Strategy is... a look at strategy in the UAE before 1971

My Strategy class starts up next week - this will be a ten week intensive course after the students' internships to cap off their undergraduate degree in business.

As regular readers of this blog know I love strategy - and my goal is for my students to love it as much as me - and be able to use it in their lives, their organisations and their future work with their communities.

This blogpost is about their first assignment - yes, it's an essay (bonus points for those who guessed). The purpose of this essay is to find out what strategy was before the UAE became the UAE in 1971... with this I hope students can think of how to adapt from the past, combine with some Western theory and come up with a personal strategy suited for here - the culture, the environment and the societal goals of Emirati (which, from reading about 60 of these essays so far, has not changed much).

The students' task is to interview someone over 60 years old and ask them how things were and how they planned and organised and survived - over 60 because I want them to have been old enough to remember what it was like when the seven Emirates were brought together... this wisdom needs to be captured and written down, or these stories could be forgotten...

A normal complaint it that people don't use the word strategy and won't understand what it means - I say to that - "I know" - explain what strategy is in their words, listen to their stories and make the links between the theory presented in class and what your interviewee is saying...

I haven't sat down to analyse the results of the previous essays - but I will when this batch is handed in. I can tell you that he basic strategy was survival - but not personal survival - survival of family, tribe and community. I heard that one time an interviewee was out fishing for days, but returned with little to sell - so he jumped in his car and became an "on the spot" cab driver.

One student discovered his Dad had been a pearl diver when he was very young, another that his grandfather had travelled to many countries in the region trading ... now we could say there was a diversified strategy in place, that changed with the seasons... and camels really were the ships of the desert...

I am looking forward to this semester's essays... and hearing the stories first hand of what it was like... and seeing the students learn from the past and adapt those lessons for the future.

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