Monday, February 6, 2012

Specialist groups in Indian HRD and its practitioners


My learning from two weeks of facilitation

I had committed facilitative presence to two institutions whose efforts are laudable by sheer force of their respective intents. One was to honor the grace from Imon Ghosh, Director at the Academy of HRD. The other was to privilege myself to the extraordinary hospitality and partnership with V Kartikeyan and his illustrious Sumdehians at the Academy for Human context. Before I outline some of my major learning, I would like to state some facts about these high commitment institutions.

The Academy of HRD ( http://www.academyofhrd.org/ ) in India predates its namesake in USA by 4 years at least, and in that sense is a pioneer. Initially an offshoot of the National HRD network, it continues to stay consistent with its core identity of promoting academic vitality to the profession of human resources development (HRD). Founded in 1990 by National HRD Network with the support of a few professors of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, including Dr. T. V. Rao, Dr. Udai Pareek, and Dr. D. M. Pestonjee, it is a place several intellectuals assemble to propel the professional’s advancement through research. It was later registered as a trust and society. Its flagship program today is its Fellow Program for working professionals in HRD.

The Sumedhas Academy for Human Context (http://sumedhas.org/), is a ‘Not for Profit’ institution registered under 25C of the Indian Companies Act, 1956 and is dedicated to fostering learning of human processes. A research and educational body founded by behavioural scientists with diverse backgrounds and a shared discipline in the field, there is a strong influence of traditions set in the initial years of the ISISD (Indian Society for Individual and Social. Development (ISISD). In Sumedhas ideology is the belief that all human beings carry with them conviction, dignity and compassion along with deeper feelings about identity, human and social processes, and of late – phenomenological dimensions of subjective experience.

Both institutions bear strong indicators of their founders. While I had the good fortune of meeting two of AHRD's stalwarts – namely Dr. Rao and Dr. Pestonjee, I am gladdened that they are still around to converse with me of their experiences and trials in building their careers. Dr. Pareek lives no more, unfortunately. I am glad I had the extraordinary opportunity to meet him. He knew who I was, and I had no clue as to who he was as he came up to me to ask for a web version of the paper I presented at the Global OD summit in Mysore a few years ago!

Sumedhas today revolves around at least four or five axes. There’s the ever maturing Ashok Malhotra, with his triune of ambience, learning and performance; and the mellowing T V Raghu Ananthanarayana with his yoga sutras for human living. Then there’s Sarbari Gomes, Gagandeep Singh and Kartikeyan V. They all sing paeans to ‘Gargian’ legacy (after Pulin K Garg) and academic documentation of Indira Parikh. The resultant eclectic approach is passionately held, diversely personified and narcissistically defended. It is a place where the current community has outgrown its birth pangs, genuinely questioning its essence in its encounters with the experiences that hold up human narratives. In tenuous balance, it represents the forces of nature, even as it aims to be a place for human context to mark evolutionary finesse in institutions.

Here below are some insights then from my experiences with the AHRD and Sumedhian communities in January 2012.

1.       The yearning for benefits from science is not in question. Its methods are under stress when the map of reality under investigation is the life of individuals in organisations.
2.       The commitments of founders of institutions are signs of personal brilliance and passionate visioning. Tacit sharing and social transmission of institutional intent is like a mirage, when profit is not the motive!  Methods of sustaining learning are under question today.
3.       We professionals in institutions and organisations stand on the shoulders of giants, Indian and western. We deny these roots, just as we ignore our own traditions in the socio-cultural space of national context. We watch our intellectual heritage from a distance without feeling for the ideas in our being. We idolise Eastern legacy, and yet consume ourselves in the power of media that emerge electronically from the West.  Slaves to convenience, we tend to narrow our interests and shallow our learning. Those who stay deep on the learning front reap unparalleled dividend from their efforts.
4.       Dealing with criticism is inherent in institution building. Getting past criticism to constructing a future based on conviction and understanding of identity is crucial. That may be common gruel to any kind of institution. We  react to the absence of ideals from uneasy experience. We seldom design institutions where conflict is productively held between people who regard the anxiety thereof as potential for mutual growth.
5.       Leadership within an institution of non-profit is distinct from leadership in organisations of commercial intent. Facilitation in leadership roles in such institutions implies management of self and groups. In the body corporate, we hasten to suppress these elements of leadership in service of bureaucratic efficiencies and the scent of money.  
6.       Individuation or assertion of missionary academic organisations could make for uneasy alignment with business corporations wherein the essence of human dimensions, such as autonomy and creative expression are devalued. If business leadership could achieve such flowering of human dimensions, there would be no need for such specialisation of facilitation. Such enterprise as the AHRD or Sumedhas is not for the impatient or the non-reflective.
7.       Growth in size of personality led institutions such as AHRD and Sumedhas is limited by its ideals. Business organisations grow their might in material oomph at the cost of human essence. Ideals give us a chance to reach wholesomeness in experience. We seldom ask why conventional organisations fail to provide this connection to the whole. Neither type of institution advances their mutuality enough for the bulk of us to appreciate why either type of organisation exists.

Well, there’s that tip of iceberg feeling I have about the last fortnight’s learning. Glad to have been invited to both AHRD and Sumedhas. We are a blessed society. We have a throbbing intellectual climate. Our culture for science needs deepening though. e.g. We realized that we cannot take western academic thought at face value (http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/2166.html). We also realized that we need to do differently to redeem our own theorisation and practice. I look forward to many more practitioners wanting to understand the nature of human beings in the workplace. I am also interested in the methods by which they reach the truth about these phenomena.