21 May 2012

Teachers taught

It's been a week now since I've returned from the sunny Balkans to my equally sunny balcony. Enjoying a long weekend in my freshly assembled garden furniture (not worthy of the Ikea case study), my thoughts wander back to the two weeks I got to spend in Macedonia. Teaching and learning, there was plenty of.

However, it was not as unidirectional as I had expected. Yes, we did work through a pretty sophisticated IVEY curriculum in a short time. Yes, we were able to share some Canadian business knowledge in our lectures and consulting sessions. And yes, some real-life examples mean that our flock of Macedonian students now know more about loyalty programs than they ever cared to - all while still speaking highly about our program in public.

I will admit that even just preparing each day's activities, under the guidance of my freshly graduated MBA colleagues, and then teaching to a class, was boosting my confidence. Who would have thought that I would one day lecture on cash flow analysis? Maybe those profs I disdained back in my university years were not quite so useless after all.

But the most rewarding and eye-opening insights came from our "students". Recruited through the local Chamber of Commerce, they were really all entrepreneurs, with first-hand experience of Macedonian business reality, an asset they were happy to share. Through examples, anecdotes and invitations to visit their companies, they shared with us a commercial and social environment few North Americans will ever get a glimpse of. While our course participants seemed firmly rooted in their local contexts, I was impressed by how well aware they were of what we, somewhat arrogantly, like to call Western Best Practices. Skillfully, they have developed a sense of when to follow them, and when to do things the Macedonian Way.

And that way does not end at 5pm. Instead, our Macedonian friends indulged our desire to discover more of Skopje by giving us tours of the city, taking us out for dinner, and introducing us to the local poison. But custom has it that you enjoy Rakija with salad - and salad is good for you.

Two weeks in Macedonia were good for me to. Who would have thought that such a small country can open up such a wide horizon?


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