I learned a very valuable lesson from my children recently.
No, not the lesson all parents learn, namely that they never listen to you, unless you threaten them with physical harm or bribe them into any form of action.
I had caught my 3 year old son doing something he was told not to do. When confronted by his actions, the conversation went something like this:
Me: “What are you doing? What ARE you doing?”
Him; “Talking to you”.
This straightforward answer, proving how much they only live in the moment, so clinical and almost unnervingly direct, showed me yet again how we have learned to hide behind words and sometimes read too much into what is said or not.
So here I go again.
I trust that the major theme from most of my postings has emerged as this:
My torpor. Yes, too much sand around me, too little time to count it, yet all the time in the world to keep myself amused by tapping away at a keyboard.
If anyone has ever required any proof that Einstein’s ‘Theory of Relativity’ does indeed exist, then Saudi Arabia is proof indeed. Now I don’t claim to understand the majority of what the Theory of Relativity is about, except in so far as it talks about the speed of light (a lot) and the effects that your relative position (in the universe) has on the space-time continuum, etc. and that somehow wormholes can exist which warps the space-time continuum and can effectively transport you very rapidly into another dimension.
In my case that dimension is Saudi Arabia and the 80’s, with a few remnants of the 70’s thrown in for good measure.
So this presents me with quite a unique dilemma. Just about everything I have learnt so far on this MBA course, has very little practical value in this environment. The Middle East. Look I don’t work for a multi national, so any form of connection to the real world is also lost. Just about the most practical model I have learnt is Porter’s 5 Forces Analysis (circa 1985). Yes, you could throw in the Value Chain Analysis (1980) thing as well, but then the key word is value, and we could argue for hours as to the meaning of that word, within this geographical context.
And yes, of course I try and make connections and comparisons, as best I can, and no, I am not being patronizing or condescending. Just a brutal realist.
Here are the cold harsh facts of the matter:
I am not here for:
(a) my health (remember no booze and no pork allowed)
(b) the weather (364 guaranteed days of sunshine a year) and
(c) because I am a tax exile;
but because I am being paid a relatively good package, not to be popular or pleasant, but to be right (most of the time). And if that sounds arrogant, then you are right: it is because I am being arrogant.
As a western trained manager, we are here to bridge a chasm. That chasm is the skills gap. If anyone has ever lived and worked in a developing country, then they’ll know exactly what I am talking about. Thus far I have dressed up this wolf, the skills gap, in the sheep’s clothing of culture. I am just making sure now that I call a spade a darned spade.
And as we are at this moment in time at an inflection point in our history, a short period of time during which we are able to re-imagine everything, (Tom Peters, Re-!magine, 2003), we are obliged to question the suppression of creativity within our education system. As we enter a period in business life where value is emerging from individual initiative and creativity, isn’t it sad that our education systems are a ‘thinly disguised conspiracy to quash creativity’ (Gordon MacKenzie, Orbiting the Giant Hairball).
Now, don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all negative out here. This place has certainly taught me a good few lessons about:
(b) Time and work-life balance
(c) The value of community
I have seen many western managers wither away and quickly depart around me, because they just couldn’t get behind the culture of this place. All gung-ho and fired up at the beginning, pushing and pulling organisations this way and that, quick fix turn-around strategies, and then they hit the brick wall, that wall being people. It’s all about Kaizen man. Slow, very slow, very tiny, very slow incremental steps towards improvement. If you don’t do it in the Kaizen fashion, you merely endanger yourself of becoming a dust storm in the desert. And these people have seen plenty of those come and go over the centuries. Believe me, this is no laughing matter. So relationships are what really underpins business and social discourse and hence, success.
Time, well there is always Einstein’s theories on this subject, but to add to this, time is relationship’s bedrock. It does take a long time to build up trust and in the meantime, while you wile away the time, enjoy the opportunity to get to know your family and friends a little better.
Which leads very nicely to the value of community lesson. Because we are in a, call it hostile, foreign environment, I find that true community values are probably the most precious by-product, which the artificial compound enclaves foster. Real friends made here are friends for life indeed. Doesn’t matter that you go your separate ways and grow apart, there will always be a bond of experience, a bond that will overcome time’s distorting effects on relationships and friendships.
And of course, it gives me plenty of time for trite posting, too
So, having written almost a thousand words on the subject of nothing, but trying to get across the idea of what my challenges are in relating the MBA knowledge and theory back to my situational context, I find myself practising my maths skills again. I effectively have a 20% deficit in word count, at the moment, to try and convince a marker and moderator that I have picked up the gist of the Henley MBA curriculum. But I haven’t even started to convey my message yet at this stage: It’s all about culture man! And yes, this is a serious rant! Again.
Please try and understand that in order to get anywhere close to matching the curriculum requirement, I am having to be very creative in making stuff up as I go along... even something as simple as market analysis data, for a situational analysis on market share and penetration of a product, presents something of a challenge. Also, don’t get me wrong, we don’t live in the dark ages over here, but some measure of scepticism is required in accepting as fact, data presented to you. (As a marketing manager pointed out to me recently, “We don’t believe the figures either, but at least if you assume they are vaguely correct, it is the trends you must identify, not the aggregate figures themselves”). So, in effect, my whole assignment approach is based on a house of precariously placed ASSUMPTION cards.
But fear not, I shall rise to the challenge and I declare my intent and assumptions very clearly: Read my assignment with a very lumpy grain of salt.
I shall learn to be more succinct, yet to quote my good friend Albert, for once:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge”. (Albert Einstein)
The end. For now.