Tuesday, December 07, 2010

What managers can learn from the gentle art of homeopathy

At the Dr Batra Positive Health Awards held recently in Mumbai, Mr Rajv Bajaj, CEO of Bajaj Auto commented that he had learnt a lot about managing his very successful company by studying homeopathy. I was very intrigued and requested him to elaborate.

This is the email he sent me, which I’d like to share. These are very original ideas which can provide a lot of food for thought !

“ 1. Ideation: Individualisation & brands.

One of the fundamental principles of homoeopathy is individualisation. We are not what we have in common, but what we have in uncommon with others.

In disease terms, it’s our strange, rare, & peculiar symptoms that make us the unique individuals that we are. The good homoeopath seeks to glean that & then choose the one remedy that's that individual's similimum.

In a similar vein, a business that is like its competitors ie is not unique is essentially a commoditised business.

Most of us make this mistake either out of a greed for growth and/or a false sense of security in ill-conceived derisking.

So we try to make everything to sell to every market/segment/individual.

The result is that in the end, directly or indirectly, the business competes on price, as every competitor is making the same claims.

And thus doesn't make much money.

Most global automakers that make everything for everyone, such as GM, Ford Chrysler , Fiat , Renault , Peugeot , Nissan , Mitsubishi etc have great revenues but poor profits - in fact , most lose money.

Are they not ill? And in subsidising them, our governments make us ill!

On the other hand the individualised automakers ie specialists , who handle brands such as Porsche , Mercedes , BMW, Harley ( and Bajaj !) are far more profitable ie healthier.

That's not to suggest that individualisation means being a premium niche player.

There's nothing premium about Swatch , Coke or Mcdonalds but they're are well because they all stand for a uniqueness.

There are many lessons in homoeopathy's concept of individualisation that can help guide brand strategies.

2. Execution: posology ( the science of doses) & execution.

Once the homoeopath has chosen a suitable remedy, how he gives it to the patient (the posology ) is not mechanical as it is in allopathy, but is rather artistic as it too is individualised.

In the same way, how ideas relevant to one brand are executed in one company may not only be unsuitable, but may even be inimical to another company.

Yet under the broad (but shallow) argument of benchmarking management consultants will tell us that one of the best things that we can do is to adopt someone else's best practises!

A homoeopath's posology is guided by 4 fundamental principles-

* Simila similibis curantur – “ like cures like :. An immune system's response can be galvanised against a problem by magnifying the problem before it.

* Use a single remedy . If more than one remedy is administered at a time, how does one know what effects are related to which causes?

* Use the smallest dose . If the remedy is resonant it will work gently as it shouldn't need a big dose to get the job done.

* Use potentised repetition . Every time the remedy is repeated , its potency should be slightly altered so that it creates a somewhat new sensation each time.

If you reflect upon these , you will see how they can help managers execute their business ideas better. These are just 2 examples, & I must warn you that they are my personal interpretations as a homoequack! “

As a doctor, I am big believer in Integrative Medicine. I do not think any branch of medicine has a monopoly on knowledge and we should all be willing to learn from each other. What ever works for the patient is what’s best ! I think we can all learn from each other – and most of the “fun stuff” happens at the cutting edge/ boundary of 2 apparently unrelated fields.

I especially like Rajiv’s key hypothesis - that you should play to your strengths !

It's a good idea to ask yourself - What unrelated fields have you learnt from ? And what have you learnt from them ? Please share !

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