Monday, March 24, 2008

Divisive Minds

To divide means to separate into parts. It also means to make people disagree or the existence of disagreement or difference or between two or more groups. Division is the act of dividing people into groups.

Divisive mind is a tendency or mind set a person has to assign to self or other people, quickly, a group identity (example caste, community, linguistic, professional, occupational, cultural, social, batch, national etc.) and anchor subsequent behaviors and decisions on the basis of such identity.

Individuals with Divisive mind set may be called divisive people just like people with Internal Locus of Control are called as Internals. Divisive individuals often differentiate and attribute group characteristics to divide people into groups that cause disagreement and competition against one another. By nature division has the potential to create competition and conflict than collaboration. Collaboration does not require divisiveness. It is a mind set. All of us perhaps have this mind set. I have it you have it. It is perhaps our nature. However some live on it, promote it and others are either beneficiaries of it or victims of it. The sum of results arising out of divisiveness is likely to be less than those that could be obtained without it or with integrative mind sets. While divisiveness in the short term benefits some people in the long run it hinders overall growth and consumes a lot of resources and increases overheads or transaction costs or process costs.

Integrative personality

To integrate means to combine parts into a whole. It also means to make some one accepted within a group.

Integrative personality is intended to depict a constellation of behaviors that strive towards inclusion, integration, cooperation, emphasis on the whole and benefits to larger groups of people or entities including humanity at large. A divisive mind gives importance to parts or small groups while an integrative mind focuses on the whole and strives to build the whole and use the strengths of the whole.

The term “Integrative Personality” is preferred here to “Integrative Mind” to communicate the desirability of developing constellations of qualities that promote integration in the society. Divisive mind is a mind set that can be changed while Integrative personality is a personality trait that can be developed with consciousness and training.

In my view Dr Vikram Sarabhai and Ravi Matthai are two great Integrative personalities. Dr. Sarabhai built a number of institutions in different fields including space and management. Ravi Matthai saw Management as promoted the mission of professionalizing management in all sectors of life and actively demonstrated by his own life and example how management should go to all sectors. Their design of the institutions they were associated with speaks for their integrative mind. Mahatma Gandhi of course is an embodiment of integration. His passion for one India is unparalleled. All corporate working for uplifting their local communities where they are located without being asked to do so are also indicating a high degree of Integrative tendencies. Any inclusive mind leads to the development of Integrative personality.

A divisive mind is a mind that shows tendencies to constantly divide people into smaller groups and use the groups for decision making and various other purposes. Integrative personality is a personality that always gives importance to the whole than the parts. The integrative personality thinks of larger goals and larger society while a divisive mind looks after the short term interests of self or small group with which it is associated.

A group of faculty of a University or an Institution opposing the allocation of resources or blocking the growth of another department because it is growing out or proportion is an outcome of divisive mind set. The divisive mind always sees the benefits to a part and often ignores the benefits to a larger community. In this case the clients served, number of people benefited due to services rendered by the fast growing department etc. are ignored and only the benefits availed by the fast growing department are highlighted and issues of equity and fairness are brought in. This largely rises out of divisive mind set. A group of Faculty of one Institution blocking the collaboration between two institutions as it may bring the second institution fame though together they may be doing a great service to the country is also an example of divisiveness. Divisiveness involves differentiation in terms of “I” and “You” and “Ours” and “Theirs”. The term “We” is interpreted narrowly and boundaries are put and maintained strictly. Jealousy, Mistrust Insecurity, Intolerance, narrow mindedness etc. are perhaps the root causes of divisive mind sets. Sacrifice, Trust, Strong Spiritualistic orientation, Self Confidence, Respect for each other, Empathy, vision and long term thinking are perhaps associated with Integrative personality.

There are a number of stories including Panchatantra stories that tell us a lot of the consequences of divisiveness and the utility of staying together or united. The story of five bulls fighting a lion when they stand united or the story of how a group of birds flew away along with the net and escape from the bird hunter are all stories that aim at promoting integration.

What Causes Divisiveness

We are taught from childhood to be divisive. It happens culturally. In some of the Asian cultures divisiveness is high. All Asian Cultures have enough reasons or parameters to be divisive. Some of them are more divisive and others less.

A few years ago I was working in Indonesia as a USAID Consultant to the Ministry of Health. As a part of my work I had to take a group of Doctors on field trips to teach them Task Analysis a technique we introduced to bring more professionalism in the management of health services in Indonesia. Whenever I asked the team to choose a Health Center for filed work, they would talk among themselves and in five minutes time come up with their proposal and it was always unanimous. I was amazed at the team work and remarked about the same with appreciation to the participants who were Doctors. One of the lady Doctors narrated me the following in response to my complements. I reconstruct this from my memory:

“Professor Rao, I agree that we in Indonesia work like a team. We care for each other and respect each other. There is a lot of sharing that takes place. I also agree that it should strike you as an important part of our culture as I believe that your country which taught us a lot at one time has this one aspect very much lacking in them. I am sorry to say this as I had only one experience which I like to narrate”.

She continued... “Professor, A few months ago I was attending a meeting of UNFPA in Bangkok and it was attended by participants from various countries. Each country had two or more delegates. We had delegated from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, Philippines, Japan and India etc. One thing I noticed was, whenever a Pakistani spoke something about his country his colleague supported it. Whenever a Bangladeshi spoke about his country his colleague from another department supported it. Whether it is a Sri Lankan or, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi or Malaysian, or a Singaporean, they supported each other in their presentations. However whenever an Indian spoke the second or third Indian contradicted him and said what my colleague said is true in his state (Tamil Nadu) as he comes from Tamil Nadu but the situation is different in my state (UP) as I come from UP and the third person gave a third story. The convention was filled with contradictions by Indians. Surprisingly the contradictions extended even to fights. We found that by the fourth day the Indian delegates were even staying at different places and coming at different times to the conference. So I understand that in your country team work is difficult as every Indian seem to differentiate themselves a lot more than integrate unlike other countries. We are an integrating nation and we help each other”

This episode left strong impressions in my mind about how much a divided nation we are. I am deeply pained to see that we are not learning lessons from our own past and from others and are pursuing policies that divide the nation more than integrate the same.

Divided Nation: Inherited Divisiveness

We are a divided nation. Our minds are divisive as we are taught from birth to view each other in terms of the caste, and sub caste or gothra, community, religious affiliation, language, regional affiliation, etc. various variables. Because we are taught from the early child hood to view each other in terms of these variables our self concept and behavior towards each other is determined by the classification we hold of each other. When we judge the other person by virtue of his/her affiliations, we undermine or overestimate the capability of the other person as per the stereotypes we hold. When such stereotypes are shown towards us by others we spend time fighting such stereo types if they are to our disadvantage. When we discover that the other person does not believe in our internal capability and is attributing to us competencies by virtue of his stereotypes he holds about us and not by virtue of our real capabilities, it hurts and we engage ourselves to prove what we really are capable. The result is always fights and fights to prove or disprove. As a result a lot of psychological energies are spent on proving and disproving. This results in enormous energies wasted in unproductive transactions.

The amount of wastage of Nation’s time in inter-state time wasted in water disputes, communal riots and their aftermath, caste wars are all drags on the nation. It affects economic development. Our policy makers should be sensitive to this and should engage the nation in more productive issues than in such transactional issues. They should aim building integrative minds rather than perpetuating the divisiveness in our country. What we need today is an integrative minds for nation building and not those who are dividing the nation further. People and politicians and policy makers who are capable of working towards projecting an integrated India and Indians as one is the need of the hour.

I am happy the modern youth is fighting and arguing for the abolition of the caste system.
It is high time the caste system is abolished from our country and every one is treated with same dignity and every one is given equal opportunity to bring out the merit is him/her. Not only the caste any form of divisiveness by virtue of religion, caste community etc. should be minimized and national Integration needs to be promoted. It is high time that we direct our attention to build integrative minds. The divisive mind set is evident even in the best of the corporation where team work is difficult and Indians are known to be poor team workers. Our policies seem to perpetuate the divisive mind and a lot of time of our nation is being engaged in fighting divisiveness created by our policies.

Integration and Diversity
Having made the above observations I would like to say that there is perhaps a lot in Ancient India that promoted integration and tolerance. We need to discover the same. On the positive side it is amazing that a country so divided as ours still runs well as a democracy. The current Indian leadership is an indication of the tolerance for diversity. However the unfortunate part is perhaps we are not using this diversity adequately and divisive policies are taking over and overwhelming impact on integrative personalities. Divisiveness is normally intensive and has a larger emotional appeal than integration. Integration becomes philosophy while divisiveness becomes a reality. Divisiveness serves short term interests of certain vocal sections of people and therefore is paid attention. Long term interests are postponed and integrative personalities get frustrated.
How Divisiveness Works in Organizations

Organizations have several forms of divisiveness. Divisiveness by hierarchies or levels; by roles and designations, and by departmentation and other forms of identities. Organizations need to have the roles identified ( Like Finance manager, Sales Manager, HR manager, Personnel Manager, Training Manager, IT Manager, Marketing Manager, etc.) Such role based assignments are necessary to communicate to the incumbent as well as to the outside world the broad areas o work responsibility or specialization of the individual. Similarly departrmentation also serves the same purpose. Every senior Manager in the hierarchy is supposed to perform integrating functions. However if HR and IT Managers report to Finance (Vice President) the Finance VP is expected to integrate and make the services of the three functions (HR, IT and Finance) available to the rest of the organization. A divisive mind performs this integrative role in ways that are dysfunctional to the organization and may unconsciously or consciously favor one or more of the functions or roles depending on his/her preferences to those groups. He needs to be extra cautious and careful in performing his integrative roles. He ahs to develop conscious and formal mechanisms of sharing, communication and integration. In the absence of it overheads go up and the company may suffer. For example he may use IT mainly to develop and MIS for Finance and neglect the rest of the organization like the production, materials, HR etc. He may be perceived as misusing the IT for exercising controls over the rest of the organization etc. The perceptions as well as facts together influence the functioning of the organization.

“This is not my Job” syndrome: Divisiveness into roles also creates a sense of identity to one own role or department. However along with identity to ones role or function it also erodes larger identity and may even prevent individuals from sacrificing larger or organizational interests for the sake of role related narrow interests.
A bank employee completing his work early because he has been assigned a particular role and that role did not demand as much of hard work and refusing to be working hard and have to stay late is in indication of such role bounded ness. In one Travel Agency spread all over the country, the employees are divided by the nature of heir work assistance to individual travels, versus group tours. Individual travel has been found be high in some months and groups in other months. Though sitting under the same roof and belonging to the same organization they were not even in talking terms with each other and did not help each other in peak performance periods. The group travel team is over worked in certain months and the individual tours teams in certain other months as both these are seasonal. When asked one of the groups said that they are paid less salaries and the other group’s gets high incentives why should they help them when free? The second groups said when they need the first group does into help then why should we help.

Asian cultures and particularly the Indian cultures seem to be either role bound or rule bound. They exhibit “it is not my job” syndrome. For them first level of importance is “self”. There is of course who go beyond the self and go for self-less service.

The most enjoyable time I had where I found work to be smooth and individual dignity is maintained from day one was at IIM, Ahmedabad. The symbols that differentiate people and communicate that you work for a team or group has been minimized. Every faculty member gets same size room and every faculty member irrespective of your designation share the same secretary and privileges. You charge the same consulting fee irrespective of the designation as per the norms of the institute. Irrespective of whether you are a professor or assistant professor you are addressed as professor. There are no departments and there are only areas. The term “Area” signifies a broad categorization. You may be member of more than one area or group or center. You may shift also your area. All these are organizational mechanisms to create a larger identity and bring down the overheads or transaction costs associated with management the system they contribute to growth of the organization.
However there could be other forms of divisiveness even in the best of the organizations. For example teaching staff versus program staff. The norms for teaching staff were different than those of the administrative staff. It ahs always been a sore point. However the administrative staff always took pride of the fact that they belonged to the IIM. The internal processes were so designed that they got dignity for the roles they are performing. For example the Activity Head depends a lot of the Program manager as he is an embodiment of experience and information. The program head keeps changing but he Program Head is a lot more permanent.
The IIMA experience indicates that it is possible to institute structural mechanisms to promote integrative tendencies. Integrative personality can be developed. Conscious effort and emphasis on super-ordinate goals helps in developing the same.

Win As Much As You Can

The behavior of most participants on this game is a good example of the Divisive mind set. In this game most often (Almost 90% of the time) I found it very easy develop mistrust. The moment a team is given a label like (A or Red or any other) they saw the other team as an adversary and worked for narrow interests. It is extremely rare to find a team interprets “We” as the totality of all the four teams. I have used this game hundreds of times in my career I have come across only one time when the groups interpreted “We” as the total team and started playing win-win. Even in this group it only required four attempts for one of them to play mischief and once the trust was breached by any one party it never returned back. I still remember in occasion an Army officer trying his best to convince his team to play a win win game failing which he started crying. This is integrative personality. The overall score of the group went up but he was very upset that the groups behaved in a divided way. He saw this happening his country.

What do I conclude from all these Experiences

Divisiveness is the order of the day. It is the easiest thing to divide people. The divisive personality operates perhaps in all of us. We are perhaps socialized in a country like India to be divisive from childhood. Caste identities, community identities, linguistic identities, social identities and groups make us develop affinity to select groups and deny a larger identity as Indians perhaps as people. While grouping or dividing people into groups and labeling serves some purpose some times, it has an inherent danger of increasing conflicts, decreasing trust, and affecting individual, team, organizational as well as national and global productivity and improvements in quality of life. Divisiveness or labeling needs to be done extremely cautiously. Indian society is filled with such divisive tendencies.
The good news is that post liberalization it is changing as organizations are becoming less hierarchical, more flexible and competency based rather than group based. Group based interventions though well intended will promote the growth of some groups but inherently at the cost of some other groups and the whole (nation or organization). The development oriented dividedness needs to be very careful orchestrated. A lot of education is needed to take care of the negative side effects of divisiveness. Integrative personalities are needed at the helm of affairs whether it is in an organization or in an institution or in a country.
Integrative personality can be developed and identified. We need to develop more and more integrative personalities. Integrative personality is a way of life. Integrative personality always thinks long term, thinks bring and sacrifices and enables people to sacrifice short term interests and small group interests I favor of long term interests and larger group interests. Such long term and larger group interests benefit also all those who made sacrifices or postpone immediate gratification for the sake of long term gratification. Nation building and organization building today requires such integrative personalizes more than before as there are more opportunties for growth and avenues for growth.

In drawing these conclusions I have used my own experiences as a base. I may have made some observations which may not exactly be in the direction of their liking by some groups or individuals or institutions. The intention is to point out a phenomenon and build theory and not to offend or displease any one. Al my observations are based on my personal experiences and reflections of these experiences. I request to be excused if any comments make any one of the readers uncomfortable or displeased.

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