Spirituality and its Relevance to MBA program

MBA programThere are many ways to define the word ‘spirituality’. In words of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Spirituality blossoming simply means blossoming in life in all dimensions; being happy, at ease with yourself and everybody around you. It primarily deals with finer human aspects.

Classical definition of management is that it is the art and science of getting things done through other people. It is science because there are certain principles and rules which operate on logic. These can be seen in the areas of accounting, finance, marketing etc. It is art because in management we deal with people all the way and people cannot be handled with logic. People have thoughts, feelings, emotions, instincts and certain values & morals in dealing with situations.

Most management programme syllabus cover the intellectual portions which operate on principles of logic very well though these programme fail miserably in dealing with people aspects. People aspects are generally covered under the subject of organizational behaviour which primarily include topics like motivation, morale, leadership etc. but these do not touch upon the finer issues of human aspects.

We shall look at the past nearly 140 years and see how the human aspects have evolved. In early stages of industrial revolution in the late 19th century, the people aspect was not well known and scientific management principles propounded by F. W. Taylor, Frank & Lillian Gilbreth and others were based on the science aspects of management i.e. on the logic part. It was only during 1932 -1936 while conducting of the Hawthorne experiment at Western Electric Company, Chicago that management thinkers for the first time got a feel of the human aspect. They were puzzled with findings of the experiment. The electrical assembly shop had been divided into two parts, one being a reference group and the other experimental group. The purpose of the experiment was to study effect of changes in light intensity and noise level on productivity of workers. It was observed that whether we increased or decreased the variable parameters, productivity always went up. It was proved beyond any doubt that treating workers as meaningful human beings instead of a cog in the production system was the reason behind continuous increase in productivity.

Another interesting story came from Japan. During the World War II (1939-1945) the economy of Japan was totally shattered and atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki knelt a deadly blow to the economy. Japan does not have many natural resources and hence revival of its economy was a distant possibility. However, the spectacular rise of Japanese industry in 1960s and 1970s stunned the whole world. Researchers from all over the world, notably the US went to Japan to study the underlying causes of such spectacular progress.

Surprisingly, they found the humble ‘Quality Circle’ was doing miracles at ground root level. A quality circle comprises a group of 8 to 10 workers from the same work area, who meet periodically on voluntary basis to discuss, analyse and solve problems and issues related to their work area. The quality circle members use seven tools of quality circle viz. brainstorming, histogram, pareto chart etc.

American firms tried to replicate the quality circle concept in their work areas but it was utter failure everywhere. The basic concept of quality circles in Japan was based on the fact that managements in Japan believe all employees to be intelligent and capable human beings, who know their jobs and work areas the best. Thus, it was the dignity and respect for human beings which results in people doing wonders in their work areas. The seven tools were simple techniques which were used only to formalize ideas and thoughts of group members. American culture which primarily operates on the principle of hire and fire could not appreciate the spirit behind quality circles and tried to copy only the methodology. In many other countries of the world, including India the concept of quality circle has been introduced, but due to very limited success most of these quality circles died a natural death.

Next important milestone came in 1985 when Mr Daniel Goleman popularized the concept of emotional intelligence through his book ‘Emotional Intelligence at Work’. A lot has been published on the subject since then and it has given impetus to all types of organizations. It is well known now that success of  a person depends only 20% on his intelligence level (Intelligence Quotient – IQ) and 80 % on his emotional intelligence level (Emotional Quotient – EQ).

The real breakthrough in dealing with human beings has not yet come through and it is expected that spirituality (Spiritual Quotient – SQ) may provide the answer.

MBA Graduates

Spirituality may be defined in any one of the following ways;

  1. Living values as integrity, probity, passion, co-operation, ethics, commitment, loyalty and tolerance at workplace.
  2. Wisdom required to effectively function in a complex business environment.
  3. It helps eliminate prejudice, biases and subjectivity.
  4. It leads to leadership excellence, balancing spiritual and material aspects and helps coping with stress from within.
  5. It denotes ability to effectively communicate with people from diverse global backgrounds and perspectives.
  6. It helps us to recognize and nurture giftedness in other people.

Spirituality primarily deals with total fabric of inner core values of a person. People differ very widely in all aspects, but the most crucial is the spiritual aspect.

Spirituality is often confused with religion but these two are poles apart. A person’s religion may be Hindu, Muslim, Christianity etc. and each religion has its own set of guidelines including concept of God, rituals, worship methods etc. Spirituality is above all religions, i.e. it looks at human being as a unit and innermost cravings, thoughts, aspirations, feelings, instincts and perversions etc., are considered.

Today’s executives operate under extremely complex and demanding work situations and one has to deal with people of all hues and mentalities. Unless the person is well grounded in his innermost core values and convictions he may falter under highly conflicting demands and temptations.

One technique which is extensively used for improving spirituality is meditation. Meditation implies stilling and calming down the inner chatter of mind in order to perceive and judge an emerging situation clearly so as to arrive at appropriate action step. There are many methods of meditation but the most common are vipasana (focusing on breathing) and transcendental meditation (focusing on any neutral object not associated with any religion).

The MBA courses of high grade do realize the significance of spirituality and develop & use the teaching methodology in such a way that it leads to development of spirituality in students. Group projects, role plays, weekend retreats, outdoor activities like hill climbing, community living in hostels (where 100% students live in hostels), reviews of spiritual books by groups of students, guest speakers, personal journal etc are all aimed at developing spirituality.

Recent scandals like fraud in Enron, Worldcom and Satyam, collapse of Lehman Brothers and other such cases point to spiritual bankruptcy of the individuals involved. Even though persons at the helm of affairs managed the results very efficiently, they all had low inner morals and values, so that they succumbed to extreme greed, criminality and other low values.

Today’s MBA’s are required to be insulated from such situations. They would not be tempted by the lure of temptations as their grounding is on strong values and morals. In a nut shell we can say that strong founding in spirituality is the sine qua non of MBA education. We can briefly state as follows:

Intelligence Quotient (IQ) – How you think?

Emotional Quotient (EQ)  – How you feel?

Spiritual Quotient (SQ)     – Who you are as a person?


Contributed by Sumit Gulati (Class of 2009, IBS HYDERABAD)

One thought on “Spirituality and its Relevance to MBA program

  1. I was delighted to read the article: “Spirituality and its Relevance to MBA program,” These days, I too am enjoying a course with the MBA Students and I found them very open and eager to learn more about spirituality.
    How true it is that: “Spirituality primarily deals with total fabric of inner core values of a person. People differ very widely in all aspects, but the most crucial is the spiritual aspect..”
    Only those who have made a spiritual journey can accompany the MBA Students in their Spiritual Journey. May their number increase day after day.

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