Saturday, February 23, 2008

A very new and very old perspective on Knowledge Management & Innovation from the Timeless Wisdom of India.

Although I have much to say and write about the Second International Conference on Technology and Innovation for Knowledge Management held in New Delhi 12-14th February 2008 in New Delhi, over the next few weeks, I feel compelled today to immediately write about a new perspective and, especially, some new insights I gained from one paper presented by Dr Prem Saran, entitled: ‘Innovation and Knowledge Management: An Indic Play Ethic and Global HR Model’.

The main reason I feel compelled to write about this is that I have always intuitively felt that the spiritual heritage of India, the Vedas, Vedanta, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita for example, are true gifts of timeless wisdom to the world, and it is really only during the last two hundred years that Western thought has been increasingly influenced by this. What I intuited about KM and Indic thought suddenly came together with a simple clarity.

Naturally, I do not wish to pre-empt the publication of this excellent paper in the Conference proceedings, so I will only broadly discuss my immediate thoughts about some of his proposals around Indic thought and my views on effective ‘personal knowledge management’.

Dr Prem Saran proposed that because the Indic is one of the five or six major civilisations of the world, with its own traditional knowledge systems, that by revisiting three of its main cultural traits or values, they would provide the building blocks for a new approach to Innovation and Knowledge Management.

He suggested that it would “open up the possibility that the Indic cultural ethos may actually subsume both modernity and post-modernism, and that it may also thus provide inputs for a pedagogical paradigm shift. In other words, by using certain liberal and humanistic themes of Indian culture, one may be able to promote learning that is contemporary as well as cross-culturally replicable”.

He talked about his simple adaption of ancient yoga and meditation techniques, albeit after he had personally researched and experimented with this over three decades, as functioning as a state-of-the-art tool for superlearning, a meta-learning tool that can promote “generative learning” or “learning how to learn”. I do like this, and again, I refer to the late Professor Peter Drucker who first introduced me to the notion of ‘proper education’ many years ago, by stating that it was not so much the content of what we learn, but learning the best process for accelerated learning which he thought was true education..

Dr Prem Saran’s presentation at the Conference resonated deeply with me because, twenty five years ago, I trained to be a Yoga and Meditation teacher with the British Wheel of Yoga. As part of the Diploma syllabus, all teachers had to become aware of the ancient Indian texts, not least, the Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita.

It was then that I first understood that Veda means knowledge, and it was then that I first learned how the documented ancient rituals and practices, which were in the context of local customs and traditions, were turned into more distilled and universally applicable and timeless knowledge in the Vedanta.

So when Dr Prem Saran talked about yogic disciplines to bring about a much more relaxed state of mind, more receptive to accessing the right brain, more systematically, and very compatible with contemporary neuroscientific findings. When he talked about techniques that bring about mental states that are powerfully conducive to accelerated learning, and move towards greater ‘worldwide outreach’, he had my full attention.

Of course, what is still hotly debated by spiritual and philosophical thinkers, is whether new knowledge is there to be revealed and discovered, or developed through experience. I have never seen this as an either / or argument but a both / and situation.

That’s for another time. But for this blog post, I am so pleased, and excited to be able to say that the Indic traditional knowledge systems have revealed to us that there are some timeless principles and wisdom that can be applied to more effective personal learning and knowledge management.

I look forward to the publication of the Conference proceedings and more blogs. Let me know if you wish to know more about this, and Dr Prem Saran.

(He describes himself as a technocrat (i.e. Engineer-cum-MBA from the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, with HR specialization) and Indologist-cum-Anthropologist (with degrees from Universities of Pennsylvania and California)
With about 30 years of experience in the Indian Administrative Service)

You can view a free video of this technique, by Dr Prem Saran, on the main server of the Government of India at

Ron Young

For more information:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Ron,

    I came across your website because I was asked to summarize many of the presentations from the Conference. :)

    It's ironic, methinks, that the history of human wisdom has meandered from Western empirical thinking back to Asian philosophy (not just Indian but also Chinese, at that).