Research on a New Approach to Management (II)

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At present, Business and Management is going through an evolutionary transition.  Globalisation of business has added new complexities and problems, which require a fresh synthesis.  Ethics, values, ecology, quality, customer satisfaction, innovation, balancing the needs of local cultures with global realities are some of the difficult issues facing multinational business.  In the human dimension, an increasing number of people in the corporate world, especially the creative and talented, are seeking something more than money and careers, for an inner fulfilment in the mental, moral or spiritual spheres.  This is the context, which creates the need for a new approach to Management, which can lead to an integral fulfilment of all these trends of the future.  To evolve such a new vision of management is one of the aims of our research activities in this field.  But not only Management needs a new approach, the very concept of research can be viewed in a different angle than that of the traditional research methodologies pursued in modern universities.  This traditional approach to research is based on collection and analysis of data, arriving at a conclusion, or hypothesis and dissemination of the idea through publications.  However, there can be alternative paradigms of research based on more intuitive perceptions.

In this series, we present two interrelated and integrated perspectives: First, an integral approach to Management based on the principles of yoga, and second, an alternative approach to management research based on the spirit of yoga and deeper insight into the ways of thought and mind.

Management of Vision and the Idea

As we shift our aim from the material domain to the mental, moral and spiritual realms, the inner, intangible and immaterial factors like vision and values, knowledge, ideas and ideals acquire much greater importance than hard and tangible factors like material and financial resources and the outer machinery of technology and organization.  This is already happening in modern management.  There is at present an increasing recognition of the importance of “vision” in Management.  It is now accepted in modern management that the long-term success of an organization depends more on soft factors like vision and values and people rather than on hard factors like capital.  There is also a strong emphasis on knowledge and ideas.  Some new trends in modern management view the organization as “a system of ideas, which has to be managed” and there are books written on how to manage ideas in an organization.  Knowledge-management is emerging as a distinct field in management.  Most of the global majors in business have now a chief knowledge officer, CKO.

Since in our research on Management, we are trying to evolve a new vision of Management, our present emphasis will be more on “vision” rather than on “methods”.  In fact building and communicating a vision is a form of knowledge-management.  We would like to present a brief review of our approach to the subject, which may appear to some as something abstract or impractical.  But it is based on a higher pragmatism and the deeper laws and realities of the mind and life.

In the Indian spiritual perspective, a thought or an idea is not an abstraction, however abstract it may appear to the surface mind.  “Thought is a Force” declares an ancient Indian scripture.  To the surface or pragmatic mind a deep thought which expresses some philosophical or spiritual truth is felt as an abstraction.  So it either dismisses such thinking as flowery word spinning or if the thought appeals to it, wants immediately to give a concrete or pragmatic form to it, which the mind can grasp, or handle.  But to a deeper and higher mind, which lives closer to the inner sources of the mind, a thought is not an abstraction but something living and real, felt concretely as a vibrant flow of mental energy.  This is the reason why Vedic sages described illumined thought in the image of clarified butter, something dense and luminous.  A higher mind seeks to understand such thoughts in a clearer, luminous, and deeper perception rather than trying to manifest them in life in a concrete form.  As Sri Aurobindo explains some of the deeper laws of thought and life:

“The sense of abstractness imposes on the idea undue haste to get itself by life and embodied in a form.  If it could have confidence in its strength and be content to grow, to insist, to impress itself till it gets well into the spirit of man, it may conceivably become a real part of his soul-life, a permanent power of his psychology and might succeed in remoulding his whole life in his image.  But it has inevitably a desire to get as soon as possible admitted into a form of life.  It hurries into action before it has real knowledge of itself and prepares its own disappointment even when it seems to triumph and fulfill itself.”(1)

Thus, a thought is an idea-force, an idea or knowledge with a force or energy inherent in it.  Any idea, especially a creative idea, once it is given a definite form, due to the force inherent in it, has the inbuilt urge to realize itself in life and acquire a vital and physical form.  The creator of the idea himself may not have the capacity, temperament and resources to execute the idea or convert it into a reality in life.  But the idea-force by itself will find the right human instrument and the needed life-force to embody itself in life.  In this process it may have to compromise its purity with the interest, desires and ambitions of the human instrument or the forces of life and may get diluted or distorted.  But the point we are trying to emphasise here is that ideas are creative forces and have to be considered as important resources of development.  Sometimes the impact and influence of an idea on human life may not be immediately apparent to a superficial gaze.  But those who have the deeper and inner vision of the seer can see the profound but outwardly invisible impact of the idea on the subjective mental and psychological environment of the community or humanity, and which later manifests itself objectively in terms of pragmatic results in the economic, social, and political life.  For example, the pragmatic result of the capitalist or communist ideals of Adam Smith or Karl Marx or the triple values of the French revolution (Liberty, Equality and Fraternity) given by French thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau might not have been perceived initially when they were first formulated and cast into the mind of humanity.

In any attempt which involves evolving a new vision of management, it is always better to spend some time and energy in clarifying the idea and the vision rather than rushing into action with a half digested idea. This is important not only from the theoretical point of view, but also from a long-term pragmatic perspective. As the Mother points out: “To be practical you must have a very clear vision of the goal, of where you are going”.(2) The Vision is an Idea and the Idea is a force, a bullet of crystalised mental energy shot into the mental atmosphere of our planet. The more comprehensive the Idea, the greater will be the force released by the Idea. A clear perception has its own subtle action. And this action can be very comprehensive and creative if the perception, instead of immediately rushing into action or trying to take form in life, is allowed to sink into our whole being and consciousness through deep meditation.  It is through this deep contemplation by the thinking minds of a community, which add depth, clarity and power to the thought, that an idea enters into the inner recess of the communal mind and gets established there as a living force.  To induce such a contemplation and sustain it through education and culture is the first step towards a complete and effective realization of the idea in the mind and life of the community.  Interestingly some management thinkers recognise the pragmatic significance of a clear perception and formulation of the idea.  For example, an Indian management consultant, writing on the importance of a clear formulation of the goals of an organisation, says: “…a clear definition of the super-ordinate goals (of the organisation) invariably leads to better performance”; he then adds significantly, “once the organisation has defined its super-ordinate goals and reflected on it in terms of its strategies and policies, in a sense it is ensuring the attainment of its quantitative goals.”(3)

This pragmatic perception of a modern management thinker, is valid not only for the goals of an organisation but also to a new Thought, Vision or Approach in any human activity like business, management or politics.  A clear perception and formulation of the Vision and the Path releases a creative force, which tends to realize itself in life.

We must not rush into action with an exciting or attractive idea without understanding the truth of the idea in its depth and fullness. Our idea may be partial; it might not have perceived the truth in its fullness or wholeness.  Only a fragment of it is caught by our mind and given an outer form, which may lead to immediate success in the short-term but failure in the long-term. Or as Sri Aurobindo puts it: “…truth of the idea is deceived by the actual outcome of its pragmatic success.”(4) This happens quite often with the creations of the pragmatic mind in man because the positive results obtained in one aspect of life which was more or less clearly seen is annulled by negative results in other dimensions of life which are not seen or understood.  A modern example is the idea of socio-economic development through the application of Science and Technology.  The abundant positive results produced by the ideas in the economic life are getting seriously threatened by negative results in the environmental and psychological spheres.

Thus in our research activities, we would like to perceive the truth of life in its comprehensive wholeness, and in Management, spend some time and energy in deep and comprehensive contemplation of the Vision and the Idea before giving it an outer form.  Such a contemplation never goes waste; it is a fruitful and creative exercise which enhances the creative force of the idea.  As Sri Aurobindo points out “Cherish the might of the spirit, the nobility of the ideal”(5) and “The ideal creates the means of attaining the ideal, if it is itself true and rooted in the destiny of the race.”(6)

Reference:

        1.Sri Aurobindo, SABCL, Vol.15, 527
       2. S.K. Battacharya. Achieving Managerial Excellence, Macmillan India, 1989, New Delhi, p.55-56
       3. The Mother, CWM, Vol.13, p.315
       4.Sri Aurobindo, SABCL, Vol.19, p.1036
      5. Sri Aurobindo, SABCL, Vol.1, p.745
       6. Ibid, p.904