Monday, February 1, 2016

Senses Engulfed


I wrote thus as a mark of sorrow when Rohit Vemula’s death gathered news columns.

“Some felt sympathetically robbed of their own. Others felt purged of refuse to come into their own.
He took his own to the unknown.
And each living side finds their moment of lifeless renown.
In such illusion, postures that leave us disunited, all at once alone

What was remarkably different about the note Rohit is said to have left behind, was ‘never mind’; as in the words of Leonard Cohen. “I had to leave, My life behind, I dug some graves, You’ll never find.”

Further still, the swoop of opinion vultures upon his mother, outdid the depths from which his decision to take his own life stunned many a soul.  To quote Cohen further, he may have written a nearer truth than many an analyst may provide, no matter what facts are on hand.  

The story’s told
With facts and lies
I had a name
But never mind

Never mind
Never mind
The war was lost
The treaty signed

There’s truth that lives
And truth that dies
I don’t know which
So never mind...”

The speed with which media reports is a known tendency. What is lesser reflected is the effect it has on our attention span. We are deflected from one event to another, with a cumulative feeling of external reality. No more than an elemental sigh or a passing eulogy for social approval hardens the essence in us. Then as the lights fade out of the incident, the case is lost from our empathetic radars. 

The antenna swivels towards the next flare, the next dare or scare, if you will. In this fearful world of insecurity conditioning, almost every place on earth would be in a state of perpetual vigil, with more controls over human freedoms, and less love and affect for fellow humans.

In mindless adulation of ideologies, people die at the altar of ideologues. In uncritical examination of our apathy, we live dead to the world’s issues, with voices hushed in an unrealistic hope of succor. Even titular heads of non-governmental organisations, community leaders and neighbors strike uncalibrated harmony with demagogues of their choosing, as if their time has arrived in dominion over others. Unwilling to tune in to their own inner voice, they pretend reality in an untenable myth of peace.

While the symptoms of unproductive desire are on homicide trails and the like, our uncritical thinking leads us astray from reality in many another spheres. Public good is lost to private gain in the economy, in the guise of free markets and liberal political values. Citizens numbed in consumerist appetites never have enough, for their wants exceed their needs. They surrender their truer wealth in the bargain. Lakes disappear for high-rise buildings in some places, while forests disappear for other dreams in other places. The sea entertains more plastic as it ejects its whales and dolphins with increasing regularity to the shores. 

While clarity of thinking helps name and frame problems affecting us as a species; it is not arrived at in logically facile ways. Indeed, the heart must move in acceptance of the issues at hand. And that is a space only inner knowing can see. For as Cohen has entrapped in poetic brilliance, the nature of the human dimension of our times, there is a palpable loss of reason in form, substance and spirit.
“Our law of peace
Which understands
A husband leads
A wife commands

And all of this
Expressions of
The Sweet Indifference
Some call Love

The High Indifference
Some call Fate
But we had Names
More intimate

Names so deep and
Names so true
They’re blood to me
They’re dust to you

There is no need
That this survive
There’s truth that lives
And truth that dies



And while abject surrender is a release from the burdens of insanity, it paradoxically enables connection. In abject retreat however, silence is but an illusion of escape at the altar of the power of fears.  This paradoxically fuels disconnection. And we don’t see it because the next event to engulf your senses is only a few moments from this line, in alternate diminishing space, of directionless gory.  

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Questions of questions?

On a recent morning walk with a neighbour, I was recalling a great evening I was at. Time is a Blind Guide is an uncommon name for a music group. It suits the jazz genre, alright, and that is not where the greatness arises from. Thomas Stronen whose facilitation enabled the fusion with Prakash Sontakke, the vocalist and string artist and Adarsh Shenoy the tabla artist, created a near timelessness in cosmic tones – as if to spur the question “So where does great music come from?”
In questions of art, laws of resonance may be a useful guide, but the clue to their labelled identity lay in the art of writing. Canadian author Anne Michael’s first line in her book Fugitive Pieces is the name of this group. 

What questions get answered when such art consummates? To me the fascination left me at a high point of the year gone by.

In the year 2015, we also completed our transition into a new house, where the stated aspiration of the first inhabitants is to be the ‘greatest’ community ever. That was not a high-point, despite being happy about the abode and the surroundings we now have. I recalled for my morning walk companion a lesson from my master coach. It was a question a science journalist asked Einstein for a series on questions that engaged scientists of that age. “What’s the most important question a scientist may ask?” While that got Einstein working his mind, I often recall a sense of wonder in his process of inference. It took the physicist about half an hour to return from his inner rooms to the scientist with the answer “Young man, the most important question a scientist may ask is this – Is the Universe a safe place for humans to live in?”

In much needed hindsight, I realized, that the questions one asks of social relations, do not mirror the patterns of questions we may relate to in pure sciences. The questions we have of human relations are also nuanced, in that questions of law seldom satiate dilemmas of human regards. On the day marked as the birth anniversary of Jesus, laws of biology are to be suppressed to explain birth of the towering figure. When through the trials of life, Jesus was asked to explain the laws of love in legal terms. One now understands that a plane higher than the one in which the questions arise resolve the questions beneath it. Jesus asked of those who followed him to love God with all one’s soul, mind and heart. As of matters on earth, he said “Love thy neighbours as thyself”. 

Psychologically, or spiritually, it is impossible to love others, if one hates oneself. Logically, or legalistically though, we may bind that expectation within governmental constitution. ‘Greatest’ community ever? Sounds like we got our questions confused, or our answers contrived for questions we are not clear on, I thought to myself.

Perhaps, our expectations for social laws to follow patterns of pure science in deterministic ways muddle our reality. It is a case in which our awareness is still-born, or resisted with. This is perhaps why Edward De Bono came up with his po questions that offers at least a third alternative to the dominant frames of reference in our thinking and argumentation. In my earliest reading of his work in a book called Future Positive, the dilemma he posed as example of fallacious thinking resonates even today. It was that of a child asking his father a challenging question as does Calvin of his father in the famous Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. “If God can do everything, can he make a stone so heavy that He himself cannot lift it?”

The distance between who we think we are and what we essentially are. Our inner worlds are unique to each of us, and irrespective of how we may understand commonality of our external worlds a question for me is this:


If we came without material possessions over which people may contest in their biological lifetimes, what will it take us to dispossess impostors of well-being before we explore our inner worlds more completely? Nuclear war, biological terrorism or Climate change?

What are the questions on your mind?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Season of overoptimism

The winter air toughens as the vesper bells chime,
The bugle stirs a hornet’s ruse in disguise,
The minaret forecloses corpses in the clime
A subcontinent yelping as if justice is about to rise.
The sinners and the losers united in defeat,
Chose not this season of retreat,
But the rants and the chants of militant gangs chill,
The hope of any tiger on any hill.
A mute spectator bends head under her scarf as she quivers,
Of no winter as this she recalls,
In digital finesse, her masters promise the union of rivers
Alas, only tears upon her sullen cheeks would fall.
The masculine will of a fantasy unborn,
Meets dismay despite the force of his horn;
Critics still give the mood its many names,
Arrogance, contempt, overbearing a fleeting fame.
The winter air condenses a scent with harnesses
To count a flock that must fear the game,
Neither the scholar, artiste or author buttresses
The spark that the potent air will enflame.
The summer must melt the overoptimism
That this season was quick to mature
The thoughtless addiction sits in the chasm
That many suns and moons have endured.
The priest and the guru of peaceful sojourn
Detour to a place of no return
Where love harbors refugees from religious strictures
That no race, no tongue nor blood or gender can yet picture.






Monday, October 26, 2015

Cellphone corollaries - Evolution through formless circumstances in India

On an early morning sky, an elderly adult of 65 was pacing his available place on a cool morning near his ancestral home. He was holidaying among known relatives, taking a break from the Big Apple where his permanent residence is. Looking toward the two steady lights of the sky between clouds of rain and mist, he exclaimed that the two stars had been his companion of the mornings he was on tour. When I mentioned the redness of a planet that looked silvery through the atmosphere, he was all ears. Recognising that they were the planets Venus and Mars or Jupiter, he seemed dwarfed in time and space to acknowledge the need for a telescopic confirmation. In about the early 1980s, when he migrated, it was not an easy decision to meet with an alien culture, where his daughter now teaches math for a living, and his son is on the brink of a doctoral publication in neuroscience. Saged through experiences, he had the discernment to appreciate that it was a tad late to buy his first smartphone, as he expanded his source of information and was more knowledgeable on matters since his first purchase.


It was in 1989 or so, that I had read in a French publication – (le nouvel observatuer or the L’Express Internationale – I do not remember which) of a caption that featured India’s crossroads in time. It was a colour picture of a bovine on an Indian road. “une vache sacrée a la rue” tried to capture India’s contradictions at a time, when the liberalisation of the automobile sector was on the anvil. Today, two and a half decades later, the smartphone indeed has ruled and the automobile has displaced the bullock cart in most places. Why go far? The home care-taker of the resort I was at in Allepey, whose business is younger than the liberalisation of the Indian economy, says that none row their boats with effort now along the Manimala or the Pamba rivers, leave alone the Vembanad lake. All prefer the Japanese motor-powered boat. His attendant adds quickly, none know hunger here anymore.

This week, the Newsweek’s issue carries the burden of the Indian zeitgeist in similar language as the French press. “The French” our attendant proffered, “prefer blander food preparations, even if it is meat; than the British and the American tourists”. The experience of being on the ground was shining forth in just a decade and a half of such flourishing house-boat and holiday home business in Kerala. The holiday-home owner was more forthright in his assessment though. He wondered why the fuss when even the lower castes with whom local politicians were playing coy; would return to sanity after their tempting differentiation in identity. He was certain that they would be side-lined by the higher castes in communal politics. At the crossroads at which India is today, caste is still a potent killer within India, than cow slaughter is. Social psychology still knows no better wisdom of in-group and out-group phenomena, in that the French observed of India in 1989, as clearly and as early as did the Newsweek did of India’s social contradictions in 2015.

Evolutionary biology, history and even philosophy are enriched in interdisciplinary contributions than are religion and politics of everyday living in the age of the hand-held mobile smartphone. Learning at a societal scale is not only mediated through technology and access to information, it is also restricted by inept social learning; like, falling on naked eyes to ‘know’ the planet from the star; when more contemporary lens are available. Bias and overlearning part, activity – and almost any variety - is considered a strategy for life. So popularity is weighed against social media rankings, and political achievements through material manifestations – even at the cost of the earth and the air on its surface. Activity inhibition is considered as sloth, and not as a possibility for inner reflection and contemplative meaningfulness. So hours are lost as minutes are kept; and the fear of not doing anything has the whirr of the modern boat scare away fish and tear away livelihoods impacted by nature’s plunderers. Seldom has the radical nature of groups been so incendiary in grabbing our attention. 


In populous India, the smartphone presents both opportunity and challenge. Rabble-rousers speeden the reach of their dogma faster than the citizens’ capacity to develop their innate intelligence and express themselves in independent critique based on emerging truths that science methodically uncovers for us. Else, may the farce be with you, and the mercy of a timeless zone rescue us from ourselves. Until then, am hoping to embrace the effervescence of formless circumstances!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

What CLO prototype do you engage with?


Recently, a good friend played a song from his pocket device. It was Crossroads by Don Mclean. And while the context was from a different calling, the river of thought runs deep with what I share here. I have been student of many a professional tendencies. One among them has to do with types of orientations in employee development that organisations foster or acquire. For a while now, I have been wondering whether the role of the Chief Learning Officer (CLO) is at a crossroad.  This is because, hard choices lie ahead, that without reflection will weaken the sinew of human essence and project onto social institutions the refuse of our ethical, moral and social worlds. Else, the mutation of this species is not only at hand, it is one that if left unmanaged, will affect the destiny of our generic species – homo sapiens itself. So what are the tendencies I have come across in CLOs that make for this crossroads.

1.       The Certainty Dispenser : Such has been the stranglehold of performance monitored materialistic reward of salary and raises, that the distinction between output and outcomes are hardly an issue for this CLO. She must have an action every minute, and each action must realise a benefit that measures up on a desired dashboard. So, every bit (well almost) of a workshop schedule, a development plan and such need to have specific predicates on paper. If you are not sure of meeting this CLO’s  high need for certainty, tread carefully into this client context.

2.       The Panacea Lab : I could well have recalled old comedian Johnnie Walker act that composition rendered by Rafi on this theme. Having the panacea for all maladies is what some CLOs posture with inscrutable fallibility and unassailable flourish. Like the half-knowledge of the freshly formulated medical representative, this CLO vends from the same generic drug with labels appropriate to the learners or their sponsors. The learner taught against his will, will be of the same opinion still, is it not? Yet the silver bullet fantasy pervades our gullible minds.

3.       The Attention Seeker : No  matter what the cause, every occasion to sieve learning content or process is an opportunity to project one’s persona. Cutting the ribbons, lighting the lamp, or even introducing the guest speaker of the day are paths to the lights on his stage. It does not matter how much or how little he identifies with the pains of the learner, the needs of the self are in unadulterated glory in one’s own image.  In fallacious extension of the adage that the medium is the message, this CLO garnishes social media presence, as if learners appetites are puny sized or restricted to a hundred odd digital characters.

4.       The Spineless Survivor :  Don’t take me for a vertebrate yet. But, when survival precedes service, the CLO billows like the unwavering vapour above a fleeting flash of light. This CLO is the escort to the fad of the day. Unable to reach into one’s own internal core, in unanchored sway this CLO is a projection of insecurity despite the mistaken belief of being avant garde – with push-button learning package content, oversimplified caricatures of phenomena and a clueless followership of virtual connect. Alter-egos of opportunist business leaders match the motives of the willing CLO’s chameleon characteristics.

5.       The Authentic Humanist : This CLO is an embodiment of human potential - empathetic, generous, dutifully forthright and willing through gracious vulnerability to laugh at one’s own fallacious self. Irrespective of efficacy on technology platforms, she nourishes the deeper needs of developing adults, in rapt listening and pretenceless giving of one’s time to others. This is the core of developmental stuff, hard and essential in process, and soft and caressing in character. With immense human capital following, this CLO may at times be even taken for granted, but is willing to learn through tempest and an ever enlarging statesmanship.   


It is but a corollary, that we do not want to lose the authentic humanist in us. Only if we could absorb it in the physical presence of such a CLO! Not that the other prototypes are without benefit; but, it is the behavior and experience we are affected by and even involuntarily recall. The scarcer this sub-species, the dearer the crossroads on which this profession stands. Which CLO’s impact do you recall more fondly? What can you do more of or better to nourish the CLO you need? Do let me know if we can meet at this crossing! 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Self-Esteem as Focus of Action

In the late, 1990s, and I do not recall which specific summer it was –the heat of the road was scorching dry near the Kshipra river, as I braved the industrial fumes of a factory in whose precincts we were attempting to foray an Organization Development intervention. I was interviewing a workman on the shop-floor of a soya mill in Indore’s industrial hills. In trying to understand how the workman made emotional reserve for the workplace environment, I was curious as to how the respondent would perceive the health benefits facilitated by the employer. Given the wage limits determining coverage under the Employee State Insurance Corporation (ESIC), I was keen on knowing how their services were accessed and consumed.

From the more direct and forthright portrayal of his employer’s orientation to health benefits, he was now coming to the zone of interface between the firm and its environment. He was beginning to get comfortable in responding, but looked distraught enough to warrant my curiosity. I asked point-blank in youthful bravado, if it was to do with harassment for bribes at the ESIC. Even more relieved, he was coming to the poignant zenith of disclosure.  In chaste Hindi he quipped “Saab, ab yeh mat puchiye hamein, ki machli kitna paani me – ya paani kitna, machli mein”. (“Don’t ask me how much of the fish is in the water – or how much of water is in the fish”).  The rustic diplomacy that descended from the man stumped me, and had me in a long pause of the interaction there.
He was at once acknowledging the phenomenon of corruption, and also pushing back on the enquirer in me to hold my reserve enough to hold up the workman’s dignity. Such conversational brilliance seldom befalls me from the dust and grime of India these days. The respondent now strikes me as having self-esteem expressed with a poise that is unlikely to have been achieved without reflective oscillations between tempest and salvation in the struggle to stay employable in an economically unforgiving social context.

In the recent months gone by, I have come to a certain insight during the curation of data. My clients who take up assessments before they determine their development goals, come from managerial cadres, and find the transitioning to leadership a platform on which a lifetime’s effort is met with a decisive crossroads. Here are some trends below. Indeed, they are to do with self-esteem, but its correlates are not also linear or entirely generalizable. Nonetheless, they may represent a sliver from which we may infer many possibilities.

Let me begin first by acknowledging the root inspiration for this piece of writing. I have had several people talk about self-esteem as being a unidirectional trait – that it is either low or high, but have also classified it as a human psychological need that requires fulfillment. On the other hand, Nathaniel Branden who first extolled the virtues of self-esteem has also made allowance for it to be treated as an accomplishment or an act of achievement.  Some treat it as an inner dynamic of the person, while others are open to the influence of the person’s external environment in playing a role in the nurture or development of self-esteem. So let me quote Nathaniel Branden himself here :
Self-Esteem is
1. Confidence in our ability to think, confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life and
2. Confidence in our right to be successful and happy, the feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our needs and wants, achieve our values, and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.
For purposes of reflection, here are a few of my insights, or let’s say formative hypotheses from immersive engagements with professionals in Indian work contexts, that have sprung up from self-esteem confines.
1.       Gender has a role, but it is a social bias more than a personal bias to begin with  – and it’s effect at the workplace is likely to be in a continued state of flux. I have in the recent past seen two kinds of effects with regard to self-esteem among women coachees. The first one is the more difficult to address via coaching in the workplace. Due to social gender stereotyping, as in a barrage of media through rite, ritual and unquestioned convention, women tend to develop low self-acceptance. In fallacious extension of physical might of the male, they surrender even psychologically to the will of the male. They try to overcompensate with a striving to self-correct as if, their concept of self will be decided on norms set by the male. This leads to approval seeking at the workplace too decades after receiving gender discriminating signals, when in fact, mastery over an instrumental skill may be more important. Self-esteem eludes them for not being able to accept one’s imperfections without hating oneself. The other ‘syndrome’ at work is about women with self-esteem developing an uncritical socialisation style of the more dominant male gender. This includes an unassailable forthrightness to the point of being curt and at times appearing exploitative for lack of empathy with others.  Even after women become aware of the roots of their behavior, coping with their realities has often been a struggle to stay the distance, due to long years of operant conditioning.

     
     For women who have self-esteem, that is a dynamic balance between self-acceptance and self-improvement, exerting their interpersonal power in emotionally congruent ways has been easier, especially when organizations structure opportunities suited to their career pursuits. It has been more of an unspoken nightmare otherwise, despite their social facility in implementing task demands in less benign opportunity structures.
2.        Social Intelligence has a role – and it’s role in learning about human preferences and effectiveness is enlightening us due to insights from neurosciences and social psychology both. For example, Baron-Cohen has a theory of extreme male and extreme female brains, that speak to laser logic for the male and adroit empathy for the female prototype. In a biological frame, it is known that boys are ten times more likely to develop Asperger’s syndrome and four times more likely to develop autism symptoms than girls. While this may lead to some needless stereotyping, the language of making the journey from shallow feminine to deep feminine and further to shallow masculine and deep masculine is also known (Richard Rohr’s work for example).  
The sad news is that we do not design organisations yet on this principle of wholeness, as the norm is to yet pass around numbers that speak to gender ratios, barely scratching at the surface of deep tensions society presents. It has already embedded within it through its social mores, rites of passage and rituals of dysfunctional control.
Goleman accedes thus in his book on Social IntelligenceNeuroscience has discovered that our brain’s very design makes it sociable, inexorably drawn to an intimate brain-to-brain linkup whenever we engage with another person. That neural bridge lets us affect the brain – and so the body – of everyone we interact with, just as they do us.
In the multiple interactions we have in social milieu we’re part of, the effervescence of connecting with other people, transpire deep connect, even subliminally. At the same time, we’re bombarded with information highways that causes us to disconnect with others, despite symbols of connectivity that surreptitiously compound social, emotional and possibly economic costs as well. I often surmise for fellow professionals, that one of the most silent epidemics among cadres I coach is that of maladapted masculinity – of being unable to get to the point of vulnerability or authentic change potential, in growth hungry corporate settings – where appearing to be weak is seen as taboo. Humility is a underrated strength.
3.       Empathy is a divisible compound – Several years ago, when I was being trained to be a developmental coach, I was introduced to a competency known as Accurate Empathy. In experiential learning of the theme, we were impressed upon to listen in for data in conversations that were of intent, feeling and content nature. While that may still be useful in listening deeply, empathy itself runs through neural circuits that signify the following forms from top-down to the bottom-up brain circuits
a.        Cognitive Empathy the ability to focus on what other people experience without losing touch with one’s own emotions
b.       Emotional Empathy the spontaneous attunement to others’ feelings in bodily resonance
c.        Compassion/Concern Empathy the proximal action oriented care and concern for others
So what’s that do with self-esteem you may ask? In my experience in dealing with professionals across sectors, it is astounding to note that one can be mind blind – that is impervious to empathetic concerns even as one’s self-esteem is intact! This is a trigger for sparking off structured opportunities in interactive variety. On the other hand, it is also possible to have the female brain of Baron-Cohen extremes in the male, with low assertiveness of personal power or poor self-acceptance in frank, planful, and organized males. This makes for challenging coaching conversations and indeed creative exploration of possibilities in empowering the present for meaningful futures.


4.       Systems Thinking draws more from inner intuition and is yet more data-intensive : - I go back to the shop-floor worker who summoned to my attention his immersive experience in his social context. With faculties available to him, and without a handheld device to support his data processing, he curated that moment between us in a communicative finesse that makes for the roots of effective decision making, strategic engagement and forthright diplomacy. He analysed his data, reviewed its shortcomings, risked an opinion in the face of social class divides, and made no compromise with the truth. In creative embedding through metaphor, he swelled his chest at the zenith of disclosing his dilemma from the zone of human values, with no sign of dogma or inane open-endedness. He vulnerably embraced an opportunity for his own development with an unabashed pride, making his self-esteem a product of apparently irreconcilable self-improvement and self-acceptance. His leaders were grappling with larger system cognition assuming that internal systems of human resource management were sufficiently dealt with. He had his theory of everything he experienced with laws of general nature implicit in the norms of his phenomenal world; including of course the permeability between social systems. Today’s challenges that afflict modern managers are not only about resiliently navigating ambiguity – but also in specifying the data slices from which to prune insights as a curator of ever burgeoning big-data, even to do with disease outbreak lead signals.


As I round off this piece, am reminded of a few talismans in intervention practice. One is that of working on the system, rather than on units within it per se. So, when organisational malaise is detected at a systemic level, one may believe that individuals at the level of units, or professional systems at the level of groups may self-govern in autopoetic abundance. When dealing with individuals as in some examples from which this piece is inspired, one sees organisations and systems of the past creeping in on the present in unkempt and unresolved tensions, so much so that system levels of the present may perpetuate if not precipitate similar individual malaise if left festering in the present. Do we have much choice but to deal at both ends of the whole together? In closing, perhaps, just as it is self-acceptance and self-improvement for self-esteem, organisation sponsors may have to consider the individual and the larger system, and not merely a specific symptomatic part. What’s been your experience on this frontier?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Compensation in ‘respectability’ – the Doctoral Pursuit

Corporations are competitive places to survive in. They house employees who are perceived to align with corporate objectives. They have been to reward the more aligned, based on what is now bandied about as ‘performance’. There are also those nooks and corners in corporations, where performance is incidental to the employee’s presence. Some of these employees are seen as ‘solid citizens’ and are some of the most procedurally compliant lot. They acquire onerous goodwill due to their dependable character and predictable nature. You don’t mess with these people if you know that they have a place in your heart.


But, they are not as satiated as their top managements may like them to be. So, the guy was given this office near the men’s room corner, and a pay grade lower than the executive cadres - with a title that could at best win the respect of a campus recruit. Denied the status and the merit based promotion cycle he is left wondering what aspect of loyalty failed him the next title and pay-grade.

Compensation in ‘self-worth’ – the ‘elixir’ of philosophy

So he rationalises it to be his pedigree – not the ivy league college degree, or the mother-tongue accented English conversation, or for that matter neglected acts of fine dining when hosting clients or government officials. So he decides to earn a title beyond the workplace. This time its going beyond the evening MBA. It’s a full doctoral program, course-work, and mini-thesis all rolled into an ongoing corporate problem that needs a fresh insight.

Numerous nouveau-riche institutions, make the beeline for retired executives and retiring ones with a noble exterior of respectability. Education plays the great leveller, after all, with knowledge having no favourites among learners. And learning is a virtue, that corporations can live with. Consumptive knowledge brings one closer to monetary value. But learning for learning sake does not necessarily guarantee more money instantly. Yet, it can salvage lost pride, as such is the inherent virtue of the transformations of learning.

Old habits die-hard

And when I saw an online appeal for ‘executive MBA’ students to help in the literature surveys, it was quick to get my attention. The learner in me awakened. To my horror, the posting was on behalf of Research scholars, who wished to outsource their literature survey, design of questionnaire for interviews, and interactions with industry leaders! Wow, some scholars these – even the methods of enquiry are finalised before the literature survey has ended. Rich students paying lesser students in the guise of learning! I can well imagine, how lost both outsourcer and the outsourced would be. To make matters crisp, let me lay out the following.

1.       Outsourcing a research project assumes that the researchers are trained and competent to design the research process, collect data, analyse information and makes inferences that are consistent with the method of science.
2.       Expecting untrained literature surveyors to execute research is like a surgeon expecting a barber to perform surgery for want of resources, including that of time.
3.        A PhD is about the method of science, and not the execution of procedural tasks bereft of the scientific mind-set.
4.       Internalizing the method of science within the researcher is a major differentiator in the research process. Why otherwise would a research scholar attempt trial-and-error research efforts with novices?
5.       A quest for a title cannot be unanchored in principle, purpose or ethics of the discipline. Can an aspiring guitarist ask free hands to tune strings without one’s will to strum it?

Parting Questions : 
1. How is the method of science different from other forms of knowing, for which you truly aspire to be a research scholar?
2. What's even more important to you than your self-worth, and the pleasure of learning for which you are taking up a research question in a scientific process?