An Integral Approach to management and human development based on the spiritual vision of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother with an emphasis on its application to various domains of knowledge and life.
[Published in FDI, http://fdi.sriaurobindosociety.org.in/cms/index.php, Apr 2009]
We are at present in the midst of a crucial transitional stage in human evolution. A discerning observer of this transition would have noticed a perceptible shift in values from the predominantly material, “hard” and objective parameters like the material and financial resources to a more “soft”, non-material and subjective factors like knowledge, values, ideas or vision. In our earlier article we have discussed the role of creative vision in human development. This article examines some of the more practical aspects of implanting the vision and idea in the human consciousness.
Idea and Action
There are two aspects or dimension to creativity: Idea and Action or in other words Vision and Execution. Both are equally important. In evolving a vision, plan or strategy for a nation, organization or community there must be a harmony and integration of these two aspects of creativity.
The ancient Indian culture in general emphasized on the inner realization of the vision in the consciousness through deep mental contemplation and the spiritual discipline of yoga. Here, the outer action is first a means to realize the Ideal or Vision in the inner consciousness through inner experience and then to express the Vision in the outer life. This is because Indian culture gave the highest importance to the values of the mind and spirit. As Sri Aurobindo, writing on the value-systems of Indian culture states “spiritual man greater than the thinker, thinker greater than the man of action.”
On the other hand modern western culture emphasized on outer action and execution and the realization of the Idea in the outer life. Here the Idea or Vision is either an inspiring ideal or a pragmatic aid for outer action and realization. This is because modern western culture gave the highest importance to the values of the body, life and the pragmatic faculties. Both these approaches of the East and West complement each other. For an integral realization of the idea or vision they have to be combined in a complementing synergy.
However our modern civilization in general or predominantly has taken the stamp of the pragmatic temperament of the west, which dominates the world today. We must note here that the present Asiatic resurgence through the emergence of India and China as major economic powers, has very little of the eastern or Indian genius or temperament in it. This new economic resurgence of Asia is psychologically or temperamentally still a western phenomena. The true Asiatic spiritual genius with its deep insight into the laws of mind and spirit is still dormant in modern India and China, except in a small group of mystics, yogis and spiritual seekers. So there is at resent a real need to recover the inner, idealistic genius and temperament of the East to augment, enrich and ennoble the pragmatic and externalized temperament and turn of the present world. The insights of Indian thought on the nature and power of the idea can be of great help in implanting an idea or vision in the consciousness of the community.
Sowing the Seed
The vision building can be compared to the agricultural process where the seed is sown in a ploughed soil and allowed to grow into productive plant through proper harvesting. The visionary Idea is like the seed. But the seed-idea has to be sown and implanted deep into the collective consciousness of the group and allowed to grow into or yield its full creative potential from within outwards, through a process of proper psychological harvesting. This requires a deep understanding of the psychological principles of education and communication and the way of the Idea.
In the beginning or in the initial stages of the formation of the group, it was relatively easy. There was only a small group of founder-leaders who are the creators of the vision or committed to it. And the few executives or workers who join later can be aligned to the vision through a careful and personalized selection and education. However the problem becomes complex when the organization grows big and more and more people enter into the group or during critical periods of evolutionary transitions when the group has to be reoriented towards a higher idea and vision. The problem or challenge here is not only to consciously align the people’s mind to the vision or the idea but to establish the idea as a living collective force in the environment and saturate the mental atmosphere with the idea, so that it acts consciously as well as subconsciously on the people’s mind.
As we have explained earlier an idea is not an abstraction but a living force with an inherent urge towards realization. A well thought-out and clearly formulated idea is a bullet of crystallized mental energy shot into the mental atmosphere of he planet. This living mental entity, which is more or less independent of its creator, circulates in the mental atmosphere, silently entering into the minds of people. This happens constantly and invisibly in the mental environment of a collectivity. We are constantly influenced by a barrage of thoughts and feelings of others in the mental level. But a well-formulated thought coming from a conscious, concentrated and deliberate mental effort acts much more consciously than a vague, fleeting and incoherent thought. In other words, we may say, the moment a thought is clearly formulated, it is “published” in the mental atmosphere and begins to act in the minds of people. It seeks for receptive minds in which it can lodge itself, especially those minds with sufficient pragmatic and vital capacities for materializing the idea in the outer life.
So the first step in realizing an idea or vision in a group is to project it into the mental atmosphere of the group with a certain living force. To do this the idea has to be perceived with sufficient clarity in the mind, emotional energy and enthusiasm in the heart and a firm faith in the ultimate success or realization of the idea in the will. This very act of perception is a creative force which has it sown action. Interestingly an Indian management consultant, S.K. Bhattacharya, writing on the importance of a clear perception of the goals of an organization says: “—a clear definition of the super ordinate goals (of the organization) leads to better performance”; he then adds significantly “once the organization has defined its 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.” This pragmatic perception of a modern management professional is valid not only to the goals of an organization but also to a new Thought, Vision or Approach in any human endeavour like business, management or politics. A clear perception of the Vision and the Path releases a creative force which tends to realize itself in life.
The perception in the mind has to be followed by formulation in words, which crystallizes the idea in the collective mind. Here, we have to strive for a maximum possible harmony between the inner state of consciousness and its outer expression. For example, there are people, especially writers, whose thoughts and feelings may be shallow and superficial, but hey have a great power of expression which is crisp, smart or flowery. On the other hand there are those who have a great depth in their thought, feeling or experiences, but when they try to express their inner state, they are not able to articulate it with a commensurate creativity in language. When there is a perfect harmony between these two, it creates what is called in Indian thought as the Mantra.
According to this Vedic conception the highest ideal of language or literature is to create the Mantra, which means to reproduce in words the inner vibration of a soul-state or a state of consciousness which may be an idea, emotion, aspiration, prayer, intuition, vision, experience or realization. A vision or idea acquires the highest creative force when it is formulated in mantric words which exactly express the totality of the inner state of consciousness from which it emerges. Such mantric words have great evocative power; it can bring down the power of heavenly forces into the earthly idea or action.
Thus when we have perceived the vision or idea with clarity and insight in the mind, infused it with the intensity of feeling in the heart, energized it with faith of conviction in the will and finally expressed it with words approaching the ideal of mantra, we have planted the idea as a living creative force in the consciousness of the community. This living mental entity will silently act on the minds of people and create a subconscious receptivity to the idea in their consciousness. In some who are exceptionally receptive, it may even emerge in their conscious mind as their own idea.
But for the material realization of the idea, it has to be brought down to the material environment by diffusing the idea through collective communication, contemplation and action. This is the next step in harvesting: ploughing the soil with collective contemplation and action.
From Vision to Action
There is at present a large body of literature on the art and science of communication. It is now recognized that for effective communication it is not enough to convey the idea to the thinking mind of the audience, but more importantly, the idea has to catch the interest and attention of instincts and emotions of people. To do this, the idea has to be delivered in the forms of images, symbols and stories. For example, recently there was an interesting article in Harvard Business Review by a Hollywood script-writer on how to present a proposal or an idea in the form of a story. However, the ultimate test or measure of effective communication is not a change in thought or even in the feeling but in action and behavior; it should induce action on the lines indicated by the Idea. Ideally, this action should be voluntary and self-motivated, without any external compulsion or imposition through power and authority, reward and punishment. But in practice, there can be a soft, gentle and non-assertive persuasion through appropriate forms of communication, incentives and active support of the management to the idea.
The Idea may be presented in such a way that it is offered to the mind of individuals and the group not for acceptance but for consideration, inviting suggestions as well as criticism, but providing sufficient encouragement and incentives for arriving at a consensus. In other words, the idea has to be diffused and established in the material environment through collective contemplation and consensus. The other factor which enhances the appeal of the idea and diminishes resistance is to communicate with clarity and conviction the moral and rational basis of the idea with an emphasis on the immediate and long term benefits of the idea to the individual and the group.
Once the idea gains the acceptance of the majority of the group, the next step is to provide appropriate forums for action, implementation and execution. Here the most effective strategy would be somewhat like this. The management will provide the broad and general guidelines, coordination, and monitoring, corrective direction and keep the sense or awareness of the whole in each part and activity. But most of the initiative for action and execution should come from the field executive, the grass-root leader and the people, gathering together in many groups or teams around target-oriented tasks or project, with each group contributing its share for the progressive realization of the idea. For example, in Mind-tree, a software consulting firm in India, knowledge-management systems are organized on these principles of free and voluntary groupings. As Subroto Bagchi, co-founder of Mind-tree explains:
“A work place is a social microcosm. In it, people learn best, when the learning is voluntary. Consequently we created a Knowledge Management (KM) Organization—-The KM Organization built more than thirty communities of practice, an entirely volunteer-driven effort which focused on human-capital management. They chose their own areas of interest, created their own agenda, choose their own leaders, decided on when and where they would meet. The responsibility of the management is to provide physical and electronic infrastructure, coffee and snacks, some reward and recognition and generally stay out of the way.”