Monday, August 8, 2011

Chief Belief Officer

In recent years, the corporate world has come out with innovative designations and unheard-of job titles. The “Chief Belief Officer” is one such designation.

Future Group (the group which runs Big Bazaar & Pantaloons in India), has Mr. Devdutt Pattanaik as CBO “Chief Belief Officer”.

His visiting card states his designation as Chief Belief Officer, but what is Devdutt Pattanaik’s place in the Future Group’s corporate structure? “I challenge your belief. I tell you where your belief is coming from. I tell you where your belief is going. I use various methods to do it. I show them, ‘This is your belief. Is this the way you want to continue?’,” he says.

After graduation, Pattanaik worked in marketing, sales, and as an executive assistant for 14 years. He grew popular for his lectures on mythology, and wrote books and a column on the subject. One reader of his newspaper columns, Kishore Biyani, offered him a job. In 2008, he joined Future Group and began spreading the light.

Pattanaik uses mythology to show employees an Indian way of thinking. So how does he apply it to management? “Do you know Vishnu?” he asks. “What are the things he holds?”
I don’t remember.

“About 80 per cent of your readers know it. Your vision is limited… In his hands are a conch shell, wheel, mace, and lotus. Shankh is about communication. Chakra is about rhythm and regularity. Mace is about discipline. Lotus is something you give people when you appreciate them. Now look at what management does. You have to communicate, review, punish and discipline, and reward. If you do this rhythmically, your company will grow,” he elaborates.

Pattanaik handles his image carefully. His website features a video called The Making of Devdutt… His pictures are what he wants them to be, his voice is even, and his smile, unsettlingly constant. The only time it breaks is when I ask him, “How do you convince people that…” He interrupts to remind me that as Chief Belief Officer, he does not convince people, he converses with them. “If they take something out of our conversations, good. But if they don’t, that is up to them.”

In an interview, Mr. Pattanaik says:- “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”.

In his role, he will be "decoding the wisdom of India locked in stories, symbols and rituals, and enhancing people’s belief so that they genuinely behave (rather than pretending) such that business grows.”

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