Diploma in Strategy and Innovation
Inna Mal Am’malu Bin Niyyat, the outcome depends on the intent, ancient wisdom suggests.
For me, Oxford is a pilgrimage. A journey to one of the roots which define my own existence as a sentient being and this is my will-of-wish.
I have reasons to believe that we are practically at the end of an era and our idea of statehood and republics are, in all likelihood, heading towards a major shift, if not a paradigm shift, in the context of the evolution of mankind. I also have reasons to suspect that various types of networks – comprising ‘both’ institutions and individuals – would lead the way into how we conceive and perceive constructed identities and platonic ideals in an era when information, if not knowledge, is virtually free and freely available. Politics, economics, political economy, and both the physiology and the psychology of governance and nationhood are, possibly, heading towards a network-centric formation of ideas and issues – as opposed to exclusively ethnic or religious or even urban and rural identities for the greater part of the world. In matters of politics, particularly, east is meeting the west on turfs both in the east and in the west.
The nature and the contours of the networks which are coming up and which would possibly be coming up in the days ahead would be of serious interest to not only the academic but also the statesman and for that matter, to the center of existence, i.e., me – the individual, atomic, human-self. Several layers of consideration overlap and intersect into each other in forming the evaluations. Most notably among these, with a world where the individual, remote as may be, isolated as may be, or even marginal or peripheral as may appear to be, business and corporate interests, just as much as governments, are not in a position any more to relegate the interest of the individual to a peripheral position. Nor can it negate the international security and ecological considerations as a matter of the distant shores. The very concept of creating value, the raïson d’être of being a corporate body ought to take into account the rather complex concepts of equity, spread and distribution.
At a personal level, my journeys so far have been one of an incessant learning adventure interspersed with personal observations and experiences in reconciling and moving forward with differing and varying avenues of ideas, ideologies, interests and expectations of both individuals and institutions involved in the process.
May be this ambitious and somewhat utopian aspiration comes from the fact that, in retrospect, I see a parallel between the events of my life and the evolution of my country. And to put in context why my country might be of interest is to be reminded that it is situated at the confluence of at least two major civilizations – the Indian and the Chinese.
My childhood was spent in remote counter-insurgency zones. While the newly independent country was evolving from an authoritarian, foreign-aid dependent dictatorship into a self-reliant, free-market democracy, my parents, especially my mother, identified more with the troops and the units than to the relations that we had in the Capital. In addition to the exposure to superior technology, my definite takeaway was, as I can understand only now and in retrospect, the stories which defined our quotidian lives. Stories which the men and the regiments – and the people and the places where they were deployed, created and carried. The perceived call-of-duty, trust, honor, sacrifice, death and betrayal and the human roles behind each made my transition to a civilian life difficult, to say the least. When I look back at both myself and the actors around me after so many years, I see a profound medley of some very personal journeys coming to form and shape realities of not only service and livelihoods but also of identities and possible futures. May be that is why I have used a whole lot of ‘I’s and ‘my’s in this piece and I believe that the individual’s observations, ideas and evolutions have a strong bearing on how the nation and the state evolves in realtime.
More than half of the world’s population live in the essentially Sino-Indian ecosystems. Hence, for my own professional realities, four major streams impact the scenarios that I deal with in my mind.
First, the super-imposition of Westphalian ideas of nation-states on the geo-socio-economic contiguity of the Indian civilization; second, the evolution of interplay between the Chinese and the Indian civilization; third, the evolution of engagement between the confluence of the first two streams with the essentially Anglo-American (add, as a superscript, European) initiatives for strategic footprints in South and Southeast Asia; and fourth, the resurgence of extremism propagated by several supra-state networks of forces in the name of religion – particularly when it threatens the existing cultural milieu of the people who have inhabited this region for more than two thousand years.
Understandably, none of us can now claim that we are immune to incidents which take place beyond the periphery of our own borders. No matter which country or society it would be that we may represent – it must be understood that our lives and destinies are interlinked. Creating and sustaining a vision of the future, which balances the needs of the economy, the ecology and the human security thus is a challenge for the decision maker. Meaningfully advising the decision maker – be it the government, or the corporate, or for that matter, a mom-n-pop shop or an individual to optimize its chances of survival and growth is far more complicated than ever before. The illusive prospects for prosperity while successfully managing teething issues related to growing at eight percent average is a personal challenge. And trust me, the same considerations have every reason to be perfectly applicable to the corporate strategist wishing to set foot in what is essentially the Eastern home turf – where growth is concentrating for each stream of business in the next fifteen to thirty years’ landscape.
Again and additionally, when I look around, the only deficiency my aspiring home-nation appears to have at this moment is that of a comprehensive and inclusive platform which could combine resources, networks and opportunities accorded by its location on the map and time in the context of the evolution in the world’s strategic theatre to morph into a fully developed nation within the shortest possible time. If I am allowed to extrapolate, similar considerations should as well be applicable to anyone thinking aloud from the developing world.
Some of the conditions defining the world as we know of is changing very fast. A part of the world is ageing beyond recognition while another is unimaginably young. India and China – constituting almost half of humanity are drawing not only markets but also productive resources at a rate hitherto unforeseen. Recent outcomes of franchises, no matter how unexpected might they appear to be for some, reflect possibly a certain measure of protection against the Stolper-Samuelson paradigm. Experiencing personally the interplay of power and economic prospects in South and East Asia, I have come to believe that interconnected platforms which could: (a) energize the demographic dividend to channel into innovative and productive initiatives, (b) successfully attract, retain and assimilate investments, and (c) mainstream innovation and entrepreneurship for the development process to accelerate, are what we require as a nation and probably the same is true for ‘any’ nation.
At the greater Oxford ecosystem, my professional perspective is highly influenced by several questions. What would be the nature of this evolution which we seem to be seized with? What would be the shape of countries and nations if a Black Swan of time impacts? What would be the shape of governments? What would be the contours of business and markets and growth? Very simple questions. But often difficult answers.
I have taken it as a ‘career goal’ to reach a desired level of responsible prosperity by stitching together a network of intelligent and committed individuals and institutions across the public-private spectrum from both within and beyond the borders of my country, and in return, offering a fair share of the benefits to each. Obnoxiously ambitious as it might be, I had chosen Saïd Business School to work on setting a multidisciplinary league of leadership in motion – to learn, to interface and to refine the ideas of the future with a team of spirited faculty and enthusiastic professionals, and to build coalitions with aspiring leaders from all over the world. While I try to build on Professor Felin’s soul-scorching question target to find the “one thing which defines you”, at this very moment, I am particularly thrilled to anticipate the silhouettes of the Oxford vantage point and the Technology – Markets – Organisation capabilities (TMO) framework and relevant diagnostic and action tools, as have been identified in the reading list of Professors Marc Ventresca and Victor Seidel. The five primary questions are exactly the ones which my people would be asking various levels of existence.
Specific areas where I am planning to look into, amongst others, are, evolution of the nation-state (i.e., from a post-Westphalian to a city-centric model) and the rise of the urban political economy as a driving and dominant political shaper; evolution of the Indian political economy; evolution of the Bangladesh political economy in the context of connecting the South Asian and East Asian political economies; the Indian Ocean Region and the evolution of the coastal political economies; and above all, finding a passionate and energetic response for the businesses to create superior value.
Could the past be an answer? Could the past be revisited in the lights of the future?
My journey to Oxford, and in particular to Saïd Business School has just begun. I am awed by the sheer brilliance of ideas, instincts and imaginations displayed by my classmates. We have started building on the models and insights discussed (and not-discussed) in the class. We have started collaborating on several virtual platforms. As it seems, boundaries of times and spaces have started melting and for the first time I am in a class where I am not competing and rather most interestingly, collaborating. Could there be a future where we override the human myopia and come together into an era of enlightened exuberance? Could Atlantis of Ayn Rand be a reality?
I have never been to or seen something like Oxford. The pub crawls on the Harry Potter trail have taken me to places which I never thought existed. Bodleian has led me to St. Mary’s and to the Oxford Martyrs. When lighting a candle at the altar, I thought, is it an ‘Ashram’ too, or for that matter a Sufi ‘Istana’?
I can, probably, now ‘feel’ why Oxford exists. What that means will have to wait for a next edition of the blog for an explanation and that is a separate journey altogether. As we call it in our traditions, the ‘antar yatra’ – the journey inward.
I am writing this blog to chronicle at least some part of my journeys inward and outward. If the ancient scriptures are correct, time might be the most precious gift that we may have as humans. I want each day to be counted for.
Wait, let it be each second.
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