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 KIIT Journal of Management, Vol.6. No. 1&2, Jan-Dec 2009)
One of the interesting and insightful concept of Indian philosophy is the concept of Unique Intrinsic Nature which may be abbreviated as UIN. This Indian concept can provide useful and relevant perspectives, which can be applied in modern management, especially in human and organizational development. The present article explores the application of the concept of UIN in the following domains of modern corporate management:
Key Perspectives:The Concept of Unique Intrinsic Nature; Psychology of Job-sculpting; UIN and Values; UIN of a Business Organization; UIN and Organizational Development.
The Concept of Unique Intrinsic Nature
The Indian thought held the view that every type of human individual or the group has its unique and intrinsic self-nature, UIN. Let us now examine briefly the psychological basis of this Indian conception.
According to ancient Indian thought every human individual has four fundamental psychological powers which give birth to four basic human types of personality depending on which power dominates the temperament and personality. These four powers may be called as Mentor, Marshal, Merchant and Worker. The outer life of man are the expression of these four-fold psychological powers within the human being in the collective life.
The first power is the intellectual, ethical and aesthetic being which seeks for knowledge, values and ideals, the power of the Mentor. The second is the will and vital force which seeks for power, strength, mastery, expansion, conquest, leadership and achievement, the power of the Marshal. The third is the sensational, emotional, relational and pragmatic mind which seeks for mutuality, harmonious relationship, enjoyment, production, interchange and pragmatic adaptation and organization, power of the Merchant. The third is the faculties of the physical being with its urge or capacity for hard work, obedience, loyalty, craftsmanship and details of material execution, the power of the Worker. One of these powers may dominate the nature of the individual determining his UIN as a Mentor, Marshal, Merchant or Worker. The ancient vedic ideal of human development is to develop fully and harmoniously all these four powers of the human being and integrate them around the spiritual centre of the individual.
When this four-powers and the corresponding types express themselves in the outer life it creates corresponding collective entities like the economic, social, commercial, political, military, administrative, educational and cultural institutions each with their unique UIN.
Based on this concept of the four-fold powers in man, Indian thought arrived at two practical conclusions. The first conclusion is that for outer efficiency as well as inner development of the individual, her outer occupation has to be in harmony with her UIN. This is because the human nature is part of universal Nature and when the human individual lives and acts in harmony with her own intrinsic nature, he is subconsciously in tune with the universal Nature and also with other human natures. And such an ecological attunement with the nature of our own self and the universal Nature leads to efficiency, harmony and smooth evolution of the individual and the collectivity. The second conclusion is that to achieve this ecological attunement, the guiding system of ideals and values for the individual or the collectivity have to be shaped taking into consideration the UIN of the human organism. This means the system of values for the Mentor, Marshal, Merchant and Worker type of personalities can not be exactly the same. Similarly the value-system for the business, political, educational, religious or spiritual organizations cannot also be the same because their inner natures are not similar. Let us now examine the implication of this concept of UIN for human and organization development.
Psychology of Job-sculpting
There is at present a growing recognition of the importance of psychological factors in shaping the motives, performance and job-satisfaction of employees. According to Harvard psychologist, Timothy Butler and James Waldrop, latest research studies on the subject have identified three factors as the main ingredients of job-satisfaction and performance: Ability, Values and life-interests. Ability is the professional competence acquired through experience, knowledge, skill. Values are the type of rewards which people seek. Some people value money, others want intellectual challenge still others desire comfortable life-style. The third factor is the “deeply embedded life-interest” which are described by Butler and Waldrop as:
“These interests are not hobbies, nor are the topical enthusiasms such as Chinese history. Instead, deeply embedded life-interests are long-held, emotionally driven passions intricately entwined with personality and thus born of an indeterminate mix of nature and nurture. Deeply embedded life-interests do not determine what people are good at¾they drive what kind of activities make them happy. At work, that happiness often translates into commitment.” (Butler. T, Waldrop.J, 1999)
In the Indian perception the inner source of ability, values and life-interests is the UIN of the individual which may be defined as a fundamental and deeply embedded psychological disposition which determines the unique inner temperament, inclination and values of the individual and also those activities for which she has a natural affinity. We must note here UIN is not the nature or temperament of the surface personality woven around the consciousness of our body. It is the nature of the deeper self in us which is a part of or one with the innermost spiritual core of our individuality. We may say UIN is the psycho-spiritual temperament intrinsic to the very essence of our individuality. So, the Indian concept of UIN is a deeper and broader concept which includes life-interest but also much more.
This brings us to the practical question: how to discover the UIN of an individual and match her outer occupation with her inner nature. The Harvard psychologists Butler and Waldrop call this task as “Job-Sculpting” which means “the art of matching people to jobs that will allow their deeply embedded life-interest to be expressed”.(1999) We may replace the concept of life-interest with the concept of UIN. Job-sculpting involves, matching the UIN of the individual with the psychological content of the job. The first step in job-sculpting is to understand the UIN of the individual. There are three methods or approaches for discovering the UIN of an individual: Tests, Counselling and Self-observation.
The first one, oral and written tests, like interviews and aptitude tests or the more recent psychometric tests, are the most extensively used method in the modern corporate world. It is now well-recognised that for better performance, the employee should possess not only the knowledge and skill required for the job but also the requisite psychological temperament or aptitude. For example, an article in New Scientist, says the following on psychometric tests:
“Psychometric questionnaires measures factors such as independence, leadership, sociability, perseverance and decisiveness—-The result tell employees, among other factors, whether you are decisive, cautious, like working towards goals, seek to achieve something you consider significant or enjoy variety. Some indicate whether you are a leader or follower, introvert or extrovert, conformist or non-conformist, prefer a supportive environment or don’t care. There are no correct answers to personality questionnaire. The results reflect your view of yourself and can indicate whether or not you are suitable for certain roles. It is best to be honest in your responses. For if you pretend to be what you are not, you may find yourself in a job which is totally unsuitable. Someone who lacks staying power and persistence is unlikely to make a good researcher, while an introvert will find life hard in sales.”(Haris.N, 1993)
The second method is counseling which involves discussion, guidance and suggestions from experts like psychologists or career counselors and also with others like the boss or peers or teachers. The third method is self-observation, which means a deep and alert awareness of our inner world and the inner sources of our motives, values and actions.
All the three methods can be used but with a predominant emphasis on self-observation because the understanding of our UIN and our decisions and actions which flows from it gets fully internalized and effective only when it is a personal discovery. The advantage of the first method is that it can be applied extensively for a large number of people. The disadvantage of the method, especially with psychometric tests is that it tends to be superficial, mistaking our fleeting likes, dislikes, preferences and qualities of our surface personality as our deeper UIN. Counselling and discussions is a more effective method because it brings the objective and scientific perspective of others to the investigation. The advantage of self-observation is that it leads to a better internalization and assimilation of the discovery. The drawback of the method is that it may lead to much confusion and errors created by personal bias, if the individual is not sufficiently mature psychologically, and does not have the right discrimination to distinguish between the deep and enduring urges and the fleeting surface impulsion.
As we have indicated earlier passing likes and dislikes and preferences of the surface personality tethered to our body are not the UIN. To discover the deeper psychological disposition of our UIN, we have to detach our mind from these surface urges and learn to feel impersonally the inner impulsions which come from the deeper sources of our being. A helpful indication is to see or rather feel what are the activities which give us a deep, tranquil and intrinsic joy. So the discovery of UIN has to be based mainly on self-observation with the other two methods helping and augmenting the process of self-assessment by providing appropriate information, guidance or expert advice. But for effective job-sculpting it is not enough to know the UIN of the individual. We must also know the psychological content of the job or occupation which is made of the following factors:
i) The proportion of Mentor, Marshal, Merchant or Worker faculties needed for the job.
ii) The dominant psychological temperament and the qualities required for performing the job effectively or in other words what is the psychographic profile of the job.
iii) We may add one more factor to this psychological content of the job. Values and Ideals-moral, aesthetic and spiritual-which can elevate the activity to higher level of consciousness beyond the purely mundane focus on the bottom line.
The best way to determine this psychographic profile of the job is to ask people who have long experience in the job or achieved a high level of expertise and performance in their professional occupation not only in terms of efficiency and productivity but also in terms of implementing and enforcing values. For example, we may ask a world-class manufacturing manager with long-experience in the line to observe himself carefully while performing his function and also look at the activities of his department and his subordinates in a psychological perspective and describe what are the predominant faculties, qualities or values required for achieving high quality and performance in his job and also that of other workers in his department.
UIN and Values
As we have indicated earlier, Indian thought held the view that for outer efficiency as well as inner development the guiding values and ideals for the individual and the collectivity have to be in harmony with their UIN. For example, “high thinking and simple living” may be a good system of values for the mentor-type of personality like the sage, saint, thinker and the scholar or the religious, education or spiritual organization. But it is not the right system of values for the Merchant-type like the businessman or for the economic and commercial life. For the Merchant type the ideal is not “high thinking” of the transcendental, philosophical and spiritual kind but useful, pragmatic, honest and generous thinking; not simple living but a beautiful, harmonious and opulent living. This doesn’t mean the merchant-type should not be interested in philosophy or spirituality but the activity which will help him most in his development is not pure or abstract philosophy or spirituality but applied philosophy or spirituality or in other words in implementing higher values in the outer life.
Thus each individual has to find a system of values, which is in harmony with her UIN. For the mentor type of personality it could be self-knowledge and world-knowledge, high thinking, inner peace and detachment, coaching and mentoring, and inner growth through a path of knowledge, meditation and contemplation. For the Marshal type it is courage, self-mastery, wielding power under the yoke of high values, achievement, adventure, conquest of unexplored territories of knowledge or life, progressive perfection in work, compassionate or crusading leadership. For the merchant type it may be mutuality, harmony, rectitude in dealings; generosity of the mind and heart expressing itself through charity, philanthropy and friendliness; nimble and pragmatic flexibility in tackling the changing realities of life; capacity for organization; instinctive attunement to the rhythms of life; aesthetic sensibility. And finally for the worker-type, it is loyalty, faith, devotion, obedience to wiser guidance, skill in material execution and craftsmanship.
However we must note here that no individual is exclusively of a single type. These four types of personalities correspond to four basic clusters of psychological faculties within each human being. The UIN of an individual is determined by the predominance of a particular cluster of faculties. Moreover, as the individual progresses in her psychological evolution, these clusters tends towards an integrated balance but still she may live predominantly in the consciousness of a specific cluster of faculties. Moreover, values, virtues and qualities are in their essential nature are an interrelated family. So a deeper and wider pursuit of a particular virtue or values belonging to our inborn and natural UIN may lead to the virtue or values of other types. For example while a marshal type of personality may express courage through a natural and forceful exercise of will and vital force, a mentor type of personality may attain courage through a path of calm and detached thinking or idealism. Similarly, while the Merchant-type can attain the ideal of love through harmonious relationship, the worker-type of personality may each the same ideal through devotion, loyalty and service.
UIN of a Business Organization:
Just like the individual, every collectivity like a business organization has its own UIN. A business organization is part of the economic system and the basic UIN of an economic organism is to create wealth for the society through an efficient, economic and productive utilization of resources; by delighting the customers; and producing products with high quality at low cost. So efficiency, productivity, economy, quality, customer service and wealth-creation are the fundamental bottomline of a business organization which should never be neglected or ignored under any circumstances or at any stage of evolution. As we have said earlier, whatever higher values we want to realize at the more advanced stages of evolution, they have to be integrated with these fundamental values of the UIN of business.
In a more psychological perspective the UIN of business lies in the pragmatic and relational mind, energy and will which is essential for the organization and implementation of ideas in the material life. So the right path for the higher evolution of business lies in perfecting this part or faculty of the human consciousness and acquiring the ability to organize and implement deeper, higher and more inclusive values, ideals and vision.
For example creativity and innovation are higher values than efficiency. A TQM (Total, Quality, Management) model based on the inner and outer quality of people, products, process and the environment is a deeper, higher and a more inclusive concept than the present TQM philosophy. Stakeholder value is a more inclusive ideal than shareholder value. An ideal of quality based on the emotional and psychological satisfaction of the customer is a deeper concept than the one based on technical or material quality of the product. A HRD (Human Resource Development) philosophy based on the hellenic ideal of sound mind in a sound body aiming at a balanced and harmonious development of the rational, pragmatic, emotional, ethical, aesthetic and physical being of the individual and their harmonious self-expression in the community is a more inclusive ideal than the present ideal of HRD based on skill development. A concept of social responsibility based on capacity-building is a higher ideal than just pumping money in the form of charity.
UIN and Organizational Development:
Every collectivity like an individual, as it evolves, develops its own unique UIN in the form of a distinctive competence and a vital, mental, moral, aesthetic or spiritual temperament. This UIN of an organization is shaped by three factors. First is the environment of which it is a part or in which it is embedded. A business organization is part of the economic life of the community and therefore its UIN will be part of the larger nature of the economic organism. However the social and cultural environment also exerts a considerable influence in moulding the UIN of the organization. The second factor is the Vision and Values of its founders. The third factor is whatever new directions, modifications or innovations in vision, values and methods given or built into the organization by its later leaders.
Some of the modern management concepts like differentiation, core competence and branding are very much related to the concept of UIN. An organization discovers and manifest its UIN by developing a unique vital, mental, moral and aesthetic temperament distinct from other organizations in the same industry and an inimitable competence in delivering better value for the customer. Companies like Northwest Airlines, Federal Express and Body Shop are examples of effective differentiation by developing the UIN of the organization. The maveriek founder of Body Shop, Anita Rodick once said that she carefully watches the current trends in the industry and does the opposite! And Branding is nothing but the process of projecting and communicating the unique psychological personality of the Organization, UIN of the organization to the public or the customer.
The concept of UIN has important practical implications for organizational development. Every organization goes through a cycle of birth, growth, decline and when the period of decline is handled creatively, rejuvenation. There are many factors which causes the cycle of decline. One of the causative factors of decline could be loss of contact with the vision, values or the distinctive competence which gave birth to the organization and the source of its growth and success, or in other words, disconnect from the UIN of the organization. So, when the organization is in a cycle of low growth and decline, it is always helpful torecollect and reexamine impartially and objectively the following factors:
i) History of the organization and its mission, vision, values and distinctive competencies.
ii) Causative factors behind its “golden ages” of success and achievement.
iii) How much of these factors and to what extent these factors are still alive or lived in the organizational culture.
iv) How much of them are still relevant to the present condition and therefore have to be recovered or retained.
v) What are the modifications or innovations to be made and new competencies to be acquired for tackling the present realities and future possibilities.
The Indian concept of Unique Intrinsic Nature, UIN has important practical implications for human and organizational development. Job-Sculpting based on the concept of UIN can help in matching the inner nature temperament, aptitude and capacities of the individual with the nature of the outer occupation. Similarly the concept of UIN provides useful insights for understanding the inner nature of an organization and evolving appropriate development strategies.
Butler, Timothy and James Waldrop, (1999), ‘Job-Sculpting: The Art of Retaining Your Best People’. Harvard Business Review, September-October, pp.49-63
Harris, Niels, ‘In Search of the Right Stuff ’, New Scientist, Jan 1993, p.23-25