OJ’s community spirit was in evidence last Friday when the Academic Office invited us to review a new MBA teaching case designed for use across multiple subjects.
The case involves Mr. Mothy, the owner-manager of a small hand-operated printing press in Baghdad specializing in government promotional leaflets. Ten years ago, business had dried up abruptly one sunny weekend, but now a decade on, he suddenly finds himself with a competitive advantage. Unlike other printers, Mr. Mothy had stored his surplus inventory from ten years ago in a barn, while quietly claiming a tax benefit for supposed inventory obsolescence. But now his government’s demand for promotional literature has been suddenly re-ignited. Other printers have to write scripts, obtain approval from officials and only then begin printing. But Mr. Mothy has loads of pre-approved materials sitting in his barn because the names of the leaders involved or the key messages haven’t changed from a decade ago. How should our entrepreneur seize the opportunity?
OJ came together with diversity and wisdom. Some commented on the tax implications of his decision, some suggested how Mr. Mothy should deal with a discontinuous innovation, other suggested how an m-commerce application could allow his customers to place orders using their mobile devices, and some were even bold enough to question Mr. Mothy’s career choice.
But OJ’s outpouring of wisdom was silenced by the sound of chaos. We ran into the corridor and were flabbergasted. An entire circus had come to the lawns outside. There were giant rainbow colored tents full of acrobats and fire eaters and clowns and lions and jugglers-it was phenomenal. And in a corner stood a man of exotic appearance dressed in a blue suit talking to a medium-build trapeze artist with a yellow bandana and an arthritic shoulder.
We headed earnestly for this suit-clad man. Somehow we all instinctively knew it, we felt it inside of us. The man was of course our protagonist Mr. Mothy. OJ gathered around excitedly.
“Well, some years ago I decided to come to America,” began Mr. Mothy. “I opened my small printing shop and one day I was thinking how everything was going to change with computers, and I decided to call my shop Ikon Express.”
We were amazed and overwhelmed. This was the American dream, our aspirations distilled into a few sweet words for us to savor.
“Then,” continued Mr. Mothy, “my lawyer told me that the name was already trademarked and being used by a big printer chain. So I had to think of a new name that captured…” But he could not finish for we were
distracted by a voice coming from an adjacent tent.
“…obz…” screamed a man through a loudspeaker perched on top of a tent pointing wildly in a westerly direction. OJ gravitated to this spectacle. Was this a call to the faithful crowds gathered below to fulfill their destinies and torment the infidel? Or was it the clown jumping into a bucket from great height routine?
“…obz…” shouted the man.
And then it started without warning. “I think he’s saying ‘Jobs,’ not ‘obz,'” muttered a sectionmate. The rumor spread like wildfire. “Jobs, that way, loads of them,” whispered the crowd. And we stampeded off to confront whatever lay in the westerly direction, not caring about the luscious grass in our path.
We were halted abruptly as we rounded the first corner. In front stood a diner with a blue and red neon sign flashing “Bob’s.” Loitering outside doing nothing in particular stood the middle aged couple from the old Viagra ad before the repositioning. We looked at each other with emptiness. The oasis that never was. “Bob’s,” not “Jobs,” the Messiah had said.
Some suggested we sue the man on the tent, others suggested we neutralize the tent, some suggested that we sue the actual tent itself.
But then some other sectionmates who were looking into the diner commented, for no particular reason, that Bob’s could do better if it were targeted at a younger niche. And someone else suggested that with a little bit of m-enabling, the diners could use their cell phones…
Suddenly, we were back. We had bounced back and found ourselves as a Section, back to our familiar lives, our interesting lives. We were all together and everything looked wonderful again. As the sun slowly set and the moon rose graciously into the night sky, to this day many of us maintain that we caught a glimpse, or maybe just a shadow, of a little boy peddling his bicycle up to the stars guided by his special friend with a special finger.