Business Sutra |5.1| Ram’s Education

Business Sutra |5| Education

We have covered three episodes of Devdutt Pattanaik’ TV serial on CNBC 18:  Business Sutra.

The first presented to us the most visible form of the business – the corporation: its meaning, its purpose and its action perspective. In the second episode Devdutt Pattanaik discusses Leadership: Role of the leader, Context of the leader and Leadership in different business cycles. The third episode relates to the Business Ethics and Morals:  business ethics and dilemmas, relationship between owner and the organization  and The Right (Dharma) – the Ramayana way and the Mahabharata way. The 4th episode deals with Conflicts, of the Board and the CEO and that of the means vs. ends.

The present episode takes unto the realm of Education. We don’t enjoy education even though we know education is good for us; it is a little bit like exercise or health food. The present episode discusses ancient Indian thoughts on education. The key idea here was that knowledge has to be taken by the student. Unless a student is motivated, no learning can take place. In modern education, motivation is provided using the carrot (promise of a job) and the stick (lower status) approach. But that does not stir the imagination of students. They feel like domesticated animals who resent training. So they get easily distracted. So they scream in joy when the bell rings and school ends. There is an increasing feeling that, today trainers behave like professional – their job ends with showing the power point presentation in the stipulated period of time. That is because everything is controlled – the content, the timings of trainings. Education efficiency is measured without considering effectiveness.  The trainer is often far removed from the field and hence not taken seriously. The training should be part of the job. Unless one creates a replacement for oneself, one must not be promoted. Thus one has to give Saraswati to get Lakshmi. This is not easy but we need to relook at education and ask ourselves – who loses if the student does not learn, and the teacher does not teach.

The First part of the episode deals with experiential learning, the second with coaching and the third with student motivation.

Business Sutra |5.1| Ram’s Education

In the West Experiential Learning Theory (ELT) was conceptualized by David A. Kolb, who published his model in 1984. Kolb’s experiential learning theory works on two levels: a four-stage cycle of learning and four separate learning styles. Kolb’s theory has a holistic perspective which includes experience, perception, cognition and behavior.

Kolb – Learning Styles – Effective learning is seen when a person progresses through a cycle of four stages: of (1) having a concrete experience followed by (2) observation of and reflection on that experience which leads to (3) the formation of abstract concepts (analysis) and generalizations (conclusions) which are then (4) used to test hypothesis in future situations, resulting in new experiences.

Whatever influences the choice of style, the learning style preference itself is actually the product of two pairs of variables, or two separate ‘choices’ that we make, which Kolb presented as lines of an axis, each with ‘conflicting’ modes at either end:

A typical presentation of Kolb’s two continuums is that the east-west axis is called the Processing Continuum (how we approach a task), and the north-south axis is called the Perception Continuum (our emotional response, or how we think or feel about it).

Kolb believed that we cannot perform both variables on a single axis at the same time (e.g., think and feel). Our learning style is a product of these two choice decisions.

It’s often easier to see the construction of Kolb’s learning styles in terms of a two-by-two matrix. Each learning style represents a combination of two preferred styles. The matrix also highlights Kolb’s terminology for the four learning styles; diverging, assimilating, and converging, accommodating:

Experiential Learning: ‘What,’ ‘Why,’ and ‘How’ for Corporate Trainers   – Holly Bradbury – Simply put, experiential learning is learning by doing. It takes learning beyond the classroom or the computer screen. Most of us learn better when we are directly involved in a learning experience instead of sitting idle in a formal training setting or clicking “Next” in an eLearning course. Experiential learning provides interactivity and participation and can be much more effective than traditional learning approaches.

Rethinking Kolb’s Theory of Experiential Learning in Management Education  – The Contribution of Social Constructionism and Activity Theory –David Holman, Karel Pavlica, Richard Thorpe : This article seeks to critically evaluate Kolb’s theory of experiential learning from social constructionist and activity theory perspectives. It is suggested that while experiential learning theory has been extremely influential and useful in management education it is rarely seen as problematic. The article goes on to argue that Kolb’s experiential learning theory can be placed within the cognitive psychological tradition; a tradition that overlooks or mechanically explains the social, historical and cultural aspects of self, thinking and action. Activity theory is then described (but also drawing on more recent social constructionist perspectives) and offered as an alternative way of understanding these three aspects. Using this approach, experiential learning theory is re-conceptualized with particular reference to the learning cycle and managerial identity. It is concluded that learning can be viewed as an argumentative and rhetorical process in which the manager acts as a practical author.

Devdutt Pattanaik seems to have chosen the model of Ram’s Education in Segment 1 of the episode 5 as the Indian Mythology’s point of view.

Modern education and training systems ignore the age-old belief that knowledge can never only be given it must also be taken.

What people don’t realize is that the first part of the Ramayan is the education of Ram. It is called The Childhood Period (Bal Kand). We are told that after he grows up, he is sent to the ashram of a the sage Vashishtha, where he’s trained in the various royal arts, the martial arts etc. He learns a lot of things. After his education he comes back to the palace as a prince, fully ready, having read everything that sage Vashishtha would have to teach him.

Then suddenly one day another sage who walks in and his name is Vishwamitra. Vishwamithra says that they have a problem in the forest and he wants Ram to come and solve it. King Dashrath says but Ram is very young. I will give you my army to solve the problem. Vishwamitra insists that Ram come with him because he is going to be king, it is he who is going to rule and it is he who has to solve the problems. So, let him come with me. He literally drags this young man from the zone of comfort where his father was to keep him in a very safe place to the zone of discomfort, from the palace into the forest.

The first challenge Ram faces in his real life is that of a she-demon – Tadaka. She attacks him. Ram says that she is a woman and I have been told that you should not attack a woman. Killing a woman is a great sin.

That is a sort of law, which is what has been taught, and that is what we have thought all along.

Vishwamitra says it doesn’t matter whether it is a man or a woman. Look at the situation, look at the context, and see what the problem is. Right now the problem is this lady-demon and you have to kill her. So Ram raises his weapon and kills her.

That is quite against all his training of not resorting to violence.

In a way, when you  look at a situation don’t get bogged down by theoretical rules and conduct,  just look at the situation, find the problem and take the decision that you have to take it. If need be, let that be a ruthless one. So Ram has to shoot. The first act he does is he has been told by his teacher to shoot Tadaka. He kills her. But the story doesn’t end there. Then he goes on a journey with Vishwamitra.  It is an interesting journey.

Vishwamitra takes him to another spot and at that point he comes across a stone and he is told the stone is one of a Ahilya, a lady who had had an extramarital affair. Vishwamitra looks at her and tells Ram that she turned into a stone because she had an extramarital affair, and this was her punishment. Vishwamitra tells Ram to liberate her from this punishment, by touching her with your feet and she will break free from this cursed life of stone that she’s leading.

So what you have is an extreme situation. On one side you have killed Tadaka, which is an act of ruthlessness and the other side is upliftment, liberation, compassion. So you move from being ruthless to being compassionate.

These are the two extreme decision-making behaviors that a king has to demonstrate. Sometimes he has to be ruthless and sometimes has to be compassionate and a wise King knows what to do when. This is a shift from the theoretical background that he was in from Vashishtha to Vishwamitra and Vishwamitra, if you read the scriptures, was once a king.  So he knows the practical problems Ram will face once he lives in the society. In a way, Vishwamitra is imparting knowledge that this is what you’re going to do. There will be times when you have to be ruthless and there’ll be times you’ve become compassionate. When you know when to be ruthless and when to be compassionate you will be a great king.

Let us deviate a little bit from the broader theme of education and training and development. How do you know when do we compassionate and when to be ruthless? That is what the story narrates. Why Vishwamitra suggested in the first case Ram to kill the woman and in the second case be compassionate and liberate her from her punishment?

There is no such toolkit or a template that helps you to know when to be ruthlessness on one hand and compassionate on the other.. On one side if you do not take that decision, the forest will be destroyed, the community destroyed. It is violence happening. The only way to stop it is to be ruthless over it, because it there’s no there seems to be no other method to handle that.  On the other side, it is that if you do not let it go then there is no hope for people. In other words, if someone has made a mistake in the life and if you never forgive them, then imagine living in a society where there’s no forgiveness. On one hand there is almost brutal punishment and on the other side is the forgiveness. So, there is always hope. But not only hope. If there was only hope then I can get away with everything. So there is a balance of the two. That is what is called the science of politics, of administration of Justice. On one side is the stick and the other side is not quite the carrot but , hope, in the form the carrot. There is forgiveness if you do commit mistakes. There is punishment but it is not forever.

I am still curious why did Vishwamitra not take these decisions himself and insist that Ram has to do this. Vishwamitra who was also a king at one time could have easily killed Tadaka or could have easily release Ahilya.

It is a very it’s an interesting point. Vishwamitra has moved to the next stage of his life. where he wants to go to the next level, which means that all his royal pursuits have to be managed by someone else. He is passing on the baton to the next generation. It is the next generation now that has to take care of the world. He cannot be there all the time. It is about the older generation saying that okay we have done what we had to do. We learnt, we made mistakes, we have figured out things. Now we pass it on to the next generation. The next generation will now be capable. This can be called as a capability building exercise. so that then Vishwamitra can move on.

So for every Ram you have to have a Vishwamitra, without which Ram would not have existed.

The education, in general as well as in the case of future leaders, is not about the knowledge of the present, but also for helping build the capability to face the unknown future; learning from the own as well others’ mistakes

In our journey of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra, we will move on to the 2nd part of 5th episode – Crossing the Vaitarni.

Note: The images used in this post are the irrevocable property of their respective creator. They have been taken up courtesy the internet, so as to illustrate the point under discussion.