As a follow-up to my last post, The Weed Economy, here’s a story from the Hindu tradition:
Guha was a barbarian hunter. He hunted in the forest with great skill. He was one with the tangled underbrush, cousin to the monkey and the tiger. The priests in the city thought it was their duty to bring Religion to him, so they set up a large statue of Shiva near his home and performed their rituals there. Guha, however, would have none of it. Every day, when he was finished with his hunting, he would go over to the statue and kick it. Every single day. The priests would sometimes fail to show up in bad weather or when there were tigers in the area, but Guha kicked the statue whether they were there or not.
One day a pack of wolves surrounded the statue so that he could not safely approach for his customary kick. He tried to reach it by climbing a tree, but he could not get close enough. Waiting for the wolves to leave, he stayed in the tree all night. He shivered in the cold, shaking dew and leaves from the branch onto the statue below. Hungry, he tried to eat the fruit of the tree, but it was bitter, and he spit it out. Finally in the morning the wolves left, and he got down and kicked the statue. But he still felt frustrated and miserable, and he took it out on the priests, who had arrived for their morning ritual, chasing them back to the city. When he returned to the area that night, the statue was gone, and he thought no more about it.
Some time later, he caught a fever and fell very ill. Lord Yama, king of the Underworld, sent his hound, which took Guha in its jaws and began carrying him to the land of the dead. A messenger of Shiva stopped the hound on its way. Yama, lord of the dead, objected to this intrusion in his domain, and they went before Shiva to settle the matter.
“He is dead,” Yama said, “so he is mine.”
“This is my most faithful servant,” Shiva replied. “When other priests failed occasionally in their observances, he came to me every day. He once kept watch over me all night, adorning me with leaves, sprinkling pure water upon me, and giving me food while he had none. And he chased away those who only pretended devotion. He is mine. You shall not take him.”
Shiva returned Guha to life, and he lived long years after.
You are no longer living in an economy where you can rely solely on your ‘priests’, the ones who follow your rules, the ones who carry your orthodoxies. Those people don’t know what to do when the ‘bad weather and tigers’ enter the scene – and we are in an age of bad weather and tigers, of an endless stream of disruptors to our organizational and business ecosystem.
So, who are the ‘barbarian hunters’ in your organization and your broader stakeholder ecosystem? How about in your personal life?
The reality is that these individuals are engaged with YOU…they’re just not engaged with your orthodoxies/scripts/rules. How do you see beyond your rules – as Shiva does in the story – and thereby transform your understanding of their behavior? How do you bring them into the game as an active, creative player?
This is the central paradox that managers must engage with if they are to be effective in dealing with human systems issues in the emerging economy: sources of growth an value creation will most often come from those outside of the organizational orthodoxy, those who look like ‘barbarians’ when viewed from the filters of what the organization knows is ‘right.’