Monday, January 27, 2014

Monday Musings 194: Revolutions from above or within

Monday Musings 194: Revolutions from above or within

The notion of a revolution is quite a romantic one. The Arab spring, the south East Asian uprisings and closer home the AAP juggernaut appears to be cut from the same cloth - the revolution that was murmuring a while ago but simmered soon, only to erupt one fine day. Across histories the notion of revolution comes along with the narrative of popular discontent reaching a stage where it is difficult for the powers to be to hold on to the status quo any further. 

Dipankar Gupta in his book 'Revolution from above' argues that that "at every historical juncture when democracy made significant advances, it was the citizen elite or the elite of calling who led the charge often going against the grain of popular demands and sentiments". I was just past the preface when it struck me that how does this sociological theory pans out in modern organizations. The notion that the elite, often the beneficiaries of the status quo in a system bring forth reforms that furthers the cause of progress and emancipation in a democratic society is borne out time and again - I am sure I will read about it as I progress in the book. How does it play in organizations?

Does an elite in modern organizations, who hold the seat of power and influence go about furthering their own self interest, reinforce their power structures or do they systematically go about bringing down structures that have outlived their utility, are harmful to the future readiness of an organization, even if it means this will weaken their own turf. Do organizations have such reformist idealism? Do organizations offer space for such reformist zeal? Most critically, do organizations tolerate such reformist initiative?

In the Industrial relations space, puritanically speaking at least, the trade union movement still allowed negotiations to better the system. However in the white collared world, it is the secular forces of systems and processes which are supposed to make the system self correcting. However these systems, non-human as they are, are subject to the usual machinations at the hands of the person who controls it. It that elite wants, it shall reform - however if that elite does not want, then god bless the system. 

Organizations are usually political spaces where competing worldviews, views and interests vie for legitimacy, validation and survival. They are fuelled by intelligence and analysis but are always subject to human failings. Ultimately pure rationality is a myth. There is a lot of premium that is put on judgment of leaders - and who is to say in the extreme short run if a decision is governed by pure objectivity or colored by the person involved. Would reforms be pushed by the elite in modern organizations if at the end the system is strengthened but leaves him without power or the strapping’s of it? Quite unlikely - would be the common responses. 

If this is true, does it mean that sociologically speaking, organizations are far less evolved than society at large in its instinct to better itself - an orangutan amidst Homo sapiens!!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Monday Musing 193: Of an equation, a book launch, and a marathon

Monday Musing 193: Of an equation, a book launch, and a marathon

The New Year had a languid start for the occasional writing that I do - the intent of which is primarily catharsis and a distant second is the need to have a voice and make it heard. We cublclists tend to have a bloated image of the cubicle's galactic significance. I guess the writing serves as a gentle reminder of the many parallel universes apart and beyond the cubicle that exist with no less significance, if only we chose to notice.  

The New Year started by a mail from an oracle that many like me adore and are in awe, which ended with an equation which said - 
“Bad experience + poor response = shaky foundation
  Bad experience + good response = Learning and growth."

I quickly went over all the bad responses I had dished out to the bad experiences that I have had - from health to work, from unrequited love to office intrigue, from hobbies which never became a profession and professions which never became a hobby - and I winced. The things that were responded better to, did not come to my rescue. Hopefully I will have a better strike rate in the future. I was also thinking of how we respond to good experience and I arrived at a cheeky version of the equation - 

"Good experience + poor response = wasted opportunity
Good experience + good response = Epiphany"

Pankaj Dubey and his book theme "What a loser/Loser kahin ka" has featured so many times on my blog that a friend suspected I was paid for it - and my response was, "how I wish!” On the 15th of Jan finally the book got launched in both the languages amidst an ensemble of film personalities - from actors Sarika and Divya Dutta, movie director Rajkumar Gupta (Amir, No One Killed Jessica and Ghanchakkar), Story writers Himanshu Sharma (Rhanjhana, Tanu weds Manu), Sanjay Chowhan (Sahib Biwi and Gangster and Paan SIngh Tomar) and Actress Swara Bhaskar - and he offered that I should moderate the panel discussion on the occasion, an offer that was too good to let go.
I have always featured Pankaj Dubey as a case study, an alternative to the mainstream model of success - where you chase your imagination rather than pursuing the predictable and hackneyed. The guy who was at the top of his class was moderating a discussion on the book written by the guy who was at the bottom - very cinematic!! I pray that the tribe of Mr. Dubey grow and rub off some courage to the traditionalists - and please do read the book. 

The marathon season kicked off for me at the Mumbai marathon today - where I did my best in the circuit but not my best ever. Importantly, I did not feel like I was dying nor had any kind of stress or stretch during the run and at the finishing line I had enough in me to go on for some more time. I think the full marathon- a scorching 42kms has entered the realm of possibility in  my imagination. Could 2014 be the year where I will muster enough courage to 'graduate' to the proverbial next level? 

Let’s see - 2014 is still young!