Last Thursday we had the class presentations for BUS 402 (Strategy) on their "Teaching Strategy through Legends" assignment. I was really blown away and learned more in those two hours than I have in a long time. The stories, legends and people the students wrote about were well chosen - there are so many lessons we can learn from the past, to teach us good "strategies" for the here and now.
I took photos of each group (I asked permission to tweet them and to write about them) and will hopefully have a lot more to write (maybe a book???) when I get their reports and the reports from next term's class... But here is a snap-shot of the legends and the major "take aways" from each. (I hate the expression take away, but I know other people seem to like it - why not say moral, or lesson or something less jargony?)
The Wizard Legend
Fahad and Khaled presented (Essa is on haj!) a legend from Fujairah (Emirate on the Indian Ocean) that is perhaps true, perhaps used to scare kids, perhaps used to fully explain why wizardry is wrong. In an unnamed town in Fujairah there was a wizard who wanted to be all powerful (names withheld because there are people in town from the same village) and asked a Genie how he could be ALL POWERFUL. He was told he had to sacrifice (and eat) his oldest daughter - so he cursed her and tried everything he could to do it - but he failed and died a miserable, lonely and outcast old man.
The story can be used to teach about vision and mission - when your vision is clouded by evil intentions then no matter what you will do, you will fail in the end. Also, on a personal level - being powerful should not be your end goal (if it is, you will lose more than you gain).
Khalid bin Al Waleed - The Sword of Allah
This legend made me realize that I need to read up on this person before the next Strategy class. He is used to teach military tactics and strategy in schools around the world - and I had only briefly heard of him. (They choose him I think after I presented about Clauswitz and Sun Tzu ...) There are two particular battles he is known for - one before he converted to Islam and the other after. The Battle of Uhad was won when Khalid attacked from the rear and siezed the high gorund that had been secured.
The second, after Khalid had converted to Islam, was the battle of Mu'tah where against 200,000 enemies Khalid led 3,000 men to victory by deceiving the enemy to think his force was much larger, well rested and gaining reserves by the day. (See photo below) This of course brought up many lessons about how small companies can sometimes be so agile and resourceful that they can seem to be everywhere!
The lesson that Mansour, Khalifah, Ebrahim and Nawwaf wanted the other students to learn was that being "smaller" does not mean that you are doomed to lose, with the right strategy, supporting tactics and a disciplined operational strategy almost anything is possible!
|The Battle of Mu'tah|
Ahmad Bin Majid: a RAK Sailor
The reasons these three students choose this legend was of course that they themselves are from Ras al Khaimah. Ahmad is also known as the Lion of the Seas and came from a family of sailors and continued the tradition sailing in the Indian Ocean and Red Sea. He is also known for his book "Book of Useful Information on the Principles and Rules of Navigation" and his work with Rhumb lines. He was not just a sailor, but a scientist and studied all he could in several different languages - he went into the unknown as well prepared as he could be. Of course this legend could be used to teach the importance of research and of weighing the risks before heading off into the unknown!
|Ali, Saeed and Mohamed dressed as sailors from RAK!|
Akida bin Ali Al Muhairi: Traditional Medicine Healer
This project was done by students who know me, my interest in all thing traditional and traditional medicine well. This story is about Mr. Akida, who in 2011 was awarded an "Abu Dhabi Award" for his contribution to society. Mr. Akida was born early in the 20th century in Al Ain and was taught about medicinal herbs and plants from his grandmother and also traveled abroad to learn from traditional medical practices in India and Bahrain.
He is an expert in Al Hajama (or cupping with a little bit of blood letting) that is very popular here to treat many illnesses. He is also an expert in "ironing" or branding to stimulate the immune system and increase the production of red blood cells. The teaching of this legend is that we should all work hard for the common good and practice and understand how our skills can contribute to the grater good and to pass on what we know to others. Of course, I would use this story when I teach about knowing our own competencies (whether organisational or individual) and understanding how our competencies fit with the needs of our organisation.
|Mussabeh, Khaled and Saif|
Saeed Mohamed Al Neyadi: Turning bad luck to good
This trio of Ahmed, Humaid and Abdullah, presented the story of Abdullah's late grandfather, a well known businessman from Al Ain. Mr. Saeed was born in the 1930s in Al Ain and at the time there was not much work available - so as a young husband he left for Saudi Arabia when he heard in the village there were well paying jobs there. He left with his friend Sultan and their two camels - and through stops in several small villages, wadis and near drowning and thieves on the road - he arrived at the ship and left for Saudi. When he got to Saudi he found that there were none of the rumored jobs and so returned to Al Ain - making connections along the way. However, when he returned to Al Ain he started to use the friends and connections he made on his voyage to trade dates in Duabi for wheat and rice to sell in Al Ain.
This story can teach us many things about being prepared to face the dangers and struggles of business (and life) and about the importance of establishing networks outside of the private sphere. It also demonstrate the need to pick your team wisely... you will need them!
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan: a Father, Leader and Legend
This is how the group described Sheikh Zayed, the late founding President of the UAE. "He was a father before a leader, a man of action not only of words". The vision and achievements of Sheikh Zayed echo until today - he believed in investing in people and that the real wealth of his country was not oil, but its people. The group showed two videos I had not seen before - demonstrating the importance Sheikh Zayed gave to hard work and individual responsibility and at the same time his willingness to provide all that was needed for success.
I use videos from Sheikh Zayed to teach many things in my Strategy class - this group wanted people to learn about the importance of having a strong, clear vision and then a determination to achieve "the impossible", the importance of strong leadership and the importance of caring for the people around you.
|Sultan, Saif, Yasser and Khalid|
Salem bin Saeed Al Mutawa - a Teacher and Grandfather
Walid and Abdullah presented the story of a teacher from Ras al Khaimah who eventually settled in Sharjah and is known as a great educator, judge and humanitarian. As a young man Salem was sent to Bahrain for education to become a teacher - when he returned he settled in Sharjah where he was a teacher of the Koran, mathematics, Arabic and writing. He was also a judge for disputes. He taught everyone and believed in the importance of education for all and of teaching what we know to the next generation.
Teaching, transferring and exchanging knowledge, is a key element of strategy formulation and the operational success of any strategy. Knowledge is power only when it is shared and taught to others. Abdullah's grandfather's story teaches us these lessons in a powerful and interesting way.
Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud: Saudi King
King Faisal was the Saudi King known for modernization of the Kingdom and oversaw balancing the budget. Abdullah and Khalid presented about King Faisal's overseas experience and his diplomacy and his support for fellow Arabs.
The lessons they wanted us to learn were about the importance of knowing about the outside world first hand - or knowing the competition to better compete with them.
So now you know more about Emirati legends than when you began reading - I hope it makes you want to read more about this interesting country, its culture and people. I also would like you readers to know that teaching strategy isn't just be about case studies and powerpoint presentations - each context requires new tools (tactics) and different assignments so that the goal of learning about strategy to better manage organisations in the future is achieved.
Smile and courage, Dr. Connie