It had been my intention to blog every day while in South Africa. I had wanted to capture the ongoing thoughts and impressions of being there and of running the workshop. But the days were just too long, the workshop too tiring and the evenings not necessarily with easy internet access (when will hotels stop milking the access to WiFi for cash?) and I’m rather ashamed to say that I gave up on Day One.
Now back home, here are the highlights (and one low point):
1. One is always mindful that what one is seeing is not the whole picture, not by any means, but what a great place South Africa is! I know that Johannesburg has serious problems to deal with, and that the country has a great deal to work out regarding its political and social problems, but if the diversity and attitude of the MBA programme members is any clue, then the energy to do something about these barriers is not in question. On top of that, I love the light in Johannesburg – it seems to open up the mind to all sorts of thoughts and possibilities.
2. The workshop ran with about 115 participants, the largest group I have ever had to deal with on the MBA. We held Day One more or less in plenary and then split the group in two streams, running repeat parallel sessions. Hard work, and kind of odd creating our own deja vu scenarios (once or twice I really wasn’t sure whether I’d already told the group I was with what I was telling them now), but also really good fun. I arrived still nursing a Spring cold, so my voice was threatening to desert me, but luckily it held in there. We were working at the JCC (Johannesburg Country Club), which is a relaxing and swish conference facility surrounded by a pristine green golf course. Golf does nothing for me, I’m afraid, which is probably for the good as there were therefore no distractions.
3. I think we got our points over. Many of mine were designed to “hole below the waterline”, in a sense. I had hoped that I could offer some level of frustration, as well as surprise and interest, for the new participants to get them into a reflective mood. We’ll see shortly whether that worked, and frankly I never know until there is some feedback or reaction. Personal Development is a strong idea on the Henley MBA and I really think we’re developing a distinct and effective approach to it which is neither too faddish nor too dogmatic.
4. On day three came the devastating news of the death of a former, much-liked and admired colleague, Emilio Herbolzheimer. Emilio retired last September, having taught international business strategy and macro-economics at Henley for 13 years, but that does not do justice to the experience one got in the broad sweep of his workshops, nor to the lively nature of his discussions one-to-one. Quite simply, in workshops he moved with smooth brilliance through a kind of narrative, littered with humour, aptly chosen anecdotes and occasional political incorrectness (delivered so silkily that you forgave him instantly), across a range of subjects and ideas. I don’t think his was a style that could be easily imitated. He was also a charming colleague, quick to offer support, gracious in giving thanks when he saw the work of others (something not all faculty do) and He could be cantankerous, too, of course, and no-one could accuse him of being a technofile. He would never shy from saying exactly what he thought. Occasionally, but not often, he would be off the mark. More usually, he was right, so it paid to listen to him. Above all, I’d say he was liked, respected by everyone with whom he interacted. We all have our Emilio stories and memories, and we all wish we could have some new ones.
But, we can’t, and I will really miss him.