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Posts Tagged ‘evolution’

Altruism and Organizational Behavior

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 9, 2013

I enjoy exploring evolutionary explanations for our behaviors. One such fascinating characteristic displayed by human beings is altruism. On an individual level three explanations have been propounded. “The kind of process, where animals help promote the survival and reproductive success of their relatives, is known as kin selection.” Outside relationships reciprocal altruism exists. It thrives on hope for a return of the favor and trust in the sincerity of the receiver. A third explanation for altruism is mutualism where cooperation yields results that individual endeavors fail to achieve.

It is at group level that altruism becomes more intriguing and certain explanations present key lessons for organizations aiming to strengthen teamwork and solidarity among their employees. Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson and philosopher Eliot Sober argue that, “..under certain conditions, it is possible for animal groups to function as the vehicles of selection, where the animals that make up those groups evolve traits that help increase the survival of the group at the expense of other groups or individuals. One of the most crucial conditions to be met is that there must both be competition between individuals in different groups and competition between individuals in the same group….it is crucially important that groups are in competition with each other and not isolated, each living on its own ecological island”.

Organizational-BehaviourIt is easy to see how such an argument can be used to foster constructive competitiveness among different departments/teams in an organization. I manage a manufacturing unit that houses four different production units, each employing around 35 workers. Until recently they worked as “isolated islands”. Each unit was accountable for production actualization with minimal wastage. Quarterly reviews were held with unit supervisors in “isolation”. To keep workers motivated, best performing workers from each unit were rewarded for their efforts.

A couple of months back, I decided to change things. We put the four units in competition with each other and removed the barriers that we had developed between them. The production teams now compete in monthly ‘5S” and Attendance competitions. We no longer reward individuals in the units, but the entire unit team. Quarterly reviews of the four units are held in the presence of representatives of all units. Analytic charts comparing performances of the four units are drawn and their contribution to the company’s top line and bottom line discussed.

While it is too early to judge the outcome of the change, positive signs are visible. Overall attendance of our organization has seen a 12% increase. Unit supervisors have observed stronger camaraderie among the workforce and wastage/defects levels have come down significantly.

While most organizations focus too heavily on dynamics within a team, better results can be generated by adding an external stimulus, an external threat or competition to the team. This will cause team members to evolve behaviors towards each other that will enhance the overall performance of the team.

Posted in Management Consulting | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by Raunak Mahajan on October 17, 2012


Age of rocks formed before the appearance of life in the geologic sequence.



A time of dramatic geological, climatic and evolutionary changes. Fish, arthropods, amphibians and reptiles all evolved during the Paleozoic.



An interval of geological time from about 250 million years ago to about 65 million years ago. It is often referred to as the Age of Reptiles because reptiles, namely dinosaurs, were the dominant terrestrial and marine vertebrates of the time. The era began in the wake of the Permian-Triassic event, the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history, and ended with the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, another mass extinction which is known for having killed off nearly all dinosaurs, as well as other plant and animal species.




A period of revolutionary technology advancements in automation and communication. This phase saw the development of incredible computing devices and a world wide network called the “Internet”. The latter would bring about a paradigm shift in way homo sapiens interacted across the globe. Simultaneously there was evolution of satellite communication and mobile phones. This period was distinctly noticeable by the increase in noisy chatter that emanated from Earth.



A “path breaking” innovation changed the meaning of relationships forever. “Like” became the most frequently used word of the English vocabulary. Humans began living in an illusion, confined in the spaces of their tiny rooms, yet in the company of hundreds of illusory friends. The noisy chatter spiked! Every new innovation was targeted towards making the users of this divine platform happy. Every gadget began being evaluated on the basis of its contribution to this social platform. All brilliant minds around the world were trained to focus their brilliance only towards social media. Everything else was neglected and discouraged. This also gave rise to a new breed of gadgets called the “Smartphones”.



Right towards the end of Zuckerzoic, the world witnessed a sudden drop in intellect and logical reasoning. Thinking was no longer a given. Special efforts were required to trigger the human mind into thinking on its own. This period also saw a mammoth rise of “Ignorance”. Humans stopped noticing. “Quality Life” was replaced by a new parameter, “Speed”. Everything had to be done faster and faster. Speed outranked Logic in importance. This period is also referred to as the “Age of Smartphones and Tablets”.



God migrated. Eden went barren. Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil wilted. Intellect extinct.


Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Arranged Marriages make Darwin turn in his grave!

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on October 9, 2012

This afternoon I was reading “The Theories of Darwin and their relation to Philosophy, Religion and Morality”. To be honest, this is my first serious attempt at understanding Darwin’s theories more deeply. It is indeed exciting to explore the theories of descent, evolution and selection. There is so much logical reasoning that drives this study. I have not yet formed an opinion on the validity of his arguments, but I certainly know that arranged marriages do not go down too well with the theory of selection.

Arranged marriage is an ancient tradition in India and still account for 90% of unions here. In most cases, the match for the boy and girl is decided by the parents on either side. A lot of parameters influence these decisions, one of which is the economic and social background of the families. With so many criteria to match, the characteristics of the boy and the girl end up being pushed down the measuring scale to quite an extent until in some cases, the boy and the girl do not matter at all.  Religion, Caste, Financial strength and Astrological charts over shadow what the bride and groom to be really want.

Natural selection allows mating among individuals in a species in a way that the characteristics most desirable to survival are passed ahead. In my head, these characteristics can be categorized as Physical, Emotional, Intellectual and Spiritual. Ideally, we would want to see a union of individuals who are strong in at least one of the four areas. The more the better. While families measure each others collective strengths before setting up a marriage, they do not focus completely on the individual strengths of the boy and girl involved in the union. This gives rise to matches where mating selection is not being based on selection of the fittest, and the result can be off-springs that do not possess any significant prowess in either Physical, Emotional, Intellectual or Spiritual domains.  We may not be passing the best characteristics to the next generation.

When a union is based on love, I trust the boy and girl to select their match based on strengths in at least one of the above mentioned four categories. You may love someone for how physically strong they are, or how emotionally balanced they are, or how intellectually or spiritually gifted they are or all of the above. Such unions have a better chance of passing desirable traits to the next inhabitants of Earth. Hence, I am in favor of love marriages over arranged. I do not comment on their influence on the success of the marriage, but I feel they have a better chance of sustaining human evolution.

P.S: I have just come from a 26 hour train journey that has rattled every bone in my body. It may have also had an impact on my thinking and the above post must be read with that in mind. The image above is that of my kindle on my “Super Pants” 🙂

Also, I do not suggest that arranged marriages “always” produce undesirable outputs. I am only suggesting that their probability to do so is higher.

As always, comments are welcomed.

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

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