Benjamin Davies is a Senior Program Manager for the Humanitarian Academy at Harvard. In this role, he manages the selection, production and dissemination of multimedia case studies and simulations focused on humanitarian theory and practice related to complex emergencies. Due to the thematic constraints of his professional role, Benjamin does on occasion become the daring protagonist of his exciting internal space opera.
You know how in the Star Trek reboot, Captain Kirk heroically locks himself in the radiation drenched engine room, sacrificing his life to fix the warp drive as the Enterprise plummets towards earth? Yeah, of course you do. It’s classic leadership. And because I often selflessly trudge through my own little radioactive nightmare in crazy gravity, red lights and sirens a’ blazing, I appreciated that ROI hosted me in Jerusalem to attend the Adaptive Leadership Lab. I yearned for my chance to share my heroic leadership insight with my fellow ROIers. But when I arrived it became clear something was very wrong.
We didn’t revel in our stories of noble sacrifice. Instead, evil geniuses subjected us to a twisted game of false authority and introspection. Chaos reigned and my very sanity hung in the balance. I looked to my peers but they were equally trapped. It was time to take stock of the situation. Due to my advanced perception skills I determined that the room itself was slightly radioactive for about five hours per day. During these times otherwise docile participants became hostile (also, our phones didn’t work). My food and accommodations were superb but this was a cruel trick designed to ready me for the merciless trial that awaited each following day. As exhaustion and paranoia set in, I clung to the hope that as a leader I would unlock the secret that would save us all from crippling confusion and polite infighting.
And then it happened. With the help of a growing band of allies, I improved my ability to think constructively within the maelstrom. I spent less time planning my heroic act and more time getting used to the gentle warmth of a radioactive room. I thought of my challenges at home, and suddenly they seemed small and manageable. I remembered an impending two-minute argument I had been dreading and realized, “HA! Now I can easily handle an hour of that!” Somehow, in the clutches of our Harvard trained tormentors, we were being inoculated against the discomfort of challenging situations. I confided in some old and many new friends, “I think I might have learned something new here!?!” I was reassured I was not the only one. Exhausted but triumphant this episode in my life came to a close. I’d like to share more of the plot but experiential learning has its rules. So the point is: Kirk was a chump; instead of diving into fatal action, he should have focused on building his tolerance to heat, like we did!