Skip to main content

Covid-19: Individual survival is intrinsically linked to collective survival


By Deepankar Roy*
The idea of the ‘collective’, its importance and power, vis-à-vis that of the ‘individual’, her/his centrality and power, is something that, I believe, we, as a community of humans, have not quite come to terms with. The idea in itself that ‘We are, therefore I am’, is not new. Ubuntu, a Zulu expression, means ‘humanity’, often translated as “I am because we are”—a belief in universal interdependence that connects all.
Today, the ‘collective’ is often being invoked. In a sense, the COVID crisis has brought us all together, or so it seems. Mankind is, perforce, bound by a common goal—that of survival. Whenever individual survival is at stake—and the individual cannot survive without the support of the collective—the common goal, even though not stated explicitly, seems to bind us all.

Goals and Stances

Broadly speaking, there are two stances from where we can move to accomplish a goal. One, the ‘approach’ stance, in which people move towards a goal. In other words, people are keen to achieve or accomplish the goal, the goal serving as their guiding beacon. Two, the ‘avoidance’ stance, in which people move towards a goal to avoid failure. While the approach stance emanates more from a hope of success, the avoidance stance takes shape more from a fear of failure. Both stances are likely to help people reach their goals. After all, people succeed not only because they want to succeed but also because they wish to avoid failure. The energy mobilisation, though, in the two stances is starkly different.
The most critical factor and almost the starting point that helps a group convert itself into a team is the identification and articulation of a unified goal. In order to serve the purpose of getting people really committed to it, the goal needs to be a shared goal and not a common goal. The expression ‘common’ connotes something that is at least minimally present in all concerned whereas the expression ‘shared’ connotes something that has evolved through interchange of thoughts and ideas. It has the scope to represent something that is above and beyond what may be ‘common’ to all concerned. A ‘shared’ goal has the potential to not only incorporate the needs and aspirations of all but also to raise the level of aspiration beyond even the most exalted goal. Such a goal has a ‘pull’ towards which collectives and individuals are inspired to move. Such a goal—some call it a superordinate goal—has the power to sustain the efforts and energies needed to pursue it in the long run. Members perceive that accomplishing such a goal will fulfil their goals as well and add meaning to their lives. A shared goal, therefore, embodies the value and meaning of a worthwhile existence and is not merely for the purposes of survival.

The Role of Fear

In many organizations, fear is the key used to accomplish tasks. Managers often believe that unless their employees are scared of the consequences of non-performance, they will not be motivated to perform well. This strategy straightaway puts performers on the back foot; they begin to perform with the sword hanging on their heads. Quite possibly, one can imagine that such an approach will ensure that employees do their best to keep their jobs and not necessarily be inspired to give of their best. In one successful organization, when I asked the employees what assured them their salary, they said, “Two punch and one lunch!” They knew that they had to check in to work on time, have their lunch on time, and punch out on time!
The problem with goals derived from an ‘avoidance’ stance is that the inspirational value of the goal is missing. Thus, as the fear of failure reduces, people are likely to fall back into their habitual patterns of fending for themselves and become individualistically competitive.

Goals and Crises

In a crisis, such as the COVID pandemic the world faces today, when people’s lives are at stake, we do not have to worry about team work. Team work automatically emerges. Individual survival becomes intrinsically linked to the survival of the collective. Collaborative efforts emerge organically. “We are, therefore I am,” becomes the underlying theme of many an effort. We find many examples of people reaching out, collaborating and supporting each other. Organizations, under these circumstances, may not have to do very much to see team work in action.
However, crises are crises. They do not last for ever. Everyday life is not a crisis. As soon as the crisis begins to recede, that is, the threat of survival begins to go down, the common goal of survival loses its centrality, and people often revert to their patterns of individualistic behaviour, fending for themselves by themselves.
Organizations that take this opportunity to nurture and articulate a new shared vision and goal for themselves, in all probability, will build a sustainable momentum to pursue shared goals and create plans and strategies that add hope, meaning and purpose to people’s lives.

The Manager and Creativity

The creativity of the manager lies in her/his ability to stimulate and nurture a shared future that people feel propelled to pursue because they see these as growth-promoting in contrast to being only survival-ensuring. Managers who engage with people, stimulate, share, listen and together crystallise ideas, leading to the articulation of meaningful goals, lay the foundation of a journey that may well herald a new chapter in the organization’s history.

We Are, Therefore I Am

This expression is not just a slogan. The belief in such an approach is almost spiritual. By spiritual, I do not mean religious or ritualistic. By spiritual, I mean a belief, almost a faith that a power greater than me, knows better than I do. People who have the faith, partly borne out of alert first-hand experience, will truly display the humility to make themselves ‘subordinate’ to the will and wisdom of the collective. This is a huge ask. Chief Executives and Managers are usually fed on the spiel that they better ‘know it all’. After all, what are leaders for? Lack of comprehension about the present and the future, and lack of competence to translate ideas into reality are signs of weakness. So, translating ‘We Are, Therefore I am’, will be a huge leap of faith for many.

*Holds PhD in Organization Development and specializes in Applied Behavioural Science, founder member of the Institute for Group Facilitation

Comments

TRENDING

Women for Water: WICCI resource council for empowering women entrepreneurs, leaders

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The Water Resources Council of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry is formed for 2022-24. A National Business Chamber for Women, the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry ( WICCI ) is a premier association empowering women entrepreneurs and leaders in all walks of life through advocacy, pro-active representations to government, implementing projects for women via funds allocated by various government agencies and corporates, plus bringing awareness on all issues that concern women. WICCI boosts and builds women’s entrepreneurship and businesses through greater engagement with government, institutions, global trade and networks. WICCI enables fundamental changes in governmental policies, laws, incentives and sanctions through proper channel, with a view to robustly encourage and empower women in business, industry and commerce across all sectors. WICCI is supported by the massive global networks of ALL Ladies League (ALL), Women Eco

75 yrs of water in India: whither decentralised governance to sustain the precious resource?

By Shubhangi Rai, Megha Gupta, Fawzia Tarannum, Mansee Bal Bhargava Looking into the last century, water resources management have come a long way from the living with water in the villages to the nimbyism and capitalism in the cities to coming full cycle with room for water in the villages. With the climate change induced water crisis, the focus on conservation and management of water resources if furthered in both national and local agenda. The Water management 2021 report by NITI Aayog acknowledges that water and sustainability are of immense importance for the sustenance of life on earth. Water is intricately linked to the health, food security and livelihood. With business as usual, India’s water availability will only be enough to meet 50% of its total demand and 40% of the population in India will have no access to drinking water and sanitation by 2030 . Its Composite Water Management Index 2021 states that ‘India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and mil

CAG’s audit report creates a case for dismantling of UIDAI, scrapping Aadhaar

By Gopal Krishna  The total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project and its cost: benefit analysis has not been disclosed till date. Unless the total estimated budget of the project is revealed, all claims of benefits are suspect and untrustworthy. How can one know about total savings unless the total cost is disclosed? Can limited audit of continuing expenditure of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an instrumentality of Union of India be deemed a substitute for total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project of UIDAI? It has been admitted by CAG that the audit of functioning of the UIDAI is partial because of non-transparency. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India arising from performance audit of functioning of the UIDAI for the period from 2014-15 to 2018-19 is incomplete because it is based on statistical information “to the extent as furnished by UIDAI” upto March 2021. There is also a need to compa

Grassroot innovations in water management: Policy challenges amidst climate change

By Shubhangi Rai[1], Megha Gupta[2], Mansee Bal Bhargava[3] India despite of having a vast traditional water management history continue to struggle with water crisis from disasters like floods and droughts but more with social distress leading to asymmetric access to water goods and services. The rising water crisis in a country that is abundant in water resources and wisdom is worth questioning and resolving. The knowledge that was passed on by our ancestors who used a diverse range of structures that helped harvest rainwater locally besides replenish and recharge the groundwater along the way. Formal and informal rules were locally crafted by the community on who to use the water, how much to use, when to use, how to penalise for misuse, how to resolve conflicts and many more. As a nation, we need to revive our dying wisdom of the traditional water management systems and as water commons, enable the governing mechanisms towards sustainability. In the session on ‘ Grassroot Innovatio

Need to destroy dowry, annihilate greed and toxic patriarchy in India

By IMPRI Team Talking about an evil ever-persistent in our society and highlighting the presence of toxic patriarchy, #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on Destroy Dowry: Annihilation of Greed and Toxic Patriarchy in India under the series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps on May 4, 2022. The chair for the event was Prof Vibhuti Patel, Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and a Visiting Professor, IMPRI. The distinguished panel included – Asha Kulkarni, General Secretary at Anti Dowry Movement, Mumbai ; Kamal Thakar, Sahiyar Stree Sangathan ; Adv Celin Thomas, Advocate at Celin Thomas and Associates, Bengaluru; Shalini Mathur, Honorary Secretary, Suraksha Dahej Maang Virodhi Sanstha Tatha Parivar Paraamarsh Kendra, Lucknow and Secretary, Nav Kalyani Foundation, Gender Resource and Training Centre; and Dr Bharti Sharma, Honorary Secretary, Shakti Shalini

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and emerging geopolitics

By IMPRI Team In the backdrop of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, #IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a panel discussion on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and Emerging Geopolitics. The event was chaired by Ambassador Anil Trigunayat (IFS Retd.), Former Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Libya, and Malta; Former Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Moscow. The panelists of the event were Prof Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Clinical Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University; H.E. Freddy Svane, Ambassador, Royal Danish Embassy, New Delhi; Maj. Gen. (Dr) P. K. Chakravorty, Strategic Thinker on Security Issues; and T. K. Arun, Senior Journalist, and Columnist. Ambassador Anil Trigunayat commenced the discussion by stating the fact that wars are evil. He opines that no war has ever brought peace and prosperity to any country and

Making Indian cities disaster, climate resilient: Towards actionable urban planning

By IMPRI Team  Three-Day Online Certificate Training Programme on “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”: Day 1 A three day Online Certificate Training Programme on the theme “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”, a joint initiative of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) , Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, was held at the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. Inaugurating the session Ms. Karnika Arun, Researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. Day 1 of the program included Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Mr Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI as conveners, an

Gender gap: Women face disproportionate barriers in accessing finance

By IMPRI Team Women worldwide disproportionately face barriers to financial access that prevents them from participating in the economy and improving their lives. Providing access to finance for women is crucial for financial inclusion and, consequently, inclusive growth. To deliberate and encourage dialogue and discussion for growth, the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) of IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a web policy talk by Mr S. S. Bhat, Chief Executive Officer Friends of Women’s World Banking India, Ahmedabad on ‘Access to Finance for Women’ as a part of its series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. The session was started by the moderator, Chavi Jain, by introducing the speaker and the discussants and inviting Prof. Vibhuti Patel to start the deliberation. Importance of access to finance for women Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Professor, IMPRI, New Delhi; Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, began by expre

Impact of climate change on Gujarat pastoralists' traditional livelihood

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Karen Pinerio* We are sharing a study[1] based learning on climate resilience and adaptation strategies of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat. There are two objectives of the study: (i) to examine the impact of climate on traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Gujarat state; and (ii) to explore and document the adaptation strategies of pastoralists in mitigating climate adversities, with a focus on the role of women in it. In order to meet these objectives, the research inquiries focused on how pastoralists perceive climate change, how climate change has impacted their traditional livelihood, i.e., pastoralism in drylands (Krätli 2015), and how these pastoral families have evolved adaptation strategies that address climate change (CC)/ variabilities, i.e., traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat state. Pastoralism is more than 5,000 years old land-use strategy in India; it is practised by nomadic (their entire livelihood r

How India, Bangladesh perceive, manage Sunderbans amidst climate change

By IMRPI Team The effects of climate change have been evident, and there have been a lot of debates around the changes to be made locally to help and save the earth. In this light, the nations met at the COP 26 conference recently. To discuss this further, the Center for Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (CECCSD) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi , organized a panel discussion on “COP 26 and Locally Led Adaptations in India and Bangladesh Sunderbans” under the #WebPolicyTalk series- The State of the Environment – #PlanetTalks . The talk was chaired by Dr Jayanta Basu, Director, Non-profit EnGIO, Faculty at Calcutta University and an Environmental Journalist, The Telegraph , ABP . The Moderator of the event, Dr Simi Mehta, CEO and Editorial Director, IMPRI , started the discussion by stressing the talk on the living conditions of people living in the Sunderbans Delta from both the countries, i.e. India and Bangladesh. According to the report