Diploma in Strategy and Innovation
Nothing beats summer in Oxford, or Cambridge for that matter (both are equally beautiful, and though I am partial to Oxford, I was pretty enamored with Cambridge…the only way to tell them apart is by the vast number of scurrying bicycles! Bicycles are actually so prominent that streets are closed to drivers (except on Sundays). I especially enjoyed the competitiveness in dance and the intense rivalry between the two schools – in order to take a private class at Cambridge, I had to formally declare that I did not compete for Oxford! This is also the reason I made sure I wore everything Oxford-related while marveling at the landscape and beauty of Cambridge. Unfortunately, Oxford came second this year in Blackpool…game on for next year! Below is a “happy jive” picture and Cambridge’s beautiful landscape:
Globalization lectures were tough. The readings were a long, dense mix of political science intermingled with Chinese history and emerging markets. They’re fascinating subjects. If only I had more time to prepare… Our class came alive with performances by a few charismatic classmates who were unforgettable and hilarious. Everyone relaxed as we grew to know each other, making for an entertaining and energizing learning atmosphere. Professor Samel found a way to connect and engage with us all, a brilliant and captivating lecturer, who lost no one.
Thanks to our Associate Dean Kathy Harvey, we were presented with a four-hour “mock case”, which I will never forget. We were led into a specially arranged room where each of us were assigned to different organizational bodies – the Indian Parliament, NGOs, FDA, British Parliament, Media, Special Interest groups and others. Zastra, a British pharmaceutical giant was conducting clinical drug trials in India, where it suddenly became apparent that pregnant women involved in the trials began dying rapidly. A sudden and high incidence of heart attacks was reported amongst the healthy, raising issues around consent and drug administration.
We barely had a few minutes to nominate ourselves into key roles and read through the brief. I was nominated to be in the most fitting position for me of all – as, Madame Modi, the Prime Minister of India! My few minutes of fame met complete lack of preparation! At the front of the room was a simulated news feed in the form of a flicker where every 30 minutes or so, a new “emergency” broke out, to which we, bounded by our roles, had to appropriately respond. To say that from a policy and “mayhem” management perspective things got very complicated for me would be an understatement! But whoa, what a learning treat! I had to fight off the British Prime Minister (remember, Brexit just happened, so that was not easy), deal with the FDA, ward off the NGOs, deal with lobbyists, stop special interest groups from brewing scandals around me, respond to the media, someone was hounding me for information, demanding time and attention. There literally was no room to hide.
I felt I did not have a moment to breathe, pause, learn, reflect, think or ask questions. I could only pretend because not surprisingly, I had absolutely zero clue as to what I was doing! My only saving grace, and a huge source of comfort, was my private secretary, Mohammadou, who happens to be the private secretary to the Prime Minister of Azerbaijan in real life! Despite having the greatest tutor imaginable for the world’s most unprepared Prime Minister in training, I failed miserably. Though I was kicking myself for all the things I could have done better, it taught me tremendous deal and I am forever grateful for the privilege, the experience, for the support and for the fact that it was not real. Upon reflection, what was most interesting was the effect that a sudden emblem of power can have on you: it fundamentally changes you in an instant.
President Obama was right when he said that if your core values are not in check, then being in power will only magnify that lack of alignment a hundred fold. That principle tested me outright. I wanted to have the time to think who I was and think what kind of Prime Minister I wanted to be, when the reality of dealing with ongoing crises was quite different, I lacked any footing. It takes a duty with a calling, backed by a lifetime of preparation which is to say that when there is a fit, you push and challenge yourself to grow and become comfortable in the uncomfortable…. I appreciated how relationships, pressure, ambiguity, misleading and incomplete information, conflicting priorities can complicate one’s world in an international context. I also appreciated learning about all my weaknesses. It was a brilliantly designed experiment that I am forever grateful to my fellow Parliamentarians for nominating me for. Below is a picture of us:
On the fun side, amongst our shenanigans, we all went punting! We had absolutely gorgeous weather and it was particularly enjoyable watching the boys sweat, swear, and worry about tipping, and for us not to have anything to do at all!
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