Mythologist | Author | Speaker | Illustrator

December 16, 2012

First published December 15, 2012

 in Corporate Dossier, ET

Which way is the right way?

Published in Corporate Dossier, ET on Oct 05, 2012.

I am a marketing manager for a consumer durable brand. We will be launching a new water purifier brand very soon. Either I can do the AK 47 approach and have many models of my brand in the market and hope that this strategy will garner volumes or I can just have two and focus my efforts on these two. Of course each one has its merits. I am sure mythology will have some answer to my conflict. It will also give me a great story to tell my salesforce.

Garuda, the eagle, was enjoying the song of a sparrow atop Mount Kailas, when he saw Yama, the god of death, also looking at the bird. But Yama was frowning. Maybe he did not like the song. Fearing for the welfare of the little bird, Garuda, with compassion in his heart, decided to take the bird away from Yama’s line of sight. Garuda took the bird in the palm of his hand, and flew to a forest far away beyond seven mountains and seven rivers. There, he left the sparrow on a tree full of succulent fruits. When he returned to Mount Kailas, he found Yama smiling. Yama explained, “My account books are balanced. I saw a sparrow here singing a song. It is supposed to die today but not here. It is supposed to die in a forest far away beyond seven mountains and seven rivers, eaten by a python that lives under a tree full of succulent fruits. This has happened, thanks to you, Garuda.” Garuda realized that what he thought was an act of kindness turned out to be an act of cruelty for the sparrow.

When strategies are made it is hoped to minimize surprises. Huge amounts of time are taken to ensure the data is right, the analysis is right so that the results are predictable. As organizations grow larger, the cost of mistakes is higher, and so much more time and energy is taken while taking decisions. And yet, despite all precautions, things can and do go wrong. Only in hindsight we realize if assumptions are right or wrong.

Like Garuda who does not ask the sparrow if it wants to be saved, you are not asking what the customer wants. Will he favor you when you offer him multiple choices or when you take the decision for him and give him the best? Your decision will impact your production team, your logistics team, your sales team. Your decision does not exist in isolation. You are part of an ecosystem, and Yama is constantly watching, keeping meticulous records, ensuring you are appraised accordingly.

You seek a right decision: but right for whom? You? Your career? Your customer? Your team? Your organization? Sometimes our success works against us in the long run. Sometimes our failure works in our favor by creating wonderful opportunities. There is no certainty in life, or business. Do not be fooled by case studies in B-school that focus only on success in a particular context, and ignore failures in that context or successes in other contexts.

Ultimately, you are the yajaman: take the plunge and be responsible for it.

And be careful of ‘stories’ — they can easily be used to delude and manipulate, and be passed of as ‘motivation’. There is not truth out there, only stories well told.

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