Sunday, August 24, 2008

Strengths Based Organization

I found this today and thought it was interesting, what do you think?

Q: Strengths-based organisation is a good principle, but who determines strengths? An individual may be falsely deluded as to their strengths, while if they rely on others to identify their strengths they may be misled. Also, what do we do with contemporary strengths which don't easily slot into the varnashram model? Say someone is an introverted logician, is he a brahmana because he is an intellectual or not because his strength is not providing leadership and counsel to others? If someone is a great organisational leader but pacifistic, does this make him a ksatriya because he is a leader or not because he is not a warrior? I'm interested to know what you think.

A: To deal with the first part of your question first. There are two things here. Strengths are strengths. Who determines them? Krishna through the agency of His apara-prakrti energy, in conjunction with activities of the living entities. Krishna is the architect of the system, the individual is the author of his destiny. Your strength profile in this life is a product of your karma.

Your understanding of your strengths, or your relative assessment of your strengths is something else. I believe your question here is essentially, How is this best determined?

Bhaktivinode Thakura has explained this nicely in one place (Ekendra knows - he posted it a year or two ago). The process he recommends is that "village elders" (mature, experienced, and sober persons intimately familiar with the examinee) should examine a person to see what social role they have the qualification to discharge, based on an examination of their character, and life history to date.

In today's developing understanding of this in the secular world (example), various types of tests are administered to help people to understand their profile. In both the business world and, actually, in the evangelical (protestant) church, the understanding of helping an individual uncover their naimittika-dharma (ref: Jaiva Dharma chapter 3) identity and act according to that is becoming better understood. I recommend "The Volunteer Revolution: Unleashing the Power of Everybody" by Pastor Bill Hybels for some good insight into this. At Saddleback church, the church pastored by Rick Warren, author of the Purpose-driven Life, they use the SHAPE model - "Spiritual Gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, and Experiences" (ref: S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life). The Keirsey test is another profiling test that is widely used. I've found this to be very accurate and insightful.

The capability of these tests to give insight into someone's profile, and the ability of a person to understand their own nature, is contingent on their own self-awareness. The more "emotionally intelligent" a person is, the better they can objectively understand themselves, and the more honestly and accurately they can answer the questions that these tests rely on. Many times people try to live in a projection of what they think they should be, or what they would like to be, rather than keeping it real and accepting themselves for what they are.

I'll find the conversation that I referred to in the original article and give some quotes from there, but here is the bhavanuvada commentary. Srila Prabhupada explained that the process for helping people to understand their nature was to get them to come and seriously execute the process of Krishna Consciousness for one year, and then their nature will become more apparent. I will post an excerpt from Volunteer Revolution that gives critical insight into this.

As far as the second part of your question is concerned, about individual strengths and organizational roles:

There are two things going on here. Number one, the idea of strengths-based organization. Number two, a particular organizational structure (giving rise to these particular social roles that you mention - ksatriya, brahmana, etc.). Both are inter-related. There are three things -

1. Environmental conditions
2. Needs of the individuals / needs of the collective social body
3. Capabilities of individuals

The Varnasrama organizational model lies at the intersection of these three circles. Material nature produces the individuals that are needed for the social body in the same way that material nature produces in the human body all the particular cells that are needed to fulfill the functions of the body.

It is simply a matter of recognizing what a person is, to understand what they should do. An external system of broad categorization exists in order to make the situation easier to understand. People, especially the intellectually lazy or disinclined majority, like to have labels to put on things, and boxes to put things into.

Specifically about pacifism and the ksatriya and brahamana roles: was Yuddhistira a ksatriya or a brahmana? What about Dronacarya? (See here for some discussion on this). Ultimately there is a lot of latitude in the organizational roles for individual variations, and there is also a social structure component related to gotra or biological dynasty, which helps to determine which side of the fence borderline or ambivalent cases fall on. When this biological aspect overshadows the strengths-based angle (guna-karma vibhagasah) we end up with a caste system.

Focus on understanding guna and karma. Don't worry about varna, putting a tidy label on it, at this stage. Just figure out where your strength zones lie and operate in those to realize your peak performance. The rest will fall into place around that. Do it in Krishna's service, and Daivi-varnasrama-dharma will arise naturally, because it is natural strengths-based organization.

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Strengths-based Organization: Determining Strengths
Posted On: Mon, 2007-05-07 20:48 by sitapati

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