Boundaries and Knowledge in a Sufi Dhikr Circle

JMD

Received today the hard copy of this Special Issue with the overarching theme “Practical Wisdom for Management from the Islamic Tradition”. Have contributed a paper on “Boundaries and knowledge in a Sufi Dhikr Circle“:

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to infer, from the mystical Islamic tradition, practical wisdom for management development on knowledge transfer and storage as well as organizational boundaries.

Findings

Knowledge transfer and storage in the Sufi Dhikr Circle is a relational and collective endeavor. The Circle has fluid boundaries between the organization and the outside, as well as between intra-organizational parts. Knowledge and boundary processes reflect that the human being is a complex actor of “body, mind and heart” with multiple senses.

Practical implications 

Management development theory and practice may benefit through reflecting on the practices of the Sufi Dhikr Circle with regard to its group-collective, sense-comprehensive and actor-complex approach to knowledge storage and transfer, as well as the spatial, temporal and content fluidity both of intra-organizational boundaries in the Circle and vis-à-vis its environment. Conceptualizing the human as a complex actor with various senses may improve knowledge storage and transfer processes, as well as fluid de facto boundaries.

Originality & value

The observation of “different practice” which is shaped less by business discourse enables a critical reflection of “common practice” potentially leading to a new “best practice”. Reflecting on the practices of the Sufi Dhikr Circle and its conceptualization of human beings may contribute to the management development literature and practice on knowledge and boundary processes. Contemplating on what is different may help us to better comprehend what is common.

In a former version of the article, I briefly compared my ethnographic experience in a Sufi Dhikr Circle, a mystical Islamic organization, with Wacquant’s experience as a participant-observer of boxing. More here. Also presented an earlier version of the article in Morocco. More here.

Meta-Universität

Ein kurzer Rückblick und Ausblick. Ein paar Gedanken.

Vor genau 2 Jahren hatte ich zusammen mit einem Stipendiaten der SDW und einer Freundin aus Harvard und Cambridge das Exist-Gründerstipendium mit einem Gesamtwert von 100.000 Euro des Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaft und Technologie gewonnen.

Wir wollten mit diesem Fördergeld Bildung öffnen und das, was wir in Oxford und Cambridge genießen durften, mehr Menschen zugänglich machen. Ziel war eine Art Meta-Online Universität zu gründen.

// Bildung & ein Quäntchen Weisheit

Die Zusage für das Fördergeld kam damals leider etwas spät. Sie kam zu einem Zeitpunkt, vor dem wir uns alle bereits anderweitig verpflichtet hatten. Deshalb entschieden wir uns in dieser Phase, die Förderung erst einmal nicht in Anspruch zu nehmen.

Allerdings sind wir – bin ich – Bildungsthemen weiterhin leidenschaftlich verbunden: sei es in Forschung, Entrepreneurship oder Literatur. So präsentierte ich vor einigen Tagen auf der AOM ein Paper zum Thema Akademischen Entrepreneurship, das ich zusammen mit Thomas Bohné verfasst hatte.

Auch das Zahnräder Netzwerk widmet sich tiefgreifend der Vermittlung von Wissen im Bereich des sozialen Unternehmertums und der sozialen Innovation. Und für nächstes Jahr ist ein Buch im Rahmen des Think Tank 30 des Club of Rome im Vergangenheitsverlag geplant.

Das Buch widmet sich den sieben Tugenden Mäßigung, Weisheit, Mut, Gerechtigkeit, Liebe, Glaube, Hoffnung. Ich werde u.a. das Kapitel über Weisheit und hierbei über nachhaltige Bildung schreiben. Einige der Kernfragen sind: Wer darf lernen? Wie gerecht ist der Bildungszugang wie auch Bildungsweg? Was wird gelernt? Wie vielfältig ist und sollte Bildung sein? Wie lernen wir? Wie sieht die Zukunft von Bildung aus?

// Bildung der Zukunft 

Ich bin weiterhin davon überzeugt, dass es in 10 bis 20 Jahren mehrere Universitäten mit jeweils über einer Million StudentInnen geben wird. Denn solche Universitäten haben die Möglichkeit, viele Menschen zu erreichen, qualitativ hochwertiges wie auch sehr spezielles Wissen anzubieten, Flexibilität zu schaffen, Skalenerträge zu ermöglichen und kostengünstig Wissen zu überarbeiten und bausteinartig zusammenzufügen.

Der Mensch im 21. Jahrhundert wird kontinuierlich lernen (müssen). Er braucht weniger einen begrenzten Universitätslebensabschnitt sondern lebenslange Bildungsabos und -module, die zeitlich, örtlich wie auch inhaltlich individualisiert werden können. Dies ist kein Substitut zu einem tiefgreifenden Studium, es dient als komplementär.

Bei all dem Wandel ist eines sicher: Bildung bleibt spannend.

The Role of Muslim Elites in Germany & Europe

Last year at a Passover Seder evening the US Ambassador to Germany looked around the dining table and asked some members of the Muslim community: When will there be one single phone number to reach Muslim representatives? It was a bit like Kissinger’s question: “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?”

A couple of weeks later I was asked to present a lecture at the University of Osnabrück – in a way on this phone number – titled: the Role of Muslim Elites in Germany & Europe. The lecture became a book chapter and the book “Islam & Diaspora” edited by Prof Dr Rauf Ceylan has now been published. Since the chapter is written in German, a few thoughts here in English:

// Muslim & Elite

Both terms, Muslim and elite, are highly contested. Who is a Muslim? Who is part of an elite? Who says so? Should we employ the notion of an elite at all? And why talk about a Muslim elite in particular? To read or hear the responses, I guess, dear reader, you would have to learn German or invite me for a coffee.

// Majority & Minority Elites

Muslims form the biggest non-Christian religious community in the European Union as well as on the European continent. They are nonetheless a minority. As such, their elites are co-determined by the majority elite and society as a whole. A minority elite is thus not necessarily as minority-representing as might be assumed.

There are only few Muslims who form fully part of the societal elite. This is partly because many Muslims come from a working class background and, as pointed out by Dahrendorf, we live very much in a society with unreal mobility, a cooptation in disguise.

// Participation & Plurality

The Muslim community needs context-specific qualifications, networks and resources as well as the aspiration to participate in their societies. In other words, they need both: the ability and desirability to partake in all societal structures and processes. They will have to increasingly institutionalize on a European level to participate in European-wide discourses and offer platforms for intra-European exchange between nationally, regionally and locally organized actors.

Muslims in Europe are at the beginning of a forming process. Yet this forming process does not need to result in a homogeneous group. On the contrary, the Islamic tradition is rich in encouraging co-existence and plurality of thought and practices. A single telephone number is neither likely nor desirable.

Book Content:

Zahnräder Network

Zahnräder transforms individual energy into collective movement. Together, the Zahnräder – wheels or gears – create change in and for society. The Zahnräder Network provides a professional platform to encourage as well as enable efficient and effective positive change by equipping its participants with capabilities to fish rather than the fish itself. And it offers a place – on- and offline – for structured interaction to contribute to a socially sustainable, innovative and multifaceted society.

// Social Incubator for Social Entrepreneurship

Zahnräder is a Social Incubator for Social Entrepreneurship. Members in our network have a strong desire to shape society, to have a social impact. Zahnräder is a platform for Social Innovation providing human, social, financial and cultural capital. Zahnräder acts as an “uncle (or aunt) doctor substitute support system” by encouraging and enabling changemakers making change happen.

Ability Usability
Internal Human Capital Cultural Capital, Motivation
External Social Capital Financial Capital, Credibility

// Conferences

At our conferences up to 100 participants come together – all of them as producers and no one just as a consumer. It is all about sharing: sharing knowledge, sharing your network, sharing what drives you, your goals, your ambitions, your vision. Participants speak about their projects, receive feedback, knowledge. Some join projects they encounter some recommend it to their friends. Together, we do not just “add up”, we multiply effort and subsequently impact.

// Support

We are grateful to have so many organisations like Youth for Europe, British Council, AKE Bildungswerk, Islamic Relief, VdM and the Sawasya Foundation supporting us. And we just won the Social Entrepreneurship Academy Act for Impact public choice award and 5000 €. Thank you all.

// Ashoka Changemakers Partnership

We have also just announced a partnership with Ashoka Changemakers. Through the digital community space, we hope to provide a professional online platform for Muslims with their diverse and invaluable projects which shape society; a place for sustainable change and social innovation where members can learn from each other, encourage each other, connect, seek funding opportunities and market their projects to the world.

// Structure

Currently, over 70 people are involved in the organization of Zahnräder. Being part of the organisation team is about changing yourself whilst changing society. Communication is primarily online via skype, basecamp and email. We are organized in a matrix-like organization with functional groups on the horizontal and working groups on the vertical axis. Functional groups are inter alia finance, communication, HR and IT. Working groups are the conference team, ZahnräderX local teams and the think tank.

// Quo vadis?

Zahnräder emerged in Oxford in spring 2010 and is only a bit over two years old. It subsequently evolved through the commitment of so many dedicated people. We managed by now to shift from a starting phase to a growth phase. The idea is to be sustainable internally and provide sustainable services externally. We will continue to passionately strive for positive change in society to make this place, our place, a better place.

people, principles, practices

The article “How Will You Measure Your Life?” written by Harvard Professor Christensen is worth reading. It is indeed worth reading twice. Christensen worked for BCG and went to Oxford; I guess, I almost had to pick it. But before we start, this is a good question to ponder on: How do we measure our lives? –.

// What to tell others.

His kind of introductory story is about how he does not tell the chairman of Intel what to think but how to think. I believe, this should actually be a fundamental pillar in our education systems and a focus in any kind of relationship: Enable thinking. And the article is written in such a tone.

// Approach to life.

What tools do we have to think about our life? One way is to employ the models we learn, which we normally apply to what is around us and focus on what is inside us.

Christensen looks at life as a resource allocation process: what is your purpose in life? Allocate your resources accordingly. Or what if we look at management differently? An alternative definition could well be, that management is the art of helping people.

// What drives us?

“One of the theories that gives great insight on the first question—how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements.”

In other words, it is not get, it is give.

// On principles in principle.

“The marginal cost of doing something wrong “just this once” always seems alluringly low. It suckers you in, and you don’t ever look at where that path ultimately is headed and at the full costs that the choice entails. Justification for infidelity and dishonesty in all their manifestations lies in the marginal cost economics of “just this once.””

“The lesson I learned from this is that it’s easier to hold to your principles 100% of the time than it is to hold to them 98% of the time.”

This is the art of being true to oneself – defining values, living values.

// Starting to focus.

“I apply the tools of econometrics a few times a year, but I apply my knowledge of the purpose of my life every day.”

This entails the question: How much time a day do I spend on the things which are really important to me?

Sadly, “[p]eople who are driven to excel have this unconscious propensity to underinvest in their families and overinvest in their careers—even though intimate and loving relationships with their families are the most powerful and enduring source of happiness.”

// The art of being humble.

“And if your attitude is that only smarter people have something to teach you, your learning opportunities will be very limited. But if you have a humble eagerness to learn something from everybody, your learning opportunities will be unlimited. Generally, you can be humble only if you feel really good about yourself—and you want to help those around you feel really good about themselves, too.”

Briefly: Give and want to give, and you will be given. Be humble and you are strong.

// What for?

“I have a pretty clear idea of how my ideas have generated enormous revenue for companies that have used my research; I know I’ve had a substantial impact. But as I’ve confronted this disease [cancer], it’s been interesting to see how unimportant that impact is to me now. I’ve concluded that the metric by which God will assess my life isn’t dollars but the individual people whose lives I’ve touched.”

“Think about the metric by which your life will be judged, and make a resolution to live every day so that in the end, your life will be judged a success.”

In a way, be conscious about your life, define how you want it to be judged and act accordingly. Simply put, but hard to put into practice.