Impact Entrepreneurs Replication School: Week 6, Problem Solving and Decision Making – Phnom Penh, Cambodia
PSU’s Impact Entrepreneurs, in partnership with Digital Divide Data and The Rockefeller Foundation, has been delivering Impact Sourcing Training to social entrepreneurs hand-selected by Rockefeller. The training, hosted by Digital Divide Data, is preparing these entrepreneurs from Africa and South Asia to launch or expand their own social enterprise initiatives in the Business Process Outsourcing space in their countries.
By Josh Mathis, PSU MBA Candidate, Co-Instructor for PSDM
In week 6 of Impact Entrepreneurs’ 8-week management and leadership program in Phnom Penh, Kathleen Wood started class as she had the three weeks prior. She then briefly went around the room making introductions, mostly for my benefit as I am the newbie. I asked everyone to add to their introduction the number of lives they anticipated to impact in one year’s time, again, mainly for my benefit. According to the collection of participants, approximately 2,500 lives are predicted to be impacted in the first year of their projects’ life cycle. This impact is generally going to be through education or job placement directly related to their work.
After the introductions, Kathleen turned the class over to me. I asked everyone to write quietly for 15 minutes, to write down anything and everything that came to mind. No one would read it and they should write in their native tongue. This tool is called many different things and is used in several different settings. For this class, I dubbed it, “Making Room.” It’s a practice of journaling in which you write, stream-of-conscience, psycho-babble to clear your mind to be able to think more clearly on the matters at hand. I didn’t explain the purpose of it and let them feel awkward and uncomfortable. They were likely thinking, “shouldn’t we be doing something…productive?” When my iPhone’s marimba sounded (a ring-tone, by the way, which echoes from Portland to Taipei to Phnom Penh I discovered), I asked the 12 internationals — representing 6 countries, none of which is my own — to please write a Post Mortem for the projects to which they had dedicated their lives. “The efforts you have been working so hard on for the past 1, 2, 10 years…pretend it’s 5 years in the future and the project failed. Write down in your notebook exactly what killed them.” Again, it gets awkward, but it’s by design.
After the Post Mortem, it got a bit more “normal.” We started discussing the concepts behind problem solving and decision-making (PSDM) and what they can expect to learn throughout the week. I would be reviewing a set of frameworks that would help them to think about problems and decisions in a structured way based on the Kepner-Tregoe approach. Today, working with the Problem Solving framework, I quickly realized that the level of English, education, and social/professional status of the participants in the room vary as much as their accents. Problems are difficult for anyone to grasp…otherwise, they wouldn’t be called problems. Communication is going to be a challenge. We worked slowly through the overview and then started to practice, practice, practice. We analysed simple cases, problems they’re facing in their organizations, and problems my capstone project group is trying to tackle, via the Problem Solving framework. We did individual and group work and then broke for the day, of course with homework – a slightly more complex case to review again tomorrow morning. Their evening will be spent preparing for tomorrow. Mine will too.
In my first day of teaching, I’ve gained an immense respect for the teachers and professors I have had over the years. I had spent several hours preparing the material before arriving in Cambodia and several more the day and a half prior to rolling out day one. After all the prep, I realize that I need to rework the slides for the next day and refresh my memory about the nuances of the content while rethinking how to deliver the material with the varying levels of English and experience in the classroom. I want to make sure everything is clear, but not to insult anyone. Kathleen and I worked for a couple of hours after the first class to prep for the Day 2 and I continue to review for the next morning. Long days equal short weeks, in my experience. Time is marching quickly and I need to try to keep in cadence. This is a bright group and I need to be sure to stay one step ahead of them (good thing they haven’t read the text yet!). It won’t be easy. That said: I guess I wouldn’t be here if I were interested in “easy.”