drinking from a fire hydrant

I was sitting in the lobby of my hotel with my laptop an hour ago when I was approached by a gentleman in usual Omani dress. His English was poor, and we struggled to communicate. After a few minutes he seconded a young Omani who was walking past as a translator. It turns out he had assumed I was an investor. He is developing holiday resorts along the coast north of here and is looking for foreign partners.

In 1970 there were no roads in Oman. These days Muscat is a thriving city. There is nowhere near the explosion of ritz and glamour of Abu Dhabi or Dubai, Muscat has a down to earth neighbourly feel, but none-the-less the development is extraordinary.

Having not spent time in an Arab country previously, this short excursion has helped me unravel some prejudices I wouldn’t have paid any attention otherwise. I have been taken by the revelation of assumptions I’ve made based on ethnicity and clothing style. Having spent many hours in conversation and social settings with local Omani and Saudi men and women, I have found myself surprised by the warmth, articulate intelligence and grasp of Organisational Learning nous that remains novel in most western companies. Now clearly this is a select sample … I do not mean to imply anything other than the revelation of my own biases. Seeing young Islamic women students stand up and address a room full of international business and government people with confidence and challenge was inspiring. Experiencing back slapping light heartedness from men in traditional Islamic dress shook my appreciation of reality in ways that words cannot capture.

My head is still swimming. Among the copious notes I will digest later this afternoon, I have the words of three people in particular penetrating my musing.

Peter Senge spoke with deep conviction about the challenges ahead of us, unpacking the necessity, in his view, that our primary sense of identity will need to evolve to that of human, rather than of national of geographical identity. What does that really mean for me?

I had some good conversation with Adam Kahane, who’s work in South Africa contributing to the unravelling of apartheid led him into a vocation of bring people together to solve tough complex problems. (see Solving Tough Problems) It looks like he will be in Australia for some significant work in the wake of the apology. His address to the forum was about the relationship between love and power. The focus of his work over the last 15 years he articulates as a question; ‘How can we co-create new social realities with all of our love and all of our power?’.

Mohammad Yunus, the founder of the Grameen Bank personified radical simplicity. His humility and what he described as ‘relentless intentionality’ has changed the world for so many people. It all started when he left his economics office at the university one day and decide to spend some time with people in vicinity of the campus whose lives where oppressed because of loan sharks. The rest is history as they say.

Who am I? What is my vocation? What are my hopes for the world? These questions are the food for my mind and soul as I head back home … and I hope the bluebaggers go back to back!