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Love, Duty and Innovation – Prof.Rajendra Desai

29 June,2022.

In a recent talk by Prof. Gad Ravid of the University of International Business and Economics, Israel to the students of ISME on ‘Management of Innovation – Challenges in the New World’, he had a very unusual
insight in the conclusion of his talk. He suggests, to drive innovation, companies will have to drive love and caring in the firm!.

Enabling love and caring in an organisation to us sounded like an attempt to combine two very different (and apparently conflicting) worlds that we humans live in! Duty (responsibility) is what we associate with
working in an organisation. We typically associate love with the heart and duty with the mind.

He of course had a logical explanation to this. To drive innovation in this VUCA world, they will have to attract and retain capable and committed people. For this they will have to learn to manage people differently
and effect a cultural change in the organisation. COVID19 gave people the experience of living without a routine of ‘going to work’, understanding the fragility of life and people questioned what really mattered to them. This triggered what is popularly known as “The Great Resignation” with people leaving jobs voluntarily to spend time on what mattered to them. This situation is irreversible; hence Prof. Ravid’s recommendation is, the only way for organisations to attract and retain good (capable and committed)
people is to keep them happy through love, caring, a sense of belonging and belief in the mission of the organisation.

We started out by trying to understand if love, duty and human happiness had a common thread or was there an inherent conflict in these words. Maybe if there is none, Prof. Ravid’s view is actionable and achievable
in every organisation.

In the Bhagwat Gita, Arjuna is faced with the dilemma of choosing his duty towards right and wrong while killing his loved ones that included “fathers, grandfathers, teachers, uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, and

In a 1995 Hollywood film, The Bridges of Madison County, Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep), lives a comfortable life with her husband and two children on their Iowa farm. Francesca is an Italian war bride (after
a war, women of the defeated country married military personnel of the victor country as a means of escaping their devastated countries). Francesca’s family goes for a short trip and Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood), a National Geographic photojournalist comes to her door asking for the way to a historic bridge in Madison County. One thing leads to another and the couple have an intense, four-day love affair. Francesca and Robert
fall deeply in love and nearly run away together. In the end, Francesca’s sense of duty to her teenage children and loyal husband makes her decide to stay confined in a passionless marriage.

In an Indian context, partners in an arranged marriage start out by fulfilling their duties. Over the years, for some couples, this sense of duty transcends into a kind of love, there is no conflict between duty and love
and happiness and a strong commitment prevails.

One may argue that these stories and perspectives are driven by a writer’s imagination and life for most of us does not throw up extreme conflict between duty and love. In the workplace, this conflict maybe even lower.

The term duty is easy to understand. We were taught that happiness stemmed from following a duty (responsibility?) towards one’s work, family, workplace, society and the larger universe – but understanding
love (especially in the workplace) requires a little more work.

The word “love,” is an abstract noun derived from Germanic forms of the Sanskrit word lubh (desire). Understanding love is further complicated by expressions used by us like ‘being in love’ or ‘touched by love’. Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle tried to resolve the complexity of the abstract nature of love by defining it using 3 terms, eros, philia, and agape.

Eros is a passionate, intense desire for something; often referred to as a sexual desire, hence the modern notion of “erotic”. Plato refers to eros as desire in us that seeks transcendental beauty-the beauty of an individual reminds us of the true beauty that exists in the Universe and we are attracted to it.

Philia entails a fondness and appreciation of the other person and includes friendship, loyalties to family, political community, job, or discipline. It could be motivated for one’s own sake out of usefulness of the other or for the other due to their character and values. Aristotle suggests we develop Philia for those who share our disposition, bear no grudges, seek what we do, are temperate and just, who admire us as we admire them.

Agape refers to the love of God for man and of man for God and is extended to include a love for all humanity. Philosophers suggest this is the highest form of love which will lead to true happiness in human beings.

There are many interesting philosophical questions that arise on love like -to achieve Agape, does one have to experience the stages of eros and philia? Can a person experience all 3 kinds of love simultaneously – with the same ‘other’ / with different ‘others’? However, we limit our exploration to the possibility of creating ‘philia’ in the workplace traditionally driven by a sense of duty.

Duty or responsibility is taught to most of us in our growing years as a ‘prospective’ responsibility – ‘what we should be responsible for’ in our various roles. We evaluate people’s sense of duty on how seriously they take their roles. Often, we do this informally, via moral judgment.

Philia on the other hand, is characterised through words like trust, sharing, caring, companionship, mutual benefit, enjoy spending time together, connect well with, balance, equality… Some of these could be relevant in an organisational context.

A person joining a firm may begin with a sense of duty and discover trust, sharing, caring, balance, equality, enjoyment of their time at work and mutual benefit in the firm to grow into philia with the firm. There is no conflict and ‘love, caring, a sense of belonging and belief in the mission of the organisation’ would lead to a strong commitment.

Philia leading to a sense of duty in an organisation is a given. New age firms like Google have very successfully experimented with this.

Our conclusion, if there is no conflict between love and duty, Prof. Ravid’s thoughts that today’s organisations can no longer depend on driving only a sense of ‘duty’ but must focus on ‘love, caring, a sense of belonging and belief in the mission of the organisation’ for strong commitment from employees is actionable.

When there is a conflict, some of us would applaud the sense of duty shown by Arjuna and Francesca. A firm would also applaud the choice of duty by its stakeholders. However, does a choice of duty over love make an individual happy and ensure a deep commitment? Would choosing love over duty result in a deeper sense of happiness and commitment?
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