A set of four questions that need to be answered in the same sequence
By Palakh Jain & Payal Seth
Be it a real-life business dilemma or solving a case study, management students will always seek an adequate framework that would work best in any given situation. Here, we discuss a framework based on the conversation between a great Jain monk, Acharya Shri Vidyanand Ji, and one of his disciples. Acharya Shri was a great philosopher, saint, and thinker. He not only knew many languages but also was known to have in-depth knowledge of a plethora of subjects. He used to teach his disciples based on their interests and subject knowledge. For instance, he had the capability to explain Jainism in the language of a physicist to a person from a physics background and the language of a chemist to a person possessing a degree in chemistry, and so on.
This op-ed is based on a conversation with one of his disciples who was from a management background and would often resort to having the clarity of role, purpose, etc. before resorting to making any decision in professional life.
Here, we offer an approach that encompasses a set of four questions that need to be answered in the same sequence for solving any management issue. This can pave way for managers to form habits to gear their thought process towards the Jain way of thinking. This in turn will enable them to channel this habit into a spiritual path at a later point in life.
We offer an approach that encompasses a set of four questions that need to be answered in the same sequence. After all, management is all about asking the right questions.
Who are you?
The first question is the fundamental question that any Professor from a business school asks while starting a case. As a student we were told to get into the shoes of the protagonist and to do so, we need to precisely know who we represent. This question is of immense importance as the role we play will pave the way for further answers. For example, if the protagonist is the CEO, then the solution will take a different dimension as opposed to when the protagonist is the HR/Marketing manager. This is the fundamental question of all Indian philosophies as well.
The answer is that we are the soul, and we are here to enact a role. Karma Theory says that the precision with which you enact your role, the lesser karmas you will accumulate. The management domain aims to prepare the person for this fundamental question by making him/her address the significance of the role they are enacting.
Where are you coming from?
The second question primarily flows from the first one. The roots of the character in question play an important role in shaping the mindset of the individual. To understand this further, if the problem at hand is solved by a person who had a difficult personal life versus a person who has a perfect work-life balance – both will not only approach the question of employee welfare differently but also provide solutions that resonate more with their past experiences. Take another example if the protagonist in question is an engineer, he is more likely to have a more structured and scientific approach to arriving at solutions versus the scenario of the protagonist being from a humanities background.
As per Indian philosophies, the second question refers to DNA. The sect, community, religion, etc. that you belong to, will play an imperative role in shaping how your decision will be shaped.
What is your purpose?
The third question is the critical one as it lends direction to the thoughts and energy of the protagonist. If we don’t know where we must reach, how will we reach our destination? We often confuse personal goals with organizational goals. It is important to keep a division between the two and know what the purpose or the goal of the entity is, and whose role you have assumed in solving the problem at hand.
Going back to the Indian philosophies, this is another question that has been asked time and again to make the soul realize that Moksha (liberation) is the goal of the soul. As we are not evolved beings, we try to tell the management people to at least know your goal of profit-making or revenue maximization so that you develop a habit in your subconscious to channel your energy and efforts towards reaching your goals.
What brings you back to your purpose?
The fourth question hasn’t been emphasized in the literature. However, we found it to be useful in keeping up with the goal that we have at hand. If a particular strategy is yielding efforts in the right direction of meeting goals then, one must do more of that! Similarly, if there is something that doesn’t yield that much benefit then less of that strategy should be adopted.
This pertains to all the rituals and their importance in respective philosophies. If doing a particular ritual brings us closer to our inner peace and inner self (i.e., our purpose) then we should do that more often.
The above set of four questions can give a structured approach to any business dilemma at hand in a very easy, yet effective manner.
For instance, Jamsetji Tata who came from a humble background became the founder of Tata Groups, India’s biggest conglomerate company. The business was built on – Integrity, Understanding, Excellence, Unity, and Responsibility. Besides these values, the protagonist had a well-defined purpose i.e., economic progress for India and giving back to the people. This helps us understand why the Jamsetji Tata is known as the “Father of the Indian Industry” and topped the list of the world’s greatest philanthropists of the 20th century. This unprecedented success formula of visionary leadership and philanthropy has sustained immense success for the company and this is why the Tata Group unwaveringly follows it, even after 150 years.
We explain the significance of these questions through another example. The success of the Times of India Group hinges on the fact that they recognize themselves as being in the advertisement business, and not the newspaper business. Their entire business is run on the foundation of the role they have defined for themselves. This clear definition of the role of their business entity helps demarcate clear boundaries and guidelines for smooth functioning. The lucid definition of the role of their business has given them wings to fly high for the past 120 years.
Since this framework imbibes the many qualities of Jain philosophy and hence can be applied to solving not just management quandaries, but also life issues, can management students find it useful even later in life? Absolutely. When the management students have exhausted their role in the world and are searching for their life’s purpose, the same set of four questions can help them train their brain and subconscious to develop habits that can attain the path of Moksha.
(Palakh Jain is an Associate Professor, and Payal Seth is a Ph.D. Scholar at Bennett University, India.)
Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times
When the management students have exhausted their role in the world and are searching for their life’s purpose, the same set of four questions can help them train their brain and subconscious to develop habits that can attain the path of Moksha.