A Managerial Lesson from Mythology

‘Samudra Manthan’ is a popular chapter in the Hindu Mythology. The story sets up when the Devtas (Gods) and the Asuras (Demons) team up to churn the ocean with the objective of unearthing the treasures held underneath. The sequence of events is interesting and is a management case study of sorts to learn from. This is my attempt to share the story, along with the management lessons derived therefrom. Here is part one:

The Devtas were in a constant tussle for control over the universe, particularly their abode heaven, with their foes the Asuras. Under the leadership of Indra, the Devtas realized that ‘Amrit’ – the nectar of immortality was the solution. A sip of ‘Amrit’ would give them an edge and make them invincible against their dreaded foes.   

Set clear objectives: The Devtas had a well-articulated and specific objective as their starting point. The objective also had strong reasoning and a great incentive attached to it to make it worth the effort and exciting at the same time

Like the landmass on the face of the earth, the Devtas knew that the ocean too held, under its vast depths, a range of unique and valuable objects. They knew that ‘Amrit’ would be one of these and it had to be churned out.

Know your target zone: Though it’s not very clear so as to how they knew it, it’s almost certain that the Devtas had a thorough recce or research or access to some reliable information which lead them to the ocean as the area to focus on

The Devtas realized that churning the mighty ocean would be too enormous a task for them to plan and execute on their own. They needed someone equally capable to pull this one through.

Assess capabilities: With the ‘what’ & the ‘where’ answered, the Devtas would have then put their heads together to ascertain the key skills needed to churn the ocean. They would have done their SWOT and identified gaps that were to be filled before they ventured into the task. Identifying ‘who’ was the logical next step

The Devtas then sought help from Lord Vishnu. Assessing the situation, Vishnu suggested the Devtas to form an alliance with the Asuras to churn the ocean. Vishnu also assured the Devtas that he would ensure only they get to consume the ‘Amrit’. In his role as the preserver of the universe, Vishnu wanted the Devtas to be stronger.

Consult the right people: Comes into picture, a consultant. With an objective to achieve and the ‘what’ and ‘where’ in place, the Devtas seek expert advice so at to address the ‘who’ question. The expert here comes up with a difficult but sure shot solution. The Devtas, though perplexed, are convinced that it’s the right one. A clearly expressed intent and assurance from the expert that the situation could be steered to their advantage later was also helpful

Taking advice and assurance from Vishnu, Indra made a proposal to Bali, the king of Asuras. The proposal obviously was to jointly churn the ocean and share the spoils that result from the effort. The proposal was agreed to by the Asuras and thus an unprecedented alliance between the foes took shape.

Team-up: Egos were left behind and the Devtas prepared a proposal. Bitter-sour experiences of the relationship were a thing of the past as the need of the hour was upheld. Achieving the objective was the only priority as the Devtas approached the Asuras. The Asuras, though wary, saw it as a win-win. The foes agreed to share the effort and the fruit. Team norms were in place. A historic deal was inked.

Ready to work as a team, the foes turned friends needed a churning rope and a rod capable of tacking the might of the vast ocean. Mount Mandara was used as the rod and Vasuki, the serpent was used as a rope. To keep the mountain stable, Vishnu took the form of a tortoise, on the back of which the mountain was placed. This came to be known as the ‘Kurma Avatar’ – the second of the ten incarnations of Vishnu.

Mobilize resources: Now that the team was in place and on the same page, the ‘how to’ question had to be answered. To tackle the might of the problem, the team mobilized the best of the resources available. Requests were made, help was sought. The consultant too joined to play a larger role. The churn was about to begin!

– X –

That’s all for now in part one. Read the second and final part Let’s Churn the Ocean – Part 2 to know if the ‘team’ performs together, how they manage emergencies and what happens when ‘Amrit’ finally comes of out the ocean. More importantly, stay tuned to see what the story has in it for you.


4 thoughts on “Let’s Churn the Ocean – Part 1 of 2

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