Sunday, May 6, 2007

A house divided

No disrespect, but when Kuseni Dlamini of Richard Bay Coal Terminal walked into the seminar room, someone should have warned us that we were on a serious collision path… or better still, sounded a war-cry. This eloquent speaker provoked us, challenged us, and quite frankly, I was taken aback by some of the unexamined views and positions I hold on various global issues.

We discussed globalisation and its impact on business. We also talked about value-driven corporate culture and the need for organisations to unlearn outdated ways of doing business and learn new competitive ways if they plan to thrive in the dynamic global business environment. We agreed that the changing global landscape presented opportunities for business… look at how the Chinese have fong-konged the world.

Anyway, what started out as a discussion on the challenges facing leaders in a rapidly changing business environment turned out to be a heated debate on ‘self interest’ at both the national and personal level.

Of course, no discussion on national self interest can be complete without discussing good ol’ U.S of A. Most of the class wondered in whose name and national interest the U.S had attacked Iraq. We (there I go exposing my biases) felt that the U.S was behaving like a school yard bully controlling the world with an iron fist (and a few bombs).

Two schools of thought emerged in the room. On the one hand, there was the Machiavellian camp who thought that for God and Country, there was no limit to what one could do in the name of national interest. Then there was the ‘other’ (my) group, who thought that if left untamed, self or national interest mutated itself into corruption, exploitation and domination of the weaker by the stronger.

Even though I still hold my position that self interest should not be realised at any price, the thought-provoking discussion forced me to re-examine some of the ideas and assumptions that I peddle around.

Setting the captive free

On my bedroom wall... hangs a priceless Picasso.

Wait a minute, before you dismiss me with a casual “so what?” allow me to tell you how this little beauty found its way into my room...

At the WoW seminars, which is where I have been spending most of my time lately, there is hardly ever a dull moment. You see, we tackle a myriad of topical issues and engage in intellectually stimulating debates most of the times. However, if you had strayed into the Graduate School seminar room last Thursday, you would have been forgiven for thinking that Wits had taken its social responsibility portfolio a notch higher by providing Day Care for the children of the staff members.

The place looked like a kindergarten class. There were crayons, coloured paper, scissors, glue, glitter, wrapping paper… all over the floor. For nearly half an hour, we cut, we pasted, we drew, we glued… Our first production depicted our inner critic. Believe me, the images in the room were non-descript and generally quite boring!

Then, we were commissioned to draw pictures that portrayed our creative side. This was when the masterpieces were born. Our collective creative juices started flowing freely and flamboyantly, we were unstoppable. In fact, there were at least two artists in the room whose illustrations were 3-dimensional. Maxwell took it a step further and spun a complete narrative on his canvas. … I felt like a child gone wild with excitement or perhaps it was more like a prisoner tasting freedom after years of incarceration…

Interesting how believing in oneself, one's abilities as well as a positive attitude can change one's whole perception of life. Roy pointed out that there is a need to break out of the rule-bound thinking, and that playing is fun and a great motivator. For me, there is no looking back. I am now on a journey to re-discover my wildly creative side. Let freedom reign… yipeeee!!!

P.S: For all you art collectors out there (and those who appreciate the finer things in life), this particular masterpiece will not be up for sale any time soon…

Eating an elephant

RIDDLE: How do you eat an elephant?
RESPONSE: Bit by bit

Allow me to draw from the rich reservoir that is the well of age-old African traditional wisdom. (Can you hear quiet echoes from Professor Lovemore Mbigi’s lecture?)

Let me blog this mental note before it slips my mind: I should read up on how he incorporates Ubuntu and African culture into the world of business…(oops, that is me thinking aloud).

Before I wade all over the place, let me re-trace my thoughts back to the beginning and allow the elephant back into the room (and discussion). Where I come from, when life throws a curve ball in your direction, and the problem seems insurmountable, we generally say,“things are elephant”. We also understand that resolving a huge problem takes time and it is best tackled in small little steps.

Roy verbalised the problem solving strategy that is implied in this riddle in 4-step process:-
a) Call the problem by its name and prepare the necessary tools and resources needed to resolve it. At this point, it is also important to set deadlines; (GET READY)
b) Randomly identify the various components and possible solutions to the problem; (FIRE)
c) Draw a step-by-step process of how to resolve the problem. Prioritise the process by starting with the easier steps and progressing towards the more difficult steps;( AIM)
d) Implement your plan by effecting the solution outlined in step (c)above; (ACTION).

Chomp, chomp, chomp… and voila, the complete beast is gone!