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Meera Harish / 8 min read
The world through new eyes.
If anyone had told me five years ago that I would be working on a joint National Task Force of representatives of industry and non-profits in India led by the Tata Group's chief ethics officer and brand custodian Dr Mukund Rajan, I would have laughed! That would have sounded more bizarre than an attempt to climb Mount Everest!
Five years ago, I was this true blue, dyed-in-the-wool, inveterate, corporate professional, who wore blinkers and knew nothing but the hard-nosed world of business, chasing profits, working with business associates globally with the single objective of increasing revenues and building brands! I hardly knew much of the other two sectors –the not-for-profit sector and the public sector and the work they do. So ensconced was I in the corporate world, with no care for the happenings outside my world.
And then five years ago, the organization I worked for, Titan (part of India’s largest industrial house, the $100bn Tata Group) nominated me for Common Purpose Meridian, the Senior Leaders program. I still recall the first day at the program vividly. There were participants from all three sectors who seemed like a bunch of very interesting people! I went in, (perhaps preening like a peacock), with a “the corporate sector is indeed the best“kind of look! How I was wrong! And how foolish I feel when I think back to that first day!
During the four month Meridian program in Bangalore, I had the most fascinating experience learning about what Julia calls “The Square”in the middle of the city. During that period and after, I learnt so much about my city and my country. We visited places and organisations I did not know existed and engaged with people who were doing work that had great societal impact. My fellow participants were some of the most incredible people I had ever met in my life!
"Breakthrough ideas are almost always “intersectional” and Common Purpose enables intersectionality."
The impact of Common Purpose on me was clearly fivefold:
- I began to take more of an interest in people who engaged on civic issues and various other issues the city faced. I found myself wanting to learn more about such issues nationally.
- While faced with challenging issues, my mode of response changed from the earlier “complaining" mode to a “solution" mode. How can I solve this problem, how can I leverage my networks to solve this problem became the refrain post Common Purpose.
- I found myself automatically “moving beyond my comfort zone” and leveraging my strengths and networks for work that was meaningful.
- At work too, I started raising my hand more often for newer learning opportunities and challenging assignments. I started thinking BIG. My mind was not restricted to think local, it would think national and global ever so often!
- I became a true believer in the power of cross-pollination which I had studied in my work on innovation because I saw Common Purpose demonstrate it in the real world - how the cross-pollination of ideas from diverse sectors, backgrounds, cultures and disciplines leads to an explosion of ideas leading to extraordinary innovation.
In five years, I have grown so much. I have done a second Common Purpose program – their maiden Dishaa. My fellow alumni and I have done some work with the prisoners of the Bangalore prison, helped them earn some income with their craft work, and helped a high school kid put together a self esteem program for kids from vulnerable backgrounds in Bangalore etc. I am now on the Board of a mid sized NGO in India – something I would not have even have dreamt of five years back. I have taken part in several Government of India initiatives, all thanks to the impact of Common Purpose.
I now understand the significance of what the Tata Group Founder, Jamsetji Tata, said: In a free enterprise, the community is not just another stakeholder in business, but is in fact the very purpose of its existence.
The dyed-in-the-wool, inveterate, corporate professional has been truly transformed! Thank you Common Purpose!
Meera Harish is a Partner for Sattva Consulting.
She took part in the Meridian Programme, in 2009, the Dishaa Programme, in 2011, and the Common Purpose Programme in 2021.