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Action Reflection Learning in India

In April, we got a request from an Indian psychologist, Ruchika Mehra Jain, working at IILM, a private business school in New Delhi, wanting to come to Sweden to learn about Action Reflection Learning ® and how MiL Institute works with leadership development. The same day that the decision was made to have Ruchika with us during one month of internship, we were contacted by Times of India, the worlds largest English spoken newspaper, wanting to do an article on Action Reflection Learning ® and the advantages of using the ARL approach in an Indian Business context. Coincidence? Serendipity?

What to know when working with leadership development in India


On the eve of her return to India, Ruchika held a seminar at the MiL offices in Malmö, on ”What to know when working with leadership development in India”.

It was a lovely and intimate seminar with a clear and very present flavor of India - “Satya Mave Jayte”- brought both by Ruchikas sharing of cultural aspects of doing business with India, as well as by the participants’ sharing of interactions with India as a country and with team members of Indian origin.

Indian food, Bollywood and Cricket


A part from the very practical advice on three things that would get any Indian to open up and talk – Indian food, Bollywood and Cricket – Ruchika imparted with many useful insights into the everyday of Indian business culture. The three most salient features being:

    1. Business networking is crucial. You need personal friends in India, someone to introduce you to those that you want to meet and do business with.

 

    1. You need to know the organizational structure and the matrix in order to understand who is calling the shots.

 

    1. There is a widespread cultural understanding that you have to give first in order to get. Presents, hospitality – to show up at the airport, to offer food and share a meal together while inquiring about your family is a way for Indians to understand who you are and what values you stand for.



6 challenges when working with leadership development in India


During the seminar, Ruchika left us to reflect upon a number of stories illustrating possible challenges for those working with leadership development in India, some of which are listed below.

Challenge 1: Respect Thy Elder


As children we are taught not to argue, to respect our elders, to be obedient and to curb our feelings etc. We are trained not to voice our inner most feeling to our elders. They are the higher authority and you just have to follow what is being said to you on most occasions. Even though there would be a segment of the society, which might be exempt from this trend, that segment would be quite minuscule. This is socialized deep within the Indian society and we carry this to work. How we interact with our colleagues, our seniors and their seniors can be quite inhibiting in what we say or express in different situations or in difficult situations.

Challenge 2: If you fail, there are at least 10 people that can replace you


The life of a manager in India is quite challenging. Many experience a constant performance pressure.  There is no room for mistakes nor for ineffectiveness. There is a continuous threat of losing your job, as there are always 10 people who are standing outside the door ready to take your job. Under such a pressurizing situation, how does one maintain cool and give an effective performance?

Challenge 3: The toll on a society of 120 million citizens


We are 120 million citizens in India; there is a poor infrastructure, social security and health coverage. Every Indian works hard and wants to save up for rainy days. Having to keep a job becomes a necessity, more than a matter of choice. This may cause people to compromise their desires, likes and wishes. How to develop such people into professionals who would be enterprising, growing and leader-like…?

Challenge 4: Work life balance in an Indian context


“Work life balance” is a great concept and there is much training conducted on it in many Indian organizations, but the systems and the processes of the organizations do not support this. Being a service providing country, we have to be one to act as prompt as possible or else someone else will take the lead…
Many managers are taking their work stress home and this disturbs the family life… How do you see this as a leadership challenge for the future leaders of this country?

Challenge 5: Nepotism


India can be counted as a country producing many entrepreneurs… These have grown in magnitude with the growing economy.  These enterprises are individual driven organizations. All the decisions regarding growth, strategy and business developments are to be answered by the founder. Some of the businesses have also converted into family owned legacies. There is a high degree of nepotism prevalent in such enterprises. Many of such enterprises suffer as they lack the focus on developing leadership within the organization.

Challenge 6: High turnover and a reluctance to invest in talent


The Indian job market is quite competitive and offers a lot of opportunity but only to a few. One of the current challenges of the Indian market is to retain the talent within the organization. The average tenure of an employee at the organization is no more than 2-3 years. This tends to inhibit the organizations to invest and develop their talent with the growing threat of competition taking it away.

Action Reflection Learning and Indian Leadership Challenges


During her internship at MiL Institute, Ruchika met and sat down with many of MiL Institute's experts on Action Reflection Learning in order to understand our learning philosophy, how we work with leadership and business development and how it would play out in an Indian context. It was a lengthy process that brought many answers as well as new questions. Once the last months impressions and conversations are duly digested we look forward to learning more from Ruchika on how she, with her background and experience, would think of using ARL in her work. There is no doubt however that Action Reflection Learning has a lot to offer in the Indian context.

We want to thank Ruchika for a wonderful seminar and for coming to work with us this spring, with her insightful questions helping us understand more about the challenges and opportunities of an Action Reflection Learning approach in her home country.

Keep your eyes open for more news about Action Reflection Learning in India.

Johanna Steen, MiL Institute

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