Devdutt Pattanaik, “Chief Belief Officer” of Kishore Biyani‘s Future group has been one my favorite authors. I am always attracted to people who have chosen unusual careers and have been successful in them. Devdutta is one of them. From being a trained physician, to an executive in pharmaceutical and healthcare industry to a business analyst to a full time mythologist. What a career. 🙂
I have written two posts about his work in the past. One of them, Indian case study method, specifically refers to his television program named “Business Sutra”. I had bought the DVDs of the program and have watched them with great interest and insight. So when Blogadda made the book available under their book review program, I jumped at it.
Right in the introduction chapter, Devdutta explains the business sutra, the string that connects the dots. A persons’s beliefs give rise to his behaviour and the behaviour affects the business. In his own words, “Belief plays a key role in business: it determines choices and propels the decisions of buyers and sellers, regulators and shareholders, investors and entrepreneurs, employers and employees, vendors and customers. It determines how we do business and what ultimately gets done.”
I cannot stop myself from providing a link to Devdutt’s video on TED talks that compare east with west. Absolutely a must see for everyone.
The modern management science is a child of scientific revolution and hence shuns intangible, subjective and non-measurable and pays greater value to objectivity. But despite the veneer of objectivity, the management science is firmly routed in western beliefs. So the goals come first, then tasks and then people.
The first chapter provides insights into Devdutt’s journey from being a mythology enthusiast to a management thinker who is creating a whole new management thinking based on Indian beliefs.
What I found very intriguing was marrying of our traditional beliefs to the realities around us. Devdutt points out that mythologies of Indian origin value the “Nirguna”, that which has no physical expression, the intangibles, the immeasurable, over “Saguna”, that which is tangible, measurable and bound by physical expression. Nirguna leads is subjective, whereas Saguna is objective.
And so a management model that emerges out of the Indian mythology is the one that makes space for a subjective truth, intentions, over an objective, well defined goal. Rather than expecting everyone in the organization to align to a single goal, the model accommodates everyone’s objectives and intentions. Devdutt believes that such a model is what the global village that the world has become would need. The current strife and conflict that we see around us is because of an absence of such a model in business thinking.
The business is about decision making. So what the book provides are interwoven frameworks for making decision. These are provided in form of stories or Sutras. And unlike most management books, they are not selling a decision to the reader. The frameworks are not meant to be prescriptive, but reflective. Apply the framework, if it seems logical to you, ignore it if it doesn’t.
The second chapter, “From goal to gaze” compares Western, Chinese and Indian beliefs and demonstrate how beliefs affect the behaviour and hence the business in those societies.
And then chapter three provides Business Sutras, the frameworks for decisions in the form of stories. But before that, Devdutt provides a very unique perspective for the business based on the mythology.
He equates the Business to a Yagna. Yajman is the one who initiates the Yagna and makes offerings to the Agni, exclaiming “svaha”, this is of me, I give, hoping to please the devata, personified by Agni, who will give him whatever he desires, exclaiming “Tahtastu”, so it shall be.
Svaha is what the Yajman invests: goods, services & ideas. Tathastu is return on investment. But anyone can be a Yajman, a businessman or an employee. Depending on his role, what he can offer, svaha, can be different and so can tathastu be.
That’s looking at the business in a completely different lens. I am hooked. I would strongly suggest that everyone read this book. You are bound to get a different perspective.