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Creating Flow

The Freedom To Be

Tag Archives: Work

Our Work

Organization About the Organization Nature of Work
Unltd India A non-profit organization that finds, funds and supports exceptional individuals to become social entrepreneurs Leadership coaching for leaders of social organization supported by Unltd India, team building for Unltd India
Atma A non-profit organization that supports other non-profit organizations in the field of education Leadership coaching for leaders of educational organizations supported by Atma
Maharashtra Dyslexia Association A non-profit organization committed to securing rights of students with dyslexia An ongoing organization development assignment. Areas worked on – leadership development, cultural change and restructuring.
Mail Order Solutions India Pvt. Ltd. A family owned print production company An ongoing organization development assignment. Areas worked on – transitioning from owner driven to professionally managed organization, leadership development and employee motivation.
Kaivalya Education Foundation A non-profit organization that runs Gandhi Fellowship – a two year, full time, residential, social leadership program for Indian youth. Five-day Personal Reflection workshops for Gandhi Fellows focused on self-awareness, authentic relating and articulation of private dream.
Akanksha Foundation A non-profit organization, educating children from low-income communities. A workshop with the Teach For India Fellows on stakeholder engagement for bringing change to government schools
Kangaroo Kids Education Limited A education company providing learning curriculum and franchisee to more than 90 schools across India Designing and hosting school principals conference on the theme of innovation and inclusive education, conducting workshops on personal growth for school teachers.
Media Network & Distribution (India) Ltd. A media channel distribution company of the Times of India Group A leadership workshop with a focus on ownership to the organizational brand and bringing a culture of information sharing and openness
Hindustan Unilever A multinational FMCG organization Designing and facilitating a high level meeting with multiple stakeholder

Client Testimonials

“Flow ran a leadership development retreat for our social entrepreneur investees with great skill, grace and flexibility. It’s also wonderful to see Ajay and Payal clearly so passionate about and aligned with their work. Highly recommended.”

Richard Alderson, Co-founder and Director, Unltd India

“Flow consulting gives an amazing insight into organisational development and direction. Allowing people to get a macro view of where they want to go, while addressing the micro challenges in getting there. We would recommend their services to all as a benefit to all companies looking for organisational growth and development!”

Lee Bolding, Founder and Partnerships Manager, Atma

“A fortuitous meeting with Payal Gupta and Ajay Kalra through the Bombay Hub lead us to believe we had found the kind of facilitators we could trust implicitly to achieve our goals. While our project is still a work in progress, the FLOW duo have already helped us at MDA to reassess roles within the top administration, establish clear lines of open communication and delineate individual roles. Most importantly, the group sessions encouraged staff to voice their concerns and set the stage for more healthy discussions to sort out individual differences. We already see this new atmosphere of openness leading to better participation by staff members in group activities and organizational tasks even at this early stage, and look forward to continuing to work with Payal and Ajay in the areas of strategic planning and organizational development to fulfill, re-energize and restructure our organization to meet the ever-changing aspirations of our stakeholders.

Kate Currawalla, President, Maharashtra Dyslexia Association

“The changes have trickled in a ‘top-down’ manner and what Flow has accomplished is a start of much needed efforts to enrich interpersonal rapport, understand accountability and decrease stress levels. Ajay and Payal’s involvement and interest was seen through all tiers of the workforce and most importantly, they were fearless to point out what was not working irrespective of the hierarchy. The health of an organization is completely dependent on the people and with Flow’s help, we now have awakened minds. A Flow ‘health-check’ is recommended to jump start organizations to move forward in the right direction.”

Mehul Desai, Founder and Chairman, Mail Order Solutions India Pvt. Ltd.

“What I appreciate most was their ability to connect with, respect and appreciate the uniqueness of the Gandhi Fellows. This attitude percolated to the fellows and so they were able to draw real appreciation and respect from the Fellows. Flow has made a huge contribution to this growth in the journey of the 40 fellows.”

Tripti Vyas, Head – Gandhi Fellowship, Kaivyalya Education Foundation

Ajay and Payal deeply engaged with Akanksha staff in order to understand our context and needs, thereby helping us to achieve our objectives for our training with future school leaders. They demonstrated strong facilitation skills and their intuitive ability to assess and adapt to the needs and energy of the leaders during the delivery of their carefully planned workshop.

Vandana Goel, CEO, Akanksha Foundation

“Despite the very short timelines and the complexity of the task, Ajay and Payal were able to achieve this objective, in a way, that went beyond our expectations; in the creative and highly engaging way that they designed the conference. Their passion towards the conference was as keen as ours and they guided and assisted us from conceptualization to finish including the mundane details of execution, which most others expect clients to look into. They even did a pre-conference interaction (not part of the contract!) that helped bring the entire team on the same page and have the conference executed without a hitch. I, for one, am definitely not going to look for another team for our subsequent conferences.”

Lina Ashar, Chairperson, Kangaroo Kids Education Limited

“It was amazing to see how Payal and Ajay without being part of the organization, how beautifully and actively, got involved in the discussion ,coming up with ideas and solutions to get us where we want to be. We felt they were part of the team and we were together striving towards achieving the common goal of bringing each and every Team Lead of the organization on the same platform.”

Mohua Banerjee, Head – Human Resources, Media Network & Distribution (India) Ltd.

“Their facilitation was an effective balance between personal and professional and they truly flowed with the requirements of the stakeholders during the meeting. This was followed by a process report that gave valuable insights for future meetings. We would highly recommend Flow Consulting for design and facilitation of meetings of various stakeholders. They truly co-create!”

Stacie Shelton, Lifebuoy Social Mission Program Manager, Hindustan Unilever Limited

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The red circle evoked fear. The misspelt word had been circled. I was six years old. Yet the feeling of rejected numbness, as I looked into my notebook is easy to recall. That is my first recollection of experiencing The System. It had clear guidelines of what was right and what was wrong. If I had to be accepted, I needed to do what was right. If I did what was ‘right’ I would be rewarded by good marks, prizes and the approving look of my parents and teachers. It was also the beginning of wrong Giving up my natural expression and curiosity for social approval. I was on my way to becoming another brick in the wall.

At twenty-four, the education system ejected me to take my rightful place in society. With an accountancy degree, that in retrospect was as divorced from my naturalness, as darkness is to light. I had vague values of being materially successful, by taking up a job in a big corporation. It was glamorous to watch people in smart business suits, with laptops walking into plush offices. I wanted to be one of them. Speak with sophistication and ‘be with it. Cool, trendy,upwardly mobile. Have a nice house and fancy car. Basically well-settled into the mainstream. The Great Indian Middle Class Dream!

Getting my first job gave me a high. From having to depend on pocket money, I could now buy my own experiences. I had at last earned my rightful place in society. It seemed nice to say I am a CA working with a high profile consulting firm. Family was happy. Society nodded in approval. Yet something was not quite right. My work. It left me cold. Actually depressed.  I felt a cold tightening across my chest most of the time. The synthetic corporate environment of result at all cost was stifling. I was a task machine. The people above me did the same, as did the people below me. Was this was how life was to be lived?

I thought the problem was numbers. I preferred people, not numbers. I switched to Human Resources and got into corporate training. Thinking this would satisfy my passion for human development. When I realized that training was all about voice modulation and enacting a script, it was a rude shock. I just couldn’t ‘act’ in training programs. The feedback I got created immense self-doubt.  Then I came across Organization Development. I did not know what it was, but it seemed the answer. Some people I looked up to were doing this. I joined an OD program. However, before this, something happened that changed my life forever.

The corporate system ejected me! I lost my job during the economic recession. It was frightening. Even paralysing. I didn’t know of any other way of life. I had always been told, to get a degree and a job. What else could I do? Yet this was the best thing that could have happened to me. The System had finally spat me out unceremoniously. On my own, for the first time in my life, I floundered and feared yet found my own feet. And my flow!

Having completed my OD program I acquired a new identity that of an OD consultant. I wasn’t quite sure what that meant. It was something to do with change management, working with the whole systems. It was more holistic approach to developing an organization than doing trainings. I was exposed to various change tools and methodologies to apply when needed. To build sustainable organizations, that grew holistically. Which in simpler terms means, make profit, not at the cost of human beings and the environment. Soon I encountered the question. Are organizations really interested in human beings?

In a capitalist society ruled by market and money, human beings and the environment are simply resources to be exploited, by a few, for the few. Corporate social responsibility and philanthropy seems like a rich man taking from the poor man’s bowl, and then giving a few nickels back in return. It is not about an individual or an organization. It is about how The System operates. The dual principals of consumption and acquisition on which our culture and economy is built are degenerative. The more we consume, irrespective of our needs, greater the economic growth. The more money and resources I acquire, lesser I need to create real value. My money works for me. Increase in GDP has no correlation to the mental and physical well-being of a country’s population. The rich become richer and the poor poorer. And the middle class sell themselves to pay their next EMI. The common value is “As long as I, my family or my country has enough, to hell with you!” That explains why the richest 1% of world population holds 40% of the world’s resources, while over half of humanity lives on less than $ 2.50 a day.

So why do I talk about economics in the middle of what seemed like a biographical piece? Simply because my journey mirrors The System that created me, for its own consumption. By stripping me of my naturalness and conditioning me to believe, that happiness and self-worth resides in the material success I achieve, through consumption and acquisition. I am not alone.  I carry the world inside me. The microcosm only reflects the macrocosm. Just as feeling a single grain of rice, one can tell whether all of the rice has been cooked or not.

So how does this story end? It doesn’t. It is ongoing. It is not my story. It is a part of a larger story. The Human Story. Just as your story is. We have inherited a human legacy from our ancestors. And are the link between what we will pass on to our children. What is passed on will depend on our ability to see. See deeply into ourselves. Get in touch with our essence. For it is only then, we can truly touch the world, simply being where we are.

I carry the world in me.

I am the world.

 

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The room was well lit. The air, conditioned. The music, gentle. People in coats and ties, some sitting alone, others standing together. Quick handshakes, half smiles, polite conversations. A taste of corporate India one summer morning at the banquet hall of a star city hotel.

The banner read “Learning Conference”, a get together of HR and learning professionals. Practitioners and consultants. To learn about learning. Some eager to share what they had learnt. Others keen to learn from their learning. The power point ready to assist in the learning process.

The proceedings began with a talk. It answered- Why we are here? Why it is important to be here? What we can achieve by being here? A quick speech, delivered with eloquent flair. The audience reminded of their importance now seemed willing to learn.

The first slide flashed “Understanding Psychometric Instruments”, the topic of the day. “What is psychometric?” asked the sari clad elegant looking presenter. A senior executive of a leading consulting firm. A few hands went up. Each answer anticipating being the right response. The second slide flashed “psyche + measure”. A tool to measure the mind. Effectively employed while recruiting, training, assessing, developing human talent in an organization. Larger the numbers, easier the sifting process. Removing the chaff from the grain.

As the slides moved, the room seemed to be divided into vertical and horizontal lines. Square shapes everywhere. Boxes for everything. Measures. Outcomes. Performance. Talent. Growth. Each well explained, well sorted into its own box. The audience seemed satisfied. Things were becoming clearer. Knowing what went where. What cause, lead to what effect and vice-versa. Mental shaped problems fitting into conceptual shaped solutions. Learning seemed to be happening.

Yet another shape emerged within the boxes of that room. A wiggly wobbly hole. A gaping hole inside of me. As though devoid of soul. Seeking human touch. For no reason and no outcome.  Yearning for creativity and relating without any measure. Longing to speak a physical language, without words and numbers. The wiggly wobbly hole began wondering what was its place in a world full of concrete hard squares? Getting no answer it felt sad and disillusioned.

I carried the hole with me that day. Was humanity wrong? Or was I wrong, to question the working of the whole human race? A corporate machine, measuring every action and sorting people into buckets.  Every bucket to be poured into the ocean of organizational outcomes. The abstract had consumed the physical. Result had overpowered relating. Profit had overshadowed people. Index had depleted individual.  Every instinct in me cried, humanity was wrong. It was a lonely place. Being pitted against your own race. Seeing something, which others did not seem to see?  Yet something did not seem right. Making them wrong. Making me right.

As I sat watching the sea that night, the wiggly wobbly hole grew bigger. The isolation felt stronger. Each wave brought a new question, painfully lashing into the recesses of my being. What is the purpose of my life? Is there any value for my values, so distinct from the world at large? What am I to do?  What is my destiny? Each question left me feeling empty and hollow. Another part of me felt as though I was judging the world, putting myself on a higher pedestal than others. I felt lost. Was their a middle path, of holding onto my values, without being self-righteous?

The moon was full that night. Gazing luminously at the frothy sea.  Clouds like unrolled cotton balls, kept changing shape. The waves washed the sands, leaving new imprints with every sweep. The sea breeze carried its salty sticky flavour to the shore, with a differing force each time. The canvas kept moving changing. It occurred to me that everything in nature is wiggly wobbly. No concrete shape, unlike a man made world. No boxes, no squares, no triangles. Shapes keep changing, merging seamlessly into each other, giving birth to new shapes. The moon, the sea, the sand, the breeze and the enveloping blue darkness are all one. Doing a cosmic dance ordered by a supreme intelligence.  With a deep conviction that the immediate now, whatever its nature, is the goal and fulfillment of all living.

Perhaps we humans are a part of that cosmic dance too, only we don’t realise it. As though suffering temporary amnesia and forgetting our oneness with existence. And the perfection of what Is. Even when it seems imperfect. Cutting the physical world into pieces through the scissors of the mind, using dual blades of number and words. Finding fault with it. Then trying to rectify it with effort and outcome.

Suddenly in that moment, words began to crumble. Corporate, non-corporate, values, right, wrong, me, them, squares, holes. All of them. The concrete inner world of concepts became wiggly wobbly. It gave way to an empty silence, in touch with physical sensations alone.

In the silence, all wrong become right. Infact there was no wrong or right. Just IT. An intense impersonal aliveness of the now! IT, was the simplest word to describe a wordless reality.  All purpose became purposeless. Things were the way they were. The way the world functioned and what I felt about it was part of  IT. They were not separate. They were part of the same dance. There was a silent acceptance of them, of me and our disagreement. Also the acceptance of the illusion that separated us.

This was the isness of life.

This is IT.

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“At times you can see where the inner compass is pointing but are conditioned to turn a blind eye to it. Perhaps along with the compass you need the guts to swim against the tide, have blind faith in the compass or sheer madness!”

That was a response I got on my previous article on the ‘Inner Compasshttps://creatingflow.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/32/

It reflected most other responses. It is one thing to know and another to have the courage to do it. This then seemed like the logical exploration for this article, as the sequel to the ‘Inner Compass’.

Does change happen to us or do we create change? What is change? How do we know we are changing? When is the right time for change? What is necessary for change?

I wondered where could I find a change expert at short notice to answer my questions. I gazed at the books lying on the table next to me. One book caught my attention. ‘Conversations  With God’ by Neale Donald Walsh. The author finds his questions answered by God. Enough answers to fill three volumes. Perhaps I could invoke a God of Change and get him to answer my questions.

I close my eyes and invoke Change.

I ask my first question.

ME: How do I know that you are the God of Change, not a part of my belief or imagination?

CHANGE: Isn’t that what God is?

ME: Huh! (after a thoughtful pause) But how can I trust you to give me the right answers?

CHANGE: There are no right answers. Just as there are no wrong answers. What makes you reflect and make conscious choices is perhaps right.

ME: Hmmm…Ok. Let’s get down to business then. My first question on change is what most of my readers are asking. We often know what is best for us yet we don’t have the courage to follow it. Why?

CHANGE: Fear of the unknown. What you know is a lit circle. What you don’t know is the darkness beyond. Most people prefer to be in the comfortable warmth of the circle, even if it burns them gradually. Then there are other times that people think they know, yet they don’t really know.

ME: What do you mean ‘don’t really know’?

CHANGE: Knowing is not different from action. When one knows by putting his hand into the fire it will burn, he chooses not to do so. It does not take courage to keep his hand away from fire. It is common sense.

ME: But life situations are never so simple. There are many factors and people involved.

CHANGE: True. Yet the final choice is between what gives you life and what takes it away. Does your life situation enhance life or deplete it.

ME: Like I said, it is difficult to give a clear answer. Each situation has its pros and cons. Things are never so black and white.

CHANGE: Yet people continue to be in relationships long after they have stopped nourishing them. Both at work or home.  Often it is an unwillingness to know themselves beyond who they currently are. They hold on to old tattered clothes, rather than expose themselves and wear fresh new ones. The old identity wants to survive at all costs.

ME: But isn’t that natural? The desire to survive.

CHANGE: Isn’t it natural to die too. Nature is cyclical. One season follows another. Life follows death. And death follows life. It is ironical that more people die because of their desire to survive.

ME: Hmm…I am touched. That’s a powerful statement….

CHANGE: Be with it. What touches you can grow. It has the seed for new life to emerge. What doesn’t will eventually perish.

ME: Can I ask you a direct question?

CHANGE: Sure.

ME: When is the right time to end a relationship that is not working?

CHANGE: There is no right time, just as there is no wrong time either. Moreover, relationships never end. They continue inside you.

ME: C’mon! Don’t be vague. Give me a straight answer.

CHANGE: Okay. Tell me, what is the most important thing in a relationship?

ME: Love, commitment, trust, acceptance…

CHANGE: And what builds all of that?

ME: I guess it’s built over time. Isn’t it? (reflecting) Why don’t you tell me what is the most important thing in a relationship?

CHANGE: Honest communication. When a relationship does not allow honesty to yourself or the other, perhaps it is time to give it another form. Like energy, relationships never die. They transform.

ME: And what about work?

CHANGE: When work becomes a job. It is best to change. Work is a creative expression of who you are. Anything less than that is something you do to earn a living.

ME: Are you saying that we all quit our jobs to follow our passion! Is that practical?

CHANGE: Most of you are not educated to follow or know your true self-expression. Your education prepares you for a job not life. In your compulsion to be practical like everyone else, you give up on your true self.

ME: Is there anything such as a true self?

CHANGE: True and false are words. What is real is your experience. Examine it closely. It will speak to you. Do you look forward to work when you get up? Are your relationships nourishing you? The answers to these questions can point you in the direction of your true self.

ME: That brings us a full circle. We began with knowing what is best for us yet not having the courage to do it. So what is the solution?…wait, I almost know what you will say “There is no solution. Life is all about choices.”

CHANGE: (smiles) Yes, and each choice has a cost and a benefit. I don’t think you need me anymore.

*****

ME: Hey wait before you go! I have one last question. Who are you really?

CHANGE: I am a part of you. The part that knows. Free of fear or confusion. I exist in every person.

ME: Then why don’t you guide everyone.

CHANGE: I would. However most people don’t really ask.

ME: Ask what?

CHANGE: Questions.

*****

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