Article: The Corner Office Bookcase: Subroto Bagchi

Sports, Books & Movies

The Corner Office Bookcase: Subroto Bagchi

It's a time for self reflection and of resolutions. In this spirit, People Matters asked three thought leaders to recommend must-reads for people managers

I would advise that people begin to take more interest in anything related to the human brain


It’s the end of the year. A time for self reflection and of resolutions, usually to better some aspect of our lives. In this spirit, People Matters asked  thought leader Subroto Bagchi to recommend must-reads for anyone who manages people. 

Subroto Bagchi is an Indian entrepreneur and Co-founder and Executive Chairman of MindTree Inc., an international IT consulting company. Since April 2008, he has been designated as the ‘gardener’ and his mandate is to “repot, fertilize and weed and clip the human resources”. He is the author of the bestselling books, Go Kiss the World: Life Lessons for the Young Professional, The High Performance Entrepreneur and The Professional

I would suggest three books for different but interconnected reasons. I see a lot of mid-level to senior people struggle with the issues of managing people particularly high performance people because to begin with they don’t know how their own mind works. You see, you and me, we are factory-fitted with the brain as a tool, but when we were shipped, we didn’t come with a user manual. We’ve never seen our brain; we’ve never put our finger in it to see what it feels like. And you are using it every moment. Now, imagine you have a hammer in your hand and you have no idea how it works and yet you are using it all the time. There was a reason why it wasn’t possible earlier, except in the spiritual world, for various reasons, but in the last 8 to 10 years, the following fields are sitting around the table and talking to each other for the first time: neurosurgeons, synectic researchers, people who build imaging capabilities and psychologists. As a result of the interplay between the four groups, we are beginning, but only just beginning to understand what the brain does, how it works, how it may work. And here we are in a situation where I don’t even understand how my brain works, but I am managing other people who have their own brains. I would advise that people begin to take more interest in anything related to the human brain.

There is a lot of literature coming in and a good starting point is a very easy to read book called Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. This book is an initiation into the brain conversation and people can choose to go to a higher level of reading thereafter. His argument in the book is that the last century was the century of left brain people, but in this century if you build your products and services based on left brain thinking, it will not deliver differentiation. So, it is not like left brain thinking will go out of fashion or be unnecessary, but it will be foundational and will not get you brownie points from the customer. Differentiation has three killers: abundance, automation and Asia. Given these three killers of differentiation, if people want to create differentiation, they will have to find the solution by tapping into the right brain.

The second book I would recommend is Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner. In this book, he argues that to be successful in the future, to influence the future, we need to have five minds. We need the mind of a discipline. I need to spend enough time to master a discipline and if I choose not to then I need to be comfortable with the fact that I will have to take instructions for the rest of my life. Secondly we’ll need the mind of synthesis. Any problem that is worth calling a problem will require a multidisciplinary approach to solve it. Apart from mastering a discipline you have to have the capacity to understand other disciplines, their interplay & you should be able to abstract things so you can synthesize. Thirdly, we will need the creative mind because we live in a world where the tried & tested is not going to work anymore. The fourth and fifth are the respectful and the ethical minds. Sustainable success in the future and organizational leadership & managing high performance people requires understanding the five minds.

The third book is Theory U by Otto Scharmer. It is not for everyone as it is quite heavy. Otto Scharmer is an authority on the transformative process. Whether it is personal, social or organizational, all transformation goes through a process. And people, who are attempting something transformative, whether small or large, will be much better equipped to deal with it if they understood the nature of transformation. Now, say you were trying to change the behavior of a factory, or you are trying to move people from point A to point B in a new company that you have just joined, or you are a teacher who wants to try something different, if you don’t understand the nature of transformative processes, you will be very frustrated.


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