Unlikely bedfellows: titans of industry partner with nomadic elders to win today's boardroom battles


What can Silicon Valley executives learn from nomadic herders? A lot, it turns out. 

"Nomads know what they're doing, why they're doing it and they're agile and flexible. They'll change their minds on the spot if necessary and come to a rational decision as a community on a daily basis," Josephine Stoker, co-founder of The Nomadic School of Business said. 

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The Nomadic School of Business runs programs for executives based on lessons learned from nomadic people around the world.  They act rather like management consultants, using their access to these unique perspectives to solve boardroom problems in places like Hong Kong, London and New York.  

"We do our own research within nomadic communities, studying how they make decisions and how their management structures work," Stoker said. "We then make programs that help companies think about and change the way they make decisions."

The company, which has offices in Ulaanbaatar and Hong Kong, offers unique programs for executives looking to learn better management skills. They offer immersion programs that bring participants into the nomadic camps to see firsthand how their management and leadership structures work. Or, if that's too intense, they can even bring nomadic elders into the boardroom itself, allowing executives to work through problems in a truly unique way. 

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The company has an impressive list of clients including IBM, AIA, Rolls-Royce, Qatar Airways and Unilever and is continuing to build new programs. There's even an app in the works that will put nomadic perspectives into the pockets of executives on a daily basis. 

As many lessons as tech companies can learn from nomadic tribes, one stands out in particular. 

"Gender dynamics here are really different than they are in other places. Women are a lot more confident and haven't been brought up in a culture that has held them back." Stoker said. "In nomadic family units, it's typical to consider all views in order to make the best decision - and the views of women and men are equally respected."

The Nomadic School of Business is working on a number of programs that will work with female elders from communities where decision making has traditionally been equally shared among genders. They are also working on programs delivering lessons from cultures where women have traditionally been marginalized in the decision making processes, but who have recently taken center-stage. 

"I was speaking with an elderly Maasai woman who's seen an immense amount of change in her life," Stoker said. "She told me that if women want to be listened to, 'they need to speak up, raise their voices and shout until they're heard.' And that's powerful stuff."

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Images via The Nomadic School of Business.