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Spirituality in management education: A game changer?
Rajani Anand | Mumbai | Thursday, 20 April 2017

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Spirituality may seem like a foreign concept in M.B.A. programmes, where many students are fixated on placements and six-figure salaries. This continuous preoccupation of theirs can lead to unrealistic expectations resulting in failed illusions and lost hopes. It is here that such courses can have a timely and healing effect.

The world of materialism

The East and the West have a lot to learn from each other. While India is absolutely high on things, such as materialism and a world of superficiality, it definitely needs to parallel the West in terms of the way it manages and organises everything efficiently. The West, on the other hand, can certainly discover from India concepts of humanity and spirituality.

To elaborate further on the previous statement, let us shift our focus back to the world of capitalism. The twin concepts of materialism and capitalism and the comforts of technology have only increased stress levels, anxiety and anger amongst people. Uncommon terms and phobias have been attributed to the world of communication technology. Nomophobia—the fear of not being with the mobile— and Phubbing, or phone snubbing, have become newly-coined terms and psychological issues to majorly reckon with. Already, the world is grappling with numerous mental and psychological disorders, and these are just additions to the list! Merely projecting happy lives outwardly, while on the other hand deteriorating inwardly is definitely not the price we pay for such materialism.

The corporate scenario

The world of corporates and management today is no different. It faces innumerable complex issues in the rapidly changing environment that it is part of. Some of the issues, which it needs to address are:

a. How to survive and also grow in the competitive global market.

b. How to create a dedicated and committed workforce and keep them motivated.

c. How to manage the self.

d. How to create a culture, which is conducive to work and leads to higher productivity.

Role of B-Schools
This is where the B-schools of today have plenty to teach their students—the future managers—who shall very soon be facing the uncertain world of business realities. Spirituality may seem like a foreign concept in M.B.A. programmes, where many students are fixated on placements and six-figure salaries. This continuous preoccupation of theirs can lead to unrealistic expectations resulting in failed illusions and lost hopes. It is here that such courses can have a timely and healing effect.

Generally, MBAs learn plenty of quantitative values. They are taught to think structurally about strategy, goals, objectives, and so on, which help them think rationally and methodically, to approach and solve a problem. These principles help them tackle business situations in an objective and short-term manner. On the other hand, inculcating spirituality in management can help them channelise their energies into a more positive path, giving them a direction, and making them last in the long term, using values and principles in their approach. It not only helps them build cohesion and resilience, but also facilitates operation beyond their ego. Where management teaches you to be smart, spirituality teaches you to be wise in your approach.

MBAs who learn plenty about quantitative values would now be getting lessons in spiritual values, as well. It is not just the quantitative increase in the asset side, which is now important, but also the qualitative increase as indicated through their value systems.

It must be kept in mind here that a course on spirituality and management does not inculcate religious beliefs or promote a particular culture. The idea is to teach the students to remain true to their value system and beliefs amidst the conflicting demands, diversions and temptations of the volatile business world. It is heartening to note that top educational institutions in India, such as SPJIMR, IIM-C, IIM-B and IIM-K are already offering courses on spirituality and management in their main curriculum.

Spirituality in management can be taught through Vedanta or Indian ethos. Though the latter may not have any direct relevance to the above problems, they can be effectively managed by following the truths and knowledge of our scriptures as taught in Vedanta. Vedanta or Indian ethos is extremely vital to modern management, as it handles the concept of man in a holistic manner instead of looking partially as other scientific theories do.

Principles propagated by Indian ethos, which can be incorporated in a management curriculum are as follows:

1. Work not for the rewards but for your inner satisfaction. At the end of the day, your Gross Domestic Happiness is more important and rewarding than the increase in your salary. People demonstrating this value or behaviour are known to practise organisational citizenship behaviour, which is what helps corporates retain and attract talent.
Working with the carrot of rewards will make us work only for that, and not for the pleasure of the work. This will make one not concentrate on the work at hand but only on the results, which will not lead to 100 per cent excellence.

2. Ethical leadership is more important than managing an enterprise well. Our Indian scriptures have many lessons for leadership, which, if incorporated in the existing framework, can lead to sustainable models of leadership.

3. Maintaining evenness of mind in all situations, without letting go of emotions, can help in better and healthy decision making. This can be achieved by meditation and practice of yoga, which helps to still the mind.

There are many more principles and concepts that can thus be culled out from our Indian scriptures and distilled for the purpose of management learning.

Application of these concepts can help prepare our future managers for a tough and uncertain business world by strengthening their positive ego, human quality skills, ethical behaviour and communication skills, thereby leading to better and holistic leadership skills.

(The author is faculty-business communication and soft skills at IBS Business School,Mumbai.)

© 2016 HR Katha
Last modified on Thursday, 20 April 2017


  • Comment Link Abhinav Sunday, 23 April 2017 posted by Abhinav

    Very well done..Looking forward to more

  • Comment Link sanjeev Friday, 21 April 2017 posted by sanjeev

    Liked the approach of the article... though the way to impart could be different... yet.. good one

  • Comment Link Gurpreet Thursday, 20 April 2017 posted by Gurpreet

    Brilliant topic highlighted ! We need a lot more content---concepts, principles, examples in action, learning's etc on similar lines. Look forward!

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