Business Sutra |7.1| Nature is destroyed when culture is created

Business Sutra |7| Environment

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

The 1st episode presented to us the most visible form of the business – the corporation: its meaning, its purpose and its action perspective. In the 2nd episode Devdutt Pattanaik discusses Leadership: Role of the leader, Context of the leader and Leadership in different business cycles. The 3rd 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 5th episode takes unto the realm of Education, wherein Part 1 covered the basics of education to the (potential) leaders in Ram’s Education, Part 2 addressed the Knowledge Transfer to Next Gen and Part 3 dealt with the issue of student motivation.  The 6th episode has taken up the oft-discussed topic of ‘measurement’, wherein in the Part 1, What Can Be Measured, dealt with the definitive need for not ‘only measurement’, but for ‘also measurement’ too and Part 2 dealt with mutual importance and dependence of Objectives versus Subjective Reality, whereas Part 3 evaluates ‘What is Your Worth?’ from these measurements perspectives .

The 7th episode takes up the relationship of advances in the business and its impact on Environment.

We all have been hearing about the environmental cost of industrialization and growth. There are demands for better regulations and more safety measures to prevent events like the BP oil spill or incursion of brackish sea waters into the fertile Naramda delta. But no one is talking about curbing demands. Demands for more resources indicate growth. But it comes at a price – the destruction of the environment. And with the destruction of the environment, human society comes closer to its own destruction as we depend on environment for our survival. Any talk of being content with what one has is mocked as being ‘spiritual’ and not ‘practical’. Scriptures have warned us about this always. But modern management never bothered to check the wisdom therein.

Business Sutra |7.1| Nature is destroyed when culture is created

Human Being came into the conflict with nature for the sheer survival. What began as a duel of survival gradually turned into an undeclared war on the nature. Nature also started reacting more and more assertively. By the turn of 20th century this full-scale war had turned into an one-sided, probably still half-hearted, half-proactive or even more reactive armistice that would expectedly lead to sustainable development.

Interwove Culture & Nature – taken from: https://iseethics.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/nature-culture1.jpg

I have randomly picked up two representative articles and a TED video presentation to manifest the current western thinking on the subject.

Nature vs. culture or cultured nature?K. Jan Oosthoek  – The question is not whether untouched nature is good and anthropocentric influence on natural systems is less desirable. The question is whether we would like to protect nature for the sake of nature or for the benefit of ourselves and other species. It is a question of grades of human interference and impact not one of untouched nature.

Perspective on: Nature vs. culture in environmental changeEmmanuel Kreike, an associated faculty member of the Princeton Environmental Institute, focuses on the intersection of war, violence and population movements and their impact on the environment and society. He is particularly interested in how 19th- and 20th-century wars and ensuing forced migration led to the destruction of human-shaped landscapes and how people rebuild lives and livelihoods in often alien environments after the conflicts ended.

The battle between nature and nurture | TEDxNTU – People like easy answers: this *or* that, on *or* off, left *or* right. But for Irene Gallego Romero, the wonder of biology has always been that it refuses to be so simple, and never is that truer than in the conflict between nature and nurture. There are no easy answers here — but there are amazing stories.

So, at this stage, we would leave the choice of what to read when on that subject to the reader… and move on to Segment 1 of the episode 7 wherein Devdutt Pattanaik takes up the subject of Nature is destroyed when culture is created.

 

It marked civilization’s earliest attempt at manufacturing and first example of property. The clay pot also signifies man’s contract with the environment in that all human creation is based on the destruction of nature.

The most interesting story in the Vishnu Purana, in fact the first story of the Vishnu Purana, is about how organizations are created and why organizations grow. It begins with the story of a fish.

Vishnu takes many avatars, different forms in different incarnations. The first incarnation is of a fish. It is always interesting as to why was it a fish, why was it not a tadpole or why was it not a butterfly. Then you think of the word Matsa Nyaya – the law of the fishes – which is basically jungle law, the might is right.

The story begins with this little tiny fish approaching Manu, Manu being the ancestor of mankind, Manava (The Human Being).  She asks Manu to save her from the big fish. Now in nature, nobody will save a small fish from the big fish. That is the natural law.  The predator and the prey have a relationship. But when humans appear on the scene, we will say that we will not submit to the law of nature, we will help the helpless, we will create a world where a meek has rights. We basically call it culture. That is exactly what Manu does when he picks up the small fish in palm of his hand and takes him out of the sea, thereby basically disrupting the nature. He takes her and puts her in a pot and says you will be safe here.

So either way the pot represents the organization where the fish has been placed and here it is safe now. So there is a separation between the water in the sea, which is nature, and water in the pot which is culture. Culture demands utilization of resources. The water, the fish, the earth, the pot, the clay has not come from a vacuum. They have come from nature. The fish increases in size. It grows bigger, which means it needs more water, it needs a bigger pot and so a larger pot has to be designed.

So Manu builds a larger pot for the fish, ..

…shifts him from the small part to the big pot. That is growth.  That is where organizations grow and as organizations grow they will demand more of the natural resources. It is just natural this is the weight is going to be and so the fish continues to grow and grow and as organizations continue to grow and grow and demanding more and more from nature.

I get that, but is it also not implicit in our scriptures, and this is something that we learn instinctively, that all creation is accompanied with destruction. I mean if we were to believe the broad theory that everything in the world is just energy and it is all about the transfer of energy from one form of matter to another form of matter. Isn’t it?

Let us look at the image of Durga. Let us go to Durga pandal in Calcutta during Durga Puja Dussehra. Here what you see is an image of a mother goddess, she is slaughtering a buffalo. Our very simple answer is that Buffalo is bad god and it is good killing the bad. But it also means that in order to feed her children, she is taking life. She is taking life out of something to plant life into others, so that life feeds on a life. So in a way the mother goddess is saying in order to feed my children something has to die. So the forest has to be destroyed so that the field can be created, the river has to be destroyed so that the canals can be created; the mountain has to be destroyed so that minerals can be created.  That is the mother goddess in a very violent form, with blood flowing around. That is the idea of sacrifice – a reminder that for everything that you have created in society, something has died.

So ask yourself: why are you creating what you’re creating while creating organization? Why do you want to grow? Because every time you create an organization or you create growth you are going to consume from the nature. Is it worth it? If not, do not do it.  But if you still need to, be aware that something will always die.

Is the sanction also implicit? I mean are the scriptures or the mythology implicitly giving you the sanction to destroy nature so as to be able to build culture?

The mythology as I have said repeatedly it’s not prescriptive, it is reflective, which means it tells you what you are doing it in the form of a narrative. For example, in Mahabharat, Yudhisthira tells Krishna that I want to build a city.

This is after he wins the war.

No, in fact the story so happens that Yudhisthira goes to his uncle and says that I want my share of the property, because there’s a lot of conflict between the two cousins, so let us just divide the property. The uncle gives him the forest, The Khandav Forest, with all kinds of grass and says take this. Now Yudhisthira say I would have built a city in the forest, so he talks to his friend Krishna. Krishna says burn the forest.

Think about it this – we are given the forest the first thing, then I have been told to burn the forest and what will happen when you burn the forest,  all the animals the birds you are killing, the ecosystem is destroyed.

Krishna says if you don’t destroy the forest how will you create the field, how will you feed your people. So, in effect, the story tells is that the king who wants a kingdom must take responsibility. In order to build his kingdom, in order to feed his people he is going to destroy an ecosystem.

The story continues. We are told that the serpents inhabited in that forest. So when the forest is set to aflame, the animals are killed, including the serpents. A couple of serpents escaped. They are there is an eternal the feud between the Pandavas’ children, the grandchildren great-grandchildren on one side and the serpents on the other side. In fact the Mahabharat story begins with this great sacrifice where a descendant of the Pandavas wants to kill the Serpent because the serpents are killing his relatives and he thinks that the Serpent’s are the villains. Then the storyteller comes in and says, wait a minute before you declare the Serpents as villains. Please know what your ancestors did it to the serpents, how their kingdom was destroyed by this fire in order to establish the city of Indraprastha.

So implicit in the narrative is how conflicts are created, because in order to build your organization you’re going to destroy nature. When you destroy nature you destroy an ecosystem. That means you are taking away the livelihood of others. There will always be conflict between those who have been stripped of and the organization who gets it. So conflict is implicit in the culture.

The episode quite emphatically states that nature and culture work in opposite directions. It also accepts that culture (organization) does to have to exist and expand as well. That will come with a cost, too. And that is the responsibility that the mankind has to fully appreciate, accept and pay for these costs, and accept and pay them in totality.

In our continuing journey of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra, we will move on to the 2nd segment – Eventually Nature will prevailof the 7th episode The Environment, in our next episode.

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.

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Business Sutra |6.3| What are you Worth?

Business Sutra |6| Measurements

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

The 1st episode presented to us the most visible form of the business – the corporation: its meaning, its purpose and its action perspective. In the 2nd episode Devdutt Pattanaik discusses Leadership: Role of the leader, Context of the leader and Leadership in different business cycles. The 3rd 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 5th episode takes unto the realm of Education, wherein Part 1 covered the basics of education to the (potential) leaders in Ram’s Education, Part 2 addressed the Knowledge Transfer to Next Gen and Part 3 dealt with the issue of student motivation.

The 6th episode has taken up the oft-discussed topic of ‘measurement’, wherein in the Part 1, What Can Be Measured, dealt with the definitive need for not ‘only measurement’, but for ‘also measurement’ too and Part 2 dealt with mutual importance and dependence of Objective versus Subjective Reality.

Business Sutra |6.3| What are you Worth?

Having thought about what can be measured and, then, having understood the merits of subjective and objective measures & measurements, the next logical question that would come up would be

The answer will be different at personal or professional individual and at individual or collective organizational level.

Normally, most successful people, or organizations, resist ‘being satisfied’, because:

The term Red Queen, picked up from the character Red Queen of Alice in Wonderland has since been used in scientific circles to describe an evolutionary concept, namely that evolutionary change in one species could prompt change in another co-dependent species if it wants to avoid extinction. In other words the species have to run (evolve) in order to remain in the same place (simply avoid extinction).

However, the world today has become rampant with very rapid changes. As a result, the phrase Red Queen Race is also used in general parlance to describe any situation where entities have to make huge efforts to remain in the same state.

Incidentally, too much of the Red Queen Race consumerism has given rise to new movement, called Postconsumer Movement, which essentially asks the question – “Do I have #EnoughStuff for now?” = very vividly exemplified by:

In so far as the subject of satisfactory organizational performance, the huge amount of highly researched modern management literature is more or less unanimous on one aspect – the effectiveness of organizational performance is always w.r.t. its objectives for a given long term direction at a given point of time.

So, at this stage, we would leave the choice of what to read when on that subject to the reader… and move on to Segment 3 of the episode 6 wherein Devdutt Pattanaik takes up the subject of What is Your Worth?, in continuation to the discourse in the previous episode.  

How do you measure happiness?

First let’s define happiness. It is LSD, i.e. Lakshmi Saraswati and Durga.  Laxmi represents material wealth, Saraswati represents intellectual wealth and Durga represents emotional wealth.. What you can measure is L. S is partially measurable and D is not measurable at all. So happiness is a combination of some things that can be measured, which is wealth; something that can partially be measured, which is intellect or knowledge, like a training program or your qualification that you’ve got. But what cannot be measured is the emotional quotient. How do you measure who needs attention who doesn’t need attention? And, sometimes happiness is a function of how much attention you get.

So, you have to recognize that happiness is a combination of measurable and not measurable. Also, it is what I consider how much money is good enough for me and how much money is good enough for you.

I was just going to bring that up. Even there is this subjective element of how much wealth is enough?

You get a crore, two crows five crores, ten crores. Let us find out what is the right measurement for all CEOs. Everybody will say that the measuring scale for me is different from the measuring scale for you because I am different than you are.. In essence every human being is unique. Everybody has their own unique measurement scale. That is what Ganesha was trying to tell us.

One day Indra wanted to measure how great he was. He wanted proof,  he wanted to show the world how great he was. That means he wanted something tangible and objective. So he called Vishwakarma, his architect and told him to build a palace for him. Vishwakarama built a palace of gold for him. Indra the looked at it and said it is good but not good enough for me. Please build another palace which will measure my true worth. So, Vishwakarma builds another palace. This time he builds a palace of jewels laden with diamonds and pearls. Indra looks at this great palace and says well this is also good but not good enough for me. In both cases he is saying that what you have measured is not quite right. I measure it very differently. I want something grander.

Vishwakarma gets exasperated and goes to Vishnu. Vishnu comes to Indra in the form of a little boy and says, I have heard that you have built a great palace. I want to see these great palaces. Indra takes the boy to show his palace of gold and also the one made of jewels. While showing the palaces, Indra says that these are good palaces but they are not as good as I am. The boy looks at these two palaces and says, ‘Well they are very good ones, but they are not as good as the palaces of the other Indras I have met.

A comparison is now being drawn, a reference point is being asked for.

Who are these other Indras?

The boy replies, ‘Oh, you thought you were the only Indra. There are as many Indras in this world as there are grains of sand in a beach. Each one assumes that he is great and each one has built a palace of his own. So I have seen palaces which are bigger than yours, the palaces which are smaller than yours and each one is aspiring for the next palace. The scale is of infinity and your ambition is infinite, your self-imagination is infinite. You can never measure infinity.

So, in what context are we trying to measure all the daily things that we end up measuring.

Every measurement depends on a reference point. Your reference point and my reference point may be very different. People try to come up with objective realities, like the maidservant can make do with no holidays but the CEO needs the weekend off.

Which measurement is okay?

This segment thus only reemphasizes that every measure is relative. I judge that from my perspective, you do it your perspective or he does it from his perspective. In other words, decide your point of reference, your measure, your measurement method and your measurement indicator. Measure the performance on that scale and decide whether the performance was good enough. Even when you set benchmarks, ensure that these benchmarks are in line with your reference point. At the end, be happy or otherwise with your performance purely from your perspective. You have to create that level of objectivity in your subjectivity where you can be sure of your happiness or otherwise.

In our continuing journey of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra, we will move on to the 1st segment – Nature is destroyed when culture is created of the 7th episode The Environment, in our next episode.

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.

Business Sutra |6.2| Objective versus Subjective Reality

Business Sutra |6| Measurements

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

The 1st episode presented to us the most visible form of the business – the corporation: its meaning, its purpose and its action perspective. In the 2nd episode Devdutt Pattanaik discusses Leadership: Role of the leader, Context of the leader and Leadership in different business cycles. The 3rd 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 5th episode takes unto the realm of Education, wherein Part 1 covered the basics of education to the (potential) leaders in Ram’s Education, Part 2 addressed the Knowledge Transfer to Next Gen and Part 3 dealt with the issue of student motivation.

The 6th episode has taken up the oft-discussed topic of ‘Measurement’, wherein in the Part 1, What Can Be Measured, deals with the definitive need for not ‘only measurement’, but for ‘also measurement’ too.

Business Sutra |6.2| Objective versus Subjective Reality

The western literature of modern management is rich with the subject of measurement management, covering contextual definitions, measurement technique , pros and cons etc.

We have chosen a very brief peek into this huge volume of information.

Difference Between Objective and Subjective would help lay the foundation.

Stacey Barr, a Performance Measurement Specialist, in her one of the articles, Are Your Performance Measures Objective or Subjective?, puts the difference across as: ‘Objectivity means that a measure is not biased or prejudiced by a person’s feelings or opinions or perceptions or mental filters. An objective measure is as close to fact as we can get. Objective measures are like kale and blueberries for our decision-making diet. Super nutritious….But when measures lack objectivity, we call them subjective. This includes hearsay, opinion, data from very small samples (like a sample of one!), data from ambiguously asked questions, data from hand-picked samples, and assumptions or guesses. Subjective measures are like hamburgers and ice-cream for our decision-making. Junk food.’

Therein lays the apparent dislike for the subjective measures.

There is also ample literature, covering different industries, that also discusses about bringing in objectivity in the subjective measures.

The debate still goes on, and in all likelihoods, will continue to go on as well.

So, we turn over to Segment 2 of the episode 6 wherein Devdutt Pattanaik takes up the subject of Objective versus Subjective Reality. It may please be observed from the words and tone of the opening lines that the present episode is in seamless continuum of the previous episode.  

I get the conversation about not ‘only measurement’ but ‘also measurement’. But how do you propose that we  do away with a large amount of the  measurement that are that currently exists in the system? When we’re small organizations of 5 10 15 people, you can make the measurement more subjective, less objective, bringing the human element, human interaction, one-on-one communication etc. But  when you’re dealing with large organizations, when you’re dealing with organizations that employ 50,000, 1 lakh to l lakh people then some part of that measurement does have to get systemized, because that is the  only way to standardize. Because that is the only way you can measure at that scale.

Big or small, organizations are about people. Every organization is built on teams. It is a simple HR practice that a person should not have more than five or six people reporting to him. So, ultimately it is about five or six people teams that build up so large organizations. So what you have is a measurement of these five people by the boss. We also agree that 50% of these measurements will be objective – quantitative and that the rest of 50 % will be subjective, qualitative. We also agree that the leader will be biased no matter how many auditors you get in. This means that I have to work on him to strip him of bias, to bring in more integrity in his behavior. This also means that it is not just about measurement but it is also about investing in people such that his subjective call is good enough.

We generally say that too much of energy is being wasted on investing in people, so better invest on a system. A subjective measurement would want somebody to pay attention to human beings inside. The System – process is about removing this attention. Attention is about relationships, it is about people having integrity. But, I can’t guarantee integrity. I have a process and a system and a method it is not necessary to give attention and I will come to the truth.

I’m not even saying that. But look at this:

  1. I have a large number of people, and
  2. that the measurement is subjective.

Therefore, when you have a human being doing the measuring, that human being may come to the table with his or her own prejudices, and therefore, measuring the other person’s performance output through the lens of that prejudice. So maybe a system not only allows me to deal with a larger number of people be also to some extent standardizes the communication and therefore eliminates to some degree the prejudice that a human being may bring. I am not saying systems are perfect, because even human beings are not perfect.

Today the other culture is to replace human beings with systems. That seems to be the mindset, because objective measurement is all that I need. Subjectivity is being withdrawn, the need for attention required is being withdrawn. In other words, we need both – ‘also measurement’ and not ’only measurement’. That is the shift which I’m asking for.

That results in uncertainty..

That WILL result in uncertainty.

So, how do you get away from that uncertainty, because in an organizations everything is driven to a fair degree of certainty – what are you going to earn next quarter, what are you into our next year, how are people going to perform, do you have enough people on the bench? Everything is driven towards certainty.

We can measure only some things, but the universe is infinite.  The measurement is finite. The possibilities are infinite but measurement will always be finite. Talk to the entrepreneurs. Did they create the business based on measurement? Usually they use the measurement to validate their gut feeling.

                                                             Kama and Yama

The gut feeling is Kama, the god of desire, the god of lust, the god of instinct. Then comes the god of death, Yama, the god of measurement. So the measurement comes second, gut comes first.. The second one validates the first one. Overreliance of Kama cannot work, he is irresponsible, and he holds the bow in his hand and keeps shooting the arrows of wishful thinking all over the places. You need to restrain him, So Yama holds in his hand a lasso to restrain him. Too much of restraint and death will happen; too much of Kama and there will be complete chaos. So the question is how do you balance between the two and that is where the human element is critical.

When we talk about systems and processes in the extremes, we seem to aim to do without human beings. That is a very dangerous thought to happen, because what are organizations for if not about people.

So, if the western school tends to believe more in striking maximum objectivity in the subjective measures, Indian Mythology seems more inclined in retaining the essential touch of human element in the full scale efforts to bring in the objectivity in measurement processes and systems. This is where the first episode also had ended – not ‘only measurement’ but ‘also measurement’.

In our continuing journey of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra, we will move on to the 3rd segment of the 6th episode What Are You Worth?, in our next episode.

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.

Business Sutra |6.1| What can be measured?

Business Sutra |6| Measurements

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

The 1st episode presented to us the most visible form of the business – the corporation: its meaning, its purpose and its action perspective. In the 2nd episode Devdutt Pattanaik discusses Leadership: Role of the leader, Context of the leader and Leadership in different business cycles. The 3rd 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 5th episode takes unto the realm of Education, wherein Part 1 covered the basics of education to the (potential) leaders in Ram’s Education, Part 2 addressed the Knowledge Transfer to Next Gen and Part 3 dealt with the issue of student motivation.

Devdutt Pattanaik takes up one of the most fundamental tenet of the management theory in the 6th episode the series. In the prologue to the episode, he states that, ‘Every B-school teaches students that what cannot be measured cannot be managed. Implicit in this comment is that there are many things out there that cannot be measured, hence cannot be managed. But is that true? We cannot measure our relationships yet we manage them one way or another. The need for measurement comes from the desire to get to a truth that is independent of human bias, independent of human beings. But is truth independent of humanity. Organizations are a bunch of human beings – so an organization’s truth can never be objective. It will be subjective. It will be informed and influenced by the goalpost and the values one chooses to believe in.’

He ends his submission with the lines from the poet Alvar (Tamil mystics who lived at least a thousand years earlier):

“I wonder who is measuring.
I wonder what is measured.
I wonder who determines the measuring scale.
Are they different or the same?”

Business Sutra |6.1| What can be measured?

It would be almost axiomatic to assume that the modern western management science and the practices too, rest quite solidly on the foundation of measurements. In order to make the measurement as objective and as dynamic, it has cast its net wide into several other social, economic or pure and applied sciences. From the beginning of 20th century till now and even thereafter, all-encompassing debate keeps overflowing the western management literature.

The subject is highly researched and hotly debated, resulting into the considered outcomes that span form one of the spectrum to the other.

So, we leave the detailed pursuit of the western management thoughts on “What can be measured” to our readers and take up the Segment 1 of the episode 6 wherein Devdutt Pattanaik takes up the subject of What can be measured?.

Can everything be measured? Is all measurement accurate? Is it true that if you cannot measure it you cannot manage it? Are we headed for measurement overkill? Is that why in mythology the god of accounting or measurement is none other than Yama the god of death?

But the truth of our modern lives is that everything has to be measured – whether it’s our personal ambition, personal happiness or our professional output and therefore professional success. How do you escape measurement?

When we use the word measurement, we are trying to create an objective reality. It is the one that we all can agree is the reality. But there is another reality that exists which is the subjective reality – the personal reality.

Let me explain this in the form of a story. One day Narad came to Mount Kailasa, with a mango in his hand. He said this mango is for the one who runs fastest, who goes three times around the world the fastest and so Ganesha and his brother Kartikeya decided that we will go for the race. Karthikeya immediately leapt on his vehicle, a peacock and flew around the world three times. As he started his rounds, Ganesha sat right in the center doing nothing. He just sat there waiting, while his brother was flying around the world, once and then twice. Just when his brother was about to complete the third round, Ganesha got up and just went around his parents once twice thrice and said I won the race. Kartikeya contested the claim. Ganesha says you went around THE world, whereas I went around MY world.

What matters more in this story is the difference between objective and subjective reality. Karthikeya represents objective reality in this narrative and Ganesha represents subjective reality. Both types of realities matter. So when we are talking about measurements we focus only on one half of the truth – the objective reality. We have completely ignored the other half of the truth which is subjective reality, which is gut feeling, which is qualitative, which cannot be measured. It is about taste, it is about instinct, it is about intuition which cannot be measured. Some of the greatest success stories in the world are based not on objective reality but on the subjective realities of imagination.

But everything today in the world is driven towards measuring everything, whether it is objective or subjective. Is your argument then that some things just cannot be measured?

Some things cannot be measured. Emotions cannot be measured.

But you can create them – are you happy? Are you very happy? Are you very very happy? There is some form of measurement.

Let me tell you the danger of the story of what happens when you try to measure EVERYTHING. You’ve heard about the tragedy of King Lear, the Shakespeare play. It is about the tragedy of a king who tries to measure the love of his daughters, This play is based on a German folktale of the goose-girl which of course all Indians will claim is has its origins in India.

The story is that of a father who asks his daughters how much do you love me? The eldest daughter says I love you as much as sugar and the youngest daughter says I love you as much as salt. In the father’s mind sugar had a higher score and so he said the elder daughter loves me more and the younger daughter does not love me. He, therefore, rejects the younger daughter. Yet from the younger daughter’s perspective she was trying to say how much she loved him because you cannot eat anything unless it contains salt. You cannot eat anything unless it has some salt. So it is the matter of your perception.

The measuring scale may be objective but the measurer is not nor is the person who’s reading the measurement. So if I look at a measure scale, on one side is the person who measures and the other side is a person who is reading the measurement. There are two people, each one coming to the table with his respective bias, with his prejudices. We are completely ignoring this. We assume that if an auditor comes into the picture he will figure out the truth..

Because he is more objective…

The auditor is a human being, with his own prejudices, with his own bias, with his own power games, coming to the table. We do not realize that what the truth that emerges is not just the measure what the measuring scale tells us but a combination of the reading on the measuring scale as well as the subjective realities of the person who measures, the person who is reading the measurement and then the auditor in between. So what you get is a very warped reality.

But there is no solution to this, because we have to measure in the modern world.  In large organizations if you want to reward, you have to understand how good the performance is before you reward it. Therefore measurement is embedded in almost every stage – how the individual performs in an organization, how a team performs, how the organization itself performs for shareholders, for stakeholders, etc. So, how do you get away from measurement, while fully acknowledging that part of it is subjective and part of it is objective?

We are trying to create a world which is 100% objective and therefore we are assuming that we will create a fair world. This is The Promised Land, where everything is 100% objective. This is the goalpost – I want to create the objective world, a fair world. But if you recognize that no matter how hard we try, we will only be 50 percent objective.  Therefore, all our measurements will have flaws in them. I am closer to reality if I am comfortable accepting that the balance sheet is not THE truth, the CV which comes to me is not THE truth. It is an indicator of the truth, but not the whole truth. That recognition is sometimes missing, because of what I call as an  over reliance on measurement. Today it is only about measurement, where as it should be also about measurement.

Let me give you an example of subjectivity. You have heard the story of a king called Mahabali who will give everything to anybody whatever they want. Suddenly, a dwarf comes in front of him. The dwarf says give me three paces of land. Mahabali says yes take three paces of land. So the dwarf starts taking the first step. The moment he takes the first of the three paces, this dwarf turns into a giant and takes the gigantic paces. Within the paces covers the heaven and earth and then he has no place to put his third foot. He says where I should put it. The Mahabali says put it on my head. With that he is crushed and shoved under the earth.

The story talks about subjectivity of measurement. What I think is three paces and what the other person thinks is three paces is very different. So the person who created the measure and the person who is using the measure are looking at very differently. That is where conflicts emerge. We would like there to be this one absolute measurement scale, but everybody’s reference point is different. That is the point that is referred to in the Indian mythology – not in its philosophy. The word measure is based on a on a Sanskrit alphabet called MA, from where comes the word Measure. From this not only the word Measuring Standard comes, which is the reference measuring scale, but also the word Maya which is delusion.

So what one is basically told is be careful of measurements….

So, like the western school, Indian Mythology does not outright reject the measurement. Both have very meticulously laid out that sole focus should not be on the measurement but the measures should also be viewed holistically – from the perspective of why measure, for whom to measure, to measure in what context, how to and how much to measure, when to measure, etc.

In our continuing journey of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra, we will move on to the 2nd segment of the 6th episode – Objective vs. Subjective Measurements, in our next episode.

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.

Business Sutra |5.3| Vikram and Vetal :: The Ancient India’s Case Study Method

Business Sutra |5| Education

We have covered four 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, wherein Part 1 covered the basics of education to the (potential) leaders in Ram’s Education and Part 2 addressed the Knowledge Transfer to Next Gen.

The third part deals with the issue of student motivation.

Business Sutra |5.3| Vikram and Vetal

Here is a very simple scenario:

Most of the management trainers as well as trainees come across such situations almost every day.

We will take a short peep into the theory of motivation related issues and then an equally look at the Learning Organization.

Learning Motivation And Performance – Effective training practices are developed from theories and theoretical constructs that describe how learning occurs and what motivates people. An understanding of motivational theory allows a manager to improve employee performance levels by applying the principles of motivation to his firm’s unique circumstances. The same is true with training. Whether one company’s training program will work in another’s, will depend on the needs of the latter company, its employees, and the training system used. Copying without understanding is like taking someone else’s prescription drugs. Even though they may have made someone else better, they could kill you. The article very lucidly presents WHY ARE THEY RESISTING AND WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?

Any search of the management literature will yield fairly huge amount of coded body of knowledge on “How To’ aspect to the motivation for the training.. So, we will not attempt to list such resources once again here.

One would wish that theirs is a Learning Organization that keeps recharging itself for bracing up the present and the future challenges.

So, How do you define a learning organization?

Peter Senge, Author of The Fifth Discipline, answers the question by first suggesting that “we jettison the jargon” and work on organizations where everyone works together successfully. He discusses how there are only two dominant factors within an organization: control or learning and the question is which one is dominant. He lays out the major factors that need to be present in order for an organization to be centered in learning.

So, how do we find out: Is Yours a Learning Organization? . In an HBR article, David A. Garvin , Amy C. Edmondson ,Francesca Gino have provided the conceptual framework.  For an easy reference, we may listen to this video clip of “An interview with David Garvin and Amy Edmondson, Professors, Harvard Business School.

A Learning Organization –

Salesmen and author Zig Ziglar once wrote: “the only thing worse than training people and having them leave, is not training them and having them stay.” At a learning organization education happens as a side-product of working together, as everybody learns from each other to adapt to whatever the future might bring.

Here again, one can explore a huge data-mine of high-quality content in the present western management literature. So, we will leave it to the readers to whet their appetite, in their own context.

In the Segment 3 of the episode 5 Devdutt Pattanaik takes up the subject of Student Motivation through the metaphor of a well-known folktale of Vikram and Vetal.

Whenever the school bell rings have you seen the students?

The first thing that you hear when the school bell rings is a great amount of  cheer-joy and children running out.

The children run out because it is almost like the cry of the domesticated beast, that has been tied and fettered in the classroom and suddenly he is being liberated. So he wants to run away from school. This is the education system, or for that matter even a training program in a corporate world we have created. You are dying for the lunch break and the coffee break because you just cannot keep your eyes open, You are being pushed into this space where they are going to domesticate you using various methods like 9:30 to 10:30 sessions where you learn something intensely, as if your brain is going to sort of get bombarded with lots of information. What does not get attention is the simple fact that whether the student is motivated willingly to enter the school. No. So he has to be pushed in, broken inside. It is almost violent to the process of education and training.

Now let us look at a different method. Let us look at the Indian method of training. This is a folktale- that of Vikram and Vetal, The Ghost. The folktale explains it in a very powerful way. Vikramaditya was a great king and one day a sorcerer came to him and said go to a cremation ground and find for him a Vetal, a ghost. Vikramaditya said. ‘Of course, whatever you want I shall give it to you.’ Being a great king he was willing to give anything to anybody who came to him. So he goes to the crematorium.in search of the Ghost. The instruction is that here is a banyan tree and the Ghost hangs upside down. You have to pull it down and carry it on your shoulders, but never speak to it. If you open your mouth and speak to the ghost, the ghost will fly away and then you will have to go back, and collect him.

So he goes to the cemetery, finds the ghost hanging upside down, pulls him down puts it on his shoulder and walks back. The ghost does not want to be caught, so the ghost tries everything in his power to make Vikramaditya speak. He keeps on asking questions, but Vikramaditya refuses to speak. Finally, the Vetal comes up with an idea. He says, ‘let me tell you a story and at the end of the story, I will ask you a question. If you know the answer to the question, and still do not speak up, your head will burst into thousand pieces. But if you don’t know the answer, keeping quiet it’s perfectly fine. This is what we call the case study method

Yes, the Harvard business school has put it to use for many years now very successfully.

I guess it is validated once it happens in Havard ! J

So the Vetal keeps asking questions and Vikramaditya being a very wise king is able to answer all the questions. So for 24 times the stories are told, 24 times the questions are asked and 24 times the answer is given, and all 24 times the Vetal flies back; much to the exasperation of Vikramaditya. Vikramaditya has to go back and recollect the Vetal and then go through the whole process of storytelling again.

It is a cyclic, boring thing. It is like that sales cycle. Every month at the business plan meeting you hear the some story, questions are asked and you reply them and cycle repeats next month. It is horrible. You want the liberation from that.

Finally the 25th time Vikramaditya is unable to answer the question.

He genuinely does not know, because if he would have known the answer, his head would have split into 1,000 pieces.

Vikramaditya heaves a sigh of relief. Now I have got the ghost and I take him back to the sorcerer. The ghost laughs, a typically Hindi film laugh. He says what a foolish man you are? Do you realize every time you answer the question you were saving your own life? The fact that you cannot answer the question means now you are in trouble. The moment you will take me to the sorcerer, he is going to bottle me and turn me into a genie. I will be very powerful genie and the first thing I will be asked to do is to kill you.

So, all the time when you were problem solving and you were getting irritated by that you didn’t realize that that is the only reason you are king. You exist to answer questions. You only matter when you solve problems. So you should welcome problems, rather than saying, ‘Oh I don’t want problems in life. If there are no problems, then what is the use of a king?

It is a beautiful metaphor, because the day the problems go away your utility as a king reduces to nothing.

The Smashshan Bhoomi, the cremation ground, where the ghosts exists,  is the training room. No business happens there. It is a cremation ground and the trainer or the facilitator or the Guru, whatever be his role, the Vetal has nothing to gain by the training. He is paid for it anyway. If it is a good training or a bad reading, whoever gains or loses from the training session is the participant. Therefore, it is the Vikramaditya who has to come to this Smashan Bhoomi. The Vetal would not come to Vikramaditya.

So, in ancient India the teachers never went to the students. They did not have the advertisements for colleges and schoolJ. If you want to study you come. If you do not want to study, then do not come. It is the student who stands to gain or lose.

You keep hearing all the time that you do not give a man a fish teach him how to catch the fish. The Indian method would be very different. They would say, no do not give a man a fish,  do not teach him how to fish either,r but inspire him to discover his own method of fishing because then

it stays. That is the teacher’s job. As he inspires the student he himself grows too. This is Saraswati Dan- the endowment of knowledge.

The essence of the discussion is that any training has to happen between an inspired trainee and an inspired trainer, so as the training result into intellectual growth of both the parties. It is not done as mandatory mundane task. It has to be performed in the spirit of making an endowment.

In our continuing journey of Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra, we will move on to the 6th episode – Measurements.

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.

Business Sutra |5.2| Crossing the Vaitarani: Passing Knowledge to Next Gen

Business Sutra |5| Education

We have covered four 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, for which we have covered  the basics of education to the (potential) leaders in Ram’s Education  in the first part.

The second part now deals with coaching and the next, the third one with student motivation.

Business Sutra |5.2| Crossing the Vaitarani: Passing Knowledge to Next Gen

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.”

– Charles Darwin

The change that is under the scanner here is the change in the role of a manager in his / her progression up the organizational ladder.  In all the real life situations, the present set of competencies may not be fully relevant for the success at the next stage. Therefore, in practice, the incumbent is trained / coached/mentored during the transition stage of changeover from one stage to the another,

In Coaching through transition, not just through change, Susan Grandfield notes that ‘for change to be effective and achieve its goals, a transition needs to occur and that takes time. Change can be fast (i.e. a new process for doing X is rolled out across the business) but transition is slow (i.e. people fully engaging with the new way of working).

Time is precious, and managers are under pressure to deliver results as quickly as possible. So, the danger is, that they don’t give themselves, or the people they manage, sufficient time to make the transition. Which requires them to “let go” of the past first, before they can fully embrace the future.

It’s not that when change happens we should forget the past and cut all ties with it. After all, it is the past that has got us to where we are now. So, there are elements of what we did well in the past that should be brought with us into the future. However, if clinging on to the way things were done in the past means you have one foot in the past as you step into the future, it is unlikely that you will be able to fully make the transition into the new way of doing things.’

One can find volumes of literature in the Western Management theory and practice related to planning / training / coaching /mentoring during the succession transition. It is not feasible to cover references to all such material in this article.

Devdutt Pattanaik uses the metaphor of river Vaitarani, the mythological river that separates the mortal world and the world of bliss that an individual has to successfully navigate through, in order to reach the higher plane of the life after the end (death) of the present life on this mortal world.

In the Segment 2 of the episode 5 Devdutt Pattanaik takes the Indian mythology’s perspective of this transition phase of Crossing the Vaitarni : Passing Knowledge to Next Gen

From a corporate or an organization or an enterprise’s perspective that is almost   one most important thing, and that which enterprises are constantly working to  achieve, is that the people who are currently in positions of power train and impart their knowledge and their understanding to those who are their likely successors.  That exchange of information / knowledge / experience transfer is not almost always perfect.

If you say the purpose of an organization is growth, the growth being the primary word. How do I grow? Normally growth is seen physically, in economic terms in terms of growth of Lakshmi. So my salary has to increase: my top line and bottom line at the company level have to increase. But, let us take another currency which also exists in India. Lakshmi is not the only currency; there is other currency as well – the Saraswati, the knowledge. So every person who walks into an organization is suddenly exposed to a whole load of knowledge as he does his work.

Now he says I want to go to the next level. What is going to the next level mean? If you look at from an Indian mythological perspective, we are saying that you know what the role that I’m performing I have done the best I can, I have lived it.  Now I want to take up a new role. in a way, I have to shed the old role and take up a new role. The shedding of the old role can be equated with death. So when you die, in India you cross a river called of Vaitarani. So when I am saying I have been a good executive, so I die as an executive so that I can be reborn as a manager. But why should I be allowed to move on to the other Shore unless I have created a replacement for myself, because otherwise you are indispensable? Just as you were made an executive by someone else you shall make someone else an executive before moving on to the next role as manager.

So if you look at an organizational hierarchy, it is really one generation after another generation, and each generation is obliged to the previous generation and to the next generation. So there is a telescoping of ambitions across generations. This is what one is trying to achieve and this is how the ashram a system came into being.

In Ancient India they’d said that if you would go to live for hundred years, divide your life into four phases. The first phase is when you are a student. In the next stage you are a householder and in the third phase you are retired. Then, in the fourth phase you’re a renunciant – you’re a sannyasi . Now look at it metaphorically what it says in the first phase you gain Saraswati, in the next phase you use the knowledge of Saraswati that have got to gain Lakshmi. Having done the householders’ life, what do you mean by retirement, because that is a 25-years-span which is result of dividing 100-year life into i four equal phases. The retirement is not walking away from everything. It means passing on the Saraswati that you have gained to the next generation. Only then you can move on to the next phase of renunciation. Renunciation is moving onto whatever you want to do.  It is kind of a cyclical process which is happening. In this retirement stage, I am talking to the next generation, preparing them to grow.  I give Saraswati and move on to the next stage.  So who grows? The new trainee is growing and in turn I am growing because otherwise I can go on not take the next position. This is like a perfect wave that is happening where if Saraswathi has been given Saraswati is being taken.  That is what has been called the growth. As  a result, Lakshmi is also being generated.  There is growth at an intellectual level as well as in an economic level.  That is what organization aspires.

I mean the whole idea of creating a separate training department is absurd because who has the knowledge?  It is the person in the field who has the knowledge, not someone sitting in the classroom.  Coaching is intrinsic to growth and that is what the Vishwamitra story in a way. He says that he has been a great king called Kaushik.  He now wants to be Vishwamitra, a friend of the world. So he is saying that I will pass whatever I have learned to this young promising Prince called Ram and then move on.

But not all of us can be Vishwamitra. You call this a perfect wave. But the thing about corporate power or power in the workplace is that the more you know the more power you have, in turn, more indispensable you are or less dispensable you are. Therefore the incentive to pass this on to successive generations and empower them as well is very very low, because then it makes me less important.

Absolutely. The whole idea is we think knowledge is power. So I don’t want to give it. The reason I give it away is because in the process of giving it away I learn many more things. Saraswati is wonderful, unlike Lakshmi.  if I have one rupee coin and I give it to you. Now you have one rupee coin. We exchanged one one rupee coin and both of us are still left with one rupee coin. But if I have an idea and you have an idea and we exchanged two ideas we both have two ideas. So, the wonderful thing about Saraswati is it doubles.  So if I want to increase my understanding of Saraswathi the best way to improve my understanding of any subject is to teach. What happens is in the process is I figure out human dynamics, we figure out why does a person not want to study, because it’s so obvious. This is the way you negotiate and you will realize that the person in front of you is not learning. The teacher, by observing the student and his resistance to learning, figures out human dynamics;  he understands how difficult it is to teach to someone who  not obliged to learn. So you have to work very hard to make the subject attractive.

It is incumbent upon the teacher to  find ways to help the student learn, as much as it is incumbent on the student to find ways to learn.

Let me rephrase this slightly. What I will say is that in the process of giving Saraswati I figure out the art of becoming attractive. Per force I focus on creating the honey and the students will come like the bees. The focus is on creating the honey and not in attracting the bees. The bees will come. Now that is the growth that I get when I am passing on my knowledge to the other. You gain and I gain. You gain some knowledge, you get the data but I gain the wisdom ……..

At this point, the discussion moves on to the subject of the next segment.

The essence of the discussion is that by training / coaching / mentoring your next generation during the transition phase, you are also destined to gain the wisdom, that in turn will help you to move on to your next stage higher echelons of management ladder and enhance my competence to face the future challenges more effectively..

In our continuing journey of Education in Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra, we will move on to the 3rd part of 5th episode – Vikram and Vetal.

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.

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.