The Experience trap – M.S. Srinivasan

(Experience is a very important source of the learning. But it can also become a trap and a prison.)

Here is a story based on an episode narrated by a well-known writer in management.

Raymond Wopper is an old – world entrepreneur who runs his business on rigid, hierarchical and authoritarian principles of management. His son Robert Wooper after doing his MBA from a leading business school joined his family business to help his father. Robert says; “every day I am trying to convince my dad that what he is doing is not the right way to run a business in our present times. But so far I am unable to convince him.” Why, what is the problem? “Whenever I tell my father that he has to change his management style” says Robert “give more freedom for employees to think, invite their suggestions, treat them with compassion and understanding and care for their well-being, he looks at me with an indulgent smile and says “look here kid, I am running this highly successful and profitable business for more than three decades beating down all my competitors. When I say this is the only right way of running a business, I am talking from long, hard experience. But you are throwing on me some stupid, soft theories you have learnt from books and your muddle headed professors who have no experience in running a business”.

But now, what Raymond contemptuously describes as “stupid theories” is more or less accepted by everyone in business as the best and the most effective way of dealing with people and running an organisation. This is also based not only on “hard experience” but on a growing number of meticulous research studies. This is the new experience in management.

But Raymond was clinging to his old experience because it produces result. He was not able to understand that if he lets go his old experience, follows the new thought and gets into the new experience, he will get much better result in terms of motivation, productivity and profit. Raymond was trapped within his old experience.

This can also happen in the domain of spirituality and the inner experience. A seeker who follows the traditional path of Yoga may attain a state of higher consciousness and inner experience which may give him great inner peace and liberation and a sense of finality and absoluteness. He may settle down there happy and satisfied thinking it is the highest experience. But when other yogis like Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, who have gone beyond these traditional experiences to a higher and more integral spiritual perfection, talk about this greater realisation the traditional seeker may say “how can there be anything higher than this which was proclaimed by some of the greatest sages of the past as the highest.” But the great spiritual realisation attained by the pioneers of the future spirituality may one day become part of the traditional and established experiences accessible to all seekers.

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