Learning how to THINK: review of Bitasta Roy Mehta’s book Have a THINK

I applaud Bitasta Roy Mehta for hitting the nail directly on the head when it comes to people management, be it in organizational practices or as individual parts of the fabric of society. What am I talking about? A book called Have a THINK.

I needed this book at this juncture of my career and my life, and I cannot stress the importance of having a book like this speak out and provide a constructive tool. Here is someone who does not supply meaningless lip service but provides an actual instrument that one can use in order to take one’s best self forward. This (I stress the word “this” here) – THIS – is how you grow. When I write that “one’s best self” it is important to realize that this has implications from individual, to groups, teams, and organizations, thus, permeating into all grounds of societal life.

On p.108 Roy Mehta speaks about how to THINK in order to bring “your” self to work and I sincerely believe that this is an extremely under-developed field, in which individual roles and parts are not seen as such. The person who comes to work brings with them their “unique” life history and their living dynamics. The lack of acknowledgment that systems have for this is beyond shocking. Here, cultural sensitivity, awareness, empathy, mentorship, leadership, and management entangle in such an intricate manner, and to me it is alarmingly that we do not place relevance on this. People are not cogs. Let us not make them such.

What is THINK? It is an instrument that Roy Mehta has developed. The concept came from her daughter’s homeroom teacher who had the term on her wall. Roy Mehta took the idea beyond the classroom. She has expanded it to become a practice in evidence-based HR. It is a disciplined approach that calls attention to thought and action. It lays stress on responsibility, commitment, and (take a moment here) – heart, how unusual to see that word in the middle of HR.

Roy Mehta asserts that the corporate organization is much like the human body. It has a soul and a purpose, she addresses this idea with “love, kindness, joy, and compassion” (p.25), the organs works towards a common goal, a central idea, towards life, living, and thriving. There is a tendency to forget humanity at work. As workers, managers, leaders, and head honchos (can I use that term?) we “play” (p.108) a part, a part, apart from our other parts, this is where THINK can help us adjust our lenses to see the picture for what it is and not the unfocussed embodiment that it has become, in which the mentioned “part” does not remain apart but integrates for purposeful functioning.

Roy Mehta’s book is ingeniously structured. It begins with a thought, an idea that occurs to her, and she takes the reader step-by-step into the construction of the concept. The scaffolding provides a strong platform on which she builds her argument for the theory. Carefully, mindfully, she enters into the HR setup, the skeletal that is the organization. Into the workforce planning, recruitment, people development, compensation and benefits. These so-called processes are augmented with her three case studies, in which she applies the theory to practice. This is where one sinks one’s teeth into how it actually works.

My favorite moment occurs when Roy Mehta speaks about the development of “high-potential” (p.59) employees. An elite group that have been christened for success, her juxtaposition of this with constructive feedback and growth and not a show of “annual” events made me laugh out loud because I have seen this in action at many organizations and find it amusing at this cherry-picking of “apparent” talent. She is daring in marking this group of “lord’s men” (and I use the term “men” in all awareness). I admire Roy Mehta for taking this step and not just for throwing light onto this faulty leak but also going that extra mile in showing us how the neural network can effectively grow with not just selected organs but the entire unit.

I also liked the concept of co-creation she introduces on p.28. Even life is a coming together, and her insistent mantra of, “have love, compassion, and respect for all others,” was a astute reminder that in order to make THINK an active process it cannot be done as an individual mission. We need to be inclusive, we need to partner, and we need to have that open mind, which is so basic – yet, we forget. Here through THINK we create environments that permits growth rather than (as so-far the practice) it being about selected seeds.

She manages to call out those best practices in the industry for what they are – myths. We cannot have talk of diversity and then bring in reports of best practices and apply it thinking this would solve the issues. Where there are people, there will always be issues (it is silly to imagine there is an end). Roy Mehta puts forth the Buddhist doctrine of the “monkey mind” (p.106) – in order to be on top of things, we need to have dialogue: constant, consistent, and constructive, and not yearly events, or best practice manuals, or charters that are handed out, there needs to be talk, involvement, engagement, and this has to be a meditative, mindful practice, that she aptly emphasizes. This is where we need to rethink our thinking.

I physically exhaled as she explained how to lead the self (p.106), while her humility was heart warming (now I do dare to bring in emotions) her understanding of biases, gender roles and positioning, along with personal motivations, filled me with hope. I clapped as I read her definition of a leader (p.98-9). The imperative responsibility (p.100) of feedback: giving and receiving, and “headwinds” was therapeutic for me. Herein THINK can not only offer growth but I firmly believe offer a regulation against injustice.

Leigh Hunt in the poem “Abou Ben Adhem” writes about how Abou on learning that his name was not mentioned in the great book for loving the Lord, he says to the angel, “But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then, / Write me as one that loves his fellow men.” Dear Bitasta, thank you for writing this book. “may your tribe increase.” I wish you success. With love and light, Amrita

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