Yearly Archives: 2019

Inner Feelings and Relationships

(Harmonious relationship is one of the major aims of collective living. What is the main factor which can bring this harmony to our communal life? It is the inner feelings behind our speech, behavior and actions. This article examines this factor in a Yogic perspective.)

The quality of a relationship depends on the nature of the inner feeling behind outer speech and behavior. If it is good and sincere, the relationship remains warm and genuine, even when there is no outer contact or relationship in the form of talking, joking or laughter, and the social courtesies such as wishing ‘good morning’ or the material gifts we give to others are not mere empty or formal things but a spontaneous expression of the inner feelings. But even when such kindly outer gestures are not there, it doesn’t affect the inner feeling because we understand each other. However, when inner feelings are uncharitable, openly or aggressively or remain in a subtle, mute and suppressed form, for example, anger, dislike, scorn, irony, sarcasm, resentment, disapproval, disdain, superiority or derogatory comment, then the relationship inwardly breaks down and no amount of outer gestures of friendship and benevolence can restore the relationship. A relationship which begins with a good inner feeling may breakdown later because of darkening of the feeling created by misunderstanding, conflict or negative influences from outside such as listening to gossip, criticism or slander. And the feelings are contagious. Negative feelings in me can induce a similar feeling in the other person and destroy whatever good feelings I have for him.

It is not easy to hide the inner feelings. They are visible on the face, in our eyes or in the way we talk. Even someone with a little bit of inner sensitivity can sense it. We sometimes complain about a person that he is uncommunicative and indifferent to our presence or our attempts to relate with him. But we don’t ask whether it is due to something negative or insincere within us. For example, we ask questions pretending to know, when we have already formed definitive conclusions and judgments about it.

How to set right uncharitable feelings? There are practical guidelines in the writings and conversations of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. The first step is to not to identify with the negative feelings. There needs to be an inner detachment from the feelings and observe it as a witness, and not to allow them to influence or drive our thoughts, judgements, speech, behaviour or actions. The second step is the non-judgemental attitude, that is, acceptance of the person as he or she is without judgement. For an enlightened humanity, which knows that it doesn’t comprehend the entire truth or the inner being of a person and the judgements based on the appearance, nature and character of the surface being, this knowledge can be very un-inhibiting. This attitude can considerately reduce or minimize hasty or uncharitable judgement which in turn has a positive impact on the feelings. The third step is to cultivate the ‘opposite’ which means, as the Mother (CWM, Vol. 14, p. 206) describes, “Discover in your nature the opposite way of being (benevolence, humility, goodwill) and insist that it develops to the detriment of the contrary element.”

M. S. Srinivasan

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11Apr/19

Changing Paradigms of Innovation: Orbit-Shifting Innovators

(Review of the book Making Breakthrough Innovation Happen by Porus Munshi, HarperCollins Publishers India)

At the rate that technology, product and service ranges and human thought-processes are evolving, there is a growing consensus among corporate leaders and gurus that in the future world ‘Innovation’ holds the key to competitive advantage, for companies, communities as well as for nations. However, among foremost pioneering nations, India is never regarded as a great innovator. India is more known for jugaad—quick-fix improvisations—than for lasting and breakthrough innovations.

In this book, Making Breakthrough Innovation Happen by Porus Munshi (which is described by R. Gopalakrishnan, former Executive Director of TATA Sons, as a ‘must-read work of great inspiration’), the author dispels this notion by presenting the case studies of 11 Indian companies and institutions which ‘pulled off the impossible’ by making what he calls as ‘orbit-shifting innovations’. The author is a management consultant and a partner at ‎Erehwon Innovation Consulting, a company dedicated to fuelling innovation in India.

Porus Munshi takes a different and deeper approach to the subject of innovation from the traditional ones which try to arrive at some general or universal principles or bring out a to-do list from the outer behaviour or practices or process of successful innovators.

In this book Munshi tries to understand the mindset and thought process of orbit-shifting innovator. He quotes Dr Natchiar of Arvind Eye Hospital, “We keep sharing our best practices, process and methods with other organizations … but none of them is able to replicate what we do because they focus on the process and not on the underlying philosophies that drive the organization.” She comments further: “Really the internal leads the external. As long as we focus on the external manifestation and not on the internal mind-sets and beliefs that drive orbit-shifting innovations we are going to be focusing on wrong things and true replication won’t happen.” This is very much in harmony with the Indian spiritual ethos which emphasizes on the principle of ‘from within outwards’ as the foundation of all effective action or creation.

Porus Munshi identifies four major tasks in achieving orbit-shifting innovation. First is a Mission Impossible, an extremely challenging mission. Second is to arrive at a breakthrough strategy to reach the mission. Third is to form a team which believes in the mission and convinced it can be done. Fourth is to enrol all the stakeholders and infect them with their mission.

Here are some of the companies and institutions among the 11 breakthrough innovators:

  1. Dainik Bhaskar newspaper which was able to achieve No. l circulation from the first day, wherever they launched it, in a market with reputed newspapers with a large circulation.
  2. Titan which came out with the slimmest, water-resistant watch in the world, which even the Swiss were not able to produce.
  3. Shanta Biotech which developed a low-cost Hepatitis Bvaccine and ushered in the biotechnology age in India.
  4. Trichy Police which rewrote policing programmes and created an innovative community policing system

Let us briefly look at the mission and strategies of the first and the fourth examples, Dainik Bhaskar and Trichy Police. The newspaper company Dainik Bhaskar first launched its paper in Jaipur with a mission of becoming No. 1 or 2 in circulation from day one. The company leadership discarded the traditional market surveys and aimed at in-depth understanding of the readership patterns and the needs of the readers by meeting a whopping 200,000 potential newspaper-buying households in Jaipur. They decided to evolve the product (in this case the newspaper) according to the customer needs. They went to each customer and asked him/her questions such as: “What are you not getting in the current newspaper that you would like to get more of” and “What should your newspaper do for you to make you more satisfied?” Then, based on the feedback, the survey team went back to all 200,000 households to show them what they had created, based on their feedback. A large army of fresh college students and graduates were deployed by the company to accomplish this huge task. They were formed into many small groups with a supervisor. Every day in the morning they went to work energized by a silent prayer to God and followed by a brief session of singing of inspiring or patriotic songs. Without entering into any more details of the strategies of Dainik Bhaskar, what we have tried to present here is a glimpse of the orbit-shifting thinking of the innovator.

Most of the innovations described in this book are product innovations. Among the category of service innovation, there is the case study of the famous Arvind Eye Hospital which is too well known to be retold. However, there is another remarkable case study which is not well known and goes beyond the product–service category of a true social transformation of the community. It is the case of a unique and highly innovative community policing model, conceived and implemented with admirable effectiveness by a police commissioner, J. K. Tripathy, in Trichy, a town in Tamil Nadu.

Porus Munshi describes the achievement of this great leader in the following words:

“Within two years of Tripathy’s taking over, Trichy had been transformed. As many as 261 dreaded criminals were nabbed and the crime rate dropped by about 40 per cent, an eventuality until then considered impossible. For, it was thought that crime could only increase, or at best be contained, but that it could not drop. Today, a decade later, Trichy is a city at peace and a lighthouse of communal amity. Public–police relationships are at a scale unprecedented for India. Policemen are called ‘anna’ [brother] not out of fear but out of respect and regard. They get invited to functions and marriages. All the stakeholders—community, police, politicians, bureaucrats and NGOs—work together in considerable harmony. And more importantly, for a city seething with communal anger prior to 1999, there have been no incidents of communal violence since. The police have become an integral part of the community, and this isn’t some ‘advanced’ Western country we are talking of. It has happened right here in India, in less than two years and has been sustained for a decade.”

Let us look briefly at how Tripathy was able to achieve this extraordinary result. The police force is one of the most rigid and traditional organizations, in which power and authority is concentrated at the top and wielded with a severe firmness. Tripathy changed it radically by delegating the freedom, power and authority to the frontline constables at the lowest levels. For implementing his unique community police model, Tripathy handpicked 260 constables on the basis of internal police records. He picked those with no record of corruption, bad habits and with a track record of effectiveness. The constables were called ‘beat officers’ and groups of four were responsible for a locality. They were told that the beat (area/locality) was their baby completely and that they were responsible for it in every way. They could take whatever decisions they required without consulting their superiors or supervisors. They could do whatever they thought was best.

The other unique achievement of Tripathy is that he was able to convince the beat officers that their responsibilities include not only crime-busting but also to help people in the zone in solving their individual and community problems, for example issues with the ration card, water supply, fixing street lights, finding trained and authorized plumbers and electricians. The residents of the community began giving their applications for water, sewage and telephone connections to the beat officers and these were taken up with the commissioner. When the municipality officials complained that the police were overstepping their authority and interfering into their domains, Tripathy told them bluntly: “You are corrupt and take bribes from the people to do your work. We want to serve people honestly. If you do your work honestly we will not interfere.”

Tripathy made arrangements for the beat officers to talk through television and radio programmes about their work and what they are trying to achieve through the unique community policy model. This was a great boost to their motivation. Where on the earth do ordinary constables at the lowest levels of police hierarchy allowed to present their thoughts on TV and radio? Under Tripathy’s leadership, the relationship between police and people became so friendly and intimate that they are affectionately referred by people as ‘Anna’ (or elder brother) and the beat officers were invited by people for weddings and social functions as special guests. Tripathy was able bring about a transformation in police–community relationship which is unique and rare.

I have described this case study of Tripathy in some detail because it is this kind of innovation and leadership which can create the future world. Product innovations are important for the corporate world, but what is much more important for creating a new and better world in the future are innovations which lead to the higher evolution of the community through the realization of a more holistic, inclusive and humane concepts and values, such as what Commissioner Tripathy was able to achieve.

This book by Porus Munshi, written in an easy and engaging style, is insightful and inspiring. It provides broad guidance to leaders and entrepreneurs, without becoming narrowly preachy on the nature of the thinking process which can lead to breakthrough innovation.

M. S. Srinivasan

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12Mar/19

Rising Beyond the Blame Game

In our work or relationships, whenever something goes wrong, our first instinctive reaction is to blame others. We are not aware of our own contribution to the mess or even when we know it we tend to ignore it and cling to the blame game. In an article in Harvard Business Review with the interesting title ‘Blame’ Kevin Sharer, former CEO of Amgen, describes how he was able to rise beyond the tangle of blame to harmony and understanding.

The company headed by Sharer got mired in deep financial crisis and marketing problems. And Sharer describes the situation and his state of mind: “My two most capable, trusted colleagues were in charge of our day-to-day response. But it became apparent that for the first time in their six-year partnership they were not effective as a team. In some ways they were making things worse. My state of mind wasn’t pretty. If you had a view into it, you have seen disgust, fury, fear, indignation.”

And Sharer was blaming his colleagues for the crisis facing his company. This is a very common failing of our too human nature. And it is not easy to get rid of this mindset created by the ego.

The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram describes the right ideal or attitude in such situations. “If in the work you meet with some difficulties, look sincerely into yourself and there you will discover their origin.” This requires much courage, maturity and a deep honest and objective inner observation. Sharer was able to harness these inner resources within him and recognized his own contribution to the problem. “The question occurred to me,” says Sharer “How much of my colleagues’ performance problem did I actually own?” and describes what he has discovered:

“Call it an epiphany, but that question inspired me to start scribbling. Soon I had a long list of things I could and should have done differently all the way from resource allocation and long-term capacity building to my engagement in the immediate crisis. I want to be clear that this was not an exercise in self-loathing or defeatism; it was an authentic, honest, and complete analysis of how I had failed to do my part.”

The process of healing, redemption or transformation begins from this point of sincere acceptance of our own contribution, wrong attitudes or mistakes and stop blaming others. We must understand that our inner condition made of thoughts, feelings and attitudes are contagious. As long as we dwell in the blaming mode, emanating negative vibrations such as resentment, it is transmitted to others, invoking similar feelings in them and perpetuates the conflict. But the moment we stop blaming and accept with an entire sincerity our role in the conflict, it releases a positive and subtle moral force which acts on others at the inner level.

The next step is to harness the courage to admit our mistake openly to our colleagues, which Sharer was able to do. “The following Monday, when the three of us met to review where we stood I arrived with a different attitude,” states Sharer. “I started the meeting by describing calmly and with total candour, how decisions I had made in the past had landed us where we are, and what I was prepared to change. In short, I owned the problem.” And the result was a total healing and complete dissolution of all conflict. “It stunned my colleagues,” states Sharer. “Whatever defensiveness they were feeling was swept away.” And the following conclusive remarks of Sharer were very similar to the views of many modern spiritual teachers:

“Now when issues arise at work—or in personal relationship for that matter—I know it is fundamental to me to look deeply and objectively at my own contribution to them before accepting others to change and improve.”

For example, look at following passage from the Mother, one of the greatest spiritual masters of our age:

“You can do nothing for others unless you are able to do it for yourself. You can never give a good advice to anyone unless you are able to give it to yourself first, and to follow it. And if you see a difficulty somewhere, the best way of changing this difficulty is to change it in yourself first. If you see a defect in anyone, you may be sure it is in you, and you begin to change it in yourself. And when you will have changed it in yourself, you will be strong enough to change it in others.”

And the story ends with a happy note. “At the end of the crisis,” says Sharer, “we and our company emerged better than ever.”

Reference:

  1. Kevin Sharer, ‘Blame’, Harvard Business Review, January–February, 2010, p. 36.

M. S. Srinivasan

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12Mar/19

Knowledge-Management: A Psychological Perspectives

(Published in Management Accountant, Journal of the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India)

We are told by economic and management pundits that the contemporary world is a knowledge-society and a knowledge-economy where knowledge, and not capital or natural resources, is the primary factor that will determine the competitive advantage of nations or organizations. The knowledge-worker is emerging as an influential class in the corporate world. And knowledge-management has emerged as a distinct and specialized field of study in corporate management. However, most of the modern approach to knowledge-management is external, aiming at the outer organization of knowledge through Information Technology. But for a more efficient and effective knowledge-management, we must learn to manage the inner faculties of knowledge. When all the knowledge-workers in an organization are trained in managing their inner faculties of knowledge, it leads to a more creative internal management of its knowledge-resources, complementing and reinforcing the external organization of knowledge. This article presents such a deeper approach to knowledge-management, in the light of Indian yoga psychology

The Triune Mind

The first step in this deeper and inner approach to knowledge-management is to have a clear understanding of the nature of the instruments of knowledge. The Intelligent Will, called as ‘Buddhi’ in Indian thought, is the primary instrument of knowledge. Knowledge can also be received through heart or vital intuitions, but humans, in their present evolutionary status, are mental beings and therefore understanding will in the mind is the highest and most enlightened power available to them in their quest for knowledge.

So the first task for a seeker of knowledge is the purification of this faculty of understanding. In our ordinary status of ignorance, this faculty of understanding is not functioning according to its dharma but involved in the action of the lower faculties such as those of our physical, emotional and vital consciousness of the surface ego-personality. These lower faculties are supposed to obey the dictates of the intelligent will like a servant obeys his master’s commands. But in our present status of ego-based, desire-driven ignorance, the master very frequently or most of the times forgets his dharma and becomes an accomplice of his servants, who use him as a tool to provide rational justification to indulge in their desires. So the first step in the purification of the intelligent will is to disentangle the faculty from its involvement in the surface play of the physical and vital consciousness.

The main reason for this entanglement is the very nature of our human terrestrial evolution which has progressed from matter and life to mind through a process of progressive emergence and integration. Life or vital consciousness has emerged from physical matter and was integrated into it and transformed it to become a living matter. And mind has emerged from living mater and transformed it into a living and thinking matter. Thus our mental consciousness pervades our whole being. There is a physical mind, vital or emotional mind and a thinking, willing mind. The characteristic action of the physical mind is an obsessive repetition of habitual mental notions acquired from physical sense-perception. The vision of this physical mind is confined to a life bounded with the sensory perception of the brain. The vital mind brings up an eager, restless and anxious pursuit of desire and emotional attachment into all our mental functioning. This vital mind is always ever ready to provide convenient justifications for the desires of our vital ego.

Beyond this physical and vital mind is the thinking mind. Here also there are two elements in this part of mind. There is an element of pure reason, which is capable of a disinterested pursuit of truth or knowledge and can range freely in the realm of pure abstract ideas. But there is a pragmatic element in this mind, which is oriented towards life and is always interested in utilizing knowledge for application, enlargement, utility and progress in life.

Though this higher part of the mind is capable of a relative freedom from desire, it is still subject to ego-sense. In the pure reason this ego-sense creates a strong intellectual attachment to certain ideas or ideals, pre-conceived notions, and an attraction towards particular forms of intellectual, aesthetic, ethical or aesthetic, ideals or pleasures. Sometimes an inordinate desire of this part of the mind for a vast accumulation of knowledge for the personal pleasure or satisfaction of the intellectual ego is mistaken as a ‘disinterested’ pursuit of truth.

In the pragmatic part of the intelligence, this ego-sense creates a strong inclination to use knowledge as a tool for personal enlargement, benefit and progress of the ego.

Intelligent will or Buddhi has to be purified of all these gross and subtle traces of ego and desire as these dark twins of ignorance are the source of all impurity and keep in its entanglement the functioning of other forms of energies—physical, sensuous, vital, emotional—of our nature.

Disentangling the Intelligence

The first step in this discipline of purification is self-observation. We have to observe carefully the movements, workings, urges and natural inclinations of our physical, vital, emotional, thinking and pragmatic mind. We have to become fully conscious how our thinking intelligence is entangled with and constantly influenced by other and lower parts of the mind. And through a process of constant stepping back, detachment and dis-identification, we have to slowly and patiently disentangle the thinking mind and will from the mixture and influence of the physical and vital mind. For example, when we are trying to arrive at a decision, judgement or conclusion or solving a problem we must observe how our emotional and vital preferences and desires or personal self-interests enter into it and colour, distort or influence our process of thinking. Similarly, we have to observe the working of the Buddhi, the pure and highest intelligence in itself. We have to see how even our higher intelligence is subtly influenced by one-sided, fixed and preconceived mental, moral and spiritual notions which prevents it from perceiving the truth in its wholeness.

The Discipline of Concentration

The second discipline needed for the Intelligence is ‘concentration’. Concentration means the ability to focus all the attention and energy of the mind on a particular point and hold on to it as long as it is needed. We must note here that concentration does not mean we must always be tensely focused on something but to acquire and possess the ability to focus our energies at will and whenever it is needed.

Our so-called ‘normal’ conditions of mind is a state of dispersion, diffusion and wastage of the light and power of our consciousness in a multitude of thoughts, feelings and objects, scattered helplessly in an uncontrolled medley of confusion and disorder. Such a mind is the most inefficient and unproductive. For Mind is also a form of energy like Matter. When this mental energy is scattered and diffused in uncontrolled and useless chattering, it is at the lowest and at the most inefficient level of functioning. On the other hand, when this mental energy is under control, free from useless, wasteful and disturbing thoughts, focused and concentrated at a point, it functions at its highest potential. Energy, physical or mental, when focused, enhances its penetrative power. An apt analogy from modern technology is the Laser beam. Laser is the electromagnetic energy of sunlight which falls on earth in a diffused and scattered form, focused into a coherent and concentrated beam, which can penetrate even steel. This applies equally to mental energy. The act of focusing the mind increases and multiplies the cognitive as well the penetrative power of its energy; it grows in light, clarity, insight and understanding, and also in power, intensity, strength and force of effectuation.

In fact, some form of concentration is there in all creative and productive activities. All great leaders of thought and action and all those who have attained higher levels of success or excellence in whatever field, business or politics, art, literature or religion, possess this capacity of concentration in an exceptional or above-average measure. But the Science of Yoga believes that even an average man can develop and enhance his power of concentration by constant, systematic and methodical practice.

The power of concentration is developed by persistent will, vigilant mind and constant practice. We must keep in mind that there is no shortcut or quick-fix remedy for concentration. We have to work against the natural urge of the mind towards dispersion and impress upon it the opposite tendency of concentrated focus, through a patient, persistent and undespondent will.

The steps of the process are simple in paper but difficult to put into practice. The first step is to establish a minimum amount of calm in the mind. The next step is to gather and bring back the vagabonding mind to the focal point of concentration which may be an object, thought, or an activity. The third step is to hold on to it as long as possible, keeping the distracting thoughts away with a vigilant mind and a firm will. Here comes the importance of an alert and vigilant mind. A sleepy and drowsy condition is a great obstacle to concentration. And sometimes a drowsy absorption of the mind in an object is mistaken for concentration. For effective concentration, both the will and awareness in the mind has to be alert, watchful and vigilant to ward off the unwanted intruders and keep the mind focused.

The Mental Silence

However, the most important discipline in perfecting the instruments of knowledge is the silencing of the mind. A settled immutable peace, silence and tranquillity in the mind are an unmistakable sign that a perfect purity is established in our mental consciousness. And only in an utter silence the knowledge of deeper truth of life and things can be heard without any distorting interference.

There is a higher intuitive understanding beyond the intellectual understanding of the thinking mind. This intuitive understanding has a direct insight into the deeper truth of things bypassing logic and reason. But to awaken this intuitional intelligence, the intellectual understanding has to be stilled and learn to receive the higher intuition in a receptive silence.

Many methods are suggested in Indian yoga to establish this silence in our mind. One way is to allow the thoughts of the mind to raise and play and dance as it pleases while one part of the mind takes the poise of the detached, non-interfering witness. Gradually, the thought-process slows down and at a certain stage comes to a standstill.

The other way which can be very effective for those who has a certain capacity of inner vision in the mind is to see the incoming thoughts as they try to enter into our mind, and throw them away with our will before they can enter and settle into our mind. When this discipline is persistently put into practice, mind is emptied of its contents and becomes silent.

The third way is to visualize the all-pervading immobile silence of the spirit penetrating everywhere the ether of space and try to relax our mind into this silence.

The fourth way is to allow the thinking mind itself to arrive at the understanding that thought cannot know the truth by a choiceless and unbiased self-observation of our thinking process or by intuitive thinking. If the reasoning mind can be made to understand clearly the inherent contradictions involved in the logical thinking process which can trumpet arguments for and against a proposition with an equally convincing felicity, then the logical thinking mind may loose confidence in itself and become silent.

This peace and silence should be allowed to settle down and pervade the entire mental consciousness and remain undisturbed even in the midst of an intense mental activity. In the initial stages of the path the seeker has to become conscious, by deep meditation, of a zone of silence to which he can constantly step-back from his surface activity. But the ideal to be realized by the seeker is to live in this silence and act from this silence.

M. S. Srinivasan and O. P. Dani

 

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