Article: A shift in perspective: From human as a resource to talent as a bundle of possibilities

Strategic HR

A shift in perspective: From human as a resource to talent as a bundle of possibilities

An Indian yogi, mystic, author and founder of Isha Foundation, Sadhguru says, "Human is not a resource." What does the statement imply and what can businesses learn from it?
A shift in perspective: From human as a resource to talent as a bundle of possibilities

"Humans have come in a seed form. If you put a seed in fertile soil, even one seed can make the entire earth green." - Sadhguru

John R. Commons, a pioneering economist, first coined the term “human resource” in his book "The Distribution of Wealth", which was published in 1893. Back then, human or talent was considered to be a resource or a means to do business or earn profit. But as the world of work transforms, it is time that the way we look at talent also evolves. 

Humans are so much more than resources. They are a bundle of possibilities, and the organizations and the leaders have to learn to unlock and harness the potential that they have. This shift from looking at human as a resource to human as possibilities is what will help businesses prepare for the future better. 

Envisioned by Sadhguru and presented by Isha Leadership Academy, the “Human Is Not A Resource” Leadership Conclave from 7 to 9 June 2019, brought together CEOs and CHROs to discuss practical steps to enable a paradigm shift from human beings as resources to human beings as possibilities. 

Here are a few insights that emerged from the three day conclave:

The 5 elements for transforming HR from organization to organism

Like the universe is made of 5 elements, the business ecosystem also comprises of 5 elements which determine the transformation of every organization. 

The three days of the conference revolved around these 5 Leaders like Lalit Agarwal, CMD, V-Mart Retail Ltd; Shri S Somnath, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre – ISRO and Dr. Talam Venkateswara Rao, Chairman, TVRLS, among other HR and business leaders, brought in pertinent insights for HR transformation on themes such as organizational structuring, enabling culture, design thinking for processes, storytelling, new paradigm for HR and alternative management systems, e.g., holacracy. 

Purpose - Sky

Like the sky surrounds us all, like we aim to reach its height, the organizations also aspire to reach somewhere and exists for a cause. 

This purpose or cause drives each and every employee of the organization and helps them align all their efforts in one common direction. 

Raman Roy, Chairman & MD, Quatrro BPO solutions shared how a purpose drove him and his team towards success.    

“We created an entire industry because someone said Indians cannot do it. My purpose then was a reaction to what someone said. But once you know it, you have to evangelize it from 'my purpose' to ‘our purpose’. Then it opens limitless possibilities,” said Roy. 

Structure - Earth

The element of earth synchronizes with the Structure that builds the core of a business entity. 

While purposes is what drives everyone, structure is what keeps them grounded. To reach the sky, you need to stand strong on ground. Build a structure, process and strategy that help organizations achieve their goals. 

In the second section, all the business and HR leaders discussed how organizations can structure themselves to work towards fulfilling their purpose.

Lalit Agarwal, CMD, V Mart shared relatable and candid experiential insights about unlocking human capacity and impacting lives by harnessing the organization’s structure from an entrepreneur’s lens. 

Mohinish Sinha highlighted the six ‘elementary’ models differentiated by product, geography, customer, function, process and network, which are used as building blocks to construct the hybrid and matrix operating models typically used by organizations today. 

Mohammed Ali Vakil, Co-Founder, Calm Achiever; Master Trainer and Coach in the Getting Things Done #GTD methodology, opened up an alternative system for structuring, Holacracy and showed how organizations can adopt it to structure their organization. 

Vakil said, “It is possible to be effective without a hierarchical management structure. Real empowerment requires clearly defined boundaries. Everybody needs to know what they are responsible for.” 

Processes - Water

Like the water, the 'Processes' help organizations to seamlessly flow towards the purpose.

One of the ways in which HR and business leaders can build these processes is through design thinking. 

Design thinking helps leaders understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test. 

Jacob Mathew, CEO, Industreefdn explained how the concepts of design thinking can be brought into the mould of standardized processes to find solutions to wicked problems. He took everyone through the process from empathizing, ideating to prototyping and testing. 

Inspiration - Fire

An organization can have a purpose, a robust structure and well-defined processes. But they are incomplete with the fire that inspires them everyday to work. 

How can organizations get the energy that drives them and all their employees? How can they translate this energy into constructive actions? 

One way of inspiring people is through storytelling. Many organizations today use that to motivate people in organizations or to instill certain thoughts and behaviors. In fact, marketers and business leaders today use it to promote and sell their products and solutions as well.

Bharat Avalani, Storyteller; Memory Collector; Unilever Veteran; CKO, Connecting Dots Consultancy, enlightened the audience with some of his experiential bytes, in a storytelling format. 

Stories are nothing but facts wrapped in context and delivered with emotion. Story doesn't mean fiction or lies, it means communicating facts in a way that it taps on the emotions and make people feel as well. 

Avalani said, "Interestingly, we are storytellers outside of work. When we come to work, we tend to become robots!"

Culture - Air

"Lamps have different wicks and fuel levels, but they all burn with the same intensity. Why? It’s because of the air around them," said Sadhguru. 

Culture shapes every decision and impacts the behavior of each and every employee. It binds them all together and defines the value system of the entire organization. 

In a session on the theme Culture, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Director, Shri. S Somanath, shared how ISRO has built a culture of 'leading from the front', of 'trust' and 'embracing failure'.

He shared how Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam worked more on people than rockets during his tenure at ISRO. And that has made all the difference. 

The people-first approach led Directors at ISRO to take both the risk and the responsibility whenever there is a rocket launch. If something goes wrong, they never hesitate to own up to the mistake, because such is the culture. 

Leaders and HR teams can follow the five-pronged approach to re-design their organization and make a shift in the way they all look at humans or talent. 

People are much more than resources. Their infinite potential and possibilities are means to unlock endless opportunities. 

Image Credits: Isha Foundation 

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Topics: Strategic HR, Culture

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