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October 25, 2006

News & Opinion: More Eastern Influence on American Business

By: Dylan Schleicher @ 6:54 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

BusinessWeek has an interesting article on the rise of Indians in the study of management. They mention names like C.K. Prahalad (Fortune At the Bottom of the Pyramid), Ram Charan (Profitable Growth Is Everyone's Business), and Vijay Govindrajan (Ten Rules for Strategic Innovators). The article suggests some common themes in their approaches:

Indian theorists, of course, have a wide range of backgrounds and philosophies. But many of the most influential acknowledge that common themes pervade their work. One is the conviction that executives should be motivated by a broader purpose than money. Another is the belief that companies should take a more holistic approach to business--one that takes into account the needs of shareholders, employees, customers, society, and the environment. Some can even foresee the development of a management theory that replaces the shareholder-driven agenda with a more stakeholder-focused approach. "The best way to describe it is inclusive capitalism," says Prahalad, a consultant and University of Michigan professor who ranked third in a recent Times of London poll about the world's most influential business thinkers. "It's the idea that corporations can simultaneously create value and social justice."

It goes on to talk about how management gurus have gone from quoting Sun Tzu's The Art of War and moved now to the ancient Indian classic Bhagavad Gita.

Also known as Song of the Divine One, the work relates a conversation between the supreme deity Krishna and Arjuna, a warrior prince struggling with a moral crisis before a crucial battle. One key message is that enlightened leaders should master any impulses or emotions that cloud sound judgment. Good leaders are selfless, take initiative, and focus on their duty rather than obsessing over outcomes or financial gain. "The key point," says Ram Charan, a coach to CEOs such as General Electric Co.'s (GE ) Jeffrey R. Immelt, "is to put purpose before self. This is absolutely applicable to corporate leadership today."

About Dylan Schleicher


Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.