Parable of the Sadhu


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My presentation on Business Ethics for the Joliet Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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  • The Parable of the Sadhu first appeared in HBR in 1982.Story of a group of Western backpackers climbing the Himalayan mountains in Nepal.One morning, a New Zealander returned with a body slung over his shoulders.It was the near-naked body of an Indian sadhu—a wondering monk.No one knew why this may was in the oxygen-deprived space at 15,000 feet.He was unconscious, suffering from hypothermia, but had a pulse.
  • The New Zealanders carried him below the snow lineThe Americans treated him for hypothermiaThe Swiss gave him clothing to warm himThe Japanese gave him food and waterThe Sherpas carried him down the hill and pointed out an easy pathWhat more could they do?
  • Of was it “Throwing Money at the Problem?”The sadhu experience has parallels to business situations.KICKImmediate response was mandatory.KICKFailure to act was a decision.KICKNo one could resign and submit their resume to a headhunter.
  • KICKThe key for me is that no one took responsibility—ownership of the problem.There was no acceptable resolution, groups acted as individuals.Everyone had a mountain to climbKICKThe sahdu was an obstacle—not the mountain itself.We see this in business all the time—private sector and public.“But we would treat him differently if it weren’t for the physical and mental stress.”KICKIsn’t stress the real test of personal and corporate values?
  • Parable of the Sadhu

    1. 1. Twilight of the Elites?People have lost faith inpillar institutions (i.e.,government, business, theChurch) because thoseinstitutions have broken asocial contract wherepeople grant power inexchange for a smoothlyoperating society. — Christopher Hayes, Editor, The Nation writing in Time Magazine
    2. 2. 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 Military Police Medical System Supreme Court Court System Television News Banks HMOs Great Deal Quite A LotSource: Gallup, June 7-10, 2012
    3. 3. Twilight of the Elites?What are we to do in thewake of this broad-based implosion?Reform institutions toreconstitute a morereliable and democraticform of authority. — Christopher Hayes, Editor, The Nation writing in Time Magazine
    4. 4. Twilight of the Elites?To build a more reliableand democratic form ofauthority, there alsomust be an ethicalframework guidingfuture decision-making.It’s not being taught.
    5. 5.  Compulsory Coursework is Minimal  Graduate School  Undergraduate School  High School Survey of Greek Philosophers  It’s Greek to me!
    6. 6. Parable of the SadhuBackpackers in NepalNew Zealander discoversan unconscious IndiansadhuHe was alive!
    7. 7. Parable of the SadhuCarried below Snow LineTreated for HypothermiaGiven Clothing B4F864F7Food and WaterShown a Safer Path
    8. 8. Individual vs. GroupMoney at a Problem?Immediate ResponseFailure to Act is a DecisionNo One Can Quit!
    9. 9. Individual vs. GroupEveryone has a MountainStress is the Real Test
    10. 10. Build the FoundationLeaders must encouragetheir organizations andsupport their employees.Encourage freedom ofinquirySupport personal valuesForge a common set ofvalues, beliefs, andexpectations.