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To be or Not to be, That is the Question

This article explores the relevance and application of Principles and Strategies discussed in the 3rd Century BC treatise, Kautilya’s Arthashastra, in Today’s Corporate World.

At the Top level it is all about making decisions. Delay in timely decisions leads to loss of not only time and money but also mental energy.

Managers have to be very careful while making decisions. The first step is to collect the right information from the right sources. The Chief Executive spends a lot of time collecting and analysing various information.

Such information is categorised by Kautilya as three types:

                            “The affairs of a king (leader) are (of three kinds, viz.,) directly perceived, unperceived and inferred” (1.9.4)


This is the most authentic form of information one can gather. Seeing is believing. A study of sick factories revealed that, various labour problems happened when the production manger spent more time in his cabin than on the shop floor. In Japan, a manager who spends most time on meeting people in the workshop is highly respected.

Directly meeting people in ‘their’ work area gives one the best insights into the real issues the employees may face. It exposes one to ground level realities and also gives an opportunity to meet every one on a personal front. As they say, the best leaders are the ones who know their employees by their first names.


What is communicated by others is unperceived. As human beings we have limitations. We cannot be at all the places at the same time. In areas where we are not able to reach directly we may produce information from other sources. Technology can also help us gather more such information

However, this may not be a very authentic source. A lot of contradictory information would also be floating around. Therefore, one has to be very careful in studying the source of information.


Forming an idea about something that has not been done with the help of something that has been done is called ‘inferred’. For example, if a manager who has been highly productive comes up with a suggestion to improve productivity, one can ‘infer’ from his high productivity that his suggestion could be valuable.

Keen observations and lots of experience go into making good decisions. A matured leader can analyse any given situation within moments. He acquires the ‘knack’ of quick decision making.

What about those leaders who are still learning the tricks of the trade. How does one know if the decisions taken are correct? Once a successful businessman was asked this question, he replied, “By taking wrong decisions”

The most important factor in decision making is ‘clarity’ on what one wants to achieve. As Ben Stein, a famous American Lawyer, law professor, economist, actor and White House speech writer once said: “The indispensable first step to getting the things you want out of life is this: DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT”

Everything else follows.

Contributed by  - Radhakrishnan Pillai

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