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Prescriptions on How To Remain Creative and Competent

July 18, 2010

THE PETER PRESCRIPTION
Prescriptions on How To Remain Creative and Competent

Book Review

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Title: The Peter Prescription

Author: Dr. Laurence J. Peter

Published: 1972 (William Morrow)

The hot weather in Pune gives me the golden opportunity to dust off my favourite books from my bookshelves, sit in cool comfort and re-read these lovely books sipping chilled ice-cool lemonade.   I have realized that re-reading good books gives me even greater pleasure.

So that’s what I’m going to do for the next few days – browse my bookshelves, re-read some of my favourite books, and tell you about them.   During my college days, in the 1970’s, I read three non-fiction books which had a lasting impact on me.

The first was Parkinson’s Law (written in 1958) based on the author’s study of the British Civil Service and Admiralty.

The other two books were written by Dr. Laurence J. Peter – The Peter Principle (1969) and The Peter Prescription (1972).

These three Management Classics are a must for the bookshelves of every manager.

Written with incisive wit, Parkinson’s Law is a seminal book on the workings of bureaucracy which is essential reading for any student of Management. It is consummate management classic, a masterpiece, which is a “must read” for every manager and management student.

The Peter Principle, a delightful read, provides a superb insight and intriguing study of hierarchiology.

If The Peter Principle is Dr. Peter’s seminal pioneering work, then The Peter Prescription is his definitive book, a wondeful all-time management classic.

If you have not read ‘The Peter Principle’, do read my review of the book, the previous post in my weblog right here.     Understanding ‘The Peter Principle’ is sine qua non, essential prerequisite reading, before you embark upon ‘The Peter Prescription’.   Whereas both Parkinson’s Law and The Peter Principle formulate and substantiate their respective theories, The Peter Prescription is a philosophical self-help treatise on how to achieve happiness in all aspects of life.

Written in his same hilarious inimitable style, Dr. Peter exhorts us to be creative, confident and competent by replacing mindless escalation with life-quality improvement. The message of the book is in congruence with eastern philosophies which focus on inward enhancement rather than outward escalation.

In his introduction Dr. Peter states: “Many authors offer answers before they understand the questions…….. I understand the operation of the Peter Principle, and the remedies offered are the product of years of research……… prescriptions will lead to great personal fulfillment and joy of real accomplishment.”   The book, interspersed liberally with quotations and case studies, comprises three parts.

The first, titled Incompetence Treadmill explores why conventional solutions not only fail to alleviate the effects of the Peter Principle but may actually serve to escalate the problems.

His analysis of ‘marital incompetence’ is hilarious. A bachelor is a man who looks before he leaps – and then does not leaphe concludes.

With the flattening of hierarchies, I wonder whether, in today’s world, there still exist any Professional Processionary Puppets – the organization-men.

It would be worthwhile to look dispassionately, from a distance, into your own organization for similarities to prototypes adorning bureaucracies of yesteryear in order to ascertain whether your own organisation is a modern state-of-the-art progressive one or a rigid hierarchy bound archaic organization heading for decay.   The meat of the book is in Part Two, titled ‘Protect your Competence’ which elucidate a total of 25 “prescriptions” on how to remain creative and competent throughout your working and personal life.

There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and after that to enjoy it.

The prescriptions, which are condensed wisdom of the ages, guide us on how to achieve this cardinal aim of life.

“The greatest happiness you can have is knowing that you do not necessarily require happiness” Dr. Peter quotes with elan in this delightful book.   Competence is a system-governed factor – your competence is as viewed by your bosses (like beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, your competence lies in the eyes of your boss!) and thus the yardsticks of competence are governed by the HR policies in your organization.   Why is everyone around you so competitive…?

Do the HR policies in your organization encourage competition, rat race and reward escalationary behaviour, and if so, what can you do about it…?

Maybe you can find some answers by exploring the prescriptions.   Let’s have a look at Peter Prescription 3 – The Peter Panorama – which I have used to great effect, which comprises listing your satisfying activities, joyful experiences, pleasant reminiscences, and after introspection make a second list of those which are feasible to do regularly and then make sure you do them whenever feasible.

Enjoyable events begin to crowd out the unpleasant and you feel happy. And, in the extreme, there are prescriptions like utter irrelevance – hilariously effective.   Do read, experiment, and try to imbibe the prescriptions in your professional and personal life, and experience the results for yourself.

Introspect, evolve a philosophy of life, fine tune the art of living, concentrate your efforts within your area of competence, and have an improved quality of life consisting of abiding competence and contentment.

If you cannot be happy here and now, you can never be happy. Part Three of the book is written from the management perspective giving 42 “prescriptions” to Managers to contain and mitigate the effects of The Peter Principle in their domains and manage for competence.

It views The Peter Principle from a manager’s point of view, and assuming the manager himself is not a victim of the Peter Principle, offers valuable tips in the HR Management, particularly recruitment, promotion and selection.

Obviously, outsourcing wasn’t that prevalent way back then in the sixties and seventies, otherwise organizations may even have ‘outsourced’ incompetence.

Isn’t it a brilliant idea to outsource incompetence…? In the outsourcing jargon, let’s call it IPO – Incompetence Process Outsourcing…!!!

Maybe some are doing it already…!

As stated in the introduction, the purpose of The Peter Prescription is to help you explore how you yourself can mitigate the effects of The Peter Principle by avoiding the final placement syndrome, and as a manager, it tells you how to keep your employees at their appropriate competence levels so that they remain happy and productive and help achieve mutual optimal benefit.   First read and understand The Peter Principle.
And then apply to your own life The Peter Prescription and experience genuine personal fulfillment and joy of real accomplishment.  


Book Review of The Peter Prescription

by

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2010

Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this Book Review.


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Ancient Wit and Wisdom

July 22, 2009

LAUGH and LEARN
HUMOR WISDOM ENJOYMENT AND EDUCATION

By

VIKRAM KARVE

Everyone loves stories.

So whenever I want to drive home my point or communicate a message, I like to tell a story rather than pontificate.

Everyone loves to laugh.

Yes, storytelling is certainly more enjoyable if you add a dash of humour than laborious dogmatic pontificating or moral lectures.

Laughing and Learning go together.

Enjoyable learning is more effective as wit and humour are excellent vehicles for transmission of views and values besides the important fact that you do not bore, annoy, or hurt egos.

I am, therefore, always in search of such stories, tales, and parables, which impart wisdom and produce spiritual growth, and there is plenty of ancient wit and wisdom enshrined in teaching stories flourishing all around both oriental and occidental which have stood the test of time through the ages.

Teaching Stories are not mere jokes.

Teaching Stories relate events that are funny, foolish, bemusing, and sometimes even apparently stupid. But they usually have deeper meanings.

A good teaching story has several levels of meaning and interpretation and offers us opportunities to think in new ways.

At first you may just have a good laugh but as you think about it the significance becomes more and more profound.

Each story veils its knowledge and as you ruminate, the walls of its outer meanings crumble away and the beauty of the previously invisible inner wisdom is revealed, and you begin to identify yourself in the story, and to acknowledge that you too could be as foolish or as lacking in discernment as the characters in these classic tales.

An example of the concept of teaching stories is embodied in the tales of the inimitable Mulla Nasrudin narrated by Sufis to illustrate aspects of human behaviour which are relevant to both our personal and professional lives.

Last week I told someone this Mulla Nasrudin Story:

Mulla Nasrudin’s donkey died and he went into deep mourning weeping inconsolably. A friend seeing Nasrudin crying bitterly consoled, “What’s wrong with you – you didn’t weep and mourn so much even when your first wife died.”

“When my wife died all of you promised to find a younger and more beautiful wife for me – and indeed you did. However, nobody has promised to replace my donkey.”

And I’m sure you have heard this one:

One night, Nasrudin was on his hands and knees searching for his key in a well-lit area in the centre of the street. Some of his neighbours came to see why Nasrudin was on his hands and knees.

“What are you looking for, Nasrudin?” enquired one of his neighbours.

“My door key,” Nasrudin replied.

The helpful neighbours dropped to their hands and knees and joined Nasrudin in his search for the lost key.

After a long unsuccessful search, one of the neighbours asked: “We’ve looked everywhere. Are you sure you dropped it here?”

Nasrudin answers: “Of course I didn’t drop it here; I dropped it outside my door.”

“Then, why are you looking for it here?”

“Because there is much more light here,” responded Nasrudin.


When one reads or hears several Nasrudin tales, they can have a compelling effect. You can reflect, introspect or take them with a pinch of salt – the choice is yours.

You may ask the storyteller: “You relate stories, but do not tell us how to understand them” – to which he will reply: “How would you like it if the shopkeeper from whom you bought a banana ate it before your eyes, leaving you only the skin?”

One of the great bonuses in learning through humour is that even as you have a good time and doubt that you have learned anything, the lessons penetrate subtly, and stay with you, to come alive when the need arises. 

A few years ago, while walking home one evening, I stopped for a browse at Mumbai’s famous Strand Book Fair, held every January, at SNDT University’s Sunderbai Hall near Churchgate.

I saw a book – Tales of the Dervishes – and began browsing, and became so engrossed in the Sufi teaching stories that I lost all sense of time, and before I realized it, the clock struck eight and it was time to close.

Seeing the crowd, and in a hurry to get home, I decided to come the next day to buy the book, but when I did come the next day the one and only copy of this book which I liked so much had been sold out.

Since then I had been hunting for this rare elusive book and I was truly delighted to find a copy at Landmark Bookstore on Moledina Road in Pune Camp a few months ago.

Dear Reader, permit me to tell you a bit about this wonderful book, a truly delightfully illuminating assortment of Sufi Teaching Stories.

Title: Tales of the Dervishes

Author: Idries Shah (1967)

Arkana Penguin (1993)

ISBN 0-14-019358-8

The author has collated a very meaningful selection of Sufi Teaching Stories ranging from the 7th century to the 20th century and has given chronological references to sources which comprise Sufi Masters, classics and manuscripts.

I am sure you may be familiar with a few of these classic tales of wisdom, or versions of them, like The Three Fishes, How to Catch Monkeys, and The Blind Ones and the Matter of the Elephant, but there are so many unique gems of wit and wisdom.

I recommend that you must read each teaching story thrice.

Yes, thrice!

Read the story once. It may entertain you; maybe produce a laugh, like a joke.

Read the story the second time. Reflect on it. Apply it to your life. That will give you a taste of self-discovery.

Read the story again, for the third time, after you have reflected on it. Carry the story around in your mind all day and allow its fragrance, its melody to haunt you. Create a silence within you and let the story reveal to you its inner depth and meaning. Let it speak to your heart, not to your brain. This will give you a feel for the mystical and you will develop the art of tasting and feeling the inner meaning of such stories to the point that they transform you.

I’ll not tell you more about the droll, witty, entertaining yet tremendously meaningful and enlightening tales in this book – that you must read yourself – but I will end this piece by narrating my favourite Mulla Nasrudin teaching story:

On his way from Persia to India, Mulla Nasrudin saw a man selling a small long green fruit which he had never seen before.  Curious, he asked the vendor:  “What is this lovely fruit?”

“Chillies. Fresh Green Chillies,” said the Vendor.

Mulla Nasrudin gave the vendor a gold coin and the Vendor was so overjoyed that he gave Nasrudin the full basket of green Chillies.

Mulla Nasrudin sat down under a tree and started to munch the Chillies and   within a few seconds, his mouth was burning. Tears streamed down his cheeks, his nose watered copiously and there was fire his throat.

But, utterly nonchalant, Nasrudin went on eating the chillies and his condition began to get worse and worse.

Seeing his pitiable condition, a passerby asked, “What’s wrong with you? Why don’t you stop eating those hot Chillies?”

“May be there is one that is sweet, “Nasrudin answered. “I keep waiting for the sweet one!” Nasrudin said and he kept on eating the fiery Chillies.

On his way back, the passerby saw that Mulla Nasrudin’s condition had become even more terrible, but he kept on eating, and the basket of Chillies was almost empty.

“Stop at once or you will die.  There are no sweet Chillies!” the passerby shouted at Nasrudin.

“I cannot stop until I have finished the whole basketful,” Nasrudin said, croaking in agony, “I have paid for the full basket   I am not eating Chillies anymore.  I am eating my money”.

Dear Reader – Read this story once more, close your eyes, think about it and let the story perambulate in your mind, reflect on it, and apply it to your life.

Don’t we cling on to things, people and places that we know we should let go and move on, at first hoping to find ‘sweet one’ and even when we discover that there is no ‘sweet chilli’ we still continue to shackle and bind ourselves to material things, memories and persons who we know are painful, harmful and detrimental just to ‘get our money’s worth’ when we should ‘let go’ and move on in life and liberate ourselves.

Hey, there I go pontificating again.

It’s time for you, Dear Reader, to read The Tales of the Dervishes and it is high time you enlightened me with a Teaching Story.

VIKRAM KARVE

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2009
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this review.

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