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Non-Being in the Pandemic

Individuals and organisations are hunkering down to brave this pandemic. Those on the margins of a secure life are clinging on for sheer survival. This is not an easy time to live in. Are we making it more difficult for ourselves? Why is it that we are sheltering in our homes, but feel locked out of Life – its vitality and energy? A sliver of wisdom from Tao te Ching entered my awareness to engage with these questions. We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the center hole that makes the wagon move. We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want. We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space  that makes it livable. We work with being,  but non-being is what we use. The pandemic has forced the world into an arrested state of being. The outwardly movement of joining spokes (connecting), of shaping clay ( storing), of hammering wood ( building) is no longer completely available for us. And because we work with…

Organisations in Crisis – The Danger and the Opportunity

In times of grave uncertainty, organisations find themselves in a situation that spells both danger and opportunity. It is dangerous to go into a binary mode- fight or flight, do or not do, decide or not decide, now or never. Gripped by survival anxiety, organisational leaders want to stamp their presence on the proceedings. There is comfort in poring over spreadsheets and calculations and being able to make changes with a few keyboard clicks. They are making changes on the map and the map is not the territory. Where is the opportunity? The opportunity lies in reimagining things anew because you are forced by the turn of circumstances to return to the basics, the fundamentals. When the blueprint is taken off the dusty shelf and revisited on the decision-making table, you find yourself more willing and able to make changes in the very design and workflow of the organisation.  A water reservoir in times of severe drought year can go through a complete overhaul because the water levels are so low. A dilapidated bridge on a busy national highway can…

Organisations – Resisting the pull of going back to Normal

Business Organisations love predictability and control. The COVID-19 pandemic has left them without both. After gaining a modicum of breathing space, they are mulling over their options. What do we do next? After a disruptive & disorienting shock, a natural comfort move is for organisations to fall back into familiar routine and feel in control. If resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back to the normal state, the going back to routine does seem like going back to normal. However, being insistent on routines may be a less than optimal response. When we have no faith in the future we incline to arrange our lives so that we can predict the future. We either make of our existence a rigid routine or pile up all manner of defences to make it secure. The craving for security stems from a need for predicatibility, and its intensity is in inverse proportion to our faith in the future. -Eric Hoffer The strategies and plans these organisations had made before COVID-19 and the systems and processes that have been instituted for execution,…

COVID-19 – Where India stands

How do you deal with an invisible hurricane? The COVID-19 pandemic is reaching a tipping point in India, the point where numbers do not need to be interpreted, the picture on the ground speaks the entire story. For the countries who have done a decent job in combating the pandemic, this Financial times extract captures the essence. Early travel restrictions, aggressive testing and screening of contacts and strict quarantine rules have been crucial. Universal healthcare, clear management structures for the public health response and proactive communication to get the population on board have also helped. Lets break it down. Early travel restrictions Aggressive testing Screening of contacts Strict quarantine rules Universal Healthcare Clear management structures for public health response Proactive communication The WHO advice to all countries is “Test, Track, and Trace”. Test for Virus Infection. Track the infected patients movement in recent days. Trace people who interacted with the infected patients. When you trace people, you quarantine or test them. The cycle begins all over again if the people traced test positive. The WHO advice when executed to perfection…

Working from Home – Few thoughts

Work from Home is easier said than done. Here are a few ways of perceiving and a few thoughts. a) This is just a change of scene.  We are used to different ways of being as well. We are not the same at work and home. We appear to be more purposeful and focused at work. We experience ourselves as free beings at home. When you settle down for work at home, the being has to be chosen for the doing. To be a free being for work is a reservoir of possibility. What we put in by way of free will and pure intention can create new realities. b) I will be as productive as before. The context and circumstances that necessitated work from home continue to have a powerful impact on everything, society and work included. Acknowledging the power of context is important. When you know that a pandemic is out of control and lives are being lost, the anxiety and the uncertainty get to you. You will be less productive, but more reflective. The meaning of work, its…

Corona Outbreak – The Call to Action for all Social Organizations is Now

A healthy business cannot exist in a sick society. – Peter Drucker Organisations that see the writing on the wall are not waiting for the WHO to declare a pandemic. They are taking matters into their own hands because they know that it is better to be safe than sorry. They range from start-ups to giant corporations. They are willing to take a hit as they know the calamity that they want to pre-empt. The single biggest reason for the spreading of the virus is that infected people are in circulation around the world.And whatever the world can do to limit the circulation of people and make it absolutely controlled is bound to help us all. Whatever arguments that are being dished out to deny the need for an absolute clampdown on people movement are arguments of convenience made out of an inability to visualise how quickly things spiral out of control when they cross a tipping point. The governments that have succeeded in containing it have absolutely been prepared for a complete lock-down. Their fast planning and  furious action…

Thappad : A movie for men too

Thappad is a movie that invites men to reflect on their role in making a society that gives women a raw deal. A husband slaps his wife and she has an epiphany. She realises this is not the life she had signed up for. And that she no longer loves her husband. The husband tries to use the law to get her back from her parents place. She decides to file for divorce. And finds that everyone wants her to let it go because it was just one slap. The movie shows how difficult it is for the social world around the wife to accept her decision. The movie ends with searching questions about the meaning of life, love and togetherness. Facing upto these questions is a tremendous act of courage for both women and men. Rainer Maria Rilke invites us on the other side when we surrender ourselves to loving compassion. Watch the movie.            

Greta Thunberg & Climate Change

The world converging around a conversation always presents a positive opportunity. Provided we truly reflect on what we are talking about and identify what really matters. There is so much of heated opinion about Greta Thunberg, the individual. Those happy that climate change has been thrust into global consciousness look at her as an environmental crusader. Those probing her credentials to speak about climate change look at her as a spokesperson for the privileged class who damage most the climate they supposedly want to protect. To focus on Greta Thunberg as an individual is to get stuck at the symbol. Consider what is at stake – the future of our planet. A hundred years from now, all the talk about Greta, the individual, is going to be a footnote in world history. What will be probed by discerning people looking back at our time is this – Amid all the talk, what was the action taken. Did communities and nations pick up the gauntlet and ask searching questions? Did people make the effort – to know and understand..to establish and…

Can Leaders be made to feel the pinch?

When business leaders prepare the world for tough decisions, their language says a lot. The choice of words, the metaphors they use, the imagery they put forth – everything seems carefully deliberated upon. So, you get a sense of the general consequence. It is left to each individual to infer what specifically the words of the leader could mean for her or him. Todays ET carries toughspeak by Cognizant CEO, Brian Humpries. Before I proceed, let me emphasise I am using the Cognizant CEO’s remarks as a reference point for my argument with neither indictment nor appreciation for Cognizant flowing out of my reflection. I fully respect that businesses have to remain viable to ensure livelihoods. Referring to the possibility of job cuts at Cognizant in the near future, Brian Humpries said, “I do not believe in death by a thousand cuts, I would rather pull the Band-Aid off and get it behind us and set the context as to why this is critical and fast-forward to the future.” Humpries painted a rich metapor on the organizational inflection point. His…

Three Great Movies For The Connoisseurs

Watching Cinema is an existential experience. What you make of it is upto you. There are tastes that cater to everybody across the spectrum. I enjoy great cinema though I don’t understand it in one go. Sometimes not even the second time. What stays with me is the feeling of having experienced something sublime and just out of reach; with the invitation to reach out more, to dive in deeper.  Foreign language cinema adds the allure of a different culture, a different worldview, a different time. And yet, there is a touch of the Universal and the Timeless that helps us forge a connection. Here are three movies – only for the connoisseurs. Those who can indulge the filmmaker, seek out the vision, and persevere for personal meaning. Once upon a time in Anatolia – The storyline is deceptively simple. A group of people are searching for a dead body along the Anatolian landscape. The murderers have confessed and all that remains is to pinpoint where they have buried their victim. The movie spans the entire night in which the…