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Monday, October 22, 2012


Management lessons from Ramayana & Mahabharata
It is the order of the day to look for ‘management lessons’ in any thing , be it “Bhagawath Geetha’ , “Ramayana’ or ‘Maha Bharata’. An attempt here to take a few tips for management from ‘Rama
yana’ and ‘Maha Bharata’. View, enjoy and learning part, we leave it to you!

In the Great Epics of India, Ramayana and Mahabharata, war ends not with celebration of victory but with transmission of knowledge. In the Ramayana, Ravana lies mortally wounded on the battlefield, when Rama turns to his brother Lakshmana, and says, “While Ravana was a brute, he was also a great scholar. Go to him quickly and request him to share whatever knowledge he can.” The obedient Lakshmana rushes to Ravana’s side and whispers in his ears, “Demon King, all your life you have taken not given. Now the noble Rama gives you an opportunity to mend your ways. Share your vast wisdom. Do not let it die with you. For that you will be blessed.” Ravana responds by simply turning away. An angry Lakshmana goes back to Rama and says: “He is as arrogant as he always was, too proud to share anything.” Rama looks at his brother and asks him softly, “Where did you stand while asking him for knowledge?” “Next to his head so that I hear what he had to say clearly” Rama smiles, places his bow on the ground and walks to where Ravana lies. Lakshmana watches in astonishment as his brother kneels at Ravana’s feet. With palms joined, with extreme humility, Rama says, “Lord of Lanka, you abducted my wife, a terrible crime for which I have been forced to punish you. Now, you are no more my enemy. I see you now as you are known across the world, as the wise son of Rishi Vishrava. I bow to you and request you to share your wisdom with me. Please do that for if you die without doing so, all your wisdom will be lost forever to the world.” To Lakshmana’s surprise, Ravana opens his eyes and raises his arms to salute Rama, “If only I had more time as your teacher than as your enemy. Standing at my feet as a student should, you are a worthy recipient of my knowledge. I have very little time so I cannot share much but let me tell you one important lesson I have learnt in my life. Things that are bad for you seduce you easily; you run towards them impatiently. But things that are good for you, fail to attract you. You shun them creatively, finding excuses to justify your procrastination. That is why I was impatient to abduct Sita but procrastinated in meeting you. This is the wisdom of my life, dear Rama. My last words I give to you.” With these words, Ravana dies.

There’s similar knowledge transmission after the Mahabharata war gets over. The Kauravas are all dead. As the victorious Pandavas are about to assume control of Hastinapura, Lord Krishna advises them to talk to Bhisma Pitamaha, their grand uncle, who lies mortally wounded on the battlefield. As a result of a divine blessing, death would elude him for some more time. “Make him talk until his last breath. Ask him questions. He has a lot to tell,” says Krishna. Sure enough, when prompted, the dying Bhisma spends hours discussing various topics: history, geography, politics, economics, management, war, ethics, morality, astronomy, metaphysics and spirituality. Bhisma’s discourse is detailed in the Shanti Parva (discussions on Peace) and Anushasana Parva (discussions on Discipline) that makes up a quarter of the Mahabharata. After listening to their grand uncle, the Pandavas have a better understanding of the world, and this makes them better rulers.

Rama asked Ravana for his wisdom before his death. The Pandavas listened to a lengthy discourse from Bhisma as he lay dying on the battlefield. In the context of commercial organizations, this is Knowledge Management. Both these stories draw attention to the value of knowledge. In triumph, it is easy to claim material possessions of the defeated, but it is not easy to claim their knowledge. Knowledge does not outlive death. It is lost forever with the death of the knowledgeable. Every day, people leave organizations, taking their knowledge with them – knowledge which they acquired because they were part of the organization. They take with them knowledge of clients, markets, business processes, tricks of trade, etc. These may not be confidential information or patented information, but it is information that gives an organization its cutting edge. Over the past decade, a whole new business process known as Knowledge Management has evolved that seeks to harness, store, transmit this knowledge. Every CEO agrees that it is a valuable business process, that investment in it is critical. Policies have been made, people have been hired and systems have been deployed. Unfortunately, for all the initial enthusiasm, implementation has been lacking. Often because they are like Sahadeva, the youngest Pandava. In the Mahabharata, he is described as an expert in many predictive sciences such as astrology, palmistry and face reading. But he is also cursed in a manner that if he ever gave information voluntarily, his head will split and he would die instantaneously. That is why he is silent throughout the epic. He knows every fortune and misfortune that his family will go through, but he can never use his knowledge to forewarn them. When Dharmaraja Yudhishtira finally learns of his brother’s prowess he is furious: “Why did you not tell me all that you knew?” All he gets in response is Sahadeva’s silence. Most employees in an organization are Sahadevas (by choice). They are dumb when it comes to sharing knowledge. Knowledge Management is leadership driven. Only a Rama can do it, not a Laskhman . He must first believe in it. We must respect the fact that everyone in the organization, even those who we do not particularly like, are repositories of great wisdom – not only knowledge of things that work but also knowledge of things that do not work. We must make conscious efforts to capture as much of it as possible. Take a step back. Check if you are creatively shunning this rather tedious matter of Knowledge Management. If you are, then remember that Ramayan and Mahabharata were written at a time when civilization had just set in, probably six or seven thousand years ago and even then our saints and sages knew what will take India forward: Knowledge Management. It will be a pity if we do not take advantage of lessons imparted by these immortal epics. The advanced western world makes full use of these lessons, unfortunately we still don’t. We consider Ramayana and Mahabharata as religious books, which they are NOT just religious.

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