The Future of Work
and Organisation Development


Transcendence is an annual, international conference on organisation development (OD), change and leadership organised by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). In 2019, Transcendence will be held from December 12 to 14 at the TISS Convention Centre in Mumbai.

The design of Transcendence 2019 is truly unique. We have invited faculty and scholars from the leading B-Schools of Asia to submit their latest research. We are also seeking cases of exceptional OD practice from organisations in India. Submissions from both categories (research papers and cases of OD projects) that meet the desired criteria will be accepted for presentation.

These selected research papers and OD cases will be presented on December 12 where both industry professionals and academicians will be present. On December 13 and 14, specially curated sessions will be held at the TISS convention centre. These sessions will showcase the latest ideas, experiences and organisational transformations through interactions with invited speakers: management thinkers, eminent business leaders and OD gurus.

The best research papers and the best cases of OD projects received at Transcendence 2019 will be recognised through awards and publications.

  • Cases of OD projects submitted by organisations will be considered for the first OD Excellence Awards (ODEA). The submissions will be evaluated by an eminent jury of independent or former Directors of company Boards. Select cases will be developed as educational case studies and published in a leading international case collection.
  • Selection of the best research papers will be guided by an editorial  advisory board with current and former professors from IIM-A, IIM-B, ISB, IISc, MDI and TISS. The best of these research papers will be published in a volume of the Springer Proceedings in Business and Economics.

Our intention behind designing Transcendence in the above manner is to help (i) forge connections between the worlds of research and of practice, and to (ii) build OD as a scientific discipline that makes a tangible difference to organisations and the world.

If your work involves strategy, change management, entrepreneurship, human resources, innovation, learning & leadership development — or any aspect of OD — then this conference would be valuable to you and your organisation.

  • For information about submission of research papers, please click here
  • For information about submission of cases for the OD Excellence Awards, please click here
  • To buy a delegate pass and reserve your seat for the conference, please click here

To encounter the best of OD in the Asian region — and to engage in OD as a science and as practice — please register and attend all three days of the conference.

Theme & Tracks

The Future of Work and Organisation Development

The  topic of the Future of Work and the discipline of Organisation Development (OD) are inter-related for three crucial reasons. First, organisations have become a dominant feature of our world. Never before have as many people spent as much of their lives working in organisations as today. 

Second, we are seeing dramatic changes in how work is being done across sectors including manufacturing, farming, infrastructure and services. In particular, work undertaken by humans is speedily moving to technology. It is not only jobs involving routine operations that are being digitised, but also jobs that deliver complex analyses and decision making. The dawn of the present era of cyber-physical systems is heralded by connectivity between machines, developments in computational semantics & natural language processing, and advancements in data sciences.

Third, global corporations have become more powerful than entire nations. For example, Walmart’s revenue of 2017 was more than Belgium’s GDP of 2016 while the combined revenues of the top-ten, privately-owned, global Fortune 500 corporations in 2017, was more than India’s GDP in that year. 

The cumulative effect of these trends is that organisational actions will determine not only organisational performance, not merely the fulfilment of individuals, but the very survival of our planet. 

OD is important in this unprecedented context because it is the means to navigating and building responsible and effective organisations.


Sessions at Transcendence 2019 are being designed along six tracks or focus areas:

There is no generally accepted definition of OD. Historically, OD has been identified with individuals-and group-centred transformation. In this tradition, the focus has been on emotions, self-discovery, relationships, freedom, choice, rationality, and responsibility. Hence the methods employed have included T-groups, human-growth labs, interactive processes, learning, coaching & mentoring. The primary assumption in this mainstream approach is that when individuals transform they can transform organisations.

On the other hand, proponents of systems thinking, chaos theory, cybernetics, complexity and quantum theory have also laid claim to OD. These latter approaches are based on the view that performance is the outcome of the system (i.e., the organisation). Hence, in this tradition, OD includes purpose, strategy, goals, innovation, technology, structure, culture, and other meso- and macro- level organisational features.

This conference aims to showcase a range of conceptual and field-based work about what constitutes OD. The purpose of this theme is to build a contemporary definition of OD — to define the broad contours of the discipline and its subject-matter; to consider the relationship between human resources (HR) development and OD — and to explore how best to align and utilise the expertise of all those who work as insiders and outsiders in this field.

One of the hallmarks of the fourth industrial revolution is unprecedented innovation in business models. Here, the innovation is not about products/services — rather, it is in the forms of organisations that are producing and delivering those products/services to customers. These include network/virtual organisations, social ventures, public-private partnerships, crowd sourcing, farmer-producer companies — and strange multi-party and cross-over alliances.

New business models are emerging because labour arbitrage, and other traditional factors of production, are no longer the key drivers of competitive advantage. We are increasingly seeing the value of information arbitrage and relational arbitrage. Companies like Amazon, Oyo, and Uber, epitomise these new organisational forms where the lines between supplier, producer, and even customer, are being blurred.  Some of these new forms of organisations are observed in India and other Asian countries. These organisations are hard to classify. They do not observe traditional notions of performance or of competitive advantage, or even norms of demand and supply. They do uncommon things like genuinely collaborating and sharing returns with competitors. They are not obsessed with size and they place upper limits to their own growth. They operate like start-ups but are unconcerned with valuations. They are the formless organisation. 

And as we move into a world where routine operations/processes will be accomplished by technology, it is likely that economic surplus will be measured in units of time. And humans will pass this time engaged in artistic work that is performed in formless organisations — aptly called the ‘gig economy’. In this context, Transcendence aims to showcase examples and possibilities on the future of work and of organisational forms.

This track involves two traditions that are based on the idea that the ‘whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. One tradition is concerned with how intra-organisational structures affect organisational culture and performance. Here, the core assumptions are that if we put an exceptional individual in a bad system, then the system is likely to win. That normal people produce extraordinary results in well-designed organisations. That sooner or later, organisations modify the personalities of people working in them. In other words, as the design and structures of an organisation are changed, its performance changes and so do its culture and its people. Intra-organisational structures include (i) methods of work, (ii) technology, (iii) rules and plans, (iv) how work is arranged and co-ordinated, and (v) the rewards that people receive. For example, aspects such as quality management, TPM, lean systems, JIT, six sigma, and agile arrangements are internal structures that affect organisational culture and performance.

The second tradition is about how external structures (technical and social) influence organisations. Organisations cannot escape advances in technology, especially those that are shaping the digital economy (e.g. artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning, big data, analytics and visualisation, automation and robotics). Similarly, social structures such as country demographics also shape organisational performance. In Asia there are countries with extreme age profiles. On the one hand, countries like Japan and South Korea have ageing populations … and on the other, nations including Bangladesh, Indonesia and Philippines have youthful populations. And, some Asian countries are quickly moving from the youthful to the ageing category; for example, by 2030, more than 25 per cent of the populations of China and Thailand will be over 60 years of age. These shifting patterns influence retirement age, immigration, social security and a host of other factors.

In this scenario, OD scholars and practitioners from Asian countries have much to learn from each other. Transcendence 2019 seeks to showcase organisational transformations that are based on techno-structural interventions and organisational responses to external structural change.

Business has been criticised for excessive focus on short-term, quarterly financial performance. In recent years, the calls for longer-term perspectives, innovation, and sustainable performance have grown louder. To be able to develop companies and their performance, we should first agree on the role and responsibilities of a company in society.

There is a view that Indian regulations on corporate responsibility are amongst the most progressive. Here, the context is not CSR (corporate social responsibility), but the primary responsibilities of a business. For example, in 2018, the Indian government called for public feedback to nine principles of corporate responsibility. These are expected to be put into law and are radical for India. For example, principle 7 acknowledges that companies will lobby to influence society and governments — and that any such activity should be transparent and included in public disclosures.

We believe that the law sets the minimum standard. Over the longer term, only those corporations that demonstrate greater responsibility than what the law demands, will survive and perform better. In the above context, Transcendence 2019 calls for perspectives that redefine business responsibilities and performance from multiple-stakeholder perspectives.

In recent years, there has been much progress in matters of diversity and inclusion. However, companies are among the least democratic social institutions. Despite the romanticism of OD gurus with practices such as co-creation, self-managed teams, leaderless teams, and so on —  mainstream approaches have been occupied with more basic concepts. These concepts have included employee satisfaction, participation, involvement, engagement, inclusion — but not democracy. On the other hand, in many parts of the world, the labour movement has been emasculated. It seems as if corporations have seamlessly moved from an era of industrial disputes and collective bargaining — to a reality of non-unionised factories and worker-less organisations. The weakening of the worker’s movement is an outcome of contracting, outsourcing, virtual organisations, and various mechanisms that have informalised work. 

Yet, we also see organisations where employees are asserting their collective power. Much of this employee ‘activism’ has been enabled by the internet and social media. Strangely, Google which has led the world’s access to free information, is a good example of employees exerting influence on matters of business strategy — and also of the willingness of its leaders to listen to the voice of its people. Interestingly, in 1970, Prof. Ishwar Dayal had written “Are democratic values (often equated with participative practices) the panacea in an industrial organization? Are these values preferred on humanistic grounds or are they desirable on pragmatic considerations? Further, what does democracy mean in an industrial setting?” This trend towards democratisation is also reflected in episodes of activism by shareholders, suppliers, customers and the community.

For this track, Transcendence 2019 seeks conceptual papers and empirical research on matters related to diversity and inclusion, employee activism and aspirations, and democratised corporations. 

In the last fifty years, humanity has made great strides against poverty. This is also an era when the most populous countries of the world are reaping the ‘age’ dividend. Further, due to advancements in healthcare, people are living longer. So, in countries where fewer people are hungry, more people are young, and most will live longer —  one might imagine that organisations are more focussed on the longer term. However, the attention in corporations seems to be on near-term goals. This focus is not only about short-term financial performance, but is also reflected in trends such as instant feedback.

In contrast to popular organisational trends, it is important to recognise that most actions have unintended consequences. These latent (often adverse) outcomes are noticeable in the longer-term. When we see distant time-horizons we can better appreciate the interests and perspectives of diverse stakeholders. So, organisations should consider temporal perspectives not only as they set vision and purpose, but also as they work at their strategy and day-to-day operations. And, leaders should be able to look ahead and enable others to see the longer-term — even the distant future. 

Importantly, in this process of being inspired by the future and of managing the transition to that future, leaders will need to demonstrate qualities that are consistent with longer time-horizons — qualities such as equanimity, forgiveness, patience and gratitude. Hence, Transcendence 2019 seeks research and cases about new approaches to leadership and change management — and of how we can build the leadership for the future.

Conference Objectives

To outline the changing paradigms of business across the world with focus on Asia. To demonstrate the value of OD to these new
paradigms of work and

To take stock of approaches to OD, definitions, interventions and their successes and failures. To consolidate and share knowledge by initiating the documentation of OD experiences and research in Asia.

To formulate the innovations required in approaches and interventions in OD including the work that needs to be done to develop OD facilitators. To impress CEOs and CXOs about the use of OD for the future.

Conference Partners

Conference Advisory Team

Lee-Hsing Lu

Lee-Hsing Lu

Associate Dean, Assumption University

President AODN (2011) Chair of AODN Summits in 2007, 2011, 2016 (China)

Neville Lobo

Neville Lobo

Management Consultant
Noel Machado

Noel Machado

Advisor: Industry-Academia Collaboration, CSOL, TISS

Convenor, Transcendence 2019

Roland Sullivan

Roland Sullivan

OD Guru

Co-Founder AODN

Sasmita Palo

Sasmita Palo

Dean, School of Management & Labour Studies, TISS
TV Rao

TV Rao

Founder & Chairman, TVRLS

Mentor & Guide, Transcendence 2019

Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) and Organisation Development (OD)

The Centre for Social & Organisational Leadership (CSOL) at TISS is at the forefront of teaching, research and practice of OD in India. We offer a Masters programme in OD, Change & Leadership at Mumbai and Hyderabad. We also offer Executive programmes in OD & Change at Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru. More information please visit the CSOL pages.