I’m on my poor old laptop while the 3rd Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) Global Forum slowly works it way through introductions (more about that later).
I’m personally delighted with the mutual congratulation and greetings as it gives me a breather — and a little time to write down events from earlier this morning (Wednesday), which were amusing, exhausting, enlightening and vaguely idiotic in roughly equal measures.
My modest anecdote concerns the 50+20 benches, which were delivered to the Winston Barra hotel in preparation for the main presentation tomorrow.
A handful of us duly shuffled over to the loading bays alongside the hotel, which were already swarming with t-shirted porters, security guards with black earpieces, and several anonymous administrative staff.
As readers will learn from my profile I am a South African — a country not renowned for its general organisational capabilities. However, I may report to my country people that similarly needless chaos may be found elsewhere — including Brazil, and specifically around the Rio’s Winston Barra Hotel loading bay area, shortly before the opening of a major conference.
The cargo in the lorry (which had been delayed for over an hour) contained several items of note: five artistic benches and four cardboard boxes each containing about a hundred copies of the 50+20 agenda booklet — which looks great, by the way.
The idea was to transport this modest collection of items from the lorry in the loading bay and into a designated space in the hotel before they are deployed tomorrow. On paper, the process would have required about 10 minutes of effort spread across four or five able individuals of medium-level intelligence.
Ultimately, we required approximately an hour of a half of negotiation, arguments, periods of waiting, or moving benches and boxes from A to Z, which involved temporarily depositing them at points F, K, X or Ω, while the security teams and other powers-that-be confirmed, expedited or throttled our attempts to see the process to a quick conclusion.
I tried to make myself useful, but only succeeded in getting under people’s feet. At least my general state of redundancy enabled me to take a step back and think about what I was watching — which really boiled down to a single truism: an army of leaders wins no battles. Everybody offered solutions. Everybody seemed to hold a position of supreme authority. Everybody was important. The result was a perplexing merry-go-round of decisions and counter-decisions, an impressive orchestra of pseudo-activity that succeeded in little more than making a lot of noise and annoying everybody (except for the security goons, whose expressions remained admirable neutral).
As I write this two of the benches are cluttering up Linda hotel room on the 13th floor, temporarily transformed into a modern art gallery, while the remaining gear is located in… well…
Actually, I have no idea where the rest of our things have been stored. Not anymore.
But all is well now. A few moments earlier I saw John furiously whispering to Emilia, Marilia and Katrin. I can’t hear what he is saying, but I might venture that perhaps he is a) is discussing the finer points of the menu which the 50+20 catering staff have arranged for the late-evening festivities, or b) is discussing the wording of his resignation letter.
Actually that’s nonsense. We don’t have any catering staff…
Despite these organizational eccentricities, we’re on track. Everything has a place and we all have a home in Rio (including me, after a shaky start last night). Ultimately, it’s a beautiful day in Rio and morale is high. The only thing that could improve it further may be a swim in warm waters off Copacabana Beach. And a drink or three.