Pulin K Garg

Pulin K Garg


Professor Pulin K. Garg joined the Organizational Behaviour Area on April 1, 1970 and retired on September 30, 1987. Born on September 27, 1927, Prof. Garg obtained an MA in Applied Psychology from Patna University in 1952, and practiced in Ahmedabad as a psychologist for some years. He then moved to the University of California, Berkeley for further postgraduate studies, which he completed in 1963. He was Research Psychologist at the Institute of Human Development, University of California in 1964-65 and then taught at the California State College and the Central Washington State College (1965-68). Prof. Garg obtained his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley in 1969.

Very early in his career at the Institute, Prof. Garg developed two courses for the postgraduate programme, 'Careers, Roles and Identity' and 'Organization Structure', both of which proved to be student favourites. Another course identified with Prof. Garg was 'Interpersonal Relationships'. His 'Personal Growth Laboratories' were popular and students who attended them would recall, years later, how Prof. Garg, by forcing them to re-examine themselves, had contributed to their development. He was very generous and used to respond to student requests for 'sensitivity training' outside the formal curriculum, with the students bearing their own lodging and boarding expenses. His courses were at that time seen as "unconventional". He also taught the foundational Organizational Behaviour courses, and advanced doctoral-level courses.

His approach, broadly based in experience-based learning, and drawing its theoretical inspiration from thinkers such as Freud, Erik Erikson, Carl Rogers and others, focused on what is known as "process work"-learning about small group processes through intensive feelings-level interaction. In his research, he also used standard instruments such as the California Personality Inventory and other attitude and behaviour inventories, the Thematic Apperception Test, and the Rorschach Test extensively. But he drew on non-Western traditions of self-enquiry to develop his own blended approach that relied on the "clinical open-ended pattern" interview, and a variety of inventories, to understand people. Between 1980 and 1985 Prof. Garg studied the Yoga Sutras, especially the parts dealing with antaranga sadhana (inner transformation). He sought to learn Yoga from Shri Desikachar and his father Yogacharya Krishnamacharya in Chennai, and in dialogue with Shri Desikachar explored the parallels between his process-work and the antaranga sadhana of Yoga Sutra to evolve his understanding of the human psyche and the 'self'. This later resulted in Prof. Garg's formulation of the principles of his process work, which he titled The Aphorisms of Process Work.

He was always keen to discuss his "own approach and theory" with others; for instance, in 1975, during a three-month long visit to the European Institute of Business Administration, the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and Manchester Business School, he gave 15 seminars for British, French and Dutch trainers. His work with students on the 'identity crisis' they were facing led to the first proposal for a personal, academic, and career counselling centre at the Institute. His rapport with his students extended to invitations to the boisterous parties he held on the occasion of 'Holi'.

Using his methods, he studied, usually in collaboration with other faculty members, the impact of IIMA education on its graduates, the profiles of management trainees in some private firms, and the entrepreneurial styles of successful entrepreneurs in relation to their personality profiles-this driven by his belief that it was necessary to counter the "tradition in India of successful businessmen getting biographies written in eulogizing form." The data generated from the course 'Careers, Roles and Identity' led to a book Profiles in identity (with Indira Parikh, 1976). Some of the books and monographs that he wrote with Indira Parikh are Values design and development of strategic organizations (1987), Approaches to institution building (1991), Transition in Indian society: The emotive maps from the agrarian ethos and Transition in Indian society: Constituents of technological industrial society (1992), Crossroads of culture: A study in the culture of transience (1995), and Young managers at the crossroads: The Trishanku complex (1993).

Prof. Garg was also active in executive education; 'Role, Stress and Coping Strategy for Managers'; 'Management Processes and their Cultural Contexts'; and 'Young Executives in the Making' were popular programmes. He also consulted with a variety of organizations such as Arvind Mills, DCM, Hindustan Construction Ltd., Bharat Coking Coal Ltd., Bombay Dyeing and Manufacturing Company, Lalbhai Group of Mills, Glaxo Laboratories, Department of Atomic Energy, Gujarat Refineries, State Bank of India, Voltas and RBI Banking Training College.

The Institute's culture has always allowed its faculty members the freedom to explore alternative institutional forms in their areas of specialization outside the institute-Prof. Garg's institution building efforts are best exemplified by two organizations, the Indian Society for Applied Behavioral Sciences, and later in the early 1980s, the Indian Society for Individual and Social Development, which attracted a number of behavioural science practitioners. Some of them have gone on to develop their own organizations. He was also ready to help, mostly pro bono, organizations that requested his help. He conducted a number of programmes for, or assisted in other ways, quite a few organizations such as the Society of Jesus, a religious order of the Catholic Church; the B. M. Institute of Mental Health in Ahmedabad; the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad; and the Ahmedabad Study and Action Group, a nongovernmental development organization of which he was also a founder-trustee.

At the Institute, Prof. Garg was quite vocal on institutional matters and though he was, as he himself described it, seen as a "dissenter", the culture allowed people like him to contribute to the deliberative openness that characterized the Institute. Prof. Garg passed away on January 18, 2002. A tribute paid to him by Indira Parikh in the February 2002 issue of IIMA Alumnus captures how his students (and possibly others) saw him: "Pulin evoked a response-be that of love, adoration, adulation, homage, devotion or anger, exasperation and hate…Pulin was committed to growth of human beings. To him each moment was the totality of human existence."

Date of Birth: September 27, 1927