Balancing mind & technology: Lessons from mythology
Technology is very seductive but using technology is tough- one can have a watch but it doesn’t mean that the person will come on time- similarly, having a Microsoft Office will not guarantee that person will write, said Devdutt Pattanaik while addressing a large group of audience on day one at the Peope Matters TechHR India conference 2019.
Here are some insights from his keynote:
Prometheus and Epimetheus of the world of work
The mythological character, Epimetheus would always look at the past whereas Prometheus would always look into the future. Epimetheus, the Indian version of which is Brihaspati, is known to be someone who makes mistakes and regrets it later. For instance, in the context of technology, someone buying a technology worth millions of dollars just to regret it afterwards. Epimetheus is always glued to the past and thus he is afraid of the future.
On the other hand, Prometheus, or Bhrigu in the Indian version, looks at the future and like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, can’t decide what to do- perennially confused about taking a decision.
Within organizations, we find similar people who will say that ‘technology will never work because the last technology was a failure’ and the other category will say that ‘though technology is good I can’t decide which technology to choose from;.
Where people are lacking is that instead of leveraging technology to make people better, they are depending on technology to replace the human mind.
But this approach needs to be changed and instead of focusing on removing the human factor, organizations must look at enabling the human factor. As business and talent leaders struggle to find this balance between mind and technology, here’s an approach that might work for them.
Mantra, Tantra &Yantra: Offering a balanced approach
The divisions which can be used within the organizational parlance to restore balance are- Mantra, Tantra and Yantra.
Mantra is derived from the word ‘man’ i.e. mind. In an organizational context, “where’s the mind or who’s that person who thinks or is allowed to think. Then there is Tantra, derived from ‘tan’ or body which indicates towards the ‘labour’. Then, comes the Yantra, which is the technology.
There are very few people who fall in the mantra category. Most of the people fall in the tantra category who work without thinking much. It is observed that organizations need a balanced approach where Mantra, Tantra and Yantra work in tandem; they won’t be as effective if they function alone. Yantra or technology need to be constantly checked, reviewed, rebooted and upgraded time to time to align it with our needs which comprises of the Tantra. However, the ultimate objective should be decided by the Mantra part. Our day to day life and even office is run by this balance of Mantra, Tantra and Yantra.
In Ramayana or Mahabharata, bows and arrows are often discussed and we see that without a bow, arrow is of no use and one cannot win and that’s exactly the conversation we need to have in today’s context- only focusing on technology will not solve the purpose, we need more than that.
"The need is to develop lot of empathy (Mantra) and human connect in order to create a balance between skills (Tantra) and technology (Yantra)," said Devdutt Pattanaik, Author, Mythologist and Leadership Coach.
Most organizations just want to replace people with technology, oblivious of the fact that technology is changing rapidly and constantly, today’s latest technology will become redundant a year later, therefore the need is to explore the most relevant technology. or example, in Mahabharata, though Arjun was a great archer, he realized during the battle field that he needs better technology to defeat others and thus used the advanced bow and arrow or advanced yantra (e.g. Gandeev and Pashupata as arrow). So he had the best of yantra and tantra (fighting skills) but still he froze in the battle field as his mantra was not ready, implying how important it is to customize the solution to solve complex problems. To be able to manage these complexities, one needs a sound mind behind it.
Technology is like a weapon which can certainly make people better, however it is upto people how they use technology to achieve the real purpose. People need to re-skill themselves to use the technology in the right way. Technology can also become a Gandeev or Pashupata for people if used judiciously.
While concluding, Mr. Pattanaik also reflected on the flip side of being overly consumed by the technology- we tend to forget the human side of the same.