How has your experience been working in academia, and what challenges have you faced in your career?
A career in academia can be fulfilling when one is truthfully interested in developing students for occupational readiness. I find teaching and learning a spiritually healing experience if approached from this perspective. My journey into Academia after 2 decades of working in Industry was more out of a keenness to work with young students and employmy Industry experience as a learning system through a pedagogical structure.
In Industry, I started out as most of us do in a clerical job and grew to lead the HR function for an MNC as Sr. Vice President and Head – HR where I represented the function to the Company Board. The 2-decade long journey brought in many learnings and has helped me become a storyteller of some interest to students in a classroom environment.
What teaching methods or approaches do you find most effective in engaging students?
I use my theatre background extensively in my learning engagements – here I must add that ‘theatre’ does not mean role-play as has been traditionally practised in the classroom. My favorite form of theatre in the classroom is Augusto Boal’s School of TOTO or Theatre of the Oppressed.
In a world where information and data is commonplace, I believe a good teacher must be a good teller of stories – emotionally and creatively compelling stories – which can provoke ‘thought’ both agreeable and very importantly contrarian thought, which can perhaps spur students to action.
A good storyteller needs to be well-versed in the creative arts,civilizational mythology, and in examining how thinking has evolved from pre, modern and post-modern times through the works of patrons of such thought. In being able to weave a good blend of such threadsinto a multi-texturized garment of new learning can make the classroom a playground for new learnings.
Given your background in HR, could you share your perspectives on the evolving role of HR professionals in today’s dynamic business environment?
When I teach Agile or Design Thinking for HR, we examine how the role of an HR professional needs to evolve. The primary focus is always the ‘mindset’. This is the place where everything happens and what fundamentally drives behaviour. The focus is less on institutionalrituals and ceremonial activities. How does one create an emotionally compelling human-centred experience? Howwe define this requires a mindsetthat can juxtapose myriad ideas into a single frame when co-creating solutions. Somewhat likeStanley Kubrick and Bertolt Brecht working together with Boal when developing a culture narrative.
Can you share a success story or memorable experience from your work as a leadership coach?
For me, success is when a student can apply his/her own mind to problem-solving not through a didactic method of instruction but by continuously examining the ‘why’ of what we do. For me, examining the varied moral & ethical frameworks in social and industrial decision-making are primary areas of discussion in the classroom and which I believe form the bedrockof building a congenial society. Success is in getting more people to start doubting existential axioms supplied through a dogmatic social ethos and in beginning to think for themselves.
What, in your opinion, are some of the emerging trends in organizational behavior that students should be aware of?
If one wishes to understand organizational behaviour, one needs to learn what makes us human and how to correctly examine the human condition. Our own experiences have limitations hence exposing ourselves to the writings of people who have shaped our history becomes important. Philosophy, psychology through thought-leading writers and that which is evidenced in the works of practitioners of theatre, cinema, fiction, mythology and such art forms, all become relevant in our study of the human condition.
Simply restricting ourselves to management texts may not be entirely helpful. I don’t read too many management textbooks and find most of them terribly boring and one-dimensional. Having a multi-disciplinary and diverse reading habit also helps us reduce if not eliminate biases and prejudices that may creep into our thinking and hence meddle with our free agency in ‘thinking out’ solutions in ourselves.
It seems that in recent times, there has been a surge in startups, some of which may seem irrelevant. What, in your opinion, makes a startup relevant and meaningful in today’s business landscape?
Start-ups are a fashionable word for first-generation enterprises. I believe that many such entrepreneurs are creatively reimagining how human experiences are advanced. In my view, there must be a strong social impact of any entrepreneurialendeavorwhere the creation of wealth is a shared pursuit. I do not articulate this as a communist agenda, but one where a great idea when funded and grown into an enterprise of value,also embeds eudemonic values that can nurture a demonstrably greater ‘good’for society. As an example, the current system of enterprise valuations that analysts and PE funds employ needs to be re-examined.Otherwise, we will end upvalidatingadystopian version of ‘happiness’that Aldous Huxley warns us about.
There’s a notable trend in India where students invest substantial time and effort in preparing for government exams, sometimes foregoing other potential career paths. What psychological factors do you believe contribute to this trend?
My suggestion to students is to keep examining your ‘why’. Pursue a thing because you believe it is part of who you want yourself to be, not what you are told. Breaking that stranglehold of dogmatic societal expectations becomes important. Shaking the fetters of traditional injunctions and guilt-driven ambitions needs to be re-examined. It is always tragic when I hear a student wishing to pursue something because that is what his/her father or mother wants him/her to do or become. ‘I have to do what my parents want me to, because of what they have done/sacrificed for me’ is a terrible idea and must be discouraged. Art must be pursued for the sake of Art. Hence, know your art and become that.
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