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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

An educational evening

THE CIBES SEMINAR on What They Don't Teach You At Business Schools

Hats off to the young people who organized the event very professionally! All the top names in the industry and academia were there. A Mixed Blessing, actually, but it at least underscores the credibility that this series of seminars has achieved over the years. The format, too, is wonderful. I was glad to have been invited to speak, but would have enjoyed it equally well as a member of the audience.

The opening presentation by Mr Said Ghani was scholarly and academic, with his usual strong focus on morality, ethics and other human issues. His opinion has always been to ensure that matters are placed wihin our cultural context and draw upon our own resources and heritage, religious and otherwise, though not to the exclusion of all else. There were oppositions to this view, later, by those who felt that Globalization was 'inevitable', somehow implying that we should - as always - be content to be the Road and never aspire to be Road Rollers.

I found all but one of the other presenters and speakers to be wonderful - in the ways I had expected them to be: Staid, Conventional, Risk-Averse. The exception had absolutely nothing to say that was worth hearing. He seemed to be in love with himself - a state that guarantees very few rivals.

The opposition of a couple of co-speakers to some things I said, particularly regarding the role of Competition, I was prepared for and welcomed: Try knocking any accepted idea and you'll get an even bigger and stronger opposition. In any case, my purpose, as stated in the presentation, was to stir up debate on this issue. Mr Danishmand's response, in terms of the attitude he displayed later, was strictly in keeping with his personality (which I was to discover as the evening unfolded). So, at least his qaul and fayl are the same! Sadly, neither is worthy of my respect.

Later, on my way home, I had messaged one of the kids from COMMECS, saying that I wish I had not been huddled off with the 'elite' for tea after the seminar, but had been allowed to interact with the students (who were all shushed off to another room). After all, it was because of them that I had agreed to participate. This is his response via sms:

that would have been enlightening for the students. hehe. Mr Danishmand was too defensive abt things. you were highly relevant and awesome in communicating the harsh reality in a witty mode.
The italicized part is what I am gladdest and most concerned about: Talk about ANY aspect of education, from high school to university to professional institutes, and you hear students complaining of the irrelevance of many aspects of the curricula, the syllabi, the teaching methodology, the half-baked internship programs, the lab and field work.

Surely, it is fair to expect business schools to best understand what needs to be done - at least in their domain - in a situation where there are so many dissatisfied customers. I wonder how many have a CRM Department...

One young person put forth 2 extremely relevant questions at Q&A time. He was unnecessarily, and rudely, 'put down' by an amazing waste of hydrocarbons who actually grabbed and held on to the mike and went on to answer all of the questions asked. The quality of his replies prompted this:

Thaa bü∂haapay kee sama'at ka qüsoor,
Ham jo süntay thay voh daanishmand hae;
Kal sünaa jab paas say to yeh khülaa:
Üss ki to bilkül hee daanish band hae!

I strongly believe that every educational institution of higher learning must have at least one dissenting voice on campus, within its faculty, or the institution will never grow into a great one. Nor will its students learn, by observation, that a diversity of opinions will always exist, that what needs to be learnt is to co-exist.

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Blogger the olive ream said...

"I strongly believe that every educational institution of higher learning must have at least one dissenting voice on campus, within its faculty, or the institution will never grow into a great one."

I absolutely agree with you ZAK. Questioning authority and testing the status quo is a good thing.. it has to happen routinely in order to break 'conformity' from becoming the norm.

10 May, 2006 21:24

Anonymous Ahmad Haseeb said...

It is is simply impossible to conceive business without competition. That is reality.

11 May, 2006 00:03

Blogger Zakintosh said...

German Philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, has already answered this, Haseeb: "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

11 May, 2006 00:28

Anonymous ahmad haseeb said...

The IBA Director is a senior person and has more experience in academics and business. You think he knows nothing?

14 May, 2006 16:13

Blogger Zakintosh said...

Haseeb: I don't think I said that he knows nothing. Disagreement does not necessarily mean that. Although he did imply that none of the others knew much.

[For those who were not there, I must take this chance to mention that the funniest part of the evening came when Danishmand informed us - based on some authority, I am sure - that studies in the USA had shown entrepreneurs tended to want independence from bosses because they hated their fathers!]

To the students who emailed me asking for the name of the recommended book and articles I displayed in the presentation: Here they are again. And thanks for writing.

The book is Alfie Kohn's No Contest (check it out on

An older article of the same name, which led to the more detailed book, is available at

For a local (and personal) touch I had recommended a short piece by Sabeen Mahmud -

I again beseech you to go through these and come up with concrete arguments against them, not emotional ones (or saying it's always been done this way).

14 May, 2006 17:00

Anonymous Jehan said...

I plead guilty to being an entrepreneur but I certainly don't hate my father - so that's one of many things that I disagree with Mr. Danishmand about. You know, there was a time I had wanted to get an MBA degree. I have often wondered over the years if going to business school would have changed my life in some way. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that perhaps I am a more well-rounded person (no, not just physically Zak!) because I didn't make the choice of going to business school and becoming indoctrinated.

Would I have made more money if I had an MBA? I am sure I would have. However, what have I really missed? I have enough to eat, I live comfortably,I have access to books and music, I travel, I have almost every gadget I need and then some. But more than any of that, whatever I have done in life, I have thoroughly enjoyed. I have done it with a passion and because it was what I believed in. I have competed, but only with myself so that whatever I did was better the next time round. I have never knowingly done anything that was unethical or dishonest. I can actually look at myself in the mirror every morning without feeling repulsed.

At the P@SHA Job Fair in Karachi a couple of weeks ago, I met some kids who wanted to know why they needed to know how to communicate or present their viewpoints, why they needed to know what good aesthetics were, in fact why they needed to know anything other than software engineering. It was a waste of time, they claimed, to learn anything outside their area of specialization. So science fiction, poetry, music, philosophy, community service, communication skills, humour, etc were all out - just a waste of time. Is this what some of our universities are churning out? Yikes! I vote for dissenting voices amongst the faculty NOW! Zak, can we clone you? Let's do something while we still can!

14 May, 2006 19:31

Blogger Sophia said...

Recently I had the chance to meet some coporate trainers and believe me some of these guys are killing whatever hope of dissent we could have.

16 May, 2006 14:57

Blogger Ramla A. said...

Where have you been all my educational life?

I am an MBA from that good old MBA factory - and a rebel student. It took me two hours to know that I would never love the school, and a few years to realize that I should have quit the next day. Yet everything happens for a reason and to have gone through such an anti-me system has filled me with a clear direction: NEVER AGAIN!

To know another misfit, another agent provocateur is a delight! I'll keep my tabs on this blog.

Wish I could have attended that educational seminar. BTW - I'd like to pick your brains more on the madrissah project. Have worked some suggestions out. My blog has more updates.

31 May, 2006 13:50


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