(More) Teaching Strategy through Legends and Stories: the Presentations

Yesterday was this term's presentation of teaching strategy through legends and stories. The blog post on the first term's presentations available here

Of course they were awesome... and I learned a lot about the UAE, how my students think of the world and that Aladdin had more than a magic lamp going for him... and it got me thinking of how to incorporate these legends/stories even when I go back to Canada (eventually). Some even challenged some ingrained mental models of history (that Aladdin drove out the Crusaders is seen as a good thing here... awk, panic, awk.... smile!)

Grandfather, teacher, story-teller and healer
The first presentation spoke of a man who was also spoken about in the first term - Mr. Akeeda Al Nuhairi - of course this term his grandson was on the research team. They focused on the stories he teaches his children and grandchildren - and it was fascinating. The lesson of the stories he would tell were about using and understanding nature and traditional knowledge to understand and succeed in the the present. The legend of Bin Sqhan's ghaf tree was interesting - about respecting nature - as the tree is at the court round about in Al Ain...

Another military "strategic guru" I had not heard of...

Saif ad-Din Qutuz started as a slave and ended up as a vice-Sultan...his most famous battle was the battle of Ain Jalut, where he used hit and run tactics to provoke the Mongol troops (or hoards as I am more familiar thinking of them as) by making the most of the synergy of his troops/divisions, using innovative new weapons (in an innovative way) and through determination. What can I say? The group demonstrated they "got" what I have been teaching and then taught me something new - can a professor ask for more?

The three finger hand salute was started by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid to support the (now awarded) Expo 2020 bid
I have been "harping" on about strategic execution this term... for many reasons, but mainly because many great visions and strategic plans fail because the "execution" is left in the hands of people who should not even be trusted  buying groceries to make dinner for guests! (I could say so much here but won't) This group looked into the Federal Government Performance Management System launched by His Highness called Adaa 2.0 to follow and track the implementation of UAE Vision 2021. A very well researched presentation of a well-thought out program... En'shallah the program is itself "executed" with the same care and attention taken in its development.

Diversifying the economy and continuing with the historical tradition of trading...
The military has a long and storied tradition in this country and region. Trade too has been the lifeblood of the economy for centuries. Now, recent strategies in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi support developing a weapons manufacturing industry to diversify the economy and for use in the Emirati armed forces, but also for sale to armies around the world... A two-for one strategy that works towards achieving the vision of the country and Emirate. (P.S. Saeed basically got a standing ovation from the class for some PowerPoint wizardry - bravo!)

Learning about sustainability through the story of Sheikh Zayed starting a conservation program in the 60s
Teaching strategy isn't just about the best way to maximize profits and establish competitive advantage in the market (well at least not in my classroom). It is about remembering that any strategy developed and implemented needs to think about sustainability - of the environment, economy, society and culture (especially in a time of globalization when cultures risk becoming homogeneous). The oryx is an important animal in the region... the legend has it that after a hunting trip in the 1960s where many oryx were killed and then not eaten, Sheikh Zayed knew that something had to be done to preserve this great animal - or it would risk going extinct. He then established Sir Bani Yas Island (read about a trip we took to the island here) and as a protective breeding zone for oryx and other animals indigenous to the region. Animals from this program have been used to reintroduce oryx in Jordan - where they had disappeared from over-hunting and destruction of habitat. Well planned out visions are never realized overnight - they require adequate resources, dedication and determination to see them become reality.

Sheikh Zayed the First  and his strategy to manage internal and external conflict
Sheikh Zayed the First was born around 1840 and ruled Abu Dhabi for 54 years until his death in 1909. At the time he dealt with much internal conflict of warring tribes in the Emirate itself and external conflict from military threats from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. To "solve" the internal conflicts he established a distributed power arrangement - with a chosen Sheikh in control of Al Ain and another in the Western Region (from separate tribes). To deal with the external threats he developed alliances with more friendly nations such as Oman... to join their resources to defend against a bigger "organisation". Another presentation where I learned a little more about the fascinating history of the UAE.

Alladin has more to teach us than about making wise wishes :)
Last, but not least was a presentation about Alladin (or rather Salaheddin Yousef Al Ayoubi) who drove out the Crusaders through clever military tactics, patience and finally mercy to the conquered forces and their families. The Battle of Hattin started the push to win back Jerusalem on July 4, 1187. Alladin (sorry I will use his Western name... I cannot destroy all my mental models in one fell swoop) used the hottest time of the year to use weather and geography to his advantage - first he captured or secured all nearby water sources, then waited and waited and then attacked! Again, he used small forces and quick attacks to make the enemy think he was just part of a group of bandits... He also would warn cities before he laid siege to them - surrender and you will be spared... there is also the story that when Richard the Lion-hearted lost his horse in battle,  Alladin sent one to him. It is better to be honorable in competition and respect the "enemy".

Really quite excellent presentations and the best part was that they demonstrated they have been paying attention in class, that they are able to do research that interests them to show me that they understood what I am teaching them and they showed me that they will be able to use the strategic process again when they will be required to in the future.

I am a happy professor :)

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