Yoga, meditation and the teachings of the Hindu spiritual leader, Swami Vivekananda, are not usually among the components of a business education programme.
But the Indian School of Business, the Hyderabad-based institution established in association with the Wharton School and the Kellogg School of Management in the late 1990s, is set to change that with its new Centre for Leadership, Innovation and Change.
Clic is basing its teaching and research on three main areas and the interrelation between them: India’s ancient wisdom traditions; cognitive science; and traditional western management theory.
“The bringing together of these three elements is what is unique,” says Prasad Kaipa, the centre’s executive director, who divides his time between Hyderabad and Silicon Valley.
Wisdom traditions bring individuals “meaning, passion and commitment”, he says. The scientific and analytical elements provide “the tools and framework” while business practices give the “practical results and measurements”.
“If someone wants to become a global business leader they have to operate in the world of business, they have to use science and technology and they have to have a certain passion and meaning for what they do.”
Clic is the fifth of seven specialist research centres that ISB plans to establish. It already has centres in entrepreneurship, finance, IT and logistics/manufacturing. Still to come are real estate/infrastructure and marketing. Like the other centres, Clic’s faculty will also be involved in teaching MBA and executive education students.
Prof Kaipa was initially drafted in to help design and develop the centre after first teaching in ISB’s executive education programme. But he subsequently decided to take on its leadership, visiting Hyderabad six to eight times a year.
While ISB’s MBA and executive education courses share many common features with business school programmes in other countries, the establishment of Clic and the other specialist centres was prompted by the desire to differentiate ISB as well as to conduct research relevant to the local environment.
“In terms of research, we said we would focus on emerging markets. There is certainly a gap as far as practices in these economies are concerned.” says Deepak Chandra, an ISB associate dean and a member of Clic’s management council.
“If you look at research into management, it is largely being carried out in the west. What we found was that being anchored in India, we needed first to understand the Indian mindset and what holds people back.”
In addition, the school says western models are flawed, as witnessed by the corporate governance scandals of recent years, for example. Such failings give Clic an opportunity to develop new approaches in an economy that is growing in global importance.
Specific areas of research already identified include leadership in family businesses, an important feature of the Indian economy. Another is leadership and change management in public sector organisations.
It is also interested in academic study of “softer” issues such as the role of emotional and even spiritual intelligence in developing resilient and results-orientated, yet caring, leaders.
As for the wisdom component, the school believes that many of the ancient principles that guide an individual’s spiritual life are also relevant to business. “Clarity of intention” is one example given by Prof Kaipa. The puja, the Hindu ritual, starts with Sankalpam, the Sanskrit word for intention, helping the individual to focus. Similarly, clear intention is critical to success in business, says Prof Kaipa.
The scientific component reflects advances in the study of the brain in recent years, and is also a relatively new field even in the west.
“Employee engagement has become such an issue,” says Prof Kaipa. “What makes people learn? What motivates? How do people think?”