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Devdutt Pattanaik, Chief Belief Officer at Future Group, one of India’s largest retailers, and a physician-turned-leadership consultant, mythologist and author has taken spiritual matters to a higher plane by spinning business sutras and leadership mantras out of mythologies.
Business Sutra, a very Indian approach to management uses stories, symbols, and rituals drawn from Hindu, Jain and Buddhist mythology to understand a wide variety of business situations ranging from running a successful tea stall to nurturing talent in a large multinational. At the heart of the book is a compelling premise: if we believe that wealth needs to be chased, the workplace becomes a ‘rana-bhoomi’ - a battleground of investors, regulators, employers, employees, vendors, competitors and customers; if we believe that wealth needs to be attracted, the workplace is a ‘rang-bhoomi’ - a playground where everyone attains happiness.
The book is divided into three sections. The introduction connects belief to business, while second part decodes Western, Chinese and Indian beliefs. It is last part on ‘Business Sutras’ that occupies more than two-thirds of the book, with 145 Sutra statements interspersed in the 12 sections and each of these Sutras is explained and amplified by an appropriate episode from Hindu mythology. This is immediately followed by a parallel and equivalent principle in management.
Below is the brief of the three parts:
CONNECTING BELIEF TO BUSINESS, 3B FRAMEWORK: As per the author, belief plays a key role in every action we take and choices we make. That results in impacting our behavior and ultimately the way we conduct business. He highlights the modern management system where growth of institutions is given more importance than to people growth and this is a root cause of many problems that organizations face today. He further talks about how western beliefs have created the framework that most of the organizations now follow—a belief system that is more objective rather than subjective. He explains how being objective, minimizes the recognition, contribution and participation from others involved in reaching the objective goal, while being subjective leads to inclusion of others, hence giving others chance to grow, lead and achieve their goals along with the organization goal. Thus helping the whole society to grow and reap benefits of the business growth.
FROM GOAL TO GAZE: This brings us to the next section where he decodes the three belief system (Western, Chinese and Indian) that results in the lifestyle and the way we execute our business. In the second section 'Goal to Gaze', Western, Chinese and Indian beliefs are decoded. The author, in this section, elucidates how everything depends on each of our beliefs. While the 'objective' western beliefs premise that there is only one life and one goal and hence are concerned with 'what?' of business and the 'pragmatic' Chinese beliefs seek order and keeping out chaos and hence concerned with 'how?' of business, the Indian beliefs seek 'peace' as the mind is very aware of subjective goals of different people. It is thus concerned with the 'why?' of business.
BUSINESS SUTRA: From here starts the journey using the Indian approach to Management. The author talks about how using our gaze and outgrowing our fear we can equip ourselves to face situations, deal with the worst and yet keep on innovating and reinventing ourselves results in emergence as a true leader. A leader, who has paved way for many more future leaders by developing a holistic organization where people are treated as humans and individuals, hence contributing smartly towards the organization growth and achieving the larger goal.
The author illustrates how Vishnu, Shiva, Krishna, Murugan and Ganesha had two wives representing two opposing ideas balanced by the ‘husband’. Narrating this, the author draws a parallel with a tug-of-war between marketing, sales and finance teams and and shows how the human resource team compensates by bringing in the human touch. “Balance is also crucial to business. A leader has to be the husband, sister and mother who balances the opposing wife, brother and son,” he writes.
Pattanaik does not seek to sell a particular framework or prescribe a specific set of methods to increase business revenue. Instead, in his words, “Every idea in this book is a dot that the reader can join to create a pattern.”