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Dev Dutt – The mythologist and Chief Belief Officer, Futures Group

6 December 2010 62 Comments

Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik is a medical doctor by education, a leadership consultant by profession, and a mythologist by passion. He has written and lectured extensively on the nature of sacred stories, symbols and rituals and their relevance in modern times.

Dev has 14 years experience in the health care industry with organizations such as Sanofi Aventis and Apollo Health Care, and he had a brief stint as Business Advisor with Ernst & Young. Currently, he is Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, India’s largest retail company. He also consults as leadership coach, culture consultant and storytelling expert to other corporations and NGOs such as Star TV and World Gold Council and Independent Power Producers Association of India (IPPAI). Visit his website at http://devdutt.com


Me: Sundar Rajan G S
DD: Dev Dutt – The mythologist!

Me: How did you get passionate about Mythology.. When did it start..

DD: It was a hobby always and it really took off after I graduated in medicine. I found medicine not satisfying my intellectual needs and so mythology got more mindspace.

Me: What in your definition is Mythology.. How do you think it is important in today’s world of science and logic?

DD: Myth is subjective truth. Mythology is stories, symbols and rituals that communicate this subjective truth. Science and logic tell only half the story – how the world functions. Myth tells us why. Science tells us how the X and Y chromosome join to create a man and how X and X chromosome come together to create a woman. But why are we given male and female body. Science has no answer. We need to rely on subjective truths. And individual subjective truths are invariably influenced by the cultural subjective truths.

Me: Chief Belief Officer – Most intriguing profile! Can you please explain sir 🙂 What do you do.. Can you elaborate in detail..

DD: Business depends on how people behave (customers, employees, stakeholders) and how people behave depends on what people believe in. Belief is an invisible cultural lever that shapes all decision-making. Modern management ignores it as it is not measurable and never objective. My job is to make people aware of it.

We forget that Modern Management principles are strongly influenced by the subjective truths of the West. We are blissfully aware that Modern Management is a Trojan Horse of Western thought, which is why ideas like documentation and transparency and contracts they face resistance in new markets like China and India.

Me: Can you share 2 or 3 interesting anecdotes based on your work experience, which left a lasting impression on you…

DD: My favorite anecdote is how Kishore Biyani who heads Future Group (that owns the retail chain Big Bazaar) offered me a job fter meeting me for the first time. When asked job description he said, “We will figure that out. If I force fit people into pre-determined boxes then how do you expect me to grow?”

Because I talk of gods and goddesses, people automatically associate me with morality and ethics. They think of me as some kind of a holy man. So when I am invited to people’s houses I get vegetarian food and no hard liquor. Mythology preaches nothing; it is merely a reflection on the reality of the human condition. It just reveals our mind; does not attempt to domesticate it.

Parents often tell me to give ‘values’ to their children. I refuse because I can’t do it. Some things cannot be ‘outsourced’.

Me: Interesting… A lot of people who switch careers are asked this question.. Wouldn’t your hard earned degree go waste.. Is there a connection between what you studied (formally) and what you do at work?

DD: Waste is a subjective measure. Because I was trained in medicine, my writing has a scientific and systematic edge that makes it more accessible to the modern ‘manual-based’ generation. Everything in life happens for a reason. Either you believe that or you don’t.

Me: Is the corporate world now providing opportunities for out of the box thinkers like you to solve the routine problems?There was a time, when there were fixed streams of education, a fixed career path and work progression.. But all that is changing.. Whats your view on this.

DD: It has to change. Fixed view of thinking comes from a mind-set that is either arrogant (we know everything) or fearful (we must control everything). As our mind expands, we reject old rules and seek new rules, only to realize new rules are actually older rules. Rigidity gives way to fluidity and eventually, when fluidity gets annoying, we will once again yearn for rigidity. All this is Sanatan, timeless.

Me: Today more and more people are claiming to be atheists.. Does your belief systems and learnings from mythology still apply?

DD: Atheism is yet another belief-system born when current systems fail to satisfy one’s intellectual and emotional needs. To assume that people can live without belief-systems is to deny the value of subjective truth. Subjective truth is a neurophysiological fact. Simply because humans have a cerebrum, we can imagine and because we can imagine we inhabit an imagined reality, a subjective realm. Is that imagined reality we inhabit, where we are heroes or victims, fact or fiction?

Me: I know you have read about Ramayana and Mahabharatha.. Have you read about Buddhism and his stories.. Can you share some learning from those as well..

DD: I read about all mythologies. All cultures have mythologies. People assume because I am Indian, I read only Indian mythology. But every culture has mythology: America, Australia, Europe, not just ‘old cultures’.

Me: What is your message for youngsters who are losing touch with tradition faster than ever before?

DD: There is no escape from mythology. Every one is driven by a subjective truth, hence myth. What may not be explicit is always implicit. We may move away from overt forms of religion, but that is ok. The religions will survive as long as they satisfy the emotional and intellectual needs of man. Indian thought has survived, in various forms, over 3000 years. Strong chance it will survive for at least another 1000, with or without us.

Me: Thank you very much sir for your time. It is indeed very interesting to know a completely different aspect of a life and more interestingly, it is being used in corporate world! Thanks once again!


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