Devdutt Pattanaik’s Business Sutra |1.1 | Is there an Indian way of doing Business

business-sutra-1Business Sutra |1| Corporations

Devdutt Pattanaik opens the discussion in his TV serial Business Sutra by taking up the subject of:

What is the purpose of a corporation? Why does it exist? And is there a difference between corporations in India and those in the West? Wherefrom come these differences?

He goes on to explore the ideas of Happiness as well Strategic versus Tactical thinking. All this discussion leads one to wonder if professionalism is a good thing.

Typically, Devdutt Pattanaik gives no prescription.  He has provided the frameworks; the leader has to take the call.

In our present post, we will have a detailed look at the first of the three parts of this episode.

Business Sutra |1.1 | Is there an Indian way of doing Business

Apparently, since the core of any business activities remains more or less same, the way of doing business must also be the same anywhere. However, as is said in a 2010 HBR article – The India Way of Leading Business – these similarities are “different’ as well. In the same article, K V Kamath is quoted – “Time and again it has been proved that the Western model of doing business would not be a success here.” We “think in English and act in Indian,” is how R. Gopalakrishnan, the executive director of Tata Sons, puts it. “For the Indian manager,” he explained, “his intellectual tradition, his y-axis, is Anglo-American, and his action vector, his x-axis, is in the Indian ethos.”

The authors of this HBR article – Peter Cappelli, Harbir Singh, Jitendra Singh, and Michael Useem – in their book – The India Way: How India’s Top Business Leaders Are Revolutionizing Management – what Indian managers do differently, including: looking beyond stockholders’ interests to public mission and national purpose, drawing on improvisation, adaptation, and resilience to overcome endless hurdles, identifying products and services of compelling value to customers, investing in talent and building a stirring culture. Here are the interviews with Michael Useem and Peter Cappeli on this subject.

In an article – The Indian way of management –  published in Business Today in 2010, Sumant Sinha  notes that it’s a mix of organizational capabilities, management practices, and company culture that sets Indian enterprises apart from firms in other countries.

In an event at the American Enterprise Institute in 2014, Bill Gates speaks on what India does right

Here is one more video clip of Vodafone’s CEO Marten Pieters in a refreshingly honest conversation with ET NOW’s Sonali Krishna about the telecom industry, the plan ahead for Vodafone and why Vodafone doesn’t want to be the number one player in the country just yet, in the context of Indian business model.

This would be true for a business operating in any other country, may be some factor more dominant at one time and the other factor playing up in somewhat differently at other time.

Devdutt Pattanaik traces the roots of these differences in the (known or unknown) influence of the Indian mythology on the Indian psyche in Segment 1: On the Indian versus Western Context.

Here are the key points from his present discourse:

It was East India Company that brought to India the concept of a modern corporation a charter company issuing stock paying dividends and multinational in presence

Indians and Chinese have learned a lot from the West but they don’t have to copy. They cannot create a Chinese or Indian version for Western model.

To understand this, we need to visit the story of Alexander, The Great, when he met a naked ascetic at the bank of Indus. Though the ascetic was apparently doing nothing he did seem to be wise in every respect. Alexander asked the gymnosophist what he was doing nothing sitting over there staring at the Stars. The gymnosophist replied that I am experiencing things. He then asked Alexander as to what he was doing. Alexander said that he was conquering the world. Both laughed at each other. Alexander laughed because he thought the gymnosophist was a fool for doing nothing. The gymnosophist laughed because he thought it’s waste of life to do anything.

If we understand these differences in each other’s point of view, then we can understand the difference between the Indian mindset and the Western mindset

The Indian Way of doing business was not about doing business but using the act of doing business to figure out why you are doing what you’re doing. In the answer to that question there is growth, intellectual growth and emotional growth.

One really needs to understand the purpose of business.

It was this very point that in a 1994 Harvard Business Review article, Peter Drucker argued, “the root cause of nearly every [business] crises is not that things are being done poorly. It is not even that the wrong things are being done. Indeed, in most cases, the right things are being done—but fruitlessly.”

We will take up discussion of Purpose of Business, as presented in the Segment 2 of the first episode of Devdutt Paatanaik’s TV serial Business Sutra  in our next episode.

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Is Management Profession is still a practice of science or art?

Recently, I saw the title of David H Freeman’s article – Is Management Still a Science? – published in November- December 1992 issue of HBR. That set bells ringing for me. Well, wasn’t practice of management already established as science in the second half of twentieth century? However, if there still was a question, why?

Let us first briefly look at what the article has to state:

“As every manager knows, new technologies are transforming products, markets, business processes, and entire industries, revolutionizing the business environment. Yet the more technology looms as a factor of competition, the more the emphasis is on the “soft” arts of leadership, change management, and employee motivation.

“On reflection, this paradox isn’t so surprising. The traditional scientific approach to management promised to provide managers with the capacity to analyze, predict, and control the behavior of the complex organizations they led. But the world most managers currently inhabit often appears to be unpredictable, uncertain, and even uncontrollable.

“In the face of this more dynamic and volatile business world, the traditional mechanisms of “scientific management” seem not only less useful but positively counterproductive. And science itself appears less and less relevant to the practical concerns of managers.

“However, the problem may lie less in the shortcomings of a scientific approach to management than in managers’ understanding of science.

“Put simply, while traditional science focused on analysis, prediction, and control, the new science emphasizes chaos and complexity.

“The new rules of complex behavior that cutting-edge scientific research describes have intriguing parallels with the organizational behaviors many companies are trying to encourage. Science, long esteemed by business as a source of technological innovation, may ultimately prove of greatest value to managers as a source for something else: useful new ways of looking at the world.

“The wide-ranging texts reviewed here suggest the broad outlines of what might become the new scientific management. Their message: management may indeed be a science—but not the science that most managers think.

The article, at this stage has delved deep into the four monumental books, which also underline four major trends in the development of management science during the 20th century.

These are:

The Principles of Scientific Management, Frederick Winslow Taylor (New York: Harper, 1911).

Chaos: Making a New Science, James Gleick (New York: Viking, 1987).

Complexity: Life at the Edge of Chaos, M. Mitchell Waldrop (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992).

The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Peter M. Senge (New York: Doubleday, 1990)

The article goes on conclude that, “The scientific managers of today must be researchers who study their own organizations. And they must be designers who create the learning processes that make self-organization possible, the processes that are essential to effective performance in a world characterized by perpetual novelty and change.”

That now leads to another article – Is Management Really an Art? by Henry M. Boettinger, in HBR issue of January 1975. The author investigates what he sees as three indispensable aspects of the artistic process—craft, vision, and communication.

The article sums up with these words:

At every level of management, from shop floor to board room, across the spectrum of our institutions, whether government, business, education, armed forces, or the church, we need a rediscovery of the value of the individual imagination and a rekindling of that passion for humane purposes which is the authentic light of leadership. To manage is to lead, and to lead others requires that one enlist the emotions of others to share a vision as their own. If that is not an art, then nothing is.

Dean Stanely F. Teele, the 4th dean of HBS is more categorical in stating that “Management is a mixture of art and science …. The present ratio is about 90% art and 10% science. Though a very great deal of developments are presently increasing that proportion which can properly be called science. I am willing to venture a guess that by the end of another generation the ratio will be 80% art and perhaps 20% science.”

Peter Drucker in his landmark book The Practice of Management notes that “…managing a business must be creative rather than adaptive task. The more a management creates economic conditions or changes them rather than passively adapts to them, the more it manages the business.’  He goes on observe that “the manager is the dynamic, life-giving element in every business.’ Even as he concludes that, “Management can never be an exact science”, he does assert that the work of a manager can be systematically analyzed and classified.

Both these views relate to the mid-twentieth century thinking on the subject.

In the present times, Devdutt Pattanaik looks the whole concept from an Indian mythological point of view. Why we do business impacts how we do it and what ultimately gets done. It is very different from Management Science, taught in business schools around the world, which does not factor in belief, because belief is subjective truth, hence cannot be measured.

Despite the veneer of objectivity, Management Science is rooted in Western belief. Just as ancient Greeks celebrated Elysium, much-cherished heaven of heroes, and the Bible speaks of the Promised Land, ultimate destination of faithful, Management Science is goal-oriented, obsessed with vision, mission, objectives, milestones, and targets.

By contrast, the Indian way of doing business—as apparent in Indian mythology, but no longer seen in practice— accommodates subjectivity and diversity, and offers an inclusive, more empathetic way of achieving success[i]. The Indian approach is not goal-based; it is gaze-based. It does not exclude the Western model; it includes it, with the assertion that the purpose of an organization is to work towards happiness. Great value is placed on the practice of darshan (gaze): how we see the world and our relationship with Lakshmi, goddess of wealth

So Devdutt Pattanaik has developed a 3 B model, which he calls as the Business Sutra, which basically says, as is your belief, so is your behavior, so is your business. This is Business Sutra, a very Indian way of doing business.

3-b-model

To explore the concept in greater details, every first Sunday of the month, starting from February, 2017, we will revisit, Devdutt Pattanaik’s TV serial, Business Sutra, telecast on CNBC in 2010.

[i]  The Indian approach to business: Devdutt Pattanaik at TEDxGateway 2013

Why Peter Drucker Distrusted Facts – Stephen Wunker – Harvard Business Review

Why Peter Drucker Distrusted Facts – Stephen Wunker – Harvard Business Review.

One of the very valid point made in the article is that decisions are, in essence,  the human judgments. If the decisions, based on facts alone – without requite evaluation of all options and all round views- can be erroneous, the judgments are usually dubbed as ‘subjective’, because they also are prone not to consider and evaluate all options as well as thoroughly churn out  all points of -current and past – views in arriving at THE decision.

The judgement is a function of the mental conditioning. hence, it makes a great sense to cultivate habit of assimilating facts, opinions of others and history of similar vents into the process of arriving at a judgement.Initially, this may slow down the process, but more rigorously this is practiced, the process is likely to speed up.

This is the stage when intuition becomes so well tuned that one can reach the stage of rational decision-making at blink of the eyelid.

One then depends both on facts and intuition equally for a ‘confident’ decision, perfectly blending the science of decision-making into art of ‘high-speed computing though the natural “super” computer – the human brain’.

The bottom line is to transform the complicated decision-making iterative external process into the internal natural reflex-action.