Business Through The Lens Of Mythology

The world of business and the world of our mythological tales are not too different. Speaking at the recent Infocom Kolkata 2014 event, well-known mythologist, author and Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group Devdutt Pattanaik throws light on the various aspects of business through the lens of mythology.

 Devdutt Pattanaik

Devdutt Pattanaik

Pattanaik, who graduated in medical science and boasts of his highly acclaimed book ‘Business Sutra’ and various other books in mythology, believes that while the various characters in mythologies are different, situations that arise in today’s business world are often similar. According to him, institutions aren’t based only on rule of law and regulatory policy, but also on the social, historical and cultural context.

While trying to apply the meanings of terms from Indian mythology to modern corporate management, Pattanaik explains the context of Swarga or heaven and relates it to business. He says, “Swarga has the Kalpataru tree which gives you what you ask for. There is infinite return without investment.” This is something many managers look for. However, Swarga is nothing but a comfort zone, it is temporary, it is illusionary and it is under attack. “Those managers, like Indra or king of Swarga are always worried.”

In contrast, he explains Vaikuntha, where Vishnu prevails, is the place where business prosperity can be achieved through peace. Today’s CEOs and C-suites have to be driven towards “Vishnu-hood”, a more idealistic way of doing. “Vishnu engages with others – he is participative,” Pattanaik adds. So is today’s business that requires collaboration with shareholders, customers, employees, vendors, regulators or even the society.   He also throws light on talent management –  especially in an industry such as IT which is seeing a high attrition. Pattanaik believes the ashrama system of Vedic times was an attempt to ensure smooth transition to the next generation of kings while the old king was alive.

“Retirement was a critical step, a quarter of one’s lifetime, when one stepped away from actively running the business to enabling the future generation to take over the reins. The point was to render oneself useless over a period of time so that when it is time to renounce the world, the next generation is already running the show responsibly. Thus a vast proportion of time was invested on the next generation, so that a new world order can finally be established, he explains.

This is a big lesson in modern management when it comes to succession, people management and nurturing talent.

Pattanaik believes that the western model of doing business may not serve well in India because it operates in a different context, socially, economically, politically and psychologically. The Indian way of business is highly individualistic, emotional and relationship-driven.

Finally, one can see the relationship between the rishi and the rajas as one between a consultant and a CEO of an organization. The stories reveal how the relationship can benefit both rishi and raja. The rishi and the raja belong to two different worlds, just like the outsourcing partner or a consultant and a king and what matters is how they can work in coordination for organizational benefits.

Pattanaik concludes that management is not anything new to this land, which has a long history of culture, tradition, and ethos. Ancient India led in overseas trade and commerce. Considering that it has now become imperative in the current scenario to identify innovative and creative tools and technologies to beat the competition, it is worthwhile to delve deep into the Indian mythology for a fresh framework in management.

[The article has been published in CXOtoday.com]

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