An organisation is much more than the sum total of its material and intellectual assets. The whole is more than the sum of its parts. The whole is not a collection of parts but the individual relationship that exists among the parts. If we take all of the words in a sentence and change their order, the whole sentence will be destroyed. Even though the words remain the same, the order in which they are placed creates the meaning of the sentence. Meaning is not created by the words but by the individual relationship that exists between the words. If we compare an organisation to a sentence, then the indivisible relationship among its various parts may be described as the ethos of the organisation. The ethos is the collective script of the organisation. Even while dealing with various parts of the organisation, a timeless leader has his conscious attention attuned to the ethos.
The dynamic leader of the Tata Group, Ratan Tata, understands the importance of ethos as that indivisible principle that helps an organisation grow. Tata inherited from his predecessors the ethos of trusteeship – the organisation that holds the trust of its stakeholders. The greatest wealth creator in India, Tata was paradoxically the man who gave his country the cheapest car that the not-so-affluent people could afford. Ratan Tata reiterates his commitment to the indivisible ethos that binds the organisation in the following principles:
1. Ensure that the company listens to the community around it and contributes to its well-being.
2. Avoid all corrupt activities even when times are difficult and temptation is high.
In a country that is now committed to fighting widespread corruption, the Tata brand stands tall among its many competitors that have more readily succumbed to corrupt corporate practices. It is the core values of the Tata Group and its strong ethos that have been for a long time the central organising principle. The principle has been responsible for the global impact of the brand, embracing a multitude of products and services.
As with its indivisible ethos, an organisation builds its commercial identity on a set of core products or businesses. The self-organising corporation, however, goes beyond the products themselves in search of new relationships between its products and the people they serve. Sony had its commercial identity in the business of tape recorders and headphones. Yet, the power of self-organisation within Sony built a new product based on the relationship between the tape recorder and headphones – the Walkman. The Walkman was the beginning of a new relationship between Sony and its customers. The self-organising capability of computer technology has built bridges of relationships between computers and communication, computers and transportation, computers and management and so on.
Thus we can see that the indivisible self or identity of a person, an organisation or even a technological product carries the dynamism that helps it grow in many dimensions. Krishna is alluding to this dynamism of indivisibility when he says to Arjuna:
I am the source of all the spiritual and material worls.
Everything emanates from my self-organising essence.
The wise who perfectly know this devote themselves to this essence. (10.8)
This whole nature is an example of the dynamism of indivisibility. On the surface, the mountain, the desert and the ocean may appear to be separate from each other. Yet they are inseparably connected to each other in the ecology of the universe. The same Earth that constitutes the height of the mountain also creates the depth of the seabed. The whole of our ecology is one seamless self-organising principle. It is this principle that makes Nature such a dynamic entity. Timeless leaders have an intuitive grasp of the ecology of the organisation. They view the organisation not as a totality of commercial assets but rather in the wholeness of its connection with the larger society, community and environment that it chooses to inhabit. The indivisible relationship that the organisation has with its large ecology is what creates social capital for the organisation.
A timeless leader understands that an organisation’s dynamism is reflected not only in the stock exchanges but also in the amplitude of its relationship with the whole ecology. It is this relationship that creates real wealth for the organisation.