A general dictionary defines recession in many ways like, “A period of an economic contraction, an extended decline in business activity, a general global slump that will last several months or years,” and so on.
Recession is a nasty time when economic disasters start, stock markets go haywire, mighty organizations drop to their knees, jobs get cut worldwide, best practices become worst practices, and so on. Not to be left behind, the media and management gurus also go high pitched with their own theories of why things failed, whose heads should roll, who should be lynched, statistical gymnastics, witch hunts, etc.
During such times you may ask, why on earth do the so-called previous business best practices that gave abundance and happiness until recently suddenly became worst practices now? For this people may say it is because the universe is a random, chaotic dance of meaningless happenings.
This may seem true, because we see several personal and singular disasters that just don’t make sense. But, on an overall scale, underneath all the chaotic occurrences there are hidden reasons and purpose to many things that happen around.
Coming back to the main topic, economists, business leaders, and rationalists often believe the creation (and elimination) of recession and global business downturns are completely under man’s control. It is not entirely true. There is actually a higher supernatural power in charge, and it is necessary to understand the hidden spiritual reason why mankind goes through phases of abundance and famine.
Though rationalists and scientists may chew your head off for attempting such a non-scientific explanation, it is also not possible to dismiss it entirely. Modern men fear turning toward religion and spirituality for answers because it attracts ridicule. But refusing to believe in the supernatural does not make it a lie. However, if one is willing to set rational logic aside for the moment and look at any plausible option that will give some answers, then you will get some explanations.
Science and rationalism may somehow explain how disasters happen in the universe, but it cannot explain why they happen. That “why” reason is well documented in most religious books but not easily available inside most management or economic books. Almost all religious books from centuries have explained why mankind goes through troubling times and disasters, but perhaps the best explanation of how and why recession occurs is given in Jainism, a religion that is more than 2,000 years old. According to Jain mythology the world goes through a relentless cycle of positive and negative phases called Sushama and Dushama, (and their combinations). These phases can be used to understand a recession.
A perfectly good phase is called Sushama Sushama (extreme happiness). This is the phase of a feel good factor when businessmen believe they are invincible, organizations make good to enormous profits, customers are in plenty demanding better and better goods, and willing to pay premium for good services, etc. People easily talk about fashionable things like the sky being the limit, firing on all cylinders, nerves of steel, etc., and keep doing things at a reckless pace. Businesses start believing they are capable of everything and start mergers, hostile takeovers, diversification, etc. Frequent success in one field also gives them a false confidence to try their hand in areas for which they are not experienced. Businessmen and the public also start believing that if one pours enough money, then anyone can become successful in any business. So individuals and organizations start developing many tentacles in the hope to give end-to-end service or have a stake in every stage of the value chain, etc. For example, successful steel companies may start software industries, while software industries may try their hand in television sets, oil manufacturers, start peddling agricultural products, etc., in the name of diversification. The mantra is growth, growth, and more growth.
Slowly, without anyone realizing, a small tilt occurs, and it enters into a phase called Sushama Dushama (happiness with some unhappiness). This starts because when things go higher and higher, common sense and moderation takes a backseat and greed takes over causing the bubble to expand beyond what it should. This is a phase when businesses slowly start feeling the pinch with revenues going down and entering into a phase of slowness.
Soon it enters into a phase of Dushama Dushama (extreme unhappiness) when the bubble finally bursts and everything starts going bad, a period which we call recession or depression. This is a phase where everything that was good earlier will now seem bad. The very factors that were bringing successes earlier will now bring failures. Best practices will seem like worst practices. Suddenly every safe investment and practice becomes risky. The very foundations of every business thought and practice that worked so well earlier now get ridiculed, questioned, and insulted. All the business heroism will suddenly vaporize, and people enter into a state of panic leading to abrupt cost cutting by putting sudden brakes on everything. The mantra now is freeze, freeze, and freeze, which starts choking everything in its path. This, in turn, will lead to a situation like a car pileup on a highway due to an accident. Mighty businesses fall down like nine pins, and billionaires get wiped out for inexplicable reasons. The trigger for this phase often starts in rather mysterious and unpredictable ways. For example, creating a 9/11, a dot-com burst, a bird flu, a stock market crash, or a subprime crisis that no one could have imagined or prevented.
Slowly, after some agonizing months or years, it enters a phase called Dushama Sushama (unhappiness with some happiness) where rays of hope start appearing again and things start getting better. Eventually things improve to good old days of Sushama Sushama, but only for a limited period of time. The cycle starts again as it is an eternal, never-ending process, a law of nature that every human should accept.
In short, these phases keep humans from becoming too confident and arrogant of their capabilities. There is no escaping from this mighty circle. It is nature’s way of moderating things, of letting the steam out or throwing a spanner in the works when it is necessary to do so. In fact, if you observe closely such feast and famine cycles are already visible all around us.
For example, flowering trees go into full bloom and then slowly lose all their leaves and flowers, only to start all over again. No amount of watering or fertilizers will ensure the flowers remain intact all year round. Similarly, there are sunrises and sunsets, the yearly seasons, sleep, biorhythms, etc., that seem to go around and around in never-ending cycles. Similarly, humans have to learn to endure periodic positive and negative phases in business, no matter how hard they try to avoid the negative phase.
Thejendra BS is an IT manager and author of Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity, Practical IT Service Management, LIFE 365 and Corporate Wardrobe – Business Humor Series. Visit his Web cave http://www.thejendra.com to buy these popular books and read his other unique articles.
"Appeared in DRJ's Spring 2009 Issue"