Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Takeaways of the 66th annual conference of ICA held at Bangalore (4-7 Dec 2013)

Having attended the conference at Bangalore, I would like to mention some of the takeaways which are purely based on my personal observation. Hence I would love to have your disagreements as well as agreements (if any).

a. Excellent inaugural address (by Sri Hansraj Bharadwaj) as well as valedictory address (by Sri Veerapa Moily). I am going to cherish the memories of it for many years. I have no hesitation in saying that both were some of the best ever addresses I have ever attended. Congratulations for the organizers to have chosen these great personalities.

b. Excellent cultural program by the professional dancers. It provided great relaxation after the hectic day. Thanx a lot organizers.

c. Good arrangements for stay of the delegates. I did not hear anything negative about it, though some of the research scholars and young faculty members were complaining about the stay on 7th night, but somehow that was arranged by the organizers. As for my personal experience, though it was little embarrassing but no complain about it, I do understand the challenge of arranging suitable accommodation for so many delegates. Congratulations for the organizers for this.

d. Young research scholars and faculty members read some good papers but still if I look at it holistically, in last 7-8 years the standard is going down. It is a challenge ICA has to face and deal with.

e. I came across some of the great politicians (in negative terms). I had heard earlier that teachers make good politicians. It was fully validated. Who can beat teachers in that. It is sad for the ICA which stands for the cause of commerce education and its seamless growth.

f. It was an excellent opportunity for networking, among teachers of commerce and management. I-invite-you, you-invite-me (IIUYIM) was heard, felt and observed everywhere. In fact I seem to feel that it is more a platform for IIUYIM than anything else. And at that full marks to everybody who gathered there.

g. Ever since we started having elections (democratising the decisions), it is seen that from the very first day the members start canvassing, and reach that low which at times calls for serious concern, specially for us teachers. Though higher number of delegates adds to the success of the conference, however bringing along the voters and spreading a word through them for voting somehow questions the integrity of the individuals as well as sanctity of the association.

h. Organisers need to be appreciated for their tireless efforts but somehow if possible we need to shift our attention to the quality presentations and publication and I dream one day someone purely from commerce discipline (may be from commerce department of college/university) bags Manubhai Shah Memorial Award.

i. All is well that ends well....

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Knowledge is Power

Knowledge is power said Francis Bacon. It is that strength for which others respect you, they listen to you, they consult you, they seek your advice, they believe you, they trust you. It is such a strong power. It was perhaps Michel Foucault who deliberated philosophically on the role and relationship between Power and Knowledge. He was of the view that power determines knowledge and it is powerful who take decision as to what should be considered as knowledge.

There are different kinds of power and often it refers merely to positional power. Power that position gives you. If you leave that position you cease to enjoy that power. So the power is purely attached to a position. Such power dominates formal decisions as to what should be considered as knowledge, what information should be made public and what should be hidden from them. Concealing and revealing becomes the function of positional power. The flow of information is fully controlled. And as knowledge is created through or from the bulk of information and further conveyed to the user. So positional power which is formal in nature can impact decisions positively or otherwise. This is where the individual who holds positional power becomes important. Such power gets used, misused and abused by its patron as per his/her intentions, integrity and intimacy with the issue, concern and situation.

Power can not be just used as a reference for positional power. Power beyond position is more important for wise decisions and fair dispositions as to filter out knowledge from information. Free and fair flow of information is possible only when power is looked beyond formality and position. Control over flow of information results in control over knowledge and control of knowledge results in control over wisdom and that I personally feel is disastrous for fair development of society. Human bias has to be reduced and avoided in order to make just and fair society. Use of positional power by individuals or institutions, states or nations obstruct development of knowledge. Powerful people, powerful institutions, powerful states, and powerful nations dominate over controlling access to information, the stem of knowledge. And perhaps this is what drives people, institutions, states or nations to acquire more power through all modes and methods.    

Many a times development is viewed from the perspective of economic development and in that direction, the worshipers of Adam Smith who preached on capitalism, seem to strongly believe that it is the market which would direct the process of development. So whatever market would determine, would stay, whatever people would like to buy, would be sold, whatever industry houses decide which of course is primarily driven by the market forces shall stay in the market for the duration, market chooses it to stay, whatever market would ask for, industry shall have to produce and provide, whatever market would determine as knowledge shall be considered as knowledge. Does that hold any water?  

My skepticism drives me home with a feeling that ultimately it is the market which is going to determine the whole knowledge construction. Dominant power is market but the delivery of information to the market is within the control of the state. Hence the more powerful state enjoys and controls more access and dissemination of information which ultimately gets culminated into a product called Knowledge. Yes Knowledge is really a power, a super power but it has to come out of the clutches of state that is at present enjoying the control over it.


Read Panneerselvam's critique of Foucault on Power and Knowledge  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Education, Crime and Punishment

Saket District Court is going to announce the sentence to the accused in the GangRape case which happened on 16th Dec 2012 in Delhi. It led to numerous agitations at different locations in India which also included candle march at several places showing their solidarity for the cause of a strict and stringent law which could punish the accused with the capital punishment. The agitators demanded fast action from the court.

Later the parliament passed a law which made provisions of punishing the accused with death penalty. That law is in action now. The question as to whether such laws would be able to control such heinous crimes in the times to follow keeps pondering over my head and I have a different take on this.

We have several laws, many of them very strict. We have several institutions, very pious in nature, very committed to the cause of welfare of people of the republic of India. We have all kinds of bureaucrats and politicians who are involved in making laws as well as implementing them. We have sound judiciary system. When we have all these, still crime rate is not going down. If we have great institutions to serve the people, why people don't get served. If law is there why it is not followed and appropriate and timely judgement is not given. For me this is more serious an issue for India than to have one more law, one more act. 

I feel somewhere down the line the systems that are developed and followed have gone bad. I feel somewhere the kind of education we are providing has deteriorated (or rather failed) in its content, context and delivery. The person who is planning for a crime (of any nature), who is conniving with the machinery (system), who is venturing out has lost the fear of death, suffers from one or more of the following syndromes: 

a. S/He does not really fear death. He is fed up with life so thinks that what would happen if he is caught, death, no problem, it is a better thing to happen rather than continuing the life the way it is.
b. S/He is suddenly exposed to certain kind of environment which is quite open and which is quite different from her/his earlier environment. Such sudden exposure drives him/her to get into developing a criminal mindset.
c. S/He is friends with such individuals who have committed crime in the past but were not caught, which has developed a kind of attitude in them that nothing might happen to them.
d. The person in question has grown in an environment where everything can be bought or sold and availability of money as a proxy to favor is available in plenty.

There could still be some more reasons.  In fact what is required is to make sound system, make delivery of justice time bound, and develop a system which makes responsible citizens with high moral values.  This can happen when we have moral leaders.  Hence everything has to be dealt at individual level and that is where education plays most important role.  Teacher, educational institutions (school, college, university or any such institution) and system have to work together in order to convey the values to students as to what is just.

Pronouncing death sentence might be a deterrent for those who fear death but more than that the importance and respect for human life has to be taught to people so that they are not driven to the act of crime of any nature.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Teacher, Teaching and Education - Teachers' Day 2013

Today is teachers' day in India. On this day in 1888, Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was born, who later became the President of India. He also occupied the office of Vice President of India apart from being the chancellor of University of Delhi before taking over as President of India. He was a great educationist, philosopher and statesman. Since 1962, this day is celebrated as Teachers Day in India.

Teachers play very important role in the lives of people. They make or destroy generations. They shape or spoil the future of children. And this is a reason why their role further becomes more important. Some people become teachers on their own choice and for some teaching finds them. Some teach for livelihood and satisfy their daily needs out of the consideration that they get from their job. Just like any other job. Some make rules for themselves and at times they break rules for the cause of education and improving the well being of people. They are really regarded as great souls.

I keep pondering on the role of teachers and every time that I do this I learn new things, come across new perspective, discover new dimension and it takes me further to the very basic question. What really is the purpose of education? If teacher is able to provide a platform to a student to discover himself/herself, I feel to a very great extent a teacher has performed his/her duties. If a teacher has been able to provoke a student to search further, to think, to explore, I feel to a very great extent a teacher has performed his/her duties. If a teacher has been able to encourage a student to read further, explore further, think further, to a very great extent a teacher has been successful.

With these few stray thoughts on Teaching on this day that is celebrated as Teachers' Day in India I entered to my class of M Com 3rd semester and after that to M Com 1st semester. What I did with them today, I would like to share with you all.

I asked them - 'how many of you want to become teachers'. After a small lull, one, two, three, total in both the classes some 15 odd students said they want to pursue teaching as a career. And then I asked them - 'According to you what qualities a teacher should possess'. The qualities that they thought of were like these:

a. Commitment and Dedication towards teaching
b. Open mindedness, accessible and friendly behavior
c. Urge to Learn
d. Good Reading Habit
e. Strong Communication skill and expression ability (with life examples)
f. Kindness, Patience, Motivating, Lively and Good Personality
g. Disciplined, Punctual, Honest, Unbiased

I also agreed on these qualities. One student also mentioned that a teacher must wear good clothes, should be well dressed. I never ever thought that this could also be one of the quality that students expect in a teacher. Yes I get reminded of one of our teachers who was an excellent teacher, taught us accounting while I was doing B Com, way back in 1985-86. Many times we tried to count the number of woolen suits he had and most of the time we failed. He was one of the best dressed person/teacher that I have ever come across in my life as student as well as, as a teacher.

Anyways, after elaborating little more on these qualities I asked them to look within themselves whether they really possess these qualities. If yes they can pursue and enjoy the career in teaching but if most of these qualities they do not possess, I wonder whether they would really make a good teacher. The world has been led by teachers through different rulers in different times. Knowledge power is the order of the day. It has led and would lead in the times to follow. Hence the role of a teacher is further going to be important. I salute all my teachers and students who have contributed and are contributing for improving me and making me learn new things every time I interact with them. 

Thanx a lot for each one of you who have been my teacher in any way. My students made my day...

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Why the Rupee Fall

The market sentiment is the major player in the fall of the currency of any country.  US Dollar is an international currency unlike Indian Rupee, so all imports are converted into USDs and for all exports India earns USDs.  When there is favourable condition in the market, the sentiments support the home currency and vice versa.

This is primary reason.  However there are other reasons as well.  In order to improve growth parameters, a country is required to spend money on the projects and sustainable endeavors.  For this there are two options available for a nation, one it can print/mint currency and another one to collect the currency from the market.  First option requires similar collateral for security, which is not the case for the second option.  US federal government announced collecting currency (USDs) from other nations, which made USD a valuable currency following Demand-Supply law of economics.  This caused the fall of rupee as well as fall of many other currencies of other nations.

When a government shows its concern more on the welfare side and divert fund for subsidy it amounts to Current Account Deficit.  Higher CAD affects market sentiments negatively which causes foreign investors (individuals as well as institutions) to withdraw their deposits or to put hold on their projects.  It also slows down the process of inflow of USD, which results in shortage of currency and leads to devalue rupee.

In brief there are following reasons:

a. US federal govts initiative to pump in more USDs in US.
b. CAD deficit
c. Shortage of USDs in India
d. Negative Market Sentiment.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Whether Poverty Premium or Poverty Discount – Entrepreneurship and Innovation is the key

Recently Vijay Govindrajan, Professor of strategy at Dartmouth College, USA was asked – ‘While Innovating, whom should companies target – local consumers or global ones?’ His reply was: ‘The focus has to be Indian consumers, especially Indian non-consumers.’ He divided India into three categories, namely ‘Developed India’ (100 million people living in 15 major Indian cities), ‘Developing India’ (300 million people living in 6,000 small towns), and ‘Underdeveloped India’ (700 million living in the 600,000 villages). He combined developing and underdeveloped India into one group of customers as non-consumers. The needs of these non-consumers have to be addressed in order to capitalize on the opportunity that India provides and it is possible through developing innovative products and services which cater to their pockets.

These non-consumers pose a greater challenge for the corporate houses to attract their attention. More than a decade ago, in 2002, CK Prahalad and Allen Hammond wrote a paper in the Harvard Business Review entitled ‘Serving the World’s Poor, Profitably’ where social deprivation and poverty was projected as a business opportunity for the corporate which was to be capitalized in order to create wealth through serving the poor. The underdeveloped India was the target for experimenting with new products/services. The concept of the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) became the catchword for market seeking entrepreneurs. The premise of the BOP was driven with an intention to have inclusive capitalism so that the win-win position is targeted both for the profit seeking business organizations and for the underdeveloped population. It was for democratizing commerce in a given globalised environment where every person was to have access to the benefits of the global economy, every person as a consumer was seen to afford world-class products and services and every person was seen as a producer, an entrepreneur who have access to global markets. This is how win-win for all was proposed through BOP model.

It was also expressed by Prahalad that since the poor pay ‘poverty premium’, there is a business opportunity for big companies. Poverty Premium was the term used for the difference (more) in prices that poor people were paying as compared to middle-class people for the similar products and services and this is what worried him as well as what drove him to think of a proposition in which poverty premium is avoided and the poor gets the products at the same or less prices, if the issue is addressed through innovation and operating with the framework of economy of scale and strong supply chaining.  It really made lot of sense and many companies that were studied by Prahalad like HUL (for Lifebuoy Soap and Iodized salt), ICICI (for financial services to the poor), ITC (for e-Chaupal), SKS Finance (for microfinance), Aravind Eye Care (for eye care products and services), etc made a difference and resulted in win-win for all as poor people did not need to pay poverty premium in these cases.  It taught lessons for others and paved path for developing related products.

This is what Peter F Drucker had suggested in 1984 for organizational response and sustainability in order to provide new meaning to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) tracing back through the history of responding to social responsibility in America through the eye of Carnegie (business as ownership) and Rosenwald (business as trust). He had strong farsightedness and a sense of enterprise when he foresaw a business opportunity in the social problem and sounded that wealth could be created through responding to this market, much different from the traditional concept of CSR where it was viewed as a practice to share the burden of the state through sharing a part of the profit for social welfare and upliftment.

In the April 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review, Ethan Kay and Woody Lewenstein questioned the thesis of Prahalad and concluded that poor do not really pay poverty premium rather enjoy poverty discount. This view is the result of their study carried out at Dharavi (one of the world’s largest slum with median income of around $100 a month) and 9 kms away Warden Road (both in Mumbai) in January 2013. They compared the prices of some 40 products/services at 17 stores each at both locations. The services and products included, price for electricity, movie ticket, doctor’s appointment, haircut, price for banana, comb, soap, sandals, sugar, dress, rice, cooking oil etc. Through the comparison of the prices consumers pay and failure of products like soya protein by Solae and PUR by P&G (both the products targeting BOP population), they say that poverty premium often seems illusory, rather people residing in Dharavi are enjoying poverty discount as they are paying much less for the same product/service as compared to their counterparts buying from Warden Road outlets.

This work has raised many questions as to the generalization of two locations in Mumbai to the whole population, quality and delivery platform differences and practices for these products/services, and many other issues as well. There is discussion on this issue and it is becoming difficult to draw a line anywhere.

The journey of thirty years (1984-2013) has been a great learning experience for the corporate houses operating specially in India, housing a huge size of non-consumers. Of course much has happened precisely after the opening up of Indian economy in 1991. These years have seen many young entrepreneurs benefiting from the globalization at one hand and responding to non-consumers at the other end.  It is reported by the NSSO that poverty is declining and the levels have reached to 25%. The purchasing power of the rural population is showing an uptrend.

Whatever be the case as to Poverty Premium or Poverty Discount, what is very clear is that there is huge business opportunity lying untapped and business organizations have greater challenge to respond. The irony is that much of this opportunity is used by the big business houses and there is strong wave of consolidation happening. This is where young entrepreneurs have to play a role and develop innovative products, through support of the government, in case required. There are many schemes and programs of the government which make things easier for them. We need to create that awareness and develop educational system which provides an opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to incubate their ideas and convert them into innovative and salable products and services.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Why do Organisations Fail???

Few weeks back I was being interviewed - 'So if you need to give one most important reason for corporate failures, what that would be', one of the interviewer asked.  Without even thinking for a minute, I responded - 'Greed'.  I could observe an accepting smile on his face.  True.  In fact we were talking about the whole case of Satyam and Maytas, the corporate governance issues, the cooking-up of the accounting books, overstated size of employees, etc etc.

But after the interview was over, I wanted to ask myself whether it is only the Greed which is the cause of corporate failures or there are some more reasons.  I kept thinking of many reasons for the next week and thought of again going through the book by Jim Collins 'How the Mighty Fall' with the notes of 'Good to Great' as well as 'Built to Last'.  Apart from this browsing through some old magazines and searching out the failure stories (quite unconventional, generally people prefer going through success stories, I read one of the sayings of Abdul Kalam where he says it is important to go through failure stories than success stories which teaches you better lessons) and tried finding out of the web, some related literature.  Interestingly I came across a list of them which I would like to mention here:

Over confidence
Underestimating the rivals
Compromising on organizational philosophy
Doing too many things at the same time
High aspiration level in too short a time

the list goes on....  Can you people also help me in knowing some more reasons of failures?  Looking forward.... Most welcome....

Monday, May 27, 2013

सकारात्मक चैनल की आवश्यकता

कल हमलोग कार्यक्रम देखा। अच्छा लगा। आज के समय की तीन प्रतिभाओं को देखा व सुना, ह्रदय भावुक हो गया। वर्तमान समय मे जब सभी चैनलों पर नकारात्मक समाचारों की होड़ लगी हो, उस माहौल में इस प्रकार के कार्यक्रमों को देखकर एक आशा की किरण दिखाई देती है। ऐसा कदापि नहीं है कि हमारे आस पास कुछ अच्छा नहीं हो रहा है, ऐसा कदापि नहीं है कि सभी कुछ ख़राब ही है, सभी लोग नकारात्मक सोच के ही हों, यदि हम अपने आसपास देखें व विचारें तो आज भी कई प्रेरणाप्रद अध्याय दिन प्रतिदिन जुड़ रहे है। यह एक विडम्बना ही है कि हमारी द्रष्टि सकारात्मक घटनाओं, व्यक्तियों, प्रयोजनों, योजनाओं इत्यादि पर उतनी जल्दी नहीं जाती, जितनी जल्दी हम नकारात्मक ख़बरों की और आकर्षित हो जाते हैं। इस परिप्रेक्ष्य में मीडिया की भूमिका अति महत्वपूर्ण हो जाती है। 

मेरे मस्तिष्ट मे एक विचार आता है, कि क्या वर्तमान सामाजिक व आर्थिक व्यवस्था में (जहाँ सब कुछ बाज़ार में उपलब्ध हो, जहाँ सब कुछ बिकता हो, जहाँ प्रतिस्पर्धा का वर्चस्व हो) यह संभव है कि एक चैनल ऐसा स्थापित किया जाये जिसमे केवल सकारात्मक समाचारों का ही प्रसारण हो, जिस पर, देश-विदेश के महान व्यक्तित्वों के बारे में बताया जाये, जहाँ उन सभी सकारात्मक सोच के व्यक्तिओं का सामजिक मुद्दों पर मंथन हो, जहाँ क्षेत्रीय, राज्यस्तरीय, राष्ट्रीय व अंतर्राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर सकारात्मक प्रयासों के बारे में चर्चा हो, जहाँ किसी भी प्रकार की नकारात्मक सोच को न स्वीकारा जाये, जहाँ पैसे से अधिक मूल्यों (मानवीय) की चर्चा हो। मेरे विचार से शायद ऐसी कल्पना करने में कोई दोष नहीं है व यह संभव भी है। 

हमारे बुजुर्ग कहते थे, जैसा हम देखते हैं, वैसे बन जाते हैं। दांते ने कहा था, मुझे अपने मित्रों के बारे में बताओ, मैं बताऊंगा तुम कौन हो। मुझे लगता है कि जिस प्रकार से नकारात्मक समाचारों को बड़ा चदाकर प्रस्तुत किया जा रहा है, संभवतः समाज में इसका प्रभाव, सकारात्मक न होकर नकारात्मक हो रहा है और आज के बच्चे उसी सोच का शिकार होते जा रहे हैं, बच्चे ही क्या, सभी लोग किसी न किसी रूप में इस सबको स्वीकार भी करने लगे हैं, यह एक भयावह स्थिति की और इंगित करता है, मुझे याद है, एक बार (लगभग ७-८ वर्ष पूर्व) यहाँ शिलांग में एक विचार-गोष्टी चल रही थी, उसके मुख्य वक्ता शिलांग के एक प्रतिष्टित अंग्रेजी समाचार पत्र के संपादक थे, गोष्टी का विषय था - Role of Media in Modern Times (आधुनिक समय में मीडिया की भूमिका), मैंने संपादक महोदय को सुना, उन्होंने उस समय की सामाजिक बुराइयों को दूर करने में मीडिया की भूमिका पर अपने विचार रखे, सुनकर वास्तव में अच्छा लगा, सभी लोगों ने खूब तालियाँ बजाईं। उसके बाद प्रश्न-उत्तर सत्र था। यहाँ यह बताना आवश्यक है कि मैंने उस दिन सुबह उस दिन का समाचार पत्र पड़ा था, सो मैंने हाथ उठाया व अपनी प्रश्न पूछने की इच्छा जताई, मुझे प्रश्न पूछने का अवसर दिया गया, मैंने पूछा कि क्या आप मुझे बता सकते हैं, कि आज के समाचार पत्र में मुख्प्रष्ट पर कोई भी सकारात्मक खबर क्यों नहीं है, जबकि प्रष्ट ४ पर एक छोटी सी खबर छपी है कि एक युवक ने अपने कौशल को दिखाते हुए अपने गाँव के लोगों को किस प्रकार अच्छा कार्य करने के लिए प्रेरित किया है। यह समाचार मुख्प्रष्ट पर क्यों नहीं हो सकता है, और दूसरी ओर कुछ शरारती तत्वों द्वारा बलात्कार का प्रयास, इस समाचार को बड़ा चदाकर छापा गया है। पहले तो संपादक महोदय ने मेरा नाम व संस्थान पूछा, फिर बताया कि समाचार पत्र की बिक्री सकारात्मक समाचारों से नहीं होती, पाठक नकारात्मक समाचारों को चाव से पड़ता है। इसी प्रकार के कुछ और तर्कों द्वारा उन्होंने मुझे  संतुष्ट करने का प्रयास किया। उसके पश्चात् हम लोग जलपान की ओर बड़े, संपादक महोदय ने अनौपचारिक रूप से मुझे बताया कि समाचार पत्र वह छापता है जो बिकता है। शायद आज भी यही हो रहा है। 

परन्तु इतना सब कुछ होते हुए भी, मैं यह सोचता हूँ कि आज का पाठक व दर्शक, नकारात्मक समाचारों व सन्दर्भों से इतना दुखी हो चुका है कि यदि कोई पूर्ण रूप से सकारात्मक समाचारों पर केन्द्रित चैनल प्रारंभ किया जाये तो उसे काफी सराहना मिलेगी। मुझे याद है जब पीटर मुख़र्जी स्टार ग्रुप के सीईओ हुआ करते थे, तब उन्होंने स्टार ग्रुप के कई नए चैनल प्रारंभ किये, एक रिपोर्टर ने उनसे पूंछा कि क्या आपके अनुसार इस प्रकार का विस्तार बाज़ार को देखते हुए ठीक कदम है, तो पीटर ने उत्तर दिया ... यदि कोलगेट बारह सेगमेंट में बिक सकता है, तो स्टार क्यों नहीं। आज मुझे लगता है आज के दर्शकों में एक वर्ग इस प्रकार के प्रयासों को अवश्य स्वीकार करेगा और उसका बाज़ार भी साथ देगा। 

अंत में दुष्यंत कुमार जी की दो पंक्तियाँ याद आती हैं:

कौन कहता है आसमान में सुराग नहीं हो सकता 
एक पत्थर तो तबियत से उछालो यारो 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Child is the father of man

One friend (A) was talking to another friend (B) (while pointing towards his 10 year old son)

A - 'aajkal bachche bahut smart ho gaye hain'

B - 'itna jaantey hain, na... baap re... computer, mobile, tv, meri 9 saal ki beti hai, mobile se khelti hai'

A - 'mera beta bhi.... kehta hai.. papa mobile me internet nahin hai..lelo na'

B - 'meri beti kehti hai, papa ye nokia purana ho gaya... iPhone lo ya fir Galaxy'

As this conversations was going on I was just observing their gestures.... and trying to read the background.... may be both of them did not have these feelings (as their kids) while they were this young. Anyway... lets enjoy their conversation:

A - 'or kitna padtey hain ye, home work... tution... music... drawing... '

B - 'sach me kitna pressure hai na in par'

A - 'inka school bag kitna bhari hota hai'

B - 'jab tak college pahunchenge, Spondylitis ho jaaega'

A - 'really... yaar... aajkal ke bachchey kitni mehnat karte hain na'

B - 'sahi me.... socho apna time... kya maje they'

A - 'kisi tarah school me samay kaat te they... fir kya tha... rastey me ped par chadna... fal todna....ghar aakar basta feka, khana khaya.. or nikal padey khelney....'

B - 'vo bhi kya din they.... baba asli padai to khel ke maidan me hota tha... school jane ka man hi nahi karta tha... kitna baar klaas bunk kiya pata nahi...'

I was really enjoying their conversation. I was too getting nostalgic about my school days.... I was reminded of a saying which I recently read in one of our colleagues living room 'Never let school interfere in the education of a child'. The real learning was outside the class room.. in the heat and dust of the ground and the life...with friends... in team... in fights... on roads... in dim lights... in shanties .... Oh I missed their conversation... let me listen to them...

A - 'school me ham log ko koi tension nahi tha'

B - 'sahi kaha.... college me aake socha aakhir karna kya hai'

A - 'lekin ek baat sachmuch theek hai.... aajkal ke bachche bahut smart hain'

B - 'reeeaalli sab kuch jaantey hain... itni choti si umra me...'

A - 'Hamko to kuch pata hi nahi tha .... '

After enjoying their conversation I was trying to think for a while and thought of telling them:

My dear A & B... when you were kids... your parents said the same, talked the same way (some 40 years back) as you are talking today.....when your parents were young children (some 70 odd years back) their parents (your grandparents) said the same...... What changed is the manner in which Children were compared... but what was always talked...

'aajkal bachchey bahut smart ho gaye hain...' 

Children of all time are (or have been) smarter than their earlier generation.....Our children are going to repeat the same with their children.... may be in a different way... but .... they would certainly repeat the sentence:

'aajkal bachchey bahut smart ho gaye hain...' 

I also feel that the whole story could be replayed by replacing Smart with Badmash.... 

...after all Child is the father of man.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Organizations work for us; we really don’t work for organisations!

The other day one of our friends (seeing me spending more time at the university department) commented - 'Is University giving you some more salary'. I responded to his comment to the best of my ability and as per my personal thinking on 'work'. However later in the day I thought why he commented like that. Further it also kept me engaged in my thoughts throughout the day as to the basic premise of why do really people work. And with this motivation in mind I started searching for the answer as a student of organizational behavior.

Organizations are established in order to achieve organizational goal/s. As it is almost impossible for an individual to fulfill his/her individual goal, he/she joins an organisation. And if there is no such organization which can help an individual in achieving the goal, one starts an organization oneself. So what is clear is that individuals join organisations in order to achieve their individual goals. While individuals work in the organization of their choice there has to be a match between the goal of the organization and of the individual. Once that goal matches or fits both (individual and organisation), the performance of individuals as well as of the organization improves. And if at all there is a mismatch/misfit, the performance deteriorates. This is an ideal situation. However as people start working in an organization they start learning new things, they perform to the best of their abilities, they get paid as per the agreement or entitlement, they start comparing themselves with their counterparts within the organization or with their competing organisation or with any other organisation as well.

And through comparisons they get to learn two scenarios. One, others are working more (which includes putting more hours to work) than him, putting more efforts, and performing better and getting same or more salary. Two, others are working less (which includes putting less hours to work) than him, putting less efforts and their performance is relatively lower than him and they are getting same or less salary. There could be some more propositions like others working less, getting more, or working more getting less. It is also important to look into the nature of efforts people put. Anyways we intend to concentrate on the two scenarios viz., working more, getting same or more salary and working less, getting same or less salary. In case of marginal differences in all propositions as to efforts and salaries, it does not make much of a difference.

The question comes when there is much difference as to efforts and salary of others as compared to oneself (which is a reference point) and that is when one starts thinking why should he/she spend more time at work, why he/she should put more efforts, why he/she should be concerned about better organizational performance and growth. And that is when a thinking come to one’s mind that he/she is working for the organization and leads to a further thinking as if he/she is doing a favor for the organization through his/her performance, through his/her longer presence at the work place.

Organisations work for you or you work for organisation? Is it that individuals work for organizational goal only? The moment this feeling comes to mind that I am working for the organisation, the organization is gaining at my cost, I am contributing for the organizational growth, I am indispensable for the organization. This feeling leads to self destroying attitude. This blocks an individual from growing. One does not develop oneself. One stops thinking on personal growth. One does not learn new things. One tends to feel oneself as a great soul. One kills the urge for creativity and blocks the entry of innovative ways of doing the job assigned. One starts believing that whatever one does is for the organization so if organization gains, his/her compensation/salary is not going to change, hence why to go an extra mile, why to spend more time in the organization, why to put more efforts and perform better as one is not directly benefiting from this. This work attitude makes an individual complacent and slowly such individuals, as their tenure at their workplace starts increasing start feeling themselves out of place, outdated and at times it gives rise to their frustration and no-satisfaction or dissatisfaction state. This in result damages organizational image and destroys organizational culture.

As mentioned earlier primarily one works in order to fulfill one’s goal and chooses (or at times forced to choose) the organization. Hence it takes us to a position that while we work in an organization we do not do any favor to the organization rather we want to derive satisfaction ourselves, which is why we work. This is the focus that one needs to concentrate on. Every minute one spends at the workplace one grows, if one develops this thinking that one is doing the job for oneself and not for the organization one tends to develop an attitude to learn new things, one puts his/her more than hundred percent in order to fulfill the urge of learning, one keeps exploring new ways of doing the old things and as one’s tenure keeps increasing with the organization one adapts to newer challenges and successfully responds to the need of the hour. One feels if I don’t perform better tomorrow I am going to be outdated, out of place, I may not be able to follow the language of time.

I tend to believe what Adam Smith (1759) had mentioned in his classic book The Theory of Moral Sentiments and what Richard Dawkins (1976) narrates in The Selfish Gene about the natural behavior of individuals to be selfish. And for organizations if people/employees have this thinking that they are not really working for organisations rather organizations are working for them, they can really improve their work behavior and contribute their might to the best interest of the organization. Ultimately what else an organization wants whether one learns to believe in doing it for self or for organization.

As I look back at the scenarios (working more, getting same or more salary and working less, getting same or less salary), I really don’t care as far as I get the opportunity to grow better in the present organization. I don’t get into the comparisons either.

I must thank our friend for his comment. I can enjoy my over stay at the workplace sometime. As I grow, I learn; as I learn I develop; as I develop I contribute better; as I contribute better I get satisfied and as I get satisfied, it really makes me happy. Ultimately that is what for I work. If I get what I work for, I let both the ends meet. The ends have to meet, it is better to meet them with a thinking that we work for ourselves not really for organisations. This thinking also makes the organisations happy and leads them to achieve organisational happiness (Shrotryia 2006) through satisfied employees, who in turn bring satisfied customers, which also contributes for social good and it positively results in increasing the profitability of an organization.

Organizations work for us; we really don’t work for organisations!

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Role of Teachers and Institutions in responding to the cause of higher education

Prof Man Mohan Singh, an economist turned politician and the prime minister of India while addressing the audience at the University of Mumbai on the occasion of its 150th anniversary mentioned -
‘Our university system is, in many parts, in a state of disrepair...almost two-third of our universities and 90 per cent of our colleges are rated as below average on quality parameters... I am concerned that in many states university appointments, including that of vice-chancellors, have been politicised and have become subject to caste and communal considerations, there are complaints of favouritism and corruption…We should free university appointments from unnecessary interventions on the part of governments and must promote autonomy and accountability. I urge states to pay greater attention to this aspect. After all, a dysfunctional education system can only produce dysfunctional future citizens!’ 
It is in these contexts that we need to have a re-look into the role of individuals (teachers and administrators) and institutions in responding to the cause of higher education in India. Individuals play important role in shaping the institutions. For universities and colleges individuals in the form of teachers, administrators, and policy makers design and decide on various aspects of management and practice of higher education at their respective institutions. We are witnessing a huge transformation in the institutions of higher learning from different perspectives. The dominance of market forces is affecting the sector so much so that the primary objective of education is getting shifted from gaining knowledge and becoming good citizen to getting good jobs with good salary packages. In the wake of the academic reforms proposed by UGC it is necessary that we try understand the spirit and develop a culture of trust, system of transparency, attitude of adaptability, sense of responsibility and mutuality to live upto the expectations of all its stakeholders. 

Teaching is much nobler a profession as compared to many other vocations taken up for sustenance and survival. The changing environment has influenced this to a greater extent and for many of its negative perception by society, no one but we teachers ourselves are responsible to a larger extent. We make system that is viewed by outsiders as corrupt, biased and baseless. The environment where a leader is becoming dealer, a teacher is viewed as a cheater; one needs to get into introspection and find out the reason with fair amount of rationality. 

The ultimate goal of human life is considered to be leading a satisfied and happy life. In Shakespearean way if I say, it would be - Some of us are born teachers, some learnt teaching and on some teaching is thrust upon. Whatever be the case I assume that we all like it and we all share one concern, we all are enjoying our choice or otherwise and we are all willing to learn from each other and to contribute for the noble cause of education through our able teaching, research and community service efforts. We celebrate accomplishments and achievements. As a human being, as individuals it provides us lot of positive energy and we do get involved in our work with more vigor and more concentration and set new targets. It gets further better when such an achievement is shared with friends and colleagues. The sound of the word Congratulations everybody likes, it does make our face smile. Can we develop ourselves in such a way that we start enjoying, sharing and complementing our friends and colleagues. This may not require a formal institutional system or support but it would certainly develop us and make our life more satisfying and happy. Interestingly we are surrounded by many Mutual Appreciation Societies, we do see many of such societies all around us in all walks of life, in all systems, professions, industry and institutions which have one purpose and that is to meet personal ends. We need to be little careful about it.

Life is interesting, life is really very interesting and while searching out a reason that why is life interesting, I get convinced about a reason, a basic reason, it is interesting because we all are different. Just imagine how it would have been had we all been same, same in gender, same in color, same in choices and habits, same in all spheres. I feel it must have really been very boring. Human psychology, with some minor exceptions, is same all across, we like, we dislike, we appreciate, we instigate, we make friends, we make enemies, we get motivated by money, sometime by a pat on our back, we lure, we get lured, we feel shy, and we get shied away. People are people so the very nature remains same and at times the child in us drives us so much that we play games that kids enjoy, we play hide and seek. Anyway I get back to the presumption that life is interesting because we all are different. So we need to learn how to enjoy this difference and I feel the best way to enjoy the difference is to respect this difference. Let us learn how to respect this difference. The better we deal with this difference, the better becomes our life. The difference in us benchmarks respective expectations and guides us on how to respect such a difference. Another reason why life is interesting is that it is full of uncertainties. Uncertainties pose challenges and as individuals we have our own way of dealing with these challenges. Distinct actions by different individuals make life interesting. 

Only bad knows the importance of good and they coexist in every system. We get night after day and day after night and both of them have their importance. Honesty is important because there is dishonesty. Pain and pleasure coexist. There is no problem which does not have a solution and there is no solution which is absolute. We get what we deserve, so if we expect good, we need to do good in order to claim what we really deserve. In an ideal situation, the guilty gets punished and the innocent is liberated. But if the system patronizes the guilty, the degree and depth of atrocities and anarchism dominate. The balloon keeps expanding its size. The ‘fews’ only are confided, consulted and kept ignoring fully what Lou Holtz had said – ‘It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test’. It is in this context that individuals need to raise their voice when they see people taking bias decisions and exploiting the underprivileged. While raising questions it is better if the solutions are offered so that it becomes easier for the decision makers to fasten their actions. Individuals should have proactive approach towards resolving the issues of conflict with a high degree of loyalty and commitment towards the institution. As teachers are the builders of tomorrow, their responsibilities are much beyond just teaching in the classroom. Their role in planning and execution is equally important as they are involved in the process of designing the programs and conducting the courses. 

Teachers do not just impart knowledge to students but their behavior helps shape the destiny of the nation through its reflection in the deeds of the students. Many a times it is said that a teacher never gets old as he/she is always in the company of the young ones. A teacher ignites the young minds and develops them so that they can have their own opinions on issues and concerns with an ability to express themselves with a high sense of sincerity and positivity. In this context, a teacher has to always be able to understand the young minds, he/she has to update and upgrade himself in order to respond to the needs of students at different times. A strong culture of learning has to get evolved with all individuals, specially involved in educational institutions, otherwise what Toffler wrote ‘the illiterate of the 21st century would not be those who haven’t gone to school, but they will be those who have stopped learning, unlearning and relearning’ would prove to be correct.

Now let us move to the role of institutions for ensuring better quality of education and developing a culture of trust, cooperation and commitment to the cause of education. The institutions have to prioritize more on developing mental infrastructure than the physical infrastructure. A system needs to be built which is based on the principles of transparency, mutuality and cooperation. Institutions have to recognize and respect the difference in the individuals through its honest intentions and behavior. The priorities have to be set more on nurturing and nourishing the talent available for institution building and involved in community development. Most of the problems of great institutions are solved through informal channels, which are more understood by the stakeholders. 

The culture of inclusivity rather than exclusivity would certainly make institutions more transparent, participatory and responsive. Transparency is such a strong weapon in the side of the institutions and its leader that allows others to show their faith and to support such institutions. By being transparent institutions and its leaders do not require to think any excuse or they can avoid pretending behavior, which in many ways goes in the favor of the institution. A principle of Humanitarianism needs to be followed by the universities in order to deal with the social welfare and reaffirming its role for the development of great culture of togetherness. Many times I have heard people comparing one university with other university for very many reasons which do not exist at these places in same quality, quantity and quantum. Every institution has its pluses and minuses, the approach has to be to capitalize on the pluses and to minimize the effects of the minuses. I get reminded of what Mr Bhupesh Gupta mentioned in the parliament while the discussion on the JNU Bill was going on in the year 1965. I quote: 
‘Mr Chairman, let us not have Cambridge and Oxfords and Princetons and Harvards here; let us create universities and colleges that our people need, that our development needs, for the remaking of our material and cultural being.’
Our approach has to be of integration and interdependence. The institutions have to encourage team-spirit, developing sense of loyalty towards institutions rather than individuals. We cannot afford to have sybaritic sensibilities in the times of austerity and ignore trumped up platitudes. Institutional support for the honest causes of the individuals, who belong, must be provided, encouraged and sustained so that the individuals put their 100% in the interest of the organization through their loyalty, care and commitment. No one likes to be micromanaged more so for the institutions involved in the education sector. As Harry Paul puts it…without a climate of mutual trust, no employee is going to give you their best efforts – they will only give you what they have to in order to keep their jobs. (which is not just enough) So, if you want your employees to get excited about working hard on your behalf; back off and support them. Show them that you have faith in their abilities and let them know that you are on their side. The, get out of their way and allow them to make you look good as their leader.

Institutions need to believe that Conflict is not always bad; there are very many organizations where conflict is encouraged. However a caution has to be taken so that the conflict does not become dysfunctional. Conflict is a positive thing so far it is functional and such a conflict needs to be encouraged and respected with open arms and a system of having Right-Fights has to be nurtured. I read somewhere "I am more afraid of an army of one thousand sheeps led by a lion than an army of one thousand lions led by a sheep..." It is the individuals who make the institutions however it is the leader who makes all the difference.

Albert Einstein said: Education is something which remains with you after you forget everything you learnt from the books. Hence it is more important what as teachers we do outside the classrooms than what we do in the classrooms. It is we who make system so if we are sensitized to the issues and our sensibilities are kept alive for the honest cause of education, we can draw lot of courage to assert our positions in whatever best way we choose to decide. Lets all work together to do the institution proud and let the institution reciprocate this same gesture by providing all kinds of moral support. After all we all want to lead a happy life.