Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Sentimental Journey

Friday was the final day of the Reflective Practice module of our Foundations of Management class at AGSM led by Denise Weinreis and Rosamund Christie. These women were amazing instructors. The emotional intelligence behind the curriculum, which was a part of what we learned in the class, raises the bar for the integrity of the entire MBA program.

In this last gathering, each individual in the group shared an object that held sentimental value to them and why they brought it with them all the way from home to Sydney. It was an amazing window into the emotional depth we all share, and incredibly touching. I found my eyes watering almost constantly as each person stood up and shared for less than one minute each.

As each student gave insight into their cultural values, families, adventures, and rugby jersies, I could see how the third culture that we create in our class of 2010 doesn't only affect us as future alumni. As we are affected by all those who give us strength, the culture of openness and respect that we create affect their lives in return.

In the constant challenge of effective leadership, we are only as effective as we are deep. If our emotional depth and understanding of the people that directly surround us reaches a more profound level, we should all become more motivated and passionate to achieve the best lives possible for us and those we love.

Monday, January 26, 2009

CSR: Corporate Social Responsibility

My friend Elad Sherf really keeps me on my toes! His recent blog post on Business and Sustainability is a response to the Corporate Social Responsiblity lecture we had at AGSM last week. I feel his response to the lecture is valid, but seeing something written that opposes my position so strongly, I feel I need to put my words out there. To the benefit of my argument, Barack Obama has been sharing the same information with the world and so I echo his sentiments.

I am coming from a background of working with Counter Culture Coffee, a global leader in ethical and fiscally sustainable business practices, so that is the foundation of my frame of reference. More recently I was at ASI-Modulex where good people were making a valiant effort at partnering with the US Green Building Council to position the company as a leader in LEED certified contracts and sustainability.

While Elad has had a background as a lawyer and working in the Israeli military, he has my profound respect along with my fundamental disagreements. Our presentation by Anthony and Louise Lupi presented some of the most valuable information our MBA program will face as we train to become the leaders of tomorrow. If we have learned nothing else as a global culture, our lesson has been that we cannot continue with business as usual.

If anyone remembers the opportunity that the USA had after September 11, 2001 to unite the world and conquer our common problems as a true team, keep that thought in mind while I continue. The enemy of "Terrorism" has always been completely bogus, while the "War" waged against it is the most Terror oriented activity in the big picture of the issues it raises.

The most realistic enemy we can face as a global population is our own greed, zionism, short-sightedness, and resistance to change. It's one thing for soldiers and employees to follow the orders of their superiors. It's another thing for the leaders of these minions to dig deep within themselves and make the right choices based on their profound and sustainable understanding of humanity.

That is what we are doing here at the AGSM MBA. We are doing the work demanded of us by those who may give in return, hopefully deservedly, the most sacred responsibility of leadership. Business, like any human activity, has no place on this planet unless it takes into consideration the advancement of the species and improvement of the quality of life we all share.

Human suffering is real, and anyone who feels they are impervious to our genetic connection and responsibility for each other is, in my humble opinion, moving exponentially in the wrong direction.

Sydney Aquarium

After we were burning up outside in the 40ÂșC heat, a group of us, led by the dynamic Patricio Noguerol, decided to go to the Sydney Aquarium to beat the heat. I was teasing Pato, as we call him, for having a psychic link with a fellow South American in our program, Phillip Whatmore from Chile. Immediately after the decision had been made, Pato had Phillip on the phone; he and his wife Catalina had already decided to go to the Aquarium and were on their way to meet us!

The Sydney Aquarium is an impressive array of tunnels and tanks, shuffling visitors through an aquatic zoo. I felt like a hamster waddling through a complex arrangement of tubes and observatories. Highlights were the shark tank and the entertaining comments made by Rishi Saghal, my brother in off the cuff humor. Unfortunately the Platypus decided to take the day off, which was upsetting. I'll have to find a small, rubbery, egg-laying mammal that is a cross between a duck and beaver somewhere else.

Chinese New Year, Sydney

Happy Year of the Ox! A group of AGSM students gathered Saturday morning in China Town to celebrate the beginning of Sydney Chinese New Year Festival. Led by the gregarious Mikiamo Yao (Michael if you will) we enjoyed a festive spread of Dim Sum, which is consumed during the eating period Yum Cha, literally "tea drinking" in Cantonese.

It was an amazing international event, a microcosm of the total AGSM MBA experience. My new mate Kelechi from Nigeria helped take a lot of pictures. It was such a hot day, we were all considering staying inside and eating slowly until the sun finally went down! Kelechi was perhaps the most appropriately dressed in his native garb.

After a brief walk through the gates of China Town we settled in a shady area of chairs overlooking a stage with Chinese Opera in full effect. There were quite a few people out, and I was very proud of my new home for representing its cultural diversity with such polish. The heat, however, soon began to disperse our group, which led some of us to the Sydney Aquarium and my next post.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Longterm Guanxi in China

Pictured: The Author with friends and associates in Shanghai, China.

I was forwarded this Harvard Business article by my friend at AGSM, Elad Sherf. As he implied I felt it spoke to my experience personally and I wrote the following response:

This article is perfectly in line with my experience learning about how to do business in China in the North Carolina Chinese Business Association, and the Chinese American Friendship Association.

Long term goal and Guanxi mean everything, not only to the success of business in China, but the establishment of a successful model for international business across the globe.

We must not view international business as occupying and taking advantage, for we are all, in fact, occupying the same space. We all share Planet Earth with the same resources and the same humanity.

To global leaders in business: Let us determine the path of a prosperous future with even-handed, long-term goals with mutual benefit and heartfelt cultural understanding.

The outcome will have an exponential positive impact.

Jonathan Blackwell

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gordon's on the rocks

One of the most beautiful days we've had immediately followed the torrential downpour that kept us from the Blue Mountains. With the sun blazing, we outfitted for the beach and headed down Alison Rd on the fifteen minute walk to the beach. We took the high road, and walked along some bluffs overlooking Gordon's Bay, north of Coogee Beach. The water was so beautiful and clear! We walked straight down the trail to get there.

Gordon's Bay is a nice little spot. We've been back there since. I actually prefer hopping along the rocks like a monkey to slithering across a sandy beach. It reminds me of the amazing time I had at a similar beach in Cinque Terre on Italy's west coast.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon when we left after I had an invigorating swim. We decided to walk to Coogee as was our original intention to see what we were missing out on. It blew our minds when we got there! The place was so crowded it was beautiful! The pictures hardly do it justice, seeing that many people all in one place, all so relaxed and enjoying themselves. I love Australia at its best.

Blue Mountains or ... Bust

With high hopes for an inspiring mountain outing we planned our route via train to reach the Blue Mountains. Between Christmas and New Year's the tracks were being worked on and we actually boarded a bus to get us halfway there. I like the adventure of finding out how to get to a place I've never been before. It makes arriving there more special. Jamie was great company as always as we listened to the Deep House Cat podcast with our headphone splitter.

We sped up the mountain and passed a lot of interesting sites, but I was saving my pictures for when we arrived at the sacred place of lookouts, walkabouts, gondolas, and hiking trails. Once we got there we looked into the options, made our plans, and heading down the street to eat some tasty Thai food. I think Australia has the same number of Thai restaurants as there are sheep in New Zealand. Upon coming out of lunch, however, guess what happened?

All hell broke loose in the heavens and we were subjected to the most torrential downpour I could have imagined! There was no hope of the storm letting up, and after wandering around the streets of Kaloomba a little longer, we decided, together with scores of other unsatisfied tourists, to head back to the station and wait for the train to Sydney. The Blue Mountains may be gone from the agenda for now, but not forgotten.

Ferry to Watson's Bay and Hike to Gap Point

On our second Ferry excursion we landed in Watson's Bay at the outer eastern edge of the inner harbor after passing Rose Bay and Double Bay. This ferry was one of the sweet little catamaran speed boats. Very cool lines. I want one.

When we landed we started walking through Robertson Park, east towards the trail for Gap Bluff, the trail that leads to the overlook from South Point to North Point in Manly. This was a beautiful overlook. We could stare at the water crashing against the rocks for a long time. The contrast of hard and soft is so powerful.

We climbed higher and higher until we came to the end of the trail. The view from South Point is one of many amazing vantage points in Sydney. I'm sure the Aborigines found these places tens of thousands of years ago, before they were used by the British and Australian forces to defend their colony from naval invasion.

By the time we got back onto the ferry the sun was starting to set. We were very lucky, as we were on the last ferry back to Circular Quay and we sat down early. From our comfortable seats we watched people slowly fill the boat to capacity, with the last stragglers left on the dock to find their own way home. That's rough!

Wierdest Christmas Ever

Stephanie is the most active hostess any traveler could wish for. She graciously invited us to accompany her to "An Orphan's Christmas". I thought we would be doing something to benefit parentless children, but in fact we were the orphans. And we joined other orphans. And all the orphans drank like fish, which led to social unrest, which led to us on the street, on Christmas, not knowing exactly where we were.

It was a test for Jamie and I to figure out, and we came out OK in the end. It was a lesson learned in many ways. There were pleasant moments, and Jamie made friends with the Kiwis, but I think we were ready to get out of there. I missed my family so much. Jamie and I ended the night walking down the block in Randwick, and I was so saddened by all the lonely people that were roaming the streets that night. I felt very lucky to have Jamie with me, and for the rest of the trip I think our appreciation for each other held more value.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Obligatory Koala Visit

Another Taronga Zoo highlight was, of course, the Koalas. What's there not to like about a Koala? They were one of the few animals at the zoo to behave themselves. All they want is a pile of eucalyptus. If only I were so easily appeased.

The mother was climbing like a champ with her little cub holding on for dear life. They are fantastic climbers. It's amazing what you can do with eight thumbs. One little bugger shot straight up his tree in a jiffy.

Taronga Zoo, Mate

Getting to Taronga Zoo was fun. We left on the ferry from Circular Quay and cruised past the Opera House on Christmas Eve. It was to be the first of many ferry rides, and not the last time Jamie will go chasing her hat when the wind blows it off her head.

While at the Zoo, Jamie and I witnessed the painful boredom of the animals. The Grey-Headed Flying Foxes were sleeping, hanging high overhead in the cage they shared with others. All the other animals seemed to be mating to pass the time. The African Elephants were the most, shall we say, pronounced. I was impressed at how a third elephant purposefully stood in front of the two in coitus to provide more privacy!

Then we saw the Wallaby camp getting busy. Like clockwork, Jamie shows up and the animals immediately start humping. It's amazing. She says it's been like this since she was little, much to her mother's embarrassment.

What was fascinating about the Wallabies was the next picture I took. There was a third Wallaby here, but instead of blocking the view for onlookers as with the elephants, he seemed to be looking on as though the other Wallaby was mating with his wife.