If you have not yet done the Gothenburg Executive MBA trip to India, then be prepared for a little adventure. The first week was very much focused on the ”external” aspects. We lived on the green and architecturally beautiful campus of the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore (IIMB), which also happens to be the setting for the college scenes included in the highly rewarded Bollywood movie “3 idiots”. That is where our knowledge of that movie ends, but as part of the cinematic immersion of the wonderfully composed “Understanding India in transition” program offered by IIMB, we had the chance to see “Kapoor and Sons”, a warm and recommended result of the highly productive Bollywood industry.
The program offered elements aimed at both mind, body and heart; yoga in the mornings, lectures and cultural experiences during days and evenings. The lecture topics were focused on change, entrepreneurship, innovation, law and political system in India, foreign policy, managing subsidiaries in India and more. We had the chance to experience societal and cultural aspects from the professors on campus but also from the on-campus MBA students, which was highly appreciated.
We were lucky to have had a chance to experience the fruit and flower market which was indeed an intense and fantastic journey for all our five senses but our senses and emotions were also tickled by art: we listened to a traditional music performance under the stars, where four artists played traditional Indian instruments and explained to us the meaning and the style of their performance; we also attended a dance performance where a talented dancer used traditional narrative dances to tell Indian stories. Her performance was wonderful and she was mesmerizing. We arrived to her studio with a fleet of Tuk-Tuks which was also an experience in itself, as the traffic serves as a vivid example of how Indians, with their capacity and preference for chaos, rely on intuition and faith as opposed to rules and rationality.
Another exciting and interesting experience was meeting the guru Sadhguru Sri Sharavana Baba, who is the guru of our program director Professor Ramnath Narayanswamy. It was actually important to see, hear, feel and experience all of this, in order to better understand the culture and the society that permeates this subcontinent that we call India. This country is not a melting pot, it is a thali (a round tray) filled with katoris (individual small bowls with various meals, and yes, the food is great!). E pluribus unum (out of many, one) does not really apply: yes, it is one country but it is more like a continent with many states that are very different; yes English is a common language but only a minority speaks it, yes Hindi is a common language but the local language is more important.
In the long history of this part of the world, spirituality (in a formal religious concept or as an ideology of introspection) has always been important and the duality between rational, organized and business oriented views on one side, and the irrational, flexible, fatalistic views on the other, coexist continuously and should be something to be aware of at any time. We learned early on that whatever you may think of India, the opposite is also true. Duality and contradiction co-exist and was often referred to by Professor Ram as “This is also India”.
Without experiencing this first hand, it can be challenging for us to understand how these function together and create the Indian perspective on things, including time (IST could stand for Indian Standard Time, but it probably stands for “Indian Stretchable Time”). It is however also interesting to reflect on how our Western perspectives of reason and rationality play a role in how we make sense of priorities, work/life balance etc.
The second week we moved into a hotel downtown. This week was focused on an Executive MBA module on creative leadership and in connection with this, it was driven mostly by introspection and self-evaluation. We have spent a lot of time thinking and talking about who we are and all that stems from considering these questions. The mornings started with meditation sessions, focusing on heartfulness, as opposed to mindfulness, so even the morning routine was designed to support more inwards-looking aspects. Many of us have done different types of self-evaluations or analyses but this was different because it was done with the whole team.
The most important message here would be: be honest to yourself and when you give feedback to others, be brave and expose yourself and be an active member in creating trust in your class. The resulting experience was cathartic, insightful and created close bonds on which we hope to rely in the future. Do not overthink, rationalize or neglect. Open your heart, stay close, be a real team, trust each other-and wonderful things will happen.
With our best wishes,
Dina Petranovic and Malin Tyreholt, Gothenburg Executive MBA class of 2016-2018