I first came across him through a video link that Bonnie Schirato, our VP of HR, shared with me. We are an organization with offices in USA and Mumbai. She wanted to know if the stuff that Devdutt talks about in this video really captured the cultural differences between the east and the west. I saw the video and was impressed by Devdutt. I started researching about him.
He is a trained physician who became a mythologist. He believes that our beliefs are instrumental in driving our behaviour. And the beliefs are formed by the mythology, stories we hear. I was really intrigued by him. I learnt more about him at his website and bought a couple of books written by him. I also learnt that he had done a 10 episode show on the CNBC called Business Sutra which talked about how Indian Mythology can be used to guide business in India, which is now available as two sets of DVDs. I promptly bought them on flipkart, but couldn’t find time to watch them.
When I planned my vacation, watching those DVDs was an important item on my agenda, and I did watch one set of DVDs. What an experience it was. He is a great story teller, and his deep knowledge of mythology and it’s application to business shows through. All the videos from the series are available at the videos page on his website and are a must watch. I plan to talk about one of those segments and the deep insights that he draws from the story. This segment is called “Indian case study method” and revolves around the story of Vikram and Vetal.
As the story goes, Vikramaditya, the king, is approached by a sorcerer and is asked to fetch a ghost, Vetal, from the crematorium. Vetal is hanging on to a tree, upside down. The King has to get Vetal down from the tree and carry it to the sorcerer. The king is warned that he is not to utter a single word during the whole journey, because if he does so, Vetal will go back to the crematorium and the king will need to start again.
The king gets Vetal down and starts carrying him back. All of Vetal’s efforts to get him to talk fail. So he starts telling Vikramaditya a story. And at the end of the story is a question. If Vikramaditya knows the answer to the question, he has to speak it. If he doesn’t speak, knpwing the answer, then his head would explode. But if he speaks, Vetal will return to the graveyard and the king would have to start again. Vetal tells 24 stories in all and the king answers the question every time.
Devdutt conjectures that each of these stories was actually a case study, and provided an important lesson to the king. In fact, this method is adopted by the future group as their standard training method. You can read about it here.
You may or may not agree with everything Devdutt says, but he sure has a very interesting way of looking at stuff. I thought introducing him would be a great return gift to everyone on my birthday.