The Strange Case of Survivors Guilt!
Professor Nagaraj Subbarao Dean - Post Graduate Management Programs at Dayananda Sagar University


The end of World War II, signalled great relief in Germany, as the Reich surrendered to the invading and victorious Americans and British in the West and the Russian army in the East of Germany; even most people across the rest of the world were thrilled that the accursed war and subsequent slaughter had ceased and they could return to their normal lives.

The Jews in Europe and particularly Germany had watched with increasing unease the restrictive laws that were enacted in curbing their livelihood and which culminated in the Kristallnacht, the night of November 9 and 10, 1938 where synagogues and Jewish property across Germany was destroyed and the streets were full of people shouting: 'Juden Raus! Auf Nach Palästina!'" ("Jews out, out to Palestine!"). Soon WW II was ushered in and Jews were corralled into concentration camps across Germany and Poland killed in the most macabre of ways, including poison gas and execution by firing squad. Few escaped the concentration camps, but for those who did, the trauma was tinged with guilt; strange but true. Guilt that they had survived the holocaust but their friends and families had not. Many suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and a few suffered mental collapse and others committed suicide. This was also the case with many Allied servicemen returning home at the end of the war. The feeling of guilt seems to have been profound!

The incumbent COVID-19, pandemic seems to have unleashed a new wave of survivors’ guilt, where many healthy individuals are unable to accept the fact that they have survived, while their friends have not. Once again this seems to be a phenomenon prevalent in the United States and Europe. In India, the story is muted. An explanation could be that most people in the United States and Europe have a strong internal locus of control and hold themselves accountable for their fortunes and failures, while in India, the general populace believe in the concept of karma and the price that people pay for past misdeeds. Some people are more likely to internalize blame. When explaining events, they tend to attribute causation to personal characteristics rather than outside forces. In India, this is generally precluded due to belief in fate and the understanding that events are not within the full control of individuals.

Interestingly is seems to be evident amongst those who suffer from a low self-esteem and have survived an organization restructuring where colleagues’ have gone down to a putsch. Eventually, survivors’ guilt is a psychological phenomenon that has neither been well researched nor understood!

Corona, Andragogy and a National Learning & Development Exercise
Commander Himanshu Joshi (R) is an Indian navy veteran and Founder Director: Vadamoola Productivity Solutions (P) Ltd. Which specializes in Learning & Development solutions. He is an Adjunct Professor with Dayananda Sagar University and teaches Human Resource Management - 29 March, 2020

Views expressed in this blog are his own.


Malcolm Knowles- an adult learning theorist refers to learning that takes into account the differences between child and adult learners. I have lifted the following words from Alan M Saks’ Managing Performance through Training and Development. "Adult learning should be self-directed and problem-centered and should take into account the learner's existing knowledge and experience".

It ought to be understood that most Learning and Development programs are invariably an investment in terms of human capital and are intended to have strategic objectives. The institution of an L&D program arises from an “Itch”, I.e. a ‘need’ which follows an analysis about who needs to be trained, where and how? What are the intended outcomes and what type of interventions may be required?

I will now try to analyze the initiative of the Government of India (GoI) as a mass L&D program and whether it will reach the intended objectives or not?

The GoI, ever-since the first Corona related case was detected on 30 Jan 2020 in Thrissur, Kerala, started pulling up its already stretched socks issuing travel advisories, recovery of its citizens stranded across the world in nations which were under influence, quarantine efforts, advising voluntary quarantine, etc. This followed travel history analysis of potential suspects and voluntary disclosures (though Indians are always a bit wary of disclosures voluntarily) and subsequent mapping of contact profiles of potential threats. The prime mover, in this case, was the Honourable Prime Minister (some readers may not appreciate due to personal dislike of him) who constituted a Group of Ministers (GoM) to monitor, review and evaluate the preparedness and suggest/take measures to manage the spread of the virus in the country. The management mechanism was handled by Min. Of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) who advised invoking of Section 2 of ED act 1897 to States and Union Territories to ensure that advisories become enforceable in law. This aspect may be seen as an actor in "Adaptive Expertise and Active Learning" where the learner chooses, takes responsibility, judges, discovers new ways, establishes rules and strategies for task performance.

The wayward human resource was bound into practicing what is practically a humongous task in a country of our size (in numbers). Look at the pre-training interventions which came in the form of a ’Mann ki Baat’ followed by a ‘clapping for those who serve’ exercise. The purpose was to bring about a shift in the focus on the way masses look. The 'Proxima goals' which started with clapping and then motivating a billion-plus to observe a 'Self-imposed or Janata' (people's) curfew' was to my understanding an exercise in assessing how much of rope is needed or how early it can be tightened.

MoHFW, Min of Home, the security establishment in the meanwhile studied the emerging patterns for the next big thing. While future goals were being worked at, there was a degree of acceptance and a degree of anticipation among the masses. In this entire exercise, communication was alive to the situations as they developed.

Now we need to understand where did the motivation for this learning comes from, before we address the barriers and how they were managed. 'Learning Motivation' or determination to acquire and apply comes from the inner motive power that compels a person to pursue, on the face of obstacles, personal or organizational goals. The extrinsic and intrinsic environment plays a major role in achieving this motivation. The creation of the environment is just what the PM did where the satisfaction of 'existential and relatedness needs became primary for the masses. Achievable goals were set with a degree of enforceability in the form of a three-week lock-down as a distal goal but, with a rider that this may not be enough and we may have to travel a longer distance. The reinforcement brought in by the words of caution “if we do not manage the next twenty-one days well, the country will be driven twenty-one years behind. That I believe was enough a trigger in the minds of adult learners to understand the consequences of undesirable behavior.

Any good L&D program is also fraught with resistance and barriers. The Shaheen baghs and political oppositions found newer means to defy government initiative but crackdown where essential was /has been tried successfully. The law enforcement agencies have been given the freedom to act and even if reluctantly, the barriers have started to crumble. Even though vested interests are still trying to instigate people suggesting that if Corona Virus is bad for them, how is it good for so many cops patrolling the streets but, that is an angle which needs to be studied by the designers of a brutally inward-looking education system and the proponents of a culture which has chosen to deliberately keep a certain section unaware and uneducated to suit vested prospects for over seven decades.

I had the opportunity to scale the streets over the last 72 hours. The places, crosses, circles are practically deserted. Yet there is no difficulty in procuring essentials for a respectable living. The air quality is good, one can hear the birds and the insects in nature and most of all people appear to have or are learning to respect resources and minimality. While it is early days to make an announcement, the trend shows that “Learning” has or is taking place. Whether “China Virus" as it is being touted wins or the rest of humanity does, one thing is certain that "Mass Learning and Development" effort has been a success as of now.

Professors of A Different Kind
CAPT. A. Nagaraj Subbarao, Dean – Executive Education & Professor of Strategy - 26 March, 2020


England has been the genesis of a great deal of modern sporting activity ranging from cricket to tennis to squash. However arguably their greatest contribution to the sport has been football, a game that has over 4 billion followers worldwide. Not only is it avidly followed and played from Europe to South America, Africa, and Asia and the United States, the game is a veritable religion and many players have places next to god.

The modern game of association football originated with mid-nineteenth century efforts among local football clubs in England and Scotland to standardize varying sets of rules, culminating in the formation of The Football Association in London, England in 1863. This was a time when England saw serious class differences between the privileged ladies and gentlemen and the more populous working class. The working class produced talented footballers who were paid to play football thus giving rise to the first truly sporting professionals.

When football was gaining popularity during the 1870s and 1880s professionals were banned in England and Scotland. Then in the 1880s, in the north of England, teams started hiring players known as 'professors of football', who were often professionals from Scotland. This was the first-time people were paid to play the sport. The clubs in working-class areas, especially in Northern England and Scotland, wanted professional football to afford to play football besides working. Several clubs were accused of employing professionals against the rules. It was a time of rancour and high drama and the class schism was there for all to see.

The northern clubs made of lower-class paid players started to gain momentum over the amateur 'Gentleman Southerners'. The first northern club to reach the FA Cup final was Blackburn Rovers in 1882, where they lost to Old Etonians, who was the last amateur team to win the trophy. The guard was changing!.

During the summer of 1885, there was pressure put on the Football Association to accept professionalism in English football, after which it was announced that it was "in the interests of Association Football, to legalize the employment of professional football players. The prime-mover in this movement was Lord Arthur Kinnaird, a gentleman, decorated footballer and captain of the Old Etonian FC while being an extremely wealthy banker who later went on to become a senior director at Barclays Bank. It is interesting that Lord Kinnaird saw the writing on the wall and stood up to his friends and fellow gentlemen in changing the rules in favour of the less privileged masses of England and Scotland. A game that began with having a few riotous spectators has gone on to become a phenomenon attracting viewership in the millions.

Arthur Kinnaird was a true visionary, an ethical man who had a mission and possessed the fortitude, network, negotiating skills and perseverance to press for achieving change for the larger good. He went on to serve as the President of the Football Association for over thirty years and has had a lasting impact on the game. That is called leadership and as we can see the definition has not changed much over the last one hundred and fifty years.

Open to Experience & Changing Business Process
Prof. H.N. Shankar - 19 March, 2020

Prof.Shankar is an Adjunct Professor with Executive Education at Dayananda Sagar University. He is a management consultant and consults widely in the areas of business development, customer service, analytics and project management. He is an engineer by profession and has held senior leadership positions in industry, before turning to consulting.

I make it a point to interact and learn from encounters I have with every human, be it a PhD Oran agricultural worker. What I find is that there is knowledge worth capturing from most other people, after due diligence is applied to the inputs I gather. All knowledge is not immediately useful. But the process of understanding leaves deep imprints in one’s memory and serves to recall that piece of knowledge when in situations that need it. The capability of the human mind is amazing. As we assimilate knowledge, it gets indexed in ways that is not easy to grasp but it happens. When in situations where there is pressing need to understand and to grasp the current context, the knowledge store or layered memory is accessed from the unconscious to conscious levels and all those stored pieces of information and knowledge that would help deal with the current context become critical. This is my understanding of what happens and hence it is important to learn all the time.

Being open to experience and getting to learn a little more everyday has become a way of life for me. Tapping into others has become a way of learning beyond the formal stream of knowledge and education. This habit of mine helps me interact in ways with people to grasp to the best of my ability, something new that I did not know earlier. This approach helps me learn something even when I interact with the students in the class.

A recent experience:

I was recently with my family doctor, a general practitioner of good standing in South Bengaluru. Whenever we meet, we have something new to share with each other. With time and several interactions, we seem to have gauged each other’s interests without expressly indicating our mutual interests.

After giving me a general checkup and advise, thedoctor showed me his pathology lab that he has set up as part of his clinic. World class instruments from Sweden, Germany and, Japan populates his lab. He could test blood accurately and comprehensively, and various other medical tests could be conducted. He talked about accuracy, how he ensures that instruments stay calibrated, data, patient unique code, medical records stored in Adobe cloud. He was quite conversant about medical electronics, about electrical and electronic terms such as impedance, need for calibration, self-calibrating instruments. Also gave me some demonstration of how the lab ensures prevention of moisture ingress.

To me he looked thorough and extremely professional. He looked very job involved and came across as a person who wanted to control the diagnostic process to a large extent and so invested in the best diagnostic instrumentation to serve his practice.

He was cognizant of the importance if data, use of cloud storage, analytics, bigdata and right diagnostics using analytics. He was aware of the immense possibilities that data science offered and said that it would use analytics to improve his business processes.

He told me that he thought that I would be interested in seeing what he has done. I appreciated his present status and future roadmap. He was probably strategizing without fully comprehending the process. To me the doctor looked totally involved in his job and there was a burning desire to improve from his incumbent position. He was passionate.

The key take away from this interaction for me is:

  1. There is a movement towards use of technology as technology gets affordable and accessible.
  2. Passionate people bring about change in their own ways no matter where they are and what they are doing.
  3. Job involvement and investment in one’s own profession is crucial to improve quality of delivery.
  4. The lay user in India has caught on to the fact that data science can be a huge business enabler, right from gathering, processing and then analyzing data to reveal business insights.

CAPT. A. Nagaraj Subbarao, Dean – Executive Education & Professor of Strategy - 11 March, 2020

In the present age innovation is probably the only strategy that allows organizations to stay afloat and thrive. Intense competition and thin margins are driving managers to innovate all the time. Encouraging creativity is an important element to successful innovation. Creativity is a process of expressing novel ideas to solve problems and satisfy needs. Managers need to identify this process of being creative and drive their subordinates in achieving creative solutions. This is critical, as without creativity innovation stagnates and eventually perishes. Many people believe that creative people are born, which is a myth. Creative people can be crafted and driven to achieve creative solutions. (Amabile, 1998)

The components of creativity are:

  1. Expertise: The knowledge that a person possesses. Expertise encompasses everything that a person knows and can do in the broad domain of his or her work.
  2. Creative thinking skills: How imaginative and flexible is a person in approaching and solving problems
  3. Motivation: The extent to which a person is driven by an inner passion to stretch himself or herself in solving a problem and the tenacity that he or she displays.

A manager is tasked with creating creative groups. A manager can enhance creativity by doing the following and making necessary changes to the job design:

  1. Provide the right fit: The right person must be at the right job.
  2. Provide freedom: Provide adequate freedom and autonomy for the person to express his creativity. Creativity thrives when managers let people decide how to climb a mountain; they needn’t, however, let employees choose which one.
  3. Provide resources: More often than not, the requirement of resources is underestimated. Resources are fundamental in fostering an eco-system of creativity. Deciding how much time and money to give to a team or project is a judgment call that can either support or kill creativity.

Organizations' can foster creativity and attempt to create groups that are innovative by pursuing a diverse workforce. Diversity allows different perspectives and thought processes to flow which allows for ideation. Hence it is not surprising that many organizations have diversity as an important metric and a staffing strategy. Diversity has a direct bearing on creativity and innovation. Diversity, however, is only a starting point. Managers must also make sure that the teams they put together have three other important facets. First, the members must share excitement over the team’s goal and that goal is clearly defined. Second, members must display a willingness to help their teammates through difficult periods and setbacks – team bonding needs to be robust. And third, every member must recognize the unique knowledge and perspective that other members bring to the table – skills must be complementary. These factors enhance not only intrinsic motivation but also expertise and creative-thinking skills.


Amabile, T. (1998, September). How to Kill Creativity. HBR.



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