How come the “SECULARISTS” are allowing “COMMUNAL” subjects at IIM?

published on November 8, 2007

Mgmt gyaan from CEO Krishna
Author: Geetha Rao
Publication: The Times of India
Date: November 4, 2007

”The Mahabharata is not about good and evil – instead, it teaches you that life is grey. Defining the grey is not easy because it is deeply rooted to the context. So, negotiate the grey.”

Spiritual discourse by a seer? No, words of wisdom for future global managers in an IIM-Bangalore classroom. What has the Mahabharata got to do with IIMs? Lots. The great Indian epic can be used to compare each of the Pandavas to managers of today with their roles, strengths, weaknesses and consequences.

The popular elective course – Spirituality for Global Managers – has management students looking at Krishna as the CEO; Yudhishtir who binds together values; Bhima (outcomes); Arjun (learning); Karna (legitimacy) ; Nakul (process) and Shadev (purpose).

Says Ramnath Narayanaswamy, professor at IIM-B, ”The Ramayana and Mahabharata are outstanding texts for all times and can be contemporised to any age. The Pandavas, Karna included, are each a great hero with a fatal flaw.” What is interesting is the way each of the Pandavas has been made relevant in the management context.

Explains Narayanaswamy, ”Yudhishtir is the mentor whose strengths are his values and beliefs. He stands for propriety but is blinded by his code of honour. Similarly, Bhima is an ‘executor’ manager. For him, the outcome is supremely important, the bottomline matters – his weakness is he can be blinded by rage.”

Nakul, says the IIM-B professor, is the enabler – the service hero of today. ”He’s driven by process, but there’s no active leadership.Sahadeva is the visionary, but he is like the manager who stands for thought and no action. Karna’s strength is personal loyalty, but it also brings about his doom. He’s like the manager of today who’d buy vegetables for his bosses,” he says. Arjun stands for flawless perfection. His strength is that he’s assailed by doubt, but willing to learn. ”Today’s young managers are Arjuns, in search of their own heroism – they want to discover their own meaning in life,” he says.

But the best part is the course’s attempt to ”isolate the insides of religious traditions and contemporise them” in a managerial situation.”Scholars from different religious traditions deliver lectures. These include Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Sufism, Jainism,Judaism and others, though the focus is not on scriptures. The focus is on spirituality, not religion.”

Narayanaswamy says, ”There are three components in management – the analytical (head), the emotional (heart) and the spiritual (soul). But management education completely ignores emotional intelligence (EI) and focuses only on analytical intelligence.

However, our young future managers need feeling and imagination. It’s difficult to teach these as they are experiencedriven. Life skills like creative thinking, listening, mentoring, working under pressure, empathy, team building -all these come from EI.”

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