanimity and being steady inside is highly recommended. So are regular meditative practices.

In praise of Self Control

Bhagavad Gita does not recommend a boring, listless and monochromatic life to a spiritual aspirant. It merely says not to get swayed by the temptations of life and to gratify one’s senses and fulfil one’s desires with a strict sense of moderation. Self-control is the key word. In case a confrontation comes about, empathy and the ability to put oneself in the shoes of the other person is spoken of.

A lamp which does not flicker in a windless place, to such is compared the Yogi of a disciplined mind who remains steady in meditation on the Self. (6.19)

The need for leaders with a higher Spiritual Quotient

All of these are proactive measures which could enable a CEO to scale greater heights in her career, delivering results with greater efficiency and aplomb. These are not quick-fixes. Instead, these are long term solutions which have the potential of enabling one to not only face the challenges of technological advancement but also to utilise technology to the best of one’s advantage, rather than becoming a slave to it.

The future would obviously see a much higher demand for business leaders whose heads are screwed on right and who take decisions using not only a Commercial Compass but also a Spiritual one, guided by the values of the organization. Several companies already have Chief Ethics Officers. Those who have thrived in such roles are the ones who have enjoyed support from the very top.

Of jackals, cobras, giraffes, elephants and tortoises

To run a business well, wily jackals and cobras are required; but so are friendly giraffes, elephants and tortoises. In the days to come, conscious managements would do well to assign the role of Conscience Keepers to any competent and willing full-time director on the board who would keep the business afloat without running into a collision with massive icebergs of targets which involve a hidden mass of compromise on core values and ethics. A culture of encouraging dissent and listening to whistle-blowers would also help in a business being steered right.

(Inputs from experts in IT, management, Gita and aviation are gratefully acknowledged)

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/the-challenges-of-industrial-revolution-4-0-part-1-of-3

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2019/09/11/the-challenges-of-industrial-revolution-4-0-part-2-of-3)

 

 

 

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Many of the fans of P G Wodehouse suffer occasional pangs of anxiety. They fear that the species comprising the admirers of P G Wodehouse may soon become extinct. They suspect that not many of the younger generation may be getting infected enough with the delectable affliction of Wodehousitis, simply because his works belong to a bye-gone era which fails to connect with the youth of today.

When they sit down to relish the pleasures of the table, the food – even if it is dished out by a spouse who might be God’s gift to the gastric juices – simply turns into ashes in their mouths. Their brow is furrowed. They shudder at the prospect of a PGW-less society in the future, devoid of the pristine humour which makes one unwind after the harsh slings and arrows of Life have taken their toll. The human race, which is trying to cope with such dark clouds on the horizon as global warming, terrorism, economic inequality, exclusivity, et al, deserves as many rays of bright sunshine as life can offer. Unless the young ones take sprightly interest in some Plummy offerings, the future would be utterly dull, dreary, desolate and depressing, to say the least.

But what the well-meaning coves ignore in the process are the kind of positive vibes being generated and the good work being done by PGW societies in UK, Netherlands, USA and elsewhere. Erudite scholars keep coming up with delectable analyses of the Master’s works across dedicated websites and blog sites. Authors of all hues keep dishing out Plummy narratives at frequent intervals. Ardent fans keep exchanging Plummy notes with each other over various social media platforms. Then there are celebrities and members of royal families who keep chipping in with their endorsements, thereby facilitating the spread of Wodehousitis.

The bright parabola of joy

The bliss one experiences while devouring any segment of the Master’s canon is cheerfully bright. His innovative use of language is only one of the factors. The sunlit streets of Plumsville are paved with cobbled stones of subtle humour. These also have a depth which comprises a rich foundation of diverse facets of human knowledge, values and psychology. While pottering about in these, one is apt to come across not only such intellectual coves as Spinoza and Nietzsche, but also literary giants like Shakespeare, Tennyson, Byron, and even historic figures like Julius Caesar, Sir Philip Sidney and Napoleon. Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and several other Biblical references keep popping up.

When admiring the gardens at Blandings Castle, one comes across a delightful variety of flora and fauna which enlarge the frontiers of one’s knowledge. Many of his narratives enthuse one to not to give in to the pleasures of the table and thereby keep one’s lining of the stomach in the pink of health. Some others impart lessons in morality, especially when it comes to pinching manuscripts, scarabs, silver cow creamers and even cooks. Not to forget the kind of spiritual and pragmatic lessons underlying in his works.

In fact, the more the human race hurtles forward on its perilous journey plagued by such technological developments as Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Data Analytics and the Internet of Things, the higher would be the relevance of the kind of rich lessons embedded in the fare dished out by Plum. Industrial Revolution 4.0 (or even 5.0) notwithstanding, humans cannot be wished away. Yes, with each leap of technological faith, their role in the society would evolve. But one wonders if the psychology of the individual would ever vanish from the face of our planet. And herein lies the hope for the survival of Wodehousitis.

In defence of the Escapist tag

In a thought-provoking article ‘P G Wodehouse: Balm for the Modern Soul’, (Wooster Sauce: March 2019), Dean Abbott argues as follows:

‘Outside of the sheer pleasure that reading a Wodehouse story provides, there are deeper rewards a reader gleans from his work, benefits that accrue long after any volume is closed. Wodehouse excels at providing the reader two important spiritual benefits: consolation from the sufferings of the world and some insight regarding why we suffer in the first place. In the end, his work is singular balm for the modern soul, comedy that tends towards theodicy.

‘The reality is that modern people, even if they are unconscious of it, require consolation, a buffer against and an escape from the disappointment and turmoil of earthly life, as much as people in any other period ever did – quite possibly more so. People in the old world, at least, could admit without shame their need for consolation. We are denied even that.’

One could not agree more with the proposition that the modern man, mentally fatigued by the relentless pounding of social media and 24×7 connectivity, richly deserves to win a reprieve for himself and his loved ones. Project this into a future replete with technological advances, and one would realise the increasing relevance of the scintillating and wisdom-laced humour found in the Master’s repertoire.

A peep into the future

Just imagine the future. The day is not far off when the following would cease to surprise:

  1. Someone of the calibre of Spinoza releasing a tome entitled An Ethical Theory for Bots.
  2. Gussie Fink Nottle gushing over genetically modified newts.
  3. Madeline Bassett using an Emotion Tracking App to check the right time to gaze up at the stars and reaffirm these to be God’s daisy chain.
  4. Uncle Tom deploying Artificial Intelligence to keep the taxation wolves at bay.
  5. Aunt Dahlia using crowd-funding to keep Milady’s Boudoir alive and kicking, so her nephews like Bertie Wooster could contribute such articles as What the Well-Dressed Robots are Wearing.
  6. Jeeves using Data Mining and Data Visualisation to be able to argue against the suitability of wannabe spouses for Bertie Wooster, thereby keeping his own career prospects as bright as ever.
  7. Gussie, when suspecting that his notebook containing juicy remarks on Pop Bassett and Roderick Spode may be in Stiffy’s possession, merely using a paper-whiffing GPS-enabled gadget to locate the same, rather than trying to persuade Bertie to give up his chivalrous tendencies.
  8. Bingo Little deploying the Internet of Things to ensure that Rosie M Banks never misses her afternoon cup of tea, thereby ensuring that matrimonial peace prevails.
  9. Silver cow creamers coming with embedded smart chips, making it easier to track them, thereby rendering endeavours to register scorn at them in antique shops futile, thus reducing the carbon footprints of mentally negligible nephews.
  10. The Efficient Baxter leveraging technology to ensure that the Empress of Blandings gets her daily nourishment of 57,800 calories, as per the Wolff-Lehmann feeding standards, thus maintaining the prospects of her winning silver medals at the Shropshire Agricultural Show year after year.

The possibilities are endless. The mind boggles.

An informal reality check

Arising out of a discussion between two PGW fans at the virtual Drones Club, a query was recently posted by Pradeep Swaminathan (the gentleman who had recently unleashed his book ‘Enter Mrs Bertie’ on the unsuspecting public) as to the age of the fans in the group. Of the 145 fans who responded, as many as 103 were found to be below the age of 40! Moreover, 4 of the fans were of 80 years and above, what with Mrs Sushama Varma from India (who has already seen 88 springs in her life time, though she is merely 22 at heart) being the senior most fan active in the gang.

A very small and unrepresentative sample from the universe inhabited by Plum’s fans the world over, skeptics might be quick to point out. Admittedly, yes. But hope remains in the form of the younger ones who march into the future with their chins up and with their upper lips unstiffened, duly emboldened by the germs of Wodehousitis coursing through their veins.

And if some of them were to decide to walk the aisle together, the progeny is quite likely to inherit the pleasurable affliction alluded to here. This would mean that the nurses, the baby-sitters, the governesses, the private-school masters and the public-school masters who will take on the responsibility of looking after such rare specimen of humanity who represent a delectable blend of the genes of their parents, could breathe easy.

So could those of the well-meaning souls which worry about the future of Wodehousitis.

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/the-epidemic-of-wodehousitis

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/the-need-to-look-for-plummy-soul-mates

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2018/01/01/spreading-wodehousitis-some-plummy-awards)

 

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The International League of Happiness (ILH) plans to host a two-day Workshop for the benefit of those fans of P G Wodehouse who might be twiddling their thumbs trying to understand such emerging technologies as Blockchain, AIMLA (Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Algorithm Analytics), Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, 3D Printing, and the like.

Some details of the program are as follows:

Day 1

 

Inaugural Address

Lord Emsworth, Chief Patron of ILH 

The Role of Emerging Technologies in keeping the Empress in the pink of health, in floriculture, in ducking guests and in managing obdurate sisters

 

Key Note Address

Ms Roberta Wickham, Founder Director, Royal Academy of Goofy Technologies (RAGT)

Use of technologies to ensure happier and safer courtships for the delicately nurtured

 

Technical Session 1

Sir Watkyn Bassett, CBE, magistrate and Justice of Peace

My Experiments with Truth – Uncovering the mysteries of Blockchain Technologies

The speaker is likely to share his experiential wisdom and explain some aspects of Blockchain:

– A highly secured system which ensures that there is only one Truth, thereby curbing such social aberrations drunken revelries and umbrella;

– Supports transactions which are secured, thereby encouraging the emergence of a single Truth, which becomes the only truth. If you fake it up, you pay a penalty, leading to a drastic improvement in transparency levels;

– Tracking: One can track what happened. It is a decentralized, distributed, mass, general ledger which preserves the Truth in any given situation. This helps ardent collectors of all sizes, hues and shapes to protect their precious possessions better;

– Current technology is slated to become super-efficient and will eventually bring about a humbling equality among all human beings, thereby reducing a tendency on part of some to mock such striking dresses as prismatic checked suits and purple dressing gowns with yellow frogs.

 

Technical Session 2

Mr Reginald Jeeves, Deputy Secretary General, ILH

Improving the delight of Customers and Bosses by leveraging the Internet of Things

  • Using smart grids to alleviate poverty, eradicate diseases and reduce income inequalities
  • How machine to machine data exchange can be used to deliver better satisfaction to customers and employers
  • Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of valeting operations
  • Leveraging technology to ensure that one’s employer forever remains a bachelor, thereby ensuring stability in one’s valeting career

Day 2

 

Technical Session 3

Mr Rupert Psmith, Director General, ILH

Deploying Artificial Intelligence to improve Corporate Governance

Based on his exceptional career in banking, journalism and allied services, the speaker would demonstrate how:

– Pattern recognition in Big Data can lead to drastic improvements in corporate governance levels across all kinds of institutions, whether in the private or the public sector; even amongst central banks, judiciary, intelligence and investigation, and the legislative arms of a country;

– If one takes Yesterday as an experience, Today as an experiment, and Tomorrow as an expectation, one can forecast loan defaults by fugitive billionaires, non-performing assets of lending institutions and dramatic terror attacks;

– Using Hindsight and Oversight to improve Insight and Foresight could help in curbing gang wars, vigilante attacks and cyber crimes.

 

Technical Session 4

Sir Roderick Glossop, Director General, Royal Academy of Goofy Technologies

Deploying Emerging Technologies to improve mental well-being of those who struggle to maintain Work Life Balance  

Using practical examples from his illustrious career involving loony bins, anti-gambling leagues, and anti-smoking and anti-alcohol tirades, the speaker would touch upon the following facets:

  • Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality: Potent tools to avoid landing in a loony bin
  • How revenue authorities can use Algorithm Analytics to squeeze more out of gambling dens
  • Leveraging 3D printing to improve upon the mesmerizing effect of a voodoo performance; also, to minimize the impact of a bunch of cats on one’s digestive system.

 

Technical Session 5

Ms Stephanie Byng, Director, RAGT

Nipping #MeToo in the bud: Promoting new standards of Chivalry  

  • Countering amorous advances of lecherous members of the so-called sterner sex by use of Artificial Intelligence and other technologies on the horizon;
  • Using Virtual Reality to educate kids and aspiring grooms about the new norms of Chivalry, such as baby sitting, diaper changing, cooking, mopping, dusting and in general assisting a housewife;
  • Promoting active use of the Bartholomew technique of motivating the law enforcers to take a serious note of any offences being reported to them.
  • Using Virtual Reality to sensitize prospective offenders to the living conditions of our prisons.

 

Technical Session 6: The flip side of technologies – Some notes of dissent

 

Mr Roderick Spode, Chairman, Eulalie Enterprises

The right to privacy in a technology driven age

 

Ms Joan Valentine, Chairperson, Global Association of Start Ups

The need to lower tariff and other barriers to facilitate international trade

 

Ms Madeline Bassett, Deputy Secretary – Environment, ILH

The stark failure of Emerging Technologies to counter the threat of Climate Change

 

Ms Honoria Glossop, Deputy Secretary – Sports, ILH

The risks of increasing screen times; Getting back to what is Factual, Real and True

 

 

Valedictory Address

Right Hon’ble A B Filmer, Cabinet Minister

The speaker is expected to touch upon the future of modern technologies which would help politicos to:

  • Stick to power for longer durations by (i) Keeping their public image always spick and span, (ii) Using social media platforms to brow beat the opponents and sway public opinion in their favour, and (iii) Engaging with voters by using Virtual Reality;
  • Ensure hassle free vacations, with safer boat rides, sans angry swans.

 

Details

 

Venue: Blandings Castle

Dates: February 14-15, 2019

Registration: www.ilh.org

Catering: Anatole and team

 

The Empress of Blandings shall be in attendance. A LED display will showcase the use of algorithms to monitor her health and diet.

 

Note:

 

The International League of Happiness is a not-for-profit organization where:

-Destructive propaganda of any kind is sneered at

-Global interests are accorded higher priority than narrow national/regional interests

-Healthy discussion is encouraged but indifference to, or defiance of, its collective resolutions is discouraged

 

(Related Posts:

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/the-epidemic-of-wodehousitis

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/an-invitation-from-the-international-league-of-happiness

https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/bertie-jeeves-and-the-internet-of-things)

 

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(The following is an abridged and modified excerpt from an upcoming book on Leader Mindsets, authored by Prof G P Rao, founder of SPANDAN, and others.)

Advances in technology inevitably lead to more efficiencies, better products and improved lifestyles for people. But each leap of faith into the domain of a newer technology brings with it a set of newer challenges for mankind. As machines increasingly take over the drudgery of repetitive tasks and become more intelligent, human beings invariably need to re-skill themselves. This applies to business leaders as well as their followers.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution in the offing now builds on the Digital Revolution, representing new ways in which technology becomes embedded within societies and even the human body.

Skill-sets of the future

As per a World Economic Forum document titled ‘Future of Jobs Report’, employers are said to anticipate a significant shift in the division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms for the tasks of today.

The aforesaid report states that of the total task hours across the industries covered, on an average, 71% are currently performed by humans, whereas 29% are performed by machines or algorithms. By 2022, this average is expected to have shifted to 58% task hours performed by humans, and 42% by machines or algorithms. It can be readily appreciated that this signifies a very rapid pace of change, something for which leaders need to be better prepared.

The report goes on to project that skills related to analytical thinking, active learning, technology design and technology competency would grow in prominence. It also proposes that such ‘human’ skills as creativity, originality and initiative, critical thinking, persuasion and negotiation will either retain or increase their value, as will attention to detail, resilience, flexibility and complex problem-solving.

It follows that in the impending man-machine conflict, human beings are not likely to suffer the same fate as that of the non-avian dinosaurs which went extinct some sixty-five million years ago. But the writing on the wall is clear. They need to roll up their sleeves and get down to the task of sharpening their soft skills. A humane approach to handling team members needs to be consciously developed, especially when operating in a business environment characterized by a shortage of skilled workers. In turn, this would pre-suppose a higher Emotional Quotient and better service orientation. Even as the reliance on artificial intelligence grows for the analytical part of decision making, the role of intuition would become even more crucial.

A focus on the bottom line

Most employers would go in for innovating through technology if it makes business sense. It follows that technology would continue to remain a tool in the arsenal of the corporate world to squeeze more profits out of their operations, thereby making careers more fragile and impacting labour incomes adversely. With 24×7 connectivity, people are already working longer and enjoying lesser leisure time.

In a scenario of this kind, there is a grave risk that leaders would end up losing a connection with themselves even more than at present and hence end up de-humanizing the work place.

However, values remain indestructible. As an example, honesty and truthfulness in relationships is something which is bound to withstand the onslaught of newer technologies in the centuries to come. Same is the case with empathy, compassion, resilience and a flexible approach in problem solving.

Perhaps there is a need for governments the world over to anticipate newer moral and ethical dilemmas in a proactive manner and influence technological developments suitably, so human dignity and freedom is not compromised.

The perks and the perils

One may also surmise as to how the imminent advances in technology could throw up positive as well as negative factors which are likely to impact the man-machine equation in the times to come.

According to a 2014 report entitled ‘AI, Robotics, and the Future of Jobs’, published by Pew Research Centre, researchers Aaron Smith and Janna Anderson went to the extent of seeking feedback from as many as 1,896 experts. They found that when it came to the impact of advances in technology upon economic opportunity and employment, the opinion was deeply divided.

The optimists opined that technology would free us from day-to-day drudgery and end up redefining our relationship with ‘work’ in a more positive and socially beneficial manner. They felt that we shall adapt to these changes by inventing entirely new types of work and control our own destiny through the choices we make.

The pessimists amongst those who participated in the aforesaid study were of the opinion that the coming wave of innovation would mostly impact those involved in white-collar work. Whereas highly skilled workers will do better, many more might get pushed into lower paying jobs, and might even face permanent unemployment. They also felt that our educational, political and economic institutions are poorly equipped to handle the challenges which are likely to come up.

The aforesaid piece of research throws up instructive insights into how the future might shape up. Leaders and managers really need to think up some innovative ways in which they would handle a highly polarized workforce, comprising a disgruntled lot at one end and a highly skilled one at the other.

The challenge of creating happier workplaces

Unlike the earlier industrial revolutions, which first created and then changed the skill sets required by our blue collar workforce, the Fourth one promises to change the work profile of our white collar workers.

In his book, The Fourth Industrial Revolution, Professor Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, describes how this fourth revolution is fundamentally different from the previous three, which were characterized mainly by advances in technology. According to him, these technologies have great potential to continue to connect billions of more people to the web, drastically improve the efficiency of business and organizations and help regenerate the natural environment through better asset management.

As we grapple to understand the future direction of monumental changes in our socio-economic fabric owing to the next phase of technological evolution, few things stand clear.

One, that our educational institutions are nowhere near the task of training a workforce which would not learn analytical skills by rote but would grasp the importance of creativity, resilience and improve upon their Emotional Quotient.

Two, most of our governments are yet to devise ways and means of regulating issues of protecting individual privacy, executive burnouts arising out of a 24×7 connectivity and heightened civic strife due to growing inequalities. The next phase is bound to create a newer class of elite – those who are adept at newer technologies, leaving far behind those who are not.

Those in the first category could end up believing that they are all too powerful. Those who remain blissfully ignorant and continue to be disconnected to those who are reaping the benefits of newer technologies are likely to gravitate towards a belief that they have no place in the knowledge universe. With poor resources of material as well legal kind at their command, these new ‘have-nots’ of the society may be doomed to languish for a long time, till the governments of the day intervene, willfully or otherwise, and ensure implementation of economic policies which are more inclusive in nature.

The third kind, comprising those left in the middle of the normal distribution curve of technology dispersal, could end up having a balanced approach to issues. In fact, with advances in technology, this kind could well face a higher risk of extinction, paving the way for those who believe themselves to be all too powerful to rule the roost.

The same pattern may become apparent in the realm of management as well. Leaders and executives would need to increase their engagement not only with the society at large, but also with the governments of the day. A massive effort at re-skilling personnel would become a necessity.

A matter of trust and privacy

Infosys co-founder N R Narayana Murthy happens to be of the view that technology is a great leveller. He thinks that technology has improved transparency, conquered distance and class barriers. Also, that it has the potential to create a fair society and enhance the accountability of the rich, the powerful and the elite to the poor and disenfranchised in all societies.

One cannot dispute this. However, concerns regarding an increasing trust deficit remain. Denizens of many countries are feeling increasingly jittery over instances of data privacy. Moral policing, electoral pitching, rumour mongering – all these are fuelling this trust deficit.

One case in point is that of Facebook which is already armed with tools to dig deep into our lives, with the singular aim of moulding our thoughts and opinions about diverse aspects of our lives.

Employees in most organizations already resent living in a virtual fish bowl, where all their communications are suspected to be getting monitored. No one likes to be micro-managed, especially those who are capable and self-confident. Business enterprises have already started deploying tools to monitor employee productivity by collecting and analyzing their activity and inactivity levels.

In the long run, a work environment of this nature would end up impacting productivity, commitment and motivation levels adversely.

The ever-increasing rate of change

One thing is certain. Change is not only a constant. With each passing year, the rate of change is also increasing. Much like Alice in Wonderland, Homo sapiens are discovering that they need to keep running faster and faster, with nary a respite in sight. Mankind is bound to evolve further much earlier than what was believed in the past. Alvin Toffler would perhaps heartily approve of this proposition.

Unlike thought so far, the man machine relationship shall become more integrated with each other in the near future. As a result, the combined force of processing of billions of data points for efficient decision making by machines, and contextual, emotional and intuitive aspects of decision making by human beings, would be, to that extent, higher and greater in their respective impacts – for good or bad.

What can be done to meet the challenge

– Employees, whether present or potential, can go beyond the formal education system and aggressivle look for avenues to hone their skills, so as to remain employable. As Stephen R Covey has said, we need to keep our saws sharpened.

– Same applies to our business leaders, who would do well to improve upon their Emotional Quotient.

– The agenda for educationists and politicians is clear: To keep taking steps to facilitate the change already upon us; to anticipate the challenges of privacy and rumour mongering and to intervene to have appropriate safeguards embedded in upcoming technologies.

(References:
https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-future-of-jobs-report-2018
“Future of Jobs.” Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. (December 11, 2014);
http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/08/06/future-of-jobs)

(Illustrations courtesy www)

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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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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 paraffin 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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