The Corporate Prophet

As far back as recorded human history goes, we find evidence of our yearning for true meaning. Repeatedly, we are urged to search for that meaning within us. We are guided by the powerful aphorisms like ‘know thyself’ in the Occident to ‘thou art that’ in the Orient. Such timeless truth is shared for the common good in a beautiful manner. 

Unfortunately, it is difficult, if not impossible, to find such guidance in the world of business. ‘Business of business is business’ doesn’t quite rank up there. And that despite the fact, that there are hundreds of excellent books written by researchers and by practitioners. In the past five or six decades, we have witnessed a tremendous amount of knowledge generation. We did witness waves of fads and fashion, but we do also have some profound wisdom. That is indeed of immense value. Nevertheless, some gaps remain. 

One key dimension is the need to explore the integration of the various specialties and super-specialties. Further, there is the need to recognize that businesses do not exist in a vacuum. We as human beings live in a complex world. We form businesses that in turn live in the same complex world. I would not be charged with exaggeration if I used the phrase ‘chaotic and complex world’, instead of ‘complex world’. If that was not enough, the rate of change and the scale of scope in our times are unprecedented for humanity. 

I have no fight with super-specialization. All I am trying to advocate is that we need to develop an appreciation for the big picture. That appreciation must also help us as we grapple with some fundamental issues of our era. How do we – as individuals, families, societies and nations – fit in this world and how do we fit as an employee, as a professional and as an entrepreneur? How do we affect our environment while the environment affects us? Why are we not becoming happier as we are becoming prosperous? Why are we getting depressed every now and then, when we thought we had everything worked out? Why do we have work-life issues all around us? Where did we lose our spirit behind? 

While these questions are of extreme importance to us, I contend that this is not for the first time that humanity is faced with such questions. Corporations as we know today are a new form of social order, and therefore the questions look new to us. But I believe, throughout the course of history and in societies all over the world, people have attempted to deal with these. There is, I believe, much to be learnt when we embark on our journey of finding new answers. 

While there are, for sure, many ways we could look at the subject, what I have found particularly enlightening and useful is the concept of this fascinating triad – The Truth, The Good, and The Beauty. It was quite a revelation to me to find that this, in many variants, has emerged in both Occidental and Oriental traditions. That’s the guiding principle I have adopted. 

This book is a humble attempt to bring an integrated picture and synthesize some key insights for the benefit of the readers. This is a single story, which is presented in chapters simply for convenience. 

Early scribbling from my management school days kept evolving as I grew in my corporate roles. It took me ten years to complete this book. Guess what, it feels like the beginning of a quest. I’m excited about the journey that begins now. 

I felt comfortable using the ‘dialogue’ model in line with the Oriental traditions of discourse and am specifically indebted to Khalil Gibran’s celebrated book ‘The Prophet’ in creating the plot. While you would notice a story line here, this is not a novel. The plot is there to enable the ideas forwarded. I wish I were a better storyteller. 

Nevertheless, I hope it’s an easy read, which would offer you several ‘aha’ moments. It was indeed a great challenge to keep the book to a small size. Many a times during the last ten years, it grew oversize and I had to burn the midnight oil to condense it. On other occasions, I felt like offering just the code, and letting the reader figure the puzzle out. I hope I managed to strike a balance. I trust it would catalyze your own thinking and motivate you to learn more. 

May you find your own path

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