Posted on

University’s Got Talent …. Not the Show

Professor Samar Ahmed

By Professor Samar Ahmed

Professor Ahmed is an MD, JMHPE, FAIMER Fellow and faculty. She is the Director at Ain Shams Middle East North Africa FAIMER Regional Institute for Health Professions Education (menafri.faimefri.org).

We laugh, clap, and simultaneously cry whilst watching talent shows; yet we are oblivious that we have just been taken on a well-planned ride. With every act, we have been sold a success story and we voluntarily pour our hearts and souls to support people who walked the extra mile to come to us with talent embodied in a story of transformation.

As humans we are empathetic and we have the virtues of other animals in the animal kingdom who strive basically to BELONG to a tribe or herd. It is in our common nature to connect and become a part of a network. We embody the structures we see around us and long for a constellation to pull us close and not have to shine alone. Although we act as though we are independent beings and we strive to be acknowledged as individuals, however, we always revert back to our support groups for mental and psychological well-being.

This is why we connect instantaneously with stories that are woven and presented to us a reflection of, or at least a remote glimpse of, any aspect of our human experience. Talent shows have evolved over the past 5-10 years from purely competitive shows were polarization is the general sense you get all through the show to a humanistic party where cocktails of human emotions are presented for you all through the show. You live an hour or two in complete detachment from your life and find yourself immersed in other people’s passions, struggles, successes, rejections and so much more. You are intentionally connected to people rather than contestants with numbers. Such a transformation from where we were to where we are now! It all happened so slowly that we did not even realize it to ask why…

 

StudentWe are in a large market place where every merchandise is on sale and the display is crowded with goods of all sorts. Being competitive is no longer easy and it takes so much more than just an ad with pretty models lip-synching to your favourite song. Now to sell, you have to offer something and be capable of creating a transformation. You have to be able to address the limbic system and arouse memories of feelings of happiness, fulfillment, or amusement. So, while we think we are watching a talent show we are actually buying what they are selling us…. This is life and it is surely our lives that we can either choose to live and understand or just become uninformed consumers and take the ride.

Knowing all this and looking around in this open market we live in, I cannot help but wonder why we are not taught marketing skills as educators and as educational administrators. To learn to sell visions, values and buy-in would make our lives so much easier. In our universities, we struggle to lay out a strategy to help direct our actions and achievements yet we end up carrying the strategy on our shoulders in despair like leftover merchandise that no one wants to buy. We end up working for the strategy and we might even add a line in our to do list “check on that lonely strategy to see if it still has pulse.”

If we were taught to sell we would be able to sell this strategy and make sure that everyone in the institute has a degree of relevance or attachment to it. If this strategy was a contestant on the “University’s Got Talent ” show we would have been able to sell it. We could have created a story and told it and taken people for a ride. We could have promised them A SHOW where all emotions are on the loose. Learning to strategize is one skill but learning to tell the story of “Our University’s WHY” is another story altogether.

When Kodi came up on the America’s Got Talent stage he brought his story with him… Story of disease that brought no hope with it, story of a mother’s love and undivided attention, story of passion being found and a story of passion healing the impossible, story of the unexpected. Kodi brought with him a story of embracing the impossible and a life worth living no matter what…. In short, he embodied hope.

The story everyone wants to hear is a story where there is a hero, a knot and a happy ending. Sometimes villain stories are fun as well so make sure to have a villain in your story somewhere…

Your story becomes the story everyone will tell each other to make it worth listening to. Your story will probably become a determinant of your university culture so make it ethical and adherent to your announced values. Ready? Now weave the story….

Tell a tale of people who founded the university…despite all odds. People who built it brick by brick. Tell us more about those people and how amazing they were on a personal level. Tell us more about their political stands or their values…now stop….let us imagine them and leave us wanting to meet them.

education conceptNow tell us about your university…. how it was built, why it was built and how it started as a place that guided farmers to learn more about their produce and started with a vision to bring information to those who could not pursue it… tell us how it started off as a palace and tell us how till this moment the elevator in the building is working on rope technology…how the glass is from the 18th century…tell us how unique it is and make us want to go and see it…make us smell the floor lining and paint a vivid picture in our head.

Now tell us how that vision has helped shape the educator you are or the administrator you are…show us how that legacy has travelled generations down to you…. But do not forget to tell us more about the wicked witch and her plans to transform this legacy to something tasteless and meaningless…. make us understand the value you are fighting for and the war you are in..

Now its time…take the stage….have people wait for your success and live it and tear up once you have said your final verse…. make them wait for you to wrap up with all the mixed emotions your story put them through. Ready….hear the applause and see the tears…. people will share your story as if it is their own…simply because it told a part of their story on their behalf… It gave them something to relate to and a sense of relief that someone out there spoke their truth… Make sure everyone can find themselves somewhere in your story….bring them home….

Now you are ready… Your university is alive. It is in love, under threat, aspiring, successful and just ready to meet the prince and get the transformational kiss…

Now everyone will want to witness this transformation…they are already a part of it. They were with you when the idea was designed, when the first brick was laid, when the first honor award was taken, when you were defending your legacy…. They will be with you now to celebrate.