Mythology’s relavance to Business: Devdutt Pattanaik

Coverage by Bhat Dittakavi of Variance.AI on “Mythology and its relevance to the world” by Devdutt Pattanaik @ ISB 14th Dec 2016
 
Introduction by Mayank of YI (Young Indians): Devdutt is well known mythologist, columnist, speaker, illustrator and author. His book Jaya is very popular. It is an honor to introduce Devdutt. He is good at applying mythology’s relevance to management. His other books include My Gita, Sutra and so on. He also comes on TV Shows. He made a talk in TED 2009.
Speaker Devdutt: Mythology and its relevance in today’s world
I was watching the YI film that showed things that we should be proud of. One thing is missing: Idea of diversity that we must be most proud of. That is our greatest strength. Neither we see it not we harness it as strength. Global universities don’t see contribution from India. None of the global conferences understand diversity. Corporates add diversity as cool thing but they don’t understand.
I went to an MNC and they said we need women who can think like us. That is not diversity. Group photo may show diversity but diversity is about how you think.
Show me the currency of your country? Ask them number of scripts on our currency? Show them how many scripts are there on the note? Check it out yourself? That is our greatest strength. Anywhere you go in the world, you may not find diversity as big as India got. How people who write and speak many languages live in harmony in India?
Some of the problems in the world are due to diversity. Diversity means inefficient. Business students don’t like that as they like efficiency. Diversity looks for effectiveness and not efficiency.
Constitution of India was written in English. What would happen if it were written in Hindi? What if a kannadiga lost a phone in Mumbai went to police station. Complaint filed in Marathi and court allows only Hindi and English. See the problem.
Our strength is to move freely from one language to the other. America is a land of immigrants yet the currency note speaks only English because it allows efficiency.
If you want efficiency in India, can you choose any language to sacrifice? Heterogeneous societies are inefficient. When US students return from India, they speak only English. They give up everything to migrate to a city. They can’t handle the inefficiency of heterogeneity.
EU tried to create a homogenous financial system and Brexit happens on something as fundamental as nationalism. Homogeneity takes away identity somewhat. It means sharing resources with others. Person on road in London speaks Greek, polish and beyond. I don’t see English men that often in London’s busy places. We hear European accents. Is it bad?
There is no racism in London and London is not England. Mega city London thinks urban. The world is not homogenous. It is not full of equal people. It is heterogenous and inefficient. It is easier to put India on defensive with caste system. Just say: talk about visa system. In visa app, they want your bank statement. They want you to be rich. Next they want to know your skill. If you have no money and skill, they won’t let you in. Unfair and tragic world. Refugees come to your door step and richest countries say they can’t let them in as they are of different culture and they may destroy their culture.
Woman is in a forest and a man came in and asked for alms and he asked her to come out and serve.  Sita knows she is safe inside home with security and feeding someone outside is humanity and empathy. You all heard this story in our Hindu mythology. In life we don’t know stories. We don’t know whom we have been kind to. Do we presume each refugee is a Raavan?
Developed economies don’t understand diversity. One of the few people in India who understood diversity very well is Mahatma Gandhi.
Story: Observe Gandhi carefully and you can see his intuition. Just watch the film on him. Every second scene got a reporter by him. He understood the power of communication. If you want followers you need to reach out to them and journalists are the ones to help you reach. Gandhiji wrote in Gujarati and Hindi. He learnt people can’t read and write many. There are more recodings of Gandhi than ever. How about people in Tamilnadu? They can’t read and write and they can’t understand what I say. Photos become important. Illiterate man understand Gandhi if he looks like one of them, not like their boss. I am one in of them. The man who loved his English suits traded them for loon cloth. Now you connect.
Look at th diversity. Literate, illiterate and not mother tongue still Gandhi covered it all. How do you explain to someone this is freedom? Gandhiji used symbols. Salt (Namak Haram and Namak halal) and cloth. Unspoken languages. Our entire economy was based on garments and Khadi. Look at it from a brand point of view. Salt, khadi, loin cloth, radio talks, writing and so on all for communication. Gandhi was born with understanding of diversity. Did he do it strategically? Never know.
This is applied diversity. How do you mobilize an entire nation to stand up for its moral right? Who can match this kind of communication? How do you talk to people at lowest common denominator? Ad agencies, do they understand diversity of Indians? Who in India uses an American kitchen? Did you do analysis of Indian kitchens? They don’t know how Indians cook or sit. One category of India is your market but if you want to expand, understand diversity.
Difficult to make market in India. Politicians have to understand diversity. Even in India, people use splint stones to light a cigarette. We proudly use bullock cart next to Benz. Who gets right of passage? Now talk equality. The world changes when we see complex idea that make it difficult to manage and change. Feel proud of India, this is India. Equality means we move to homogenisation. When the Apple phone gets upgraded, we needed to upgrade. Different phones exist for different markets. Can we think like this?
Vedic, tantric, Buddhist, jain systems exist. Messy but diverse.
Equality and Diversity: Understand equality versus diversity. Equality leads to homogeneity leads to efficiency and hence no diversity. Diversity means inequality. Is Germany equal to Greece? Germany earns and Greece spends. It is a force and counter force. This comes from Indian mythology. When you read ibrahmic mythology, God created all in his own image as all are equal. In Rigveda, it says organism as a society has its body parts different categories of people. Good is diversity and bad is inequality. Trade off?
Obsession with categories in India contradicting atman as all are equal. Force and counterforce. You need both. Manthan: Force and counterforce is like tug of war. One will win. India says they should work sequentially not simultaneously. One acts and the other pauses so ocean of milk churns so nectar cones out. They have to inform each other, this is samvaad, not vivaad. Coexisting of opposing ideas.
Paradigm is shift in thinking. You negotiate every time as you drive. Learn to negotiate. In Europe you drive straight, someone comes in your way, you die there.
Diversity means no strict boundaries. Invariably someone makes a breach in the divider of highway soon after they built it. We see it as connector of cities and they see it as divider of villages. Krishna built Dwarka and witnessed the fall of it but Gokul village always remain. Figure out symbiotic relation. This is paradigm thinking.
Population size is high and Diversity index is high too. We are big here. Messy and dirty. If you can’t handle it, get a job abroad. Focus on India’s diversity. Richest man in India gets stuck in the horrible traffic jam. All VIP treatment not withstanding. Cow in the traffic is lovely diversity of India.
Q) Why Hindus believe in 5 Gods and why Brahma not there?
It is designed around diversity. Think of it as a book shelf, not about the book but how many it can accommodate. Brahma is a bad book so didn’t get reprinted.
Q) As chief belief officer, how did you blend mythological principles in ethics?
Management principles are based on a Abrahmic principles. Book of Exodus talks about “promised land of milk and honey” (vision), commandments get you to that promise (SOPs). Business model is on this. We refuge to believe the west also have mythology. It is based on mythology of equality.
Indian model us things go up and things go down. Jain mythology it is. We can’t assume western Methodology is rational
Q) Gandeeva, Panchajanya, does Hanuman’s gada carry a name?
Don’t know
Q) Good and bad of Ramayana?
Good and bad are based on judgement and GOD is not judge but an accountant who measures debt and hence no moksha. Not a judicial approach but financial one. Good and bad are in realm of maaya. Why you are doing what you are doing? Ravan’s actions are not based on good or bad. Do something and pay for it. Cut ears of Surphanaka, karma chase you.
Q) Diverse perspectives at work place?
Indians are passive aggressive. Suddenly nothing happens even they say yes and agree. Yes means I heard you but I do whatever I choose to do. In India they don’t think what your problem understanding is correct. Everyone thinks he is better than you. Gently nudge and it is inefficiency.
Q) Diversity at a Startup is inefficient. 
Study whatsapp. It was created for target audience: refugees in Africa. Designed around people who know nothing. Whatsapp instructions are simple. Thinking at a different level is different from hungry investors.
No investor shall interfere your idea. They give you Lakshmi and not Saraswathi. Don’t impress investors. How many apps use words that Indians understood? Simplicity is tough. Need professors who ruthlessly hammer you to think simple. When I was writing Jaya, I was targeting students from IITs and IIMs. I was thinking about. Bullets. Design was such that person with low attention span to get interested in mythology where God appears in flow charts. Pictures, little sentences and it worked. Think of your target audience. Written for English speaking urban audience, very small segment.
In Hindi, you have to give regional references. Think in different ways.
Q) You spoke about diversity. Time waits for none. Villagers if he reached faster to city through highway you mentioned, he can bring his findings and learnings back faster to his village. 
Idea is to make you aware of the framework as you come to solutions. Don’t be eager to solve the problem as those who solve create more problems. Fairy tales in Europe says happily ever after.  After every Asura dies, newer and more powerful one pops up.
Model demands homogeneity. You are not most important as problems exist before you and before.
Anaadi: no beginning and Ananth: no end. Stay is temporary. When we say society is westernised, it is a sense of urgency to solve all the problems.
When someone created internet, we thought we get connected but no one told about troll.
Q) How do you navigate the space of right wing and left wing politics?
In the Puranas, devasura Sangram never ends. Left guy says right is asura. Idealogy is based on context and it is a trap. Concept of Bhagavan comes when you are out of this trap. No winner or loser.  all are children of Brahma who are supposed to share and enjoy. No samvaad, no manthan. Every idea needs counterforce. Let sharp person criticise and be aware of your weekness in your strategy. Be aware continuously. Testing, testing and so on. Not interested in helping people. No empathy. These are models of limited thought. Allow them to win and feel powerful and world won’t change. Gentleman talked about fastest forces and has he heard of law of attraction?
Q) Modi in India, Trump in USA and why citizens are electing such people?
Everyone uses extreme left view of equality. Everyone who is successful, rich got to be made feel guilty and miserable. This got pushed back. New way of thinking is emerging. New way is emerging and it forces a rethink. Like they say in our mythology “Avasarpidi and uttasarpidi”. Everything got self life. World allows for identities to thrive. Look at it as churn.
Q) Is Modi’s demonetisation based on diversity?
Bad planning. Surprise.
Positive: resilience
Negative: plight.
Resilience takes us through it. No one is sure of expiry date of this problem. We like Harry Potters with magical wand. Ram’s problems continued. Krishna didn’t solve world problems through Dharma sthapana. Antibiotics kill bacteria but give viruses. Scriptures are very clear. Karma: Each action got a consequence. Krishna established dharma and in the end he gets Gandhari’s curse.
Q) How do you see future of India by 3016?
I am a mythologist and not an astrologer.
Q) Prioritize in a scale of 1-5 family, friends, teachers, work and yourself?
Depends on the stage of life and your personal ambition. For some Ram is happy with one wife. Even he treats her badly!
Q) Ecosystem norms out of diversity. Vishnu and shaivaites are two sides of coins. Right?
Diversity creates Anti-fragile system. It lets many ideals to fit in. Multiple Gods as multiple ideas. Diversity means innovation. Nature is diverse. Think at thinking level. India is a land that allows multiple ideas to thrive. Doesn’t make it a happy one but strongest lives thrive in where challenges are there, not the ideal place to retire but it gives you stimulus for ideas.
Q) Your opinion on mythology and business?
They are stuck in the mythology of the west which is crumbling. Homogenous and singular doesn’t work. Think contextually. Seeking approval of west is dangerous as global village is not the west it is south the north and east. New mythology shall emerge and shall redefine what is identity. Little understanding of identity and diversity. Exposure to diversity is less in west and many follow them. It applies in Norvey. Does it apply in Gachibowli?. Business shall think local solutions. Indian.
Father of Saina Nehwal joined us today.
YI projects
Swacch bharat
Yuva
Masoom
Harm not Ok
Gifting around

 

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