[fusion_text]Wow! Just spent the last two days (December 4-5) as a delegate at the International Conference on Management Cases at the BIMTECH campus in Greater Noida, India. First, let me say, the Indians really know how to make you feel welcome! At the start of the conference on Thursday Dec 4th, all 80 of us delegates arrived at BIMTECH (Birla Institute of Management Technology) and were individually warmly greeted by the conference chair GD Sardana, Professor in Operations at the Birla Institute of Management Technology in India. Once inside the Registration area, we were each given the traditional ring of fresh and fragrant marigolds to wear around our necks. The Registration area was positively abuzz with a flurry of greetings, as some delegates hugged those they already knew and several of the rest of us gladly extended our hand to new faces from across the globe.
The first day began with formal ceremonies of the conference dignitaries presenting their perspectives and officially welcoming the crowd into the Seminar Hall. Conference Co-Chair Tojo Thatchenkery, from the School of Public Policy at George Mason University in Arlington, opened the session, and then a traditional lamp lighting ceremony took place which represented the idea of going from darkness to light in knowledge and enlightenment. Truly spectacular to witness – and never have I seen anything like this at a North American conference. (Imagine, fire in a public building!). Drs. Michael Manning, Professor of Leadership, Strategy, and Change at the Center for Values-Driven Leadership at Benedictine University in Illinois and David Willis, Professor of Anthropology in the School of Human and Organizational Development at my alma mater Fielding Graduate Institute gave rousing key note speeches. Dr. Manning described various North American organizations who are successfully leading their organizations with values to drive operational behavior and profit. Dr. Willis reminded us of the beauty of cultures across the world and all they can teach us, if only we are open.
From opening ceremonies, the conference was filled with paper presentations from scholars all over the world. Delegate countries represented included: Australia, Canada, China, Finland, France, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, the United States, and of course India. All delegates who were present had submitted an academic paper that had been accepted and published in one of the two companion conference works: Leveraging Human Factors for Strategic Change – An Organizational Culture Perspective or Understanding Work Experiences from Multiple Perspectives – New Paradigms for Organizational Excellence. My paper and that of co-author Owen Lynch is published in the former. It is exciting to be associated with such talented and contributing scholars from across the globe.
On Thursday evening after the conference’s first day, BIMTECH hosted all of us delegates for a beautiful outdoor dinner. We enjoyed delicious food and drink, and then we were entertained by the BIMTECH students who had learned and performed a special set of dances, just for us. Then, each of us were invited in to join in, all dancing together beneath the evening stars and merrily moving to the Indian music. I was festively adorned in my newly custom-made saree and loved the incredible effort made by the conference to once again invite and include everyone into the community fold.
I got my turn on Friday Dec 5th to present our paper at the conference. The crowd was wonderfully receptive, listened intently, and asked interesting questions. I was given some lovely feedback from various fellow delegates who expressed a desire to see the overall results of the “Modes of Engagement” research Lynch and I conducted. Very affirming, indeed. The conference closed with GD Sardana drawing all of us back into a room to debrief the two days and solicit our verbal feedback about the experience. Each of us were then awarded a certificate of participation, which included our name and the name of the paper presented. It was a beautiful way to recognize each of us individually and honor our contributions.
I can honestly say I have never been to a conference where the chairs and anyone involved worked so hard to make each delegate feel welcomed and wanted. Great effort was also taken to carefully select each menu, with tea and snacks served at each break. Then, amazingly, Professor Sardana convened a special gathering with the 15 or so of us from the Fielding Graduate University and awarded us each a lovely gift – a handmade Indian scarf. Truly, the hospitality is beyond anything I have ever experienced in a formal or academic setting. At the close of the ceremonies on Friday, each of us were invited to return for the Dec 3-4, 2015 conference. I hope to earn the right to return to this most amazing country and be among these most genuine and welcoming people and once again present a paper worthy of being included in the published International Conference on Management Cases book.
Meanwhile, here are some photos of the conference experience.